The Voyage Out
The Voyage Out is the first novel written by British author Virginia Woolf. Woolf began writing the book in 1910, and had a first draft completed by 1912. However, the work was not published in England until 1915, and 1920 in the United States. During the writing of the book, Woolf was suffering from one her bouts of severe depression, and even attempted suicide. An alternate version entitled Melymbrosia (Woolf’s original title) was reconstructed by Louise DeSalvo in 1981, attempting to recreate the original 1912 draft, before Woolf undertook heavy revisions.
The plot of the novel concerns Rachel Vinrace as she sets out on a voyage to South America. The various passengers on the ship serve as a commentary on Edwardian England, including the introduction of Mrs. Clarissa Dalloway, the central character in Woolf’s most famous novel, Mrs. Dalloway. The journey becomes a metaphorical transition for Rachael, from London suburbs to ultimate freedom, and is said to represent Woolf’s emergence into the Bloomsbury Group, an influential group of English writers that also included Lytton Strachey, E.M. Forster, Virginia Sackville-West, and John Maynard Keynes.
Perhaps not as well known as other of Woolf’s works, The Voyage Out displays themes that Woolf would continue to explore in her later novels, and begins Woolf’s experimentation with stream of consciousness that would characterize her work.