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Thread: Adeline Virginia Woolf

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    Default Adeline Virginia Woolf



    Virginia Woolf: IEI or SEI-Si

    - from The Waves by Virginia Woolf; p. 3: The light struck upon the trees in the garden, making one leaf transparent and then another. One bird chirped high up; there was a pause; another chirped lower down. The sun sharpened the walls of the house, and rested like the tip of a fan upon a white blind and made a blue fingerprint of shadow under the leaf by the bedroom window. The blind stirred slightly, but all within was dim and unsubstantial. The birds sang their blank melody outside.


    - pp. 6-8: ‘Through the chink in the hedge,’ said Susan, ‘I saw her kiss him. I raised my head from my flowerpot and looked through a chink in the hedge. I saw her kiss him. I saw them, Jinny and Louis, kissing. Now I will wrap my agony inside my pocket-handkerchief. It shall be screwed tight into a ball. I will go to the beech wood alone, before lessons. I will not sit at a table, doing sums. I will not sit next Jinny and next Louis. I will take my anguish and lay it upon the roots under the beech trees. I will examine it and take it between my fingers. They will not find me. I shall eat nuts and peer for eggs through the brambles and my hair will be matted and I shall sleep under hedges and drink water from ditches and die there.’

    ‘Susan has passed us,’ said Bernard. ‘She has passed the tool-house door with her handkerchief screwed into a ball. She was not crying, but her eyes, which are so beautiful, were narrow as cats’ eyes before they spring. I shall follow her, Neville. I shall go gently behind her, to be at hand, with my curiosity, to comfort her when she bursts out in a rage and thinks, “I am alone.”

    ‘Now she walks across the field with a swing, nonchalantly, to deceive us. Then she comes to the dip; she thinks she is unseen; she begins to run with her fists clenched in front of her. Her nails meet in the ball of her pocket-handkerchief. She is making for the beech woods out of the light. She spreads her arms as she comes to them and takes to the shade like a swimmer. But she is blind after the light and trips and flings herself down on the roots under the trees, where the light seems to pant in and out, in and out. The branches heave up and down. There is agitation and trouble here. There is gloom. The light is fitful. There is anguish here. The roots make a skeleton on the ground, with dead leaves heaped in the angles. Susan has spread her anguish out. Her pocket-handkerchief is laid on the roots of the beech trees and she sobs, sitting crumpled where she has fallen.’

    ‘I saw her kiss him,’ said Susan. ‘I looked between the leaves and saw her. She danced in flecked with diamonds light as dust. And I am squat, Bernard, I am short. I have eyes that look close to the ground and see insects in the grass. The yellow warmth in my side turned to stone when I saw Jinny kiss Louis. I shall eat grass and die in a ditch in the brown water where dead leaves have rotted.’

    ‘I saw you go,’ said Bernard. ‘As you passed the door of the tool-house I heard you cry, “I am unhappy.” I put down my knife. I was making boats out of firewood with Neville. And my hair is untidy, because when Mrs Constable told me to brush it there was a fly in a web, and I asked, “Shall I free the fly? Shall I let the fly be eaten?” So I am late always. My hair is unbrushed and these chips of wood stick in it. When I heard you cry I followed you, and saw you put down your handkerchief, screwed up, with its rage, with its hate, knotted in it. But soon that will cease. Our bodies are close now. You hear me breathe. You see the beetle too carrying off a leaf on its back. It runs this way, then that way, so that even your desire while you watch the beetle, to possess one single thing (it is Louis now), must waver, like the light in and out of the beech leaves; and then words, moving darkly in the depths of your mind, will break up this knot of hardness screwed in your pocket-handkerchief.’

    ‘I love,’ said Susan, ‘and I hate. I desire one thing only. My eyes are hard. Jinny’s eyes break into a thousand lights. Rhoda’s are like those pale flowers to which moths come in the evening. Yours grow full and brim and never break. But I am already set on my pursuit. I see insects in the grass. Though my mother still knits white socks for me and hems pinafores and I am a child, I love and I hate.’


    - p. 12: ' . . . He was found with his throat cut. The apple-tree leaves became fixed in the sky; the moon glared; I was unable to lift my foot up the stair. He was found in the gutter. His blood gurgled down the gutter. His jowl was white as a dead codfish. I shall call this stricture, this rigidity, "death among the apple trees" for ever.* There were the floating, pale-grey clouds; and the immitigable tree; the implacable tree with its greaved silver bark. The ripple of my life was unavailing. I was unable to pass by. There was an obstacle. "I cannot surmount this unintelligible obstacle," I said. And the others passed on. But we are doomed, all of us, by the apple trees, by the immitigable tree which we cannot pass.

    * This repeats a memory Woolf records in ‘A Sketch of the Past’: ‘Some people called Valpy had been staying at St Ives, and had left. We were waiting at dinner one night, when somehow I overheard my father or my mother say that Mr Valpy had killed himself. The next thing I remember is being in the garden at night and walking on the path by the apple tree. It seemed to me that the apple tree was connected with the horror of Mr Valpy’s suicide. I could not pass it . . . I seemed to be dragged down, hopelessly, into some pit of absolute despair from which I could not escape’ (Woolf, 1990, p. 80).


    - pp. 96-97: ' . . . Nothing, not the pursuit of perfection through the sand, nor fame, nor money, has meaning for me. I shall have riches; I shall have fame. But I shall never have what I want, for I lack bodily grace and the courage that comes with it. The swiftness of my mind is too strong for my body. I fail before I reach the end and fall in a heap, damp, perhaps disgusting. I excite pity in the crises of life, not love. Therefore I suffer horribly. But I do not suffer, as Louis does, to make myself a spectacle. I have too fine a sense of fact to allow myself these juggleries, these pretences. I see everything -- except one thing -- with complete clarity. That is my saving. That is what gives my suffering an unceasing excitement. That is what makes me dictate, even when I am silent. And since I am, in one respect, deluded, since the person is always changing, though not the desire, and I do not know in the morning by whom I shall sit at night, I am never stagnant; I rise from my worst disasters, I turn, I change . . .'


    - p. 141: 'And time,' said Bernard, 'lets fall its drop. The drop that has formed on the roof of the soul falls. On the roof of my mind time, forming, lets fall its drop. Last week, as I stood shaving, the drop fell. I, standing with my razor in my hand, became suddenly aware of the merely habitual nature of my action (this is the drop forming) and congratulated my hands, ironically, for keeping at it. Shave, shave, shave, I said. Go on shaving. The drop fell. All through the day's work, at intervals, my mind went to an empty place, saying, "What is lost? What is over?" And "Over and done with," I muttered, "over and done with", solacing myself with words. People noticed the vacuity of my face and the aimlessness of my conversation. The last words of my sentence tailed away. And as I buttoned on my coat to go home I said more dramatically, "I have lost my youth".

    'It is curious how, at every crisis, some phrase which does not fit insists upon coming to the rescue -- the penalty of living in an old civilisation with a notebook. This drop falling has nothing to do with losing my youth. This drop falling is time tapering to a point. Time, which is a sunny pasture covered with a dancing light, time, which is widespread as a field at midday, becomes pendant. Time tapers to a point. As a drop falls from a glass heavy with some sediment, time falls. These are the true cycles, these are the true events. Then as if all the luminosity of the atmosphere were withdrawn I see to the bare bottom. I see what habit covers. I lie sluggish in bed for days. I dine out and gape like a codfish. I do not trouble to finish my sentences, and my actions, usually so uncertain, acquire a mechanical precision.


    - p. 145: 'These moments of escape are not to be despised. They come too seldom. Tahiti becomes possible. Leaning over this parapet I see far out a waste of water. A fin turns. This bare visual impression is unattached to any line of reason, it springs up as one might see the fin of a porpoise on the horizon. Visual impressions often communicate thus briefly statements that we shall in time to come uncover and coax into words. I note under F., therefore, "Fin in a waste of waters". I, who am perpetually making notes in the margin of my mind for some final statement, make this mark, waiting for some winter's evening.

    'Now I shall go and lunch somewhere, I shall hold my glass up, I shall look through the wine, I shall observe with more than my usual detachment, and when a pretty woman enters the restaurant and comes down the room between the tables I shall say to myself, "Look where she comes against a waste of waters". A meaningless observation, but to me, solemn, slate-coloured, with a fatal sound of ruining worlds and waters falling to destruction.

    [Fin in a waste of waters: cf. Woolf, Diary, III, 30 September 1926, p. 113: 'I wished to add some remarks to this, on the mystical side of this solitude; how it is not oneself but something in the universe that one's left with. It is this that is frightening & exciting in the midst of my profound gloom, depression, boredom, whatever it is: One sees a fin passing far out.']


    - pp. 152-153: Rhoda flies with her neck outstretched and blind fanatic eyes, past us. Louis, now so opulent, goes to his attic window among the blistered roofs and gazes where she has vanished, but must sit down in his office among the typewriters and the telephone and work it all out for our instruction, for our regeneration, and the reform of an unborn world.

    'But now in this room, which I enter without knocking, things are said as if they had been written. I go to the book-case. If I choose, I read half a page of anything. I need not speak. But I listen. I am marvellously on the alert. Certainly, one cannot read this poem without effort. The page is often corrupt and mud-stained, and torn and stuck together with faded leaves, with scraps of verbena or geranium. To read this poem one must have myriad eyes, like one of those lamps that turn on slabs of racing water at midnight in the Atlantic, when perhaps only a spray of seaweed pricks the surface, or suddenly the waves gape and up shoulders a monster. One must pat aside antipathies and jealousies and not interrupt. One must have patience and infinite care and let the light sound, whether of spiders' delicate feet on a leaf or the chuckle of water in some irrelevant drainpipe, unfold too. Nothing is to be rejected in fear or horror. The poet who has written this page (what I read with people talking) has withdrawn. There are no commas or semicolons. The lines do not run in convenient lengths. Much is sheer nonsense. One must be sceptical, but throw caution to the winds and when the door opens accept absolutely. Also sometimes weep; also cut away ruthlessly with a slice of the blade soot, bark, hard accretions of all sorts. And so (while they talk) let down one's net deeper and deeper and gently draw in and bring to the surface what he said and she said and make poetry.

    'Now I have listened to them talking. They have gone now. I am alone. I could be content to watch the fire burn for ever, like a dome, like a furnace; now some spike of wood takes the look of a scaffold, or pit, or happy valley; now it is a serpent curled crimson with white scales.


    - pp. 161-163: 'There at the door by the Inn, our meeting-place, they are already standing -- Susan, Louis, Rhoda, Jinny and Neville. They have come together already. In a moment, when I have joined them, another arrangement will form, another pattern. What now runs to waste, forming scenes profusely, will be checked, stated. I am reluctant to suffer that compulsion. Already at fifty yards distance I feel the order of my being changed. The tug of the magnet of their society tells upon me. I come nearer. They do not see me. Now Rhoda sees me, but she pretends, with her horror of the shock of meeting, that I am a stranger. Now Neville turns. Suddenly, raising my hand, saluting Neville I cry, "I too have pressed flowers between the pages of Shakespeare's sonnets," and am churned up. My little boat bobs unsteadily upon the chopped and tossing waves. There is no panacea (let me note) against the shock of meeting.

    'It is uncomfortable too, joining ragged edges, raw edges; only gradually, as we shuffle and trample into the Inn, taking coats and hats off, does meeting become agreeable. Now we assemble in the long, bare dining-room that overlooks some park, some green space still fantastically lit by the setting sun so that there is a gold bar between the trees, and sit ourselves down.'

    'Now sitting side by side,' said Neville, 'at this narrow table, now before the first emotion is worn smooth, what do we feel? Honestly now, openly and directly as befits old friends meeting with difficulty, what do we feel on meeting? Sorrow. The door will not open; he will not come. And we are laden. Being now all of us middle-aged, loads are on us. Let us put down our loads. What have you made of life, we ask, and I? You, Bernard; you, Susan; you, Jinny; and Rhoda and Louis? The lists have been posted on the doors. Before we break these rolls, and help ourselves to fish and salad, I feel in my private pocket and find my credentials -- what I carry to prove my superiority. I have passed. I have papers in my private pocket -- the clamour that proves that I have passed -- make a faint sound like that of a man clapping in an empty field to scare away rooks. Now it has died down altogether, under Susan's stare (the clapping, the reverberation that I have made), and I hear only the wind sweeping over the ploughed land and some bird singing -- perhaps some intoxicated lark. Has the waiter heard of me, or those furtive everlasting couples, now loitering, now holding back and looking at the trees which are not yet dark enough to shelter their prostrate bodies? No; the sound of clapping has failed.

    'What then remains, when I cannot pull out my papers and make you believe by reading aloud my credentials that I have passed? What remains is what Susan brings to light under the acid of her green eyes, her crystal, pear-shaped eyes. There is always somebody, when we come together, and the edges of meeting are still sharp, who refuses to be submerged; whose identity therefore one wishes to make crouch beneath one's own. For me now, it is Susan. I talk to impress Susan. Listen to me, Susan.

    'When someone comes in at breakfast, even the embroidered fruit on my curtain swells so that parrots can peck it; one can break it off between one's thumb and finger. The thin, skimmed milk of early morning turns opal, blue, rose. At that hour your husband -- the man who slapped his gaiters, pointing with his whip at the barren cow -- grumbles. You say nothing. You see nothing. Custom blinds your eyes. At that hour your relationship is mute, null, dun-coloured. Mine at that hour is warm and various. There are no repetitions for me. Each day is dangerous. Smooth on the surface, we are all bone beneath like snakes coiling. Suppose we read The Times; suppose we argue. It is an experience. Suppose it is winter. The snow falling loads down the roof and seals us together in a red cave. The pipes have burst. We stand a yellow tin bath in the middle of the room. We rush helter-skelter for basins. Look there -- it has burst again over the bookcase. We shout with laughter at the sight of ruin. Let solidity be destroyed. Let us have no possessions. Or is it summer? We may wander to a lake and watch Chinese geese waddling flat-footed to the water's edge, or see a bone-like city church with young green trembling before it. (I choose at random; I choose the obvious.) Each sight is an arabesque scrawled suddenly to illustrate some hazard and marvel of intimacy. The snow, the burst pipe, the tin bath, the Chinese goose -- these are signs swung high aloft upon which, looking back, I read the character of each love; how each was different.


    - pp. 167-169: ' . . . Waves of hands, hesitations at street corners, someone dropping a cigarette into the gutter -- all are stories. But which is the true story? That I do not know. Hence I keep my phrases hung like clothes in a cupboard, waiting for someone to wear them. Thus waiting, thus speculating, making this note and then another, I do not cling to life. I shall be brushed like a bee from a sunflower. My philosophy, always accumulating, welling up moment by moment, runs like quicksilver a dozen ways at once. But Louis, wild-eyed but severe, in his attic, in his office, has formed unalterable conclusions upon the true nature of what is to be known.'

    'It breaks,' said Louis, 'the thread I try to spin; your laughter breaks it, your indifference, also your beauty. Jinny broke the thread when she kissed me in the garden years ago. The boasting boys mocked me at school for my Australian accent and broke it. "This is the meaning", I say; and then start with a pang -- vanity. "Listen", I say, "to the nightingale, who sings among the trampling feet; the conquests and migrations. Believe--", and then am twitched asunder. Over broken tiles and splinters of glass I pick my way. Different lights fall, making the ordinary leopard-spotted and strange. This moment of reconciliation, when we meet together united, this evening moment, with its wine and shaking leaves, and youth coming up from the river in white flannels, carrying cushions, is to me black with the shadows of dungeons and the tortures and infamies practised by man upon man. So imperfect are my senses that they never blot out with one purple the serious charge that my reason adds and adds against us, even as we sit here. What is the solution, I ask myself, and the bridge? How can I reduce these dazzling, these dancing apparitions to one line capable of linking all in one? So I ponder; and you meanwhile observe maliciously my pursed lips, my sallow cheeks and my invariable frown.

    'But I beg you also to notice my cane and my waistcoat. I have inherited a desk of solid mahogany in a room hung with maps. Our steamers have won an enviable reputation for their cabins replete with luxury. We supply swimming-baths and gymnasiums. I wear a white waistcoat now and consult a little book before I make an engagement.

    'This is the arch and ironical manner in which I hope to distract you from my shivering, my tender, and infinitely young and unprotected soul. For I am always the youngest; the most naively surprised; the one who runs in advance in apprehension and sympathy with discomfort or ridicule -- should there be a smut on a nose, or a button undone. I suffer for all humiliations. Yet I am also ruthless, marmoreal. I do not see how you can say that it is fortunate to have lived. Your little excitements, your childish transports, when a kettle boils, when the soft air lifts Jinny's spotted scarf and it floats weblike, are to me like silk streamers thrown in the eyes of the charging bull. I condemn you. Yet my heart yearns towards you. I would go with you through the fires of death. Yet am happiest alone. I luxuriate in gold and purple vestments. Yet I prefer a view over chimney-pots, cats scraping their mangy sides upon blistered chimney-stacks; broken windows; and the hoarse clangour of bells from the steeple of some brick chapel.'

    'I see what is before me,' said Jinny. 'This scarf, these wine-coloured spots. This glass. This mustard pot. This flower. I like what one touches, what one tastes. I like rain when it has turned to snow and become palpable. And being rash, and much more courageous than you are, I do not temper my beauty with meanness lest it should scorch me. I gulp it down entire. It is made of flesh; it is made of stuff. My imagination is the body's. Its visions are not fine-spun and white with purity like Louis's. I do not like your lean cats and your blistered chimney-pots. The scrannel beauties of your roof-tops repel me. Men and women, in uniforms, wigs and gowns, bowler hats and tennis shirts beautifully open at the neck, the infinite variety of women's dresses (I note all clothes always) delight me. I eddy with them, in and out, in and out, into rooms, into halls, here, there, everywhere, wherever they go. This man lifts the hoof of a horse. This man shoves in and out the drawers of his private collection. I am never alone. I am attended by a regiment of my fellows. My mother must have followed the drum, my father the sea.

    [I prefer a view over chimney-pots: Louis's language here, as on p. 155, recalls the subject matter of T. S. Eliot's early poetry, particularly 'Preludes': one of the points of comparison between Louis and Eliot (born in St Louis, Missouri; feeling himself to be an outsider to British society; following a highly responsible business career whilst at the same time cultivating literature).]


    - pp. 170-174: 'There were lamp-posts,' said Rhoda, 'and trees that had not yet shed their leaves on the way from the station. The leaves might have hidden me still. But I did not hide behind them. I walked straight up to you instead of circling round to avoid the shock of sensation as I used. But it is only that I have taught my body to do a certain trick. Inwardly I am not taught; I fear, I hate, I love, I envy and despise you, but I never join you happily. Coming up from the station, refusing to accept the shadow of the trees and the pillar-boxes, I perceived, from your coats and umbrellas, even at a distance, how you stand embedded in a substance made of repeated moments run together; are committed, have an attitude, with children, authority, fame, love, society; where I have nothing. I have no face.

    'Here in this dining-room you see the antlers and the tumblers; the salt-cellars; the yellow stains on the table-cloth. "Waiter!" says Bernard. "Bread!" says Susan. And the waiter comes; he brings bread. But I see the side of a cup like a mountain and only parts of antlers, and the brightness on the side of that jug like a crack in darkness with wonder and terror. Your voices sound like trees creaking in a forest. So with your faces and their prominences and hollows. How beautiful, standing at a distance immobile at midnight against the railings of some square! Behind you is a white crescent of foam, and fishermen on the verge of the world are drawing in nets and casting them. A wind ruffles the topmost leaves of primeval trees. (Yet here we sit at Hampton Court.) Parrots shrieking break the intense stillness of the jungle. (Here the trams start.) The swallow dips her wings in midnight pools. (Here we talk.) That is the circumference that I try to grasp as we sit together. Thus I must undergo the penance of Hampton Court at seven thirty precisely.

    'But since these rolls of bread and wine bottles are needed by me, and your faces with their hollows and prominences are beautiful, and the table-cloth and its yellow stains, far from being allowed to spread in wider and wider circles of understanding that may at last (so I dream, falling off the edge of the earth at night when my bed floats suspended) embrace the entire world, I must go through the antics of the individual. I must start when you pluck at me with your children, your poems, your chilblains or whatever it is that you do and suffer. But I am not deluded. After all these callings hither and thither, these pluckings and searchings, I shall fall alone through this thin sheet into gulfs of fire. And you will not help me. More cruel than the old torturers, you will let me fall, and will tear me to pieces when I am fallen. Yet there are moments when the walls of the mind grow thin; when nothing is unabsorbed, and I could fancy that we might blow so vast a bubble that the sun might set and rise in it and we might take the blue of midday and the black of midnight and be cast off and escape from here and now.'

    'Drop upon drop,' said Bernard, 'silence falls. It forms on the roof of the mind and falls into pools beneath. For ever alone, alone, alone, -- hear silence fall and sweep its rings to the farthest edges. Gorged and replete, solid with middle-aged content, I, whom loneliness destroys, let silence fall, drop by drop.

    'But now silence falling pits my face, wastes my nose like a snowman stood out in a yard in the rain. As silence falls I am dissolved utterly and become featureless and scarcely to be distinguished from another. It does not matter. What matters? We have dined well. The fish, the veal cutlets, the wine have blunted the sharp tooth of egotism. Anxiety is at rest. The vainest of us, Louis perhaps, does not care what people think. Neville's tortures are at rest. Let others prosper -- that is what he thinks. Susan hears the breathing of all her children safe asleep. Sleep, sleep, she murmurs. Rhoda has rocked her ships to shore. Whether they have foundered, whether they have anchored, she cares no longer. We are ready to consider any suggestion that the world may offer quite impartially. I reflect now that the earth is only a pebble flicked off accidentally from the face of the sun and that there is no life anywhere in the abysses of space.'

    'In this silence,' said Susan, 'it seems as if no leaf would ever fall, or bird fly.'

    'As if the miracle had happened,' said Jinny, 'and life were stayed here and now.'

    'And,' said Rhoda, 'we had no more to live.'

    'But listen,' said Louis, 'to the world moving through abysses of infinite space. It roars; the lighted strip of history is past and our Kings and Queens; we are gone; our civilisation; the Nile; and all life. Our separate drops are dissolved; we are extinct, lost in the abysses of time, in the darkness.'

    'Silence falls; silence falls,' said Bernard. 'But now listen; tick, tick; hoot, hoot; the world has hailed us back to it. I heard for one moment the howling winds of darkness as we passed beyond life. Then tick, tick (the clock); then hoot, hoot (the cars). We are landed; we are on shore; we are sitting, six of us, at a table. It is the memory of my nose that recalls me. I rise; "Fight," I cry, "fight!" remembering the shape of my own nose, and strike with this spoon upon this table pugnaciously.'

    . . . ('Yet, Louis,' said Rhoda, 'how short a time silence lasts. Already they are beginning to smooth their napkins by the side of their plates. "Who comes?" says Jinny; and Neville sighs, remembering that Percival comes no more. Jinny has taken out her looking-glass. Surveying her face like an artist, she draws a powder-puff down her nose, and after one moment of deliberation has given precisely that red to the lips that the lips need. Susan, who feels scorn and fear at the sight of these preparations, fastens the top button of her coat, and unfastens it. What is she making ready for? For something, but something different.'

    'They are saying to themselves,' said Louis, ' "It is time. I am still vigorous", they are saying, "My face shall be cut against the black of infinite space." They do not finish their sentences. "It is time," they keep saying. "The gardens will be shut." And going with them, Rhoda, swept into their current, we shall perhaps drop a little behind.'

    'Like conspirators who have something to whisper,' said Rhoda.)

    'It is true, and I know for a fact,' said Bernard, 'as we walk down this avenue, that a King, riding, fell over a molehill here. But how strange it seems to set against the whirling abysses of infinite space a little figure with a golden teapot on his head. Soon one recovers belief in figures: but not at once in what they put on their heads. Our English past -- one inch of light. Then people put teapots on their heads and say, "I am a King!" No, I try to recover, as we walk, the sense of time, but with that streaming darkness in my eyes I have lost my grip. This Palace seems light as a cloud set for a moment on the sky. It is a trick of the mind -- to put Kings on their thrones, one following another, with crowns on their heads. And we ourselves, walking six abreast, what do we oppose, with this random flicker of light in us that we call brain and feeling, how can we do battle against this flood; what has permanence? Our lives too stream away, down the unlighted avenues, past the strip of time, unidentified. Once Neville threw a poem at my head. Feeling a sudden conviction of immortality, I said, "I too know what Shakespeare knew". But that has gone.'

    [59. "Fight," I cry, "fight!": Woolf wrote in her Diary, III, 11 October 1929 p. 260, '. . . when I wake early I say to myself Fight, fight.']


    - p. 5: ‘Now they have all gone,’ said Louis. ‘I am alone. They have gone into the house for breakfast, and I am left standing by the wall among the flowers. It is very early, before lessons. Flower after flower is specked on the depths of green. The petals are harlequins. Stalks rise from the black hollows beneath. The flowers swim like fish made of light upon the dark, green waters. I hold a stalk in my hand. I am the stalk. My roots go down to the depths of the world, through earth dry with brick, and damp earth, through veins of lead and silver. I am all fibre. All tremors shake me, and the weight of the earth is pressed to my ribs. Up here my eyes are green leaves, unseeing.


    - pp. 13-14: ‘ . . . Jinny spins her fingers on the tablecloth, as if they were dancing in the sunshine, pirouetting. But I am not afraid of the heat or of the frozen winter.’

