Featured Literature of the Week: The Last Letter of Virginia Woolf


There are two reasons for moving up the featured literature of the week from 6 April to the 2nd. First we have Easter, which the author will be spending with his family and off the laptop. Second, the topic ties in with the latest discussion on a mental illness which seems to be on the war path- which is depression. Depression is a serious illness where one in four people on average suffer from. Of the 25% affected (which the rate is climbing, by the way), half of them have thought of suicide on many occasions, whereas a quarter of them keep the illness discrete until it is too late. In the case of the Germanwings disaster that occurred on the 24 March, 2015, which killed all 150 people on board, the plane crash was done intentionally by a co-pilot who had a history of severe depression and kept everything confidential- away from everyone until the final eight minutes of the flight, where he guided the plane down to the Alps, crashing it near Nice in France.

Yet despite the recent research on this illness, depression has been noted in many literary sources, including those written by authors who had suffered this disease. Virginia Woolf was one of those authors who suffered from depression all her life. Born in 1882, Ms. Woolf was one of the popular members of the Bloomsbury Group, having produced numerous works, such as Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, Orlando, and Between the Acts. While she had married Leonard Woolf in 1912, a poor man who shared a close bond with Virginia for 25 years, depression had gotten the best of her, as she had been in and out of psychiatric clinics during the last two thirds of her life. Part of the reason behind her depression was the loss of her family and close friends during her younger years, combined with the environmental surroundings connected with fascism in Europe and subsequentially, World War II, where London was under siege in 1940-1. Much of the literary works written by Woolf and later those analysing her post humously focused on mental illness with some concluding she had suffered from bipolar depression. Finally, unable to cope with failure and loss, Ms. Woolf, on 28 March, 1941, donned on her overcoat, filled its pockets with stones, and drowned herself in a river near her home in London. Her body was found less than three weeks later.

Yet prior to her death, she had written her last letter to her husband. In it, she provided the reasons for her leaving the world, but in a way that would have made many scratch their heads. Many who try taking their lives would have poured out their frustrations and negative thoughts. However, in this letter, presented by Juliet Stevenson, Ms. Woolf looked at her life from a different angle, especially when it came to her love with her husband. Watch the clip and think about the following questions:

1. If you were in her husband’s shoes, how would you react to the letter? What actions would you take?

2. How would you try and help the person in this situation? What would you say to him/her?

3. Do you know of others affected by depression who had had similar thoughts? How did you help this person? When looking back, would you have done anything different and if so, what?

You are free to post your comments in the comment section, as well as the Files’ facebook page. Here’s the video and think about this subject:

The Files has some information about the Germanwings disaster and the author’s thoughts about the reactions of the media, which you can click here:



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