A crisis in November 1918 propels Woolf into her second diary stage: that of her thirteen mature, spare, modernist diaries, 1918 to 1929. These semiprivate diaries reveal her steady growth into her distinctive modernist style. She reaches toward new realms with her 1920 diary, turning inward toward the soul and also toward literature. She moves closer to her distinctive voice and activates her rhythmic “turn-and-turn-about” movement in her 1922 and 1923 diaries. Woolf pares her diary entries and begins to flower into poetry in 1924. Most notably, she never stops her intellectual and artistic stretch. Others’ diaries refresh her across the 1920s—and supply rich matter for modernist use. Several of Woolf’s most memorable modernist phrases, images, and moments are offered to her in multiple diaries: the lighthouse, “a room of one’s own,” Professor von X, and Judith Shakespeare. Other elements she borrows from just one diary: Mrs. Ramsay and summer holidays at the Scottish seaside with “a large and clever family,” the figure moved to the middle of a painting, £500, and “derision.” A cornerstone of Woolf’s genius was her understanding of the treasure residing in diaries and her ability to absorb that bounty and transmute it into art.
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