PENGUIN BOOKS

To the Lighthouse
Virginia Woolf is now recognized as a major twentieth-century author, a great novelist and essayist and a key figure in literary history as a feminist
and a modernist. Born in 1882, she was the daughter of the editor and critic Leslie Stephen, and suffered a traumatic adolescence after the deaths of
her mother, in 1895, and her step-sister Stella, in 1897, leaving her subject to breakdowns for the rest of her life. Her father died in 1904 and two
years later her favourite brother Thoby died suddenly of typhoid. With her sister, the painter Vanessa Bell, she was drawn into the company of
writers and artists such as Lytton Strachey and Roger Fry, later known as the Bloomsbury Group. Among them she met Leonard Woolf, whom she
married in 1912, and together they founded the Hogarth Press in 1917, which was to publish the work of T. S. Eliot, E. M. Forster and Katherine
Mansfield as well as the earliest translations of Freud. Woolf lived an energetic life among friends and family, reviewing and writing, and dividing
her time between London and the Sussex Downs. In 1941, fearing another attack of mental illness, she drowned herself.
Her first novel, The Voyage Out, appeared in 1915, and she then worked through the transitional Night and Day (1919) to the highly experimental
and impressionistic Jacob’s Room (1922). From then on her fiction became a series of brilliant and extraordinarily varied experiments, each one
searching for a fresh way of presenting the relationship between individual lives and the forces of society and history. She was particularly
concerned with women’s experience, not only in her novels but also in her essays and her two books of feminist polemic, A Room of One’s Own
(1929) and Three Guineas (1938). Her major novels include Mrs Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927), the historical fantasy Orlando (1928),
written for Vita Sackville-West, the extraordinary poetic vision of The Waves (1931), the family saga of The Years (1937), and Between the Acts
(1941). All these are published by Penguin, as are her Diaries, Volumes I-V, selections from her essays and short stories, and Flush (1933), a
reconstruction of the life of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s spaniel.
Stella McNichol is the author of a critical study of To the Lighthouse (1971) and of Virginia Woolf and the Poetry of Fiction (1990), and the editor
of a group of Virginia Woolf’s stories, Mrs Dalloway’s Party (1973).
Hermione Lee is the Goldsmiths’ Professor of English Literature and Fellow of New College, Oxford. She reviews for the Observer, The Times
Literary Supplement, the Financial Times, the New York Review of Books, and elsewhere. Her books include The Novels of Virginia Woolf (1977),
Elizabeth Bowen (1981, 1999), Philip Roth (1982), Stevie Smith: A Selection (1983), The Mulberry Tree: Writings of Elizabeth Bowen (1986),
Willa Cather A Life Saved Up (1989), an edition of Willa Cather’s stories (1989), two selections of stories by women writers, TheSecret Self(1985,
reissued 1991), and Virginia Woolf (1996).
Julia Briggs is General Editor for the works of Virginia Woolf in Penguin.
TO THE LIGHTHOUSE
TO THE LIGHTHOUSE
VIRGINIA WOOLF
TEXT EDITED BY STELLA McNICHOL
WITH AN INTRODUCTION
AND NOTES BY HERMIONE LEE
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To the Lighthouse first published by The Hogarth Press 1927
This annotated edition, published in Penguin Books 1992
Reprinted in Penguin Classics 2000
17
Introduction and notes copyright © Hermoine Lee, 1992
Other editorial matter copyright © Stella McNichol, 1992
All rights reserved
The moral right of the editors has been asserted
Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the
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purchaser
CONTENTS
Bibliographical Note
Introduction
Further Reading
A Note on the Text
To THE LIGHTHOUSE
Notes
Appendix I
Appendix II
Bibliographical Note
Bibliographical Note
The following is a list of abbreviated titles used in this edition.
MS: To the Lighthouse: The Original Holograph Draft, transcribed and ed. Susan Dick (Toronto Universitv Press, 1982; Hogarth Press, 1983).
Square brackets are used to indicate words deleted in original draft.
TL: To the Lighthouse, first British edn (Hogarth Press, 5 May 1927).
Moments of Being: Moments of Being: Unpublished Autobiographical Writings of Virginia Woolf ed. Jeanne Schulkind (Chatto & Windus, 1976).
Diary: The Diary of Virginia Woolf, 5 vols., ed. Anne Olivier Bell (Hogarth Press, 1977; Penguin Books, 1979).
Letters: The Letters of Virginia Woolf, 6 vols., ed. Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann (Hogarth Press, 1975–80).
Essays: The Essays of Virginia Woolf 3 vols, (to be 6 vols.), ed. Andrew McNeillie (Hogarth Press, 1986).
CE: Collected Essays, 4 vols., ed. Leonard Woolf (Chatto & Windus, 1966, 1967).
Mausoleum: Sir Leslie Stephen’s Mausoleum Book (1895), introduced by Alan Bell (OUP, 1977).
Introduction
Introduction
To the Lighthouse is the story of a marriage and a childhood. It is a lamentation of loss and grief for powerful, loved, dead parents, which Virginia
Woolf wanted to call an ‘elegy’ rather than a novel. It is, less apparently, about the English class-structure and its radical break with Victorianism
after the First World War. It demonstrates the urgent need for an art form which could, though with great difficulty, adapt to and register that
break. It is all these things at once.
Since fiction is not music or painting or film
1
or unspoken thoughts, it requires formal strategies if it is to try and be several things at once.
These strategies may be as complicated as a whole section written from the point of view of the passage of time, or as simple as a pair of brackets.
Mr Bankes, for instance, has a conversation in brackets on the telephone. He is talking to Mrs Ramsay about a train time. Then he looks out of
the window ‘to see what progress the workmen were making with an hotel which they were building at the back of his house’. The ‘stir among the
unfinished walls’ reminds him of her incongruities. The work outside goes on, inside another pair of brackets – ‘(they were carrying bricks up a
little plank as he watched them)’ – while he builds up his version of Mrs Ramsay’s idiosyncrasies. More than one thing happens at once: what he
says to Mrs Ramsay on the phone and what he thinks of saying; what he sees from his window and what he sees in his mind’s eye; and, in his
mind’s eye, her beauty and her incongruities. More than one time coexists: the time of Mr Bankes’s narrative, which is under pressure to move
onwards (‘Yes, he would catch the 10.30 at Euston’; ‘He must go to his work’); the moments in which she appears to his mind’s eye; and, outside
Mr Bankes’s brackets, the moment in which Mrs Ramsay is knitting her stocking and talking to James.
A great deal goes on in brackets in To the Lighthouse: silent gestures – ‘(she glanced at him musing)’; identifications of a point of view – ‘(James
thought)’; comments and qualifications – ‘(For she was in love with them all, in love with this world)’; reminders – ‘(The bill for the greenhouse
would be fifty pounds)’; sudden deaths; a world war. The middle section, ‘Time Passes’, reads like a long parenthesis between the first and last
sections. Its square brackets enclose the facts of death, as if they belonged to another kind of language. As ‘Time Passes’ comes to a close, its last
section bulges with bracketed phrases about the return of life to the house, which will open themselves out into the third part of the novel. While
she was writing the third part, moving between Lily on the lawn and the Ramsays in the boat, Woolf imagined finishing off Lily and her painting
in brackets: ‘Could I do it in a parenthesis? so that one had the sense of reading the two things at the same time?’
2
Brackets are a way of making more than one thing happen at once. But they also create an unsettling ambiguity about the status of events. What
is more ‘important’, the death of Mrs Ramsay, or the fall of a fold of a green shawl in an empty room? If the novel makes us think of more than
one thing at once, and exists in more than one time, which takes precedence? Is the life of the Ramsays in the garden and house enclosed by the
outside world as if in parenthesis, as the lighthouse is surrounded by the sea? Or is it the Ramsays that are the main text, and everything else is in
brackets?
Often, the outside world – the ‘ordinary’ stuff of early-twentieth-century British life: tube trains, evening papers, tools for the car, platform
speakers, railway tickets, those bricks – impinges on the world of the house, the garden and the lighthouse. Partly this works as a historical
contrast: the Victorian family scene has vanished and become a dream-world – post-war modern life is continuing. But Mr Bankes’s bricks in
brackets don’t just make a simple contrast with his inner vision of Mrs Ramsay ‘running across the lawn in goloshes to snatch a child from mischief.
The bricks and the building of the hotel are like her incongruities – beautiful and busy, ethereal and tough – and they are like the way he is
thinking about her, putting one thing against another, building up a picture. The novel insists that you notice its structuring devices, its brackets and
sections and shifts in vantage points.
While Woolf was in the early stages of To the Lighthouse, in the autumn of 1925, she was preparing a lecture called ‘How Should One Read a
Book?’ (a fragment of which is written in the manuscript of the novel). In it, she compares the thirty-two chapters of a novel to ‘an attempt to
make something as formal and controlled as a building: but words are more impalpable than bricks’.
3
Try, she suggests, to write on ‘some event
that has left a distinct impression on you’, when ‘a whole vision, an entire conception, seemed contained in that moment’. As soon as you attempt
to ‘reconstruct’ it in words, you will find that it ‘breaks into a thousand conflicting impressions’.
This is like a note to herself on the writing of her new novel. The bricks are being trundled up the little plank, the construction is under way.
The building must be ‘formal and controlled’. But the entropic pull towards breakage and fragmentation – ‘things fall apart’ – is immense. And the
difficulty is compounded because what she wants is a basis of strength and structure and an appearance of fluidity and translucence. So the novel
has to be like Mrs Ramsay, its incongruities held in balance.
By means of Lily’s painting, Woolf builds into the novel a commentary on her own processes. Lily’s images for her art – ‘she saw the colour
burning on a framework of steel; the light of a butterfly’s wing lying upon the arches of a cathedral’ – go back to Virginia Stephen’s vision of Santa
Sophia on her visit to Constantinople, recorded in her diary of 1906: ‘thin as glass, blown in plump curves’ and ‘as substantial as a pyramid’.
4
That
dome shape occurs in the novel in the imaginations of Nancy, and of Lily, who thinks of Mrs Ramsay as ‘an august shape, the shape of a dome’.
The dome shape, which combines the solid and the ethereal, was the essence of her plan for the book.
From the beginning, Woolf’s plan was clear to her. She expressed it to herself from the first through lists and inventories of ingredients that – as for
the cooking of the Bœuf en Daube – would have to be held in balance and brought satisfactorily to the boil. When the novel was published in the
the cooking of the Bœuf en Daube – would have to be held in balance and brought satisfactorily to the boil. When the novel was published in the
spring of 1927, she looked back on the ‘unexpected way in which these things suddenly create themselves – one thing on top of another in about
an hour… so I made up The Lighthouse one afternoon in the square here.’
5
The shape of the thing may have come to her all at once (‘without any premeditation, that I can see’, she said in a letter to Vanessa
6
), but the
ingredients had been accumulating for years: since childhood; since the ‘Reminiscences’ she wrote in 1908 about her parents; since the memoir of
‘22 Hyde Park Gate’ written between 1920 and 1921. As early as October 1924, on the day she wrote the last words of Mrs Dalloway, she entered a
cryptic, even ominous, note in her diary, ‘I see already The Old Man’,
7
as though the figure of Mr Ramsay was the next thing she would have to
deal with. By the time Mrs Dalloway was nearing publication, the ingredients for To the Lighthouse were becoming distinct. In her notebook
(‘Notes for Writing’) for 6 March 1925, she envisaged a collection of ‘the stories of people at Mrs. D’s party’ and listed one of them as ‘The picture
– I think of the sea’. On 14 March she was still thinking of a book of stories, and added to her list (square brackets show deletions):
The Past founded on [images?] ancestor worship,
what it amounts to, & means.
Some middle aged woman
of distinguished parents; her
feelings for her father & mother –
[ancient?]
A list of eight story topics follows, and then:
It strikes me that it might all end with a picture.
These stories about people would fill
half the book; & then the other thing would
loom up; & we should step into quite a
different place & people? But what?
On the next page of the notebook, the notes for To the Lighthouse begin:
All character – not a view of the world.