    ‘Now,’ said Louis, ‘we all rise; we all stand up. Miss Curry spreads wide the black book on the harmonium. It is difficult not to weep as we sing, as we pray that God may keep us safe while we sleep, calling ourselves little children. When we are sad and trembling with apprehension it is sweet to sing together, leaning slightly, I towards Susan, Susan towards Bernard, clasping hands, afraid of much, I of my accent, Rhoda of figures; yet resolute to conquer.’

    ‘We troop upstairs like ponies,’ said Bernard, ‘stamping, clattering one behind another to take our turns in the bathroom. We buffet, we tussle, we spring up and down on the hard white beds. My turn has come. I come now.

    ‘Mrs Constable, girt in a bath-towel, takes her lemon-coloured sponge and soaks it in water; it turns chocolate-brown; it drips; and holding it high above me, shivering beneath her, she squeezes it. Water pours down the runnel of my spine. Bright arrows of sensation shoot on either side. I am covered with warm flesh. My dry crannies are wetted; my cold body is warmed; it is sluiced and gleaming. Water descends and sheets me like an eel. Now hot towels envelop me, and their roughness, as I rub my back, makes my blood purr. Rich and heavy sensations form on the roof of my mind; down showers the day—the woods; and Elvedon; Susan and the pigeon. Pouring down the walls of my mind, running together, the day falls copious, resplendent. Now I tie my pyjamas loosely round me, and lie under this thin sheet afloat in the shallow light which is like a film of water drawn over my eyes by a wave. I hear through it far off, far away, faint and far, the chorus beginning; wheels; dogs; men shouting; church bells; the chorus beginning.’

    ‘As I fold up my frock and my chemise,’ said Rhoda, ‘so I put off my hopeless desire to be Susan, to be Jinny. But I will stretch my toes so that they touch the rail at the end of the bed; I will assure myself, touching the rail, of something hard. Now I cannot sink; cannot altogether fall through the thin sheet now. Now I spread my body on this frail mattress and hang suspended. I am above the earth now. I am no longer upright, to be knocked against and damaged. All is soft, and bending. Walls and cupboards whiten and bend their yellow squares on top of which a pale glass gleams. Out of me now my mind can pour. I can think of my armadas sailing on the high waves. I am relieved of hard contacts and collisions. I sail on alone under white cliffs. Oh, but I sink, I fall! [(Percy Bysshe Shelley, ‘Epipsychidion’, l. 91] That is the corner of the cupboard; that is the nursery looking-glass. But they stretch, they elongate. I sink down on the black plumes of sleep; its thick wings are pressed to my eyes. Travelling through darkness I see the stretched flowerbeds, and Mrs Constable runs from behind the corner of the pampas-grass to say my aunt has come to fetch me in a carriage. I mount; I escape; I rise on spring-heeled boots over the tree-tops. But I am now fallen into the carriage at the hall door, where she sits nodding yellow plumes with eyes hard like glazed marbles. Oh, to awake from dreaming! Look, there is the chest of drawers. Let me pull myself out of these waters. But they heap themselves on me; they sweep me between their great shoulders; I am turned; I am tumbled; I am stretched, among these long lights, these long waves, these endless paths, with people pursuing, pursuing.’


    - pp. 64-65: I need an audience. That is my downfall. That always ruffles the edge of the final statement and prevents it from forming. I cannot seat myself in some sordid eating-house and order the same glass day after day and imbue myself entirely in one fluid -- this life. I make my phrase and run off with it to some furnished room where it will be lit by dozens of candles. I need eyes on me to draw out these frills and furbelows. To be myself (I note) I need the illumination of other people's eyes, and therefore cannot be entirely sure what is my self. The authentics, like Louis, like Rhoda, exist most completely in solitude. They resent illumination, reduplication. They toss their pictures once painted face downward on the field. On Louis's words the ice is packed thick. His words issue pressed, condensed, enduring.

    'I wish, then, after this somnolence to sparkle many-faceted under the light of my friends' faces. I have been traversing the sunless territory of non-identity. A strange land. I have heard in my moment of appeasement, in my moment of obliterating satisfaction, the sigh, as it goes in, comes out, of the tide that draws beyond this circle of bright light, this drumming of insensate fury. I have had one moment of enormous peace. This perhaps is happiness. Now I am drawn back by pricking sensations; by curiosity, greed (I am hungry) and the irresistible desire to be myself. I think of people to whom I could say things: Louis, Neville, Susan, Jinny and Rhoda. With them I am many-sided. They retrieve me from darkness. We shall meet tonight, thank heaven. Thank heaven, I need not be alone. We shall dine together. We shall say goodbye to Percival, who goes to India. The hour is still distant, but I feel already those harbingers, those outriders, figures of one's friends in absence.



    - from The Body Never Lies: The Lingering Effects of Cruel Parenting (Translated from the German by Andrew Jenkins); pp. 54-58 [The Betrayal of Memory (Virginia Woolf)]: Twenty years ago, in Thou Shalt Not Be Aware: Society’s Betrayal of the Child, I discussed the life of Virginia Woolf, who, like her sister, Vanessa Bell, was sexually abused by her two half-brothers when she was a child and later apparently until adolescence. In her diary, which ran to twenty-four volumes, Woolf constantly returned to that terrible period, in which she did not dare to confide in her parents because she knew she could expect no support from them. All her life she suffered from recurrent depression and yet still found the strength to work on her novels, hoping in this way to express her pain and ultimately to overcome the traumas of her childhood and adolescence. But in 1941 her depression gained the upper hand and Virginia Woolf drowned herself.

    According to one of her biographers, Louise DeSalvo, Woolf began to doubt the authenticity of her own memories after reading the works of Freud, although she had already noted them in a memoir and knew that her sister had also been sexually abused by their half-brothers. DeSalvo thinks that from that point on Woolf followed the theories of Freud, ceasing to regard human behavior as the logical consequence of childhood experiences and instead seeing it as a result of drives, fantasies, and wishful thinking. DeSalvo assumed that Freud’s writings plunged Woolf into total confusion. On the one hand, she knew exactly what happened; on the other, she wished, like almost all victims of sexual abuse, that it had never been the case. Finally she gladly accepted Freud’s theories and sacrificed her memories in the service of this denial. She began to idealize her parents even more and to describe her whole family in a roseate light, something she had never done before. After conceding that Freud was right, she became uncertain of herself, and confused, and she finally believed herself to be insane.

    DeSalvo is convinced that this turn in Woolf’s thinking reinforced her decision to kill herself, that her acceptance of Freud took away the foundation for the cause-and-effect relationship she had attempted to establish, thus forcing her to retract her own explanations for her bouts of depression and her mental state. Previously, Woolf attributed her depressive states to her terrible, humiliating experiences of sexual molestation. But if she followed Freud’s theories, then there had to be other explanations. Perhaps her memories were distorted, not to say false; perhaps they were a reflection not of actual experience but of the projection of her own desires. Perhaps, in short, the whole business had been a product of her imagination. [Louise DeSalvo, Virginia Woolf: The Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse on Her Life and Work (New York: Feminist Press, 1995), p. 132.]

    I do not doubt that reading Freud’s work could have had an influence on Virginia Woolf, but I think that this may have been only a trigger and not the final cause of her suicide. We know that there were many such attempts long before Virginia could read Freud, the first one at the age of thirteen. Freud’s work might have deepened her confusion but it represented only what society did and still does when faced with facts of scandalous sexual exploitation well hidden by families: it blames the victim and protects the adult persecutor. For that reason Woolf was totally alone with her monstrous history, in spite of so many good friends. The “care” she received from her family and from her husband, Leonard, was accompanied by lies and hypocrisy that she refused to see. She was free to question such attitudes in her novels but her own family remained sacrosanct. Woolf unquestionably wanted to believe that she was loved—that the silence and indifference she endured was, in fact, love. As a result, she lived with such lies, and instead of facing the truth she blamed herself. She went on behaving in this way even after her suicide attempt in 1913, which occurred after she read how her own husband had defamed her in his novel The Wise Virgins. She then apologized for having caused him trouble.

    Can we say that she had no courage? No, we can’t; she showed more courage than most people in denouncing lies, but her family could not come to terms with such honesty. This is not surprising. The little girl continued to live in an adult woman’s body, fearing her molesting half-brothers and her beloved parents, who remained silent. Had she been able to listen to her body, the true Virginia would certainly have spoken up. In order to do so, however, she needed someone to say to her: “Open your eyes! They didn’t protect you when you were in danger of losing your health and your mind, and now they refuse to see what has been done to you. How can you love them so much after all that?” No one offered that kind of support. Nor can anyone stand up to that kind of abuse alone, not even Virginia Woolf.

    Malcolm Ingram, the noted lecturer in psychological medicine, believed that Woolf’s “mental illness” had nothing to do with her childhood experiences, and her illness was genetically inherited from her family. Here is his opinion as quoted on the Virginia Woolf Web site:

    As a child she was sexually abused, but the extent and duration is difficult to establish. At worst she may have been sexually harassed and abused from the age of twelve to twenty-one by her [half-]brother George Duckworth, [fourteen] years her senior, and sexually exploited as early as six by her other [half-]brother . . .
    It is unlikely that the sexual abuse and her manic-depressive illness are related. However tempting it may be to relate the two, it must be more likely that, whatever her upbringing, her family history and genetic makeup were the determining factors in her mood swings rather than her unhappy childhood [italics added]. More relevant in her childhood experience is the long history of bereavements that punctuated her adolescence and precipitated her first depressions.



    Ingram’s text goes against my own interpretation and ignores a large volume of literature that deals with trauma and the effects of childhood abuse. Here we see how people minimize the importance of information that might cause pain or discomfort—such as childhood abuse—and blame psychiatric disorders on family history instead. Woolf must have felt keen frustration when seemingly intelligent and well-educated people attributed her condition to her mental history, denying the effects of significant childhood experiences. In the eyes of many she remained a woman possessed by “madness.” Nevertheless, the key to her condition lay tantalizingly close to the surface, so easily attainable, and yet neglected.

    I think that Woolf’s suicide could have been prevented if she had had an enlightened witness with whom she could have shared her feelings about the horrors inflicted on her at such an early age. But there was no one to turn to, and she considered Freud to be the expert on psychic disorders. Here she made a tragic mistake. His writings cast her into a state of severe uncertainty, and she preferred to despair of her own self rather than doubt the great father figure Sigmund Freud, who represented, as did her family, the system of values upheld by society, especially at the time. -- Alice Miller
    Last edited by HERO; 01-25-2018 at 09:19 PM.
    “Must get that Capel street library book renewed or they’ll write to
    Kearney, my garantor. Reincarnation: that’s the word.

    — Some people believe, he said, that we go on living in another body
    after death, that we lived before. They call it reincarnation. That we all lived
    before on the earth thousands of years ago or some other planet. They say we
    have forgotten it. Some say they remember their past lives.

    The sluggish cream wound curdling spirals through her tea. Better remind
    her of the word: metempsychosis. An example would be better.”

    —from Ulysses by James Joyce

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    killer wolf lemontrees's Avatar
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    You know, I would go IEI on the sheer (utterly scientific) basis that almost all of my favorite writers/poets are IEI, but what's really interesting is that my SLE best friend really doesn't like her. She finds Woolf "coldly intellectual," despite the beauty of the language--I think she attributes that language to some sort of prowess--language made to bent to the movements of the mind rather than arising organically from some sort of emotion. I don't know though. I still love her. And she's clearly Ni.

    My favorite quote (from the journals is this):

    "We could not have gone on talking about the nature of beauty in the abstract forever."

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    Snomunegot munenori2's Avatar
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    "A Room of One's Own" altered the way I saw the world. True story.
    Moonlight will fall
    Winter will end
    Harvest will come
    Your heart will mend

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    High Priestess glam's Avatar
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    maybe EII. for some reason her writing is hard for me to read.

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    Quote Originally Posted by munenori2 View Post
    "A Room of One's Own" altered the way I saw the world. True story.
    Me too!

    No argument with IEI.
    It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.
    -Mark Twain


    You can't wake a person who is pretending to be asleep.

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    WE'RE ALL GOING HOME HERO's Avatar
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    EII



    - from Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf; pp. 33-38: She could see what she lacked. It was

    not beauty; it was not mind. It was something central which permeated; something warm which

    broke up surfaces and rippled the cold contact of man and woman, or of women together. For

    that she could dimly perceive. She resented it, had a scruple picked up Heaven knows

    where, or, as she felt, sent by Nature (who is invariably wise); yet she could not resist sometimes

    yielding to the charm of a woman, not a girl, of a woman confessing, as to her they often did,

    some scrape, some folly. And whether it was pity, or their beauty, or that she was older, or some

    accident—like a faint scent, or a violin next door (so strange is the power of sounds at certain

    moments), she did undoubtedly then feel what men felt. Only for a moment; but it was enough. It

    was a sudden revelation, a tinge like a blush which one tried to check and then, as it spread, one

    yielded to its expansion, and rushed to the farthest verge and there quivered and felt the world

    come closer, swollen with some astonishing significance, some pressure of rapture, which split

    its thin skin and gushed and poured with an extraordinary alleviation over the cracks and sores!

    Then, for that moment, she had seen an illumination; a match burning in a crocus; an inner

    meaning almost expressed. But the close withdrew; the hard softened. It was over – the moment.

    Against such moments (with women too) there contrasted (as she laid her hat down) the bed and

    Baron Marbot and the candle half-burnt. Lying awake, the floor creaked; the lit house was

    suddenly darkened, and if she raised her head she could just hear the click of the handle released

    as gently as possible by Richard, who slipped upstairs in his socks and then, as often as not,

    dropped his hot-water bottle and swore! How she laughed!


    But this question of love (she thought, putting her coat away), this falling in love with women.

    Take Sally Seton; her relation in the old days with Sally Seton. Had not that, after all, been love?


    She sat on the floor – that was her first impression of Sally – she sat on the floor with her

    arms round her knees, smoking a cigarette. Where could it have been? The Mannings’? The

    Kinloch-Joneses’? At some party (where, she could not be certain), for she had a distinct

    recollection of saying to the man she was with, ‘Who is that?’ And he had told her, and

    said that Sally’s parents did not get on (how that shocked her—that one’s parents should

    quarrel!). But all that evening she could not take her eyes off Sally. It was an extraordinary

    beauty of the kind she most admired, dark, large-eyed, with that quality which, since she

    hadn’t got it herself, she always envied – a sort of abandonment, as if she could say anything, do

    anything; a quality much commoner in foreigners than in English-women. Sally always said she

    had French blood in her veins, an ancestor had been with Marie Antoinette, had his head cut off,

    left a ruby ring. Perhaps that summer she came to stay at Bourton, walking in quite

    unexpectedly without a penny in her pocket, one night after dinner, and upsetting poor Aunt

    Helena to such an extent that she never forgave her. There had been some awful quarrel at

    home. She literally hadn’t a penny that night when she came to them – had pawned a brooch to

    come down. She had rushed off in a passion. They sat up till all hours of the night talking. Sally

    it was who made her feel, for the first time, how sheltered the life at Bourton was. She knew

    nothing about sex—nothing about social problems. She had once seen an old man who had

    dropped dead in a field—she had seen cows just after their calves were born. But Aunt Helena

    never liked discussion of anything (when Sally gave her William Morris, it had to be wrapped in

    brown paper). There they sat, hour after hour, talking in her bedroom at the top of the house,

    talking about life, how they were to reform the world. They meant to found a society to abolish

    private property, and actually had a letter written, though not sent out. The ideas were Sally’s, of

    course—but very soon she was just as excited — read Plato in bed before breakfast; read Morris;

    read Shelley by the hour.


    Sally’s power was amazing, her gift, her personality. There was her way with flowers, for

    instance. At Bourton they always had stiff little vases all the way down the table. Sally went out,

    picked hollyhocks, dahlias—all sorts of flowers that had never been seen together—cut their

    heads off, and made them swim on the top of water in bowls. The effect was extraordinary—

    coming in to dinner in the sunset. (Of course Aunt Helena thought it wicked to treat flowers like

    that.) Then she forgot her sponge, and ran along the passage naked. That grim old housemaid,

    Ellen Atkins, went about grumbling—‘Suppose any of the gentlemen had seen?’ Indeed she did

    shock people. She was untidy, Papa said.


    The strange thing, on looking back, was the purity, the integrity, of her feeling for Sally. It was

    not like one’s feeling for a man. It was completely disinterested, and besides, it had a quality

    which could only exist between women, between women just grown up. It was protective, on her

    side; sprang from a sense of being in league together, a presentiment of something that was

    bound to part them (they spoke of marriage always as a catastrophe), which led to this chivalry,

    this protective feeling which was much more on her side than Sally’s. For in those days she was

    completely reckless; did the most idiotic things out of bravado; bicycled round the parapet on the

    terrace; smoked cigars. Absurd, she was – very absurd. But the charm was overpowering, to her

    at least, so that she could remember standing in her bedroom at the top of the house holding the

    hot-water can in her hands and saying aloud, ‘She is beneath this roof . . . She is beneath this

    roof!’


    No, the words meant absolutely nothing to her now. She could not even get an echo of her old

    emotion. But she could remember going cold with excitement, and doing her hair in a kind of

    ecstasy (now the old feeling began to come back to her, as she took out her hairpins, laid them on

    the dressing-table, began to do her hair), with the rooks flaunting up and down in the pink

    evening light, and dressing, and going downstairs, and feeling as she crossed the hall ‘if it were

    now to die ‘twere now to be most happy’. That was her feeling—Othello’s feeling, and she

    felt it, she was convinced, as strongly as Shakespeare meant Othello to feel it, all because she

    was coming down to dinner in a white frock to meet Sally Setton!


    She was wearing pink gauze – was that possible? She seemed, anyhow, all light, glowing,

    like some bird or airball that has flown in, attached itself for a moment to a bramble. But nothing

    is so strange when one is in love (and what was this except being in love?) as the complete

    indifference of other people. Aunt Helena just wandered off after dinner; Papa read the paper.

    Peter Walsh might have been there, and old Miss Cummings; Joseph Breitkopf certainly was,

    for he came every summer, poor old man, for weeks and weeks, and pretended to read German

    with her, but really played the piano and sang Brahms without any voice.


    All this was only a background for Sally. She stood by the fireplace talking, in that beautiful

    voice which made everything she said sound like a caress, to Papa, who had begun to be

    attracted rather against his will (he never got over lending her one of his books and finding it

    soaked on the terrace), when suddenly she said, ‘What a shame to sit indoors!’ and they all went

    out on to the terrace and walked up and down. Peter Walsh and Joseph Breitkopf went on about

    Wagner. She and Sally fell a little behind. Then came the most exquisite moment of her whole

    life passing a stone urn with flowers in it. Sally stopped; picked a flower; kissed her on the lips.

    The whole world might have turned upside down! The others disappeared; there she was alone

    with Sally. And she felt that she had been given a present, wrapped up, and told just to keep it,

    not to look at it – a diamond, something infinitely precious, wrapped up, which, as they walked

    (up and down, up and down), she uncovered, or the radiance burnt through, the revelation, the

    religious feeling! – when old Joseph and Peter faced them:


    ‘Star-gazing?’ said Peter.

    It was like running one’s face against a granite wall in the darkness! It was shocking; it was

    horrible!

    Not for herself. She felt only how Sally was being mauled already, maltreated; she felt his

    hostility; his jealousy; his determination to break into their companionship. All this she saw as

    one sees a landscape in a flash of lightning—and Sally (never had she admired her so much!)

    gallantly taking her way unvanquished. She laughed. She made old Joseph tell her the names of

    the stars, which he liked doing very seriously. She stood there: she listened. She heard the names

    of the stars.

    ‘Oh this horror!’ she said to herself, as if she had known all along that something would

    interrupt, would embitter her moment of happiness.





    pp. 60-71: It was a splendid morning too. Like the pulse of a perfect heart, life struck straight

    through the streets. There was no fumbling—no hesitation. Sweeping and swerving, accurately,

    punctually, noiselessly, there, precisely at the right instant, the motor-car stopped at the door.

    The girl, silk-stockinged, feathered, evanescent, but not to him particularly attractive (for he had

    had his fling), alighted. Admirable butlers, tawny chow dogs, halls laid in black and white

    lozenges with white blinds blowing, Peter saw through the opened door and approved of. A

    splendid achievement in its own way, after all, London; the season; the civilisation. Coming as

    he did from a respectable Anglo-Indian family which for at least three generations had

    administered the affairs of a continent (it’s strange, he thought, what a sentiment I have

    about that, disliking India, and empire, and army as he did), there were moments when

    civilisation, even of this sort, seemed dear to him as a personal possession; moments of

    pride in England; in butlers; chow dogs; girls in their security. Ridiculous enough, still there it is,

    he thought. And the doctors and men of business and capable women all going about their

    business, punctual, alert, robust, seemed to him wholly admirable, good fellows, to whom one

    would entrust one’s life, companions in the art of living, who would see one through. What

    with one thing and another, the show was really very tolerable; and he would sit down in the

    shade and smoke.

    There was Regent’s Park. Yes. As a child he had walked in Regent’s Park — odd, he thought,

    how the thought of childhood keeps coming back to me — the result of seeing Clarissa,

    perhaps; for women live much more in the past than we do, he thought. They attach

    themselves to places; and their fathers — a woman’s always proud of her father. Bourton was a

    nice place, a very nice place, but I could never get on with the old man, he thought. There was

    quite a scene one night — an argument about something or other, what, he could not remember.

    Politics presumably.

    Yes, he remembered Regent’s Park; the long straight walk; the little house where one bought

    air-balls to the left; an absurd statue with an inscription somewhere or other. He looked for an

    empty seat. He did not want to be bothered (feeling a little drowsy as he did) by people asking

    him the time. An elderly grey nurse, with a baby asleep in its perambulator — that was the best

    he could do for himself; sit down at the far end of the seat by that nurse.

    She’s a queer-looking girl, he thought, suddenly remembering Elizabeth as she came into the

    room and stood by her mother. Grown big; quite grown-up, not exactly pretty; handsome rather;

    and she can’t be more than eighteen. Probably she doesn’t get on with Clarissa. ‘Here’s my

    Elizabeth’ — that sort of thing — why not ‘Here’s Elizabeth’ simply? – trying to make out, like

    most mothers, that things are what they’re not. She trusts to her charm too much, he thought. She

    overdoes it.

    The rich benignant cigar smoke eddied coolly down his throat; he puffed it out again in rings

    which breasted the air bravely for a moment; blue, circular—I shall try and get a word alone

    with Elizabeth to-night, he thought—then began to wobble into hour-glass shapes and taper

    away; odd shapes they take, he thought. Suddenly he closed his eyes, raised his hand with an

    effort, and threw away the heavy end of his cigar. A great brush swept smooth across his

    mind, sweeping across it moving branches, children’s voices, the shuffle of feet, and people

    passing, and humming traffic, rising and falling traffic. Down, down he sank into the plumes and

    feathers of sleep, sank, and was muffled over.



    The grey nurse resumed her knitting as Peter Walsh, on the hot seat beside her, began snoring. In

    her grey dress, moving her hands indefatigably yet quietly, she seemed like the champion of the

    rights of sleepers, like one of those spectral presences which rise in twilight in woods made of

    sky and branches. The solitary traveller, haunter of lanes, disturber of ferns, and devastator of

    great hemlock plants, looking up suddenly, sees the giant figure at the end of the ride.

    By conviction an atheist perhaps, he is taken by surprise with moments of extraordinary

    exaltation. Nothing exists outside us except a state of mind, he thinks; a desire for solace, for

    relief, for something outside these miserable pigmies, these feeble, these ugly, these craven men

    and women. But if he can conceive of her, then in some sort she exists, he thinks, and advancing

    down the path with his eyes upon sky and branches he rapidly endows them with womanhood;

    sees with amazement how grave they become; how majestically, as the breeze stirs them, they

    dispense with a dark flutter of the leaves charity, comprehension, absolution, and then, flinging

    themselves suddenly aloft, confound the piety of their aspect with a wild carouse.

    Such are the visions which proffer great cornucopias full of fruit to the solitary traveller, or

    murmur in his ear like sirens lolloping away on the green sea waves, or are dashed in his face

    like bunches of roses, or rise to the surface like pale faces which fishermen flounder through

    floods to embrace.

    Such are the visions which ceaselessly float up, pace beside, put their faces in front of, the actual

    thing; often overpowering the solitary traveller and taking away from him the sense of the earth,

    the wish to return, and giving him for substitute a general peace, as if (so he thinks as he

    advances down the forest ride) all this fever of living were simplicity itself; and myriads of

    things merged in one thing; and this figure, made of sky and branches as it is, had risen from

    the troubled sea (he is elderly, past fifty now) as a shape might be sucked up out of the waves to

    shower down from her magnificent hands compassion, comprehension, absolution. So, he thinks,

    may I never go back to the lamplight; to the sitting-room; never finish my book; never knock out

    my pipe; never ring for Mrs. Turner to clear away; rather let me walk straight on to this great

    figure, who will, with a toss of her head, mount me on her streamers and let me blow to

    nothingness with the rest.

    Such are the visions. The solitary traveller is soon beyond the wood; and there, coming to the

    door with shaded eyes, possibly to look for his return, with hands raised, with white apron

    blowing, is an elderly woman who seems (so powerful is this infirmity) to seek, over the desert, a

    lost son; to search for a rider destroyed; to be the figure of the mother whose sons have been

    killed in the battles of the world. So, as the solitary traveller advances down the village street

    where the women stand knitting and the men dig in the garden, the evening seems ominous; the

    figures still; as if some august fate, known to them, awaited without fear, were about to sweep

    them into complete annihilation.

    Indoors among ordinary things, the cupboard, the table, the window-sill with its geraniums,

    suddenly the outline of the landlady, bending to remove the cloth, becomes soft with light, an

    adorable emblem which only the recollection of cold human contacts forbids us to embrace.

