Virginia Woolf, preeminent English writer,
looked to the sea fo r inspiration for such novels as To The Lighthouse (1927) and The Wtz ves (1931).
She was one of the first major female novelists on either side of the Atlantic to write extensive scenes depicting life at sea, as well as voicing these accounts through her novels’ female characters.
From her childhood summers spent seaside to ocean-going journeys to her tragic sui cide by drowning in a river,
Woolf’s life was marked by a tranquility and turbulence that was profoundly shaped by water.
Virginia Woolf’s Maiden Voyage The author’s pull to the sea was most apparent in her debut novel,
The Voyage Out (1 91 5), a story in which the first quarter is set upon a ship and the rest of the novel is saturated with water imagery.
The Voyage Out is about a young English woman who travels across the Atlantic to a port at the mouth of the Amazon,
where she falls in love, then tragically dies from a fever that she presumably contracted during a boat trip upriver.
The Voyage Out begins on rhe London waterfront with characters boarding the Euphrosyne, a cargo ship, fo r a transAtl anti c voyage.
Using the Euphrosyne as a pivotal backdrop for her story telling,
Woolf follows the movements of a gro up of unlikely travel companions across the Atlantic.
The ship is bound fo r the Amazon to load a cargo of rubber while carrying a small complement of passengers.
Virginia Woolf’s Maiden Voyage Woolf’s description of this fi ctional shi p, its interiors,
and shipboard routines reveal a fa irly accurate picture of transAtlantic travel at rhe turn of the twentieth century.
Woolf had traveled on ocean-going voyages in 1905 on the Anselm and Madeirense,
two vessels owned and operated by the Booth Steamship Company,
and iris clear rhar she drew upon these experi ences in her writing.
Ocean-liner enthusiasts and ship histori ans will not only greatly appreciate Woolf’s vivid descriptions of life aboard the fi ctitious Euphrosyne,
but also will enjoy uncovering the details that link Woolf’s own personal voyages to those of her characters.
In 1905 Virginia Woolf and her brother Adrian boarded the steamer Anselm (II) in Liverpool for a trip to Lisbon .
The Anselm was a 400-foot, 5,442-gross-ton intermediate cargo vessel powered by a triple-expansion-steam engine turning a single screw.
The Booth Line offered passenger service from Liverpool and Hamburg to various ports, including Lisbon,
on the way to Brazilian destinations such as Para (now Belem) and Manfos (Manaus), where its ships would take on Amazo nian rubber.
Woolf and her brother joined the Anselm in March on its maiden voyage and had a sea-kindly passage across the Bay of Biscay.
Woolf wrote in her diary rhar Biscay “was a little rough, but nothing to keep up its reputation.”
As the passage went on, however, the engines “slowly ceased beating.” The Anselm limped into O porto,
Portugal, and Woolf and her brother disembarked and took a train to Lisbon.
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