“Everything has gone for me but the certainty of your goodness. I can’t go on spoiling your life any longer. I don’t think two people could have been happier than we have been.” So ends Virginia Woolf’s poignant suicide note, addressed to her husband, Leonard Woolf. It is a throbbing document, hauntingly beautiful, in which a decision is made to part with a rote anguish. I’ve read it dozens of times over the years with fascination, even obsession. I picture her writing these final words in a thin ring of lamplight at a worn desk; walking deliberately down the road’s mellow dust; bending to fill her coat pockets with smooth river stones; the crisp blue cold of the Ouse biting at her ankles. But I always return to the contents of the note: the impossible task of a writer attempting to explain herself—to say goodbye to both a companion and an existence—with words grown suddenly insensate, rebellious. “You see I can’t even write this,” it reads at one point, a line that has always seemed, to me, the most tragic part of a tragic letter—that the mind capable of crafting To the Lighthouse should recoil at its own halting articulation.