    She takes the marmalade; she shuts it in the cupboard.

    ‘There is nothing more to-night, sir?’

    But to whom does the solitary traveller make reply?



    So the elderly nurse knitted over the sleeping baby in Regent’s Park. So Peter Walsh snored.

    He woke with extreme suddenness, saying to himself, ‘The death of the soul.’

    ‘Lord, Lord!’ he said to himself out loud, stretching and opening his eyes. ‘The death of the

    soul.’ The words attached themselves to some scene, to some room, to some past he had been

    dreaming of. It became clearer; the scene, the room, the past he had been dreaming of.


    It was at Bourton that summer, early in the ‘nineties, when he was so passionately in

    love with Clarissa. There were a great many people there, laughing and talking, sitting round a

    table after tea, and the room was bathed in yellow light and full of cigarette smoke. They were

    talking about a man who had married his housemaid, one of the neighbouring squires, he had

    forgotten his name. He had married his housemaid, and she had been brought to Bourton to

    call — an awful visit it had been. She was absurdly overdressed, ‘like a cockatoo,’ Clarissa had

    said, imitating her, and she never stopped talking. On and on she went, on and on. Clarissa

    imitated her. Then somebody said – Sally Seton it was – did it make any real difference to one’s

    feelings to know that before they’d married she had had a baby? (In those days, in mixed

    company, it was a bold thing to say.) He could see Clarissa now, turning bright pink; somehow

    contracting; and saying, ‘Oh, I shall never be able to speak to her again!’ Whereupon the whole

    party sitting round the tea-table seemed to wobble. It was very uncomfortable.


    He hadn’t blamed her for minding the fact, since in those days a girl brought up as she was,

    knew nothing, but it was her manner that annoyed him; timid; hard; arrogant; prudish. ‘The

    death of the soul.’ He had said that instinctively, ticketing the moment as he used to do – the

    death of her soul.


    Every one wobbled; every one seemed to bow, as she spoke, and then to stand up different. He

    could see Sally Seton, like a child who has been in mischief, leaning forward, rather flushed,

    wanting to talk, but afraid, and Clarissa did frighten people. (She was Clarissa’s greatest friend,

    always about the place, an—attractive creature, handsome, dark, with the reputation in those

    days of great daring, and he used to give her cigars, which she smoked in her bedroom, and she

    had either been engaged to somebody or quarrelled with her family, and old Parry disliked them

    both equally, which was a great bond.) Then Clarissa, still with an air of being offended with

    them all, got up, made some excuse, and went off, alone. As she opened the door, in came that

    great shaggy dog which ran after sheep. She flung herself upon him, went into raptures. It was as

    if she said to Peter – it was all aimed at him, he knew – ‘I know you thought me absurd about

    that woman just now; but see how extraordinarily sympathetic I am; see how I love my Rob!’


    They had always this queer power of communicating without words. She knew directly he

    criticised her. Then she would do something quite obvious to defend herself, like this fuss with

    the dog—but it never took him in, he always saw through Clarissa. Not that he said anything, of

    course; just sat looking glum. It was that way their quarrels often began.

    She shut the door. At once he became extremely depressed. It all seemed useless—going on

    being in love; going on quarrelling; going on making it up, and he wandered off alone, among

    outhouses, stables, looking at the horses. (The place was quite a humble one; the Parrys were

    never very well off; but there were always grooms and stable-boys about – Clarissa loved

    riding – and an old coachman – what was his name? – an old nurse, old Moody, old Goody,

    some such name they called her, whom one was taken to visit in a little room with lots of

    photographs, lots of bird-cages.)

    It was an awful evening! He grew more and more gloomy, not about that only; about everything.

    And he couldn’t see her; couldn’t explain to her; couldn’t have it out. There were always people

    about—she’d go on as if nothing had happened. That was the devilish part of her—this coldness,

    this woodenness, something very profound in her, which he had felt again this morning talking to

    her; an impenetrability. Yet Heaven knows he loved her. She had some queer power of fiddling

    on one’s nerves, turning one’s nerves to fiddle-strings, yes.

    He had gone in to dinner rather late, from some idiotic idea of making himself felt, and had sat

    down by old Miss Parry – Aunt Helena – Mr. Parry’s sister, who was supposed to preside. There

    she sat in her white Cashmere shawl, with her head against the window – a formidable old lady,

    but kind to him, for he had found her some rare flower, and she was a great botanist, marching

    off in thick boots with a black tin collecting box slung between her shoulders. He sat down

    beside her, and couldn’t speak. Everything seemed to race past him; he just sat there, eating.

    And then half-way through dinner he made himself look across at Clarissa for the first time. She

    was talking to a young man on her right. He had a sudden revelation. ‘She will marry that man,’

    he said to himself. He didn’t even know his name.

    For of course it was that afternoon, that very afternoon, that Dalloway had come over; and

    Clarissa called him ‘Wickham’; that was the beginning of it all. Somebody had brought him

    over; and Clarissa got his name wrong. She introduced him to everybody as Wickham. At last he

    said ‘My name is Dalloway!’ – that was his first view of Richard – a fair young man, rather

    awkward, sitting on a deck-chair, and blurting out ‘My name is Dalloway!’ Sally got hold of it;

    always after that she called him ‘My name is Dalloway!’

    He was a prey to revelations at that time. This one—that she would marry Dalloway—was

    blinding—overwhelming at the moment. There was a sort of – how could he put it? – a sort of

    ease in her manner to him; something maternal; something gentle. They were talking about

    politics. All through dinner he tried to hear what they were saying.


    Afterwards he could remember standing by old Miss Parry’s chair in the drawing-room. Clarissa

    came up, with her perfect manners, like a real hostess, and wanted to introduce him to some

    one – spoke as if they had never met before, which enraged him. Yet even then he admired her

    for it. He admired her courage; her social instinct; he admired her power of carrying things

    through. ‘The perfect hostess,’ he said to her, whereupon she winced all over. But he meant her

    to feel it. He would have done anything to hurt her, after seeing her with Dalloway. So she left

    him. And he had a feeling that they were all gathered together in a conspiracy against him—

    laughing and talking—behind his back. There he stood by Miss Parry’s chair as though he had

    been cut out of wood, talking about wild flowers. Never, never had he suffered so infernally! He

    must have forgotten even to pretend to listen; at last he woke up; he saw Miss Parry looking

    rather disturbed, rather indignant, with her prominent eyes fixed. He almost cried out that he

    couldn’t attend because he was in Hell! People began going out of the room. He heard them

    talking about fetching cloaks; about its being cold on the water, and so on. They were going

    boating on the lake by moonlight – one of Sally’s mad ideas. He could hear her describing the

    moon. And they all went out. He was left quite alone.


    ‘Don’t you want to go with them?’ said Aunt Helena – poor old lady! – she had guessed. And he

    turned round and there was Clarissa again. She had come back to fetch him. He was overcome

    by her generosity—her goodness.

    ‘Come along,’ she said. ‘They’re waiting.’


    He had never felt so happy in the whole of his life! Without a word they made it up. They

    walked down to the lake. He had twenty minutes of perfect happiness. Her voice, her laugh, her

    dress (something floating, white, crimson), her spirit, her adventurousness; she made them all

    disembark and explore the island; she startled a hen; she laughed; she sang. And all the time, he

    knew perfectly well, Dalloway was falling in love with her; she was falling in love with

    Dalloway; but it didn’t seem to matter. Nothing mattered. They sat on the ground and talked –

    he and Clarissa. They went in and out of each other’s minds without any effort. And then in a

    second it was over. He said to himself as they were getting into the boat, ‘She will marry that

    man,’ dully, without any resentment; but it was an obvious thing. Dalloway would marry

    Clarissa.

    Dalloway rowed them in. He said nothing. But somehow as they watched him start, jumping on

    to his bicycle to ride twenty miles through the woods, wobbling off down the drive, waving his

    hand and disappearing, he obviously did feel, instinctively, tremendously, strongly, all that; the

    night; the romance; Clarissa. He deserved to have her.


    For himself, he was absurd. His demands upon Clarissa (he could see it now) were absurd. He

    asked impossible things. He made terrible scenes. She would have accepted him still, perhaps, if

    he had been less absurd. Sally thought so. She wrote him all that summer long letters; how they

    had talked of him; how she had praised him, how Clarissa burst into tears! It was an

    extraordinary summer – all letters, scenes, telegrams – arriving at Bourton early in the morning,

    hanging about till the servants were up; appalling tete-a-tetes with old Mr. Parry at

    breakfast; Aunt Helena formidable but kind; Sally sweeping him off for talks in the

    vegetable garden; Clarissa in bed with headaches.


    The final scene, the terrible scene which he believed had mattered more than anything in the

    whole of his life (it might be an exaggeration—but still, so it did seem now), happened at three

    o’clock in the afternoon of a very hot day. It was a trifle that led up to it – Sally at lunch saying

    something about Dalloway, and calling him ‘My name is Dalloway’; whereupon Clarissa

    suddenly stiffened, coloured, in a way she had, and rapped out sharply, ‘We’ve had enough of

    that feeble joke.’ That was all; but for him it was as if she had said, ‘I’m only amusing myself

    with you; I’ve an understanding with Richard Dalloway.’ So he took it. He had not slept for

    nights. ‘It’s got to be finished one way or the other,’ he said to himself. He sent a note to her by

    Sally asking her to meet him by the fountain at three. ‘Something very important has happened,’

    he scribbled at the end of it.


    The fountain was in the middle of a little shrubbery, far from the house, with shrubs and trees all

    round it. There she came, even before the time, and they stood with the fountain between them,

    the spout (it was broken) dribbling water incessantly. How sights fix themselves upon the mind!

    For example, the vivid green moss.

    She did not move. ‘Tell me the truth, tell me the truth,’ he kept on saying. He felt as if his

    forehead would burst. She seemed contracted, petrified. She did not move. ‘Tell me the truth,’

    he repeated, when suddenly that old man Breitkopf popped his head in carrying the Times;

    stared at them; gaped; and went away. They neither of them moved. ‘Tell me the truth,’ he

    repeated. He felt that he was grinding against something physically hard; she was unyielding.

    She was like iron, like flint, rigid up the backbone. And when she said, ‘It’s no use. It’s no use.

    This is the end’—after he had spoken for hours, it seemed, with the tears running down his

    cheeks—it was as if she had hit him in the face. She turned, she left him, she went away.


    ‘Clarissa!’ he cried. ‘Clarissa!’ But she never came back. It was over. He went away that night.

    He never saw her again.




    - pp. 82-90: He didn’t mind what he asked [Mr.] Dalloway. He was a thorough good sort; a bit

    limited; a bit thick in the head; yes; but a thorough good sort. Whatever he took up he did in the

    same matter-of-fact sensible way; without a touch of imagination, without a spark of brilliancy,

    but with the inexplicable niceness of his type. He ought to have been a country gentleman – he

    was wasted on politics. He was at his best out of doors, with horses and dogs – how good he was,

    for instance, when that great shaggy dog of Clarissa’s got caught in a trap and had its paw half

    torn off, and Clarissa turned faint and Dalloway did the whole thing; bandaged, made splints;

    told Clarissa not to be a fool. That was what she liked him for, perhaps—that was what she

    needed. ‘Now, my dear, don’t be a fool. Hold this—fetch that,’ all the time talking to the dog as

    if it were a human being.

    But how could she swallow all that stuff about poetry? How could she let him hold forth about

    Shakespeare? Seriously and solemnly Richard Dalloway got on his hind legs and said that no

    decent man ought to read Shakespeare’s sonnets because it was like listening at keyholes

    (besides, the relationship was not one that he approved). No decent man ought to let his wife

    visit a deceased wife’s sister. Incredible! The only thing to do was to pelt him with sugared

    almonds – it was at dinner. But Clarissa sucked it all in; thought it so honest of him; so

    independent of him; Heaven knows if she didn’t think him the most original mind she’d ever

    met!


    That was one of the bonds between Sally and himself. There was a garden where they used to

    walk, a walled-in place, with rose-bushes and giant cauliflowers – he could remember Sally

    tearing off a rose, stopping to exclaim at the beauty of the cabbage leaves in the moonlight (it

    was extraordinary how vividly it all came back to him, things he hadn’t thought of for years),

    while she implored him, half laughing of course, to carry off Clarissa, to save her from the

    Hughs and the Dalloways and all the other ‘perfect gentlemen’ who would ‘stifle her soul’

    (she wrote reams of poetry in those days), make a mere hostess of her, encourage her

    worldliness. But one must do Clarissa justice. She wasn’t going to marry Hugh anyhow. She

    had a perfectly clear notion of what she wanted. Her emotions were all on the surface. Beneath,

    she was very shrewd – a far better judge of character than Sally, for instance, and with it all,

    purely feminine; with that extraordinary gift, that woman’s gift, of making a world of her own

    wherever she happened to be. She came into a room; she stood, as he had often seen her, in a

    doorway with lots of people round her. But it was Clarissa one remembered. Not that she

    was striking; not beautiful at all; there was nothing picturesque about her; she never said

    anything specially clever; there she was, however; there she was.


    No, no, no! He was not in love with her any more! He only felt, after seeing her that morning,

    among her scissors and silks, making ready for the party, unable to get away from the thought of

    her; she kept coming back and back like a sleeper jolting against him in a railway carriage;

    which was not being in love, of course; it was thinking of her, criticising her, starting again,

    after thirty years, trying to explain her. The obvious thing to say of her was that she was worldly;

    cared too much for rank and society and getting on in the world—which was true in a sense;

    she had admitted it to him. (You could always get her to own up if you took the trouble; she was

    honest.) What she would say was that she hated frumps, fogies, failures, like himself

    presumably; thought people had no right to slouch about with their hands in their pockets;

    must do something, be something; and these great swells, these Duchesses, these hoary old

    Countesses one met in her drawing-room, unspeakably remote as he felt them to be from

    anything that mattered a straw, stood for something real to her. Lady Bexborough, she said

    once, held herself upright (so did Clarissa herself; she never lounged in any sense of the word;

    she was straight as a dart, a little rigid in fact). She said they had a kind of courage which the

    older she grew the more she respected. In all this there was a great deal of Dalloway, of course; a

    great deal of the public-spirited, British Empire, tariff-reform, governing-class spirit, which had

    grown on her, as it tends to do. With twice his wits, she had to see things through his eyes—one

    of the tragedies of married life. With a mind of her own, she must always be quoting Richard—

    as if one couldn’t know to a tittle what Richard thought by reading the Morning Post of a

    morning! These parties, for example, were all for him, or for her idea of him (to do Richard

    justice he would have been happier farming in Norfolk). She made her drawing-room a sort of

    meeting-place; she had a genius for it. Over and over again he had seen her take some raw

    youth, twist him, turn him, wake him up; set him going. Infinite numbers of dull people

    conglomerated round her, of course. But odd unexpected people turned up; an artist

    sometimes; sometimes a writer; queer fish in that atmosphere. And behind it all was that

    network of visiting, leaving cards, being kind to people; running about with bunches of

    flowers, little presents; So-and-so was going to France – must have an air-cushion; a real

    drain on her strength; all that interminable traffic that women of her sort keep up; but she

    did it genuinely, from a natural instinct.


    Oddly enough, she was one of the most thorough-going sceptics he had ever met, and possibly

    (this was a theory he used to make up to account for her, so transparent in some ways, so

    inscrutable in others), possibly she said to herself, As we are a doomed race, chained to a

    sinking ship (her favourite reading as a girl was Huxley and Tyndall, and they were fond of

    these nautical metaphors), as the whole thing is a bad joke, let us, at any rate, do our part;

    mitigate the sufferings of our fellow-prisoners (Huxley again); decorate the dungeon with

    flowers and air-cushions; be as decent as we possibly can. Those ruffians, the Gods, shan’t

    have it all their own way – her notion being that the Gods, who never lost a chance of

    hurting, thwarting and spoiling human lives, were seriously put out if, all the same, you

    behaved like a lady. That phase came directly after Sylvia’s death—that horrible affair. To

    see your own sister killed by a falling tree (all Justin Parry’s fault—all his carelessness)

    before your very eyes, a girl too on the verge of life, the most gifted of them, Clarissa always

    said, was enough to turn one bitter. Later she wasn’t so positive, perhaps; she thought there

    were no Gods; no one was to blame; and so she evolved this atheist’s religion of doing good for

    the sake of goodness.


    And of course she enjoyed life immensely. It was her nature to enjoy (though, goodness only

    knows, she had her reserves; it was a mere sketch, he often felt, that even he, after all these

    years, could make of Clarissa). Anyhow there was no bitterness in her; none of that sense of

    moral virtue which is so repulsive in good women. She enjoyed practically everything. If you

    walked with her in Hyde Park now it was a bed of tulips, now a child in a perambulator, now

    some absurd little drama she made up on the spur of the moment. (Very likely she would have

    talked to those lovers, if she had thought them unhappy.) She had a sense of comedy that was

    really exquisite, but she needed people, always people, to bring it out, with the inevitable

    result that she frittered her time away, lunching, dining, giving these incessant parties of hers,

    talking nonsense, saying things she didn’t mean, blunting the edge of her mind, losing her

    discrimination. There she would sit at the head of the table taking infinite pains with some old

    buffer who might be useful to Dalloway – they knew the most appalling bores in Europe – or in

    came Elizabeth and every thing must give way to her. She was at a High School, at the

    inarticulate stage last time he was over, a round-eyed, pale-faced girl, with nothing of her

    mother in her, a silent stolid creature, who took it all as a matter of course, let her mother make a

    fuss of her, and then said ‘May I go now?’ like a child of four; going off, Clarissa explained,

    with that mixture of amusement and pride which Dalloway himself seemed to rouse in her, to

    play hockey. And now Elizabeth was ‘out’, presumably; thought him an old fogy, laughed at her

    mother’s friends. Ah well, so be it. The compensation of growing old, Peter Walsh thought,

    coming out of Regent’s Park, and holding his hat in hand, was simply this; that the passions

    remain as strong as ever, but one has gained—at last!—the power which adds the supreme

    flavour to existence—the power of taking hold of experience, of turning it round, slowly, in

    the light.


    A terrible confession it was (he put his hat on again), but now, at the age of fifty-three, one

    scarcely needed people any more. Life itself, every moment of it, every drop of it, here, this

    instant, now, in the sun, in Regent’s Park, was enough. Too much, indeed. A whole lifetime

    was too short to bring out, now that one had acquired the power, the full flavour; to extract

    every ounce of pleasure, every shade of meaning; which both were so much more solid than

    they used to be, so much less personal. It was impossible that he should ever suffer again as

    Clarissa had made him suffer. For hours at a time (pray God that one might say these things

    without being overheard!), for hours and days he never thought of Daisy.

    Could it be that he was in love with her, then, remembering the misery, the torture, the

    extraordinary passion of those days? It was a different thing altogether – a much pleasanter

    thing – the truth being, of course, that now she was in love with him. And that

    perhaps was the reason why, when the ship actually sailed, he felt an extraordinary relief,

    wanted nothing so much as to be alone; was annoyed to find all her little attentions—cigars,

    notes, a rug for the voyage—in his cabin. Every one if they were honest would say the same;

    one doesn’t want people after fifty; one doesn’t want to go on telling women they are pretty;

    that’s what most men of fifty would say, Peter Walsh thought, if they were honest.


    But then these astonishing accesses of emotion—bursting into tears this morning, what was all

    that about? What could Clarissa have thought of him? thought him a fool presumably, not for

    the first time. It was jealousy that was at the bottom of it—jealousy which survives every other

    passion of mankind, Peter Walsh thought, holding his pocket-knife at arm’s length. She had

    been meeting Major Orde, Daisy said in her last letter; said it on purpose, he knew; said it to

    make him jealous; he could see her wrinkling her forehead as she wrote, wondering what she

    could say to hurt him; and yet it made no difference; he was furious! All this pother of coming to

    England and seeing lawyers wasn’t to marry her, but to prevent her from marrying anybody else.

    That was what tortured him, that was what came over him when he saw Clarissa so calm, so

    cold, so intent on her dress or whatever it was; realising what she might have spared him, what

    she had reduced him to—a whimpering, snivelling old ass. But women, he thought, shutting his

    pocket-knife, don’t know what passion is. They don’t know the meaning of it to men. Clarissa

    was as cold as an icicle. There she would sit on the sofa by his side, let him take her hand, give

    him one kiss on the cheek – Here he was at the crossing.

    A sound interrupted him; a frail quivering sound, a voice bubbling up without direction, vigour,

    beginning or end, running weakly and shrilly and with an absence of all human meaning into



    ee um fah um so

    foo swee too eem oo –



    the voice of no age or sex, the voice of an ancient spring spouting from the earth; which issued,

    just opposite Regent’s Park Tube Station, from a tall quivering shape, like a funnel, like a

    rusty pump, like a wind-beaten tree for ever barren of leaves which lets the wind run up and

    down its branches singing



    ee um fah um so

    foo swee too eem oo,



    and rocks and creaks and moans in the eternal breeze.

    Through all ages—when the pavement was grass, when it was swamp, through the age of tusk

    and mammoth, through the age of silent sunrise — the battered woman – for she wore a skirt –

    with her right hand exposed, her left clutching at her side, stood singing of love – love which has

    lasted a million years, she sang, love which prevails, and millions of years ago, her lover, who

    had been dead these centuries, had walked, she crooned, with her in May; but in the course of

    ages, long as summer days, and flaming, she remembered, with nothing but red asters, he had

    gone; death’s enormous sickle had swept those tremendous hills, and when at last she laid her

    hoary and immensely aged head on the earth, now become a mere cinder of ice, she implored the

    Gods to lay by her side a bunch of purple heather, there on her high burial place which the last

    rays of the last sun caressed; for then the pageant of the universe would be over.









    - pp. 91-103: Still remembering how once in some primeval May she had walked with her lover,

    this rusty pump, this battered old woman with one hand exposed for coppers, the other clutching

    her side, would still be there in ten million years, remembering how once she had walked in

    May, where the sea flows now, with whom it did not matter – he was a man, oh yes, a man who

    had loved her. But the passage of ages had blurred the clarity of that ancient May day; the bright

    petalled flowers were hoar and silver frosted; and she no longer saw, when she implored him (as

    she did now quite clearly) ‘look in my eyes with thy sweet eyes intently,’ she no longer saw

    brown eyes, black whiskers or sunburnt face, but only a looming shape, a shadow shape, to

    which, with the bird-like freshness of the very aged, she still twittered ‘give me your hand and

    let me press it gently’ (Peter Walsh couldn’t help giving the poor creature a coin as he stepped

    into his taxi), ‘and if someone should see, what matter they?’ she demanded; and her fist

    clutched at her side, and she smiled, pocketing her shilling, and all peering inquisitive eyes

    seemed blotted out, and the passing generations – the pavement was crowded with bustling

    middle-class people – vanished, like leaves, to be trodden under, to be soaked and steeped

    and made mould of by that eternal spring –



    ee um fah um so

    foo swee too eem oo.



    ‘Poor old woman,’ said Rezia Warren Smith.

    Oh poor old wretch! she said, waiting to cross.

    Suppose it was a wet night? Suppose one’s father, or somebody who had known one in

    better days had happened to pass, and saw one standing there in the gutter? And where did

    she sleep at night?


    Cheerfully, almost gaily, the invincible thread of sound wound up into the air like the

    smoke from a cottage chimney, winding up clean beech trees and issuing in a tuft of blue

    smoke among the topmost leaves. ‘And if some one should see, what matter they?’


    Since she was so unhappy, for weeks and weeks now, Rezia had given meanings to things

    that happened, almost felt sometimes that she must stop people in the street, if they looked good,

    kind people, just to say to them ‘I am unhappy’; and this old woman singing in the street ‘if some

    one should see, what matter they?’ made her suddenly quite sure that everything was going to be

    right. They were going to Sir William Bradshaw; she thought his name sounded nice; he

    would cure Septimus at once. And then there was a brewer’s cart, and the grey horses had

    upright bristles of straw in their tails; there were newspaper placards. It was a silly, silly

    dream, being unhappy.


    So they crossed, Mr. and Mrs. Septimus Warren Smith, and was there, after all, anything to

    draw attention to them, anything to make a passer-by suspect here is a young man who carries in

    him the greatest message in the world, and the most miserable? Perhaps they walked more

    slowly than other people, and there was something hesitating, trailing, in the man’s walk, but

    what more natural for a clerk, who has not been in the West End on a week-day at this hour for

    years, than to keep looking at the sky, looking at this, that and the other, as if Portland Place

    were a room he had come into when the family are away, the chandeliers being hung in holland

    bags, and the caretaker, as she lets in long shafts of dusty light upon deserted, queer-looking

    arm-chairs, lifting one corner of the long blinds, explains to the visitors what a wonderful

    place it is; how wonderful, but at the same time, he thinks, how strange.


    To look at, he might have been a clerk, but of the better sort; for he wore brown boots; his hands

    were educated; so, too, his profile—his angular, big-nosed, intelligent, sensitive profile; but not

    his lips altogether, for they were loose; and his eyes (as eyes tend to be), eyes merely; hazel,

    large; so that he was, on the whole, a border case, neither one thing nor the other; might end

    with a house at Purley and a motor car, or continue renting apartments in back streets all his

    life; one of those half-educated, self-educated men whose education is all learnt from books

    borrowed from public libraries, read in the evening after the day’s work, on the advice of

    well-known authors consulted by letter.


    As for the other experiences, the solitary ones, which people go through alone, in their

    bedrooms, in their offices, walking the fields and the streets of London, he had them; had left

    home, a mere boy, because of his mother; she lied; because he came down to tea for the fiftieth

    time with his hands unwashed; because he could see no future for a poet in Stroud; and so,

    making a confidant of his little sister, had gone to London leaving an absurd note behind him,

    such as great men have written, and the world has read later when the story of their struggles

    has become famous.