Two blocks joined by a corridor
Topics that may come in:
How her beauty is to be conveyed by the
impression that she makes on all these
people. One after another feeling it without
knowing exactly what she does to them,
to charge her words.
Episode of taking Tansley to call on the poor.
How they see her.
The great cleavages in to which the human
race is split, through the Ramsays not
liking Mr Tansley.
But they liked Mr Carmichael.
Her reverence for learning and painting.
Inhibited, not very personal.
The look of the room – [fiddle?] and sand [shoes?] –
Great photographs covering bare patches.
The beauty is to be revealed the 2nd time
Mr R stops
discourse on sentimentality.
He was quoting The Charge of the Light Brigade
& then impressed upon it was this picture
of mother and child.
How much more important divisions between
people are than between countries.
[Ev] The source of all evil.
She was lapsing into pure sensation –
seeing things in the garden.
The waves breaking. Tapping of cricket balls.
The bark ‘How’s that?’
They did not speak to each other.
Tansley shed
Tansley the product of universities had to
assert the power of his intellect.
She feels the glow of sensation – & how they are
made up of all different things – (what
she has just done) & wishes for some bell to
strike & say this is it. It does strike.
She guards her moment.
8
On 14 May 1925, the day Mrs Dalloway was published, Woolf wrote in her diary that she was ‘all on the strain with desire to… get on to To the
Lighthouse’. Again, she gives a list of ingredients, not the same as those in the notebook:
This is going to be fairly short: to have father’s character done complete in it; & mothers; & St Ives; & childhood; & all the usual things I try to put in – life, death &c. But the centre is
father’s character, sitting in a boat, reciting We perished, each alone, while he crushes a dying mackerel…
9
First, though, she felt she must write the stories she had envisaged in March. They were written by 14 June, and in that time she had ‘thought out,
perhaps too clearly, To the Lighthouse’.
10
(Why too clearly? Because the structure she had given herself presented problems, or because she felt it
was ‘too clearly’ about her parents? This warning note would affect the development of the novel.)
The eight stories which formed the bridge between Mrs Dallomay and To the Lighthouse are all set at Mrs Dalloway’s party, but the tunes of To
the Lighthouse are beginning to be played in them. Mabel Wearing in her embarrassing new dress thinks with relief of her ‘delicious moments’ by
the sea at Easter, with ‘the melody of the waves – “Hush, hush,” they said, & the children’s shouts paddling’. A girl who is about to enter the adult
world of introductions and conversations feels as if she is going to be ‘flung into a whirlpool where either she would perish or be saved’. Mrs
Latham, sitting outside the house in the garden, thinks of the people inside as survivors, a ‘company of adventurers who, set about with dangers,
sail on’. Mr Carslake looks at a comforting picture of a heath and imagines himself on a walk; he is annoyed because walking almost makes him
want to say he believes in God. ‘It seemed to him as if he had been trapped into the words. “To believe in God”.’
11
All these moments, in which an
inner voice or feeling takes the character away from the social context, will be used again in To the Lighthouse.
Two stories anticipate To the Lighthouse more fully. In one, ‘The Man Who Loved His Kind’,
12
there is a prickly encounter between a middle-
aged lawyer who prides himself on liking ‘ordinary people’, smoking shag tobacco and despising society, and a woman who dislikes his egotism,
truculence and laziness. Out of his type, she feels, ‘spring revolutions’. It is a blueprint for the political and sexual conflict between Lily and Charles
Tansley, which has not yet occurred in the list of ingredients for the novel.
The other story is called ‘Ancestors’, and comes from the note to herself about ‘ancestor worship’. A middle-aged woman at Mrs Dalloway’s
party, Mrs Vallance, compares it with her lost family-home in Scotland. Tears come into her eyes as she thinks of her parents, her father’s old
friends, the flowers her mother loved, her father’s reverence for women, herself as a child with ‘dark wild eyes’, picking Sweet Alice and reciting
Shelley’s ‘Ode to the West Wind’ to her father. The parents are dead, but if she had stayed with them in the garden (where it now seems to have
been ‘always starlit, and always summer’), she would have always been happy.
13
‘Ancestors’ is a self-pitying, tearful story, and seems to have provided a warning for Woolf as she began, in June and July, to build ingredients
from these stories into her plans for the novel. She knows, by now, that ‘the sea is to be heard all through it’, and that she would like to be able to
call it an ‘Elegy’ rather than a novel.
14
Listing her ingredients again (‘father & mother & child in the garden; the death; the sail to the lighthouse’),
she is anxious that the theme may be ‘sentimental’. How to thicken and enrich it? Another list ensues, mixing together, as so often, subjects and
processes:
It might contain all characters boiled down; & childhood; & then this impersonal thing, which I’m dared to do by my friends, the ight of time, & the consequent break of unity in my
design.
15
(These anxieties over sentimentality and the need for ‘thickening’ the material were never to leave her. As she came to the end of the first draft, she
asked herself if it was ‘rather thin’,
16
and observed that she was going in dread of ‘sentimentality’.
17
On publication day she was still worrying that
people would call it ‘sentimental’;
18
and she asks Vita Sackville-West the question ‘Do you think it sentimental?’,
19
before any criticism had time to
arrive.) Meanwhile, she is interested by the ‘new problem’ she is setting herself with the passage in time and the ‘break of unity’. (And, she is
reading Proust, the writer who has exactly the combination of sensibility and tenacity – ‘he is as tough as catgut & as evanescent as a butterfly’s
bloom’ –
20
that she is seeking for in her novel.) By July, she is vacillating between ‘a single & intense character of father; & a far wider slower
book’.
21
It needs to be ‘quiet’, but not ‘insipid’. She might ‘do something’ to ‘split up emotions more completely’.
These problems of balance and construction will be re-enacted in the novel, as when Mr Ramsay reads and judges Walter Scott (‘That’s
fiddlesticks, that’s first-rate, he thought, putting one thing beside another’) or when Lily diagnoses the problem of design in her painting, which is
also the problem of understanding the relations between the Ramsays:
For whatever reason she could not achieve that razor edge of balance between two opposite forces; Mr. Ramsay and the picture; which was necessary. There was something perhaps
wrong with the design?… She smiled ironically; for had she not thought, when she began, that she had solved her problem? (p. 209.)
Similarly, Woolf does not solve all her ‘problem’ of design in advance. Her early lists and plans do not seem to envisage Lily and her painting, or
the dinner party. They focus on the character of Mrs Ramsay and the scene of the journey, and on a kind of ‘sentence’ which will carry the narrative
on ‘easily’. They say nothing about a lighthouse, apart from the title, which, unusually for her, she decided on straight away.
She began writing the novel on 6 August 1925, at Monk’s House, and wrote ‘22 pages straight off in less than a fortnight’.
22
But all that summer
she was ill with fainting and headaches and exhaustion. ‘Can’t write’, she said in a letter to Roger Fry, ‘(with a whole novel in my head too – it’s
damnable)’.
23
Instead she wrote an essay ‘On Being Ill’, comparing the effects of illness to those of love: ‘it wreathes the faces of the absent… with
a new significance… while the whole landscape of life lies remote and fair, like the shore seen from a ship far out at sea.’
24
Some writing of the
novel went on that summer (‘I’m for the Isles of Stornaway’, she wrote to Vanessa on 29 September
25
), but she felt dejected and uncertain about
the ‘personal’ aspects of the book (‘It will be too like father, or mother’
26
), and it was not until January that she was launched again.
When she went back to it, she remarked in her notebook that ‘the idea has grown in the interval since I wrote the beginning’. By now she wants
‘the presence of the 8 children, undifferentiated’, to bring out ‘the sense of life in opposition to fate – ie. waves, lighthouse’. She has thought of ‘a
great dinner scene’ and an engagement after it, of Mrs Ramsay with the children choosing her jewelry in the bedroom, of her descending the stairs
and of how ‘all is to draw in towards the end, & leave the two alone’. She thinks of using ‘poetry in quotations to give the character’.
27
Once begun again, the first draft of the novel was written, at a rate of about two pages a day, with speed and fluency (‘Never never have I
written so easily, imagined so profusely’
28
) between January and September 1926. In her life outside the writing of the book there were
complications, distractions, involvements: moves from London to Rodmell; the developing relationship with Vita Sackville-West; social life
(including a memorable visit to see Thomas Hardy); the demands of the Hogarth Press; the General Strike in May (with which Leonard was closely
engaged and which affected the mood, she felt, retrospectively, of ‘Time Passes’
29
); phases of illness; and, in July, ‘a whole nervous breakdown in
miniature’.
30
As she wrote, her feeling that she was striking oil alternated with phases of anxiety. But she forged ahead – ‘close on 40,000 words in 2 months
– my record’, she wrote to Vita
31
– and felt that she was setting herself new targets. She noted to herself on 9 March that she was writing ‘exactly
the opposite from my other books: very loosely at first… & shall have to tighten finally… Also at perhaps 3 times the speed.’
32
The dinner party
would seem to her ‘the best thing I ever wrote’.
33
The ‘Time Passes’ section, which she would describe as having given her ‘more trouble than all
the rest of the book put together’,
34
pleased her for its strategy of ‘collecting’ all the ‘lyric portions’ in one place, so that they ‘dont interfere with
the text so much as usual’.
35
In the last part, particularly towards the end, she wrestled, like Lily, with problems of balance, feeling that the
material in the boat was not so rich ‘as it is with Lily on the lawn’.
36
As she completed the first draft, in September, she went into a period of
intense depression. Out of it, in a curious state of mind, she began to see ‘a fin passing far out’,
37
and the image of ‘a solitary woman musing’:
38
possible premonitions of a next book.
Between October and January she revised the novel, working at the typewriter, and still liking it: ‘easily the best of my books’.
39
During the
period of revision, she and Leonard went for a winter holiday to a house near St Ives, and she wrote ruefully: ‘All my facts about Lighthouses are
wrong.’
40
On 23 January 1927 Leonard read the novel and called it ‘a masterpiece’.
41
Between February and March she revised two sets of proofs
for the American and English editions. Even during this drudgery, and anxiety about its reception, she was still pleased with it:
Dear me, how lovely some parts of The Lighthouse are! Soft & pliable, & I think deep, & never a word wrong for a page at a time.
42
Retrospectively, she saw it as a successful endeavour to do the two things she makes Lily do in the last part of the book: understand her own
feelings, and create a structure that worked – ‘I… got down to my depths & made shapes square up.’
43
Her preoccupation with making shapes repeatedly enters the action of the novel, from the cutting-out of objects from the Army and Navy Stores’
catalogue on the first page, to the final stroke down the middle of Lily’s canvas on the last. The metamorphosing forms of the lighthouse, the
catalogue on the first page, to the final stroke down the middle of Lily’s canvas on the last. The metamorphosing forms of the lighthouse, the
making of the dinner party and the completion of the picture are the three dominant shapes of the book. But, other shapes, which vary and change
depending on perspective (‘So much depends, she thought, upon distance’), enter every scene of the book: the purple triangle of Lily’s picture; the
wedge-shaped core of darkness that Mrs Ramsay sinks down to in solitude; the ‘august dome’ that represents her; the line of letters Mr Ramsay sees
stretching ahead of him into the distance; the knots of rope and shoelace that are tied and untied; the shape of the sonnet; and the island, ‘shaped
something like a leaf stood on end’.
These shapes tend towards, or hover on the edge of, the symbolic, but are not quite solved by being read as firmly explicable ‘symbols’. ‘I am
making some use of symbolism, I observe’, she observes drily, and warily, as she reaches the end of the first draft.
44
But she rapidly backs off from
Roger Fry’s suggestion that arriving at the lighthouse ‘has a symbolic meaning which escapes me’:
I meant nothing by The Lighthouse. One has to have a central line down the middle of the book to hold the design together. I saw that all sorts of feelings would accrue to this, but I
refused to think them out, and trusted that people would make it the deposit for their own emotions – which they have done, one thinking it means one thing another another. I can’t
manage Symbolism except in this vague, generalized way.
