Image of Leonard Woolf


Lifetime: 1880 - 1969 Passed: ≈ 54 years ago


Political Theorist



Leonard Woolf

Leonard Sidney Woolf was a British political theorist, author, publisher, and civil servant. He was married to author Virginia Woolf. As a member of the Labour Party and the Fabian Society, Woolf was an avid publisher of his own work and his wife's novels. A writer himself, Woolf created nineteen individual works and wrote six autobiographies. Leonard and Virginia did not have any children.

Woolf was born in London in 1880 the third of ten children of Solomon Rees Sidney Woolf (known as Sidney Woolf), a barrister and Queen's Counsel, and Marie (née de Jongh). His family was Jewish. After his father died in 1892, Woolf was sent to board at Arlington House School near Brighton, Sussex. From 1894 to 1899, he attended St Paul's School, and in 1899 he won a classical scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was elected to the Cambridge Apostles. Other contemporary members included Lytton Strachey, John Maynard Keynes, G. E. Moore, and E. M. Forster. Thoby Stephen (his future wife's brother) was friendly with the Apostles, though not a member himself. Woolf was awarded his BA in 1902, but stayed there for another year to study for the Civil Service examinations held then.

In October 1904, Woolf moved to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) to become a cadet in the Ceylon Civil Service, in Jaffna and later Kandy, and by August 1908 was named an assistant government agent in the Southern Province, where he administered the District of Hambantota. Woolf returned to England in May 1911 for a year's leave. Instead, however, he resigned in early 1912 and that same year married Virginia Stephen.

Among his nine siblings, Bella Woolf was also an author. His brother Cecil Nathan Sidney Woolf was the author of Poems (published 1918); Cecil was killed in World War I in 1917. His dissertation Bartolus of Sassoferrato, his Position in the History of Medieval Political Thought was expanded to a book published by Cambridge University Press in 1913 in collaboration with his brother Philip. Philip and Cecil also translated Stendhal's On Love (Duckworth, 1915).

Woolf died on 14 August 1969 from a stroke. He was cremated and his ashes were buried alongside his wife's beneath an elm tree in his beloved garden at Monk's House, Rodmell, Sussex. The tree subsequently blew down and Woolf's remains have since been marked by a bronze bust.

His papers are held by the University of Sussex at the Falmer campus.

Books by Leonard Woolf

The Village in the Jungle Cover image

The Village in the Jungle

Fiction Novel
Twentieth Century Family Historical Fiction Culture Struggle Heritage Manipulation

The Village in the Jungle is a novel by Leonard Woolf, published in 1913, based on his experiences as a colonial civil servant in British-controlled Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) in the early years of the 20th century. Ground-breaking in Western fiction for...