Virginia Woolf, nee Stephen, fully Adeline Virginia Woolf
Was there no sword, nothing with which to batter down these walls, this protection, this begetting of children and living behind curtains, and becoming daily more involved and committed, with books and pictures? Better burn one’s life out like Louis, desiring perfection; or like Rhoda leave us, flying past us to the desert; or choose one out of millions and one only like Neville; better be like Susan and love and hate the heat of the sun or the frost-bitten grass; or be like Jinny, honest, an animal. All had their rapture; their common feeling with death; something that stood them in stead. Thus I visited each of my friends in turn, trying, with fumbling fingers, to prise open their locked caskets. I went from one to the other holding my sorrow — no, not my sorrow but the incomprehensible nature of this our life — for their inspection. Some people go to priests; others to poetry; I to my friends, I to my own heart, I to seek among phrases and fragments something unbroken — I to whom there is not beauty enough in moon or tree; to whom the touch of one person with another is all, yet who cannot grasp even that, who am so imperfect, so weak, so unspeakably lonely. There I sat.
What I like, or one of the things I like, about motoring is the sense it gives one of lighting accidentally, like a voyager who touches another planet with the tip of his toe, upon scenes which would have gone on, have always gone on, will go on, unrecorded, save for this chance glimpse. Then it seems to me I am allowed to see the heart of the world uncovered for a moment.
When a subject is highly controversial — and any question about sex is that — one cannot hope to tell the truth. One can only show how one came to hold whatever opinion one does hold. One can only give one's audience the chance of drawing their own conclusions as they observe the limitations, the prejudices, the idiosyncrasies of the speaker.
While fame impedes and constricts, obscurity wraps about a man like a mist; obscurity is dark, ample, and free; obscurity lets the mind take its way unimpeded. Over the obscure man is poured the merciful suffusion of darkness. None knows where he goes or comes. He may seek the truth and speak it; he alone is free; he alone is truthful, he alone is at peace.
Wind and storm colored July. Also, in the middle, cadaverous, awful, lay the grey puddle in the courtyard, when holding an envelope in my hand, I carried a message. I came to the puddle. I could not cross it. Identity failed me. We are nothing, I said, and fell. I was blown like a feather. I was wafted down tunnels. Then very gingerly, I pushed my foot across. I laid my hand against a brick wall. I returned very painfully, drawing myself back into my body over the grey, cadaverous space of the puddle. This is life then to which I am committed.
Words do not live in dictionaries, they live in the mind. And how do they live in the mind? Variously and strangely, much as human beings live, ranging hither and dither falling in love, meeting together. It's true they are much less bound by ceremony, convention, than we are. Royal words meet with common words. English words marry French words, German words. Indian words, Negro words.
To evade such temptations is the first duty of the poet. For as the ear is the antechamber to the soul, poetry can adulterate and destroy more surely then lust or gunpowder. The poet's, then, is the highest office of all. His words reach where others fall short. A silly song of Shakespeare's has done more for the poor and the wicked than all the preachers and philanthropists in the world.
To want and not to have, sent all up her body a hardness, a hollowness, a strain. And then to want and not to have- to want and want- how that wrung the heart, and wrung it again and again!
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 some one to wear them. Thus waiting, thus speculating, making this note and then an· other 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.
We scarcely want to analyze what we feel to be so large and deeply human.
What is amusing now had to be taken in desperate earnest once.
When an arguer argues dispassionately he thinks only of the argument.
Who can measure the heat and violence of the heart of a poet when he is caught and trapped in a woman's body?
With a brain working and a body working one could keep step with the crowd and never be found out for the hollow machine, lacking the essential thing, that one was conscious of being.
Words rose above the intolerably laden dumb oxen plodding through the mud. Words without meaning - wonderful words.
You cannot, it seems, let children run about the streets. People who have seen them running wild in Russia say that the sight is not a pleasant one.
Such are the visions which ceaselessly float up, pace beside, put their faces in front of, the actual thing; often overpowering the solitary traveler 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 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.
The artist after all is a solitary being.
The good diarist writes either for himself alone or for a posterity so distant that it can safely hear every secret and justly weigh every motive. For such an audience there is need neither of affectation nor of restraint. Sincerity is what they ask, detail, and volume; skill with the pen comes in conveniently, but brilliance is not necessary; genius is a hindrance even; and should you know your business and do it manfully, posterity will let you off mixing with great men, reporting famous affairs, or having lain with the first ladies in the land.
The man who is aware of himself is henceforward independent; and he is never bored, and life is only too short, and he is steeped through and through with a profound yet temperate happiness. He alone lives, while other people, slaves of ceremony, let life slip past them in a kind of dream.
The reason why it is easy to kill another person must be that one's imagination is too sluggish to conceive what his life means to him - the infinite possibilities of a succession of days which are furled in him, and have already been spent.
The thing about Proust is his combination of the utmost sensibility with the utmost tenacity. He searches out these butterfly shades to the last grain. He is as tough as catgut and as evanescent as a butterfly’s bloom.
Then there's Queen Victoria, like a large tea cozy, and Wellington, sleek as a mastiff with paw extended .