45
This canny prediction of the next seventy years’ criticism of To the Lighthouse – ‘one thinking it means one thing another another’ – could be read
as a defensive smokescreen. I prefer to treat it as a useful warning. In her autobiographical writings in Moments of Being, she describes the process
of ‘scene making’ as her ‘natural way of marking the past’, ‘the origin of my writing impulse’. ‘Always a scene has arranged itself: representative,
enduring.’
46
It might be her father sitting in a boat, reciting ‘we perished, each alone’, or her mother sitting by the window knitting while the
children played cricket. These scenes are not codes, they do not ‘stand’ for something else. ‘Representative’ is not the same as ‘symbolic’. More
obscurely, they provide the shapes that are the focal points for strong emotions. So the narrative is made up of scenes which are constructed to
centre around certain shapes. This is why the novel is so much about ways of looking (even when there are no human beings on the scene, the
scene is being looked at, and the narrative is concerned with vantage points and perceptions), as when Lily looks along Mr Bankes’s ‘beam’ and
adds to it ‘her different ray’, or when Mrs Ramsay observes Mr Carmichael looking at the fruit bowl: ‘That was his way of looking, different from
hers. But looking together united them.’ And the need to look through, to make the solid transparent, is repeatedly insisted on. Lily turns Charles
Tansley into ‘an X-ray photograph’, or presses up against Mrs Ramsay, trying to get inside her ‘secret chambers’, or needs a ‘secret sense’ (like the
lighthouse beam) to ‘steal through keyholes’ with.
*
We can make an X-ray of To the Lighthouse, and examine Virginia Woolf’s construction of scenes and the ‘squaring up’ of shapes, by reading the
manuscript of the novel. She had many of the scenes in mind from the start, often in the same order as she ended up with, but an enormous
amount of shaping took place between the first draft (we have no typescript) and the first editions.
47
Susan Dick, introducing her edition of the
manuscript, points out the most notable shifts. As passages are rewritten, particular images – light, waves, the lighthouse – are developed and
thickened (‘to bring out the sense of life in opposition to fate’). Narrative which begins as authorially omniscient is persistently shifted inside a
character’s mental language. Some characters are altered a good deal: there is less emphasis, by the end, on Mrs Ramsay’s inarticulacy, or Lily’s
religious beliefs. Lily begins as a minor character, Miss Sophie Briscoe, a ‘kindly and well-covered’ lady of fifty-five who sketches hedgerows and
thatched cottages and has refused all offers of marriage.
48
Once Sophie has become Lily, she is allowed, in the manuscript, to be more articulate about her political feelings, just as Charles Tansley is
allowed to be more brutally antagonistic towards her and towards the Ramsays. In general, the politics of the novel’s first draft are more explicit.
Lily’s feelings of oppression sitting opposite Tansley at the dinner table, take the form of a debate (more extensive than ‘women can’t paint,
women can’t write’), which reads like a preliminary version of the argument in A Room of One’s Own. Why does she mind what he thinks, she
asks herself.
O it’s Shakespeare, she corrected herself – as a forgetful person entering [Hyde Park] Regents Park, [might wonder why] & seeing the Park keeper was coming towards her menacingly;
[they make on dogs must be on a lead]; might exclaim Oh I remember/ of course dogs must be on a lead! So Lily Briscoe remembered that [everyon] man has Shakespeare [behind
him]; & women have not.
49
But she doesn’t want to express this ‘horror & despair; annihilation; nonentity’ that he makes her feel, because she ‘could not bear to be called, as
she might have been called had she come out with her views a feminist’. There is a line scored all through this passage, and the word ‘feminist’ is
censored from the novel. But the word, and Lily’s argument, will surface two years later in A Room of One’s Own. The fiction and the feminist
polemic are deeply interconnected.
If Lily’s feminism is subdued in To the Lighthouse, so is Tansley’s class feeling about the Ramsays: he despises ‘these upper-middle-class women’;
he reads in his own room about the French Revolution; he is enraged that they don’t recognize that ‘he was going to leave his mark on the world’;
he makes Mr Bankes think of the dangers when ‘a reformer’ arises; and makes Mrs Ramsay think of the poor, not as individuals, but in ‘blocks’. To
her it seems that his ‘love of mankind’ is directly related to ‘his hatred of the arts’. In the manuscript of ‘Time Passes’, the solitary watchers who
walk the beach are identified as ‘preachers and diviners’, driven to despair by ‘the prodigious cannonading’ of the war (which has a more emphatic
presence in the manuscript). Lily, in the manuscript of ‘The Lighthouse’ (in the final draft, too) remembers Tansley lecturing on peace; and James
presence in the manuscript). Lily, in the manuscript of ‘The Lighthouse’ (in the final draft, too) remembers Tansley lecturing on peace; and James
(in the manuscript only) recalls him as one of the ‘detestable’ people – ‘the atheists, the socialists, the pacifists’ – whom his father attracted. It
seems that Tansley is being identified (but more explicitly in the first draft) as one of the ‘watchers and preachers’ – the pacifists and socialists –
who have tried, and failed, to become leaders during the war years.
50
In the manuscript, there is also more emphasis on the endurance of the working classes, like Mrs McNab, in wartime, putting up with what the
‘kings and kaisers’ have brought about. Lurking at the edges of To the Lighthouse are the ‘ordinary people’ of Britain: the sick and poor that Mrs
Ramsay visits in the town, the one-armed billposter, the circus troupe, the handsome unreliable gardener, the Swiss maid, the cook, the
charwomen, the fishermen, the lighthouse-keeper and his son with the tuberculous hip. The Ramsays are Victorian philanthropists – they think of
the servants or the fishermen as individuals, not as a class, and Mr Ramsay (like Scott) admires and envies their simplicity. But the Ramsays’ dinner
parties, their family life, their kind of literature, their domestic arrangements (there seem to be no servants in the house in ‘The Lighthouse’) are
blown away in the war years, and the class that survives is that low form of life that brings the house back from the brink of ruin: Mrs McNab and
Mrs Bast and her son George.
51
It’s unfortunate that Virginia Woolf is so distant from her working class characters that she describes them as
halfwitted troglodytes, and can’t even remember whether she has called her Swiss maid ‘Marie’ (on p. 33) or ‘Marthe’ (on p. 109). All the same, Mr
Ramsay’s anxieties about whether civilization should be judged by ‘the lot of the average human being’ – the ‘slave class’ – and whether
Shakespeare is less necessary than ‘the liftman in the Tube’ is Virginia Woolf’s own anxiety: is the General Strike more important than the writing
of To the Lighthouse?
All this is muted in the final version of the novel, but a political dimension is still implicit. Behind the Ramsay family is a history of
imperialism. Mrs Ramsay’s relatives govern India, and Mr Ramsay, though socially eccentric and not rich, is part of the educational establishment.
He has his own empire, too, the little island of the family. Mr Ramsay’s metaphorical leadership of men is partly a comic fantasy, but is also meant
seriously. He is heroic, but he is also a tyrant. The mixture of courtly veneration and domination with which he treats his wife is a product of the
patriarchal system, as well as being characteristic. Napoleon, Carlyle and the French Revolution are mentioned often enough in the men’s
conversation to make it clear that a male tradition of imperialist despotism (which Tansley, though a pacifist and a socialist, has as his intellectual
inheritance) is being resisted. By whom? By Mrs Ramsay with an alternative language of matriarchy; by Lily with her painting; by William Bankes
with his scientific objectivity; by (the probably homosexual) Augustus Carmichael with his mystical, impersonal Persian poetry; and by the
children. In Moments of Being, Virginia Woolf describes the Stephen children as a republic opposing a tyranny. ‘Vanessa and I were explorers,
revolutionists, reformers’, fighting against their father and half-brothers, both ‘as individuals’ and ‘in their public capacity’.
52
Cam and James’s
conspiracy against tyranny re-enacts that battle: it is a political war, fought in the interests of a freer society (the kind in which Paul and Minta’s
marriage could be perceived as a success rather than a failure) which the Ramsays cannot envisage – or control. ‘Their children would see some
strange things’, says Mr Ramsay to Macalister.
But, as always, Woolf buried the polemical substance of the book below what interested her more: intense emotions, the creation of character
and atmosphere, the rhythms of perception. Again and again, en route from the manuscript to the final version, direct references are eliminated or
obscured. These elisions are made in the interests of fluidity, and one of the most striking and intensive developments in the narrative from first to
final version is in her shaping of roughed-out ideas. Unfinished phrases and loosely written passages are condensed, lyricized and made rhythmical.
A letter to Vita comments on the process:
Style is a very simple matter; it is all rhythm. Once you get that, you can’t use the wrong words. But on the other hand here am I sitting after half the morning, crammed with ideas, and
visions, and so on, and can’t dislodge them, for lack of the right rhythm. Now this is very profound, what rhythm is, and goes far deeper than words. A sight, an emotion, creates this
wave in the mind, long before it makes words to t it; and in writing (such is my present belief) one has to recapture this, and set this working (which has nothing apparently to do
with words) and then, as it breaks and tumbles in the mind, it makes words to fit it.
53
This process of applying words to a wave-like rhythm shows that Woolf’s characteristic fictional tone was the product of a highly engineered and
contrived operation. The wordless movement of the wave that it recaptures might be natural and instinctive, but the recapturing process is all hard
work. In To the Lighthouse, the most spontaneous-sounding lyrical passages have all been much laboured over. Take, for instance, Cam’s rhapsody
over her father. The manuscript version reads:
For nothing/ no one [could be more] attracted her more than this strange old man. His hands were beautiful; & his [strong], shapely feet. His voice was beautiful, & his words. [He]
Above all, his haste & his fervour; his oddity; his ridiculousness; his burning extreme/energy; & his remoteness; [& his] But what remained intolerable, & would forever indicate as with
the suddenly raising, unknown to himself, of an arm, upright, & monitory, & enough to quell the stormiest passions of her heart, [was] his intolerable [arrogance, his irra] demand
upon her, upon James, upon the whole world perhaps; Submit to me.
54
In the final version, the rhythm has been mastered and the words made to ‘fit’ it, the texture has been thickened and filled in with allusions to what
exists outside Cam’s mental language – his quotation, his book, the fish – to make the moment ‘deeper and richer’:
For no one attracted her more; his hands were beautiful to her and his feet, and his voice, and his words, and his haste, and his temper, and his oddity, and his passion, and his saying
straight out before everyone, we perish, each alone, and his remoteness. (He had opened his book.) But what remained intolerable, she thought, sitting upright, and watching
Macalister’s boy tug the hook out of the gills of another sh, was that crass blindness and tyranny of his which had poisoned her childhood and raised bitter storms, so that even now
she woke in the night trembling with rage and remembered some command of his; some insolence: ‘Do this’, ‘Do that’; his dominance: his ‘Submit to me’, (pp. 184–5.)
Or take the end of ‘The Window’, which reads so eloquently and calmly, but which gave her a great deal of trouble. Here is the first version:
She never could say things she felt. So, getting up She stood at the window, with the reddish brown stocking still knitting, & watching the light from the lighthouse. [Now it was so dark
that the sea, on either side, seemed like black marble.] It came & went; [h] direct & strange, & over the sea, like a
And she thought felt/knew [perfectly certain that he] was watching her, & she knew that he was/what/thinking of her, & [The] more beautiful than ever, & she knew that it would
[give him [exqu] great pleasure could she turn & say to him you have made me so perfectly happy; you have] was not necessary to say anything; but no: she could not do it [& that it
was enough for her to turn round with her knitting,] [in the margin: she knew that he wished him to tell him how she loved him], smiling because she had known he & she turned
round, with her knitting, & smiled at him, because – oh of course she was perfectly right; [she] he knew what she felt: & she need only say to him ‘Yes: its going to be wet tomorrow.’
55
She is still making last-minute changes to this in the proofs, hovering between ‘partly because she did not mind looking now, with him watching,
at the Lighthouse’ and ‘partly because she remembered how beautiful it often is – the sea at night’; between ‘And she felt very beautiful’ and ‘And
she felt herself very beautiful’; and between two endings, which place the emphasis, differently, on Mr. and Mrs Ramsay’s feelings:
‘Yes, you were right. It’s going to be wet to-morrow.’ She had not said it, but he knew it. And she looked at him smiling. For she had triumphed again.
