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General Editor . Patricia Ingham /t t'

Durlng Virginia Woolft lifetime Britain's position in the world changed,
and so did the outlook of its people. The Boer War and the First World o
0; '&r
War forced politicians and citizens alike to ask how far the power of the F
state extended into the lives of individuals; the rise of fascism provided 4
one menacing answer. Woolf's experiments in fiction, and her unique .- ,*.
position in the publishing world, allowed her to address such intersections 4 pgml*'"r*a*
bf the public and the private. Michael Whitworth shows how ideas and ,li
imagei from contemporary novelists, philosophers, theorists, and @
scientists fuelled her writing, and how critics, film-makers, and novelists ,.J
have reinterpreted her work for later generations.

The book includes a chronology of Virginia Woolf's Iife: and times, o,'
v 1"ffil
suggestions for further reading, websites, illustrations, and a com- i
t: ! .il
prehensive index. E.

Authors in Context examines the work of major writers in

relation to their own time and to the present day. Combining
history with lively literary discussion, each volume provides
comprehensive insight into texts in their context.

Cover illustrations: (foreground) @ Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis; (background) O E. O.


ISBN 0-19-280?34-8

9 il780 192x802317', f,7.99 nnn $rI.95 usa

For ooer roo )/ears O{ord Worltl's Classics haoe brought
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titles-from.the 4,ooo-year-old myths of Mesopotamia to the
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lesser-known as well as celebrated, writing. r-
The pocket-sized hard'backs ofthe early years contained
introluctions by Virginia Woolf,, T, S. Eliot, Graham Greenq
' Virginia Woolf ,
and other literary Jigures which enriched the experience ofreading.
Today the series is recognizedfor itsfne scholarship und
reliability in texts that sqan world literature, drama and poen.y,
religion, philosophy and politics. Each erJition includes Perceltiae
coTnmentary and essential background information to meet the
changing nee d,s of readers.


Fon permission to quote from the works of Virginia Woolf, I am
List of Ilhstrations
grateful to The Society of Authors, as the literary representative of
the Estate of Virginia Woolf. A Chronology of Virginia VVoo!/'
I would like to thank the English Deparrmenr, University of
Wales, Bangor, for granting me the study leave in the second
semester of zoor-z which enabled me to begin writing this book. I
T. The Life of Virginia lVoolf
am grateful to Patricia Ingham, Judith Luna, and Boyd Hilton for
their advice and suggestions at all stages in its composition, and to ) The Fabric of Society: Nation rrnd Identity 3o
the copy-editor, Rowena Anketell. I have been fortunate in the Industr.v, Empire, and Parn' Politics 3r
students who have chosen to study Woolf with me at Bangor at Legislation for a Ncw Nation 36
undergraduate and postgraduate level: their enthusiasm has been London 13
stimulating and their insights illuminating. Likewise I owe much ro Houscs, Households, and lramilics .+5

the organizers o{ and participants in, the Annual Conferences on The In'rpact of the First World lVar 5o
Social Classifications 52
Virginia Woolf at St Louis, Delaware, UMBC, Bangor, and Smith
College. J. The Literary Sccne 7+
Finally, for encouraging and distracting me at appropriate Literature in the Marketpiacc 76
rnoments, wholehearted thanks are due to Liz Barry, Lindsey Gillson, Canon and Tradition a-
Mark Stanton, Alex and Alison Hewitt, and Sharon Ruston. Literary Journalism 87
Censorship 89
Mode, Genre, and Form 92

4. Philosophical Qrestions rog

Representation and Acsthetics: To the Lighthouse I IO
Perception and Reality I I5
Clock Time and Ps1'chological Tirae: Mrs Dallonalt 120
Bergson and Multiple ,Mrs Dallornuy and,
The Waaes
Alternatives to Plot: To thc Lighrhouse and The Wa,tes

5 Society, Individuals, and Choices r35

Authoritarianism and Indir itluaiism Mrs Dallon:ay r35
Career Narratives: .A/;glr and Day r49
N'{ilitarism, Disciplinc, ancl Educirtion'. The Wa"^es r57

6. Scientific and Medical Contexts r68

Mental Health: fuIrs Dallonry t69
Vitality and Women's Writing: t1 Roorn of One's Own r76
'lhe Atom and Woolf's Idca of Fiction r78
viii Contents

Waves inThe Watses r8o

Astronomy and Human Isolation: From Night and Day LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
to The Wuaes t8z
Selves as Planets: The Waaes r86
Telecommunications as Reality and as Metaphor r88 Virginia Woolf with her father, Sir Leslie Stephen, c.rgo2
r92 @ Hulton-Deutsch Collection/ Corbis
7. Recontextualizing and Reconstructing Woolf
Film and Stage Adaptations r95
Stephen/Duckworth familY Photo
Michael Cunningham's The Hours (1998) and Robin
Lippincott's Mr Dulloroay $ggg) 2t7 Berg Collection, New York Public Library

Notes 227 The Dr e a dn o ug h t Hoaxer s fi

252 O Mary Evans Picture LibrarY
Further Read,ing
257 Virginia and Leonard Woolf in rgrz t6
Private collection
Fi,lm an'tl Teleaision Adaptations of Woolfs Noaels 258

259 Vita Sackville-West in rg34, by Howard Coster 24

By courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery

Ethel Smyth t rg38 2+

@ Hulton-Deutsch Collection/ Corbis

Suffragette march, London r9r r 42

O Hulton-Deutsch Collection/ Colbis

'The Right Dishonourable Double-Face Asquith',

suffragette poster, r9o9 +2

Studland, Beoch, c.tgrz) by Vancssa Bell

Tate Gallery. @ l96l Estate of Vanessa Beil, courtesy of
Henrietta Garnett. Photo O Tate, London zoo4

Self-portrait, rgz8, by Roger FrY

Courtauld Institute of Art Gallerl', London

Rosemary Harris as NIrs Ramsa.v in To the Lighthouse, t983,

dir. Colin Gregg 205

Colin Gregg Films

gz The Literary Scene The Literury Scene 93
depressed to feel I'm not r poei. Next time I shall be one' (Diar1t,
Mode, Genre, and Forrn
v. 35). 'Next time'apparently 61.*nr in her next novel; when Yeats's
'fhough narrative writing forms the most important context for anthology appeared she rvas concluding her struggle with The Years.
Woolfs novels, the cultural standing of fiction relative to other She had already written what she considered a 'poetical' work in The
modes of rvriting is significant, and may have influenced the direc- Waxes, and was aware of the 'lvrical' qualities of her writing, for
tion her writing took. Moreover, modernist writers spoke relatively example in the 'Time Passes' scction of To the Lighthouse.
little of 'genre'and much more of literary'form', the impressionistic There were several significant poets in Woolf s circle of acquaint-
metaphors they used to describe form were readily transferable from ance. She had first met l'. S. Eliot in November rgr8, finding
one mode of r,vriting to another. Poetry carried the Breatest cultural him on hrst acquaintance 'ar polished, cultivated, elaborate young
prestige, and for some critics was virtually synonymous with serious American'; she was struck by his holding a 'very intricate & highly
literature. The study of poetry dominated the earliest university organised framework of poetic beliet' (Diary, i. zr8-rg). At this time
degrees in English Literature. It is notable that the earliest critical his Prufrock and Other Obseri:utions had already appeared; Leonard
writings to recognize the existence of literary'modernism' saw it as a and Virginia Woolf were to print and publish his Poems in r9r9, and
movement in poetry.57 The novel was tainted by its function as enter- an edition of The Wu,ste Lu.nd in igz3. He was also to become ln
tainment, and its lack of precedent in classical culture; it was not important critic and theorist of iiterature. Whether he affected
universally recognized as a serious art form. British drama had for Woolfs literary developmenr is dilhcult ro gauge. As recent criticism
much of the nineteenth century bcen heavily formulaic, and also on Eliot and Woolf has so much emphasized his conservatism and
regarded as entertainment rather than literature. The translation of misogyny and her feminism and radicalism, they can appear to be
Henrik Ibsen's plays in the late nincteenth century had raised the sharply contrasting figures. Ho,,r'ever, political differences are not
possibility of drama being taken rnore seriously, as had the plays of identical to literary ones, even if they often correspond. Although
George Bernard Shaw, but by the time Woolf began to write fiction, Woolf never shared Eliot's estimation of Wyndham Lelvis or Ezra
that moment had passed. The prevailing view among the young of Pound, he persuaded her to take James Joyce more seriously. {n
the upper middle class is encapsulated by Hewet's response to many of his Prufroch poems Eliot presented consciousness from
Rachel's reading: within, in a fragmented form, suppressing the sort of explanatory
and connecting material that readers had grown to expect. Like
'God, Rachel, you do read trash!', he exclaimed. 'And you're behind the Woolf, he combined this large-sc;rle fi'agmentation with a care for the
times too, my dear. No one dreams of reading this kind of thing now- lyrical qualities of individual phrases.
antiquated pr<-rblem plays, harrowing descriptions of life in the East
The Hogarth Press also published many new poets, and this kept
End-oh, no, we've exploded all that. Read poetrl', Rachel, poetry, poetry,
Woolf in contact with changing vier,vs about the scope and function
poetry!' (VO, p. 34r)
of poetry. Their most significant publications in this respect u'ere rhe
We have earlier heard that Rachel has read a play by Shaw, Man und. anthologies New Signatures (1932) and lVew Country (1933), both
Superman (rgoz), and several by lbsen (VO, p. z5$. Of course, edited by Michael Roberts. The antirologies brought ro prominence
Hewet's view cannot be taken as objective: there are no objective the so-called 'Auden Group', a grilup of poets of rvhom the centrirl
views in an area as contentious as literature. Nor can it be taken as figures were W. H. Auden, Louis NlacNeice, Stephen Spender, and
authorial: Woolf is satirizing his confident, university-educated atti- C. Day Lewis; of them, lVoolf \,vas personally acquainted only rvith
tude. Nevertheless, she seems to have internalized something of this Spender. In his preface to I'erl Signuhtres, Roberts drew attention
attitude towards the superiority of poetry. When W. B, Yeats's to their modern subiect marrer and their role as politically radical
anthology The Oxford Book of Mod,ern Wrse was published in leaders; their left-wing politics distinguished them from Eliot
November 1936, she reflected in her diary: 'Am I jealous? No: but and Pound. They were united in their opposition to the fascist
The Literary Scene The Literary Scene 95
Nationalists in the Spanish Civil War. The example of the Auden natural relation betrveen internal psychology and external appear-
group may have been one factor in persuading Woolf that literature ance, and similarly between motivation and action; storylines which
that took itself seriously as literature should attempt to address polit- eventually, at the point of closure, made all rnafor events and actions
ically urgent issues, even though she believed that Auden's gener- intelligible according to a commonly held world view Not all
ation had failed to produce literature of lasting value ('The Leaning 'upmarket' fiction departed from these rules, for it could also dis-
Tower', inCE ii. r6z-8r). tinguish itself through its content. The Mudie's subscriber over-
Not everyone considered the novel inferior to poetry' even if this heard by Woolf would have avoided even a realist novel, if it lacked
was the dominant view: several writers were working to establish it as 'incident', concerned the lvar, or depicted 'drunkards'. Nevertheless,
a serious art form. Although Hewet exhorts Rachel to read poetry, he
much experimental fiction defied expectations in relation to some of
himself would like to write a novel 'about Silence . ' . the things the formal aspects of the novel.
people don't siry' (VO, p.249). His remark that the 'difficulty is Many of the literary experiments of the period sought to repre-
immense' suggests that he has been pondering novelistic form much sent human consciousness as experienced from within. Such
as HenryJames had done in the prefaces to the'New York'edition of
experiments are often grouped under the heading 'stream of con-
his novels (rgo7i): James characteristically discussed formal prob- sciousness', but the term conflirtes distinct literary methods. The
lcms of point of view and of 'handling', rather than problems of idea that the mind contains a 'stream of consciousness' is a psycho-
subject matter.s8 Joseph Conrad's prefaces to his novels are less pro- logical hypothesis, first advanced in the late nineteenth century by
found, but their very presence implies that the construction of the WilliamJames. James claimed that even if, examining consciousness,
novels merits consideration. The attempt to establish the novel as a we could isolate distinct images, they are meaningful only in relation

scrious art form created some terminological difficulties: 'novel' was to the conscious and semi-conscious ideas which flow around them.60
so strongly associated with linear narrative in a realist mode that 'Stream of consciousness' became literary terminology in r9r8 when
many of the more ambitious experimental works did not appear to be May Sinclair used it to describe Dorothy Richardson's technique in
her long novel Pilgrimage."' As a literary term, it does not distinguish
'novels'. T. S. Eliot, in an influential article on Ulysses, referred
repeatedly to 'Mr Joyce's book', before declaring that 'the novel is a between the different kinds of consciousness and unconsciousness
form which will no longer serve . . . the novel ended with Flaubert that various writers try to convey: some are concerned with the
and with James'.se Woolf herself was faced with similar dilficulties: perceptual consciousness, some with intellectual consciousness,
as she began To the Lighthouse she considered inventing a new name
while others try to register the efl'ects of the Freudian unconscious
for her books 'to supplant "novel" ', and thought of terming her on our conscious mental life. N'Ioreover, Woolf and her contempor-
current work an'elegy' (Diury, iii. 3a). These, holvever, are atypical aries were often aiming to represent not the perspective of a single
perspectives: the works ofJoyce and of Woolf were generally under- consciousness, but of severa.l distinct consciousnesses; and, at
stood as novels, albeit novels that drew upon a wide range of literary times, of consciousnesses that rvere several but indistinct, a 'group
resources. consciousness'.
I{ow far the newly ambitious approach to the novel was a cause of The later terms 'free indirect discourse' and'free direct discourse'
the split in the literary market, and how far a consequence' is impos- are more accurate because thev describe styles of writing. In Woolfs
sible to determine, but it is clear that the two trends were related. fbrm of'free indirect discourse' l character's thoughts are reported
Fiction written for the mass market was written in a realist mode from a formally external, third-person position and in a narratorial
that would have been familiar to Victorian readers' The formal perfect tense, but retain the characteristic vocabular.v, syntax, and
coherence of the realist novel was due to several combining factors: a rhythm of that individual.62 Jovce used free indirect discourse in I
recognizable narratorial voice, usually a 'third person' narrator) Portrait of the Artist as u Young tVlan (rgfi), but in U/ysses he used a
though sometimes 'first person'; characterization which assumed a wider range of styles, with free direct discourse predominating. In
. ,, -!r!:=!,r!=!!4!]=!:=E itE=E!!!?F!l:rry

