Virginia Woolf was an English writer whose novels and essays had a lasting impact on English literary style. She was a member of the very influential Bloomsbury group, a collection of writers, artists, and thinkers who explored and promoted radical ideas about feminism, sexuality, and pacifism.
Woolf suffered her first nervous breakdown as a teenager after her mother and her sister both died within two years of one another. Her father's death when she was just over 20 had the same effect. She was also sexually abused as a child by her half-brother. Throughout her life, her temperament was delicate and she endured regular, debilitating periods of depression.
In March 1941 she was living in the country, trying to avoid having another nervous breakdown. Not that she had much of a choice: her home in London had been destroyed in bombing raids. Feeling another breakdown was inevitable, and not wanting to endure it, she wrote a suicide note to her husband Leonard, weighted her pockets with stones, and walked into a river near her home. Her body wasn't found for nearly three weeks.
"I feel certain that I am going mad again. I feel we can't go through another of those terrible times. And I shan't recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can't concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don't think two people could have been happier 'til this terrible disease came. I can't fight any longer. I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could work. And you will I know. You see I can't even write this properly. I can't read. What I want to say is I owe all the happiness of my life to you. You have been entirely patient with me and incredibly good. I want to say that — everybody knows it. If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can't go on spoiling your life any longer. I don't think two people could have been happier than we have been."