    London has swallowed up many millions of young men called Smith; thought nothing of

    fantastic Christian names like Septimus with which their parents have thought to distinguish

    them. Lodging off the Euston Road, there were experiences, again experiences, such as

    change a face in two years from a pink innocent oval to a face lean, contracted, hostile.

    But of all this what could the most observant of friends have said except what a gardener

    says when he opens the conservatory door in the morning and finds a new blossom on his

    plant: -- It has flowered; flowered from vanity, ambition, idealism, passion, loneliness,

    courage, laziness, the usual seeds, which all muddled up (in a room off the Euston Road),

    made him shy, and stammering, made him anxious to improve himself, made him fall in

    love with Miss Isabel Pole, lecturing in the Waterloo Road upon Shakespeare.


    Was he not like Keats? she asked; and reflected how she might give him a taste of Antony and

    Cleopatra
    and the rest; lent him books; wrote him scraps of letters; and lit in him such a fire

    as burns only once in a lifetime, without heat, flickering a red gold flame infinitely ethereal and

    insubstantial over Miss Pole; Antony and Cleopatra; and the Waterloo Road. He thought

    her beautiful, believed her impeccably wise; dreamed of her, wrote poems to her, which,

    ignoring the subject, she corrected in red ink; he saw her, one summer evening, walking in a

    green dress in a square. ‘It has flowered,’ the gardener might have said, had he opened the door;

    had he come in, that is to say, any night about this time, and found him writing; found him

    tearing up his writing; found him finishing a masterpiece at three o’clock in the morning and

    running out to pace the streets, and visiting churches, and fasting one day, drinking another,

    devouring Shakespeare, Darwin, The History of Civilisation, and Bernard Shaw.

    Something was up, Mr. Brewer knew; Mr. Brewer, managing clerk at Sibleys and

    Arrowsmiths, auctioneers, valuers, land and estate agents; something was up, he thought, and,

    being paternal with his young men, and thinking very highly of Smith’s abilities, and

    prophesying that he would, in ten or fifteen years, succeed to the leather arm-chair in the

    inner room under the skylight with the deed-boxes round him, ‘if he keeps his health,’ said Mr.

    Brewer, and that was the danger – he looked weakly; advised football, invited him to supper and

    was seeing his way to consider recommending a rise of salary, when something happened which

    threw out many of Mr. Brewer’s calculations, took away his ablest young fellows, and

    eventually, so prying and insidious were the fingers of the European War, smashed a plaster

    cast of Ceres, ploughed a hole in the geranium beds, and utterly ruined the cook’s nerves at Mr.

    Brewer’s establishment at Muswell Hill.


    Septimus was one of the first to volunteer. He went to France to save an England which

    consisted almost entirely of Shakespeare’s plays and Miss Isabel Pole in a green dress walking in

    a square. There in the trenches the change which Mr. Brewer desired when he advised football

    was produced instantly; he developed manliness; he was promoted; he drew the attention, indeed

    the affection of his officer, Evans by name. It was a case of two dogs playing on a hearth-rug;

    one worrying a paper screw, snarling, snapping, giving a pinch, now and then, at the old dog’s

    ear; the other lying somnolent, blinking at the fire, raising a paw, turning and growling

    good-temperedly. They had to be together, share with each other, fight with each other,

    quarrel with each other. But when Evans (Rezia, who had only seen him once, called him ‘a

    quiet man’, a sturdy red-haired man, undemonstrative in the company of women), when Evans

    was killed, just before the Armistice, in Italy, Septimus, far from showing any emotion or

    recognising that here was the end of a friendship, congratulated himself upon feeling very

    little and very reasonably. The War had taught him. It was sublime. He had gone through the

    whole show, friendship, European War, death, had won promotion, was still under thirty and

    was bound to survive. He was right there. The last shells missed him. He watched them

    explode with indifference. When peace came he was in Milan, billeted in the house of an

    innkeeper with a courtyard, flowers in tubs, little tables in the open, daughters making hats, and

    to Lucrezia, the younger daughter, he became engaged one evening when the panic was on

    him—that he could not feel.


    For now that it was all over, truce signed, and the dead buried, he had, especially in the evening,

    these sudden thunder-claps of fear. He could not feel. As he opened the door of the room

    where the Italian girls sat making hats, he could see them; could hear them; they were

    rubbing wires among coloured beads in saucers; they were turning buckram shapes this way

    and that; the table was all strewn with feathers, spangles, silks, ribbons; scissors were rapping on

    the table; but something failed him; he could not feel. Still, scissors rapping, girls laughing, hats

    being made protected him; he was assured of safety; he had a refuge. But he could not sit there

    all night. There were moments of waking in the early morning. The bed was falling; he was

    falling. Oh for the scissors and the lamplight and the buckram shapes! He asked Lucrezia to

    marry him, the younger of the two, the gay, the frivolous, with those little artist’s fingers that she

    would hold up and say ‘It is all in them.’ Silk, feathers, what not were alive to them.

    ‘It is the hat that matters most,’ she would say, when they walked out together. Every hat that

    passed, she would examine; and the cloak and the dress and the way the woman held herself.

    Ill-dressing, over-dressing she stigmatised, not savagely, rather with impatient movements of the

    hands, like those of a painter who puts from him some obvious well-meant glaring imposture;

    and then, generously, but always critically, she would welcome a shop-girl who had turned her

    little bit of stuff gallantly, or praise, wholly, with enthusiastic and professional understanding, a

    French lady descending from her carriage, in chinchilla, robes, pearls.

    ‘Beautiful!’ she would murmur, nudging Septimus, that he might see. But beauty was behind a

    pane of glass. Even taste (Rezia liked ices, chocolates, sweet things) had no relish to him. He put

    down his cup on the little marble table. He looked at people outside; happy they seemed,

    collecting in the middle of the street, shouting, laughing, squabbling over nothing. But he

    could not taste, he could not feel. In the tea-shop among the tables and the chattering

    waiters the appalling fear came over him – he could not feel. He could reason; he could

    read, Dante for example, quite easily (‘Septimus, do put down your book,’ said Rezia,

    gently shutting the Inferno), he could add up his bill; his brain was perfect; it must be

    the fault of the world then—that he could not feel.

    ‘The English are so silent,’ Rezia said. She liked it, she said. She respected these

    Englishmen, and wanted to see London, and the English horses, and the tailor-made suits, and

    could remember hearing how wonderful the shops were, from an aunt who had married and

    lived in Soho.

    It might be possible, Septimus thought, looking at England from the train window, as they left

    Newhaven; it might be possible that the world itself is without meaning.

    At the office they advanced him to a post of considerable responsibility. They were proud of

    him; he had won crosses. ‘You have done your duty; it is up to us’-- began Mr. Brewer; and

    could not finish, so pleasurable was his emotion. They took admirable lodgings off the

    Tottenham Court Road.


    Here he opened Shakespeare once more. That boy’s business of the intoxication of

    language – Antony and Cleopatra – had shrivelled utterly. How Shakespeare

    loathed humanity – the putting on of clothes, the getting of children, the sordidity of the

    mouth and the belly! This was now revealed to Septimus; the message hidden in the beauty of

    words. The secret signal which one generation passes, under disguise, to the next is loathing,

    hatred, despair. Dante the same. Aeschylus (translated) the same. There Rezia sat at the table

    trimming hats. She trimmed hats for Mrs. Filmer’s friends; she trimmed hats by the hour. She

    looked pale, mysterious, like a lily, drowned, under water, he thought.


    ‘The English are so serious,’ she would say, putting her arms round Septimus, her cheek against

    his.


    Love between man and woman was repulsive to Shakespeare. The business of copulation was

    filth to him before the end. But, Rezia said, she must have children. They had been married five

    years.


    They went to the Tower together; to the Victoria and Albert Museum; stood in the crowd to see

    the King open Parliament. And there were the shops—hat shops, dress shops, shops with leather

    bags in the window, where she would stand staring. But she must have a boy.

    She must have a son like Septimus, she said. But nobody could be like Septimus; so gentle; so

    serious; so clever. Could she not read Shakespeare too? Was Shakespeare a difficult author? she

    asked.


    One cannot bring children into a world like this. One cannot perpetuate suffering, or increase the

    breed of these lustful animals, who have no lasting emotions, but only whims and vanities,

    eddying them now this way, now that.


    He watched her snip, shape, as one watches a bird hop, flit in the grass, without daring to move a

    finger. For the truth is (let her ignore it) that human beings have neither kindness, nor faith, nor

    charity beyond what serves to increase the pleasure of the moment. They hunt in packs. Their

    packs scour the desert and vanish screaming into the wilderness. They desert the fallen. They are

    plastered over with grimaces. There was Brewer at the office, with his waxed moustache, coral

    tie-pin, white slip, and pleasurable emotions—all coldness and clamminess within, -- his

    geraniums ruined in the War – his cook’s nerves destroyed; or Amelia Whatshername,

    handing round cups of tea punctually at five – a leering, sneering obscene little harpy; and

    the Toms and Berties in their starched shirt fronts oozing thick drops of vice. They never saw

    him drawing pictures of them naked at their antics in his notebook. In the street, vans roared

    past him; brutality blared out on placards; men were trapped in mines; women burnt alive; and

    once a maimed file of lunatics being exercised or displayed for the diversion of the populace

    (who laughed aloud), ambled and nodded and grinned past him, in the Tottenham Court Road,

    each half apologetically, yet triumphantly, inflicting his hopeless woe. And would he go

    mad?


    At tea Rezia told him that Mrs. Filmer’s daughter was expecting a baby. She could not

    grow old and have no children! She was very lonely, she was very unhappy! She cried for the

    first time since they were married. Far away he heard her sobbing; he heard it accurately, he

    noticed it distinctly; he compared it to a piston thumping. But he felt nothing.

    His wife was crying, and he felt nothing; only each time she sobbed in this profound, this

    silent, this hopeless way, he descended another step into the pit.

    At last, with a melodramatic gesture which he assumed mechanically and with complete

    consciousness of its insincerity, he dropped his head on his hands. Now he had surrendered;

    now other people must help him. People must be sent for. He gave in.

    Nothing could rouse him. Rezia put him to bed. She sent for a doctor – Mrs. Filmer’s Dr.

    Holmes. Dr. Holmes examined him. There was nothing whatever the matter, said Dr. Holmes.

    Oh, what a relief! What a kind man, what a good man! thought Rezia. When he felt like that he

    went to the music hall, said Dr. Holmes. He took a day off with his wife and played golf. Why

    not try two tabloids of bromide dissolved in a glass of water at bedtime? These old Bloomsbury

    houses, said Dr. Holmes, tapping the wall, are often full of very fine panelling, which the

    landlords have the folly to paper over. Only the other day, visiting a patient, Sir Somebody

    Something, in Bedford Square—


    So there was no excuse; nothing whatever the matter, except the sin for which human nature

    had condemned him to death; that he did not feel. He had not cared when Evans was killed; that

    was worst; but all the other crimes raised their heads and shook their fingers and jeered and

    sneered over the rail of the bed in the early hours of the morning at the prostrate body which lay

    realising its degradation; how he had married his wife without loving her; had lied to her;

    seduced her; outraged Miss Isabel Pole, and was so pocked and marked with vice that women

    shuddered when they saw him in the street. The verdict of human nature on such a wretch was

    death.


    Dr. Holmes came again. Large, fresh-coloured, handsome, flicking his boots, looking in the

    glass, he brushed it all aside—headaches, sleeplessness, fears, dreams—nerve symptoms and

    nothing more, he said. If Dr. Holmes found himself even half a pound below eleven stone six, he

    asked his wife for another plate of porridge at breakfast. (Rezia would learn to cook porridge.)

    But, he continued, health is largely a matter in our own control. Throw yourself into outside

    interests; take up some hobby. He opened Shakespeare—Antony and Cleopatra; pushed

    Shakespeare aside. Some hobby, said Dr. Holmes, for did he not owe his own excellent health

    (and he worked as hard as any man in London) to the fact that he could always switch off from

    his patients on to old furniture? And what a very pretty comb, if he might say so, Mrs. Warren

    Smith was wearing!

    When the damned fool came again, Septimus refused to see him. Did he indeed? said Dr.

    Holmes, smiling agreeably. Really he had to give that charming little lady, Mrs. Smith, a

    friendly push before he could get past her into her husband’s bedroom.

    ‘So you’re in a funk,’ he said agreeably, sitting down by his patient’s side. He had actually

    talked of killing himself to his wife, quite a girl, a foreigner, wasn’t she? Didn’t that give her a

    very odd idea of English husbands? Didn’t one owe perhaps a duty to one’s wife? Wouldn’t it be

    better to do something instead of lying in bed? For he had had forty years’ experience behind

    him; and Septimus could take Dr. Holmes’s word for it – there was nothing whatever the matter

    with him. And next time Dr. Holmes came he hoped to find Smith out of bed and not making

    that charming little lady his wife anxious about him.

    Human nature, in short, was on him – the repulsive brute, with the blood-red nostrils. Holmes

    was on him. Dr. Holmes came quite regularly every day. Once you stumble, Septimus wrote on

    the back of a postcard, human nature is on you. Holmes is on you. Their only chance was to

    escape, without letting Holmes know; to Italy—anywhere, anywhere, away from Dr. Holmes.

    But Rezia could not understand him. Dr. Holmes was such a kind man. He was so

    interested in Septimus. He only wanted to help them, she said. He had four little children and he

    had asked her to tea, she told Septimus.


    So he was deserted. The whole world was clamouring: Kill yourself, kill yourself, for our sakes.

    But why should he kill himself for their sakes? Food was pleasant; the sun hot; and this killing

    oneself, how does one set about it, with a table knife, uglily, with floods of blood, -- by sucking a

    gaspipe? He was too weak; he could scarcely raise his hand. Besides, now that he was quite

    alone, condemned, deserted, as those who are about to die are alone, there was a luxury in it, an

    isolation full of sublimity; a freedom which the attached can never know. Holmes had won of

    course; the brute with the red nostrils had won. But even Holmes himself could not touch this

    last relic straying on the edge of the world, this outcast, who gazed back at the inhabited

    regions, who lay, like a drowned sailor, on the shore of the world.

    It was at that moment (Rezia had gone shopping) that the great revelation took place. A voice

    spoke from behind the screen. Evans was speaking. The dead were with him.

    ‘Evans, Evans!’ he cried.








    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2BJ8rl1BXs





    - pp. 154-162: In many ways, her mother felt, she was extremely immature, like a child still,

    attached to dolls, to old slippers; a perfect baby; and that was charming. But then, of course,

    there was in the Dalloway family the tradition of public service. Abbesses, principals, head

    mistresses, dignitaries, in the republic of women – without being brilliant, any of them, they

    were that. She penetrated a little farther in the direction of St. Paul’s. She liked the geniality,

    sisterhood, motherhood, brotherhood of this uproar. It seemed to her good. The noise was

    tremendous; and suddenly there were trumpets (the unemployed) blaring, rattling about in the

    uproar; military music; as if people were marching; yet had they been dying – had some woman

    breathed her last, and whoever was watching, opening the window of the room where she had

    just brought off that act of supreme dignity, looked down on Fleet Street, that uproar, that

    military music would have come triumphing up to him, consolatory, indifferent.

    It was not conscious. There was no recognition in it of one’s fortune, or fate, and for that very

    reason even to those dazed with watching for the last shivers of consciousness on the faces of the

    dying, consoling.

    Forgetfulness in people might wound, their ingratitude corrode, but this voice, pouring endlessly,

    year in year out, would take whatever it might be; this vow; this van; this life; this procession,

    would wrap them all about and carry them on, as in the rough stream of a glacier the ice holds a

    splinter of bone, a blue petal, some oak trees, and rolls them on.

    But it was later than she thought. Her mother would not like her to be wandering off alone like

    this. She turned back down the Strand.


    A puff of wind (in spite of the heat, there was quite a wind) blew a thin black veil over the sun

    and over the Strand. The faces faded; the omnibuses suddenly lost their glow. For although the

    clouds were of mountainous white so that one could fancy hacking hard chips off with a

    hatchet, with broad golden slopes, lawns of celestial pleasure gardens, on their flanks, and had

    all the appearance of settled habitations assembled for the conference of gods above the world,

    there was a perpetual movement among them. Signs were interchanged, when, as if to fulfil

    some scheme arranged already, now a summit dwindled, now a whole block of pyramidal

    size which had kept its station inalterably advanced into the midst or gravely led the procession

    to fresh anchorage. Fixed though they seemed at their posts, at rest in perfect unanimity,

    nothing could be fresher, freer, more sensitive superficially than the snow-white or gold-kindled

    surface; to change, to go, to dismantle the solemn assemblage was immediately possible; and in

    spite of the grave fixity, the accumulated robustness and solidity, now they struck light to the

    earth, now darkness.


    Calmly and competently, Elizabeth Dalloway mounted the Westminster omnibus.


    Going and coming, beckoning, signalling, so the light and shadow, which now made the wall

    grey, now the bananas bright yellow, now made the Strand grey, now made the omnibuses

    bright yellow, seemed to Septimus Warren Smith lying on the sofa in the sitting-room; watching

    the watery gold glow and fade with the astonishing sensibility of some live creature on the roses,

    on the wall-paper. Outside the trees dragged their leaves like nets through the depths of the air;

    the sound of water was in the room, and through the waves came the voices of birds singing.

    Every power poured its treasures on his head, and his hand lay there on the back of the sofa, as

    he had seen his hand lie when he was bathing, floating, on the top of the waves, while far away

    on shore he heard dogs barking and barking far away. Fear no more, says the heart in the body;

    fear no more.

    He was not afraid. At every moment Nature signified by some laughing hint like that gold spot

    which went round the wall – there, there, there – her determination to show, by brandishing her

    plumes, shaking her tresses, flinging her mantle this way and that, beautifully, always

    beautifully, and standing close up to breathe through her hollowed hands Shakespeare’s words,

    her meaning.

    Rezia, sitting at the table twisting a hat in her hands, watched him; saw him smiling. He was

    happy then. But she could not bear to see him smiling. It was not marriage; it was not being

    one’s husband to look strange like that, always to be starting, laughing, sitting hour after hour

    silent, or clutching her and telling her to write. The table drawer was full of those writings;

    about war; about Shakespeare; about great discoveries; how there is no death. Lately he had

    become excited suddenly for no reason (and both Dr. Holmes and Sir William Bradshaw said

    excitement was the worst thing for him), and waved his hands and cried out that he knew the

    truth! He knew everything! That man, his friend who was killed, Evans, had come, he said. He

    was singing behind the screen. She wrote it down just as he spoke it. Some things were very

    beautiful; others sheer nonsense. And he was always stopping in the middle, changing his

    mind; wanting to add something; hearing something new; listening with his hand up. But she

    heard nothing.


    And once they found the girl who did the room reading one of these papers in fits of laughter. It

    was a dreadful pity. For that made Septimus cry out about human cruelty—how they tear each

    other to pieces. The fallen, he said, they tear to pieces. ‘Holmes is on us,’ he would say, and he

    would invent stories about Holmes; Holmes eating porridge; Holmes reading Shakespeare –

    making himself roar with laughter or rage, for Dr. Holmes seemed to stand for something

    horrible to him. ‘Human nature’, he called him. Then there were the visions. He was

    drowned, he used to say, and lying on a cliff with the gulls screaming over him. He would

    look over the edge of the sofa down into the sea. Or he was hearing music. Really it was

    only a barrel organ or some man crying in the street. But ‘Lovely!’ he used to cry, and the

    tears would run down his cheeks, which was to her the most dreadful thing of all, to see a

    man like Septimus, who had fought, who was brave, crying. And he would lie listening

    until suddenly he would cry that he was falling down, down into the flames! Actually she

    would look for flames, it was so vivid. But there was nothing. They were alone in the

    room. It was a dream, she would tell him, and so quiet him at last, but sometimes she

    was frightened too. She sighed as she sat sewing.


    Her sigh was tender and enchanting, like the wind outside a wood in the evening. Now she put

    down her scissors; now she turned to take something from the table. A little stir, a little

    crinkling, a little tapping built up something on the table there, where she sat sewing.

    Through his eyelashes he could see her blurred outline; her little black body; her face and

    hands; her turning movements at the table, as she took up a reel, or looked (she was apt to

    lose things) for her silk. She was making a hat for Mrs. Filmer’s married daughter, whose

    name was – he had forgotten her name.

    ‘What is the name of Mrs. Filmer’s married daughter?’ he asked.

    ‘Mrs. Peters,’ said Rezia. She was afraid it was too small, she said, holding it before her. Mrs.

    Peters was a big woman; but she did not like her. It was only because Mrs. Filmer had been so

    good to them – ‘She gave me grapes this morning,’ she said – that Rezia wanted to do something

    to show that they were grateful. She had come into the room the other evening and found Mrs.

    Peters, who thought they were out, playing the gramophone.

    ‘Was it true?’ he asked. She was playing the gramophone? Yes; she had told him about it at the

    time; she had found Mrs. Peters playing the gramophone.

    He began, very cautiously, to open his eyes, to see whether a gramophone was really there. But

    real things – real things were too exciting. He must be cautious. He would not go mad. First he

    looked at the fashion papers on the lower shelf, then gradually at the gramophone with the

    green trumpet. Nothing could be more exact. And so, gathering courage, he looked at the

    sideboard; the plate of bananas; the engraving of Queen Victoria and the Prince Consort; at the

    mantelpiece, with the jar of roses. None of these things moved. All were still; all were real.

    ‘She is a woman with a spiteful tongue,’ said Rezia.

    ‘What does Mr. Peters do?’ Septimus asked.

    ‘Ah,’ said Rezia, trying to remember. She thought Mrs. Filmer had said that he travelled for

    some company. ‘Just now he is in Hull,’ she said.


    ‘Just now!’ She said that with her Italian accent. She said that herself. He shaded his eyes so

    that he might see only a little of her face at a time, first the chin, then the nose, then the

    forehead, in case it were deformed, or had some terrible mark on it. But no, there she was,

    perfectly natural, sewing, with the pursed lips that women have, the set, the melancholy

    expression, when sewing. But there was nothing terrible about it, he assured himself,

    looking a second time, a third time at her face, her hands, for what was frightening or

    disgusting in her as she sat there in broad daylight, sewing? Mrs. Peters had a spiteful

    tongue. Mr. Peters was in Hull. Why then rage and prophesy? Why fly scourged and

    outcast? Why be made to tremble and sob by the clouds? Why seek truths and deliver

    messages when Rezia sat sticking pins into the front of her dress, and Mr. Peters was in

    Hull? Miracles, revelations, agonies, loneliness, falling through the sea, down, down into the

    flames, all were burnt out, for he had a sense, as he watched Rezia trimming the straw hat for

    Mrs. Peters, of a coverlet of flowers.

    ‘It’s too small for Mrs. Peters,’ said Septimus.

    For the first time for days he was speaking as he used to do! Of course it was – absurdly

    small, she said. But Mrs. Peters had chosen it.

    He took it out of her hands. He said it was an organ grinder’s monkey’s hat.

    How it rejoiced her that! Not for weeks had they laughed like this together, poking fun privately

    like married people. What she meant was that if Mrs. Filmer had come in, or Mrs. Peters or

    anybody, they would not have understood what she and Septimus were laughing at.

    ‘There,’ she said, pinning a rose to one side of the hat. Never had she felt so happy!

    Never in her life!

    But that was still more ridiculous, Septimus said. Now the poor woman looked like a pig at a

    fair. (Nobody ever made her laugh as Septimus did.)

    What had she got in her work-box? She had ribbons and beads, tassels, artificial flowers. She

    tumbled them out on the table. He began putting odd colours together—for though he had no

    fingers, could not even do up a parcel, he had a wonderful eye, and often he was right,

    sometimes absurd, of course, but sometimes wonderfully right.

    ‘She shall have a beautiful hat!’ he murmured, taking up this and that, Rezia kneeling by his

    side, looking over his shoulder. Now it was finished – that is to say the design; she must stitch it

    together. But she must be very, very careful, he said, to keep it just as he had made it.


    So she sewed. When she sewed, he thought, she made a sound like a kettle on the hob;

    bubbling, murmuring, always busy, her strong little pointed fingers pinching and poking; her

    needle flashing straight. The sun might go in and out, on the tassels, on the wall-paper, but he

    would wait, he thought, stretching out his feet, looking at his ringed sock at the end of the sofa;

    he would wait in this warm place, this pocket of still air, which one comes on at the edge of a

    wood sometimes in the evening, when, because of a fall in the ground, or some arrangement of

    the trees (one must be scientific above all, scientific), warmth lingers, and the air buffets the

    cheek like the wing of a bird.


    ‘There it is,’ said Rezia, twirling Mrs. Peters’ hat on the tips of her fingers. ‘That’ll do for the

    moment. Later . . .’ her sentence bubbled away drip, drip, drip, like a contented tap left

    running.

    It was wonderful. Never had he done anything which made him feel so proud. It was so real, it

    was so substantial, Mrs. Peters’ hat.

    ‘Just look at it,’ he said.

    Yes, it would always make her happy to see that hat. He had become himself then, he had

    laughed then. They had been alone together. Always she would like that hat.



