One evening in April 1937 Virginia Woolf held up the nine o’clock news on the radio. She read her carefully timed essay ‘Craftsmanship’ just a fraction too slowly and finished at 9.01. There must have been listeners who wished she would overrun by far more than that, listeners who would gladly have swapped the ensuing news, church service and military band for a little longer in the company of Woolf talking on the subject of words. Fortunately, with this sixth and final volume of the Essays in hand, covering the period 1933–41, we can spend a great deal of time in her company.
Tackling the monumental, many-volumed edition of Horace Walpole’s letters, Woolf suggested that the publishers ‘ought to have issued in a supplementary pocket a supplementary pair of eyes’ so that the additional pair could read the footnotes while the usual pair dealt with the text. Since supplementary eyes are