In context of the unpublished essay by Virginia Woolf addressed to the editor of the New Statesman, the term is synonymous to that of a dunce, fool (foolishness) or a form of mediocre artistic acquisition that can be related to a false taste to literature that focuses on emotional appeal rather than an effective form of literary innovation and quality. In addition, the term also applies to an ineffective attempt of gaining intellectual as well as cultural achievement that is out of reach or far-fetched. Woolf explicitly expresses her dissent when the editor of the New Statesman omitted the word from her previously published book.
Woolf categorizes dunces, fools, or mediocre individuals as “they are the go-betweens; they are the busy-bodies who run from one to the other with their tittle tattle and make all the mischief. Neither one thing nor the other” (Woolf, 178). In contrast with the avant-garde men and women, in which Woolf categorizes her as such, has the greater commitment to art, beauty, and principle. The commons, who pursue simple yet believe these things to be of intrinsic value live, deserve the respect of the avant-gardes and vices-versa. These two entities coexist with the other, where Woolf categorizes both as having a duty bound to have a symbiotic relationship, apart from that of the mediocre people. These mediocrities live in the middle, that cannot appreciate beauty, art, music, among others for its own sake; rather they live by these things in order to boost their societal image rather than appreciating the aesthetic value of daily objects and things. The mediocrity of these people, according to Woolf, is insulting in her part as the editor had omitted the one title that she believes she deserves to be called.
Woolf, Virgina. The Death of the Moth: and Other Essays. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1970.