December 06, 1982 12:00 PM

by Virginia Woolf

If someone found one of her grocery lists, a publisher would grab it and put it in hardback. Although she died in 1941, author Virginia Woolf s diaries and letters spill out in a continuing stream of new volumes. Now five slight, descriptive essays that she wrote in the 1930s have turned up. They are about London’s docks, Oxford Street, the homes of Keats and the Carlyles, St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey and the House of Commons. With Woolf in charge this isn’t mere reporting. There are some imaginative leaps, such as her description of the busy, dirty docks: “Now pleasure has gone and labour has come; and it stands derelict like some beauty in her midnight finery looking out over mud flats and candle works, while malodorous mounds of earth, upon which trucks are perpetually tipping fresh heaps, have entirely consumed the fields where, a hundred years ago, lovers wandered and picked violets.” No one writes like that anymore. (Random House, $10)

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