Leonard Woolf

A British political theorist, writer, publisher, and civil servant, Leonard Sidney Woolf (25 November 1880 – 14 August 1969) was also a civil servant. His wife was the writer Virginia Woolf. Woolf was an enthusiastic publisher of both his own writing and his wife’s novels. He was a member of the Labour Party and the Fabian Society. Woolf, a writer in his own right, produced 19 distinct books and six memoirs. Virginia and Leonard never had any kids.

The third of ten children born to Queen’s Counsel and barrister Solomon Rees Sidney Woolf (also known as Sidney Woolf) and Marie (née de Jongh), Woolf was born in London in 1880. His relatives were Jews. Woolf was sent to board at Arlington House School near Brighton, Sussex after his father passed away in 1892. He attended St. Paul’s School from 1894 to 1899, and in that same year, he was awarded a classical scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was inducted into the Cambridge Apostles. Lytton Strachey, John Maynard Keynes, G. E. Moore, and E. M. Forster were also members. Despite not being a member, Thoby Stephen (his future wife’s brother) was friendly with the Apostles. Woolf received his BA in 1902, but he remained there for an additional year to prepare for the Civil Service exams that year. Woolf arrived in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) in October 1904 to enroll as a cadet for the Ceylon Civil Service, first in Jaffna and then in Kandy. By August 1908, he had been appointed an assistant government agent in the Southern Province, where he oversaw the District of Hambantota. In May 1911, Woolf visited England once again before taking a year off. However, he left his position in early 1912 and married Virginia Stephen the following year.

Beginning in October 1914, Leonard and Virginia Woolf resided at 17 The Green Richmond. The couple relocated to the adjoining Hogarth House, Paradise Road, at the beginning of March 1915. The Round House, 2017; Lewes

The Woolfs bought the Round House in Pipe Passage, Lewes, in 1919. They learned about Monk’s House in nearby Rodmell that same year, which she and Leonard both preferred due to its orchard and garden. She later sold the Round House and purchased Monk’s House.

Virginia Woolf and Leonard together gained clout in the Bloomsbury Group, which also included a number of other former Apostles.

Woolf joined the group of individuals that helped create the 1917 Club, which met in Gerrard Street, Soho, in December 1917.

Following his marriage, Woolf resorted to writing and released The Village in the Jungle (1913), a book that was inspired by his time spent in Ceylon. After that, a slew of books came out nearly every two years.

When conscription was implemented in 1916 during the First World War, Woolf was turned down for military service due to a physical condition and instead focused on politics and sociology. He became a member of the Fabian Society, the Labour Party, and a frequent contributor to the New Statesman. He suggested a worldwide organization to uphold world peace in his 1916 essay Worldwide Government.

Woolf, who experienced depression himself, spent a significant amount of his time caring for his wife as her mental health deteriorated. The Woolfs established the Hogarth Press in 1917 after purchasing a modest hand-operated printing press. They hand-printed and bound a brochure as their debut endeavor. The Press expanded rapidly within 10 years, publishing T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land in its first edition, Virginia’s novels, Leonard’s tracts, and other works. Up until his passing, Woolf served as the Press’ principal director. All throughout their marriage, his wife experienced significant mental illness flare-ups, and in 1941 she committed suicide by drowning. Later, Leonard fell in love with Trekkie Parsons, a married artist.

Woolf took over as editor of the International Review in 1919. From 1920 to 1922, he also served as editor of the Contemporary Review’s international section. From 1923 to 1930, he served as literary editor of The Nation and Athenaeum, more commonly known as The Nation, and from 1931 to 1959, he co-founded and served as editor of The Political Quarterly. He also briefly held the position of secretary for the Labour Party’s advisory committees on international and colonial issues.

Woolf returned to Ceylon in 1960 and was taken aback by the gracious welcome he received there as well as the fact that people remembered him. In 1964, the then-new University of Sussex awarded Woolf an honorary doctorate, and in 1965, he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. In the 1966 Queen’s Birthday Honours list, he was offered the Companion of Honor (CH), but he turned it down.

Bella Woolf, one of his nine siblings, was a writer as well. Poems were written by his brother Cecil Nathan Sidney Woolf, who died in World War I in 1917. Poems was published in 1918. Together with his brother Philip, he developed his dissertation Bartolus of Sassoferrato, his Position in the History of Medieval Political Thought into a book that was published by Cambridge University Press in 1913. Additionally, Stendhal’s On Love (Duckworth, 1915) was translated by Philip and Cecil.

Woolf passed away after a stroke on August 14, 1969. He was cremated, and his remains were interred with those of his wife in his cherished garden at Monk’s House near Rodmell, Sussex, under an elm tree. The tree eventually fell, and a bronze bust has since been erected to commemorate Woolf’s remains. The University of Sussex at the Falmer campus is where his papers are kept.



  • The Village in the Jungle – 1913
  • The Wise Virgins – 1914
  • International Government – 1916
  • The Future of Constantinople – 1917
  • The Framework of a Lasting Peace – 1917
  • Cooperation and the Future of Industry – 1918
  • Economic Imperialism – 1920
  • Empire and Commerce in Africa – 1920
  • Socialism and Co-operation – 1921
  • International co-operative trade – 1922
  • Fear and Politics – 1925
  • Essays on Literature, History, Politics – 1927
  • Hunting the Highbrow – 1927
  • Imperialism and Civilization – 1928
  • After the Deluge (Principia Politica), 3 vols. – 1931, 1939, 1953
  • Quack! Quack! – 1935
  • Barbarians at the Gate – 1939
  • The War for Peace – 1940
  • A Calendar of Consolation – selected by Leonard Woolf, 1967