    - pp. 164-169: They were perfectly happy now, she said suddenly, putting the hat down. For she

    could say anything to him now. She could say whatever came into her head. That was almost the

    first thing she had felt about him, that night in the cafe when he had come in with his English

    friends. He had come in, rather shyly, looking round him, and his hat had fallen when he hung it

    up. That she could remember. She knew he was English, though not one of the large

    Englishmen her sister admired, for he was always thin; but he had a beautiful fresh colour; and

    with his big nose, his bright eyes, his way of sitting a little hunched, made her think, she had

    often told him, of a young hawk, that first evening she saw him, when they were playing

    dominoes, and he had come in – of a young hawk; but with her he was always very gentle.

    She had never seen him wild or drunk, only suffering sometimes through this terrible war, but

    even so, when she came in, he would put it all away. Anything, anything in the whole world, any

    little bother with her work, anything that struck her to say she would tell him, and he

    understood at once. Her own family even were not the same. Being older than she was

    and being so clever – how serious he was, wanting her to read Shakespeare before she

    could even read a child’s story in English! – being so much more experienced, he could help

    her. And she, too, could help him.

    But this hat now. And then (it was getting late) Sir William Bradshaw.

    She held her hands to her head, waiting for him to say did he like the hat or not, and as she sat

    there, waiting, looking down, he could feel her mind, like a bird, falling from branch to branch,

    and always alighting, quite rightly; he could follow her mind, as she sat there in one of those

    loose lax poses that came to her naturally, and, if he should say anything, at once she smiled, like

    a bird alighting with all its claws firm upon the bough.

    But he remembered. Bradshaw said, ‘The people we are most fond of are not good for us when

    we are ill.’ Bradshaw said he must be taught to rest. Bradshaw said they must be separated.

    ‘Must,’ ‘must,’ why ‘must’? What power had Bradshaw over him? ‘What right has

    Bradshaw to say “must” to me?’ he demanded.

    ‘It is because you talked of killing yourself,’ said Rezia. (Mercifully, she could now say anything

    to Septimus.)

    So he was in their power! Holmes and Bradshaw were on him! The brute with the red nostrils

    was snuffing into every secret place! ‘Must’ it could say! Where were his papers? the things he

    had written?


    She brought him his papers, the things he had written, things she had written for him. She

    tumbled them out on to the sofa. They looked at them together. Diagrams, designs, little men and

    women brandishing sticks for arms, with wings – were they? – on their backs; circles traced

    round shillings and sixpences – the suns and stars; zigzagging precipices with mountaineers

    ascending roped together, exactly like knives and forks; sea pieces with little faces laughing

    out of what might perhaps be waves: the map of the world. Burn them! he cried. Now for his

    writings; how the dead sing behind rhododendron bushes; odes to Time; conversations with

    Shakespeare; Evans, Evans, Evans – his messages from the dead; do not cut down the trees;

    tell the Prime Minister. Universal love: the meaning of the world. Burn them! he cried.


    But Rezia laid her hands on them. Some were very beautiful, she thought. She would tie them up

    (for she had no envelope) with a piece of silk.

    Even if they took him, she said, she would go with him. They could not separate them against

    their wills, she said.


    Shuffling the edges straight, she did up the papers, and tied the parcel almost without looking,

    sitting close, sitting beside him, he thought, as if all her petals were about her. She was a

    flowering tree; and through her branches looked out the face of a lawgiver, who had reached a

    sanctuary where she feared no one; not Holmes; not Bradshaw; a miracle, a triumph, the

    last and greatest. Staggering he saw her mount the appalling staircase, laden with Holmes

    and Bradshaw, men who never weighed less than eleven stone six, who sent their wives to

    Court, men who made ten thousand a year and talked of proportion; who differed in their

    verdicts (for Holmes said one thing, Bradshaw another), yet judges they were; who mixed

    the vision and the sideboard; saw nothing clear, yet ruled, yet inflicted. Over them she

    triumphed.


    ‘There!’ she said. The papers were tied up. No one should get at them. She would put them

    away.

    And, she said, nothing should separate them. She sat down beside him and called him by the

    name of that hawk or crow which being malicious and a great destroyer of crops was precisely

    like him. No one could separate them, she said.

    Then she got up to go into the bedroom to pack their things, but hearing voices downstairs and

    thinking that Dr. Holmes had perhaps called, ran down to prevent him coming up.

    Septimus could hear her talking to Holmes on the staircase.

    ‘My dear lady, I have come as a friend,’ Holmes was saying.

    ‘No. I will not allow you to see my husband,’ she said.

    He could see her, like a little hen, with her wings spread barring his passage. But Holmes

    persevered.

    ‘My dear lady, allow me . . .’ Holmes said, putting her aside (Holmes was a powerfully built

    man).

    Holmes was coming upstairs. Holmes would burst open the door. Holmes would say, ‘In a funk,

    eh?’ Holmes would get him. But no; not Holmes; not Bradshaw. Getting up rather unsteadily,

    hopping indeed from foot to foot, he considered Mrs. Filmer’s nice clean bread-knife with

    ‘Bread’ carved on the handle. Ah, but one mustn’t spoil that. The gas fire? But it was too late

    now. Holmes was coming. Razors he might have got, but Rezia, who always did that sort of

    thing, had packed them. There remained only the window, the large Bloomsbury lodging-house

    window; the tiresome, the troublesome, and rather melodramatic business of opening the window

    and throwing himself out. It was their idea of tragedy, not his or Rezia’s (for she was with him).

    Holmes and Bradshaw liked that sort of thing. (He sat on the sill.) But he would wait till the very

    last moment. He did not want to die. Life was good. The sun hot. Only human beings? Coming

    down the staircase opposite an old man stopped and stared at him. Holmes was at the door. ‘I’ll

    give it you!’ he cried, and flung himself vigorously, violently down on to Mrs. Filmer’s area

    railings.

    ‘The coward!’ cried Dr. Holmes, bursting the door open. Rezia ran to the window, she saw; she

    understood. Dr. Holmes and Mrs. Filmer collided with each other. Mrs. Filmer flapped her apron

    and made her hide her eyes in the bedroom. There was a great deal of running up and down

    stairs. Dr. Holmes came in—white as a sheet, shaking all over, with a glass in his hand. She must

    be brave and drink something, he said (What was it? Something sweet), for her husband was

    horribly mangled, would not recover consciousness, she must not see him, must be spared as

    much as possible, would have the inquest to go through, poor young woman. Who could have

    foretold it? A sudden impulse, no one was in the least to blame (he told Mrs. Filmer). And why

    the devil he did it, Dr. Holmes could not conceive.

    It seemed to her as she drank the sweet stuff that she was opening long windows, stepping out

    into some garden. But where? The clock was striking—one, two, three: how sensible the sound

    was; compared with all this thumping and whispering; like Septimus himself. She was falling

    asleep. But the clock went on striking, four, five, six and Mrs. Filmer waving her apron (they

    wouldn’t bring the body in here, would they?) seemed part of that garden; or a flag. She had

    once seen a flag slowly rippling out from a mast when she stayed with her aunt at Venice. Men

    killed in battle were thus saluted, and Septimus had been through the War. Of her memories,

    most were happy.

    She put on her hat, and ran through cornfields – where could it have been? – on to some hill,

    somewhere near the sea, for there were ships, gulls, butterflies; they sat on a cliff. In London,

    too, there they sat, and, half dreaming, came to her through the bedroom door, rain falling,

    whisperings, stirrings among dry corn, the caress of the sea, as it seemed to her, hollowing them

    in its arched shell and murmuring to her laid on shore, strewn she felt, like flying flowers over

    some tomb.

    ‘He is dead,’ she said, smiling at the poor old woman who guarded her with her honest light-blue

    eyes fixed on the door. (They wouldn’t bring him in here, would they?) But Mrs. Filmer

    pooh-poohed. Oh no, oh no! They were carrying him away now. Ought she not to be told?

    Married people ought to be together, Mrs. Filmer thought. But they must do as the doctor

    said.

    ‘Let her sleep,’ said Dr. Holmes, feeling her pulse. She saw the large outline of his body dark

    against the window. So that was Dr. Holmes.


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLpPzGT9_3o

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FpHTeqlwTAM




    - from The Waves by Virginia Woolf; pp. lvii-lxii [Introduction by Molly Hite]: At the

    close of the novel, when Bernard resolves to fight his last enemy, Death, he likens himself to

    Percival, riding against death “with my spear couched and my hair flying back like a young

    man’s, like Percival’s, when he galloped in India”.


    Like Jacob in Jacob’s Room, Percival is modeled to a degree on Virginia Woolf’s older

    brother, Thoby Stephen, who died of typhoid fever after a visit to Greece in 1906. Of the many

    family deaths she suffered while young, Thoby’s was in many respects the most significant

    because it led her to formulate her stance of resistance and her view of reality as a particular

    kind of experience or force. When at work on The Waves, she wrote in a diary entry of

    “walking up this street, engaged with my anguish, as I was after Thoby died — alone; fighting

    something alone.” This mode of fighting, her response to this bereavement, became a recipe for

    living: “If I never felt these extraordinarily pervasive strains—of unrest or rest or happiness or

    discomfort—I should float down into acquiescence. Here is something to fight: & when I wake

    early I say to myself Fight, fight” (October 11, 1929, Diary 3: 260). Woolf made the

    connection between Percival and Thoby clear at the conclusion of The Waves, not only

    because Bernard expresses her attitude of “Fight, fight” but because she contemplated writing

    “Julian Thoby Stephen 1881-1906 on the first page”. Like Jacob’s Room, then, The

    Waves
    was in part a requiem for her brother.

    But like Jacob in the earlier novel—and live Thoby Stephen, whom Woolf pictured later as an

    “inheritor” of literary, academic, and professional tradition—Percival is explicitly privileged, a

    member of the ruling class who, unlike women of any class, is educated to rule. Like Jacob

    again, he is strangely unknowable, as much an absence defined by the yearning figures who

    surround him as a present character. Apparently large, beautiful, athletic, charismatic,

    unintellectual, unreflective, conventional, and a natural leader, he inspires obedience, respect,

    adoration, and, according to Louis, poetry. With no represented interiority, he seems almost to

    have no interior. Neville describes him in a boat, “lounging on the cushions, monolithic, in

    giant repose,” and observes, “[H]e is always the first to detect insincerity; and is brutal in the

    extreme”. Louis adores “his magnificence” and decries his “slovenly accents”. Bernard

    hypothesizes long after his death that Percival might have emerged in his colonial

    administrative post as a rebel: “He would have done justice. He would have protected.

    About the age of forty he would have shocked the authorities”. The peroration anticipates

    some of Woolf’s comments on Thoby in “A Sketch of the Past”: In college he was “already, in

    anticipation, a law maker”.

    And in a very odd moment during the farewell dinner, Bernard describes Percival as “a God”.

    The epithet fits some of the imagery associated with this silent monolith, whose name (Percival,

    Parzifal, or Parsifal, depending on the language) harks back to Arthurian tradition, where it is

    associated with purity, innocence, bravery, quest, the Holy Grail—an ultimate object of desire in

    Christian folklore—and a kind of idiocy: Percival is known in the Grail legend as the Fool. The

    Arthurian Percival lurks in the background of The Waste Land as the knight whose

    question, had he asked it, could have cured the Fisher King. Further, according to Julia Briggs, in

    The Waves Percival occupies the place of the sun hero, or year hero in primitive religions:

    the god-man who is destroyed and falls back to earth when the sun is at its zenith. Yet although

    the way Percival is presented keeps him radically separate rather than enmeshed in the fine web

    of relationships and ideas that we see among the others, he is not, within the value system of the

    novel, clearly godlike. His conventionality, leadership, charisma, and especially his choice of

    career in colonial administration may inspire unease in readers, especially those familiar with

    Virginia Woolf’s own positions, expressed both in private writings like diaries and letters and in

    published writings like the long essays A Room of One’s Own and Three Guineas, on

    imperialism and on masculine privilege and dominance.

    The speech in which Bernard terms Percival “a God” occurs during the farewell dinner and, like

    the story of Elvedon that Bernard told Susan when both were children, constructs a fantasy of

    an alternate place. “I see India,” Bernard begins, and goes on to describe a landscape of

    “ramshackle pagodas,” “bullocks who drag a low cart,” natives “chattering excitedly” over an

    accident, and an “old man in a ditch” who “continues to chew betel and to contemplate his

    navel.” Into this hackneyed setting, presumably familiar to the listeners from colonial

    adventure stories, comes Percival, a shabby hero in the tradition of the two wanderers in

    Rudyard Kipling’s “The Man Who Would Be King” or the more ethical and ironic Marlow in

    Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, riding “a flea-bitten mare” and dealing with the upset

    oxcart by “applying the standards of the West, by using the violent language that is natural to

    him.” Bernard’s conclusion is grandiose and memorable: “The Oriental problem is solved.”


    The phrase “the Oriental problem” historically described various troubled European relations

    with Middle Eastern, South Asian, and East Asian colonies, with the word Oriental

    homogenizing all such countries into one problematic other. The details of Bernard’s fantasy

    are also homogenizing and stereotypical, built on romantic clichés of Empire thoroughly

    debunked by the people in the Woolfs’ circle, including Leonard Woolf, who had been a

    colonial administrator in Ceylon and decided there that imperialism was a mistake. It seems

    likely, then, that the passage is satiric. But who does the satirizing, and at whose expense? Is

    Bernard a critic of empire here? His story is exaggerated and affably funny, of course, but he

    says nothing, here or later, to suggest that he believes Percival should not have a career

    adventuring in the colonies and setting natives right. Immediately after he finishes, Rhoda

    treats his story as a reverent encomium and echoes its sentiments. Does the satire occur, then, at

    the expense of all the characters, and is Woolf presenting all the speakers, as well as Percival, as

    collusive in a racist fantasy? If so, what are readers supposed to think and feel about them, at this

    moment and elsewhere? Or should we conclude that the passage is not, in fact, satiric, and that

    Woolf herself simply endorses here what the editor of the holograph Waves manuscripts,

    J. W. Graham, calls “the irrational adherence to traditional values so apparent in the conventional

    Percival, the strong, silent youth who goes to a far country in the service of Empire, as one of its

    culture heroes”? Part of the design of The Waves is that such questions can, indeed must,

    be asked—and cannot be easily answered.




    The Absence of Tonal Cues in The Waves



    The problem with all such attempts to interpret this particular moment is that there are no clear

    signals within the text to show readers where values should be assigned. For example, Woolf

    could have used a more extended third-person narrator to go beyond the words “said Bernard,”

    adding reliable information about Bernard’s intentions in telling the story. The decision to

    structure the novel from soliloquies “running homogeneously in & out, in the rhythm of the

    waves” ruled out such uses of the narrator. The decision to give the characters a functional

    equality, at least until the closing section, in which Bernard alone “speaks,” makes it difficult to

    privilege one or two of the characters over the others as having authorial sanction: as voicing

    views and values that express attitudes held by Woolf herself. Furthermore, the rhetorically

    heightened “speeches” contain the characters in the lyric present, representing them at some

    points as communicating but keeping their utterances more solitary than social.

    The episode of “the Oriental problem” is thus important because it is a particularly pressing

    example of an effect that Woolf put a great deal of effort into achieving throughout The

    Waves
    . It is simplest to describe this effect negatively: as an absence of those tonal cues that

    in most fiction are crucial to locating the author’s values and thus help readers discover what

    they are supposed to think and feel about the events and characters in a story. But in the long

    process of writing The Waves, Virginia Woolf came to regard effacing or minimizing

    such cues as part of the positive task faced by the modern experimental writer.


    In a diary entry as she was beginning to conceptualize The Waves, she wrote of the

    need to “eliminate all waste, deadness, superfluity: to give the moment whole; whatever it

    includes.” Her notion of “the moment” was that it was “saturated”—it must “include

    nonsense, fact, sordidity: but made transparent” (November 28, 1928, Diary 3: 209-10).

    What might transparency entail? In an essay written the year before, she had in effect called for a

    novel like The Waves, which like poetry would “say the simple things which are so

    tremendous” but would also “take the mould of that queer conglomeration of incongruous

    things—the modern mind” that is “full of monstrous, hybrid, unmanageable emotions” (“The

    Narrow Bridge of Art” 20, 19-20, 12). Such a novel would be revolutionary in its concern for

    “the relation of the mind to general ideas and its soliloquy in solitude,” and in its lack of concern

    for “the incessant, the remorseless analysis” of interpersonal relations, especially the romantic

    relations. In the process of formulating her most experimental novel, she seems also to have

    erased much of the “remorseless analysis” of motives and values that has so much to do with

    long-standing traditions of prose fiction. Motives and values are in play in The Waves, but

    they are not specified or settled. They are raised as part of a very different project, which stands

    “further back from life,” expressing “the feeling and ideas of the characters closely and vividly,

    but from a different angle”.


    Readers plunged into the saturated lyric present of The Waves are not thereby removed

    from questions of ethics or politics, but they do view those questions from a different angle. Not

    only the problems of empire and the future of Western Europe, but, more obviously, questions

    about gender and class intrude without a clear indication of what one is supposed to believe or

    how one is supposed to feel about them.











    http://st-james.hubpages.com/hub/Quo...ich-Dostoevsky


    “The novels of Dostoevsky are seething whirlpools, gyrating sandstorms, waterspouts which hiss

    and boil and suck us in. They are composed purely and wholly of the stuff of the soul. Against

    our wills we are drawn in, whirled round, blinded, suffocated, and at the same time filled with a

    giddy rapture. Out of Shakespeare there is no more exciting reading.”























    - acidflux: "[The Waves] is probably Virginia Woolf's least accessible book. It's not one I'd normally recommend for my patrons at the library unless they really love Virginia Woolf's writing, or they love Shakespeare. The soliloquy nature in the way the six characters speak can make for a daunting read if you are looking for straightforward narrative. I wouldn't rank it with her best, but I applaud the experimental nature. The way the characters personality and story slowly move over you, you come to accept the writing as normal and it eventually feels like you aren't reading six separate people, but one communal feeling. This is helped by their thoughts and recollections of the Percival character. Although he isn't one of the main six characters, you get to know him very well."











    Bernard: EIE

    Louis: LSI

    Susan: ESI

    Jinny: SLE
    Last edited by HERO; 01-25-2018 at 01:48 AM.
    “Must get that Capel street library book renewed or they’ll write to
    Kearney, my garantor. Reincarnation: that’s the word.

    — Some people believe, he said, that we go on living in another body
    after death, that we lived before. They call it reincarnation. That we all lived
    before on the earth thousands of years ago or some other planet. They say we
    have forgotten it. Some say they remember their past lives.

    The sluggish cream wound curdling spirals through her tea. Better remind
    her of the word: metempsychosis. An example would be better.”

    —from Ulysses by James Joyce

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    killer wolf lemontrees's Avatar
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    Yeah, I think she is EII now too.

    I was young and stupid then.

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    WE'RE ALL GOING HOME HERO's Avatar
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    I'm still willing to entertain either type, I guess -- EII or IEI-Ni?. Nevertheless, I can totally see how EII makes a lot of sense, and I'm inclined to agree with the EII typing for her more now.

    Please let me know if the last post (of all the excerpts) I added to this thread (today) is readable. I hope the text and double spacing is (relatively) coherent and aligned properly.
    “Must get that Capel street library book renewed or they’ll write to
    Kearney, my garantor. Reincarnation: that’s the word.

    — Some people believe, he said, that we go on living in another body
    after death, that we lived before. They call it reincarnation. That we all lived
    before on the earth thousands of years ago or some other planet. They say we
    have forgotten it. Some say they remember their past lives.

    The sluggish cream wound curdling spirals through her tea. Better remind
    her of the word: metempsychosis. An example would be better.”

    —from Ulysses by James Joyce

  9. #9
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    I've corrected some errors I noticed in the excerpts I posted from Mrs Dalloway.


    Here are my typings of some of the characters:

    Mrs Dalloway

    Lucrezia (Rezia): SLE-Se

    Septimus Smith: IEI-Ni

    Clarissa Dalloway: EII-Ne? (Creative subtype) [EII-SEE?]; or IEI?

    Peter Walsh: IEI?, ESE?, SEI?, or EIE? [probably a Feeling/ethical type]

    Sally Seton: IEE-Ne? or SLE/SEE?; or LSE??

    Richard Dalloway: LSE

    http://www.grabafreebie.com/ebook/mr...way000000.html


    http://books.google.ca/books?id=SsaV...page&q&f=false



    The Waves

    Rhoda: IEI? or EII?

    Bernard: EIE-Ni

    Susan: ESI-Se?

    Jinny: SLE? or SEE?

    Louis: LSI?





    - from On Being Ill by Virginia Woolf; pp. 3-9: Considering how common illness is, how

    tremendous the spiritual change that it brings, how astonishing, when the lights of health go

    down, the undiscovered countries that are then disclosed, what wastes and deserts of the soul a

    slight attack of influenza brings to view, what precipices and lawns sprinkled with bright flowers

    a little rise of temperature reveals, what ancient and obdurate oaks are uprooted in us by the act

    of sickness, how we go down into the pit of death and feel the waters of annihilation close above

    our heads and wake thinking to find ourselves in the presence of the angels and the harpers when

    we have a tooth out and come to the surface in the dentist’s arm-chair and confuse his “Rinse the

    mouth—rinse the mouth” with the greeting of the Deity stooping from the floor of Heaven to

    welcome us — when we think of this, as we are so frequently forced to think of it, it becomes

    strange indeed that illness has not taken its place with love and battle and jealousy among the

    prime themes of literature. Novels, one would have thought, would have been devoted to

    influenza; epic poems to typhoid; odes to pneumonia; lyrics to toothache. But no; with a few

    exceptions — De Quincey attempted something of the sort in The Opium Eater; there must

    be a volume or two about disease scattered through the pages of Proust — literature does its

    best to maintain that its concern is with the mind; that the body is a sheet of plain glass through

    which the soul looks straight and clear, and, save for one or two passions such as desire and

    greed, is null, and negligible and non-existent. On the contrary, the very opposite is true. All

    day, all night the body intervenes; blunts or sharpens, colours or discolours, turns to wax in the

    warmth of June, hardens to tallow in the murk of February. The creature within can only gaze

    through the pane—smudged or rosy; it cannot separate off from the body like the sheath of a

    knife or the pod of a pea for a single instant; it must go through the whole unending procession

    of changes, heat and cold, comfort and discomfort, hunger and satisfaction, health and illness,

    until there comes the inevitable catastrophe; the body smashes itself to smithereens, and the

    soul (it is said) escapes. But of all this daily drama of the body there is no record. People write

    always of the doings of the mind; the thoughts that come to it; its noble plans; how the mind has

    civilised the universe. They show it ignoring the body in the philosopher’s turret; or kicking the

    body, like an old leather football, across leagues of snow and desert in the pursuit of conquest or

    discovery. Those great wars which the body wages with the mind a slave to it, in the solitude of

    the bedroom against the assault of fever or the oncome of melancholia, are neglected. Nor is the

    reason far to seek. To look these things squarely in the face would need the courage of a lion

    tamer; a robust philosophy; a reason rooted in the bowels of the earth. Short of these, this

    monster, the body, this miracle, its pain, will soon make us taper into mysticism, or rise, with

    rapid beats of the wings, into the raptures of transcendentalism. The public would say that a

    novel devoted to influenza lacked plot; they would complain that there was no love in it—

    wrongly however, for illness often takes on the disguise of love, and plays the same odd tricks. It

    invests certain faces with divinity, sets us to wait, hour after hour, with pricked ears for the

    creaking of a stair, and wreathes the faces of the absent (plain enough in health, Heaven knows)

    with a new significance, while the mind concocts a thousand legends and romances about them

    for which it has neither time nor taste in health. Finally, to hinder the description of illness in

    literature, there is the poverty of the language. English, which can express the thoughts of

    Hamlet and the tragedy of Lear, has no words for the shiver and the headache. It has all

    grown one way. The merest schoolgirl, when she falls in love, has Shakespeare or Keats to

    speak her mind for her; but let a sufferer try to describe a pain in his head to a doctor and

    language at once runs dry. There is nothing ready made for him. He is forced to coin words

    himself, and, taking his pain in one hand, and a lump of pure sound in the other (as perhaps the

    people of Babel did in the beginning), so to crush them together that a brand new word in the

    end drops out. Probably it will be something laughable. For who of English birth can take

    liberties with the language? To us it is a sacred thing and therefore doomed to die, unless the

    Americans, whose genius is so much happier in the making of new words than in the disposition

    of the old, will come to our help and set the springs aflow. Yet it is not only a new language that

    we need, more primitive, more sensual, more obscene, but a new hierarchy of the passions; love

    must be deposed in favor of a temperature of 104; jealousy give place to the pangs of sciatica;

    sleeplessness play the part of villain, and the hero become a white liquid with a sweet taste—

    that mighty Prince with the moths’ eyes and the feathered feet, one of whose names is Chloral.


    But to return to the invalid. “I am in bed with influenza”—but what does that convey of the

    great experience; how the world has changed its shape; the tools of business grown remote;

    the sounds of festival become romantic like a merry-go-round heard across far fields; and

    friends have changed, some putting on a strange beauty, others deformed to the squatness of

    toads, while the whole landscape of life lies remote and fair, like the shore seen from a ship

    far out at sea, and he is now exalted on a peak and needs no help from man or God, and now

    grovels supine on the floor glad of a kick from a housemaid — the experience cannot be

    imparted and, as is always the way with these dumb things, his own suffering serves but to

    wake memories in his friends’ minds of their influenzas, their aches and pains which

    went unwept last February, and now cry aloud, desperately, clamorously, for the divine relief of

    sympathy.

