Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

29 April 2007

Woolf

Finished Mrs. Dalloway this evening. I loved it so much. It's a cubist exploration of these amazing, wonderful people and their quiet, almost imperceptible pain and their observations about one another, so accurate, or so wildly improbable. It's an unbelievably, indescribably good book. It hurts to finish it, to have to put it down. Here's a section from near to the end. Clarissa is in a quiet room, one door away from her bustling success of a party, thinking about one of the other characters (whom she never met):
But this young man had killed himself—had he plunged holding his treasure? "If it were now to die, 'twere now to be most happy," she had said to herself once, coming down in white.
Or there were the poets and thinkers. Suppose he had had that passion, and had gone to Sir William Bradshaw, a great doctor yet to her obscurely evil, without sex or lust, extremely polite to women, but capable of some indescribable outrage—forcing your soul, that was it—if this young man had gone to him, and Sir William had impressed him, like that, with his power, might he not then have said (indeed she felt it now), Life is made intolerable; they make life intolerable, men like that?
Then (she had felt it only this morning) there was the terror; the overwhelming incapacity, one's parents giving it into one's hands, this life, to be lived to the end, to be walked with serenely; there was in the depths of her heart an awful fear. Even now, quite often if Richard had not been there reading the
Times, so that she could crouch like a bird and gradually revive, send roaring up that immeasurable delight, rubbing stick to stick, one thing with another, she must have perished. But that young man had killed himself.
I want to share one more sequence. This one is a series of observations made by Peter Walsh (I love this character) after he arrives at Clarissa's party:
And now Clarissa escorted her Prime Minister down the room, prancing, sparkling, with the stateliness of her grey gair. She wore ear-rings, and a silver-green mermaid's dress. Lolloping on the waves and braiding her tresses she seemed, having that gift still; to be; to exist; to sum it all up in the moment as she passed; turned, caught her scarf in some other woman's dress, unhitched it, laughed, all with the most perfect ease and air of a creature floating in its element. But age had brushed her; even as a mermaid might behold in her glass the setting sun on some very clear evening over the waves. There was a breath of tenderness; her severity, her prudery, her woodenness were all warmed through now, and she had about her as she said good-bye to the thick gold-laced man who was doing his best, and good luck to him, to look important, an inexpressible dignity; an exquisite cordiality; as if she wished the whole world well, and must now, being on the very verge and rim of things, take her leave. So she made him think. (But he was not in love.)
You must read this book!