Virginia Woolf: “Language is wine…”

Language is wine, according to Virginia Woolf, the English modernist writer. She is perhaps best known for her essay A Room of One’s Own. The book-length work contains the famous line “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”

Woolf’s Life Not All Wine and Roses

She apparently said to her husband one night while having a glass (or more?) of a German vintage, “Language is wine upon the lips.” (To continue the analogy, I would rate this quote a 93: silky, with a smooth mouthfeel.)

I agree that language is wine, but Woolf’s life was not all wine and roses. In fact, she suffered from mental illness and had several nervous breakdowns during her life.

She acknowledged her own psychological pain in a letter that she wrote to her husband Leonard shortly before she died: “Dearest, I feel certain that I am going mad again.”

language is wine upon the lips, Virginia WoolfWoolf committed suicide by drowning, filling her coat pockets with stones to weigh herself down as she walked into a river.

One writer claims that her husband bears much of the blame for her illness and subsequent suicide, though others have researched their relationship and think that this is claim is without merit.

And you certainly wouldn’t think there was any bad blood between them if you read the following lines from the farewell note that Woolf left him:

You have been entirely patient with me and incredibly good. I want to say that—everybody knows it. If anybody could have saved me it would have been you.

Listen to the only existing recording of Virginia Woolf’s voice via the BBC. In it she discusses how English words marry French words, German words, and “negro words.” (We can only guess what she meant by that last category.)

If you liked this post, then check out more great quotes from authors, humorists, and politicians.