‘Yes, you were right. It’s going to be wet to-morrow. You won’t be able to go.’ And she looked at him smiling. For she had triumphed again. She had not said it; yet he knew.
56
The shaping of the final version had a great deal to do with distancing the autobiographical material (‘… it will be too like father, or mother’). So
Julia Stephen’s French ancestry is made Italian (though this doesn’t prevent her from inheriting a French recipe for Bœuf en Daube from her
grandmother!) and her passion for Walter Scott, equal to her husband’s, is cut out so that Scott can be used to bolster Mr Ramsay’s maleness. In
general, the businesslike, efficient side of Julia’s character (much in evidence in her tips for good nursing, Notes from Sick Rooms) is suppressed in
favour of her solitary, brooding, mystical side. Mr Ramsay is no longer seen, like Leslie Stephen, lecturing on agnosticism in ugly halls, as he is in
the first version, and some of the awful scenes between the Ramsay children and their widowed father – scenes which her memoirs in Moments of
Being vividly evoke – are censored.
These autobiographical expurgations should make us wary of reading To the Lighthouse too simply as a literal transcription of Virginia
Stephen’s childhood. Certainly the novel bears a relation to some identifiable sources. The autobiographical reminiscences in Moments of Being
(written both before and after the novel) are often very close.
57
It seems as if she must have reread her father’s 1895 confessional document to his
children, The Mausoleum Book, since several of the details about his feelings for his lost Julia appear in the novel. Though she did not reread her
parents’ letters in 1925, she had laboriously transcribed them in the autumn of 1904 for F. W. Maitland’s biography of her father, published in
1906. And she did go back to her diary for 1905, the year that biography was being written. (She wrote to Vita in January 1926 saying that she had
left the diary either at Long Barn or Charleston, so she must have been rereading it.
58
) The diary contained a record of the Stephen children’s return
to St Ives in the summer of 1905. She was also thinking about her great-aunt, Julia Margaret Cameron, as she was writing an introduction to a book
of her photographs, published in 1926. Cameron’s portraits of Julia Duckworth had been hung on the walls of Gordon Square when the Stephen
children moved to Bloomsbury. Now those mournful images were in her mind again, invoking a double memory: of her mother as she was in
Virginia’s childhood, and of the time, ten years after her death, when she and the other Stephen children were making a new life without their
parents.
But where ‘is’ Virginia Woolf in her retrospect? She ‘is’ the child Rose, choosing her mother’s jewelry in the parental bedroom; she ‘is’ the
adolescent Nancy, making an empire out of a rock pool and drawing in her skirts at the sight of adult passion; she ‘is’ Cam in the nursery being
talked asleep by her mother, and Cam in the boat adoring and hating her father; she ‘is’ also Lily, painting this book.
But, ‘the painting bits’, which she feared Vanessa would laugh at,
59
are drawn from Vanessa and from conversations with Jacques Raverat and
Roger Fry. And Vanessa, with her family of children and her beauty and shabbiness and privacy ‘is’ also Mrs Ramsay: ‘Probably there is a great deal
of you in Mrs. Ramsay.’
60
When Virginia goes to a lecture by Tatiana Tolstoi, she ‘is’ Charles Tansley, hating the upper classes and ‘wishing to
excuse my life to Tolstoi’.
61
The deaths of Prue and Mrs Ramsay, going across the fields in their white wreaths, are obviously ‘about’ the deaths of
Julia Stephen and Virginia’s half-sister, Stella Duckworth, who died so soon after her mother. But in December 1925, she again finds herself
thinking about Katherine Mansfield, ‘that faint ghost’, whose death in 1923 had brought into her mind the image of ‘Katherine putting on a white
wreath, & leaving us, called away; made dignified, chosen.’
62
Possibly Lily’s almost erotic desire for physical closeness to Mrs Ramsay may be
connected to Virginia’s growing feelings for Vita, whom she imagines, while she is writing the novel, as like ‘a lighthouse, fitful, sudden, remote’.
63
Mrs Ramsay’s dark feelings about solitude and death ‘are’ also Virginia’s, and also derive from her reading of De Quincey while she was writing the
novel. (De Quincey was her mother’s favourite writer, but Mrs Ramsay’s liking for him is cut out of the finished version.
64
) Of all these obscure and
complicated connections between the life and the fiction, perhaps the most surprising – and, it may be, the deepest – is between Virginia Woolf
and Mr Ramsay. The comic, tyrannical, charismatic father is often described as the enemy in the novel. But Virginia Stephen used to go walking
and declaiming poetry, like Mr Ramsay. And when he broods on the relation between Shakespeare and the liftman in the tube, or is obsessed
about his own immortality (‘Ah, but how long do you think it’ll last?’), it is not only Leslie Stephen’s anxieties and egotism she is invoking. ‘Murry
has arraigned your poor Virginia’, she writes to Vita in February 1926, ‘and Virginia’s poor Tom Eliot, and all their works, in the Adelphi, and
condemned them to death.’
65
‘Murry says my works won’t be read in 10 years’ time,’ she writes in the diary, next to her joyful exclamation about
the progress of To the Lighthouse: ‘Never never have I written so easily.’
66
John Middleton Murry’s article on ‘The Classical Revival’, which
described Jacob’s Room and The Waste Land as failures that nobody would be reading in ten or fifty years’ time, was as much the source for Mr.
described Jacob’s Room and The Waste Land as failures that nobody would be reading in ten or fifty years’ time, was as much the source for Mr.
Ramsay’s wanting to reach ‘R’ as Leslie Stephen’s lamentations in The Mausoleum Book.
But the simple reading is also right. To the Lighthouse is about her childhood, her relationship with her father as she grew up, her terrible grief
for her mother and her feelings of edgy solidarity with her siblings. It has that peculiarly intimate, deep feeling which comes out of fictions where
childhood memory is being uncovered and appeased, like George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss, Katherine Mansfield’s Prelude, Willa Cather’s My
Antonia or James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Virginia Woolf’s childhood, family and young adulthood were her essential
subjects. She repeatedly wrote about her dead parents (in The Voyage Out, Night and Day, here, and in The Years) and her dead brother (in Jacob’s
Room and The Waves). She knew very well what she was doing for herself in writing To the Lighthouse, and explained it twice, once in the diary
for 1928, about a year and a half after finishing the book, and once, many years later, in the autobiographical ‘Sketch of the Past’ she wrote for her
friends. Both explanations refer to the writing of the novel in therapeutic terms, but one is about her father and the other about her mother:
& could have been 96, like other people one has known; but mercifully was not. His life would have entirely ended mine. What would have
happened? No writing, no books; – inconceivable. I used to think of him & mother daily; but writing The Lighthouse laid them in my mind. And
now he comes back sometimes, but differently. (I believe this to be true – that I was obsessed by them both, unhealthily; & writing of them was a
necessary act.)
67
It is perfectly true that she obsessed me, in spite of the fact that she died when I was thirteen, until I was forty-four. Then one day walking round
Tavistock Square I made up, as I sometimes make up my books, To The Lighthouse; in a great, apparently involuntary rush… I wrote the book
very quickly; and when it was written, I ceased to be obsessed by my mother. I no longer hear her voice; I do not see her.
I suppose that I did for myself what psychoanalysts do for their patients. I expressed some very long felt and deeply felt emotion. And in expressing it I explained it and then laid it
to rest.
68
‘Laid them in my mind’, ‘laid it to rest’, ‘Rest, rest, perturbed spirit!’. ‘Laying’ is what is done to ghosts; they are exorcised so that they will cause no
more trouble to others, but also so that they can be ‘at rest’ themselves. The writing of To the Lighthouse was the closest that Virginia Woolf came,
she says, to undergoing psychoanalysis; she invented her own therapy – the narrative – and exorcised her obsession with both her parents. But it
also seems, from her repeated choice of words when she describes this process, that she felt the writing of the novel to be a way of pacifying their
ghosts.
To the Lighthouse is a ghost story. Mrs Ramsay’s feast derives its magical quality from its mythical resemblance to the Dionysian feast for the
souls of the dead, at which, at the end of the meal, the priest (in this case Mr Carmichael) would address the ghosts of the place placatingly, and
bid them depart.
69
The disembodied voices at the start of ‘Time Passes’ are the prologue to a more extended version of her early sketch, ‘A
Haunted House’. And Mrs Ramsay reappears as a ghost (‘It was part of her perfect goodness to Lily’) at the end of the novel. Like other great
modernist works of the time, in which ghosts break into the modern world – Leopold Bloom’s son Rudi and Stephen Dedalus’s mother in Joyce’s
Ulysses, the ghost of Tiresias in The Waste Land and the ‘familiar compound ghost’ at the end of the Four Quartets – this fiction is itself a ‘haunted
house’.
The mother died; and ‘the house was left; the house was deserted’. The house in St Ives where the Stephen children had spent all their summers
since they were born, and with which Virginia Woolf identified her earliest memories of ‘the purest ecstasy I can conceive’,
70
was given up after
Julia’s death. Woolf spent a great deal of imaginative time trying to return to it, ‘to reach a state where I seem to be watching things happen as if I
were there’.
71
She sees her childhood as a ‘space of time’ which ends on the day of her mother’s death; immediately after that, ‘St Ives vanished for
ever’.
72
Ten years later, the Stephen children went back to Cornwall, walked up to Talland House on the evening they arrived at St Ives, and
looked at it again: ‘It was a ghostly thing to do.’
73
There was the house… there were the stone urns, against the bank of tall owers; all, so far as we could see was as though we had but left it in the morning. But yet, as we knew well,
we could go no further; if we advanced the spell was broken. The lights were not our lights; the voices were the voices of strangers.
74
These unhoused ghosts returning to the lost home have a strong Victorian feeling to them. The diary entry reminds me of Tennyson’s ‘Enoch
Arden’, with its shipwrecked sailor returning years later to his old home, looking in the window to see another man at his hearth with his wife and
family, and creeping away ‘like a thief’. ‘Time Passes’ dwells on the deserted house like the verses of ‘In Memoriam’ which lament the lost rectory
at Somersby:
Unwatched, the garden bough shall sway,
The tender blossom flutter down,
Unloved, that beech will gather brown,
This maple burn itself away…
Till from the garden and the wild
A fresh association blow,
And year by year the landscape grow
Familiar to the stranger’s child.
75
‘The lights were not our lights; the voices were the voices of strangers.’ To the Lighthouse has the emotions of a Victorian pastoral elegy. There is a
Tennysonian mood to it.
76
One of Mr Ramsay’s bursts of quotation, in the manuscript, is Matthew Arnold’s ‘Thyrsis’,
77
the elegy for Arthur Clough,
lost scholar and poet. In this Greek lament translated to the fields of Oxfordshire, the poet looks back on his Arcadia from ‘the great town’s harsh,
heart-wearying roar’, and longs for the language in which the Greek elegiac poets could invoke Proserpine or Orpheus.
The family setting in To the Lighthouse is also a lost garden, often remembered (by Lily or Mr Bankes) from the limbo of the ‘great town’. It is,
of course, full of classical decorations and allusions – Helen, Demeter and Persephone, Bacchus and Neptune, the feast for the dead and the journey
to the underworld. Mr Ramsay’s ‘little book’ (there are more clues to this in the manuscript
78
) is probably his Plato, and the ‘undifferentiated
voices’
79
of the Greek chorus are imitated in the ‘stray airs’ of ‘Time Passes’. But the Greekness of To the Lighthouse is filtered through the
nineteenth century. Mrs Ramsay and Prue stepping with their wreaths and flowers across the fields are Demeter and Proserpine as imagined by
Swinburne or the Pre-Raphaelites or Julia Margaret Cameron. Mr Ramsay ‘doing homage to the beauty of the world’ in the person of his wife and
child sounds like Pater’s rhapsody over the Mona Lisa (even more so in the manuscript, where she looks like ‘the profound spirit brooding over the
waters of life’
80
). (To the Lighthouse has a Victorian nonsense comedy in it, too, with Augustus Carmichael as the Dormouse at the Mad Hatter’s tea
party, and Mr Ramsay bursting out of the bushes at Miss Giddings like the White Rabbit or Lear’s ‘Old Person of Buda, Whose conduct grew ruder
and ruder’.
