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Before It Was Mrs. Dalloway... Novels That Came From Short Stories

Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway was first published ninety-one years ago, on May 14, 1925. Its narrative describes a day in the life of its titular character and the tragic Septimus Smith, using Woolf's signature stream-of-consciousness style. What readers may not realize is that this was not the world's introduction to Clarissa Dalloway. Two years earlier, Woolf published the short story "Mrs. Dalloway in Bond Street" in the literary magazine The Dial (via American Periodicals). Differing in only one word from the novel that followed, the opening sentence states, "Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the gloves herself."

"Mrs. Dalloway in Bond Street" by Virginia Woolf

Mrs. Dalloway is not the only novel to begin its life as a short story. With the New York Public Library's extensive collection of online newspapers, magazines, and journals, you can read many of these published short stories at home and compare them to their later, expanded versions—all you need is your library card. Here are ten such examples, along with guidelines and suggestions for finding these and other short stories, both historical and contemporary, in our online collections.

"Gogol" by Jhumpa Lahiri

Before it was The Namesake, it was “Gogol”

Jhumpa Lahiri published "Gogol" in The New Yorker in June 2003. Three months later, Lahiri continued the story of Gogol Ganguli and her exploration of inter-generational and cultural conflict in The Namesake. (via New Yorker Digital Archive)

"The Very Rigid Search" by Jonathan Safran Foer

Before it was Everything is Illuminated, it was “The Very Rigid Search”

Jonathan Safran Foer introduced the world to his inimitable narrator Alex Perchov in The New Yorker's June 2001 issue. In 2002, Foer interwove this story with a magical realist tale of the Trochenbrod shtetl for his debut novel Everything is Illuminated. He made it a trend for his next book, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close: his essay "The Sixth Borough" was first published in the New York Times before being incorporated into the novel. (via New Yorker Digital Archive and New York Times (1980-present))

"The Optimist's Daughter" by Eudora Welty

Before it was The Optimist’s Daughter, it was “The Optimist’s Daughter”

Eudora Welty published "The Optimist's Daughter" in The New Yorker in March 1969. She expanded this showdown of families, backgrounds, and values in the American South into a 1972 novel—well worth the effort, since the book subsequently earned her the Pulitzer Price for Fiction and is widely regarded as her best work. (via New Yorker Digital Archive)

"The Golden Vanity" by Ben Lerner

Before it was 10:04, it was “The Golden Vanity”

In June 2012, Ben Lerner published his short story "The Golden Vanity" in The New Yorker. In keeping with the metafictional character of his second novel 10:04, Lerner incorporated not just this story, but also a story about incorporating the story. (via New Yorker Digital Archive)

"Lassie Come-Home" by Eric Knight

Before it was Lassie, it was “Lassie Come-Home”

Eric Knight published "Lassie Come-Home" in the Saturday Evening Post in December 1938, featuring illustrations by Arthur D. Fuller. In 1940 he released a novel-length version, this time with illustrations by Marguerite Kirmse. The novel was followed, of course, by radio programs, television shows, and films. (via Academic Search Premier)

"The Virgin Suicides" by Jeffrey Eugenides

Before it was The Virgin Suicides, it was “The Virgin Suicides”

Jeffrey Eugenides' "The Virgin Suicides" appeared in The Paris Review in the winter of 1990. In 1993, he published a slim novel of the same name, further developing the tragic story of the Lisbon family and featuring Eugenides' unique first person plural point of view. (via Humanities International Complete, available at any NYPL library)

"Chez Lambert" by Jonathan Franzen

Before it was The Corrections, it was “Chez Lambert”

Jonathan Franzen began describing the Lambert family and their inner and outer lives in "Chez Lambert," a 1996 story for The Paris Review. Five years later, the story of St. Jude lived on in The Corrections. (via ProQuest Research Library)

"Hitting Budapest" by NoViolet Bulawayo

Before it was We Need New Names, it was “Hitting Budapest”

NoViolet Bulawayo published her Caine Prize-winning "Hitting Budapest" in The Boston Review in the winter of 2010. Three years later, it became the first chapter of her debut novel We Need New Names, which transplanted her brash, earnest, and vulnerable narrator from her native Zimbabwe to the United States. (via Literature Online)

"The Beau Monde of Mrs. Bridge" by Evan S. Connell

Before it was Mrs. Bridge, it was “The Beau Monde of Mrs. Bridge”

Four years before publishing Mrs. Bridge in 1959, Evan S. Connell began sketching out the title character and her domestic dissatisfaction in inter-war, middle-class Middle America. "The Beau Monde of Mrs. Bridge" appeared in The Paris Review 's fall 1955 issue. (via Humanities International Complete, available at any NYPL library)

"A Room at the Normandy" by Michael Cunningham

Before it was The Hours, it was “A Room at the Normandy”

How fitting that Michael Cunningham's The Hours was not only a modern take on Mrs. Dalloway, but also paralleled its process of publication! "A Room at the Normandy" appeared in the September 1998 issue of The New Yorker. Two months later, Cunningham released The Hours, which went on to win the Pulitzer Price for Fiction in 1999. (via New Yorker Digital Archive)

Finding Short Fiction in Online Databases

To find more short stories using the Library's electronic resources, consider using one of these databases:

American Periodicals (1740-1940)

For historical short stories, a great place to start is American Periodicals. It includes runs of influential literary magazines like The Dial, The Bookman, McClure's, and The Smart Set. The latter alone published works by Willa Cather, Dorothy Parker, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Eugene O'Neill, and James Joyce, among others.

New Yorker Digital Archive

Flip through a complete run of The New Yorker—that's over 90 years of issues, right up to the one on newsstands now—in our searchable database.

Periodical "Aggregators"

Many of our databases bring together hundreds to thousands of different newspapers, magazines, and scholarly journals, letting you search across multiple sources at once. Some aggregators that are strong in literary fiction include:

  • Humanities International Complete (available at the library): for Paris Review, Five Points, Crazyhorse, Southern Review, Boulevard, AGNI
  • JSTOR (available at the library): for Threepenny Review, Antioch Review, Georgia Review, earlier issues of Callaloo and Kenyon Review
  • ProQuest Research Library (available from home): for Harper's, New England Review, Ploughshares, later issues of Callaloo and Kenyon Review

Often the run of a particular literary journal is broken up across multiple databases. One database might contain more historical issues, while another holds more current issues. If you're interested in a specific title, use our A-Z list to check its availability from a library or at home. And to read scholarly criticism of these and many other short stories, refer to Short Story Criticism—we have over 200 volumes' worth available in Literature Criticism Online.

May is Short Story Month, after all, so it's a perfect time to catch up on some short-form prose. Who knows—maybe tomorrow's classic novel lies within the pages of today's online journals!


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Mrs. Dalloway

Adding to "Before it was Mrs. Dalloway...", Clarissa Dalloway's first appearance was actually in Virginia Woolf's first novel, "The Voyage Out, originally published in 1915--which she had worked on for many years. Clarissa and Richard Dalloway make an appearance in chapters III-VI of that novel. So in this case, I would say that a novel spun off a short story, which in turn was the basis for a new novel!

Re: Mrs. Dalloway

Thanks, Stephanie! Those who want to read The Voyage Out can do so for free through HathiTrust. The 1920 American edition is available here:;view=1up;seq=9

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