Guide to the Leonard Sidney Woolf Papers 1945-1969
Cage 539

Summary Information

Washington State University Libraries, Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections
Woolf, Leonard Sidney
Leonard Sidney Woolf Papers
Cage 539
Date [inclusive]
1 container., 35 items.
Collection materials are in English.
Typed business and personal letters by Leonard Woolf concerning literary works and social activities among the "Bloomsbury Group." Principal correspondent is William Humphrey.

Preferred Citation

[Item Description]. Cage 539, Leonard Sidney Woolf Papers . Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries, Pullman, WA.

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Leonard Sidney Woolf, author, publisher and political worker, was born in London, November 25, 1880, the third of ten children of Solomon Rees Sydney and Marie (de Jongh) Woolf. When his father died in 1892, Woolf was sent to board at the Arlington House School, a preparatory school near Brighton. From 1894 to 1899 he studied on a scholarship as a day student at St. Paul's, a London public school noted for its classical studies. In 1899 he won a classical scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge University.

At Cambridge, Woolf became part of a youthful group of intellectuals whose members included Lytton Strachey, Clive Bell, Thoby Stephen, John Maynard Keynes and E.M. Forster, who were students, and Bertrand Russell, who was a Fellow. In 1902 he earned his B.A. degree but stayed on at Cambridge for a fifth year to study for the civil service examination. In October 1904 Woolf left Trinity College to become a cadet in the Ceylon Civil Service in Colombo.

His professional progress was rapid. In August 1908 he was appointed an assistant government agent in the Southern Province, assigned to administer the District of Hambantota. Woolf's first book, The Village in the Jungle (1913) and his Stories of the East (1921) were based on his experiences in Ceylon. His official diaries as administrator of Hambantota were published in Diaries in Ceylon 1908-1911 (1962).

Woolf left Ceylon in May 1911 expecting to return after a year's leave. In July, however, he renewed his acquaintance with Virginia Stephen. Partly because he chose to marry Virginia and partly because of a growing distaste for colonialism, Woolf resigned from the Ceylon Civil Service early in 1912. The "Bloomsbury" group--a circle of artists, writers, critics and intellectuals living in or near that district-- began to make its mark during this period and came to dominate the British literary scene during World War I. The nucleus of the group included Clive and Vanessa Bell, the Woolfs, Lytton Strachey, John Maynard Keynes and Roger Fry.

With the outbreak of World War I, Woolf turned his attention to politics and sociology. He joined the Labour Party and the Fabian Society and became a regular contributor to New Statesman. In 1916 he wrote International Government which outlined future possibilities for a supernational agency to enforce peace in the world. The book was incorporated by the British government in its proposals for a League of Nations at Geneva. Woolf was later active in the League of Nations Society and the League of Nations Union.

During the war Woolf spent much of his time caring for his wife who was then suffering extreme manic-depression. To provide her with a relaxing hobby they bought a small hand printing press in 1917. Their first project was a pamphlet containing a story by each of them, printed and bound by themselves at the Hogarth Press (named after Hogarth House, their home in Richmond). Other small books followed, mostly by little-known writers who were their friends including T.S. Eliot, Katherine Mansfield and E.M. Forster. Within ten years, the Hogarth Press was a full-scale publishing house and included on its list such seminal works as Eliot's The Waste Land, Virginia Woolf's Jacob's Room and Freud's Collected Papers. Leonard Woolf remained the main director of the publishing house from its beginning in 1917 until his death in 1969.

The Hogarth Press was never Leonard Woolf's sole occupation. He became editor in 1919 of International Review, edited the international section of Contemporary Review from 1920 through 1922, was literary editor of Nation Athenaeum from 1923 to 1930 and joint editor of Political Quarterly from 1931-1959. Woolf also served during the period between the wars as secretary of the Labour Party's advisory committees on international and colonial questions. From 1938 to 1955 he was a member of the National Whitley Council for Administrative and Legal Departments of the Civil Service.

Among Woolf's most important writings are After the Deluge (1931-51), a multi-volume modern political and social history, and his five-volume autobiography, Sowing (1960), Growing (1961), Beginning Again (1964), Downhill All The Way (1967) and The Journey Not The Arrival Matters (1969). He died August 14, 1969.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

Washington State University Libraries Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections  © 2012

Terrell Library

P.O. Box 645610

Pullman, WA, 99164-5610 USA


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Acquisition Information

The papers of Leonard Woolf, 1880-1969, were purchased from various booksellers (86-03, 86-16).

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Names and Subjects

Corporate Name(s)

Subject(s) :
  • Bloomsbury group


  • Authors, English -- Correspondence

Personal Name(s)

Creator(s) :
  • Woolf, Leonard, 1880-1969 --Archives
Subject(s) :
  • Bussy, Dorothy--Correspondence
  • Humphrey, William--Correspondence


  • Literature

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Detailed Description of Collection

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.


Dorothy Bussy, Lewes, Sussex. November 15, 1945 February 20, 1955 March 2, 1955 

Dorothy Bussy was the sister of Lytton Strachey. The first letter concerns her husband Simon Befsy, a French national, and his problems in entering England during the aftermath of the war; the others are attempts to arrange meetings between Dorothy Bussy and Woolf. Purchased in 1986 from Glenn Horowitz Bookseller, Inc., New York, NY.


D.C. Heath and Company, Lewes, Sussex.  June 10, 1953 

The letter acknowledges receiving a check from the company.


Mr. Howard, Lewes, Sussex.   June 24, 1964 July 29, 1964 

The letters briefly discuss possibilities for a Virginia Woolf biography.


William and Dorothy Humphrey, Lewes, Sussex  November 1962-March 1969  27

These brief personal letters to William Humphrey (American writer, 1924- ) and his wife Dorothy primarily address Humphrey's writing, and literature in general; arrangements for future visits with the couple; and Woolf's social activities at Monk's House, his residence. He also discusses his interactions with his close friends Ian Parsons and Trekkie Ritchie Parsons. Ian Parsons was a publisher of Chatto & Windus Ltd. Purchased in 1986 from Glenn Horowitz Bookseller, Inc., New York, NY.