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    EII E4/5 area -- so/sp

    Fuck, I have to browse through her books all over again to be able to type characters.
    Provisionally for The Waves: Bernard : EII/IEI/EIE; Louis: LII/LSI; Neville : IEI/EII; Jinny SEE/SLE; Susan : SEI/ESE; Rhoda: IEI/ESI/EII; Percival ILE/LIE

  11. #11
    The Ubiquitous Mr Lovegrove Subteigh's Avatar
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    It would be great if someone reading this post now or in the future could attempt to type Vita Sackville-West as well, although it may well be a bit of a niche interest.

    (I made some related thoughts about her in the post I quoted beloe from another thread):
    Quote Originally Posted by Subteigh View Post
    Orlando - Virginia Woolf (not so gender-slanted or stereotypical). (the book and the movie are both excellent)

    The main character is based on Vita Sackville-West, although I'm sure he/she shares some Virginia Woolf traits too.

    Woolf saw Vita as a huge inspiration: whereas she might attempt to drive a car and crash it into a hedgerow, she saw Vita as very capable in the material world...Vita certainly knew how to drive a car properly! If Vita had been born male, she would have inherited a title and a vast estate. As it was, she always saw herself as very boyish and typically dressed accordingly. She was an author (fiction and memoirs as well as poetry) in her own right, and also a gardener. I would be interested to resolve what her type might have been actually (she was certainly more extroverted than Woolf, but not really surprising. I find that her writing seems very reminiscent of Woolf's in terms of phrasing, tone, sentiment etc. (indeed it reminds me of my own inclinations!)





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    WE'RE ALL GOING HOME HERO's Avatar
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    Virginia Woolf: SEI-Si and/or EII (INFj-ISFp?)

    - from The Mrs. Dalloway Reader; pages 89-92 (“Unreal Loyalties” by Margo Jefferson):

    As a word, “freedom” is frighteningly malleable. It becomes a banner in war—unfurl it, and we are all supposed to cheer and go marching along in sanctimonious lockstep. But it justifies honorable struggles too: for freedom from servitude and slavery, freedom from poverty or persecution, freedom from terror and despair. And not a day goes by without our invoking the right to speak, write, and think freely.

    In 1938, Virginia Woolf proposed one of the most exacting definitions I know. Asked what kind of freedom would advance the fight against fascism and its enduring allies, racism, colonialism and sexism, she replied: ''Freedom from unreal loyalties. . . . You must rid yourself of pride of nationality in the first place; also of religious pride, college pride, family pride, sex pride, and those unreal loyalties that spring from them.'' That's from Three Guineas, which along with the far more famous A Room of One's Own shows Woolf as a polemicist, a feminist with hard-won progressive politics. I say ''hard-won'' because so much has been made of Woolf's snobberies. I rarely read upper-middle-class writers who don't reveal snobberies of some kind, but I read plenty who don't bother to examine them, as Woolf did. This criticism is usually framed by the words ''lady'' or ''genteel,'' which helps explain why so many of her male contemporaries are let off the hook.

    Woolf's polemical style depends on surprise and strategic intimacy. She plays games, wears masks. She mixes public and private discourse. A Room of One's Own was based on lectures she gave to women students at Cambridge University in 1928. The book is a fantasia. History is improvised as she spins the tale of Shakespeare's lost sister. The secret motives of great men are fodder for gossip; hints of sexual desire and fear are everywhere. Teases veil serious themes. I'm not a famous novelist, Woolf says; I am like those women whose names float through the verses of old English ballads and disappear. Arch, perhaps, but the opening gambit in her warning against the temptations (ambition and greed) women will meet as they enter the professions.

    There is nothing playful about Three Guineas. Economies were crashing when it came out. The war was starting. The anger Woolf had famously advised women writers to eschew in A Room of One's Own—anger distorted your vision, she said, even when your cause was just—blazed from every page, but artfully and cunningly. The book's three chapters take the form of letters. Letters and journals had always been available to women who could not or dared not publish. This time, though, Woolf writes as a famous author, a woman of importance being asked by a powerful man how to prevent the injustices that lead to war. Her answer begins with a relentless exhumation of injustice on the home front: England. The complacent world of Victorian gentlemen contained a domestic caste, she said. They were the ill-educated ''daughters of educated men,'' who struggled against their fathers for the right to vote, attend universities, earn their living and, with incomes of their own, develop opinions of their own. (As the university-deprived daughter of an eminent Victorian scholar, Woolf learned the survival tactics of this caste early on: flattery, submission, evasion and the steady application of charm.)

    The voices of the dead rise from these pages. This time their stories are harsh and factual, evidence presented in a court of world opinion. There are 43 pages of footnotes, from employment statistics to speculations on the lives of Victorian maids. These daughters of educated men were an advance guard, Woolf says: ''They were fighting the tyranny of the patriarchal state as you are fighting the tyranny of the fascist state.'' The new tyrant ''is interfering now with your liberty, he is dictating how you shall live, he is making distinctions not merely between the sexes, but between the races. You are feeling in your own persons what your mothers felt when they were shut out, when they were shut up, because they were women. Now you are being shut out, you are being shut up, because you are Jews, because you are democrats, because of race, because of religion.''

    Woolf ends with a question that could not be more urgent. To what use do we put a history of injustice and oppression once we have won basic rights and privileges? She demands that women challenge any education that maintains ''barriers of wealth and ceremony, of advertisement and competition''; any profession that measures success by greed and manipulation.

    The daughters of educated men, she writes, were schooled by ''poverty, chastity, derision'' and the ''lack of rights and privileges.'' Can those be translated into a manifesto for public life?

    Poverty means ''enough money to live upon . . . to buy that modicum of health, leisure, knowledge . . . that is needed for the full development of body and mind. But no more.'' Derision means ''that you must refuse all methods of advertising merit. . . . Directly badges, orders or degrees are offered you, fling them back in the giver's face.'' Finally, she converts that dreary phrase, ''lack of rights and privileges,'' into the valiant ''freedom from unreal loyalties.'' It's a brilliant rhetorical stroke.

    Now that The Hours has increased the sales of Mrs. Dalloway, it is worth noting that Woolf was already linking the ''tyrannies and servilities'' of private and public life in that great 1925 novel. Take the moment when the eminent psychiatrist, Sir William Bradshaw, advises the shattered war veteran Septimus Warren Smith to acquire a sense of proportion. ''Worshiping proportion, Sir William not only prospered himself but made England prosper, secluded her lunatics, forbade childbirth, penalized despair, made it impossible for the unfit to propagate their views until they too shared his sense of proportion—his if they were men, Lady Bradshaw's if they were women (she embroidered, knitted, spent four nights out of seven at home with her son).''

    But proportion has a ''sister, less smiling, more formidable, a goddess even now engaged—in the heat and sands of India, the mud and swamp of Africa, the purlieus of London. . . . Conversion is her name and she feasts on the wills of the weakly, loving to impress, to impose, adoring her own features stamped on the face of the populace.'' Conversion ''walks penitentially disguised as brotherly love through factories and parliaments; offers help, but desires power; smites out of her way roughly the dissentient, or dissatisfied; bestows her blessing on those who, looking upward, catch submissively from her eyes the light of their own.''


    - from Orlando: A Biography by Virginia Woolf (with an Introduction and notes by Sandra M. Gilbert); pages xi-xvii (Introduction—Orlando: Virginia Woolf’s Vita Nuova):

    In the autumn of 1927, Virginia Woolf was struggling to compose a critical book on ‘Fiction, or some title to that effect’. To the Lighthouse, arguably her strongest novel, had been published a few months earlier to considerable acclaim, but she was bored and troubled by the work she was doing now. Suddenly she claimed to have had a surge of inspiration. As she told the story in a letter of 9 October 1927 to the aristocratic novelist-poet Vita Sackville-West, a close friend with whom she was more than half in love at this time:

    “Yesterday morning I was in despair . . . I couldn’t screw a word from me; and at last dropped my head in my hands: dipped my pen in the ink, and wrote these words, as if automatically, on a clean sheet: Orlando: A Biography. No sooner had I done this than my body was flooded with rapture and my brain with ideas. I wrote rapidly till 12 . . . But listen; suppose Orlando turns out to be Vita . . .” [Diary, III, 20 Dec. 1927, p. 168.]

    Thus began Orlando, a witty and parodic ‘biography’ that Woolf was later to describe as ‘a writer’s holiday’, even while she conceded the compulsion she had felt to produce the book: ‘How extraordinarily unwilled by me but potent in its own right . . . Orlando was! As if it had shoved everything aside to come into existence.’

    In fact, although Woolf declared that she had embarked upon this jeu d’esprit in a kind of trance, she had been meditating a project of this sort for quite some time. In March 1927, when To the Lighthouse was at press, she commented in her diary that she was considering writing ‘a Defoe narrative for fun’. She had, she noted, ‘conceived a whole fantasy to be called “The Jessamy Brides”’ about two women, ‘poor, solitary at the top of a house’ from which one could see ‘anything (for this is all fantasy) the Tower Bridge, clouds, aeroplanes’, adding that the work was

    “to be written . . . at the top of my speed . . . Satire is to be the main note – satire & wildness . . . My own lyric vein is to be satirized. Everything mocked . . . For the truth is I feel the need of an escapade after these serious poetic experimental books whose form is always so closely considered. I want to kick up my heels & be off.”

    As the months wore on, she had refined and transformed this idea, remarking even before she wrote to Vita that

    “One of these days . . . I shall sketch here, like a grand historical picture, the outlines of all my friends . . . It might be a most amusing book . . . Vita should be Orlando, a young nobleman . . . & it should be truthful; but fantastic.”

    A week or two later, she decided that the work would be ‘a biography beginning in the year 1500 & continuing to the present day, called Orlando: Vita; only with a change about from one sex to another.’

    At this point in her career, Woolf was at the height of her impressive imagination and intellectual powers. Born in 1882, to Leslie Stephen, an eminent Victorian man of letters, and his beautiful, lively second wife, Julia, she had been raised in, as she put it, ‘a very communicative, literate, letter writing, visiting, articulate, late-nineteenth-century world’. Even before her marriage in 1912 to the socialist intellectual Leonard Woolf, she had begun to move out of that world and into the centre of the radical and rebellious circle of artists and writers that was to become known as the ‘Bloomsbury Group’. Among other activities, she had studied Greek (still at that time an unusual project for a young woman), taught at a working-women’s college in South London, worked for the women’s movement, and begun writing reviews for The Times Literary Supplement.

    Now, at forty-five, Woolf was the author of five novels, which had become increasingly innovative in style, as well as a number of important critical essays and sketches. With her husband, Leonard, she owned and operated the Hogarth Press, a small but influential publishing house whose list included works by such key modernist figures as T. S. Eliot and Katherine Mansfield, along with the English translations of the complete works of Sigmund Freud. Never arrogant – she had indeed had a number of nervous breakdowns marked by severe depression and often possessed a distorted sense of her own ‘failure’ in life – she was nevertheless, in her best moments, serenely confident of her own abilities and continually determined to set herself new challenges. At the same time, having spent more than a decade developing what she called the ‘tunnelling’ method by which she conveyed the interior lives of her characters in such novels as Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse, she had every reason to want to take a ‘writer’s holiday’.

    Metaphorically speaking, what better companion might she have on such a holiday than the eccentric and charismatic Vita Sackville-West? Where Woolf herself was the daughter of a ‘literate, letter writing, visiting, articulate’ haut bourgeois family, Vita (short for Victoria) was indubitably a scion of the aristocracy, a class with which Woolf had always been ambivalently fascinated. Where, despite her literary successes, Woolf continually worried about money, Vita was at least putatively the heiress to a vast fortune: although her claim to Knole, her ancestral estate, had involved a complex lawsuit, the place itself was ancient, luxurious and immense. While Woolf had married a socialist intellectual whom she herself once defined as a ‘penniless Jew’, Vita was married to a representative of the British ‘establishment’—the debonair diplomat Harold Nicolson. Where [Virginia] Woolf was both childless and sexually timid, Vita was both the mother of two sons and a notorious ‘Sapphist’, who made no effort to conceal her attraction to, and affairs with, women. (Indeed, where Leonard Woolf was unswervingly monogamous, even uxorious, Harold Nicolson was as flamboyantly bisexual as his wife.)

    In addition, though Woolf was (or felt she was) physically fragile and odd-looking, Vita was sturdily beautiful, with a dark sensuality that she had inherited (or so Woolf speculated) from a Spanish-dancer grandmother named ‘Pepita de Oliva’, who was said to be descended from gypsies. If Woolf was (at times) almost neurasthenically intellectual and unworldly, Vita was not only a woman of the world but also a woman of action and adventure, who had briefly run off to Paris with a female lover, Violet Trefusis, just five years after her marriage to Nicolson. Despite her famous wit and charm, Woolf was often anxious about her social self-presentation—her clothes, her demeanour, even on some occasions her manners—but Vita had the careless elegance and the offhand air of command bred by generations of power. And last, but certainly not least, where Woolf was a brilliant, driven and ambitious artist, Vita was considerably less talented; although she was a successful and prolific writer herself, she could not have been regarded as a serious literary competitor.

    That Vita frankly and urgently confessed to being ‘in love’ with Woolf can only have multiplied her charms from the novelist’s point of view. In a 1925 diary entry, the author-to-be of Orlando incisively summarized the traits that drew her to this compellingly seductive companion:

    “I like her & being with her, & the splendour—she shines in the grocer’s shop in Sevenoaks with a candle lit radiance, stalking on legs like beech trees, pink glowing, grape clustered, pearl hung. That is the secret of her glamour, I suppose. Anyhow she found me incredibly dowdy, no woman cared less for personal appearance—no one put on things in the way I did. Yet so beautiful, etc. What is the effect of all this on me? Very mixed. There is her maturity & full breastedness: her being so much in full sail on the high tides, where I am coasting down backwaters; her capacity I mean to take the floor in any company, to represent her country, to visit Chatsworth, to control silver, servants, chow dogs; her motherhood (but she is a little cold & offhand with her boys) her being in short (what I have never been) a real woman. Then there is some voluptuousness about her; the grapes are ripe; & not reflective. No. In brain & insight she is not as highly organised as I am. But then she is aware of this, & so lavishes on me the maternal protection which, for some reason, is what I have always most wished from everyone.” [Diary, III, 21 Dec. 1925, p. 52.]

    From girlhood on, Woolf had enjoyed writing mock ‘histories’ of the lives of friends and relatives: in 1907 she produced a little work called ‘Friendships Gallery’, a playful life of Violet Dickinson, an older woman to whom she was much attached; and the following year she composed ‘Reminiscences’, a memoir of her sister Vanessa that was addressed to Vanessa’s children. But now, as a mature writer, she had found so intriguing a subject that she was impelled to develop the kind of informal, personal sketch she had earlier dedicated to Violet and Vanessa into a full-length, professionally expert (albeit fantastic and parodic) tribute to a person who enthralled her, a tribute that Vita’s son Nigel Nicolson was later to call ‘the longest and most charming love letter in literature’.


    Beyond the personal charisma that Woolf had described with such élan in her 1925 diary, what made Vita especially fascinating to this would-be ‘biographer’ was the combination of erotic intensity and sexual ambiguity that Woolf associated with Sapphism—that is, with lesbianism. ‘These Sapphists love women; friendship is never untinged with amorosity,’ she noted with interest. Nor was her interest surprising, for the Bloomsbury Group, in which Woolf had moved almost from her adolescence, had long been ‘radical in its rejection of sexual taboos’, to quote her nephew and biographer Quentin Bell.

    Indeed, as the critic Alex Zwerdling has put it, the

    “sexual permissiveness of the group really was extraordinary: homosexuality and lesbianism not only practised but openly discussed; adulterous liaisons becoming an accepted part of the family circle; menages a trois, a quatre, a cinq; and all this happening shortly after the death of Queen Victoria, among people raised by the old rules.” [Alex Zwerdling, Virginia Woolf and the Real World, p. 168.]

    Woolf’s sister Vanessa, for instance, married Clive Bell but had a long affair with the art historian Roger Fry and, after bearing Bell two sons, had a daughter by the painter Duncan Grant, with whom she settled into an amicable lifelong partnership. Woolf’s friend Lytton Strachey, to whom she was briefly engaged at one point, had numerous homosexual relationships, although he too settled into a long living-arrangement, in his case with Dora Carrington, a young woman who adored him, and her husband, Ralph Partridge, whom he adored.

    Although the young Virginia Stephen tended to be an observer rather than a participant in these unconventional sexual configurations, her own feelings were never stifled by convention. As Quentin Bell observes, for example, she was clearly in love with Violet Dickinson, to whom she wrote ‘passionate letters, enchanting, amusing, embarrassing . . . from which one tries to conjure up a picture of the recipient’. And, in fact, long before she had conceived the Sapphic tale of ‘The Jessamy Brides’ which was to metamorphose into Orlando, Woolf had depicted love between women with special fervour in her novels. Rachel Vinrace, the heroine of The Voyage Out (1915), develops a keen attachment to her friend and mentor Helen Ambrose, while Katharine Hilbery, the protagonist of Night and Day (1919), and the suffragist Mary Datchet are drawn together, and the painter Lily Briscoe, a major character in To the Lighthouse, is enthralled by Mrs Ramsay, the powerfully maternal figure who dominates the work.

    Most strikingly, Clarissa Dalloway, the eponymous heroine of Mrs. Dalloway (1925), remembers the moment when her girlhood friend Sally Seton kissed her on the lips as the supreme erotic experience of her life and muses on her feelings for women in one of the most explicitly sexual passages Woolf ever wrote:

    “ . . . she could not resist sometimes yielding to the charm of a woman, not a girl, of a woman confessing, as to her they often did, some scrape, some folly . . . she did undoubtedly then feel what men felt. Only for a moment; but it was enough. It was a sudden revelation, a tinge like a blush which one tried to check and then, as it spread, one yielded to its expansion, and rushed to the farthest verge and there quivered and felt the world come closer, swollen with some astonishing significance, some pressure of rapture, which split its thin skin and gushed and poured with an extraordinary alleviation over the cracks and sores! Then, for that moment, she had seen an illumination; a match burning in a crocus; an inner meaning almost expressed. But the close withdrew; the hard softened. It was over – the moment.” [Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, pp. 34-5.]

    ‘She did undoubtedly then feel what men felt.’ Although this remark seems casual enough, what underlay it—and what would have given particular force to Woolf’s attraction to Sapphism as well as to the fascination with transvestism and transsexualism so centrally dramatized in Orlando—was the rise in the early years of the century of the new enterprise of ‘sexology’, whose discourse complemented and supplemented the equally new (and equally sexualized) discourse of psychoanalysis that had now been taken up by so many of the writer’s contemporaries. Where Victorian thinkers had preached that ‘proper’ masculinity and femininity were inborn, that sexuality was essentially immutable, the sexologists and their disciples began to call attention to both the fluidity and the artifice of gender.


    - p. 28-37 (Orlando by Virginia Woolf; Ch. 1):

    He laughed, but the laugh on his lips froze in wonder. Whom had he loved, what had he loved, he asked himself in a tumult of emotion, until now? An old woman, he answered, all skin and bone. Red-cheeked trulls too many to mention. A puling nun. A hard-bitten cruel-mouthed adventuress. A nodding mass of lace and ceremony. Love had meant to him nothing but sawdust and cinders. The joys he had had of it tasted insipid in the extreme. He marvelled how he could have gone through with it without yawning. For as he looked the thickness of his blood melted; the ice turned to wine in his veins; he heard the waters flowing and the birds singing; spring broke over the hard wintry landscape; his manhood woke; he grasped a sword in his hand; he charged a more daring foe than Pole or Moor; he dived in deep water; he saw the flower of danger growing in a crevice; he stretched his hand – in fact he was rattling off one of his most impassioned sonnets when the Princess addressed him, ‘Would you have the goodness to pass the salt?’

    He blushed deeply.

    ‘With all the pleasure in the world, Madame,’ he replied, speaking French with a perfect accent. For, heaven be praised, he spoke the tongue as his own; his mother’s maid had taught him. Yet perhaps it would have been better for him had he never learnt that tongue; never answered that voice; never followed the light of those eyes . . .

    The Princess continued. Who were those bumpkins, she asked him, who sat beside her with the manners of stablemen? What was the nauseating mixture they had poured on her plate? Did the dogs eat at the same table with the men in England? Was that figure of fun at the end of the table with her hair rigged up like a Maypole (comme une grande perche mal fagotée) really the Queen? And did the King always slobber like that? And which of those popinjays was George Villiers?* Though these questions rather discomposed Orlando at first, they were put with such archness and drollery that he could not help but laugh; and as he saw from the blank faces of the company that nobody understood a word, he answered her as freely as she asked him, speaking, as she did, in perfect French.

    Thus began an intimacy between the two which soon became the scandal of the Court.

    *George Villiers: (1592-1628) was King James’s favourite, later made Duke of Buckingham.

    Soon it was observed Orlando paid the Muscovite far more attention than mere civility demanded. He was seldom far from her side, and their conversation, though unintelligible to the rest, was carried on with such animation, provoked such blushes and laughter, that the dullest could guess the subject. Moreover, the change in Orlando himself was extraordinary. Nobody had ever seen him so animated. In one night he had thrown off his boyish clumsiness; he was changed from a sulky stripling, who could not enter a ladies’ room without sweeping half the ornaments from the table, to a nobleman, full of grace and manly courtesy. To see him hand the Muscovite (as she was called) to her sledge, or offer her his hand for the dance, or catch the spotted kerchief which she had let drop, or discharge any other of those manifold duties which the supreme lady exacts and the lover hastens to anticipate was a sight to kindle the dull eyes of age, and to make the quick pulse of youth beat faster. Yet over it all hung a cloud. The old men shrugged their shoulders. The young tittered between their fingers. All knew that Orlando was betrothed to another. The Lady Margaret O’Brien O’Dare O’Reilly Tyrconnel (for that was the proper name of Euphrosyne of the Sonnets) wore Orlando’s splendid sapphire on the second finger of her left hand. It was she who had the supreme right to his attentions. Yet she might drop all the handkerchiefs in her wardrobe (of which she had many scores) upon the ice and Orlando never stooped to pick them up. She might wait twenty minutes for him to hand her to her sledge, and in the end have to be content with the services of her Blackamoor. When she skated, which she did rather clumsily, no one was at her elbow to encourage her, and, if she fell, which she did rather heavily, no one raised her to her feet and dusted the snow from her petticoats. Although she was naturally phlegmatic, slow to take offence, and more reluctant than most people to believe that a mere foreigner could oust her from Orlando’s affections, still even the Lady Margaret herself was brought at last to suspect that something was brewing against her peace of mind.

    Indeed, as the days passed, Orlando took less and less care to hide his feelings. Making some excuse or other, he would leave the company as soon as they had dined, or steal away from the skaters, who were forming sets for a quadrille. Next moment it would be seen that the Muscovite was missing too. But what most outraged the Court, and stung it in its tenderest part, which is its vanity, was that the couple was often seen to slip under the silken rope, which railed off the Royal enclosure from the public part of the river and to disappear among the crowd of common people. For suddenly the Princess would stamp her foot and cry, ‘Take me away. I detest your English mob,’ by which she meant the English Court itself. She could stand it no longer. It was full of prying old women, she said, who stared in one’s face, and of bumptious young men who trod on one’s toes. They smelt bad. Their dogs ran between her legs. It was like being in a cage. In Russia they had rivers ten miles broad on which one could gallop six horses abreast all day long without meeting a soul. Besides, she wanted to see the Tower, the Beefeaters, the Heads on Temple Bar, and the jewellers’ shops in the city. Thus, it came about that Orlando took her to the city, showed her the Beefeaters and the rebels’ heads, and bought her whatever took her fancy in the Royal Exchange. [The Yeomen of the Guard, known as ‘Beefeaters’, guard the Tower and wear a distinctive red Tudor uniform. The Temple Bar, the gate between Westminster and the old City of London, was topped with iron spikes, on which the heads of executed rebels were displayed. The Royal Exchange was built as a money market in 1564, on the corner of Threadneedle Street in the City.] But this was not enough. Each increasingly desired the other’s company in privacy all day long where there were none to marvel or to stare. Instead of taking the road to London, therefore, they turned the other way about and were soon beyond the crowd among the frozen reaches of the Thames where, save for sea birds and some old country woman hacking at the ice in a vain attempt to draw a pailful of water or gathering what sticks or dead leaves she could find for firing, not a living soul ever came their way. The poor kept closely to their cottages, and the better sort, who could afford it, crowded for warmth and merriment to the city.

    Hence, Orlando and Sasha, as he called her for short, and because it was the name of a white Russian fox he had had as a boy—a creature soft as snow, but with teeth of steel, which bit him so savagely that his father had it killed – hence, they had the river to themselves. Hot with skating and with love they would throw themselves down in some solitary reach, where the yellow osiers fringed the bank, and wrapped in a great fur cloak Orlando would take her in his arms, and know, for the first time, he murmured, the delights of love. Then, when the ecstasy was over and they lay lulled in a swoon on the ice, he would tell her of his other loves, and how, compared with her, they had been of wood, of sackcloth, and of cinders. And laughing at his vehemence, she would turn once more in his arms and give him, for love’s sake, one more embrace. And then they would marvel that the ice did not melt with their heat, and pity the poor old woman who had no such natural means of thawing it, but must hack at it with a chopper of cold steel. And then, wrapped in their sables, they would talk of everything under the sun; of sights and travels; of Moor and Pagan; of this man’s beard and that woman’s skin; of a rat that fed from her hand at table; of the arras that moved always in the hall at home; of a face; of a feather. Nothing was too small for such converse, nothing was too great.

    Then, suddenly Orlando would fall into one of his moods of melancholy; the sight of the old woman hobbling over the ice might be the cause of it, or nothing; and would fling himself face downwards on the ice and look into the frozen waters and think of death. For the philosopher is right who says that nothing thicker than a knife’s blade separates happiness from melancholy; and he goes on to opine that one is twin fellow to the other; and draws from this the conclusion that all extremes of feeling are allied to madness; and so bids us take refuge in the true Church (in his view the Anabaptist), which is the only harbour, port, anchorage, etc., he said, for those tossed on this sea.

