Mrs Dalloway – Virginia Woolf


My review of THE WAVES:

My reviews of older or classic books:

When I read this book, Covfefe permitting, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…

14 thoughts on “Mrs Dalloway – Virginia Woolf

  1. “…London; this moment of June.”

    Post choice of the first words’ war then in 1922 and now here in 1923. It is June again now in my own real-time of 2020. And this book’s plot is summarised over the internet for all and sundry to check out, so I won’t retell it here — this single day’s dark rhapsody of instinctive Clarissa Dalloway. Just for me to quote appositely from it for today’s June and our times’ hopefully-by-now-relaxing lockdown. A once deep lockdown that most of my advanced age have suffered or even enjoyed. Meanwhile, this book has a rich prose that is as satisfying as that I described about and quoted from THE WAVES. The waves of time, the vales and peaks of pandemics, the veils and piques of literature. I only hope I can reach beyond the letter Q in this book’s alphabet. Reach that lighthouse.

    Read up to:
    “Whose face was it? Nobody knew.”

  2. “But what letters? A C was it? an E, then an L? Only for a moment did they lie still; then they moved and melted and were rubbed out up in the sky, and the aeroplane shot further away and again, in a fresh space of sky, began writing a K, an E, a Y perhaps?”

    An aeroplane spelling out …what? and below it a car with a bubbled lockdown of people within, people of the day’s Royalty, it not being the earlier assumed ‘Proime Minister’s kyar’ (sic)?

    “’K … R … ‘ said the nursemaid, and Septimus heard her say ‘Kay Arr’…”

    This book is about shell shock. Not only that of Septimus in 1923 but all of us today. Toward or from our shells.

    Read up to:
    “Away from people—they must get away from people,…”

  3. “Mrs. Dalloway raised her hand to her eyes, and, as the maid shut the door to, and she heard the swish of Lucy’s skirts, she felt like a nun who has left the world and feels fold round her the familiar veils and the response to old devotions. […] She pierced the pincushion and laid her feathered yellow hat on the bed. The sheets were clean, tight stretched in a broad white band from side to side. Narrower and narrower would her bed be.”

    The most open and expressive passages you will probably ever read of Sapphic magnetism, Mrs Dalloway’s attraction for Sally. A Clarissa for its Sally. Got her doll away? (See the references to a different ‘Clarissa’ as a Dark Nest fortuitously and simultaneously being reviewed here.)

    “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.”

  4. I have now read up to this wonderful passage…

    “For she was a child, throwing bread to the ducks, between her parents, and at the same time a grown woman coming to her parents who stood by the lake, holding her life in her arms which, as she neared them, grew larger and larger in her arms, until it became a whole life, a complete life, which she put down by them and said, “This is what I have made of it! This!” And what had she made of it? What, indeed? sitting there sewing this morning with Peter.”

    … a version of memory — and the shifting distancing of time and people — that matches filmic effects that happened to be explained to me earlier this evening in a 15 hour documentary called ‘Women Make Films’…
    The synchronised shards of random truth and fiction.
    Intrinsic serendipities that literature carries beyond any barriers otherwise imposed by its author’s Intentional Fallacy, barriers that perhaps only the adept process of Gestalt RealTine Reviewing is able to transcend.

    There are many such passages in this book so far.

  5. “As a cloud crosses the sun, silence falls on London; and falls on the mind. Effort ceases. Time flaps on the mast. There we stop; there we stand. Rigid, the skeleton of habit alone upholds the human frame.”

  6. More of today’s statue syndrome….

    “Boys in uniform, carrying guns, marched with their eyes ahead of them, marched, their arms stiff, and on their faces an expression like the letters of a legend written round the base of a statue praising duty, gratitude, fidelity, love of England. […], and life, with its varieties, its irreticences, had been laid under a pavement of monuments and wreaths and drugged into a stiff yet staring corpse by discipline. One had to respect it; one might laugh; but one had to respect it, he thought. There they go, thought Peter Walsh, pausing at the edge of the pavement; and all the exalted statues, Nelson, Gordon, Havelock, the black,…”

    And another red carnation! …
    “But she’s not married; she’s young; quite young, thought Peter, the red carnation he had seen her wear as she came across Trafalgar Square burning again in his eyes and making her lips red.”

  7. “; an absurd statue with an inscription somewhere or other.”

    Read up to:
    “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. ‘There’s my Elizabeth’—that sort of thing—why not ‘Here’s Elizabeth’ simply?—“

  8. “But what was the scientific explanation (for one must be scientific above all things)? Why could he see through bodies, see into the future, when dogs will become men?”

    Co-vivid dreams started then. Or delirium by dint of the heat of the day? A sense of stress and depression, as well as coviduals and individuals, and the ‘battered women’ singing. And a feel already in London of another later writer following the next future war, Elizabeth Bowen as mysterious core if not kör…she wrote: ‘Most of all the dead, from mortuaries, from under cataracts of rubble, made their anonymous presence – not as today’s dead but as yesterday’s living – felt through London. Uncounted, they continued to move in shoals through the city day, pervading everything to be seen or heard or felt with their torn-off senses, drawing on this tomorrow they had expected – for death cannot be so sudden as that.’

    Now read up to this passage in the Mrs Dalloway…
    “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.”

  9. “; 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),…”

    “The dead were with him.”

    Depression, co-vivid nightmares, Septicide:
    In face of this amazing Woolfian portrait of society’s demand for a sense of ‘proportion’, its policing to expunge disproportion and to impel that “these prophetic Christs and Christesses, who prophesied the end of the world, or the advent of God, should drink milk in bed,…”

    So soon after the dire pandemic onward from 1918, the apparent need now of having “to be taken to the seaside in the middle of the session to recover from influenza.”

    I am in lockdown at the seaside, as I write this. Ironic.

    Now read up to:
    “Borne like a frail shallop on deep, deep floods,…”

    There is a shallop in Tennyson’s Lady of Shalott, the ultimate literary work dealing with future Covid and its lockdown (

  10. “The cruelest things in the world, she thought, seeing them clumsy, hot, domineering, hypocritical, eavesdropping, jealous, infinitely cruel and unscrupulous, dressed in a mackintosh coat, on the landing; love and religion. Had she ever tried to convert any one herself? Did she not wish everybody merely to be themselves?”

    The insular and the emotional dilemmas and personal combats. Richard and his flowers, to give to a derelict girl in the streets, or take them, as he intended, as a sign of love to his wife Clarissa. And Clarissa’s own tussles of jealousy about her daughter Elizabeth, and the latter’s relationship with Miss Kilman. Until we reach the sanctuary of Westminster Cathedral … and the monument as a tomb of the Unknown Warrior. The first Nemonymity of the Nemonymous? The Nemo of Fowles?

    Read up to:
    “…the tomb of the Unknown Warrior, still she barred her eyes with her fingers and tried in this double darkness, for the light in the Abbey was bodiless, to aspire above the vanities, the desires, the commodities, to rid herself both of hatred and of love.”

  11. In and out of its many doors, I shall now read the rest of this novel outside the scope of my real-time reviewing. And outside of today’s coronavirus and co-vivid dreaming, too. Though, I know it is steeped in the latter, as I have already shown. The waves of rich and dark prose ebb and flow.

    “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.”


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