81
)
But the time of Victorian, neo-classical pastoral has passed: this is a twentieth-century, ‘modern’ novel. The savage break of narrative down the
middle of the book, like Lily’s line down the middle of her painting, is a break with literary tradition as much as with childhood. ‘Time Passes’ was
her most adventurous departure from traditional representation; it alarmed and liberated her:
I cannot make it out – here is the most dicult abstract piece of writing – I have to give an empty house, no people’s characters, the passage of time, all eyeless & featureless with
nothing to cling to; well, I rush at it, & at once scatter out two pages. Is it nonsense, is it brilliance? Why am I so flown with words, & apparently free to do exactly what I like?
82
This drastic break marks an intensified struggle for form in ‘Time Passes’ and ‘The Lighthouse’ (notice how much harder it is to remember the
order things take in these parts), as a new kind of language and shape for fiction is invented. The novel is explicit about this process of invention:
constant comparisons are made between the form this narrative is taking, and the previous, established forms against which it has to measure itself.
So Lily is well aware that ‘she could have done it differently of course’, and has to justify to Mr Bankes the possibility that a purple triangle might
represent the Madonna and Child just as well as a painting by Raphael or Titian. Mr Ramsay’s enthusiasm for the ‘strength and sanity’ of Scott, and
Mrs Ramsay’s for the shape of the Shakespeare sonnet, build in a challenge to this poetic fiction (as Lily is challenged by the ‘formidable’ space of
her untried canvas) to equal its literary predecessors.
The lost safe-house and garden are the traditions of writing from which the new writer has to travel, out into formidable space. But the new
writing keeps trying to find its way back into the past, so that there is an odd tension in the book between the experimental and the nostalgic. In
the last part of the book, there is a painful desire, felt in different ways by Lily, James and Cam, to rediscover the true language of the garden,
which they associate with Mrs Ramsay. On the first page, James has the colours and sounds of that garden as his ‘secret language’. In the boat he
tries to get back to the sound of the garden, before the wheel went over a foot, crushing it, and his father’s world of rain and greyness took over.
This is even more explicit in the manuscript, where the world of his mother’s language is described as ‘that miraculous garden… before the fall of
the world (& he did really divide time into the space before the catastrophe, & the space after)’.
83
In James’s Oedipal narrative, Eden, or Arcadia,
‘that miraculous garden’ which precedes the law of the father, is a place where ‘people spoke in an ordinary tone of voice’ and where his mother
‘alone spoke the truth’. Cam, too, remembers her mother speaking a rhythmical and nonsensical nursery language of mountains and birds and
gardens to send her to sleep, a language which has become a foreign tongue in the adult world but which can be recapitulated in dream or
solitude.
84
The novel’s task is to make its new language re-embody – through rhythm, images and shapes – that first, vanished language.
To the Lighthouse is about something ending, and it contains a number of endings: Mrs Ramsay’s story to James (‘And that’s the end’); the last
volume of Middlemarch left on the train by Minta Doyle; the end of Scott’s story about poor Steenie drowning that Mr Ramsay reads after dinner
(‘Well, let them improve upon that, he thought as he finished the chapter’); the little book he finishes as his journey to the lighthouse ends (‘Mr
Ramsay had almost done reading’ – and so have we when we read that); and Lily’s ‘vision’. To the Lighthouse has so much to do with endings
because its subject is death, not just people dying and being mourned, but the wish for death. ‘If she had said half what he said,’ Mrs Ramsay thinks
of her husband, ‘she would have blown her brains out by now’. She goes into action at the dinner party like a sailor who sets off again wearily, but
would almost rather have ‘found rest on the floor of the sea’. I don’t suppose Mrs Ramsay kills herself (though Lily, in the manuscript, ‘had never
heard how she had died: only “Suddenly” ’
85
), but her deep sense of the cruelty and sadness of being alive are at the bottom of the whole novel.
As well as endings, though, there are recurrences. A number of things happen twice. There are two dinner parties, the one Mrs Ramsay has in
mind in ‘The Window’ (from which her sons and daughters disappear ‘directly the meal was over’) and the one we see in full. There are two
journeys to the lighthouse, the promised and the actual. There are two lighthouses, too, as seen by James: ‘For nothing was simply one thing’.
There are two paintings, the one Lily starts in ‘The Window’ and the one she starts again in ‘The Lighthouse’. The Ramsays’ lives, like the novel,
give off ‘constantly a sense of repetition’. And Mrs Ramsay returns at the end as the model for Lily’s painting, in the same position she took up in
‘The Window’. The ending of the novel is poised between arriving and returning, getting somewhere (‘he must have reached it’) and being finished.
This dark book of loss and grief begins and ends with sentences starting ‘Yes’: yes, and a tentative conditional future (‘if it’s fine to-morrow’); yes,
and an immediately vanished past (‘I have had my vision’). The ‘yes’ of narrative – something shaped, but liable always to shapelessness – keeps
having to be reaffirmed.
Hermione Lee 1991
NOTES
1. Woolf wrote an essay called ‘Cinema’ in April 1926, while in the early stages of writing TL, in which she imagined a cinema of the future that
would use its ‘picture making power’ to make thoughts visible, like smoke pouring from Vesuvius (CE, II, p. 271).
2. Diary, III, 5 Sept. 1926, p. 106.
3. CE, II, p. 2.
4. Quoted by Lyndall Gordon in Virginia Woolf: A Writer’s Life (OUP, 1984, p. 112), who makes this connection between the form of TL and her
vision of Santa Sophia. See ‘The Window’, Note 67.
5. Diary, III, 14 March 1927, pp. 131–2.
6. Letter to Vanessa Bell, 8 May 1927, Letters, III, p. 370.
7. Diary, II, 17 Oct. 1924, p. 317.
8. MS, appendix A, pp. 44–5, 47–50.
9. Diary, III, 14 May 1925, pp. 18–19.
10. ibid., 14 June 1925, p. 29.
11. Virginia Woolf, The Complete Shorter Fiction, ed. Susan Dick (Hogarth Press, 1985, pp. 169, 179, 203, 197).
12. ibid., pp. 189–94.
13. ibid., pp. 175–7.
14. Diary, III, 27 June 1925, p. 34.
15. ibid., 20 July 1925, p. 36.
16. ibid., 5 Sept. 1926, p. 106.
17. ibid., 13 Sept. 1926, p. 110.
18. ibid., 5 May 1927, p. 134.
19. Letter to Vita Sackville-West, 13 May 1927, Letters, III, P. 374.
20. Diary, III, 8 April 1925, p. 7.
21. ibid., 30 July 1925, p. 37.
22. ibid., 5 Sept. 1925, p. 39.
23. Letter to Roger Fry, 16 Sept. 1925, Letters, III, p. 208.
24. CE, IV, pp. 194–5.
25. Letter to Vanessa Bell, 29 Sept. 1925, Letters, III, p. 217.
26. Diary, III, 7 Dec. 1925, p. 49.
27. MS, p. 3.
28. Diary, III, 8 Feb. 1926, p. 58.
29. Letter to Vita Sackville-West, 13 May 1927, Letters, III, p. 374.
30. Diary, III, 31 July 1926, p. 103.
31. Letter to Vita Sackville-West, 16 March 1926, Letters, III, p. 249.
32. MS, p. 3.
33. Letter to Vita Sackville-West, 13 May 1927, Letters, III, P. 373.
34. Letter to Ottoline Morrell, 15 May 1927, ibid., p. 378.
35. Diary, III, 5 Sept. 1926, p. 107.
36. ibid., 13 Sept. 1926, p. 109.
37. ibid., 30 Sept. 1926, p. 113.
38. ibid., 30 Oct. 1926, p. 114.
39. ibid., 23 Nov. 1926, p. 117.
40. Letter to Angus Davidson, 25 Dec. 1926, Letters, III, p. 310.
41. Diary, III, 23 Jan. 1927, p. 123.
42. ibid., 21 March 1927, p. 132.
43. ibid., 7 Nov. 1928, p. 203.
44. ibid., 13 Sept. 1926, p. 109.
45. Letter to Roger Fry, 27 May 1927, Letters, III, p. 385.
46. Moments of Being, p. 122.
47. There were two first editions, American and English, which contain considerable variations. Even at the proof-reading stage she was making
changes. See Appendix II for the main differences between the two texts.
48. MS, p. 29.
49. MS, p. 136.
50. MS, pp. 137, 148, 152, 216, 316.
51. As the name Bast suggests, there is a resemblance to Howards End, and to Forster’s feeling that the middle classes might be redeemed by an
injection of life from below. Mrs Ramsay slightly resembles Mrs Wilcox, and the Ramsays’ abandoned house, ‘Howards End’.
52. Moments of Being, pp. 126–7. On p. 105, she describes the Stephen children as a ‘republic’.
53. Letter to Vita Sackville-West, 16 March 1926, Letters, III, p. 247.
54. MS, p. 290.
55. MS, p. 197.
56. ‘The Window’, section 19, To the Lighthouse, first American edn (Harcourt, Brace & Co., 5 May 1927).
57. See note references to Moments of Being.
58. Letter to Vita Sackville-West, 7 Jan. 1926, Letters, III, p. 227.
59. Letter to Vanessa Bell, 8 May 1927, ibid., p. 372.
60. Letter to Vanessa Bell, 25 May 1927, ibid., p. 383.
61. Letter to Vita Sackville-West, 31 Jan. 1926, ibid., p. 236.
62. Diary, II, 16 Jan. 1923, p. 226; Diary, III, 7 Dec. 1925, p. 50.
63. Letter to Vita Sackville-West, 23 Sept. 1925, Letters, III, p. 215.
64. See ‘The Window’, Note 102.
65. Letter to Vita Sackville-West, 3 Feb. 1926, Letters, III, p. 238.
66. Diary, III, 8 Feb. 1926, p. 58.
67. ibid., 28 Nov. 1928, p. 208.
68. Moments of Being, p. 81.
69. Woolf would have read about this in her friend Jane Harrison’s Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion (CUP, 1903, 1908, 1922). See ‘The
Window’, Note 32.
70. Moments of Being, p. 65.
71. ibid., p. 67.
72. ibid., p. 117.
73. Letter to Violet Dickinson, Aug. 1905, Letters, I, p. 204.
74. A Passionate Apprentice, ‘Diary 1905’, p. 282. Lyndall Gordon notes that Woolf again returned to Talland House in 1936, the summer she was
writing The Waves and close to a breakdown.
75. The Poems of Alfred Tennyson, ed. C. Ricks (Longman, 1969 P. 954).
76. See ‘The Window’, Note 77; ‘The Lighthouse’, Note 20.
77. See ‘The Window’, Note 40.
78. See ‘The Lighthouse’, Note 12.
79. ‘On Not Knowing Greek’ (CE, I, p. 5).
80. MS, p. 69.
81. The Complete Nonsense of Edward Lear (Faber, 1947, p. 14).
82. Diary, III, 18 April 1926, p. 76.
83. MS, p. 309.
84. The replacement of the maternal, rhythmic language with the law of the father, closely resembles Lacan’s account of the child’s entry into the
symbolic order.
85. MS, p. 303.
Further Reading
Further Reading
T. J. Rice’s Virginia Woolf: A Guide to Research (Garland, 1984), lists 107 articles on TL, in addition to 90 general critical books and 257 general
critical articles, and there has been a great deal more written since then. Out of all this, essential biographical reading is still Quentin Bell’s two
volume biography Virginia Woolf (Hogarth Press, 1972), to which I would add Noel Annan’s Leslie Stephen: The Godless Victorian (Weidenfeld &
Nicolson, 1984), Lyndall Gordon’s Virginia Woolf: A Writer’s life (OUP, 1984) and Phyllis Rose’s Woman of Letters: A Life of Virginia Woolf (OUP,
1978). I list my essential primary sources in the Bibliographical Note.
