The Years

The Years
First edition cover
AuthorVirginia Woolf
Cover artistVanessa Bell
CountryUnited Kingdom
PublisherHogarth Press
Publication date
Media typePrint (hardback & paperback)
Pages444 pp

The Years is a 1937 novel by Virginia Woolf, the last she published in her lifetime. It traces the history of the genteel Pargiter family from the 1880s to the "present day" of the mid-1930s.

Although spanning fifty years, the novel is not epic in scope, focusing instead on the small private details of the characters' lives. Except for the first, each section takes place on a single day of its titular year, and each year is defined by a particular moment in the cycle of seasons. At the beginning of each section, and sometimes as a transition within sections, Woolf describes the changing weather all over Britain, taking in both London and countryside as if in a bird's-eye view before focusing in on her characters. Although these descriptions move across the whole of England in single paragraphs, Woolf only rarely and briefly broadens her view to the world outside Britain.


The novel had its inception in a lecture Woolf gave to the National Society for Women's Service on January 21, 1931, an edited version of which would later be published as "Professions for Women".[1] Having recently published A Room of One's Own, Woolf thought of making this lecture the basis of a new book-length essay on women, this time taking a broader view of their economic and social life, rather than focusing on women as artists, as the first book had. As she was working on correcting the proofs of The Waves and beginning the essays for The Common Reader, Second Series, the idea for this essay took shape in a diary entry for 16 February 1932: "And I'm quivering & itching to write my--whats it to be called?--'Men are like that?'--no thats too patently feminist: the sequel then, for which I have collected enough poweder to blow up St Pauls. It is to have 4 pictures" (capitalization and punctuation as in manuscript).[2] The reference to "4 pictures" in this diary entry shows the early connection between The Years and Three Guineas, which would, indeed, include photographs.[3] On 11 October 1932, she titled the manuscript "THE PARGITERS: An Essay based upon a paper read to the London/National Society for Women's Service" (capitalization as in manuscript).[4][5] During this time, the idea of mixing the essay with fiction occurred to her, and in a diary entry of 2 November 1932, she conceived the idea of a " novel-essay" in which each essay would be followed by a novelistic passage presented as extracts from an imaginary longer novel, which would exemplify the ideas explored in the essay.[6] Woolf began to collect materials about women's education and lives since the later decades of the 19th century, which she copied into her reading notebooks or pasted into scrapbooks, hoping to incorporate them into the essay portions of The Pargiters (they would ultimately be used for Three Guineas).[7]

Between October and December 1932 Woolf wrote six essays and their accompanying fictional "extracts" for The Pargiters. By February 1933, however, she jettisoned the theoretical framework of her "novel-essay" and began to rework the book primarily as a fictional narrative, though as Anna Snaith has argued in her introduction to the Cambridge edition of the novel, "Her decision to cut the essays was not a rejection of the project's basis in non-fiction, but affirmation of its centrality to the project, and to her writing in general."[8] Some of the conceptual material presented in The Pargiters eventually made its way into her non-fiction essay-letter, Three Guineas (1938). In 1977 a transcription of the original draft of six essays and extracts, together with the lecture that first inspired them, was edited by Mitchell Leaska and published under the title The Pargiters.

Woolf's manuscripts of The Years, including the draft from which The Pargiters was prepared, are in the Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of the New York Public Library.

Other Languages
العربية: السنوات
español: Los años
português: The Years