Many people today know Leonard Woolf mainly through the surname of his wife, Virginia, or his role in supporting her through her mental illness, depicted in books and films like The Hours. Some critics see him as his wife’s oppressor.
In Victoria Glendinning’s biography, for the first time we see the whole man. As well as being a prominent member of the Bloomsbury group, Leonard was a formidable figure in his own right, first as an innovative civil administrator in Ceylon, then as a writer, leading light of the Fabian society and publisher of T. S. Eliot, E. M. Forster, Robert Graves, Katherine Mansfield and of course Virginia Woolf. He was interested in everything and knew everybody.
The achievement of Glendinning’s book is to make its readers wish that they knew him too.