Row over ‘insensitive’ riverside statue of author Virginia Woolf who drowned herself in a river


Row over ‘insensitive’ riverside statue of tragic author Virginia Woolf who drowned herself in a river

  • A row has erupted over an ‘insensitive’ riverside statue of author Virginia Woolf
  • The acclaimed novelist took her life by drowning in the River Ouse, East Sussex
  • Critics say the £50k Richmond, London statue could trigger copycat suicides 










It’s causing emotional turmoil worthy of one of her novels. Plans for a riverside statue of Virginia Woolf have been labelled as ‘insensitive’, given that the author drowned herself in a river, and opponents claim it could even trigger copycat suicides.

The proposed statue will depict the writer sitting on a bench gazing out at the river at Richmond, southwest London.

The £50,000 bronze statue was given the green light by Richmond Council earlier this week.

But campaigners say it is in bad taste, insensitive, and could even trigger similar suicide attempts.

Plans for a riverside statue of Virginia Woolf have been labelled as 'insensitive', given that the author drowned herself in a river, and opponents claim it could even trigger copycat suicides

Plans for a riverside statue of Virginia Woolf have been labelled as ‘insensitive’, given that the author drowned herself in a river, and opponents claim it could even trigger copycat suicides

The modernist Bloomsbury Group author of books including Mrs Dalloway and To The Lighthouse killed herself aged 59 in the River Ouse, East Sussex, in 1941. Pictured: An artist's impression of the proposed statue

The modernist Bloomsbury Group author of books including Mrs Dalloway and To The Lighthouse killed herself aged 59 in the River Ouse, East Sussex, in 1941. Pictured: An artist’s impression of the proposed statue

The modernist Bloomsbury Group author of books including Mrs Dalloway and To The Lighthouse killed herself in the River Ouse, East Sussex, in 1941.

Barry May, chairman of the Richmond Society, said: ‘Virginia Woolf was a distinguished author, an icon for the feminist cause and a famous resident. We believe placing the statue on the riverside would be ill advised, insensitive and reckless however.

‘She drowned herself in a river at the age of 59 after a history of mental illness which blighted her life. A figure reclining on a bench gazing over the water might distress anyone who knows her story and is in a vulnerable state of mind.’

Virginia Woolf is considered one of the most influential modernist authors of the twentieth century

Virginia Woolf is considered one of the most influential modernist authors of the twentieth century 

The statue would be put at the riverside in Richmond, London, if it's placement goes ahead

The statue would be put at the riverside in Richmond, London, if it’s placement goes ahead

But supporters of the statue say that to ‘hide’ it in a residential street is offensive to Woolf’s legacy and she deserves to be pride of place in one of the suburb’s most beautiful spots.

They also point out there are more sculptures of animals in London than there are of women. Aurora Metro, the charity behind the life-size figure of Woolf by sculptor Laury Dizengremel, said: ‘Efforts by the Richmond Society to change the location of the stature which has been chosen for many practical reasons… comes across as an attempt to push people like her out of sight.

‘The statue’s intent is to celebrate diverse lives and encourage conversations around mental health, feminism, sexuality and gender. This cannot be done if the statue is tucked away on a residential street.’

Tory councillor Kate Howard said: ‘I think it would be very poignant to have a statue near the river as a reminder of how easily water can overcome you.’

What are Virginia Woolf’s most famous books?

Virginia Woolf pictured with her husband Leonard Woolf in Cassis on the French Riviera in 1928

Virginia Woolf pictured with her husband Leonard Woolf in Cassis on the French Riviera in 1928

Virginia Woolf is considered one of the great modernist writers of the 20th century. 

More than 70 years after her death, the author, who was a feminist critic as well as a trailblazer in the use of stream of consciousness, continues to inspire generations of writers and readers.

Alongside the likes of James Joyce and TS Eliot, Virginia Woolf is a trailblazer in the use of the narrative device, stream of consciousness, most famously depicted in Mrs Dalloway.

After Virginia and sister Vanessa moved to Bloomsbury, key members like Duncan Grant, Lytton Strachey, Clive Bell and of course, Leonard Woolf, gathered to discuss their shared views on pacifism, the arts and the bourgeoisie.

Leonard, as well as being her husband and publisher, became her carer and confidante. He was fully aware of Virginia’s relations with writer and gardener Vita Sackville-West and this fascination and infatuation was described in the 1928 novel Orlando.

While Orlando is known to be progressive because of its questioning of gender, Woolf’s 1929 essay A Room of One’s Own was also ahead of its time because of its statement on a woman needing financial independence and freedom from motherhood in order to attain personal success.

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