The Literu,ry Scene 97

96 T'he LiterarY Scene
first time, a red ball that hung by itself on the yellowish white sky.
free direct discourse, thoughts are presented from a first-person
Mamma said, "Yes, of course it rvould fall if God wasn't there to
perspective. In the earlier chapters of IJlysses,Joyce's actual practice
hold it up in his hands." '('7
i, -or" complex: he often identifies a character from a third-person Woolfs renditions of a child's consciousness in Io the Lighthouse
perspective, befbre giving truncated lirst-person utterances' The
and The Years are comparable in technique, though not identical. A
i, very different from that of Woolfs'method. For example: more particular comparison miry be drawn between Sinclair's
,Mr Bloom reviewed the nails of his left hand, then those of his
description ofthe sun and thc descriptive speeches at the opening of
right hand. The nails, yes. Is there anything more in him that they
The Waaes: Mary Olivier's perception of the sun as a 'red ball'
she sees? Fascination. worst man in Dublin. That keeps him alive.'63
anticipates Neville's seeing it as a 'globe' (W, p. 5). The clearest
To translate this into free indirect discourse would require not only
difference is that Neville's utterance is not presented as free indirect
the insertion of'he thought', and the alteration of verbal tenses
discourse, but as direct speech. The wide vocabularies and regular
('she sees' to 'she saw', 'keeps him' to 'kept him'), but also
grammar of the speakers at the opcning of The Waus implies that
more radical surgery to makc sense of the verbless phrases such
they are adults, yet their unsophisticated, unconceptualized percep-
as 'The nails, yes'. Bloom's abrupt shift of pronoun lrom 'they' to
.she' would be still harder to convey. The different techniques for tions imply that they are inf-ants; the contradiction is sharper than in
Sinclair. Unlike Sinclair, Woolf docs not allow her characters to
rendering consciousness have different strengths and weaknesses.
reveal what Neville's 'globe' actually is: it could be the sun, the
Free indirect discourse was not a completely unprecedented
moon, or any globular thing. Nloreover, in Woolls account) parents
development-there are instances to be found in Jane Austen's
are completely absent, and those adults who are mentioned are
novels-but woolfls contemporaries used it to portray forms of con-
sciousness that deviated from the rational adult norms further than
Not every experimental writer wished to depict the world as seen
the minds portrayed in earlier novels. The consciousness of a child
from within. Contemporary lvith the mode of internal monologue,
creates limitations which are both severe and readilv identifiable:
pages of A Portrait and sometimes combined with it, rvas a mode of external description,
Joyce adopts a child's perspective in the opening often caricatural and satirical in intent. Whereas realist descriptions
of the Artist as u Young Man, rnd again briefly in ulysses to convey
of external appearance imply that there are depths of personality and
the e*pe.i".tce of a recently bereaved boy6a May Sinclait's Mury
complexity beneath the appearance, these external descriptions in
Oliaier: A Ltfe (tgtg) employs some ofJoyce's strategies in its open-
.Infancy'. Though the perfect tense separates the narra- their most extreme form implied that there was nothing other than
ing section,
surface. Foremost among those rvho objected to internal monologue
,oi frorn the protagonist, the pronouns intermittently adopt her
was the painter, novelist, and theorist of modern culture, Wyndham
perspective: 'In the dark you could go tip-finger along the slender
Lewis. He used his novel Tarr (tgr8; rev. r9z8) to advance his ideas
iashing flourishcs of the ironwork'.6s The childish and informal
about art: Tarr argues that art goes wrong in trying to capture the
'you', rather than the more adult and formal 'one', places us in
living qualities of human beings; rather, 'deadness is the first condi-
Mary's position. However, Sinclair employs a vocabulary fa|wider
tion of art'.68 The second condition, 'absence of soul', is really an
than that of a child, resulting in phrascs such as 'slender lashing
extension of the first; Tarr means that good art is not concerned rvith
flourishes'. Further to create the illusion of a child's perspective,
the living interior of its subjects, but their external forms. As a
Sinclair occasionally withholds the name of a familiar obiect and
consequence, 'good art must hirve no inside'. Though Lewis was
insread describes it: Mary's father drinks from 'a glass filled with
the fiercest polemicist for this mode of writing, a caricatural
some red stuff that was both dark and shining and had a queer, sharp
approach can be seen in the work of other contemporaries of
smell'.66 The reader is left to guess the identity of the substance,
Virginia Woolf, notably Aldous Huxley: Some of its techniques, such
prcsumably wine or port. Similarly, Sinclair sometimes names the
as the comparison of humans to animals and inanimate objects, and
object, but provides a parallel description: 'You saw the sun for the
98 The Literury Scene The Literary Scene 99

characterization by ref'erence to a catchphrase, are recognizable from Mark goes to India.6e What is omitted is as significanr as what is
the work of Dickens. included: the narrator does not think it necessary to explain why he
is going; that would be commonly understood. Likewise, when he
GENRE: EDUCATION, MARRIAGE, AND ADULTERY returns on leave after five -vears, the negatives tell us as much as any
We cannot rcad fiction without expectations: expectations, most positive statements: 'Five vears u'ithout any fighting'; 'No polo. No
obviously, about what might plausibly happen to the characters, and fighting. Only a mutiny in the battery once'.70 The negatives imply
what would be implausible; and, more subtly, expectations about the that the clich6d expectations rvere of a life of combat and sport.
novel's range of vocabulary and range of intellectual reference; and Mark returns to India, and some years later a telegram arrives
about what the narrator (if there is one) can tell us about the char- informing the family of his death: he has apparently died of a heart
acters. We derive these expectations from our experience ofeveryday attack while larking about with the other soldiers, carrying a man on
life, but also from our prior experience of fiction. In fact, much of his back. Mary reflects: 'He should have died fighting. . . There was
our experience of everyday life is not direct, but mediated through the Boer War and the Khyber Pass and Chitral and the Soudan. He
anecdote and news story: it may not be 'fictional', but it is narrated. had missed them all'.71 Mary's expectations give us an insight into
We may not be fully conscious of these expectations when we pick the reader's expectations. To some extent, they derive from Mark's
up a novel, but nevertheless they condition our intcrpretations. individual qualities (he was one of the healthier men in the family),
'Genre' is an important conceptual tool for thinking about readerly but they also derive from his generic quality as 'a man who departs
expectations: it allows us to group together works which share a for India'. The bathos of his death, like that of Percival in The
family resemblance, and which arouse similar expectations. A novel LYaaes, derives from an expectation of a more'heroic'death in battle.
that begins by introducing a young unmarried woman' and then two Expectations are not purely a matter of plot; nor are they held
or more eligible bachelors, will raise expectations of plots involving only by the reader. In Rose Nlacaulay's Potterism, a novel set in r9r,1
love, misunderstanding, and some form of consummation. The to r9rg, and published in NIay r9zo, Jane Potter contemplates writ-
novel may confbund these expectations by allowing her to choose a ing a novel. She is in her early twenties and she wishes at all costs to
career instead of love, but, such is the cultural dominance of the avoid the example of her motheq a middlebrow novelist, and of her
courtship plot, the meaning of that choice is defined in relation to father, a newspaper baron, lvhose paper the Daily Ha*e expresses
our expectations; it is a deviation from the norm. However, the reactionary opinions about rvomen and the war. Jane considers the
'courtship plot' is only a convenient category for grouping novels; it options: writing a 'sarcastic, rather cynical' novel; or 'a seribus novel,
has no deeper or essential reality. It is important to grant primacy to dealing with social or political conditions'; or perhaps 'an impres-
expectations, because for an experimental writer like Wooll genre is sionist novel, like Dorothy Richardson's'.72 These categories need
something to be broken and rearranged. Though her novels some- not be mutually exclusive, but Jane appears to believe that they are,
times raise expectations at the large-scale level of plots, the kinds of and her believing it is a smail piece of historical evidence about
expectation that mattcr are sometimes more local, temporary, and modes of writing and about readerly (and writerly) expectations.
nameless. Presumably a 'serious novel' must be somewhat earnest in its
Take, for example, in The Waaes, Percival leaving London to work seriousness, to an extent that exciLrdes sarcasm and cynicism; these
in India in a military or administrative capacity: Thousands of young qualities resemble Woolfs ciescription of John Galsworthy, a
men did likewise, and readers would certainly have had expectations compassionate observer of 'social iniquity' ('Mr Bennett and
about the likely outcomes, but there is no convenient genre label, NIrs Brown', in EVW iii. 386-7). Presumably an 'impressionist'
'the departure of the colonial administrator'. We can reconstruct novel is taken to be so private that it cannot encompass social con-
these expectations only by reading more fiction (and anecdote, and cerns. One could call upon 1yIru Dulloway as the living disproof of
news story). For example, in Sinclair's Mary Oliaier, Mirry's brother that assumption, but to do so is not to dismiss this evidence: rather,

roo The Literary Scene The Literu,ry Scene IOI
looking atJane Potter's map of the world of fiction in rgzo gives us from her brothers, but she also recailed her father reading to her
some sense of how innovative Mrs Dulloway was in rgz5. founding text of the genre, Thornas Hughes,s Tom Broin\ Scltool_
Of the established genres, that of the Bildungsrzmon or 'novel of d,ays $857) @VW i. rc7-8). Nlany later memoirisrs took Hughes,s
education' was particularly important for Woolf and many of her classic as a point of reference in describing their .xpeJien.r;
contemporaries. The genre concerns a man's growth from childhood "ct.ral
later examples of the genre became a point of reference in discus-
to maturity, and how he overcomes the barriers to the full realization sions of the public school ethos.Ts Typical narrative elements
of his individuality.T3 In the sub-genre of Kiinstlerroman, that self- the first day at school, subsequent scenes ofbullying, ofcricket
realization takes the form of his becoming an artist. The genre can 'football' (meaning rugby football), of a day spent wandering in the
be traced back to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Wilhelm Meisters countryside, a portrait of the headmaster and other memorable
Le hrj ahre (tl g+-6), translated as Wi lhe lm Meister's Ap ltrentice s hip, teachers, and narratorial disquisitions on themes such as discipline
and to Wordsworth's The Prelude , with one of the most important and the public school spirit. The eiernent of narratorial corrr*ent"ry
immediate precedents for modernist writers being Samuel Butler's means that the genre overlaps rvith non-fictional discussions
of the
The Way of all Flesh (written 1873-84; published rgo3). The most public school system, such as J. G. cotton Minchin,s our pubtic
widely read Bildungsrlrnane by male modernists are Lawrence's schools (rgor), an imperialist dcfence of rhem, or L. B. pekin's
Sons and Loaers andJoyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Yourcg Man. cism published by the Hogarth press, public Schools: Their Failure
For writers who wished to portray the growth of a woman, the and Reform GgSz). Readers of the public school secion of The
male orientation of the genre rendered it problematic. While the would have recognized the riruals, ifonly from fictional representa-
hostility of the father, a constraining environment, and inadequate tions. In a late example of the genre, Arnord Lunn's The riarrooians
schooling were all too familiar to women growing up in the late (igr3), the central character)s erperience ofhis last day at school is
nineteenth century, the possibilities of escape were far more limited, itself filtered through fictional representations: ,he knew that the
and the narrative component of sexual encounters were unthinkable sadness of leaving Harrow hacl been worked to death in sermons,
in their Bildungsroman form. Moreover, the forms of 'success' open novels, and boy essays. He felt vaguely that he and the monito
to women werc more restricted, with marriage overshadowing all around him were behaving like a chapter out of a school story. ,,The
other options. T'he Voyage Out can be seen as a female Bild,ungsroman, last sad r,vords of farewell as the-v fell from the lips of the dlad
but, like George Eliot's The Mill on the Floss (r86o) before it, one in Head!" '76 Although the s.,--nrv of public schoor rife in The waaes
rvhich the growth of the young woman is frustrated by the lack of is given in Louis's voice, he appears to be paraphrasing the speech
available options, and which can only end tragically. There were, of the 'great Doctor': 'some rvill do this; others that. some will not
course, many more options available to a young woman than m.eet again. Neville, Bernard and I shalr not meet here again.
marriage or death, but there were very few fictional precedents avail- will divide us. But we hirve forme.l certain ties. our bJyish, our
able to Woolf. Woolf returned to the Biltlungsrlm&n forrr in Jacob's irresponsible years are over. But we have forged certain rinks. Above
Room, but again gave it a tragic ending, and questioned many of its all, we have inherited t*dition s' (W, p.a5). The rhythm of thesis
assumptions.Ta and antithesis, and the weighing of gains and losses, derive from
The childhood and youth of young males were narrated more tradition of fictional speech ciavs.
formulaically in the genre of 'public school novel'. The genre might The genre of 'family.saga' incorporates the element of intergen_
seem of peripheral importance to a female experimental writer, but erational conflict frorn the Biltlungsroman,but, typically, narrat-es
Woolf was deeply interested in the ways that the rituals of male
over a longer timescale, usuallt, over several generations, and there-
education shape the ethos of public life, and the schooling of fore with a less exclusive focus cn a single protagonist. Though
Bernard, Louis, and Neville forms a significant portion of The genre had been anticipated by Anthony Trollope and orher
Wuaes. Woolf .lvould have learned much about male public school life novelists, it was essentiallv an Echvardian invention. Another
r02 The Literary Scene The Literary Scene r03

