Virginia woolf essays volume 3

In the long passage quoted above, the reader should observe such words as “awkward,” “firm,” “unconscious,” which are recurrent adjectives connected with the quality of “maleness.” In the wonderful scene in which Jacob is seated in the railway carriage with an old woman who fears he will attack her (an erotic episode reflecting the mysteries of the sexes), we read: “She dwelt upon his mouth. The lips were shut. The eyes bent down, since he was reading. All was firm, yet youthful, indifferent, unconscious—as for knocking one down! No, no, no!” At first the woman is disturbed because Jacob is smoking (already established as an erotic act). But after she is drawn to his appearance—she seems a bit inflamed, in fact—he helps her out of the compartment: “. . . when the train drew into the station, Mr. Flanders burst open the door, and put the lady’s dressing-case out for her, saying, or rather mumbling, “Let me” very shyly: indeed he was rather clumsy about it.” Once again, awkwardness mixed with strength, clumsiness mixed with shyness, indifference and unconsciousness and eyes bent down in reading. It is this mixture of ruthlessness and unconsciousness with intelligence, of slovenliness combined with dignity, which appears in most of the “maleness” passages of the novel. Jacob’s rough hand holding the delicate dinnerware, to recall the passage quoted earlier, exemplifies a method both consistent and effective of conveying male sexuality. We see it again in the passage describing Cambridge undergraduates entering the chapel:

In 1928, Woolf presented Sackville-West with Orlando , a fantastical biography in which the eponymous hero's life spans three centuries and both sexes. Nigel Nicolson , Vita Sackville-West's son, wrote, "The effect of Vita on Virginia is all contained in Orlando , the longest and most charming love letter in literature, in which she explores Vita, weaves her in and out of the centuries, tosses her from one sex to the other, plays with her, dresses her in furs, lace and emeralds, teases her, flirts with her, drops a veil of mist around her." [28] After their affair ended, the two women remained friends until Woolf's death in 1941. Virginia Woolf also remained close to her surviving siblings, Adrian and Vanessa; Thoby had died of typhoid fever at the age of 26. [29]

What remains? Most of the sentence, and of course the crucial dash, which is the sveltest emblem possible of the license afforded to the sick, to the essayist, and to the sentence itself. “On Being Ill” contains one of Woolf’s boldest essayistic deviations. She has been thinking about Hamlet , and the way rashness, “one of the properties of illness,” allows at last a proper, because “outlaw,” reading of the play’s illogic and excess. And then, without warning: “But enough of Shakespeare—let us turn to Augustus Hare.” Hare was a mediocre 19th-century biographer: his 1893 book The Story of Two Noble Lives (on Countess Canning and the Marchioness of Waterford) is the sort of thing one might have read in bed with flu in 1925. But it gives Woolf her last, long paragraph, on the eruption of violent death into poised, aristocratic Victorian lives. The essay ends in a kind of dream—with the image of a plush red curtain clasped and crushed in grief. And we’re happy to follow Woolf there, in part, because of that dash in her opening sentence, which denotes a passage from the dream-fugue of sickness, depression, and undirected reading into the dirigible madness of writing.

Virginia woolf essays volume 3

virginia woolf essays volume 3


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