|The son of a well-to-do butcher, Defoe became a London tradesman and merchant. He was well educated and kept notebooks from an early age in which he wrote short fictions. He also daydreamed about adventurous voyages in the South Seas and was excited by the prospect of colonizing new (and utopian) lands. These ideas were to bear fruit in his great work, ROBINSON CRUSOE. Defoe was a gregarious man and the father of eight children. A Dissenter who was a perennial foe of the Tories, he was often jailed for his political writings. He was pilloried for his savagely ironic pamphlet, "The Shortest Way with Dissenters" (considered libelous), which recommended massacring them. After the more tolerant William III ousted the Papist James II, Defoe worked loyally for the king, writing poems, satires, and polemics in defense of his policies. It wasn't until he was in his 50s that Defoe turned to writing fiction, and his stories of thieves and prostitutes were immensely successful. Plagued by creditors all his life, he died at 71 while he was in hiding from one of them, in Ropemaker Street, an area of London not far from where he was born.
|Virginia Woolf was the third of four children born to Leslie Stephen, who was editor of the Dictionary of National Biography, and the beautiful Julia Prinsep Duckworth Jackson, later to be the models for Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay in TO THE LIGHTHOUSE. Virginia and her sister Vanessa were educated at home, though their brothers went away to school and later to Cambridge. The girls did, however, have the run of their father's extensive library. An outstandingly precocious child in a gifted family, Virginia decided very early to be a writer, and at age 9 began producing a family newspaper. When she was 13, her adored mother died, and shortly after that her older half-sister Stella, who served as a surrogate--traumas from which Virginia never entirely recovered. Beginning in 1895, she had recurring bouts of suicidal madness--one reason she and Leonard Woolf, whom she married in 1912, never had children. After the death of their father, the Stephen siblings moved to the part of London known as Bloomsbury, and thus began the famed Bloomsbury Group--a loose collection of friends who were also writers and artists. Virginia and Leonard Woolf founded the Hogarth Press as a distraction for Virginia after one of her bouts of madness, and it became one of Britain's most distinguished imprints, publishing not only their own books but those of their contemporaries, including Sigmund Freud. Overcome by her mental illness, and depressed about the prospects for England during the Second World War, Virginia Woolf drowned herself in 1941.