important influence was Emile Zola's Rougon-Macquart sequence disillusionment with Casaubon. foIidrllemarch, which Woolf famously
of novels (I87r-93), and the social Darwinist theory they embodied praised as 'one of the few English novels written for grown up
concerning the genetic inheritance of flaws and defects. However, people', can be seen as a precocious transitional novel (EVW
the British family saga mixed this essentially pessimistic world view iv. t75-6). Jane Miller has contrasted the nineteenth-century narra-
with a belief in the countervailing exercise of personal will-power. tive pattern, in which the heroine's Bildungsroman is subsumed
John Galsworthy's 'Forsyte Saga', a sequence of novels set among into a courtship plot, with the narrative pattern of many early
the urban professional classes, beginning with The Man of Property twentieth-century novels, in which the marriage is 'a kind of delayed
(19o6), remains the classic example; there were also many single- Bild,ungsroman': lhe (mature heroines grow and come to understand
volume sagas. D. H. Lawrence's The Rainbow incorporates some themselves only after they hrve confronted the limitations of
elements of the genre, though the social class it depicts is not typical. marriage and maternity'.78
The theme of intergenerational conflict was vitally important to The 'new woman' fiction of the rSgos had also set a precedenr,
Woolf, and she adapted the genre in writing The Years, retaining allowing female characters to be motivated by desires for something
from Galsworthy the upper middle*class social context, but shifting other than domestic or serual fulfilment, even if those characters
the focus onto the daughters of the family. were often placed in narratives that punished them for deviating
Marriage plots were frequently criticized by writers of intelligent from the norm. The 'new \,voman' novel had declined after r8g5,
fiction for being formulaic and distant from actual experience. In but from around r9o5 there began to appear a class of fiction
rgo5, Woolf had noted the limitations of the popular novelist W. E- known as the 'sex novel', the 'ser problem novel', or the ,marriage
Norris, 'the type of writer who regards marriage and the events that problem novel', which reprised some of its themes; both Keating
precede it' as the legitimate material of a novel, and who makes and Miller identify and summarize a large number of them.Te Like
'marriage bells' the point at which we depart, 'in a state of mild the 'new woman' novel, it llas motivated by the increased
felicity' (EVW i. 36). In rgr8, reviewing Hugh Walpole's The Green opportunities for women in education and employment, and by a
Mirror, she remarked that 'with our more thoughtful writers' the public debate about the 'nature' of womanhood and marriage. Its
'family theme' had replaced the 'love theme' (EI/W ii. zr5). In 19o6 characters often responded in ways that, by the canons of con-
E. M. Forster too had criticized the courtship plot for implying that ventional fiction, appeared perverse. The imaginary novel read by
marriage was
tan end'. For the early Victorian woman, marriage was Miss Allan in The Voyage Out (Maternity by Michael Jessop)
regarded as'a final event': 'beyond it, she was expected to find no appears to be an instance: it is surely 'not natural', complains Miss
new development, no new emotion'. For the 'woman of today' and Allan, for a husband to leave his rvife 'because she happens to be in
her husband, 'The drama of all their problems, their developments' love with [him]' (VO, p.432). The genre's narrators were tempred
their mutual interaction, is all to come. And how can a novelist of to generalize and to present their characters as typical of the con-
today, knowing this, end his novel with a marriage?'77 It was easier to temporary situation. The novel read by Hewet in The Voyage Out
ask the question in theory than to answer it in practice: Forster's I concludes with the narrator hoping that 'in the far future, when
Room with a View (r9o8) follows the classical courtship plot, though generations of men had struggled and failed, woman would be,
his Where Angek Fear to Tread (t9o5) is closer to his prescription. indeed, what she nolv made a pretence of being-the friend and
Woolf was to answer Forster's question very clearly in her novels, companion-not the enemy and parasite of man, (VO, p. 346).
but she was not the first to do so: the portrait of marriage that she Comparable instances could be fbund in many of the marriage
presents in To the Lighthouse, and the glimpses of awkward mutual problem novels of the period. The genre was controversial, and
interaction that we see in Mrs Dulloway, have their precedents in reactions to it were often hostile; Woolf noted how in rgog-ro
earlier fiction. A significant part of George Eliot's Middlemarch H. G. Wells's Ann Wronica had been compared to diphtheria and
(r87o-r), for example, is concerned with Dorothea's growing typhoid (EVW ii. tzg-3o).
ro4 The Literury Scene
The Literary Scene r05
For novelists investigating a marriage problem in fiction, there readerly expectations even where none were intended.
was a continuing temptation to resolve the problem with a traditional :re1te The
dual focus of Mrs Dalloaay-frrst on Clarissa, then on Septimus_
plot. Resolving the problems of one marriage by launching the hero- suggests that the narrative wil reveal some connection
ine into a second remained a notable possibility. For example, M. P. between
them' That clarissa begins by reflecting on her pasr, and
Willcocks's lrl/ings of Desire (rgrz) presents a woman, Sara Bellew, on the time before her marriage, suggests, misleadingly,
trapped in an unhappy marriage, her career as a concert pianist that the
connection will be found in her past; the reader toot
stifled by her husband. Although the novel includes brief contrasting
irrg to sub-
stantiate this connection may associate clarissa's ,Bourlon'
narratives of other women, Willcocks can resolve Sara's problems with
the town of Bourton-o-n-the-w-ater, only z3 miles
distant from Sep-
only by having her elope with a more sympathetic man, thus timus's home town of stroud. k seems possible that septimus
reducing her novel to a 'fairy tale'.80 Elinor Mordaunt's The Parh is
clarissa's illegitimate child, or that, like
Wall (1916), admired by Woolf for being distinctively modern, sees ! the crossing .*..p", i"
Dickens's Bleak House, he holds the key ihat connects
diverse char-
its heroine, Alice Ingpen, married in the first chapter (EVI/V li. acters. The connection between septimus and crarissa
is urtimately
4z-4. Howevcr, the deceitfulness of her husband is so unalloyed revealed to be indirect (via sir wilriam Bradshaw),
and analogicar;
that the complex 'mutual interaction' hoped for by Forster does not but by hinting at rhe more stereotypical plot, Wooii..r.orrug"l,
develop; the husband spends so much time gambling and drinking th.
reader to look for connections, and to think about
what, othJr
that there are few occasions for interaction after chapter ro. The marriage, connects the diverse elements in society. For
narrator remarks that the 'trials and troubles of lovers' interest us, Dickens in
Bleak House, the adultery plot served the larger purpose
of survey_
because they are full of possibilities, but not those of married ing a complex inrermeshing society; in writin! Mo bnttorny
couples. She dismisses the contemporary'fashion' for stories begin- iVoof
not only alluded to the ciassic adultery ptot, but shared
ning with marriage as 'an affectation of taste': the 'dull, sordid nineteenth-century ambition ro survey ihe ,condition
inevitability'of an unhappy marriage is not suitable for narrative.8l
In the period rgoo to r9zo, novelists increasingly resorted to BIocRApHy: l,tcoab RooM AND 7RLANDT
opcn-ended narrative structures, underscoring the'unresolved Biography was an impor.tant genre during the period,
and a particu_
nature of the marriage problem itself .82 Indeed, one factor in the larly important one for woolf, given her atn.ri role as
modernist abandonment of traditional forms of narrative may have first editor of
the Dictionary of National Biography (DNB). A
significan, pr"p"._
been the realization that traditional plots embodied outdated and tion- of woolf's early re'ierving u'ork consisted
questionable ideas about marriage.8s If fiction was to matter in the
works in the 'life and letters' mode, a biographical
n"rruiion framing
modern world, it had to find forms which would allow it to engage long extracts from the subject,s leti..s; Frederic Maitland,s
with modern modeq of life. biography of Leslie stephen vr,as in this mode. victorian and
There was one long-established plot that dealt rvith life beyond early twentieth-century biographers ''ritten
had adopted , ,"u"..rrtiol utti-
the wedding day: the adultery plot, in which the heroine must con- tude.toward their subjects; the underrying assumption
was that biog-
ccal a marital infidelity or premarital indiscretion. Its converse aspect set an example for future gencrations. In portman,"
is the plot of unknown parentage, in which hero or heroine discovers Tehie-s iugn
!*!tl,when it is suggested th,rt the schoolboy will go on to a
that he or she is the oft'spring of an extramarital affair. Both plots
to lend "".*.
in the Indian civil Service, his house master promises
were close to exhaustion by the r89os: the extent to which they had him a
life of John Nicholson, and some of the ,Rulers of India,
becorne familiar may be gauged by the rvay rhar Oscar trVilde had The DNB consisted of relatively short and authoritative
cxploited them in his dramas Ladjt l(indermere's Fan QSgz) and The urogrufii.,
which made less use of quoration than the
'lives and r.*"ir' iiyr..
Implrta.nce of Being Ea.rnest (r8qS).Nevertheless, rhey still provided Nevertheless, it too was reverential. As a project
the framework of many popular novels, and so had the power to it embodied
Thomas Carlyle's notion that historv consists of th.
biographies of
r06 The Literttry Scene The Liternry Scene r07
great men, an essay topic that troubles Jacob Flanders UR, p.48). T o public recognition, his happy old age, and perhaps his late second
Woolf the D,A/B represented an official history, one that excluded flowering. The difficulty for the narrator is that Jacob does not live
women and other 'eccentric' figures (EI/W rri.:8-+r). beyond his youthful exploits. His life cannor be accommodated in
The approach taken by biographers changed signilicantly during the traditional narrative outline. 'lhe narrator, embarrassed by this
Woolf s lifetime, not least because of the approach taken by Lytton exception to the generic rule, attempts as best he can to narrate
Strachey inhis Eminent Victorittns (r9r8) and Qteen Victoriu Qgzt). Jacob's life in the traditional manner, generally suppressing his
The most immediate surprise presented by these volumes was their knowledge of what is to come, and making of Jacob a generic figure
size: in the first of them, Strachey had examined the lives of four of the promising young man. He has assembled the source materials
great Victorian figures in half the space that would traditionally have needed to write a biographl; but, lacking a crowning achievemenr,
been given to one. His tone too was different, ironic and at times cannot make the materials cohere. As a biographer, he weighs the
nrocking. In his Preface to Eminent Victorians, Strachey character- evidence provided by the Mudie-reading Mrs Norman-'One must
ized the traditional 'two fat volumes' of biography: 'who does not do the best one can with her reporr' (7R,p.37)-and of the equally
know them, with their ill-digested masses of material, their slipshod unreliable Mrs Papworth: 'rvhere an inquisitive old woman gets a
style, their tone of tedious panegyric, their lamentable lack of selec- name wrong, what chance is there that she will faithfully report an
tion, of detachment, of design? They are as familiar as the cortige of argument?' (p. r:8). (I gender the narrator as male not only because
the undertaker, and wear the same air of slow, funereal barbarism'.86 of the implicit misogyny of these and other remarks; elsewhere,
Woolf had read cach chapter of Eminent Victorians as it was written, because of the use of free indirect discourse, it is not always possible
and Qreen Victoriu, on its appearance, Strachey having dedicated it to to disentangle the narrator's misogyny from Jacob's.) As a biog-
her. She responded with very full praise (Letters, ii. a65). In a tgzT rapher, he sometimes fills gaps in the documentary record with con*
review she sumnarized the changes in manner of biography: jectures and with generic.scene painting. Thus, in the description of
Mrs Flanders looking at Scarborough, we are told that the seasonal
the author's relation to his subject is difl'erent. He is no longer the serious changes in the view 'should haae been known to her': the narrator
and sympathetic companion, toiling even slavishly in the footsteps of his cannot be sure that they rvere (p. r7; emphasis added). Much of what
hero. Whether friend or enemy) admiring or critical, he is an equal. In any
follows seems to be derived from sources other than Mrs Flanders
case, he preserves his frecdom and his right to independent judgement.
herself: 'It was observed how weil the Corporation had laid out the
flower-beds', we are told, but we are not told who made this observa-
Strachey's method was not in itself modernist, but, as one tion (p. r8). Likewise, the descriprion of young men at Cambridge is
contemporary noted 'in reinstating biography as an art', he had self-confessedly conjectural and generic: 'Behind the grey walls sat
drawn attention to the 'formlessness' of literature in general; like so many young men) some undoubtedly reading, magazines, shilling
modernist novelists and poets, he wanted his chosen genre to be shockers no doubt; legs, perhaps, over the arms of chairs; smoking;
taken seriously as art.87 sprawling over tables, and r,r,riting while their heads went round in a
What Woolf took from him was not the seriousness, but the mock- circle as the pen moved-simple voung men, these, who would-but
ery of earlier biography. This first becomes apparent in Jncob's there is no need to think of them grown old' (pp. 54-5). Not only do
Room, which, as well as being a parodic Bildungsrom&n, can be read as 'perhaps'and 'undoubtedly'betray the process ofconjecture, but the
a parodic biography. To read it this way, one needs to think of it as images derive from generic depictions of male student life. As well as
having a biographer narrator who has been set the task of writing a filling in missing information, the narrator also suppresses know-
standard two-volume biography ofJacob as a'great man': his child- Iedge: in the passage just quoted, the knowledge of what happens to
hood, his education at Cambridge, his youthful exploits, his mature the young men; elsewhere, the knowledge of what Jacob did in the
achievements in some area of literature or statesmanship, his late evening in Paris (p. rZ+). Though Woolf is mocking the generic
r08 The Literary Scene

