From Dangerous Minds:
Virginia Woolf discusses words, language and writing in this the only surviving recording of her voice.
Originally broadcast for a programme entitled Words Fail Me, by BBC Radio, on April 29th, 1937. Woolf’s almost regal pronunciation can be heard reading her essay on “Craftsmanship,” which was later published in The Death of the Moth and Other Essays (1942).
The transcript of this broadcast can be found here.
It’s somehow astonishing to hear her upper-class accent (though of course it makes sense); somehow one doesn’t expect a writer to sound like that. And after her eloquent and sensible remarks about words and their “need of change” (“It is because the truth they try to catch is many-sided, and they convey it by being many-sided, flashing first this way, then that…. And it is because of this complexity, this power to mean different things to different people, that they survive”), it is amusing to hear her say “one reason why we have no great poet, novelist or critic writing today is that we refuse to allow words their liberty.” Now, of course, the period she’s lamenting is considered a high point of literature. The more things change…