Virginia Woolf leaves a trail in her first dozen diaries that shows how she comes to be the writer we know. The hallmark of her first two decades as a diarist is her constant diary experiment: she tries out myriad styles and forms until they all finally blend and fuse in her 1915 to 1918 diaries. From the start to the end of her life, Woolf draws on others’ diaries to aid her as she pursues her own path. Others’ diaries both refresh and fortify her; they suggest news ways to live and to see. Fellow writers Fanny Burney, Mary Coleridge, and Mary (Seton) Berry attend to women and their treatment across their diaries, providing a way of seeing she will follow across her days. Their diaries and others’ supply matter for the compost heap she can transmute into art. Others’ diaries give Woolf access to what she calls the natural human voice. They offer the concert of human voices that she eagerly joins. The very diversity and individuality inherent in diaries propel Woolf toward her own individuality and are part of diaries’ great appeal. By their very existence diaries mean life—life regularly renewed, and often life become immortal.
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