qualities of Victorian biographers, her mockery has a serious

purpose. Biography sets an example to young inen, and that example
leadsJacob to his death.
The mockery of biography in Jacob's Room is tentative, and
intermittent, and mixed with other literary experiments. The mock-
ery in Orland,o is far more complete, and helps to illuminate the
carlier novel, though Woolf does not work to a consistent plan. Woolf
works for local effect, sometimes mocking biography by adopting its [P]hilosophic words, ifone has nor been educated at a university, are apt to
conventions to excess, at other times eliminating them and comment- play one false. What is meant by 'rcality'? It would seem to be something
ing on the elimination, and at other times doing both together. Thus, very erratic, very undependable-norv to be found in a dusty road, now in
in the cntalogue of Orlando's purchases (O, p. ro5) the biographer- a scrap of newspaper in the strcct, now a daffodil in the sun. (ROO, p. r43)
narrator begins to present the 'ill-digested masses of material' lam-
ented by Strachey, but also comments on the tediousness of such IN her fiction and in many of her essays Woolf engages with abstract
catalogues. In the opening description of Orlando's youthful appear- philosophical questions, but her mode of engagement is not always
ance, the narrrtor describes his eyes and forehead, but admits his what one might expect. She addresses questions of aesthetics, par-
reluctance at having 'to admit a thousand disagreeables which it is ticularly whether the value of a worli of art resides in its reproduc-
the aim of every good biographer to ignore' (p. rS). By commenting tion of the real world, or in its formal qualities of pattern and
on the landscape at one point as being'a simple English kind which rhythm. She engages with the question of whether reality exists
needs no description' (pp. rZ8-q) the narrator implies that independently of human perception, and the related question of
such descriptions are usually so generic as to add nothing to our whether clock time or psychological time is the more real. She
knowledge. inquires into the nature of the self: whether an individual's sense of
Orland.o almost became a victim of its own mockery: soon after self is a fixed quality; or sometiring endlessly variable according,to
publication, the Hogarth Press received reports that bookshops were their environmental and social context. She draws on philosophical
insisting on shelving it not with novels, but with real biographies. debates about ethics, particularly the problem of defining'the good,,
'I doubt therefore that we shall do more than cover expenses', the ultimate goal of all good action and conduct.
lamented Woolf (Diary, iii. r98). Orlando is a very private document: A nineteenth-century novelist rnight have engaged with such
it is both a love letter to Vita Sackville-West, and a continuation of questions by having characters or narrators reflect on past incidents
Woolfs war of words with Logan Pearsall Smith. At the same or future choices. Wool{ horvever, disliked the idea of art being a
time, however, it was a public one, saying things about sexuality, vehicle for philosophical instruction, particularly moral instruction.
biography, and history that lvere accessible to all. Moreover, it was a She criticized the late Victorian novelisr George Meredith for failing
commercial enterprise, as Woolf the publisher was only too aware. in this regard. Meredith's philosophl'obtruded: 'when philosophy is
More than any of her works, it demonstrates the tension between not consumed in a novel, rvhen rve can underline this phrase with a
'the patron' and tthe crocus'. pencil, and cut out that exhortation with a pair of scissors and paste
the whole into a system, it is safe to say that there is something
wrong with the philosophy or with the novel or with both' (,The
Novels of George Meredith', in CE i. z3o). For a novel to consume a
philosophy, it must incorporate it into the depiction of character and
incident; it must form parr of a seamless whole. Woolfs philosophy
often underlies her ways of writing fiction, and for this reason essays
IIO Phi lo sop hic al Qre stions Philosophical Qrestions rrr
such as.that on Meredith offer valuable insights, making explicit When she returns to her painting ten years later, Lily is still con-
ideas which are assumed in the liction. However, even then, it is not cerned with structure, with'the problem of space' (p.z3r), and with
always possible ro pin down woolfs beliefs. As several critics have finding 'shape' in the midst of 'chaos' (p. zr8). She is conscious of a
noted, rn. ala not write 'novels of ideas'in the conventional sense.l duality in her paintings: a surface lightness of paint, 'feathery and
Her novels are as much concerned to ask questions as to define a evanescent', and a deeper, carefully considered form, 'clamped
position. together with bolts of iron' (p.
Underlying Lily's discussion 'with Bankes is the question of what
makes painting valuable, as painting. This question had been
Representation and Aesthetics: To the Lighthouse addressed influentially by Roger Fry in his 'Essay on Aesthetics'
Fortunately, Woolf does not always achieve the standards she set for (rqoq). Fry begins by quoting an eminent painter as saying that 'The
George Meredith: certainly there are places in To the Lighth7use art of painting is the art of imitating solid objects upon a flat surface
where one can underline phrases concerning the nature ofrepresen- by means of pigments'.2 While the definition admirably demystifies
tation and of artistic perception. By returning to the works of the art, it still gives a central place to imitation. Fry comments that
Woolfs contemporaries-above all, those of Roger Fry (1866- 'if imitation is the sole purpose of the graphic arts, it is surprising
1934)-one can illuminate the assumptions within those phrases' In that the works of such arts are ever looked upon as more than curi-
To the Lighthouse, William Bankes asks Lily to explain why she has osities'.3 As a contemporary noted, 'the Imitation theory of art' had
drawn a triangular purple shape in one part of her painting' It been 'killed by the invention of photography'.1If a photographer can
becomes clear that Bankes values art for its ability accurately to produce a reliable imitation of a scene, then the artist must aim to
reproduce recognizable scenes. The 'largest picture in his drawing- produce something more than an imitation, or must break com-
room' depicts 'the cherry trees in blossom on the banks of the pletely with the representational tradition. Fry concludes his essay
Kennet' (TL,p.73). The definite article is important here, as is the with the idea that art is an expression of the imaginative life; it aims
specificity of the name: not any cherry trees by any river, but those not at imitation of nature, but at creation. Fry's theory of art was
particular ones. Secondarily, though poignantl,v, the widolver Bankes formalist: it was more concerned with the formal qualities of a work
values the painting because he had spent his honeymoon by the of art than with what it represented. For Fry the French painter Paul
Kennet: that is, he values the painting not for its intrinsic qualities as C6zanne exemplified a mode of painting in which form was as sig-
a painting, but for its personal associations. Lily proposes a dift'erent nificant as subject matter. Fry irlso valued Chinese art for its formal
approach. As Lily cxplains, Bankes realizes that a mother and child' qualities, and this provides one explanation of Lily Briscoe's
'objects of universal veneration', and a long established subject of 'Chinese eyes' (TL, p. ztz): they imply that she has a formalist
Christian painting, might be 'reduced . . ' to a purple shadow with- artistic'vision'.5
out irreverence'. The lack of representational clarity is less import- In the actual paintings of trlbolf's contemporaries, Fry's emphasis
ant than the htrmony that Lily establishes between the colours and on form corresponded to several difl'erent, but related practices. The
forms on the canvas: 'if there, in that corner) it lvas bright, here, in majority of paintings by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant are repre-
this, she felt the need of darkness' (p. lz).Indeed, by concentrating sentational, but even in these, the colour often has a'flat' quality,
on the purple triangle, Bankes is still not quite understanding the with little differentiation of shade. Its flatness reminds the viewer of
painting: he is taking it to be a painting'of' the mother and child, but its existence as a pigment on a flat surface. In Duncan Grant's col-
it is not 'of' them in his sense; Lily concedes that it might be a lages Still Lrfe (c.rgr5) and Interior at Gordon Square (r9r5), the
. 'tribute' to them. She is less concerned with imitation than with 'the principle of flatness is taken further, producing a semi-abstract qual-
relations of mlsses, of lights and shadows'; she needs to 'connect' a ity in the latter.6 If one sees the painting without knowing its title,
mass on one side of the painting with a mass on the other (p. Z:). one is aware of the strong verticai lines purely as vertical lines before
Philosophical Qtestions r 13

one can decode them as lvalls, doors, and window frames; one is
arvare of the bright blue triangle irt the centre as a triangle, and not as
a representation of an armchair. The title of Vanessa Bell's
Composition (c.ry4) gives no clues as to what it might represent, if
anything.T The relative sizes of the trvo dark lines at the rop right,
and the blue square behind them, give some sense of pictorial depth,
but this is denied by other eiements in the composition. It is a
pleasurable composition to contemplate not because of any represen-
tational content, but becausc of thc balance of the blue-grey square
in the top left and the ruddr,'-brown forms at the bottom of the
com.position; and because of the unbalancing, somelvhat sinister
effect of the dark verticals.
To the Lighthouse is concerncci rrot only with Lily's justification of
her practice, but also with her need to find the right state of mind for
creation and fbr artistic vision. She resents Bankes's intrusion at
first, because it breaks her concentration. When he asks her rvhat she
wished to make of the sccne in front of them, she has to detach
Studland Beuch, herself once more. In exploring Lily's psychology, Woolf echoes Frn
c.rgrz,by but does not follow his theorv to the ietter. For Fry 'imaginative life'
Vancssa Bell is distinguished from 'everyday life' because of its detachment from
action. In everyday perception, rnany details in the things we see
escape our attention, because the mind natllrally selects those ple-
ments lvhich are most relevant to our continued survival.s Jane
Harrison gives an extremc example: 'If we lvatch a friend drowning
lve do not note the exquisite cun'e made by his body as he falls into
the water, nor the play of the sunlight on the rippies as he disappears
below the surface'. We cannot: 'or-u'whole being is centred on acting,
on saving him'.e But, as Frv says, if rve look at a representation of
everyday life, or even look at cvervday life framed and reflected in a
mirror, we cease to be involved in events, and become true
'spectators'; the scene acquires 'the visionary quality'.10 We are free
to notice not onlv individual dctails, but similarities betrveen them:
the way that one shape reseirbles another; the way one large 'mass'
of colour is 'balanced' bv erx-.thel. The artist, unlike the photog-
Self-portrait, rapher, is free to alter thc relatii'e positions and proportions of the
r 928, b1'
Rogcr Fr-v
elements in her painting, ancl thus to create a more pleasing form.
(Those advancing such arguments gave little or no consideration to
the extent to which photographcrs take care to frame their shots,
and thus give 'form' to a cornposition.) The things we notice in a
rr+ P hilo sop hic a I Qre stions Philosophical Qrestions r r5

painting are not wholly detached from everyday life: Fry is anxious elements formed into a pattern or composition, 'making of the
to explain that our aesthetic experience of 'mass' is governed by our moment something permanent' (pp. zr7-r8). By extending the lan-
bodily experience of massive objects that resist movement.ll Never- guage of aesthetics into the domestic sphere, and thus establishing
theless, aesthetic detachment leaves us free to experience such analogies between Lily and N{rs Ramsay, Woolf is able to suggest
feelings regardless of practical considerations. that Lily has escaped the restrictions of Mrs Ramsay's life, and
The state of mind which Lily needs to achieve is more complex. yet is simultaneously able to recover something valuable from
In'The Window'she apparently wishes to achieve detachment from Mrs Ramsay's life: it is not dismissed as 'merely'homemaking, but is
gender, 'subduing all her impressions as a woman to something recuperated as an expression of an otherwise frustrated imagination.
much more general' (TL, p.Z:). In 'The Lighthouse', the situation NIrs Ramsay gave'form'to the chaos of her family and friends.
becomes more complex: at first, the problem is not to achieve Lily's ideas about her paintings, and Fry's ideas about aesthetics,
detachment, but in fact to feel some sense of 'attachment' to the help to illuminate the irims ancl assumptions of all Woolfs novels.
house; until this is achieved, every thing seems 'aimless' and 'cha- Above all, they illuminate her disregard for the conventions of realist
otic' (p. rg8). Though she needs attachment in this regard' she also representation and plotting. She is as much concerned to create a
needs to detach herself from Mr Ramsay' whose intrusiveness satisfying formal pattern as to create recognizable characters. 'Pattern'
threatens her creativity. After the expedition has departed, and she is a key word for her: although she sometimes uses it dismissively,
settles down to her painting, Lily achieves the right degree of when referring to a visual decoration mechanically reproduced (the
detachment, subduing the 'impertinences and irrelevances' that had pattern that I.ily sees on the tablecloth, for example), she also uses it
distracted her (p. zr3). She needs to escape 'gossip', 'living', and more positively, to refer to a more vital and vibrant form, emerging
'community with people' (p. zt+).As Lily achieves the necessary from the chaos of perceptions and modern life. 'Pattern' in this
detachment, she reflects that the house has an'unreal' appearance second sense takes the place of traditional'plot'. Woolf described her
(p. zS8). She has freed herself from habitual, economical 'sight', and aims in writing The Voyuge Oul as being 'to give the feeling of a vast
has achieved a more'vivid' vision (pp. zS8-q). To paint, Lily needs tumult of life, as various and disorderly as possible, which should be
to be 'attached' to her feelings, but she needs also to be detached cut short for a moment by the death, and go on again-and the
from the people around her. Only then can she have her vision. whole was to have a sort of pattern, and be somehow controlled'
Woolf does not restrict the vocabulary of aesthetics to the painter (Letters, ii. 8z). Patterns emerge in her novels through repetitions of
in the novel. The richness of To the derives from the way imagery and vocabulary, and less frequently, repetitions of action.
that Woolf establishes similarities between Lily's concerns and those
of Mrs Ramsay. Mrs Ramsay's organization of the dinner party is an Ferception and Reality
expression of her imaginative life: she needs to connect disparate
elements, balancing one guest against another. At first she feels The questions that To the Lighthoerss raises about artistic representa-
unsuccessful: lNothing seemed to have merged. They all sat separ- tion open out into larger questions about the nature of perception
ate. And the rvhole of the effort of merging and flowing and creating and reality. Mr Ramsay's philosophical work concerns, as his son
rested on her' (TL, p. I I3). Later, though, when the candles are lit, puts it, 'Subject and object and the nature of reality'. When Lily
'the faces on both sides of the table were brought nearer by the Briscoe asks for a further explarration, Andrew asks her to 'Think of
candle light, and composed... into a party round a table'(p. t:t). a kitchen table . . . when you're not there' (TL, p. 33). Andrelv's
The crucial word is 'composed': the dinner party is an artistic com- suggestion alludes to the philosophical tradition of taking tables and
position. It is not until after Mrs Ramsay's death, though, that Lily chairs as typical real objects.r? There are many philosophical ques-
recognizes the analogies between their respective spheres ofactivity: tions about subjects and objects, but they tend to touch on two main
Mrs Ramsay 'brought together this and that and then this', diverse themes: the question of how fbr an individual's personal, subiective
II6 P hilos op hi c al Qrestions P h i los op hi t a I Qre stions T17
knowledge of those objects is reliable; and, more searchingly, that confirm his own'sense of self as stoical and manly. It is easier to
whether we have any grounds for saying that there are real objects recognize the limitations of James's knowledge because of Lily's
'out there'in the world beyond our perceptions. If we are in a ioom, reflections a ferv pages earlier on the impossibility of knowing
and we can see and touch a table in front of us, then, if we can trust Mrs Ramsay: no single perspective is sufficient, and even ,fifty pairs
the evidence of our senses) we are warranted in belicving that the of eyes'are not sufficient to see her properly (p.266).
table exists. But if we leave the room, or simply turn our backs on 'lhe recollection of absent objects, and, more significantly, people,
the table, on what basis can we assert that it still existsl It is true that informs 'The Lighthouse'. I-iiy recalls the past so vividly th"1, .u"r,
tables are relatively durable and relatively static, but such relative as she paints, 'she seemed to be sitting beside Mrs Ramsay on the
tendencies do not give grounds for philosophical cerrainty. From beach' (TL, p.z3r). Woolf"s mode of presentarion, through Liiy,s
such questions) some philosophers reached a position of subjective consciousness, makes it impossible to tell whether Mrs Ramsay's
idealism: the world exists only as an idea in the mind of each of the questions and her hunting fbr her specracles are Lily's recollection
subjects who perceive it. The philosophers who opposed such a of an actual incident, or her imagination of an ideal one. It is unclear
position are often referred to as 'realists' or 'materialists'. whether there is a real Mrs RamsaJ' beyond Lily's imagination. To
The philosophical questions raised by Andrew are not incidental the extent that Lily is involuntarilv haunted by Mrs Ramsay, there
pieces of local colour: they illuminare the whole of To the Lighthouse would seem to be; but to the extcnt that the dead are at the mercy of
and much else in Woolfs fiction. Through its presentation from a the living (pp. zS5-6), it would seem rhat she is contained within
series of distinct perspectives, To the Lighthouse dramatizes ques- consciousness. Lily also recalis her or'vn phantom table, the one from
tions about the limitations of knowledge. Moreover, in its concern the dinner party in 'The winclo\r', and recalls the decisive moment
with mortality and loss, the novel repearedly presents people think- when she moved the salt cellar. In the moment of recollection, such
ing about other people in their absence. The first concern is created subjective memories are as vivid as present perceptions of the object-
simply by the dramatis personae and their different modes of think- ive world. This is trlre nor o'ly for Lrly: To the Lighthouse is
ing: the novel asks whether Mr Ramsay's way of thinking, systematic scattered with recollected moments in the form of sharply visupl,
and linear, is more real and reliable than Lily's artisric way of think- almost photographic scenes: fbr example Mr Ramsay noting a hen
ing. Even Bankes, whose scientific work involves his taking .sections' protecting her chicks (p. 3o), or Paul and Minta repairing their
of potatoes (TL, p. 35), presumably to examine through a micro-
scope, has his own distinct way of seeing, a scientific form of
broken-down car (p. 4).It is also scattered with small moments of
revelation where the prese't forms the seeds of such memories.
detachment that allows him to remain open ro Lily,s art in spite of .that great
James, on the opening page, belongs to clan' which allows
his prejudiccs. The lighthouse is seen differently by different char- 'future prospects' to alter their perception of 'what is actually at
acters, and even by the same character at different times: some times hand' (p. 7). It is implied that he rvill remember the refrigeraror in
it is 'a silvery, misty-looking tower', at others it is ,stark and straight' the catalogue for the rest of his life, because of his mother promising
(p.zSr). WhenJames finally reaches the lighthouse, the reader might the journey to the lighthouse; his tasl< of cutting out images from the
momentarily think that the novel has made a definitive statement: catalogue is a paradigm for the lvar- that memory works in the novel.
'So it was like that, James thought, the Lighthouse one had seen Philosophers attempted to reconcile the subjective and the object-
across the bay all these years; it was a stark tower on a bare rock' ive elements of reality by arguing that language filters our percep_
(pp.zlZ-4. But it immediately becomes apparent that this is merely tions. There are real things 'out there', feeding our five senses wiih
James's perspective, not the whole truth: ,It satisfied him. It con* information, but the mind and bodv rvork selectively on this infor-
firmed somc obscure feeling of his about his own character' (p.zl+). mation. As one influentiai philosopher wrote, language takes the
James is not so much seeing the lighthouse, as seeing his own reflec- 'fluid' world and constructs a 'rigid', mosaic-like picture of it, ,at a
tion; or, at least, he is selecting from the lighthouse those elements sacrifice of exactness and fidelity but with a saving of tools and
r 18 PhilosoPhical Qtestions P hilosop hicul Qrestions II9