For illuminating discussions of the narrative methods of TL, see Erich Auerbach, ‘The Brown Stocking’ in Mimesis: The Representation of Reality
in Western Literature (1946) (trans. W. Trask, Princeton University Press, 1953) and chapter fourteen of Allen McClaurin’s Virginia Woolf. The
Echoes Enslaved (CUP, 1973).
For the mythology of the novel, see Joseph Blotner, ‘Mythic Patterns in To the Lighthouse’ (PMLA, NO. 71, 1956, pp. 547 ff.); Madeline Moore,
‘Some Female Versions of Pastoral: The Voyage Out and Matriarchal Mythologies’ in New Feminist Essays on Virginia Woolf (ed. Jane Marcus,
Macmillan, 1981, pp. 82–104); and Maria di Battista, Virginia Woolf s Major Novels: The Fables of Anon (Yale University Press, 1980). For Walter
Scott in TL, see S. Cohan, ‘Why Mr Ramsay reads The Antiquary’ in Women and Literature (No. 2, vol. 7, spring 1979, pp. 14–24). For the
evolution of the text of TL, see J. A. La vin, ‘The First editions of Virginia Woolf s To the Lighthouse’ in Proof (No. 2, 1972, pp. 185–211) and To
the Lighthouse: The Original Holograph Draft, transcribed and edited by Susan Dick (Toronto University Press, 1982; Hogarth Press, 1983). For
interesting feminist readings of TL, see Rachel Bowlby, Virginia Woolf: Feminist Destinations, ch. 4, (Blackwell, 1988) and Margaret Homans,
‘Mothers and Daughters in Virginia Woolf’s Victorian Novel’ in Bearing the Word: Language and Female Experience in Nineteenth-Century
Women’s Writing (Chicago University Press, 1986). There is a useful collection of essays in Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse: A Casebook (ed.
Morris Beja, Macmillan, 1970).
A Note on the Text
A Note on the Text
The text of this edition of To the Lighthouse is based on the original British edition published by Leonard and Virginia Woolf at The Hogarth Press
on 5 May 1927, of which a second impression appeared in June 1927 and a third impression in May 1928. In 1930 a ‘New Edition’ was published;
it included a few substantive emendations, and also one new substantive error, ‘dower’ for ‘power’ on p. 119 (this edition, p.83; the ‘d’ is in fact an
inverted ‘p’; evidently the first letter of the line had worked loose and been wrongly replaced), which was perpetuated in subsequent British
editions from The Hogarth Press (1932–77), J. M. Dent & Sons (1938) and Granada Publishing (1977).
The first American edition was published by Harcourt, Brace & Company on 5 May 1927. Later impressions of this edition, and the Harcourt
Brace Jovanovich Harvest edition, follow it without variation.
The two first editions, British and American, published on the same day, contain a large number of substantive and accidental variant readings;
the substantive ones alone total 174; neither the list in the Concordance to To the Lighthouse edited by James M. Haule and Philip H. Smith, Jr
(Oxford, 1983) nor that in the Definitive Collected Edition of the Novels of Virginia Woolf (The Hogarth Press, 1990) includes all of them. A small
selection is given in Appendix II. Some of these substantive variants are no doubt the result of printers’ errors, and others may have been
introduced by an American copy editor, but the majority must be due to the fact that Virginia Woolf, revising her novel while it was in proof, and
marking one set of proofs for return to her Edinburgh printers (R. & R. Clark, Limited) and another set for forwarding to her American publishers,
did not alter the two sets of proofs consistently. The original holograph draft, which is housed in the New York Public Library (Henry W. and
Albert A. Berg Collection) and which has been edited by Susan Dick (Toronto University Press, 1982; The Hogarth Press, 1983), is of some
evidential value, though it represents an earlier stage in composition than the typescript and the revised proofs.
What is certain is that Virginia Woolf never emended the British first edition by collating the American one. The half-dozen substantive
emendations introduced into the 1930 ‘New Edition’ are independent of the American edition, and the mis-numbering of subsections 2 to 14 of
‘The Lighthouse’, though corrected in the American edition (undoubtedly by a copy editor), was not corrected in a Hogarth Press edition until
1943, two years after the author’s death. (In Dent’s 1938 edition it had been guessingly rectified, again by a copy editor, by dividing the first
subsection into two.) There is nothing to show that Virginia Woolf so much as saw a copy of the American first edition.
For these reasons the first British edition has been taken as the basis of this Penguin edition. It has, however, been carefully scrutinized, and a
number of substantive emendations have been either adopted or conjectured; a list of these is given in Appendix I, with brief textual notes where
these are appropriate. When Virginia Woolf’s diction is idiosyncratic (for instance, p. 47.17, ‘Tears had flown in her presence’, where ‘flown’ is
intended to be the past participle of the verb ‘flow’, not that of the verb ‘fly’) it has not, of course, been interfered with. Nor, in the main, has her
inconsistent and idiosyncratic punctuation, irritating though many readers will find it (particularly her frequently beginning a subordinate clause
with a comma and neglecting to end it with one). Such non-substantive emendations as have been made (for instance, p. 25.21, the printing of the
first British edition’s ‘sand hills’ as ‘sandhills’, the form which it takes on its two closely following occurrences, or, p. 62.25, the insertion of
secondary quotation marks when Mrs Ramsay is speaking aloud the dialogue in the story she is reading to James) have not been listed; though they
are few in number it would be unprofitable to draw readers’ attention to them.
Stella McNichol 1991
Facsimile of the title page of the first edition.
TO THE LIGHTHOUSE
TO THE LIGHTHOUSE
VIRGINIA WOOLF
PUBLISHED BY LEONARD & VIRGINIA WOOLF AT THE HOGARTH PRESS, 52 TAVISTOCK SQUARE, LONDON, W.C. 1927
Contents
I
The Window
II
Time Passes
III
The LightHouse
I
I
THE WINDOW
1
1
‘Yes, of course, if it’s fine to-morrow,’ said Mrs. Ramsay. ‘But you’ll have to be up with the lark,’ she added.
To her son these words conveyed an extraordinary joy, as if it were settled the expedition
2
were bound to take place, and the wonder to which
he had looked forward, for years and years it seemed, was, after a night’s darkness and a day’s sail, within touch. Since he belonged, even at the age
of six, to that great clan which cannot keep this feeling separate from that, but must let future prospects, with their joys and sorrows, cloud what is
actually at hand, since to such people even in earliest childhood any turn in the wheel of sensation has the power to crystallise and transfix the
moment upon which its gloom or radiance rests, James Ramsay, sitting on the floor cutting out pictures from the illustrated catalogue of the Army
and Navy Stores,
3
endowed the picture of a refrigerator as his mother spoke with heavenly bliss. It was fringed with joy. The wheelbarrow, the
lawn-mower, the sound of poplar trees, leaves whitening before rain, rooks cawing, brooms knocking, dresses rustling – all these were so coloured
and distinguished in his mind that he had already his private code, his secret language, though he appeared the image of stark and
uncompromising severity, with his high forehead and his fierce blue eyes, impeccably candid and pure, frowning slightly at the sight of human
frailty, so that his mother, watching him guide his scissors neatly round the refrigerator, imagined him all red and ermine on the Bench or directing
a stern and momentous enterprise in some crisis of public affairs.
‘But,’ said his father, stopping in front of the drawing-room window, ‘it won’t be fine.’
Had there been an axe handy, a poker, or any weapon that would have gashed a hole in his father’s breast and killed him, there and then,
James would have seized it. Such were the extremes of emotion that Mr. Ramsay excited in his children’s breasts by his mere presence; standing, as
now, lean as a knife, narrow as the blade of one, grinning sarcastically, not only with the pleasure of disillusioning his son and casting ridicule
upon his wife, who was ten thousand times better in every way than he was (James thought), but also with some secret conceit at his own accuracy
of judgement. What he said was true. It was always true. He was incapable of untruth; never tampered with a fact; never altered a disagreeable
word to suit the pleasure or convenience of any mortal being, least of all of his own children, who, sprung from his loins, should be aware from
childhood that life is difficult; facts uncompromising; and the passage to that fabled land where our brightest hopes are extinguished, our frail
barks
4
founder in darkness (here Mr. Ramsay would straighten his back and narrow his little blue eyes upon the horizon), one that needs, above
all, courage, truth, and the power to endure.
‘But it may be fine – I expect it will be fine,’ said Mrs. Ramsay, making some little twist of the reddish-brown stocking she was knitting,
impatiently. If she finished it tonight, if they did go to the Lighthouse after all, it was to be given to the Lighthouse keeper for his little boy, who
was threatened with a tuberculous hip;
5
together with a pile of old magazines, and some tobacco, indeed whatever she could find lying about, not
really wanted, but only littering the room, to give those poor fellows who must be bored to death sitting all day with nothing to do but polish the
lamp and trim the wick and rake about on their scrap of garden, something to amuse them. For how would you like to be shut up for a whole
month at a time, and possibly more in stormy weather, upon a rock the size of a tennis lawn? she would ask; and to have no letters or newspapers,
and to see nobody; if you were married, not to see your wife, not to know how your children were, – if they were ill, if they had fallen down and
broken their legs or arms; to see the same dreary waves breaking week after week, and then a dreadful storm coming, and the windows covered
with spray, and birds dashed against the lamp, and the whole place rocking, and not be able to put your nose out of doors for fear of being swept
into the sea? How would you like that? she asked, addressing herself particularly to her daughters. So she added, rather differently, one must take
them whatever comforts one can.
‘It’s due west,’ said the atheist Tansley,
6
holding his bony fingers spread so that the wind blew through them, for he was sharing Mr. Ramsay’s
evening walk up and down, up and down the terrace. That is to say, the wind blew from the worst possible direction for landing at the Lighthouse.
Yes, he did say disagreeable things, Mrs. Ramsay admitted; it was odious of him to rub this in, and make James still more disappointed; but at the
same time, she would not let them laugh at him. ‘The atheist’, they called him; ‘the little atheist’. Rose mocked him; Prue mocked him; Andrew,
Jasper, Roger mocked him; even old Badger without a tooth in his head had bit him, for being (as Nancy put it) the hundred and tenth young man
to chase them all the way up to the Hebrides
7
when it was ever so much nicer to be alone.
‘Nonsense,’ said Mrs. Ramsay, with great severity. Apart from the habit of exaggeration which they had from her, and from the implication
(which was true) that she asked too many people to stay, and had to lodge some in the town, she could not bear incivility to her guests, to young
men in particular, who were poor as church mice, ‘exceptionally able’, her husband said, his great admirers, and come there for a holiday. Indeed,
she had the whole of the other sex under her protection; for reasons she could not explain, for their chivalry and valour, for the fact that they
negotiated treaties, ruled India,
8
controlled finance; finally for an attitude towards herself which no woman could fail to feel or to find agreeable,
something trustful, childlike, reverential; which an old woman could take from a young man without loss of dignity, and woe betide the girl – pray
Heaven it was none of her daughters! – who did not feel the worth of it, and all that it implied, to the marrow of her bones.
She turned with severity upon Nancy. He had not chased them, she said. He had been asked.
They must find a way out of it all. There might be some simpler way, some less laborious way, she sighed. When she looked in the glass
9
and
saw her hair grey, her cheek sunk, at fifty, she thought, possibly she might have managed things better – her husband; money; his books. But for her
own part she would never for a single second regret her decision, evade difficulties, or slur over duties. She was now formidable to behold, and it
was only in silence, looking up from their plates, after she had spoken so severely about Charles Tansley, that her daughters – Prue, Nancy, Rose –
could sport with infidel ideas which they had brewed for themselves of a life different from hers; in Paris, perhaps; a wilder life; not always taking
care of some man or other; for there was in all their minds a mute questioning of deference and chivalry, of the Bank of England and the Indian
Empire, of ringed fingers and lace, though to them all there was something in this of the essence of beauty, which called out the manliness in their
girlish hearts, and made them, as they sat at table beneath their mother’s eyes, honour her strange severity, her extreme courtesy, like a Queen’s
raising from the mud a beggar’s dirty foot and washing it, when she thus admonished them so very severely about that wretched atheist who had
chased them to – or, speaking accurately, been invited to stay with them in – the Isle of Skye.