    ‘All ends in death,’ Orlando would say, sitting upright, his face clouded with gloom. (For that was the way his mind worked now, in violent see-saws from life to death, stopping at nothing in between, so that the biographer must not stop either, but must fly as fast as he can and so keep pace with the unthinking passionate foolish actions and sudden extravagant words in which, it is impossible to deny, Orlando at this time of his life indulged.)

    ‘All ends in death,’ Orlando would say, sitting upright on the ice. But Sasha who after all had no English blood in her but was from Russia where the sunsets are longer, the dawns less sudden, and sentences often left unfinished from doubt as to how best to end them – Sasha stared at him, perhaps sneered at him, for he must have seemed a child to her, and said nothing. But at length the ice grew cold beneath them, which she disliked, so pulling him to his feet again, she talked so enchantingly, so wittily, so wisely (but unfortunately always in French, which notoriously loses its flavour in translation) that he forgot the frozen waters or night coming or the old woman or whatever it was, and would try to tell her – plunging and splashing among a thousand images which had gone as stale as the women who inspired them – what she was like. Snow, cream, marble, cherries, alabaster, golden wire? None of these. She was like a fox, or an olive tree; like the waves of the sea when you look down upon them from a height; like an emerald; like the sun on a green hill which is yet clouded – like nothing he had seen or known in England. Ransack the language as he might, words failed him. He wanted another landscape, and another tongue. English was too frank, too candid, too honeyed a speech for Sasha. For in all she said, however open she seemed and voluptuous, there was something hidden; in all she did, however daring, there was something concealed. So the green flame seems hidden in the emerald, or the sun prisoned in a hill. The clearness was only outward; within was a wandering flame. It came; it went; she never shone with the steady beam of an Englishwoman – here, however, remembering the Lady Margaret and her petticoats, Orlando ran wild in his transports and swept her over the ice, faster, faster, vowing that he would chase the flame, dive for the gem, and so on and so on, the words coming on the plants of his breath with the passion of a poet whose poetry is half pressed out of him by pain.

    But Sasha was silent. When Orlando had done telling her that she was a fox, an olive tree, or a green hill-top, and had given her the whole history of his family; how their house was one of the most ancient in Britain; how they had come from Rome with the Caesars and had the right to walk down the Corso (which is the chief street in Rome) under a tasselled palanquin,* which he said is a privilege reserved only for those of imperial blood (for there was an orgulous credulity about him which was pleasant enough), he would pause and ask her, Where was her own house? What was her father? Had she brothers? Why was she here alone with her uncle? Then, somehow, though she answered readily enough, an awkwardness would come between them. He suspected at first that her rank was not as high as she would like; or that she was ashamed of the savage ways of her people, for he had heard that the women in Muscovy wear beards and the men are covered with fur from the waist down; that both sexes are smeared with tallow to keep the cold out, tear meat with their fingers and live in huts where an English noble would scruple to keep his cattle; so that he forbore to press her. But on reflection, he concluded that her silence could not be for that reason; she herself was entirely free from hair on the chin; she dressed in velvet and pearls, and her manners were certainly not those of a woman bred in a cattle-shed.

    What, then, did she hide from him? The doubt underlying the tremendous force of his feelings was like a quicksand beneath a monument which shifts suddenly and makes the whole pile shake. The agony would seize him suddenly. Then he would blaze out in such wrath that she did not know how to quiet him. Perhaps she did not want to quiet him; perhaps his rages pleased her and she provoked them purposely – such is the curious obliquity of the Muscovitish temperament.

    *palanquin: a canopy

    To continue the story – skating farther than their wont that day they reached that part of the river where the ships had anchored and been frozen in midstream. Among them was the ship of the Muscovite Embassy flying its double-headed black eagle from the main mast, which was hung with many-coloured icicles several yards in length. Sasha had left some of her clothing on board, and supposing the ship to be empty they climbed on deck and went in search of it. Remembering certain passages in his own past, Orlando would not have marvelled had some good citizens sought this refuge before them; and so it turned out. They had not ventured far when a fine young man started up from some business of his own behind a coil of rope and saying, apparently, for he spoke Russian, that he was one of the crew and would help the Princess to find what she wanted, lit a lump of candle and disappeared with her into the lower parts of the ship.

    Time went by, and Orlando, wrapped in his own dreams, thought only of the pleasures of life; of his jewel; of her rarity; of means for making her irrevocably and indissolubly his own. Obstacles there were and hardships to be overcome. She was determined to live in Russia, where there were frozen rivers and wild horses and men, she said, who gashed each other’s throats open. It is true that a landscape of pine and snow, habits of lust and slaughter, did not entice him. Nor was he anxious to cease his pleasant country ways of sport and tree-planting; relinquish his office; ruin his career; shoot the reindeer instead of the rabbit; drink vodka instead of canary, and slip a knife up his sleeve – for what purpose, he knew not. Still, all this and more than all this he would do for her sake. As for his marriage with the Lady Margaret, fixed though it was for this day sennight,* the thing was so palpably absurd that he scarcely gave it a thought. Her kinsmen would abuse him for deserting a great lady; his friends would deride him for ruining the finest career in the world for a Cossack woman and a waste of snow – it weighed not a straw in the balance compared with Sasha herself. On the first dark night they would fly. They would take ship to Russia. So he pondered; so he plotted as he walked up and down the deck.

    *sennight: in seven days’ time (archaic).

    He was recalled, turning westward, by the sight of the sun, slung like an orange on the cross of St. Paul’s.* It was blood-red and sinking rapidly. It must be almost evening. Sasha had been gone this hour and more. Seized instantly with those dark forebodings which shadowed even his most confident thoughts of her, he plunged the way he had seen them go into the hold of the ship . . . .

    *the cross of St. Paul’s: a deliberate anachronism – old St Paul’s had a square tower that was burnt down in the fire of London of 1666. It was rebuilt with a dome and cross by Christopher Wren.


    - from The Waves by Virginia Woolf; pages 134-136:

    “And time,” said Bernard, “lets fall its drop. The drop that has formed on the roof of the soul falls. On the roof of my mind time, forming, lets fall its drop. Last week, as I stood shaving, the drop fell. I, standing with my razor in my hand, became suddenly aware of the merely habitual nature of my action (this is the drop forming) and congratulated my hands, ironically, for keeping at it. Shave, shave, shave, I said. Go on shaving. The drop fell. All through the day’s work, at intervals, my mind went to an empty place, saying, “What is lost? What is over?” And “Over and done with,” I muttered, “over and done with,” solacing myself with words. People noticed the vacuity of my face and the aimlessness of my conversation. The last words of my sentence tailed away. And as I buttoned on my coat to go home I said more dramatically, “I have lost my youth.”

    “It is curious how, at every crisis, some phrase which does not fit insists upon coming to the rescue — the penalty of living in an old civilization with a notebook. This drop falling has nothing to do with losing my youth. This drop falling is time tapering to a point. Time, which is a sunny pasture covered with a dancing light, time, which is widespread as a field at midday, becomes pendant. Time tapers to a point. As a drop falls from a glass heavy with some sediment, time falls. These are the true cycles, these are the true events. Then as if all the luminosity of the atmosphere were withdrawn I see to the bare bottom. I see what habit covers. I lie sluggish in bed for days. I dine out and gape like a codfish. I do not trouble to finish my sentences, and my actions, usually so uncertain, acquire a mechanical precision. On this occasion, passing an office, I went in and bought, with all the composure of a mechanical figure, a ticket for Rome.

    “Now I sit on a stone seat in these gardens surveying the eternal city, and the little man who was shaving in London five days ago looks already like a heap of old clothes. London has also crumbled. London consists of fallen factories and a few gasometers. At the same time I am not involved in this pageantry. I see the violet-sashed priests and the picturesque nursemaids; I notice externals only. I sit here like a convalescent, like a very simple man who knows only words of one syllable. “The sun is hot,” I say. “The wind is cold.” I feel myself carried round like an insect on top of the earth and could swear that, sitting here, I feel its hardness, its turning movement. I have no desire to go the opposite way from the earth. Could I prolong this sense another six inches I have a foreboding that I should touch some queer territory. But I have a very limited proboscis. I never wish to prolong these states of detachment; I dislike them; I also despise them. I do not wish to be a man who sits for fifty years on the same spot thinking of his navel. I wish to be harnessed to a cart, a vegetable-cart that rattles over the cobbles.

    “The truth is that I am not one of those who find their satisfaction in one person, or in infinity. The private room bores me, also the sky. My being only glitters when all its facets are exposed to many people. Let them fail and I am full of holes, dwindling like burnt paper. Oh, Mrs Moffat, Mrs Moffat, I say, come and sweep it all up. Things have dropped from me. I have outlived certain desires; I have lost friends, some by death — Percival — others through sheer inability to cross the street. I am not so gifted as at one time seemed likely. Certain things lie beyond my scope. I shall never understand the harder problems of philosophy. Rome is the limit of my travelling. As I drop asleep at night it strikes me sometimes with a pang that I shall never see savages in Tahiti spearing fish by the light of a blazing cresset, or a lion spring in the jungle, or a naked man eating raw flesh. Nor shall I learn Russian or read the Vedas. I shall never again walk bang into the pillar-box. (But still a few stars fall through my night, beautifully, from the violence of that concussion.) But as I think, truth has come nearer. For many years I crooned complacently, ‘My children . . . my wife . . . my house . . . my dog.’ As I let myself in with the latch-key I would go through that familiar ritual and wrap myself in those warm coverings. Now that lovely veil has fallen. I do not want possessions now. (Note: an Italian washerwoman stands on the same rung of physical refinement as the daughter of an English duke.)

    “But let me consider. The drop falls; another stage has been reached. Stage upon stage. And why should there be an end of stages? and where do they lead? To what conclusion?”



    - from Jacob’s Room by Virginia Woolf; page 9:

    “What did I ask you to remember?” she said.

    “I don’t know,” said Archer.

    “Well, I don’t know either,” said Betty, humorously and simply, and who shall deny that this blankness of mind, when combined with profusion, mother wit, old wives’ tales, haphazard ways, moments of astonishing daring, humour, and sentimentality—who shall deny that in these respects every woman is nicer than any man?

    “It would be a thousand pities if women wrote like men, or lived like men, or looked like men, for if two sexes are quite inadequate, considering the vastness and variety of the world, how should we manage with one only? Ought not education to bring out and fortify the differences rather than the similarities? For we have too much likeness as it is, and if an explorer should come back and bring word of other sexes looking through the branches of other trees at other skies, nothing would be of greater service to humanity".—Virginia Woolf


    - from Orlando by Virginia Woolf; page 11: He—for there could be no doubt of his sex,

    though the fashion of the time did something to disguise it—was in the act of slicing at the head

    of a Moor which swung from the rafters. It was the colour of an old football, and more or less the

    shape of one, save for the sunken cheeks and a strand or two of coarse, dry hair, like the hair on a

    cocoanut. Orlando’s father, or perhaps his grandfather, had struck it from the shoulders of a vast

    Pagan who had started up under the moon in the barbarian fields of Africa; and now it swung,

    gently, perpetually, in the breeze which never ceased blowing through the attic rooms of the

    gigantic house of the lord who had slain him.

    Orlando’s fathers had ridden in fields of asphodel, and stony fields, and fields watered by strange

    rivers, and they had struck many heads of many colours off many shoulders, and brought them

    back to hang from the rafters. So too would Orlando, he vowed. But since he was sixteen only,

    and too young to ride with them in Africa or France, he would steal away from his mother and

    the peacocks in the garden and go to his attic room and there lunge and plunge and slice the air

    with his blade. Sometimes he cut the cord so that the skull bumped on the floor and he had to

    string it up again, fastening it with some chivalry almost out of reach so that his enemy grinned

    at him through shrunk, black lips triumphantly.


    https://www.rochester.edu/pr/Review/V69N3/gazette6.html

    “A Room of Woolf’s Own”

    Virginia Woolf gets more attention than anyone else in this book, because, I believe, she thought more deeply than any other English novelist about the moral and emotional aspects of personal life.

    The standard map of modern literature, taught in schools and taken for granted everywhere, places Yeats, Eliot, and Joyce on the highest slopes, with other writers arrayed in lesser and outlying positions. This account is based on the intellectual prejudice, shared by its three heroes, that archetypes are more real than individuals, that myths are more true than observations, that a vision of grand patterns matters more than any attempt to integrate the local particulars of individual lives.

    Hidden within this account is a deeper prejudice, which is that the shape and complexity of a work is the test of its greatness, that a work of art need not be emotionally moving except to the degree that its structure and patterns inspire inarticulate awe.

    Museums and concert halls and anthologies are filled with the unfortunate consequences of this assumption, but that does not make it any less mistaken. When you remember that all the great art of the past seems to have been created to be moving as well as to be ingenious, and that the same measure of greatness can still be applied to modern literature, the map of modern literature begins to look different from the version taught in schools.

    Virginia Woolf, who understood human life in terms of its changes through time, rather than in terms of permanent archetypal states, takes the central place in modern fiction, as W. H. Auden takes the place in modern poetry, and Samuel Beckett takes the central place in modern drama.

    —Edward Mendelson














    - from The Mrs. Dalloway Reader; pages 89-92 (“Unreal Loyalties” by Margo Jefferson):

    As a word, “freedom” is frighteningly malleable. It becomes a banner in war—unfurl it, and we are all supposed to cheer and go marching along in sanctimonious lockstep. But it justifies honorable struggles too: for freedom from servitude and slavery, freedom from poverty or persecution, freedom from terror and despair. And not a day goes by without our invoking the right to speak, write, and think freely.

    In 1938, Virginia Woolf proposed one of the most exacting definitions I know. Asked what kind of freedom would advance the fight against fascism and its enduring allies, racism, colonialism and sexism, she replied: ''Freedom from unreal loyalties. . . . You must rid yourself of pride of nationality in the first place; also of religious pride, college pride, family pride, sex pride, and those unreal loyalties that spring from them.'' That's from Three Guineas, which along with the far more famous A Room of One's Own shows Woolf as a polemicist, a feminist with hard-won progressive politics. I say ''hard-won'' because so much has been made of Woolf's snobberies. I rarely read upper-middle-class writers who don't reveal snobberies of some kind, but I read plenty who don't bother to examine them, as Woolf did. This criticism is usually framed by the words ''lady'' or ''genteel,'' which helps explain why so many of her male contemporaries are let off the hook.

    Woolf's polemical style depends on surprise and strategic intimacy. She plays games, wears masks. She mixes public and private discourse. A Room of One's Own was based on lectures she gave to women students at Cambridge University in 1928. The book is a fantasia. History is improvised as she spins the tale of Shakespeare's lost sister. The secret motives of great men are fodder for gossip; hints of sexual desire and fear are everywhere. Teases veil serious themes. I'm not a famous novelist, Woolf says; I am like those women whose names float through the verses of old English ballads and disappear. Arch, perhaps, but the opening gambit in her warning against the temptations (ambition and greed) women will meet as they enter the professions.

    There is nothing playful about Three Guineas. Economies were crashing when it came out. The war was starting. The anger Woolf had famously advised women writers to eschew in A Room of One's Own—anger distorted your vision, she said, even when your cause was just—blazed from every page, but artfully and cunningly. The book's three chapters take the form of letters. Letters and journals had always been available to women who could not or dared not publish. This time, though, Woolf writes as a famous author, a woman of importance being asked by a powerful man how to prevent the injustices that lead to war. Her answer begins with a relentless exhumation of injustice on the home front: England. The complacent world of Victorian gentlemen contained a domestic caste, she said. They were the ill-educated ''daughters of educated men,'' who struggled against their fathers for the right to vote, attend universities, earn their living and, with incomes of their own, develop opinions of their own. (As the university-deprived daughter of an eminent Victorian scholar, Woolf learned the survival tactics of this caste early on: flattery, submission, evasion and the steady application of charm.)

    The voices of the dead rise from these pages. This time their stories are harsh and factual, evidence presented in a court of world opinion. There are 43 pages of footnotes, from employment statistics to speculations on the lives of Victorian maids. These daughters of educated men were an advance guard, Woolf says: ''They were fighting the tyranny of the patriarchal state as you are fighting the tyranny of the fascist state.'' The new tyrant ''is interfering now with your liberty, he is dictating how you shall live, he is making distinctions not merely between the sexes, but between the races. You are feeling in your own persons what your mothers felt when they were shut out, when they were shut up, because they were women. Now you are being shut out, you are being shut up, because you are Jews, because you are democrats, because of race, because of religion.''

    Woolf ends with a question that could not be more urgent. To what use do we put a history of injustice and oppression once we have won basic rights and privileges? She demands that women challenge any education that maintains ''barriers of wealth and ceremony, of advertisement and competition''; any profession that measures success by greed and manipulation.

    The daughters of educated men, she writes, were schooled by ''poverty, chastity, derision'' and the ''lack of rights and privileges.'' Can those be translated into a manifesto for public life?

    Poverty means ''enough money to live upon . . . to buy that modicum of health, leisure, knowledge . . . that is needed for the full development of body and mind. But no more.'' Derision means ''that you must refuse all methods of advertising merit. . . . Directly badges, orders or degrees are offered you, fling them back in the giver's face.'' Finally, she converts that dreary phrase, ''lack of rights and privileges,'' into the valiant ''freedom from unreal loyalties.'' It's a brilliant rhetorical stroke.

    Now that The Hours has increased the sales of Mrs. Dalloway, it is worth noting that Woolf was already linking the ''tyrannies and servilities'' of private and public life in that great 1925 novel. Take the moment when the eminent psychiatrist, Sir William Bradshaw, advises the shattered war veteran Septimus Warren Smith to acquire a sense of proportion. ''Worshiping proportion, Sir William not only prospered himself but made England prosper, secluded her lunatics, forbade childbirth, penalized despair, made it impossible for the unfit to propagate their views until they too shared his sense of proportion—his if they were men, Lady Bradshaw's if they were women (she embroidered, knitted, spent four nights out of seven at home with her son).''

    But proportion has a ''sister, less smiling, more formidable, a goddess even now engaged—in the heat and sands of India, the mud and swamp of Africa, the purlieus of London. . . . Conversion is her name and she feasts on the wills of the weakly, loving to impress, to impose, adoring her own features stamped on the face of the populace.'' Conversion ''walks penitentially disguised as brotherly love through factories and parliaments; offers help, but desires power; smites out of her way roughly the dissentient, or dissatisfied; bestows her blessing on those who, looking upward, catch submissively from her eyes the light of their own.''


    - from Orlando: A Biography by Virginia Woolf (with an Introduction and notes by Sandra M. Gilbert); pages xi-xvii (Introduction—Orlando: Virginia Woolf’s Vita Nuova):

    In the autumn of 1927, Virginia Woolf was struggling to compose a critical book on ‘Fiction, or some title to that effect’. To the Lighthouse, arguably her strongest novel, had been published a few months earlier to considerable acclaim, but she was bored and troubled by the work she was doing now. Suddenly she claimed to have had a surge of inspiration. As she told the story in a letter of 9 October 1927 to the aristocratic novelist-poet Vita Sackville-West, a close friend with whom she was more than half in love at this time:

    “Yesterday morning I was in despair . . . I couldn’t screw a word from me; and at last dropped my head in my hands: dipped my pen in the ink, and wrote these words, as if automatically, on a clean sheet: Orlando: A Biography. No sooner had I done this than my body was flooded with rapture and my brain with ideas. I wrote rapidly till 12 . . . But listen; suppose Orlando turns out to be Vita . . .” [Diary, III, 20 Dec. 1927, p. 168.]

    Thus began Orlando, a witty and parodic ‘biography’ that Woolf was later to describe as ‘a writer’s holiday’, even while she conceded the compulsion she had felt to produce the book: ‘How extraordinarily unwilled by me but potent in its own right . . . Orlando was! As if it had shoved everything aside to come into existence.’

    In fact, although Woolf declared that she had embarked upon this jeu d’esprit in a kind of trance, she had been meditating a project of this sort for quite some time. In March 1927, when To the Lighthouse was at press, she commented in her diary that she was considering writing ‘a Defoe narrative for fun’. She had, she noted, ‘conceived a whole fantasy to be called “The Jessamy Brides”’ about two women, ‘poor, solitary at the top of a house’ from which one could see ‘anything (for this is all fantasy) the Tower Bridge, clouds, aeroplanes’, adding that the work was

    “to be written . . . at the top of my speed . . . Satire is to be the main note – satire & wildness . . . My own lyric vein is to be satirized. Everything mocked . . . For the truth is I feel the need of an escapade after these serious poetic experimental books whose form is always so closely considered. I want to kick up my heels & be off.”

    As the months wore on, she had refined and transformed this idea, remarking even before she wrote to Vita that

    “One of these days . . . I shall sketch here, like a grand historical picture, the outlines of all my friends . . . It might be a most amusing book . . . Vita should be Orlando, a young nobleman . . . & it should be truthful; but fantastic.”

    A week or two later, she decided that the work would be ‘a biography beginning in the year 1500 & continuing to the present day, called Orlando: Vita; only with a change about from one sex to another.’

    At this point in her career, Woolf was at the height of her impressive imagination and intellectual powers. Born in 1882, to Leslie Stephen, an eminent Victorian man of letters, and his beautiful, lively second wife, Julia, she had been raised in, as she put it, ‘a very communicative, literate, letter writing, visiting, articulate, late-nineteenth-century world’. Even before her marriage in 1912 to the socialist intellectual Leonard Woolf, she had begun to move out of that world and into the centre of the radical and rebellious circle of artists and writers that was to become known as the ‘Bloomsbury Group’. Among other activities, she had studied Greek (still at that time an unusual project for a young woman), taught at a working-women’s college in South London, worked for the women’s movement, and begun writing reviews for The Times Literary Supplement.

    Now, at forty-five, Woolf was the author of five novels, which had become increasingly innovative in style, as well as a number of important critical essays and sketches. With her husband, Leonard, she owned and operated the Hogarth Press, a small but influential publishing house whose list included works by such key modernist figures as T. S. Eliot and Katherine Mansfield, along with the English translations of the complete works of Sigmund Freud. Never arrogant – she had indeed had a number of nervous breakdowns marked by severe depression and often possessed a distorted sense of her own ‘failure’ in life – she was nevertheless, in her best moments, serenely confident of her own abilities and continually determined to set herself new challenges. At the same time, having spent more than a decade developing what she called the ‘tunnelling’ method by which she conveyed the interior lives of her characters in such novels as Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse, she had every reason to want to take a ‘writer’s holiday’.

    Metaphorically speaking, what better companion might she have on such a holiday than the eccentric and charismatic Vita Sackville-West? Where Woolf herself was the daughter of a ‘literate, letter writing, visiting, articulate’ haut bourgeois family, Vita (short for Victoria) was indubitably a scion of the aristocracy, a class with which Woolf had always been ambivalently fascinated. Where, despite her literary successes, Woolf continually worried about money, Vita was at least putatively the heiress to a vast fortune: although her claim to Knole, her ancestral estate, had involved a complex lawsuit, the place itself was ancient, luxurious and immense. While Woolf had married a socialist intellectual whom she herself once defined as a ‘penniless Jew’, Vita was married to a representative of the British ‘establishment’—the debonair diplomat Harold Nicolson. Where [Virginia] Woolf was both childless and sexually timid, Vita was both the mother of two sons and a notorious ‘Sapphist’, who made no effort to conceal her attraction to, and affairs with, women. (Indeed, where Leonard Woolf was unswervingly monogamous, even uxorious, Harold Nicolson was as flamboyantly bisexual as his wife.)

    In addition, though Woolf was (or felt she was) physically fragile and odd-looking, Vita was sturdily beautiful, with a dark sensuality that she had inherited (or so Woolf speculated) from a Spanish-dancer grandmother named ‘Pepita de Oliva’, who was said to be descended from gypsies. If Woolf was (at times) almost neurasthenically intellectual and unworldly, Vita was not only a woman of the world but also a woman of action and adventure, who had briefly run off to Paris with a female lover, Violet Trefusis, just five years after her marriage to Nicolson. Despite her famous wit and charm, Woolf was often anxious about her social self-presentation—her clothes, her demeanour, even on some occasions her manners—but Vita had the careless elegance and the offhand air of command bred by generations of power. And last, but certainly not least, where Woolf was a brilliant, driven and ambitious artist, Vita was considerably less talented; although she was a successful and prolific writer herself, she could not have been regarded as a serious literary competitor.

    That Vita frankly and urgently confessed to being ‘in love’ with Woolf can only have multiplied her charms from the novelist’s point of view. In a 1925 diary entry, the author-to-be of Orlando incisively summarized the traits that drew her to this compellingly seductive companion:

    “I like her & being with her, & the splendour—she shines in the grocer’s shop in Sevenoaks with a candle lit radiance, stalking on legs like beech trees, pink glowing, grape clustered, pearl hung. That is the secret of her glamour, I suppose. Anyhow she found me incredibly dowdy, no woman cared less for personal appearance—no one put on things in the way I did. Yet so beautiful, etc. What is the effect of all this on me? Very mixed. There is her maturity & full breastedness: her being so much in full sail on the high tides, where I am coasting down backwaters; her capacity I mean to take the floor in any company, to represent her country, to visit Chatsworth, to control silver, servants, chow dogs; her motherhood (but she is a little cold & offhand with her boys) her being in short (what I have never been) a real woman. Then there is some voluptuousness about her; the grapes are ripe; & not reflective. No. In brain & insight she is not as highly organised as I am. But then she is aware of this, & so lavishes on me the maternal protection which, for some reason, is what I have always most wished from everyone.” [Diary, III, 21 Dec. 1925, p. 52.]