labor'.l3 Human beings have evolved so that they select those sense of consciousness. Philosophically, it would be usual to contrast
impressions which will help them to survive and reproduce, and materialism with idealism, but lVoolf says that James Joyce, her typ-
ignore all others. The mind was commonly spoken of in metaphors ically modern writer, is more 'spiritual'. Her use of the word, with its
and similes of sieves, nets, and meshes; in one popular account, it suggestions of spiritualist religion, might suggest that a philo-
sophical context is of little relevance, but she shares this terminology
was like a machine used in"a quarry for sorting different sizes of
sands and gravel.ra More sophisticated human activities, like the with her father. He had once contrasted materialism, 'the doctrine
physical sciences, work on a similar basis, though they are not con- that matter is the ultimate reality', with what he called 'spiritualism',
cerned with immediate survival. If concepts such as 'force' or 'the doctrine that mind is the ultimate reality', that 'fn]othing really
exists except thought in its various modifications'.17
'energy'allow for a concise description ofthe world as observed by
science, then they should be used, but, as Leslie Stephen argued,
With her first piece of erperimental fiction, 'The Mark on the
there is no reason to believe that 'force' or 'energy' have any real Wall' (rgr7), Woolf began to create a fictional world in which the
existence beyond our contents of consciousness are as important as the external objects. At
The modernist experiments in the presentation of consciousness the start of the piece, the narrator begins with her sensations of 'the
seen above in Chapter 3 share many assumptions with this area of
fire', the 'yellow light', and the 'chrysanthemums', and infers from
philosophy. The consciousness of a child was interesting to both them that'it must have been the rvinter time'. We know of the mark
artists and philosophers because children were believed to lack itself only through visual impressions: it was 'a small round mark,
sophisticated adult concepts, and so to be closer to the real world of black upon the white wall, about six or seven inches above the man-
sense impressions.16 However, adults too sometimes lack the telpiece' (MW, p. 3). The piece, with its immobile narrator) can
appropriate concepts: Lily cries, thinking of Mrs Ramsay, but she scarcely be termed a story: it is as much an essay on the nature of
experiences the sensation of her eyes being 'full of a hot liquid' reality, in which are weighed the values of impersonal, non-human
before she thinks of tears (TL, p. z4z). Wool{ in one of the most reality, of social reality, and of imaginative reality. Woolf is interested
frequently quoted passages from her essays, also sees reality as a in the difference between the 'real standard things' which stabiliqed
chaos of sense impressions. Like a philosopher, she invites her reader
Victorian social life, and those which attempt to stabilize the
present day; but she is also interested in the continuities between the
to imagine 'an ordinary mind on an ordinary day': 'The mind
receives a myriad impressions-trivial, fantastic, eYanescent' or Victorian point of view and the 'masculine point of view' which
engraved with the sharpness of steel. From all sides they come' an dominates the present. The Victorians'supposed love of 'generuliza-
incessant sholver of innumerable atoms'. The essence of \Aioolf's tions' recalls the Generals of the present: 'The Mark on the Wall' is
argument is that if we free ourselves from the tyranny of fictional explicitly a story set during rvartime. Unlike the philosophers, Woolf
convention, and attend to the actual 'impressions', we can see that does not argue a case, but what emerges from her narrator's reflec-
modern life does not follow the patterns employed by realist writers tions is a distinction betrveen a hierarchical world, in which every
like Bennett, Galsworthy, and Wells: 'the accent falls differently sense impression is judged against normative standards, and a liber-

