On this day, in 1941, Virginia Woolf drowned herself by weighting her pockets with stones and walking into the River Ouse, near her home, in Rodmell, Sussex. She was 59 years old and had suffered chronic bouts of depression. The scene is re-enacted by Nicole Kidman in opening sequences of The Hours (2002), a film based on the book of the same name by Michael Cunningham.
Virginia’s last letter was to her husband, Leonard Woolf:
I feel certain that I am going mad again. I feel we can’t go through another of those terrible times. And I shan’t recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can’t concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don’t think two people could have been happier till this terrible disease came. I can’t fight any longer. I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could work. And you will I know. You see I can’t even write this properly. I can’t read. What I want to say is I owe all the happiness of my life to you. You have been entirely patient with me and incredibly good. I want to say that – everybody knows it. If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can’t go on spoiling your life any longer.
In his autobiography, The Journey, Leonard Woolf described the suicide of Virginia Woolf (1969)
On Friday, March 28, 1941, I was in the garden and I thought she was in the house. But when at one o’clock I went in to lunch, she was not there. When I could not find her anywhere in the house or garden, I felt sure that she had gone down to the river. I ran across the fields down to the river and almost immediately found her walking-stick lying upon the bank. I searched for some time and then went back to the house and informed the police. It was three weeks before her body was found when some children saw it floating in the river.