‘There’ll be no landing at the Lighthouse to-morrow,’ said Charles Tansley, clapping his hands together as he stood at the window with her
husband. Surely, he had said enough. She wished they would both leave her and James alone and go on talking. She looked at him. He was such a
miserable specimen, the children said, all humps and hollows. He couldn’t play cricket; he poked; he shuffled. He was a sarcastic brute, Andrew
said. They knew what he liked best – to be for ever walking up and down, up and down, with Mr. Ramsay, and saying who had won this, who had
won that, who was a ‘first-rate man’ at Latin verses, who was ‘brilliant but I think fundamentally unsound’, who was undoubtedly the ‘ablest fellow
in Balliol’, who had buried his light temporarily at Bristol or Bedford, but was bound to be heard of later when his Prolegomena,
10
of which Mr.
Tansley had the first pages in proof with him if Mr. Ramsay would like to see them, to some branch of mathematics or philosophy saw the light of
day. That was what they talked about.
She could not help laughing herself sometimes. She said, the other day, something about ‘waves mountains high’. Yes, said Charles Tansley, it
was a little rough. ‘Aren’t you drenched to the skin?’ she had said. ‘Damp, not wet through,’ said Mr. Tansley, pinching his sleeve, feeling his socks.
But it was not that they minded, the children said. It was not his face; it was not his manners. It was him – his point of view. When they talked
about something interesting, people, music, history, anything, even said it was a fine evening so why not sit out of doors, then what they
complained of about Charles Tansley was that until he had turned the whole thing round and made it somehow reflect himself and disparage
them, put them all on edge somehow with his acid way of peeling the flesh and blood off everything, he was not satisfied. And he would go to
picture galleries, they said, and he would ask one, did one like his tie? God knows, said Rose, one did not.
Disappearing as stealthily as stags from the dinner-table directly the meal was over, the eight sons and daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay sought
their bedrooms, their fastnesses in a house where there was no other privacy to debate anything, everything; Tansley’s tie; the passing of the Reform
Bill;
11
sea-birds and butterflies; people; while the sun poured into those attics, which a plank alone separated from each other so that every
footstep could be plainly heard and the Swiss girl sobbing for her father who was dying of cancer in a valley of the Grisons,
12
and lit up bats,
flannels, straw hats, ink-pots, paint-pots, beetles, and the skulls of small birds, while it drew from the long frilled strips of seaweed pinned to the
wall a smell of salt and weeds, which was in the towels too, gritty with sand from bathing.
Strife, divisions, difference of opinion, prejudices twisted into the very fibre of being, oh that they should begin so early, Mrs. Ramsay deplored.
They were so critical, her children. They talked such nonsense. She went from the dining-room, holding James by the hand, since he would not go
with the others. It seemed to her such nonsense – inventing differences, when people, heaven knows, were different enough without that. The real
differences, she thought, standing by the drawing-room window, are enough, quite enough. She had in mind at the moment, rich and poor, high
and low; the great in birth receiving from her, half grudging, some respect, for had she not in her veins the blood of that very noble, if slightly
mythical, Italian house,
13
whose daughters, scattered about English drawing-rooms in the nineteenth century, had lisped so charmingly, had
stormed so wildly, and all her wit and her bearing and her temper came from them, and not from the sluggish English, or the cold Scotch; but more
profoundly she ruminated the other problem, of rich and poor, and the things she saw with her own eyes, weekly, daily, here or in London, when
she visited this widow, or that struggling wife in person with a bag on her arm, and a note-book and pencil with which she wrote down in
columns carefully ruled for the purpose wages and spendings, employment and unemployment, in the hope that thus she would cease to be a
private woman whose charity was half a sop to her own indignation, half a relief to her own curiosity, and become, what with her untrained mind
she greatly admired, an investigator, elucidating the social problem.
Insoluble questions they were, it seemed to her, standing there, holding James by the hand. He had followed her into the drawing-room, that
young man they laughed at; he was standing by the table, fidgeting with something, awkwardly, feeling himself out of things, as she knew without
looking round. They had all gone – the children; Minta Doyle and Paul Rayley; Augustus Carmichael; her husband – they had all gone. So she
turned with a sigh and said, ‘Would it bore you to come with me, Mr. Tansley?’
She had a dull errand in the town; she had a letter or two to write; she would be ten minutes perhaps; she would put on her hat. And, with her
basket and her parasol, there she was again, ten minutes later, giving out a sense of being ready, of being equipped for a jaunt, which, however,
she must interrupt for a moment, as they passed the tennis lawn, to ask Mr. Carmichael, who was basking with his yellow cat’s eyes ajar, so that
she must interrupt for a moment, as they passed the tennis lawn, to ask Mr. Carmichael, who was basking with his yellow cat’s eyes ajar, so that
like a cat’s they seemed to reflect the branches moving or the clouds passing, but to give no inkling of any inner thoughts or emotion whatsoever, if
he wanted anything.
For they were making the great expedition, she said, laughing. They were going to the town. ‘Stamps, writing-paper, tobacco?’ she suggested,
stopping by his side. But no, he wanted nothing. His hands clasped themselves over his capacious paunch, his eyes blinked, as if he would have
liked to reply kindly to these blandishments (she was seductive but a little nervous) but could not, sunk as he was in a grey-green somnolence
which embraced them all, without need of words, in a vast and benevolent lethargy of well-wishing; all the house; all the world; all the people in
it, for he had slipped into his glass at lunch a few drops of something, which accounted, the children thought, for the vivid streak of canary-yellow
in moustache and beard that were otherwise milk-white. He wanted nothing, he murmured.
He should have been a great philosopher, said Mrs. Ramsay, as they went down the road to the fishing village, but he had made an unfortunate
marriage. Holding her black parasol very erect, and moving with an indescribable air of expectation, as if she were going to meet someone round
the corner, she told the story; an affair at Oxford with some girl; an early marriage; poverty; going to India; translating a little poetry ‘very
beautifully, I believe’, being willing to teach the boys Persian or Hindustanee,
14
but what really was the use of that? – and then lying, as they saw
him, on the lawn.
It flattered him; snubbed as he had been, it soothed him that Mrs. Ramsay should tell him this. Charles Tansley revived. Insinuating, too, as she
did the greatness of man’s intellect, even in its decay, the subjection of all wives – not that she blamed the girl, and the marriage had been happy
enough, she believed – to their husband’s labours, she made him feel better pleased with himself than he had done yet, and he would have liked,
had they taken a cab, for example, to have paid the fare. As for her little bag, might he not carry that? No, no, she said, she always carried that
herself. She did too. Yes, he felt that in her. He felt many things, something in particular that excited him and disturbed him for reasons which he
could not give. He would like her to see him, gowned and hooded, walking in a procession. A fellowship, a professorship, – he felt capable of
anything and saw himself – but what was she looking at? At a man pasting a bill. The vast flapping sheet flattened itself out, and each shove of the
brush revealed fresh legs, hoops, horses, glistening reds and blues, beautifully smooth, until half the wall was covered with the advertisement of a
circus; a hundred horsemen, twenty performing seals, lions, tigers… Craning forwards, for she was shortsighted, she read out how it… ‘will visit this
town.’ It was terribly dangerous work for a one-armed man, she exclaimed, to stand on top of a ladder like that – his left arm had been cut off in a
reaping machine two years ago.
‘Let us all go!’ she cried, moving on, as if all those riders and horses had filled her with child-like exultation and made her forget her pity.
‘Let’s go,’ he said, repeating her words, clicking them out, however, with a self-consciousness that made her wince. ‘Let us go to the Circus.’ No.
He could not say it right. He could not feel it right. But why not? she wondered. What was wrong with him then? She liked him warmly, at the
moment. Had they not been taken, she asked, to circuses when they were children? Never, he answered, as if she asked the very thing he wanted to
reply to; had been longing all these days to say, how they did not go to circuses. It was a large family, nine brothers and sisters, and his father was a
working man;
15
‘My father is a chemist, Mrs. Ramsay. He keeps a shop.’ He himself had paid his own way since he was thirteen. Often he went
without a greatcoat in winter. He could never ‘return hospitality’ (those were his parched stiff words) at college. He had to make things last twice
the time other people did; he smoked the cheapest tobacco; shag; the same the old men smoked on the quays. He worked hard – seven hours a
day; his subject was now the influence of something upon somebody – they were walking on and Mrs. Ramsay did not quite catch the meaning,
only the words, here and there… dissertation… fellowship… readership… lectureship. She could not follow the ugly academic jargon, that rattled
itself off so glibly, but said to herself that she saw now why going to the circus had knocked him off his perch, poor little man, and why he came
out, instantly, with all that about his father and mother and brothers and sisters, and she would see to it that they didn’t laugh at him any more; she
would tell Prue about it. What he would have liked, she supposed, would have been to say how he had been to Ibsen
16
with the Ramsays. He was
an awful prig – oh yes, an insufferable bore. For, though they had reached the town now and were in the main street, with carts grinding past on
the cobbles, still he went on talking, about settlements, and teaching, and working men, and helping our own class, and lectures, till she gathered
that he had got back entire self-confidence, had recovered from the circus, and was about (and now again she liked him warmly) to tell her – but
here, the houses falling away on both sides, they came out on the quay, and the whole bay spread before them and Mrs. Ramsay could not help
exclaiming, ‘Oh, how beautiful!’ For the great plateful of blue water was before her; the hoary
17
Lighthouse, distant, austere, in the midst; and on
the right, as far as the eye could see, fading and falling, in soft low pleats, the green sand dunes with the wild flowing grasses on them, which
always seemed to be running away into some moon country, uninhabited of men.
That was the view, she said, stopping, growing greyer-eyed, that her husband loved.
She paused a moment. But now, she said, artists had come here. There indeed, only a few paces off, stood one of them, in Panama hat and
yellow boots, seriously, softly, absorbedly, for all that he was watched by ten little boys, with an air of profound contentment on his round red face,
gazing, and then, when he had gazed, dipping; imbuing the tip of his brush in some soft mound of green or pink. Since Mr. Paunceforte
18
had been
there, three years before, all the pictures were like that she said, green and grey, with lemon-coloured sailing-boats, and pink women on the beach.
But her grandmother’s friends, she said, glancing discreetly as they passed, took the greatest pains; first they mixed their own colours, and then
they ground them, and then they put damp cloths on them to keep them moist.
19
So Mr. Tansley supposed she meant him to see that that man’s picture was skimpy, was that what one said? The colours weren’t solid? Was that
what one said? Under the influence of that extraordinary emotion which had been growing all the walk, had begun in the garden when he had
wanted to take her bag, had increased in the town when he had wanted to tell her everything about himself, he was coming to see himself and
everything he had ever known gone crooked a little. It was awfully strange.
There he stood in the parlour of the poky little house where she had taken him, waiting for her, while she went upstairs a moment to see a
woman. He heard her quick step above; heard her voice cheerful, then low; looked at the mats, tea-caddies, glass shades; waited quite impatiently;
looked forward eagerly to the walk home, determined to carry her bag; then heard her come out; shut a door; say they must keep the windows
open and the doors shut, ask at the house for anything they wanted (she must be talking to a child), when, suddenly, in she came, stood for a
moment silent (as if she had been pretending up there, and for a moment let herself be now), stood quite motionless for a moment against a
picture of Queen Victoria wearing the blue ribbon of the Garter;
20
and all at once he realised that it was this: it was this: – she was the most
beautiful person he had ever seen.
With stars in her eyes and veils in her hair, with cyclamen and wild violets – what nonsense was he thinking? She was fifty at least; she had
eight children. Stepping through fields of flowers and taking to her breast buds that had broken and lambs that had fallen; with the stars in her eyes
and the wind in her hair – He took her bag.