from of old' ('Modern Fiction' (tgr1),in EVIV iv. 16o). I{er argu- ated but more private world, in rvhich the norms have been
ment is concerned primarily with the structural conventions of the destroyed.
novel, but it extends down to the conventions of language and the The later piece 'Kew Gardens' (tqtq) also challenges established
ways that it filters experience. perspectives. It appears closer to conventional fiction in one respect,
Her arguments about the novel also draw on a basic philosophical its use of a third-person narrator, but its sudden and unexplained
distinction. She terms Bennett, Galsworthy, and Wells 'materialists': changes in perspective, from a human scale to a snail's-eye view,
they are excessively concerned with dcscribing the surface details of suggest a connection with philosophical writing on the reliability of
the material world, and too little concerned with the internal details the senses. By imagining the x'orld as it would be viewed by various
rzo Philosophical Qrestions Philosopkical Qtestions rzr
non-human organisms, such as seagulls, parasites, ephemerides, or For the present purposes, the paradox of Achilles and the tortoise
microbes, philosophical writers forced their readers to realize that will suffice. The renowned athlete Achilles has agreed to enter a race
their own seemingly natural concepts were merely mental con- with a tortoise. To make the race more fair, Achilles has agreed that
structs.r8 By presenting the '[b]rown ciift's with deep green lakes' the tortoise be given a head start oq say, ro metres. Comrnon sense
that confront the snail, Woolf questions the importance of the tells us that Achilles r,vill quickly overrake the tortoise and r,vin the
humans who walk around the gardens; this questioning appears race. Zeno, however, describes the race in a.way which seems plaus-
more explicitly in the contrast between the 'irregular and aimless ible, and yet which makes it appear that Achilles will never actually
rnovement' of the humans and the determination and 'definite goal' overtake his rival. By the time that Achilles has reached the tortoise,s
of the snail (MW,pp.r6, r3). starting point, the tortoise has moved on to a new position. By the
time that Achilles reaches that position, the tortoise has moved to a
new position further on. One can repeat the process infinitely: it
Clock Time and Psychological Tirne: Mrs Dalloway seems that the tortoise has alr,vays moved on, and Achilles can never
Clocks and time take on a life of their own in Mrs Dalloway, and reach him. Zeno's paradox poses a challenge to philosophers: what is
their way of marking time stands in contrast to the characters' wrong with his description of the race? It employs apparently every*
experiences of time, particularly in its relation to memory. The con- day concepts, yet denies our everydav experience of time and
trast is not purely a philosophical one, because it has political impli- movement,
cations, but a signiticant background for it may be found in the work Bergson argued that the prrradox was due to the human intellect
of the French philosopher Henri Bergson (r859-194r). When Big imposing a false conception of time onto its experience. By picturing
Ren first chimes, in the opening paragraphs, it appears an almost the ,race of Achilles and the tortoise as if it were a series of photo-
benign presence) and certainly a revered one, if we can believe graphs, Zeno is failing to understand the real nature of time and
Clarissa's account of the 'hush' of 'solemnity' that greets it (MD, movement. He is making a continuous phenomenon into a series of
p. 4). However, as the novel unfolds, it creates an association between discontinuous moments, just as a cinema film does. When we speak
Big Ben and centralized authority. It also hints that clock time of something happening'at' a certain time, we are imagining times as
is an arbitrary measure, most obviously through its account of if they were places. We are 'spatializing' time. A cinema film does
St Margaret's chiming a few minutes after Big Ben: 'like a hostess this quite literally: on the celluloid one frame is spatially adjacent to
who comes into her drawing-room on the very stroke of the hour and the next. A clock likewise divides the period of twelve hours into
finds her guests there already. I am not late. No, it is precisely half- physically distinct segments, 'fs]hredding and slicing', as Woolf
past eleven, she says' (p. +z). Who, one is left asking, is to dictate the would have it.
correct time? This theme is spelt our still more explicitly in the Bergson's idea of a personal, psvchological time which was more
sketch of the clocks of Harley Streer, '[s]hredding and slicing, divid- real than publicly agreed clock tirne was attractive to many novelists.
ing and subdividing' time, upholding 'authority', and echoing It seemed to endorse the idea of a private consciousness which was
Sir William Bradshaw's advocacy of 'proportion' (p. 87). Woolf free of the constraints and conventions of a mechanized, regimented
chose for her authoritarian doctor a surname that was synonymous mass society. The central conceprs of Bergson's philosophy did not
with timekeeping: in the early twentieth century, a'Bradshaw' was a demand any knowleclge of technical philosophical terms. In May
railway timetable. Sinclair's Mary Oliaier, the young A4ary thinks about the conrinuiry
Bergson argued that clock time falsifies the real nature of time, of time for herself, without any guidance from Bergson, though we
and that we need to distinguish between clock time (or temps) and may be confident that her author was not so innocent: 'You couldn't
'psychological time' (or durde). He began by considering the para- really tell when the t\,venty-third fhour] ended and the rwenry-fourth
doxes of the ancient Greek philosopher Zeno of EIia(fifth century e c). began; because when you counted sixty minutes for the hour and
rzz Phiktsophical Qrestions P hrIustt1t hicu I Qrestions r23
sixty seconds for the minute there was still the half second and the Wbolf also attempts to convey the discrepancy between temps and
half of that, and so on for ever and ever'.le durie in the form of her rvriting, so that we not only apprehend it
There is little critical consensus about the extent to which Woolf intellectually, as a concept advanced by the narrator, but also experi-
was influenced by Bergson, in part because it is unclear to what ence it as readers. Clocks do not necessarily appear explicitly: often
extent she was familiar with his ideas.20 In tg3z, in response to an the distinction of tentps and durie manifests itself as a distinction
enquiry, Virginia Woolf said that she had 'never read Bergson' betrveen the life of the bod,v and the life of the mind; the body, being
(Letters, v. 9r), and after her death Leonard Woolf denied that he had material, must conform to ciock time, while the mind escapes it.
influenced her work.2r However, it is not impossible that she was Mary Ann Gillies has argued that Woolfs attempt to convey intense
familiar with Bergson's ideas through popular accounts or through 'moments of being'is, in eil'ect, an attempt to convey pure moments
conversations. Jane Harrison later recalled that the experience of of Bergsonian d,urde.25 The phrase 'moment of being' is one which
discovering Bergson was one shared 'by every thinking man in Woolf expounds in her autobiographical 'Sketch of the Pasr': rhey
Europe' in the pre-war period.22 'Man' here is apparently inclusive are moments of life lived with great vividness, and particularly
of women; indeed, many of llergson's ideas appealed to feminists moments of minor revelation. They prove to Woolf 'that one's life
and suffragists in the pre-war period.23 Following the success of is not confined to one's body-and lvhat one says or does'(MB,
Bergson's public lectures at University College in October r9rr, pp. 8:-6). Certainly in Woolfs narratives'such moments are often
there had appeared many non-specialist articles and books on his contrasted with everyday ph1'sical reality, but they are nor the only
work, including one by Sydney Waterlow, Woolfs one-time suitor. contrasting element.
Certainly Woolf attended a more specialist paper on Bergson by Woolfs exploration of psychological time begins with her early
Karin Costelloe (later her sister-in-1aw) on 3 February rgr3.24 sketch 'The Mark on the \Vali'. It conveys a set of thought associ-
As well as hinting at the Bergsonian concepts of temps and durie in ations which, we can imagine, may have occupied no more than a few
Mrs Dallowr"ly, Woolf introduces similar ideas into several other seconds. The contrast betrvecn psychological time and clock time is
novels. Towards the end of Orlando, as the protagonist tries to deal established in part by the contrast between time required to read, the
with her complex accumulation of memories, the narrator discusses piece, and the time it convevs. The contrast is moreover hinted at by
the concept of time. Picking up a handbag, Orlando recalls the the tapping of a tree branch on the window pane (a natural equiva-
'bumboat woman' from the Jacobean era; stepping out into Oxford lent for the ticking ofa clock), and by the change ofpace that occurs
Street, she recalls the sights, sounds, and tastes ofTurkey, India, and when the narrator's reverie is interrupted.
Persia (O, pp. z9o-r). The narrator claims that there are 'sixty or There are more developed instances in To the Lighthorue. Woolf
seventy different times' beating simultaneously 'in every normal creates a sense of the duality of forms of time, using dialogue and
human system'. Some people manage to synchronize them, so that descriptive writing to mark ciock time in the material world, but
'when eleven strikes, all the rest chime in unison'. Clearly Woolf interpolating these descriptions ivith the characters' internal thought
treats systematic philosophy ironically and mockingly: the figures of processes. Thus,in conventional speech, and a conventional novel,
sixty and seventy are plainly arbitrary, each indicating the arbitrari- the opening conversational erchange might take place quite rapidly:
ness of the other. Nevertheless, alongside the ironic treatment is a
'Yes, of course, if it's fine tomorrou;' said Mrs Ramsay to her son. 'But
serious proposition, that clock time and calendar time do not tell the
you'll have to be up with the laik,' she added.
whole truth about time as humans experience it. Rare is the person
'But,' said Mr Ramsa,v, stopping in front of the drawing-room ',vindow,
who can synchronize their sixty or seventy internal times with the
'it won't be fine.'
clock striking cleven; 'The true length of a person's life, whatever 'But it may be fine-I expect it will be fine,' said Mrs Ramsay, making
the Dictionury of National Biogruphy may say, is always a matter of some little twist of the reddish brown stocking she was knitting,
dispute' (O, p. zgt). impatiently.
r24 P hi losop hic al Qrestions P hi lo sophic u I Qle stions 125
'It's due west,' said the atheist Tansley, holding his bony fingers spread comes into play: for example, in James's murderous rage against his
so that the wind blew through them. father in the opening pages of To the Lighthouse.However, elsewhere
'Nonsense,' said Mrs Ramsay, with great severity. (adapted from the different selves are distinguished by other means, and these are
TL, pp. 7-ro) better contextualized by reference to Bergson. For example, in
Between the lines of dialogue, Woolf interpolates the thoughts of the Mrs Dalloway, Clarissa sees herself in her dressing-table mirror and
main characters. James's thoughts in particular have the appearance feels 'an imperceptible contraction'. This contraction has its visible
of an instantaneous revelation, one that endows the pictures in the equivalent in her pursed iips:
mail-order catalogue with 'heavenly bliss' (p. 7). Later in the same
She pursed her lips rvhen she looked in the glass. It was to give her face
novel, Mrs Ramsay asks whether Nancy had gone to the beach with
point. That was her self-pointed; dart-like; definite. That lvas her self
Paul, Minta, and Andrew (p. roo). There is no indication that Prue
when some effort, some call on her to be her self, drew the parts together,
paused for any time before replying in the affirmarive (p. ro7), but she alone knew how different, horv incompatible and composed so for the
within this instant Woolf interpolates a long description of the rvorld only into one centrc) onc diamond (MD, pp. 3vz)
expedition to the beach
Just before this section, there is an instance of the duality of time The distinction she drar,vs berli'een her private and public selves
in which a moment of being is contrasted with material reality. Lily develops her earlier reflections about being both'Clarissa' and .Mrs
and Mr Bankes are on the lawn talking, while Prue plays with a ball, Richard Dallorvay' (p. g); the idea of composing the disparate elem-
and Mr and Mrs Ramsay look on. Mr Bankes's question is inter- ents of the self into a unity is an artistic question that anticipates
rupted by the sudden image of the Ramsays: 'So that is marriage, Mrs Ramsay's later composition of the unified dinner party.
Lily thought, a man and a woman looking at a girl throwing Woolf had explored the same idea in relation to herself; in rgzz, as
a ball. That is what Mrs Ramsay tried to tell me the other night' she was beginning work on llrs Dalloway. Her working routine had
(TL, pp.q8-S). A narratorial voice goes on to describe rhe process been interrupted by a visit from Sydney Waterlow, and she needed to
whereby an ordinary scene can become'symbolical'. While this pro- ease her way back into writing. She distinguishes between b,eing
cess lasts, thinks Lily:, for 'one moment, there was a sense of things 'very, very concentrated, all at one point' (a phrase which anticipates
having been blown apart, of space, of irresponsibility as the ball Clarissa's 'pointed' self), anri having to draw on 'the scattered parts
soared high' (p. g9). Conventional time, as measured by the time it of one's character'. She also distinguishes between the sometimes
wouid take for the ball to return, appears to have been suspended. artificial role of 'Virginia', and the mode of being ,merely a seus_
When Prue catches the returning ball, 'the spell' is broken (p. roo). ibility' when she is writing (Diary, ii. r93). It may seem thar Woolf
The scene not only illustrates Woolfs technique, but might be taken was using her diary to invent ideas of rhe self which she would rater
as a symbol of the narrative juggling at which Wbolf is so adept: employ more confidently in hcr novels. However, she may have been
throwing a conventional narrative ball high into the air-one line of not so much inventing as recollecting.
dialogue, for example-she undertakes a more detailed psychological Bergson was understood b1' many to have championed ,intuition,
description, before catching the returning ball, and completing the at the expense of intellect': intellect was the bad faculty, unnaturally
conventional narrative. distorting time into a spatialized form. However, he conceded that
intellect was a valuable mode of consciousness: although it sliced
reality into somewhat arbitrarv segments, its doing so allowed the
Bergson and Multiple Selves: Mrs Dalloway and The Waaes
human organism to manipulate its environment and so survive.
Throughout her novels, Woolf is aware that each individual contains Intellect and intuition each haye their uses. Sydney Waterlow's rgrz
several distinct selves. At times Sigmund F'reud's distinction exposition particularly emphasized Bergson's doctrine ,that in each
between the conscious and the unconscious (the ego and the id) of us there are two dili'erent seives, one which we reach by deep
n6 P hilosop hical Qtestions P hilo sop hic a I Qrestions r27
remember my past, my nose, or the colour of my eyes, or what my general
introspection, and another, more superficial, which is its "spatial
opinion of myself is. Only in moments of emergency, at a crossing, at a
representati on" ' .26 Unlike the two forms of time, which are
kerb, the wish to preserve my body springs out and seizes me and stops
absolutely distinct, the two selves are opposite ends of a sliding scale:
me, here, before this omnibus. We insist, it seems, on living. (IV, pp. gz-Z)
At one end ofthc scale is the state ofthings that occurs when I react to an Similarly as the friends sit in the restaurant waiting for Percival,
imminent dangcr, as to a sudden blow threatening my eye. Here there is no Neville sees a knife-blade simply as 'a flash of light' and not as 'a
memory but a close approximation to pure perception; my mental lif'e is thing to cut with' (p. qZ). lVere such a state of detached contempla-
narrowed down to a point and consists solely ofa reflex action caused by
tion to persist, Neville would starve, but when Percival arrives,
my brain-process. . . . At the other end of the scale is the diffused mental
knives are restored to their practical function (p. Ioo). Percival has
state which, when we merely remember or are sunk in reverie, includes no
perception of a present object; and, by a process which he [Bergson] this effect either because, as a matter of manners, the group would
describes as onc of dilatation and contraction, our minds range through all not begin eating until all seven members had arrived, or) more
the stages between these two extrcmes.2T symbolically, because Percival is a man of action, and his influence
transforms people's perceptions.
An organism whose mental life consisted only of reflex actions could Language also channels and focuses perceptions: linguistic cat-
never form a larger picture of the universe: it would be almost an egories subdivide reality just as clock time subdivides d,urie. The
automaton. Conversely an organism whose mental lif'e consisted characters in The Waaes are highly self-conscious about the attrac-
solely of reverie would be destroyed by the first 'sudden blow' that tions and limitations of language. Bernard's facility with 'phrase-
struck it. The two mental states are complementary. The relation of making' is seen both as a strength and a limitation. During the
the body to the mind, argues Bergson, is not what we usually imagine. farewell meal with Percival, Bernard asks what deep and shared
The mind needs the body not in order to provide it with sense data, but emotion has brought the group together. It might be convenient to
in order to filter out perceptions: 'lvhat needs explanation is not why call the emotion'love', but 'love' is 'too small and particular a name'.
we perceive an,vthing, but rather why we do not in practice perceive Their emotions have a greater 'width' and 'spread' (W, pp. Io3-4).
everything'; 'thc function of the body is to limit the lif'e of the mind, Bernard implies that language would contract their emotions.
and that with a view to action'.28 The body, to use an image which Similarly, Neville, sitting by a river in the autumn sunlight, asks
Woolf favoured, is a hard shell covering a vulnerable, soft interior. 'Why discriminate?' To name what he is experiencing in the present
Sitting in front of her mirror, Clarissa suddenly contracts from a moment would be to change it (p. 65). Such processes can also apply
diffused mental state to the more pointed form of being 'Mrs Dal- to other people: at one point, Bernard expresses irritation at being
loway'. Whilc her role as a society hostess is not, for heE a matter of 'contracted' into a'single being' by Neville, whose hard, dry intellect
life and death, it nevertheless requires her to focus sharpiy on has undermined his pretentions to complexity (pp.lvz). Likewise
the external world, at the expense of the inner person. Putting Neville, echoing Mrs Richard Dalloway, resents the way that he
this passage in the context of Waterlow's account of Bergson allows appears to be'merely "Neville" ', rvhen to himself he feels immense
us to recognize the sense in which 'Mrs Richard Dalloway' is an and immeasurable (p. tZ8).
automaton) operating simply by reflex. The theme of expansion and contraction is important not only to
Woolf explores similar ideas in The Wapes. Walking through several of the individual characters, but also to the group as, a lvhole.
London, Bernard reflects on the relation between the two selves, Their oscillations between unitv and separateness provide the novel
contrasting a diffuse, reflective state of mind with a more action- with its distinctive narrative pattern, and provide one of many pos-
oriented one: sible explanations of the tjtle The Waues concerns the rhythmical
gathering together and breaking apart of the group. When an indi-
I will let myself be carried on by the general impulse. The surface of my
mind slips along like a pale-grey stream reflecting what passes. I cannot vidual contracts into him- or herself, he or she finds it more difficult
r28 Philosophical Qrestions P h i lo s op h i c a I Qrestions r29
to join with the resr of the group. When the group first reunire at Here, the 'sudden blow threatening the eye' of which waterlow had
Hampton Court, Neville remarks that the 'edges of meeting are still written becomes something more subtle: the intrusion of the
sharp'; there is always someone who refuses to submerge his or her external world into the private space that the two men had created
own identity (W, p. ryl). As the edges are smoothed away, the group for each other, and the intrusion of clock time, as the outside world,s
itself can contract into a unity. Woolf frequently uses ,globe, and its measure of publicly agreed time. The clocks of Harley streer have
cognates in The Waaes, as one way of trying to describe that unity. become something less g'otesque, but equalry painfur in the way
She even, unusually, employs 'globe' as a verb: near the end of the they intrude on personal relations, dividing the united being of
farewell meal, Louis wishes to prolong'the thing that we have made, Bernard and Neville into its component parts.
that globes itselfhere'; Bernard regrets that ideas ,break a thousand
times for once that they globe rhemselves enrire'(pp. rlg, lzg).
('Breaking' again recalls the omnipresent metaphor of waves Alternatives to Flot: 7b the tr ighthouse and. The Waaes
gathering and dispersing.) For many readers, one of the more disconcerting characteristics of
Percival, while he is alive, Srearly helps the group focus itself. In woolfs approach to fiction is her apparent lack of inrerest in inci-
the restaurant, once he has arrived, the group relax and lose their dents, actions, and moral choices. As the philosopher
Jaako Hintikka
edges. Their senses widen, and they become receptive to ,far-away has remarked, her fiction is less concerned with 'our duties and
sounds' (W,p.rro). Objects in the external world blur into a single values', and more with 'rarher basic metaphysical and epistemo-
'roar'; all sounds are'churned into one sound'(p. rrr). In this state logical themes'.2e In their lack of interest in duties and values, her
of group unity, attempts at self-definition ('to say, .,I am this, I am novels contrast sharply with the ,great tradition' defined by tr R.
that"') are false (p. lrz). However, Percival is not essential. Indeed, Leavis' Leavis's 'tradition' consists of Jane Austen, George Eliot,
the novel's philosophical concerns with individual and collective Henry James, and Joseph Conrad, writers whose mastery oi lit.rury
consciousness are also political themes: with the death of percival, form incorporates'moral seriousness'. Leavis does not define ,moral
the six remaining friends must learn to live r,vithout a leader. seriousness' or how it ought to manifest itsel{ but the noyels
Time too in The Waoes follows patterns of dilation and contraction: included in his tradition are characterized by a psychological realism
it is often imaged as gathering to a drop, gradually, and then abruptly that allows the novelist ro create believable characters *ho ur. .moral
falling away. Bernard's recollection of a long conversation with agent[s]'; as moral agents rhey must necessarily make moral choices,
Neville brings together a Bergsonian idea of time with the novel's albeit choices consrrained by circumstances.3o This definition applies
more dominant theme of expansion and contraction. In Bernard,s most clearly to Leavis's criticism of Eliot and
James; less so in rela-
account of their conversation, the two were relaxed and intimate, tion to Austen and conrad. The pivotal moments of moral reflection
immersed in cach other's ideas. Then, suddenly, they heard .a clock and moral choice to be found in Eliot and
James are generally absent
tick', and their state of unity and state of consciousness changed: from woolfs novels. So too are the choices of marital partner that
one finds in courtship narratives, which, in their more elevated
we who had bccn immersed in this wbrld became awrrc of another. It is
painful. It was Neville who changed our time. He, who had bcen thinking forms, are also moral choices about the kind of life the heroine
with the unlimited timc of the mind . . . pokcd the fire and began to live envisages for herself. The clirnactic moment of Nigkt ancl Day
by that other clock which marks the approach of a particular person. The (chapter 3r) is the closesr thar woolf comes to the tradition, echoing
wide and dignilied sweep of his mind contracted. He became on the arert. Dorothea's climacic choice in Eliot's Midtilemarch(chapter Bo). Lily
(W, p. zz8) Briscoe's struggle with the pe.sistent influence of Mrs Ramsay
echoes it more faintly: the obvious difference from earlier novels is
Things becomc 'definite' and 'external'. Neville, it woulcl appear, is that her decision has no obvious consequences for any of the living
expecting another visitor. Their intimacy is lost, and Bernard lcaves. characters.
r30 P hi lo sop hic al Qre stions Philosolthiculfotestions r3r