    From girlhood on, Woolf had enjoyed writing mock ‘histories’ of the lives of friends and relatives: in 1907 she produced a little work called ‘Friendships Gallery’, a playful life of Violet Dickinson, an older woman to whom she was much attached; and the following year she composed ‘Reminiscences’, a memoir of her sister Vanessa that was addressed to Vanessa’s children. But now, as a mature writer, she had found so intriguing a subject that she was impelled to develop the kind of informal, personal sketch she had earlier dedicated to Violet and Vanessa into a full-length, professionally expert (albeit fantastic and parodic) tribute to a person who enthralled her, a tribute that Vita’s son Nigel Nicolson was later to call ‘the longest and most charming love letter in literature’.


    Beyond the personal charisma that Woolf had described with such élan in her 1925 diary, what made Vita especially fascinating to this would-be ‘biographer’ was the combination of erotic intensity and sexual ambiguity that Woolf associated with Sapphism—that is, with lesbianism. ‘These Sapphists love women; friendship is never untinged with amorosity,’ she noted with interest. Nor was her interest surprising, for the Bloomsbury Group, in which Woolf had moved almost from her adolescence, had long been ‘radical in its rejection of sexual taboos’, to quote her nephew and biographer Quentin Bell.

    Indeed, as the critic Alex Zwerdling has put it, the

    “sexual permissiveness of the group really was extraordinary: homosexuality and lesbianism not only practised but openly discussed; adulterous liaisons becoming an accepted part of the family circle; menages a trois, a quatre, a cinq; and all this happening shortly after the death of Queen Victoria, among people raised by the old rules.” [Alex Zwerdling, Virginia Woolf and the Real World, p. 168.]

    Woolf’s sister Vanessa, for instance, married Clive Bell but had a long affair with the art historian Roger Fry and, after bearing Bell two sons, had a daughter by the painter Duncan Grant, with whom she settled into an amicable lifelong partnership. Woolf’s friend Lytton Strachey, to whom she was briefly engaged at one point, had numerous homosexual relationships, although he too settled into a long living-arrangement, in his case with Dora Carrington, a young woman who adored him, and her husband, Ralph Partridge, whom he adored.

    Although the young Virginia Stephen tended to be an observer rather than a participant in these unconventional sexual configurations, her own feelings were never stifled by convention. As Quentin Bell observes, for example, she was clearly in love with Violet Dickinson, to whom she wrote ‘passionate letters, enchanting, amusing, embarrassing . . . from which one tries to conjure up a picture of the recipient’. And, in fact, long before she had conceived the Sapphic tale of ‘The Jessamy Brides’ which was to metamorphose into Orlando, Woolf had depicted love between women with special fervour in her novels. Rachel Vinrace, the heroine of The Voyage Out (1915), develops a keen attachment to her friend and mentor Helen Ambrose, while Katharine Hilbery, the protagonist of Night and Day (1919), and the suffragist Mary Datchet are drawn together, and the painter Lily Briscoe, a major character in To the Lighthouse, is enthralled by Mrs Ramsay, the powerfully maternal figure who dominates the work.

    Most strikingly, Clarissa Dalloway, the eponymous heroine of Mrs. Dalloway (1925), remembers the moment when her girlhood friend Sally Seton kissed her on the lips as the supreme erotic experience of her life and muses on her feelings for women in one of the most explicitly sexual passages Woolf ever wrote:

    “ . . . she could not resist sometimes yielding to the charm of a woman, not a girl, of a woman confessing, as to her they often did, some scrape, some folly . . . she did undoubtedly then feel what men felt. Only for a moment; but it was enough. It was a sudden revelation, a tinge like a blush which one tried to check and then, as it spread, one yielded to its expansion, and rushed to the farthest verge and there quivered and felt the world come closer, swollen with some astonishing significance, some pressure of rapture, which split its thin skin and gushed and poured with an extraordinary alleviation over the cracks and sores! Then, for that moment, she had seen an illumination; a match burning in a crocus; an inner meaning almost expressed. But the close withdrew; the hard softened. It was over – the moment.” [Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, pp. 34-5.]

    ‘She did undoubtedly then feel what men felt.’ Although this remark seems casual enough, what underlay it—and what would have given particular force to Woolf’s attraction to Sapphism as well as to the fascination with transvestism and transsexualism so centrally dramatized in Orlando—was the rise in the early years of the century of the new enterprise of ‘sexology’, whose discourse complemented and supplemented the equally new (and equally sexualized) discourse of psychoanalysis that had now been taken up by so many of the writer’s contemporaries. Where Victorian thinkers had preached that ‘proper’ masculinity and femininity were inborn, that sexuality was essentially immutable, the sexologists and their disciples began to call attention to both the fluidity and the artifice of gender.


    - p. 28-37 (Orlando by Woolf; Ch. 1):

    He laughed, but the laugh on his lips froze in wonder. Whom had he loved, what had he loved, he asked himself in a tumult of emotion, until now? An old woman, he answered, all skin and bone. Red-cheeked trulls too many to mention. A puling nun. A hard-bitten cruel-mouthed adventuress. A nodding mass of lace and ceremony. Love had meant to him nothing but sawdust and cinders. The joys he had had of it tasted insipid in the extreme. He marvelled how he could have gone through with it without yawning. For as he looked the thickness of his blood melted; the ice turned to wine in his veins; he heard the waters flowing and the birds singing; spring broke over the hard wintry landscape; his manhood woke; he grasped a sword in his hand; he charged a more daring foe than Pole or Moor; he dived in deep water; he saw the flower of danger growing in a crevice; he stretched his hand – in fact he was rattling off one of his most impassioned sonnets when the Princess addressed him, ‘Would you have the goodness to pass the salt?’

    He blushed deeply.

    ‘With all the pleasure in the world, Madame,’ he replied, speaking French with a perfect accent. For, heaven be praised, he spoke the tongue as his own; his mother’s maid had taught him. Yet perhaps it would have been better for him had he never learnt that tongue; never answered that voice; never followed the light of those eyes . . .

    The Princess continued. Who were those bumpkins, she asked him, who sat beside her with the manners of stablemen? What was the nauseating mixture they had poured on her plate? Did the dogs eat at the same table with the men in England? Was that figure of fun at the end of the table with her hair rigged up like a Maypole (comme une grande perche mal fagotée) really the Queen? And did the King always slobber like that? And which of those popinjays was George Villiers?* Though these questions rather discomposed Orlando at first, they were put with such archness and drollery that he could not help but laugh; and as he saw from the blank faces of the company that nobody understood a word, he answered her as freely as she asked him, speaking, as she did, in perfect French.

    Thus began an intimacy between the two which soon became the scandal of the Court.

    *George Villiers: (1592-1628) was King James’s favourite, later made Duke of Buckingham.

    Soon it was observed Orlando paid the Muscovite far more attention than mere civility demanded. He was seldom far from her side, and their conversation, though unintelligible to the rest, was carried on with such animation, provoked such blushes and laughter, that the dullest could guess the subject. Moreover, the change in Orlando himself was extraordinary. Nobody had ever seen him so animated. In one night he had thrown off his boyish clumsiness; he was changed from a sulky stripling, who could not enter a ladies’ room without sweeping half the ornaments from the table, to a nobleman, full of grace and manly courtesy. To see him hand the Muscovite (as she was called) to her sledge, or offer her his hand for the dance, or catch the spotted kerchief which she had let drop, or discharge any other of those manifold duties which the supreme lady exacts and the lover hastens to anticipate was a sight to kindle the dull eyes of age, and to make the quick pulse of youth beat faster. Yet over it all hung a cloud. The old men shrugged their shoulders. The young tittered between their fingers. All knew that Orlando was betrothed to another. The Lady Margaret O’Brien O’Dare O’Reilly Tyrconnel (for that was the proper name of Euphrosyne of the Sonnets) wore Orlando’s splendid sapphire on the second finger of her left hand. It was she who had the supreme right to his attentions. Yet she might drop all the handkerchiefs in her wardrobe (of which she had many scores) upon the ice and Orlando never stooped to pick them up. She might wait twenty minutes for him to hand her to her sledge, and in the end have to be content with the services of her Blackamoor. When she skated, which she did rather clumsily, no one was at her elbow to encourage her, and, if she fell, which she did rather heavily, no one raised her to her feet and dusted the snow from her petticoats. Although she was naturally phlegmatic, slow to take offence, and more reluctant than most people to believe that a mere foreigner could oust her from Orlando’s affections, still even the Lady Margaret herself was brought at last to suspect that something was brewing against her peace of mind.

    Indeed, as the days passed, Orlando took less and less care to hide his feelings. Making some excuse or other, he would leave the company as soon as they had dined, or steal away from the skaters, who were forming sets for a quadrille. Next moment it would be seen that the Muscovite was missing too. But what most outraged the Court, and stung it in its tenderest part, which is its vanity, was that the couple was often seen to slip under the silken rope, which railed off the Royal enclosure from the public part of the river and to disappear among the crowd of common people. For suddenly the Princess would stamp her foot and cry, ‘Take me away. I detest your English mob,’ by which she meant the English Court itself. She could stand it no longer. It was full of prying old women, she said, who stared in one’s face, and of bumptious young men who trod on one’s toes. They smelt bad. Their dogs ran between her legs. It was like being in a cage. In Russia they had rivers ten miles broad on which one could gallop six horses abreast all day long without meeting a soul. Besides, she wanted to see the Tower, the Beefeaters, the Heads on Temple Bar, and the jewellers’ shops in the city. Thus, it came about that Orlando took her to the city, showed her the Beefeaters and the rebels’ heads, and bought her whatever took her fancy in the Royal Exchange. [The Yeomen of the Guard, known as ‘Beefeaters’, guard the Tower and wear a distinctive red Tudor uniform. The Temple Bar, the gate between Westminster and the old City of London, was topped with iron spikes, on which the heads of executed rebels were displayed. The Royal Exchange was built as a money market in 1564, on the corner of Threadneedle Street in the City.] But this was not enough. Each increasingly desired the other’s company in privacy all day long where there were none to marvel or to stare. Instead of taking the road to London, therefore, they turned the other way about and were soon beyond the crowd among the frozen reaches of the Thames where, save for sea birds and some old country woman hacking at the ice in a vain attempt to draw a pailful of water or gathering what sticks or dead leaves she could find for firing, not a living soul ever came their way. The poor kept closely to their cottages, and the better sort, who could afford it, crowded for warmth and merriment to the city.

    Hence, Orlando and Sasha, as he called her for short, and because it was the name of a white Russian fox he had had as a boy—a creature soft as snow, but with teeth of steel, which bit him so savagely that his father had it killed – hence, they had the river to themselves. Hot with skating and with love they would throw themselves down in some solitary reach, where the yellow osiers fringed the bank, and wrapped in a great fur cloak Orlando would take her in his arms, and know, for the first time, he murmured, the delights of love. Then, when the ecstasy was over and they lay lulled in a swoon on the ice, he would tell her of his other loves, and how, compared with her, they had been of wood, of sackcloth, and of cinders. And laughing at his vehemence, she would turn once more in his arms and give him, for love’s sake, one more embrace. And then they would marvel that the ice did not melt with their heat, and pity the poor old woman who had no such natural means of thawing it, but must hack at it with a chopper of cold steel. And then, wrapped in their sables, they would talk of everything under the sun; of sights and travels; of Moor and Pagan; of this man’s beard and that woman’s skin; of a rat that fed from her hand at table; of the arras that moved always in the hall at home; of a face; of a feather. Nothing was too small for such converse, nothing was too great.

    Then, suddenly Orlando would fall into one of his moods of melancholy; the sight of the old woman hobbling over the ice might be the cause of it, or nothing; and would fling himself face downwards on the ice and look into the frozen waters and think of death. For the philosopher is right who says that nothing thicker than a knife’s blade separates happiness from melancholy; and he goes on to opine that one is twin fellow to the other; and draws from this the conclusion that all extremes of feeling are allied to madness; and so bids us take refuge in the true Church (in his view the Anabaptist), which is the only harbour, port, anchorage, etc., he said, for those tossed on this sea.

    ‘All ends in death,’ Orlando would say, sitting upright, his face clouded with gloom. (For that was the way his mind worked now, in violent see-saws from life to death, stopping at nothing in between, so that the biographer must not stop either, but must fly as fast as he can and so keep pace with the unthinking passionate foolish actions and sudden extravagant words in which, it is impossible to deny, Orlando at this time of his life indulged.)

    ‘All ends in death,’ Orlando would say, sitting upright on the ice. But Sasha who after all had no English blood in her but was from Russia where the sunsets are longer, the dawns less sudden, and sentences often left unfinished from doubt as to how best to end them – Sasha stared at him, perhaps sneered at him, for he must have seemed a child to her, and said nothing. But at length the ice grew cold beneath them, which she disliked, so pulling him to his feet again, she talked so enchantingly, so wittily, so wisely (but unfortunately always in French, which notoriously loses its flavour in translation) that he forgot the frozen waters or night coming or the old woman or whatever it was, and would try to tell her – plunging and splashing among a thousand images which had gone as stale as the women who inspired them – what she was like. Snow, cream, marble, cherries, alabaster, golden wire? None of these. She was like a fox, or an olive tree; like the waves of the sea when you look down upon them from a height; like an emerald; like the sun on a green hill which is yet clouded – like nothing he had seen or known in England. Ransack the language as he might, words failed him. He wanted another landscape, and another tongue. English was too frank, too candid, too honeyed a speech for Sasha. For in all she said, however open she seemed and voluptuous, there was something hidden; in all she did, however daring, there was something concealed. So the green flame seems hidden in the emerald, or the sun prisoned in a hill. The clearness was only outward; within was a wandering flame. It came; it went; she never shone with the steady beam of an Englishwoman – here, however, remembering the Lady Margaret and her petticoats, Orlando ran wild in his transports and swept her over the ice, faster, faster, vowing that he would chase the flame, dive for the gem, and so on and so on, the words coming on the plants of his breath with the passion of a poet whose poetry is half pressed out of him by pain.

    But Sasha was silent. When Orlando had done telling her that she was a fox, an olive tree, or a green hill-top, and had given her the whole history of his family; how their house was one of the most ancient in Britain; how they had come from Rome with the Caesars and had the right to walk down the Corso (which is the chief street in Rome) under a tasselled palanquin,* which he said is a privilege reserved only for those of imperial blood (for there was an orgulous credulity about him which was pleasant enough), he would pause and ask her, Where was her own house? What was her father? Had she brothers? Why was she here alone with her uncle? Then, somehow, though she answered readily enough, an awkwardness would come between them. He suspected at first that her rank was not as high as she would like; or that she was ashamed of the savage ways of her people, for he had heard that the women in Muscovy wear beards and the men are covered with fur from the waist down; that both sexes are smeared with tallow to keep the cold out, tear meat with their fingers and live in huts where an English noble would scruple to keep his cattle; so that he forbore to press her. But on reflection, he concluded that her silence could not be for that reason; she herself was entirely free from hair on the chin; she dressed in velvet and pearls, and her manners were certainly not those of a woman bred in a cattle-shed.

    What, then, did she hide from him? The doubt underlying the tremendous force of his feelings was like a quicksand beneath a monument which shifts suddenly and makes the whole pile shake. The agony would seize him suddenly. Then he would blaze out in such wrath that she did not know how to quiet him. Perhaps she did not want to quiet him; perhaps his rages pleased her and she provoked them purposely – such is the curious obliquity of the Muscovitish temperament.

    *palanquin: a canopy

    To continue the story – skating farther than their wont that day they reached that part of the river where the ships had anchored and been frozen in midstream. Among them was the ship of the Muscovite Embassy flying its double-headed black eagle from the main mast, which was hung with many-coloured icicles several yards in length. Sasha had left some of her clothing on board, and supposing the ship to be empty they climbed on deck and went in search of it. Remembering certain passages in his own past, Orlando would not have marvelled had some good citizens sought this refuge before them; and so it turned out. They had not ventured far when a fine young man started up from some business of his own behind a coil of rope and saying, apparently, for he spoke Russian, that he was one of the crew and would help the Princess to find what she wanted, lit a lump of candle and disappeared with her into the lower parts of the ship.

    Time went by, and Orlando, wrapped in his own dreams, thought only of the pleasures of life; of his jewel; of her rarity; of means for making her irrevocably and indissolubly his own. Obstacles there were and hardships to be overcome. She was determined to live in Russia, where there were frozen rivers and wild horses and men, she said, who gashed each other’s throats open. It is true that a landscape of pine and snow, habits of lust and slaughter, did not entice him. Nor was he anxious to cease his pleasant country ways of sport and tree-planting; relinquish his office; ruin his career; shoot the reindeer instead of the rabbit; drink vodka instead of canary, and slip a knife up his sleeve – for what purpose, he knew not. Still, all this and more than all this he would do for her sake. As for his marriage with the Lady Margaret, fixed though it was for this day sennight,* the thing was so palpably absurd that he scarcely gave it a thought. Her kinsmen would abuse him for deserting a great lady; his friends would deride him for ruining the finest career in the world for a Cossack woman and a waste of snow – it weighed not a straw in the balance compared with Sasha herself. On the first dark night they would fly. They would take ship to Russia. So he pondered; so he plotted as he walked up and down the deck.

    *sennight: in seven days’ time (archaic).

    He was recalled, turning westward, by the sight of the sun, slung like an orange on the cross of St. Paul’s.* It was blood-red and sinking rapidly. It must be almost evening. Sasha had been gone this hour and more. Seized instantly with those dark forebodings which shadowed even his most confident thoughts of her, he plunged the way he had seen them go into the hold of the ship . . . .

    *the cross of St. Paul’s: a deliberate anachronism – old St Paul’s had a square tower that was burnt down in the fire of London of 1666. It was rebuilt with a dome and cross by Christopher Wren.


    - from The Waves by Virginia Woolf; pages 134-136:

    “And time,” said Bernard, “lets fall its drop. The drop that has formed on the roof of the soul falls. On the roof of my mind time, forming, lets fall its drop. Last week, as I stood shaving, the drop fell. I, standing with my razor in my hand, became suddenly aware of the merely habitual nature of my action (this is the drop forming) and congratulated my hands, ironically, for keeping at it. Shave, shave, shave, I said. Go on shaving. The drop fell. All through the day’s work, at intervals, my mind went to an empty place, saying, “What is lost? What is over?” And “Over and done with,” I muttered, “over and done with,” solacing myself with words. People noticed the vacuity of my face and the aimlessness of my conversation. The last words of my sentence tailed away. And as I buttoned on my coat to go home I said more dramatically, “I have lost my youth.”

    “It is curious how, at every crisis, some phrase which does not fit insists upon coming to the rescue — the penalty of living in an old civilization with a notebook. This drop falling has nothing to do with losing my youth. This drop falling is time tapering to a point. Time, which is a sunny pasture covered with a dancing light, time, which is widespread as a field at midday, becomes pendant. Time tapers to a point. As a drop falls from a glass heavy with some sediment, time falls. These are the true cycles, these are the true events. Then as if all the luminosity of the atmosphere were withdrawn I see to the bare bottom. I see what habit covers. I lie sluggish in bed for days. I dine out and gape like a codfish. I do not trouble to finish my sentences, and my actions, usually so uncertain, acquire a mechanical precision. On this occasion, passing an office, I went in and bought, with all the composure of a mechanical figure, a ticket for Rome.

    “Now I sit on a stone seat in these gardens surveying the eternal city, and the little man who was shaving in London five days ago looks already like a heap of old clothes. London has also crumbled. London consists of fallen factories and a few gasometers. At the same time I am not involved in this pageantry. I see the violet-sashed priests and the picturesque nursemaids; I notice externals only. I sit here like a convalescent, like a very simple man who knows only words of one syllable. “The sun is hot,” I say. “The wind is cold.” I feel myself carried round like an insect on top of the earth and could swear that, sitting here, I feel its hardness, its turning movement. I have no desire to go the opposite way from the earth. Could I prolong this sense another six inches I have a foreboding that I should touch some queer territory. But I have a very limited proboscis. I never wish to prolong these states of detachment; I dislike them; I also despise them. I do not wish to be a man who sits for fifty years on the same spot thinking of his navel. I wish to be harnessed to a cart, a vegetable-cart that rattles over the cobbles.

    “The truth is that I am not one of those who find their satisfaction in one person, or in infinity. The private room bores me, also the sky. My being only glitters when all its facets are exposed to many people. Let them fail and I am full of holes, dwindling like burnt paper. Oh, Mrs Moffat, Mrs Moffat, I say, come and sweep it all up. Things have dropped from me. I have outlived certain desires; I have lost friends, some by death — Percival — others through sheer inability to cross the street. I am not so gifted as at one time seemed likely. Certain things lie beyond my scope. I shall never understand the harder problems of philosophy. Rome is the limit of my travelling. As I drop asleep at night it strikes me sometimes with a pang that I shall never see savages in Tahiti spearing fish by the light of a blazing cresset, or a lion spring in the jungle, or a naked man eating raw flesh. Nor shall I learn Russian or read the Vedas. I shall never again walk bang into the pillar-box. (But still a few stars fall through my night, beautifully, from the violence of that concussion.) But as I think, truth has come nearer. For many years I crooned complacently, ‘My children . . . my wife . . . my house . . . my dog.’ As I let myself in with the latch-key I would go through that familiar ritual and wrap myself in those warm coverings. Now that lovely veil has fallen. I do not want possessions now. (Note: an Italian washerwoman stands on the same rung of physical refinement as the daughter of an English duke.)

    “But let me consider. The drop falls; another stage has been reached. Stage upon stage. And why should there be an end of stages? and where do they lead? To what conclusion?”



    - from Jacob’s Room by Virginia Woolf; page 9:

    “What did I ask you to remember?” she said.

    “I don’t know,” said Archer.

    “Well, I don’t know either,” said Betty, humorously and simply, and who shall deny that this blankness of mind, when combined with profusion, mother wit, old wives’ tales, haphazard ways, moments of astonishing daring, humour, and sentimentality—who shall deny that in these respects every woman is nicer than any man?



    “It would be a thousand pities if women wrote like men, or lived like men, or looked like men, for if two sexes are quite inadequate, considering the vastness and variety of the world, how should we manage with one only? Ought not education to bring out and fortify the differences rather than the similarities? For we have too much likeness as it is, and if an explorer should come back and bring word of other sexes looking through the branches of other trees at other skies, nothing would be of greater service to humanity".—Virginia Woolf


    - from Orlando by Virginia Woolf; page 11: He—for there could be no doubt of his sex,

    though the fashion of the time did something to disguise it—was in the act of slicing at the head

    of a Moor which swung from the rafters. It was the colour of an old football, and more or less the

    shape of one, save for the sunken cheeks and a strand or two of coarse, dry hair, like the hair on a

    cocoanut. Orlando’s father, or perhaps his grandfather, had struck it from the shoulders of a vast

    Pagan who had started up under the moon in the barbarian fields of Africa; and now it swung,

    gently, perpetually, in the breeze which never ceased blowing through the attic rooms of the

    gigantic house of the lord who had slain him.

    Orlando’s fathers had ridden in fields of asphodel, and stony fields, and fields watered by strange

    rivers, and they had struck many heads of many colours off many shoulders, and brought them

    back to hang from the rafters. So too would Orlando, he vowed. But since he was sixteen only,

    and too young to ride with them in Africa or France, he would steal away from his mother and

    the peacocks in the garden and go to his attic room and there lunge and plunge and slice the air

    with his blade. Sometimes he cut the cord so that the skull bumped on the floor and he had to

    string it up again, fastening it with some chivalry almost out of reach so that his enemy grinned

    at him through shrunk, black lips triumphantly.


    https://www.rochester.edu/pr/Review/V69N3/gazette6.html

    “A Room of Woolf’s Own”

    Virginia Woolf gets more attention than anyone else in this book, because, I believe, she thought more deeply than any other English novelist about the moral and emotional aspects of personal life.

    The standard map of modern literature, taught in schools and taken for granted everywhere, places Yeats, Eliot, and Joyce on the highest slopes, with other writers arrayed in lesser and outlying positions. This account is based on the intellectual prejudice, shared by its three heroes, that archetypes are more real than individuals, that myths are more true than observations, that a vision of grand patterns matters more than any attempt to integrate the local particulars of individual lives.

    Hidden within this account is a deeper prejudice, which is that the shape and complexity of a work is the test of its greatness, that a work of art need not be emotionally moving except to the degree that its structure and patterns inspire inarticulate awe.

    Museums and concert halls and anthologies are filled with the unfortunate consequences of this assumption, but that does not make it any less mistaken. When you remember that all the great art of the past seems to have been created to be moving as well as to be ingenious, and that the same measure of greatness can still be applied to modern literature, the map of modern literature begins to look different from the version taught in schools.

    Virginia Woolf, who understood human life in terms of its changes through time, rather than in terms of permanent archetypal states, takes the central place in modern fiction, as W. H. Auden takes the place in modern poetry, and Samuel Beckett takes the central place in modern drama.


    —Edward Mendelson
    “Must get that Capel street library book renewed or they’ll write to
    Kearney, my garantor. Reincarnation: that’s the word.

    — Some people believe, he said, that we go on living in another body
    after death, that we lived before. They call it reincarnation. That we all lived
    before on the earth thousands of years ago or some other planet. They say we
    have forgotten it. Some say they remember their past lives.

    The sluggish cream wound curdling spirals through her tea. Better remind
    her of the word: metempsychosis. An example would be better.”

    —from Ulysses by James Joyce

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