Virginia Woolf, nee Stephen, fully Adeline Virginia Woolf
To talk of 'prizing her open' as if she were an oyster, to use any but the finest and subtlest and most pliable tools upon her was impious and absurd.
Very gently and quietly, almost as if it were the blood singing in her veins, or the water of the stream running over stones, she became conscious of a new feeling within her. She wondered for a moment what it was, and then said to herself, with a little surprise at recognising in her own person so famous a thing: is happiness.
We live our lives, do whatever we do, and then we sleep. It's as simple and ordinary as that. A few jump out windows, or drown themselves, or take pills; more die by accident; and most of us are slowly devoured by some disease, or, if we're very fortunate, by time itself. There's just this for consolation: an hour here or there when our lives seem, against all odds and expectations, to burst open and give us everything we've ever imagined, though everyone but children (and perhaps even they) know these hours will inevitably be followed by others, far darker and more difficult. Still, we cherish the city, the morning, we hope, more than anything for more. Heaven only knows why we love it so.
What did it mean to her, this thing she called life? Oh, it was very queer.
What was that? What did that mean? Are things they could put forth his hand, so, and get bumpy, knife blade can cut? Fist to grab? There is no safety? No possibility to memorize ways of life? No guidance, no shelter, it was a miracle, jumping from the top of a peak in space? Could this be life, even for older people? Surprising, unexpected, unknown? For a moment had the impression that if both would be up here, now, on the lawn, and would require an explanation, why is life so short, why is so inexplicable, if and would formulate questions vehemently, as would be entitled to two human beings do better steel, to which nothing should be hidden, then beauty would unfold, would fill the vacuum, those vain were arabesques together in a form, if the two of them would scream loud enough Mrs. Ramsay would return. Mrs. Ramsay! shouted. Mrs. Ramsay! Tears rolled down her cheeks.
When, however, one reads of a witch being ducked, of a woman possessed by devils, of a wise woman selling herbs, or even of a very remarkable man who had a mother, then I think we are on the track of a lost novelist, a suppressed poet, of some mute and inglorious Jane Austen, some Emily Bronte who dashed her brains out on the moor or mopped and mowed about the highways crazed with the torture that her gift had put her to. Indeed, I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.
Why, from the very windows, even in the dusk, you see a swelling run through the street, an aspiration, as with arms outstretched, eyes desiring, mouths agape. And then we peaceably subside. For if the exaltation lasted we should be blown like foam into the air. The stars would shine through us. We should go down the gale in salt drops- as sometimes happens. For the impetuous spirits will have none of this cradling. Never any swaying or aimlessly lolling for them. Never any making believe, or lying cozily, or genially supposing that one is much like another, fire warm, wine pleasant, extravagance a sin.
Women have served all these centuries as looking glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man, at twice its natural size.
Yet who reads to bring about an end, however desirable? Are there not some pursuits that we practise because they are good in themselves, and some pleasures that are final? And is not this among them? I have sometimes dreamt, at least, that when the Day of Judgment dawns and the great conquerors and lawyers and statesmen come to receive their rewards–their crowns, their laurels, their names carved indelibly upon imperishable marble–the Almighty will turn to Peter and will say, not without a certain envy when he sees us coming with our books under our arms, Look, these need no reward. We have nothing to give them here. They have loved reading.
To teach without zest is a crime.
Very much screwed in the head by trying to get Roger's marriage chapter into shape; and also warmed by L. saying last night that he was fonder of me than I of him. A discussion as to which would mind the other's death most. He said he depended more upon our common life than I did. He gave the garden as an instance. He said I live more in a world of my own. I go for long walks alone. So we argued. I was very happy to think I was so much needed. It’s strange how seldom one feels this: yet 'life in common' is an immense reality.
We may enjoy our room in the tower, with the painted walls and the commodious bookcases, but down in the garden there is a man digging who buried his father this morning, and it is he and his like who live the real life and speak the real language.
What does the brain matter compared with the heart?
What worries glory, what interest, what satisfactions, and there are many, brings the fight?
Whenever you see a board up with Trespassers will be prosecuted, trespass at once.
Why, I ask, can I not finish the letter that I am writing? For my room is always scattered with unfinished letters. I begin to suspect, when I am with you, that I am among the most gifted of men. I am filled with the delight of youth, with potency, with the sense of what is to come. blundering, but fervid, I see myself buzzing round flowers, humming down scarlet cups, making blue funnels resound with my prodigious booming. How richly I shall enjoy my youth (you make me feel). And London. And freedom. But stop. You are not listening. You are making some protest, as you slide, with an inexpressibly familiar gesture, your hand along your knee. By such signs we diagnose our friends' diseases. Do not, in your affluence and plenty, you seem to say, pass me by. Stop, you say. Ask me what I suffer.
Yet, it is true, poetry is delicious; the best prose is that which is most full of poetry.
Straightening himself and stealthily fingering his pocket-knife he started after her to follow this woman, this excitement, which seemed even with its back turned to shed on him a light which connected them, which singled him out, as if the random uproar of the traffic had whispered through hallowed hands his name, not Peter, but his private name which he called himself in his own thoughts.
'That was the burden,' she mused, 'laid on me in the cradle; murmured by waves; breathed by restless elm trees; crooned by singing women; what we must remember; what we would forget.'
The eyes of others our prisons, their thoughts our cages.
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 fingerprint of a 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.
The problem of space remained, she thought, taking up her brush again. It glared at her. The whole mass of the picture was poised upon that weight. Beautiful and bright it should be on the surface, feathery and evanescent, one color melting into another like the colors on a butterfly's wing; but beneath the fabric must be clamped together with bolts of iron.
The strongest natures, when they are influenced, submit the most unreservedly: it is perhaps a sign of their strength. But that Thoreau lost any of his own force in the process, or took on permanently any colors not natural to himself the readers of his books will certainly deny. The Transcendentalist movement, like most movements of vigor, represented the effort of one or two remarkable people to shake off the old clothes which had become uncomfortable to them and fit themselves more closely to what now appeared to them to be the realities.
The worst of it was that she had no aptitude for literature. She did not like phrases. She had even some natural antipathy to that process of self-examination, that perpetual effort to understand one's own feeling, and express it beautifully, fitly, or energetically in language, which constituted so great a part of her mother's existence. She was, on the contrary, inclined to be silent; she shrank from expressing herself even in talk, let alone in writing.