Woolf, like many of her Bloomsbury contemporaries, was familiar

in itself. Woolfs depictions of groups often show them achieving
with the work of the philosopher G. E. Moore (r873-1958), and his what Moore would term an 'organic unity', in which the whole is
idea of ethics sheds light on Woolf s approach to moral questions in
more than the sum of the parts. Bernard articulates what it means to
her novels. In everyday English 'ethics' denotes the principles of be part of an organic unity at the start of the restaurant scene, iust
conduct in ordinary life or some specialized sphere of it. In his after he has rejected'love' as an adequate description ofthe group's
Principia Ethica (rgo3), Moore defined it rather differently: the dis- emotion. The 'red carnation' in the vase, says Bernard, was 'a singie
flower as we sat here waiting', but nolv the group has become unified,
tinctive quality of the discipline 'Ethics' was not the inveStigation of
it is 'a seven-sided flolver, many-petalled, red, puce, purple-shaded,
'human conduct' or actions, but the investigation of 'the term
stiff with silver-tinted leaves-a whole flower to which every eye
"good" ', and its opposite 'bad'.31 Clearly the term 'good' can apply
to more than conduct alone; if we were to examine conduct alone in
brings its own contribution' (LY, p. ro4). Each contribution is valu-
able in itself, but the whole is more valuable than the sum of its parts.
order to clarify our understanding of 'good', we would achieve only a
limited understanding.'2 1As we shall see, WoolPs own insistent The scepticism about language in The Waaes, discussed earlier, arises
questioning of common assumptions shares something with Moore's because language cannot articulate the sense of wholeness that the
tenacious intcrest in the definition of terms.) An examination of friends feel.
conduct is inadequate because we must distinguish between means In the final chapter of Principiu Ethicu,Moore defined his ideal of
the good as consisting of certain states of consciousness: 'By far the
to an end, and ends in themselves. Good actions are merely means to
an end; 'good' is the end in itself. Good actions are not worthy of most valuable things, which rve know or can imagine, are certain
philosophical attention, because an action which might have a good states of consciousness, lvhich may be roughly described as the
pleasures of human intercourse and the enjoyment of beautiful
effect in 'one particular age and state of society' might not have the
same effect in another.33 Moore did not altogether exclude questions
obiects'.i8 These;tates of consciotisness consisted of organic unities.
Take our consciqrlsness of a beautiful objebt: the object on its own, if
of conduct-the fifth chapter of Principia Ethica was titled 'Ethics in
Relation to Conduct'-but, as John Maynard Keynes recalled in no one is conscious of it, 'has comparatively little value, and is cpm-
r938, Bloomsbury read Moore selectively: it tended to overlook this monly held to have none at all'.3e The other part of the state, con-
chapter and concentrate on the sixth and final chapter, 'The Ideal'.34 sciousness, is also of little value on its own: indeed, it is difficult to
In contextualizing Woolfs work, there is a danger of assimilating imagine consciousness in itsel{, as consciousness is always con-
her to a'Bloomsbury' with which she was not always sympathetic. sciousness o/ something. The value of this state of consciousness
We know that Moore influenced many male members of cannot, therefore, derive from simple addition: the difference in
Bloomsbury, through their membership, at Cambridge, of the select value must be attributed to the organic unity of the two elements.
intellectual society known as 'the Apostles': Moore had become a Moreover, the enjoyment of beautiful objects is complex because a
member in r8g4.r5 This would not in itself make Moore's work a full response (in Moore's opinion) includes both an emotional and a
relevant context for Woolfs, but there is evidence that she soon cognitive element: either on its orvn is comparatively worthless. The
became acquainted with it. It is likely that the Principia Ethica lay same is true of the pleasures of 'human intercourse' and 'personal
behind her discussions of 'the nature of good' with Clive Bell in affection': in Moore's ideal fbrm of human relationship, one
March r9o5; it is certain that, at Bell's suggestion, she read the book appreciates the 'mental qualities' of one's fellow human, but simul*
itself in August r9o8.36 She later depicted Helen Ambrose reading it taneously one appreciates 'thc appropriate clrplreol expression of
in The Voyagc Out; she did not name it, but the passage quoted by the mental qualities in question'.+0
Richard Dalloway is distinctively Moorean (VO, pp.77-8).3' Itis worthwhile reconsidering Bernard and Neville's intimate
Rather than depict moral choices leading to good (or bad) actidns, conversation in this light. The materials of their conversation have,
Woolf attempts to enable her readers to experience the idea of good in Bernard's account, little vaiue in themselves: he has 'a vast
r32 P hiloso p hic aI Qrestions P hilosop hic a I Qre stions r33
accumulation of unrecorded matter' in his head, and occasionally he think that we are most unlike in the values we attach to things; irou
will 'break off a lump': it may be 'Shakespeare' (perhaps a token of will take seriously what is frivolous to me, and vice versa' (Letters,
value), but, less promisingly, it may be 'some old woman called i.3fu,362).
Peck' (Vtr/, p. zzj). The 'lumps' of small talk that Bernard and Such a concern with precision informs the following fragment of
Neville bring to the conversation are not valuable in themselves: it is dialogue in'Kew Gardens':
the process of sharing, and of setting each 'in a better light' (p. zz8)
'Lucky it isn't Friday,' he observed.
that is valuable. In Keynes's summary of Moore, 'Nothing mattered
'Why? D'you believe in luck?'
except states of mind . . . These states of mind were not associated
'They make you pay sixpence on Friday.'
with action or achievement or with consequences. They consisted 'What's sixpence anywayi Isn't it worth sixpencel'
in timeless, passionate states of contemplation and communion, 'What's "itt'-what do you mean by "it"?'
largely unattached to "before" and "after"'.{l Bernard and Neville 'O anything-I mean-you knolv lvhat I mean.' (MW, p. t5)
achieve such a state of mind, but when the clock ticks, the idea of
time reasserts itself. In this scene Woolf combines Moorean The second speaker takes the idiom of the first one literally, and
and Bergsonian ideas about states of consciousness and moments of implicitly criticizes his irrational belief in 'luck'. The first speaker
transition between them. retaliates in an equally Moorean manner by demanding a definition
Woolfs novels often appear to raise questions without providing of it'. The'it' which the second speaker refuses to define is presum-
answers, either through a narrative voice or the voice ofa character. ably the pleasure of walking in the gardens. Underlying this
This quality has seemed a weakness to those who wish to obtain exchange is Moore's most fundamental question, 'What is the good?'
some sort of positive message from a novel, and as a strength to those Is 'it', the experience of r,valking in the gardens, good in itself, or
who like to reach their own conclusions. Woolf's questioning good merely as a means to an end?
approach is in itself philosophical, and resembles the characteristic Although in this extract Woolf appears to have absorbed Moore's
methods of Moore and his generation of Cambridge philosophers. characteristic question of'what exactly', she also keeps her distance
Nloore placed great value on analysis and definition. Most of the from it: the concern with definition belongs to the characters, ndr to
'difficulties and disagreements'in philosophy, he wrote, were due to the author; it manifests itself in an ill-tempered, pedantic combat-
a 'very simple cause': 'the attempt to answer questions, without first iveness. It may be that this habit of mind made only a negative
discovering precisely what question it is which you desire to answer'. contribution, ensuring, as Leonard lVoolf suggested, the absence of
The work of 'analysis and distinction' was an essential preliminary to 'humbug' from Virginia's novels.s To see whether the question of
answering any question.n2 As Keynes recalled, '"'What exactly do definition made a more positive contribution to the novels, we would
you mean?" was the phrase most frequently on our lips. If it need to think ofthem as doubly interrogative: asking questions, and
appeared undcr cross-examination that you did not mean exactly then asking further questions about the terms of the question. For
anything, you lay under a strong suspicion of meaning nothing example, Mrs Dalloway may be taken as asking the question 'Is the
whatever'.+3 war over?', and then asking 'What exactly do you mean by "over"?'
Woolf quickly absorbed this mental discipline. In a letter to Clive The question is hinted at in the opening pages:
Bell, written as she was nearing the end of Principio Ethica, she For it was the middle ofJune. The \\ar \,vas over, except for some one like
adopts a distinctively Moorean approach: 'You ask me whether I like Mrs Foxcroft at the Embassy last night eating her heart out because that
your letters. In what sense do you mean, I wonder?' Having analysed nice boy was killed and now the old Manor House must go to a cousin; or
the differences in their letter-writing modes, she returns to the mat- Lady Bexborough who opened abaz,aa;r, they said, with the telegram in her
ter of defining the question: 'But I tremble as I write! After all, you hand, John, her favourite, killed; but it was over; thank Heaven-over.
may have meant me to answer quite a different question. I often (MD,p.+)
r3+ P hilo sop hic al Qrestions

The logical turn-'except'-makes the reader double back and ask

what'over' really means. We are returned to a Bergsonian question CHAPTER 5
of whether time is continuous or discontinuous. It is not an abstract
philosophical issue, but one of human importance to Septimus, for SOCIETY, INDIVIDUALS, AND CHOICES
whom the war is not over.
To the Lighthouse also makes use of such interrogatives. A concise
and localized example occurs in Lily's discussion with Mr Bankes'
IN 196r, the chapter on Woolf in a guide to modern literature lvas
'But the picture was not of them, she said. Or, not in his sense'(72,
p.7z). The underlying questions here are, {irst, 'Is this a picture of subtitled 'The Theory and Practice of Fiction': it emphasized her
Mrs Ramsay and Jamesl', and secondly, 'What exactly do you mean formal experimentation at the expense of her thematic interests. It
by "of"?' Is the word meant in the sense understood by mimetic art, summarized Mrs Dalktway as if it r,vere primarily the story of
Clarissa and Peter; Septimus's narrirtive was dismissed as a'macabre
or by post-Impressionist art? The interrogative mode goes more
deeply into the novel's concern: the novel's implicit question is . . . episode'.tMore recent accounts have given Septimus far greater
centrality, but it would be possible to overcompensare: foreground-
hinted at by Mrs Ramsay's explicit one, 'what have I done with my
life?'(p. rrz). The question also preoccupies Mr Ramsay, who won- ing Septimus makes the novel more obviously a polemical novel,
ders what will happen to his work and to his reputation after addressing the contemporarl- question of the social conditions
his death, and who also thinks of his children as 'a good bit of work' endured by ex-soldiers. Near the conclusion Richard Dalloway and
(pp. 5o, 94). Their questions lead the reader to ask, 'What exactly do Sir William Bradshaw recognize that Septimus's case, illustrating
you mean by "doing"?', or perhaps 'What exactly do you mean by the 'deferred effects of sheli-shock', is relevant to an unspecified
parliamentaryBill(MD, p. r55). It n'ould, hor,vever, be misleading to
"achievement"?' Should we accept Mr Ramsay's values, and believe
the writing of books to be significant, or should we accept describe Mrs Dalloway as being a novel 'about' shell shock or more
Mrs Ramsay's, and take the raising of children and the making of generally 'about' ex-soldiels; it rvould be a mistake to allow the
marriages to be the rnore important? Weighing Lily's values against
parliamentarian and the doctor to determine its final meaning.
Mrs Ramsay's, should we take the achievement of a perfect and Septimus's mental health is important, but only when one considers
his relation to the other elements in the novel: his literal relations to
memorable evening to be more significant than that of a canvas
which may well be ignored or destroyedl Woolf asks a question about his doctors; and analogical relations, the connections of similarity
and difference that are established between him, Clarissa, and Peter.
'the good', but provides no direct answers.
When Woolf addresses social questions in her work, they appear
obliquely. She creates a fragmentary netlvork of associations, hints,
and connections, but leaves the reader to make the linal connections.2
Identifying the politically charged keywords in the networks requires
a thoroughly textual forrn of contextualization, one that refers as
much to contemporary books and pamphlets as to real events.

Authoritarianisrn and Individualism: Mrs Dalloway

The debate over 'national efficiency' which followed the Boer War
had raised the question of how f'ar the state should be allowed to
exercise its authority over the individual. Though many Liberals
r8o Scientffic and Med,ical Contexts Scientific and Medical Conterts rgr
this a word used only in laboratories: it can be found in at least one being a heap of formless atoms. There is no evidence that Woolf
popular science review that Woolf might have read.42 The modern believed in reincarnation, but the theory'was artistically convenient
novelist, Woolf implies, should see through the world of appear- to her. In The wa'aes Louis certainly claims ro have had previous lives
ances, the world of solid matter, and should show us the truly rest- in ancient Egypt, classical Greece, Eiizabethan England, and in
less and unstable nature of.reality. The 'innumerable atoms' that France at the court of Louis XII he alru<ies to one of these lives
shower our senses are not solid: they form a'semi-transparent envel- immediately after the passage about the flor,ving corn fields. The
ope) or'luminous halo'. Woolfs often-quoted phrases might be used narrator of jac'b's Room advances a wave theory concerning ,the
to describe the appearance of flesh in an X-ray photograph: she beauty of lvomen': 'They all ha'e it; they all lose it,, he says, u.rd go",
implies that the realism of the modern novelist should be the realism on to explain that 'if you talk of a beautiful rvoman you mean only
of the X-ray photograph or of physicists' observations of disinte- something flying fast which for a second uses rhe eyes, lips, or cheeks
grating atoms; it is a realism adequate to a world where nothing of Fanny Elmer, for example, to glow through' (VR, pp.rSZ_g).
is stable. The physicists were dealing with mor.e irbstract waves. In the
.mid-rgzos, the 'solar' theory became incompatible lvith the quantum
theory ofenergy, and tvas rejected. Though the ,solar, atom had been
Waves in The Waoes porous' it consisted of solid particles possessing definite positions
Among the many things suggested by the title of The Waaes is the and velocities. The new theories of the atom recognized that *hen
language of science. Several different aspects of science may be science dealt with structures as small as the atom, the act of observa-
involved: to some the title has suggested wave theories of matter,l3 tion altered the thing being observed. The very waves of light that
but the waves may also refer to scientific accounts of the creation one might use to see into an atom lvoulil disrupt the position or
of the earth. The undulations in The Waaes are not exclusively momentum of its Indeterminacy an<1 uncertainty became
sea-borne: Jinny, at home in the country, notes how the hay 'waves part of physics. In one of the new theories, Erwin Schrridinger's, the
over the meadows' (W, p.3r). Louis, leaving school for a life in universe consisted of another kind of waves, theoretical entities with
business, has a more extended reflection: 'a poignant shadow, a keen no real physical existence.a6 Schriidinger's waves are waves of prob-
accent, falls on these golden bristles, on these poppy-red fields, this ability' In certain places, where the waves converge and coalesce to
flowing corn that never overflows its boundaries, but runs rippling to form a stormy region, they form something recognizable as an
the edge' (pp. St-z). Both descriptions clarify the nature of wave electron. A small concentrated storm indicate, un eiectron with very
motion: the wave is an immaterial form that moves through material definite position, while a larger storm indicates an electron about
particles without permanently changing them. Stalks of wheat sway which the observer can be less certain.+7
backwards and forwards, but remain rooted to the same spot; The charactersin The waoes areconscious that the world does not
particles of water rise and fall, but do not move in the direction of exist independently of the means that we Lrse to observe and describe
the wave. it. In their case, the main tool is language. t\s noted in Chapter
Such theories have a long philosophical and religious history, Neville proposes that mental 'discrimination' akers the lvorld:
beginning before modern science. When W. B. Yeats explained to '[n]othing should be named lest by so doing rve change it, (LV, p. 6).
Woolf that The Waaes expressed in fiction 'the idea of pulsations of His words are waves that ,fall and rise, ro a rhythm: idealiy their
energy throughout the universe', he added that the theory was com- rhythm is sympathetic to the rvorld rhey iiescribe, but there is a
mon to modern physicists and psychic researchers.# Ideas of constant danger that they will become 'artificial' and ,insincere'
reincarnation could be described as wave theories: an immaterial (p. 66). Similarly, as the friends meet ro bid perci'al farewell,
form, the soul, flows through a portion of matter, temporarily giving asks what emotion has brought them together 'at ir particular time,
it shape; when at death the soul leaves the body, the matter reverts to this particular spot': 'Shall we call it, conveniently, ,,love',i, He
r8z Scientifc and, Medical Contexts Scientif,c and, Medical Contexts r83

considers that 'love' is 'too small, too particular a name' to attach to Christmas with her cousins in Lincolnshire, Katharine Hilbery steps
'the width and spread of our feelings'(pp. lo3-4). His use of 'par- into the garden of their country house one December evening to
ticular' is suggestive. Bernard recognizes that the universe can be consider her relationship with William Rodneg rvhom, with little
understood as a collection offinite particles, be they particular places enthusiasm, she expects to marry. Woolf introduces the stars partly
and times, or particular words, but he recognizes that to describe it to remind the reader of Katharine's intellectual ambitions (,Ay'D,

thus leaves out something wider and broader, the waves that flow p. zor). Moreover, Katharine's initial absent-minded attitude
through the particles. Not only the interaction of language with the towards them recalls the scene in chapter r r rvhere she browsed
world, but the interaction of one person with another is described in through William's books (pp. rg9, r44). Horveveq as she focuses
these terms. In one scene, Neville's presence affects Bernard like 'a more distinctly on them, they flash back'a ripple of light'.
long wave': it is 'devastating', 'dragging me open, laying bare the Without knowing or caring more for Church practices than most people of
pebbles on the shore ofmy soul' (p. 7r). Just as the observation ofa her age, Katharine could not look into the sky at Christmas time without
particle reduces all its possible positions and momentums down to feeling that, at this one season, the Heavens bcnd over the earth with
one single measurement, Neville has reduced the many Bernards sympathl', and signal with immortal radiance that they, too, take part in
'into a single being' (p. lz). Although plural, the pebbles also her festival. Somehow, it seemed to her that thel' rvere even now beholding
symbolize the finite world of distinct, countable obiects. the procession of kings and wise men upon somc rord on a distant part of
the earth. And yet, after gazing for another second, the stars did their
As Yeats recognized in the r93os, and as others have recognized
usual work upon the mind, froze to cinders the rvhole of our short human
since, the language and imagery of The LTaoes are suggestive of the
history, and reduced the human body to an ape-lilie, furry form, crouching
ideas of modern physics. However, physics itself did not exist in
amid the brushwood of a barbarous clod of mud. (,\D, pp. zoz-3)
isolation from other disciplines. As we have seen (Chapter 4), the
characteristic contrast between something spread out and something Why, one might ask, does Katharine imagine the stars seeing
'particular' can also be interpreted in terms established by Henri 'now' events which had taken place centulies prer,iouslyi And why
Bergson in the r88os and r89os. Woolf borrows eclectically from does she turn from thinking of Jesus to thinking of an 'ape-like,
various disciplines, sometimes synthesizing, sometimes allowing furry form'?
quite contradictory vocabularies to work within the same novel' Katharine's ideas are informed not only b1,- the vist scale of the
universe, but by popular scientific expositions of the finite velocity of
light. It had been known for over two centuries that light has a finite
Astronomy and Hurnan Isolation: From velocity, but the fact lvas becoming nervly topical as Woolf lvrote
Night and, Dag to The Waaes Night and Day. In everyday human life, u'e ignorc the phenomenon:
Many of Woolf's novels concern the conflicting forces of isolation reading a book, one does not think of the light reflected from its
and communication. Under the guise of privacy and a room of one's pages as 'travelling' towards the retina; the time taken is so infini-
own, isolation can be a positive thing, but it also implies solitude. tesimal that we may disregard it. However, over long distances, it
Hearing of the young man's death, Clarissa Dalloway reflects that becomes significant: if the sun were to be extinguished instant-
'one was alone' (MD, p. 156). More melodramatically, Mr Ramsay aneously, eight minutes would pass before an.vone on earth became
recites from a poem, 'The Castaway', which includes the line 'we aware of its demise. Popular accounts of astronomy used even more
perished, each alone' (TL, pp. 224-il.In the context of such ques- dramatic examples: if one were situated on a suitably distant planet,
tions, Woolf ofien alludes to ideas from astronomy. As a young and possessed an extraordinarily powerfui telescope, a pivotal
woman she had been struck by the way that, in Two on' a Tower, historical event such as the Battle of lVatelloo rvould appear to be
Thomas Hard.v contrasted the stars with'minute human loves' (PA, taking place 'now', in the Woolf saw that 'the telescope is a
pp. 386-7). In Night antl Day she does something similar. Spending time machine of sorts, in that looking out into space always marks

48 Notes to Pages togrrzz I{otes to Po,ges rzz-t j5 239

cHAprER 4.
Philosophical Qgestions zz. J. Harrison, Reminiscences oJ'a Student's Life Hogarth Press,
I. S. P. Rosenbaum, 'The Philosophical Realism of Virginia Woolf, in 23. e.g. C. Brereton, 'The Prussianization of Cornmon Cause,
Rosenbaum (ed.), English Literature and British Philosophy (Chicago: 6/ 3o4 $ Feb. rgr5), 697-8.
University of Chicago Press, r97r), 3fi-56, at 3ft; J. Hintikka, 'Virginia 24 A. Banfield, The Phantom Table: Lltoolf, Fry, Russell and the Epbtemology
Woolf and Our Knowledge qf the External World', Journal of '4esthetics of Modernism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, zooo), 3,1-5;
and Art Criticism,38 (r979-8o), 5-r4, at 5-6. K. Costelloe's paper, 'What Bergson fuleans by "Interpenetration" ', was
R. Fry, 'An Essay in Aesthetics', in Vision and Design (rgzo; Harmonds- read on r3 Feb. 19r3, and printed in Proceedings ofthe Aristotelian Society,
worth: Pelican, tg37), zz. r3 (rgrz-r3), r3r-55.
3. Ibid.23. 25. Gillies, Henri Bergson and British twodernism, rog.
4. J. Harrison, Ancient Art antl Ritual (London: Williams and Norgate, 26. S. Waterlow, 'The Philosophy of Henri Bergson', Qtarterly Reoien, 43o
rgr3), z3o.
$an. rgrz); 15216.
5. A. Gruetzner Robins, Motlern Art in Britain rgro-Igrl (London: Merrell 27. Ibid. r66.
Holberton, ryg7), zr-4; Fry, Cizanne: A Smdy of his Deuelrpm.ent 28. Ibid. r64.
(New York: Macmillan, ry27); Fry,'Chinese Art', Chinese Art, by 29. Hintikka, 'Virginia Woolf and Our Knowledge of the External World', 6.
Fry ct al. (London: B. T. Batsford for the Burlington Magazine, rgz5),
3o. E R. Leavis, The Great Tratlition (19-18; London: Penguin, rgg3), zo, tz7,
5-r2- r29, r3r.
6. D. Grant, Still Lrfe (r.r9r5), and Interior (t9r5), rcproduced in Robins,
3r. G. E. Moore, Principia Ethica (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
Modern Art in Britain, r54, r55. rgo3), t-2,36.
7. V.Bell, Composition (rgr4), reproduced ibid. r57. Ibid. z-3.
8. Fry, 'Essay in Aesthetics', 25.
JJ. Ibid. zz.
g. Harrison, tincient Art and Ritual, r33.
34. J. M. Keynes, 'My Early Bcliefs', in The Collected. l(rhrlgs of lohn
ro. Fry, 'Essay in Aesthetics', 24-S; see also Harrison, Ancient Art and Ritual, Maynard Keynes (London: Nlacmilltn, for the Royal Economic Society,
zto, ztzr 2t6. tgTz), x.433-50, at 446. As Paul Levy notes, however, Lytton Strachey
r r. Fry, 'Essay in Acsthetics', 36. and Leonard Woolf paid at least some attention to the fifth chapter:
tz. e.g. B. Russell, The Problems of Philosophl (Igrz; Oxford: Oxford Moore : G. E. Moore and the Cunbridge Aposries (London: Weidenfeld and
University Prcss, r967), z-3. Nicolson, rgTg),49.
13. E. Mach, Popular Scientifc Lectures, trans. T. J. McCormack, 4th edn.
35. Levy, Moore, tz4-7.
(Chicago: Open Court, rgro), r9z.
36. PA, p. z4g; Letters, i. 34o, 347, 352-3, 357, 364.
r4. K. Pearson, The Grantmar of Science (London: Walter Scott, rSgz), rz8. q (ch.
37. Woolf took the passage from Moore, Principia, r4).
r5. L. Stephen, 'What is Materialism?', in An Agnostic's Apologjt and Other
38. Ibid. r88.
dssays (London: Smith, Elder, and Co., r 893), rz7-67 , at tzg-3r.
39. Ibid. 28.
16. M. H. Whitworth, Einstein's Wake: Relatiaity, Metuphor, and Modernist
Ibid. zo3.
Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, zoor), 97.
+r. Keynes, Collected Writings, x. 436.
r7. L. Stephen, 'What is Materialism?', rzg.
12. Moore, Principia, p. vii.
r8. e.g. H. Elliot, 'The Principle of Relativity', Edinburgh Reaiew, z3z/ 474
43. Keynes, Collected, Writings, 4qo.
(Oct. rgzo), 316-3r, at 3zr; H. Wildon Carr, The Geners,l Principle of L. in
++. Woolf, quoted Rosenbaum, 'Philosophical Realism of Virginia
Relatioity in its Philosophical and Historical Aspect (London: Macmillan, Woolf,3r8.
rgzo), r58.
19. M. Sinclair, ,Mary Oliaier: A Life (London: Cassell and Co., rgrg), 45;
Sinclair's philosophical work, A Defence of Id,ealism (London: Macmillan, cHAPTER 5. Society, Individuals, and Choices
r9r7), engages with Bergson. I. E W. Bradbrook, 'Virginia Woolf: The Theory and Practice of Fiction', in
zo. The critical debate is summarized by Mary Anne Gillies, Henri Bergson B. Ford (ed.), The Mod,ern -.{ga, vol. vii of the Pelican Cuitle to English
and Rritish Modernism (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Qreen's Literuture (r96r; Harmondsworth: Penguin, tg64), z5749.
University Press, 1996), ro7-8. Linden Peach has termed this process 'cryptographic reading': Virginia
zt. Letters of Leonard l|/oolf, ed. F. Spotts (London: Weidenfeld and Wo o lf (Basingstoke : Macmiliar.r, zooo), 3 3-9.
Nicolson, rg89), 485-6, 57r.
2+6 Notes to Pages r78-185 Notes to Puges t86-t94 217

39. This seciion draws upon NI. H. Whitworth, Einstein's llake: Relatiaity, 57.J. W. Graham, 'Point of Vicrv in Thc Wnau', Uniaersity of Toronto
Metaphor, auJ Motlernist Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, Qtarterly,39 (r969-7o), rg3-zrr, at 196.
zoor), 166-<1. 58. Flammarion, Potrular Astrononq/, 617.
4o. Unidentified, quoted byJ. Needham,'Biology and Modern Physics', Nea 59. Beer, Waa e, Atorn, Dino suur, 8; Henry, Virginia Wroolf and the Discourse of
Adelphi, z (Mar.-May ryzg), 286-8, at 288. Science, tot.
4 r . Woolf, 'Modern Novels', in EI4T i|i.3o-7; she also spoke of 'materialists' 6o. Jeans, Mysterious (Jniterse, t.
in the revised form of the essay, 'Modern Fiction' (EVW iv. r57-65), and 6r. Ibid. z.
in.'Character in Fiction' (EyW iii. 4zo-38). 62. 'Telephone', Encyclopetlia Britarnictt', Irth edn' (r9ro-rr)' xxvi. 554,
42. R.J. Strutt, 'A Popular Book on Radio-Activity' [review of The Nep 556.
Knowledge bv R. K. Duncan], Speaker, 13/3zo (r8 Nov. rgo5), 16z-3. 6:. J. H. Heaton, 'An Inrperial 'lelegraph System', Nineteenth Century,
Woolf first contributed to the Speaker in Jan. r9o6. 45/268 (r8SS), 9o6-:'4, at 9Io; J. H. Muirhe4d, 'What Imperialism
43. J. Killen, 'Virginia Woolf in the Light of Modern Physics' (unpublished Means', Fortnightly Reuiew, Ns 68 (Aug. rgoo), 177-87.
PhD thesis, University of Louisville, Kentucky, 1984),84-r17. 64. J. Romains, The Death of a Nobotly, trans. D. MacCarthy and S. Waterlorv
44. W. B. Yeats, paraphrased by S. Spender, Vf/orld, pithin World (Lond,on: (London: Howard Latimer, r9r4), r6.
Hamish Hamilton, ry5r), 164; the occasion was probably z5 Oct. tg34l' 6S. J. H. Jeans, The [Jniaerse arortntl (ls, znd edn. (Cambridge: Cambridge
see Diary, iv. 255; Letters,v.34z. University Press, r9z9), z4o.
.45. A. S. Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, r9z8), zz4. Recontextualizing and Reconstructing Woolf
46. Ibid. zt4 J. H. Jeans, The Mysterious Uniaerse (Cambridge: Cambridge
cHAprER 7.
University Press, r93o), rzo-r. r. M. Cunningham, The Hottrs (1998; London: Fourth Estate' 1999);
47. Eddington, The Nature of the Physical llorld,2tr,214. S. Daldry (director), The Hrturs (zooz).
48. C. Flammarion, Lumen (t872), trans. A. A. M. and R. M. (London: z. R. Campbell, 'Home Thoughts in Bloomsbury' (tgz7), and The Georgiad
William Heinemann, r897), 89-92; E. Slosson, Easy Lessons in Einstein (r93t), in Collected Works, 4 vols. (Craighall: A. D. Donker, r985-88), i'
(London: George Routledge and Sons, ryzo), 4z-45; C. Nordmann, 1j3, r8z-z$: E Swinnerton, The Georgian Literary Sraze (London:
Einstein and the Uniuerse, trans. J. McCabe (London: T. Fisher Unwin, Heinemann, r935).
tgzz),76. - J.
3. Adam Smith, 'The Limitations of Bloomsbury', Lond'on Mercury,
49. H. Henry, Virginia Woolf and the Discourse oJ' Science (Cambridge: (|an. 1939), 353-4; n W. Bradbrook' 'Virginia Woolfi The Theopy
Cambridge University Press, zoo3), 54. una Ftriti.. oiFiction', in B. Forti (ed.), The Modern Age, vol' vii of the
5o. C. Flammarion, Popular Astronorn)/: A General Description of the Heaoens, Pelican Guide to English Literature (196r; Harmondsworth: Penguin,
trans. J. Ellard Gore (London: Chatto and Windus, t8g4), 6ry. ry64),257-69, at 26r.
5r. For a contemporary account, see J. W. N. Sullivan, 'Popular Science', 4. R- Leavis, The Common Pursuit (London: Chatto and Windus, r95z),
Athenaeum, 47rg $ Oct. rgzo), 444-5. 257; N. Annan, 'Bloomsbury and the Leavises', in J' Marcus (ed'),
52. Whitworth, Einstein's Wahe, 37-8. Wrginia Woolf antl Bloomsbury (Basingstoke: Macmillan' r987), z3-38'
53. The drafts appear in Woolf, Notebook zg, Berg Collection, New 5. A. Wilson,'Diversity and Depth', IIS, 18 Aug' 1958, p' viii'
York Public Library, as reproduced on Virginia Woolf: Major Authors 6. Bradbrook, 'Virginia Woolfl, 257.
CD ROM, ed. M. Hussey (Woodbridge, Conn.: Primary Source Media, 7. W. Lewis, Men Withottt Art (tty4), ed. S. Cooney (Santa Rosa: Black
rys7). Sparrow, lg87), r39.
54. V. Sackville-West, The Letters of Vito Sackaille-West to Virginia Woolf, ed. 8. e.g. n. Bhckstone, Virginict' Wooff'(London: Hogarth, 1949),9-to'
L. DeSalvo and M. A. Leaska (r985; San Francisco: Cieis Press, zoor), g. M. Holtoyd, Lytton Strachcy; "1 Critical Biographlt, z vols' (London:
jz, r4g;Woolf, Diary, iii. 337; v. ro7. For a fuller account of Sackville- Chatto and Windus, r968), i. 399,4o2.
West's references, see I. Blyth, 'A Little "Einsteinian" Confusion', ro. Albee's play was firsr performed on Broadway in ry62, and in London in
Virginia Vl/oolf Bulletin, g (lan. zooz), zg-33. 1964; thi ftl- *ut released in 1966. See B. R. Sllvet, Virginia l'Voolf'Icon
.55. Whitworth, Einstein's Wahe, 18r-6. (Chicago and London: Universitv of Chicago Press, 1999), roz-16'
56. A. S. Eddington, Space, Time, anl Craoitation (Cambridge: Cambridge r r. The core acts were rhe Abortion Reform Bill (r967), the Sexual offences
University Press, rgzo), r6t-z; Y. Sackville-West, 'Books in General', Act (1967), the National Health Service (Family Planning) Act (1967)'
Listener,4 (rg Nov. r93o), 844. and the Divorce Reform Act (1969). For a sample of conservative