‘Good-bye, Elsie,’ she said, and they walked up the street, she holding her parasol erect and walking as if she expected to meet someone round
the corner, while for the first time in his life Charles Tansley felt an extraordinary pride; a man digging in a drain stopped digging and looked at
her; let his arm fall down and looked at her; Charles Tansley felt an extraordinary pride; felt the wind and the cyclamen and the violets for he was
walking with a beautiful woman for the first time in his life. He had hold of her bag.
2
2
‘No going to the Lighthouse, James,’ he said, as he stood by the window, speaking awkwardly, but trying in deference to Mrs. Ramsay to soften his
voice into some semblance of geniality at least.
Odious little man, thought Mrs. Ramsay, why go on saying that?
3
3
‘Perhaps you will wake up and find the sun shining and the birds singing,’ she said compassionately, smoothing the little boy’s hair, for her
husband, with his caustic saying that it would not be fine, had dashed his spirits she could see. This going to the Lighthouse was a passion of his,
she saw, and then, as if her husband had not said enough, with his caustic saying that it would not be fine to-morrow, this odious little man went
and rubbed it in all over again.
‘Perhaps it will be fine to-morrow,’ she said, smoothing his hair.
All she could do now was to admire the refrigerator, and turn the pages of the Stores list in the hope that she might come upon something like a
rake, or a mowing-machine, which, with its prongs and its handles, would need the greatest skill and care in cutting out. All these young men
parodied her husband, she reflected; he said it would rain; they said it would be a positive tornado.
But here, as she turned the page, suddenly her search for the picture of a rake or a mowing-machine was interrupted. The gruff murmur,
irregularly broken by the taking out of pipes and the putting in of pipes which had kept on assuring her, though she could not hear what was said
(as she sat in the window), that the men were happily talking; this sound, which had lasted now half an hour and had taken its place soothingly in
the scale of sounds pressing on top of her, such as the tap of balls
21
upon bats, the sharp, sudden bark now and then, ‘How’s that? How’s that?’ of
the children playing cricket, had ceased; so that the monotonous fall of the waves on the beach, which for the most part beat a measured and
soothing tattoo to her thoughts and seemed consolingly to repeat over and over again as she sat with the children the words of some old cradle
song, murmured by nature, ‘I am guarding you – I am your support’, but at other times suddenly and unexpectedly, especially when her mind
raised itself slightly from the task actually in hand, had no such kindly meaning, but like a ghostly roll of drums remorselessly beat the measure of
life, made one think of the destruction of the island and its engulfment in the sea, and warned her whose day had slipped past in one quick doing
after another that it was all ephemeral as a rainbow – this sound which had been obscured and concealed under the other sounds suddenly
thundered hollow in her ears and made her look up with an impulse of terror.
22
They had ceased to talk; that was the explanation. Falling in one second from the tension which had gripped her to the other extreme which, as
if to recoup her for her unnecessary expense of emotion, was cool, amused, and even faintly malicious, she concluded that poor Charles Tansley
had been shed. That was of little account to her. If her husband requited sacrifices (and indeed he did) she cheerfully offered up to him Charles
Tansley, who had snubbed her little boy.
One moment more, with her head raised, she listened, as if she waited for some habitual sound, some regular mechanical sound; and then,
hearing something rhythmical, half said, half chanted, beginning in the garden, as her husband beat up and down the terrace, something between a
croak and a song, she was soothed once more, assured again that all was well, and looking down at the book on her knee found the picture of a
pocket knife with six blades which could only be cut out if James was very careful.
Suddenly a loud cry, as of a sleep-walker, half roused, something about
Stormed at with shot and shell
23
sung out with the utmost intensity in her ear, made her turn apprehensively to see if any one heard him. Only Lily Briscoe, she was glad to find;
and that did not matter. But the sight of the girl standing on the edge of the lawn painting reminded her; she was supposed to be keeping her head
as much in the same position as possible for Lily’s picture. Lily’s picture! Mrs. Ramsay smiled. With her little Chinese eyes and her puckered-up
face she would never marry; one could not take her painting very seriously; but she was an independent little creature, Mrs. Ramsay liked her for
it, and so remembering her promise, she bent her head.
4
4
Indeed, he almost knocked her easel over, coming down upon her with his hands waving, shouting out ‘Boldly we rode and well’, but, mercifully,
he turned sharp, and rode off, to die gloriously she supposed upon the heights of Balaclava. Never was anybody at once so ridiculous and so
alarming. But so long as he kept like that, waving, shouting, she was safe; he would not stand still and look at her picture. And that was what Lily
Briscoe could not have endured. Even while she looked at the mass, at the line, at the colour, at Mrs. Ramsay sitting in the window with James, she
kept a feeler on her surroundings lest someone should creep up, and suddenly she should find her picture looked at. But now, with all her senses
quickened as they were, looking, straining, till the colour of the wall and the jacmanna
24
beyond burnt into her eyes, she was aware of someone
coming out of the house, coming towards her; but somehow divined, from the footfall, William Bankes, so that though her brush quivered, she did
not, as she would have done had it been Mr. Tansley, Paul Rayley, Minta Doyle, or practically anybody else, turn her canvas upon the grass, but let
it stand. William Bankes stood beside her.
They had rooms in the village, and so, walking in, walking out, parting late on door-mats, had said little things about the soup, about the
children, about one thing and another which made them allies; so that when he stood beside her now in his judicial way (he was old enough to be
her father too, a botanist, a widower, smelling of soap, very scrupulous and clean) she just stood there. He just stood there. Her shoes were
excellent, he observed. They allowed the toes their natural expansion. Lodging in the same house with her, he had noticed too, how orderly she
was, up before breakfast and off to paint, he believed, alone: poor, presumably, and without the complexion or the allurement of Miss Doyle
certainly, but with a good sense which made her in his eyes superior to that young lady. Now, for instance, when Ramsay bore down on them,
shouting, gesticulating, Miss Briscoe, he felt certain, understood.
Someone had blundered.
Mr. Ramsay glared at them. He glared at them without seeming to see them. That did make them both vaguely uncomfortable. Together they had
seen a thing they had not been meant to see. They had encroached upon a privacy. So, Lily thought, it was probably an excuse of his for moving,
for getting out of earshot, that made Mr. Bankes almost immediately say something about its being chilly and suggest taking a stroll. She would
come, yes. But it was with difficulty that she took her eyes off her picture.
The jacmanna was bright violet; the wall staring white. She would not have considered it honest to tamper with the bright violet and the staring
white, since she saw them like that, fashionable though it was, since Mr. Paunceforte’s visit, to see everything pale, elegant, semi-transparent. Then
beneath the colour there was the shape. She could see it all so clearly, so commandingly, when she looked: it was when she took her brush in hand
that the whole thing changed. It was in that moment’s flight between the picture and her canvas that the demons set on her who often brought her
to the verge of tears and made this passage from conception to work as dreadful as any down a dark passage for a child. Such she often felt herself
– struggling against terrific odds to maintain her courage; to say: ‘But this is what I see; this is what I see’, and so to clasp some miserable remnant
of her vision to her breast, which a thousand forces did their best to pluck from her. And it was then too, in that chill and windy way, as she began
to paint, that there forced themselves upon her other things, her own inadequacy, her insignificance, keeping house for her father off the Brompton
Road, and had much ado to control her impulse to fling herself (thank Heaven she had always resisted so far) at Mrs. Ramsay’s knee and say to her
– but what could one say to her? ‘I’m in love with you?’ No, that was not true. ‘I’m in love with this all’, waving her hand at the hedge, at the
house, at the children? It was absurd, it was impossible. One could not say what one meant. So now she laid her brushes neatly in the box, side by
side, and said to William Bankes:
‘It suddenly gets cold. The sun seems to give less heat,’ she said, looking about her, for it was bright enough, the grass still a soft deep green, the
house starred in its greenery with purple passion flowers, and rooks dropping cool cries from the high blue. But something moved, flashed, turned
a silver wing in the air. It was September after all, the middle of September, and past six in the evening. So off they strolled down the garden in
the usual direction, past the tennis lawn, past the pampas grass, to that break in the thick hedge, guarded by red-hot pokers like brasiers of clear
burning coal, between which the blue waters of the bay looked bluer than ever.
They came there regularly every evening drawn by some need. It was as if the water floated off and set sailing thoughts which had grown
stagnant on dry land, and gave to their bodies even some sort of physical relief. First, the pulse of colour flooded the bay with blue, and the heart
expanded with it and the body swam, only the next instant to be checked and chilled by the prickly blackness on the ruffled waves. Then, up
behind the great black rock, almost every evening spurted irregularly, so that one had to watch for it and it was a delight when it came, a fountain
of white water; and then, while one waited for that, one watched, on the pale semicircular beach, wave after wave shedding again and again
smoothly a film of mother-of-pearl.
They both smiled, standing there. They both felt a common hilarity, excited by the moving waves; and then by the swift cutting race of a sailing
boat, which, having sliced a curve in the bay, stopped; shivered; let its sail drop down; and then, with a natural instinct to complete the picture,
after this swift movement, both of them looked at the dunes far away, and instead of merriment felt come over them some sadness – because the
thing was completed partly, and partly because distant views seem to outlast by a million years (Lily thought) the gazer and to be communing
already with a sky which beholds an earth entirely at rest.
Looking at the far sandhills, William Bankes thought of Ramsay: thought of a road in Westmorland, thought of Ramsay striding along a road by
himself hung round with that solitude which seemed to be his natural air. But this was suddenly interrupted, William Bankes remembered (and this
must refer to some actual incident), by a hen, straddling her wings out in protection of a covey of little chicks, upon which Ramsay, stopping,
pointed his stick and said ‘Pretty – pretty,’ an odd illumination into his heart, Bankes had thought it, which showed his simplicity, his sympathy
with humble things; but it seemed to him as if their friendship had ceased, there, on that stretch of road. After that, Ramsay had married. After that,
what with one thing and another, the pulp had gone out of their friendship. Whose fault it was he could not say, only, after a time, repetition had
taken the place of newness. It was to repeat that they met. But in this dumb colloquy with the sand dunes he maintained that his affection for
Ramsay had in no way diminished; but there, like the body of a young man laid up in peat for a century, with the red fresh on his lips, was his
friendship, in its acuteness and reality laid up across the bay among the sandhills.
He was anxious for the sake of this friendship and perhaps too in order to clear himself in his own mind from the imputation of having dried
and shrunk – for Ramsay lived in a welter of children, whereas Bankes was childless and a widower – he was anxious that Lily Briscoe should not
disparage Ramsay (a great man in his own way) yet should understand how things stood between them. Begun long years ago, their friendship had
petered out on a Westmorland road, where the hen spread her wings before her chicks; after which Ramsay had married, and their paths lying
different ways, there had been, certainly for no one’s fault, some tendency, when they met, to repeat.
Yes. That was it. He finished. He turned from the view. And, turning to walk back the other way, up the drive, Mr. Bankes was alive to things
which would not have struck him had not those sandhills revealed to him the body of his friendship lying with the red on its lips laid up in peat –
for instance, Cam, the little girl, Ramsay’s youngest daughter. She was picking Sweet Alice on the bank. She was wild and fierce. She would not
‘give a flower to the gendeman’ as the nursemaid told her. No! no! no! she would not! She clenched her fist. She stamped. And Mr. Bankes felt aged
and saddened and somehow put into the wrong by her about his friendship. He must have dried and shrunk.
The Ramsays were not rich, and it was a wonder how they managed to contrive it all. Eight children! To feed eight children on philosophy!
Here was another of them, Jasper this time, strolling past, to have a shot at a bird, he said, nonchalantly, swinging Lily’s hand like a pump-handle
as he passed, which caused Mr. Bankes to say, bitterly, how she was a favourite. There was education now to be considered (true, Mrs. Ramsay had
something of her own perhaps) let alone the daily wear and tear of shoes and stockings which those ‘great fellows’, all well grown, angular,
ruthless youngsters, must require. As for being sure which was which, or in what order they came, that was beyond him. He called them privately
after the Kings and Queens of England; Cam the Wicked, James the Ruthless, Andrew the Just, Prue the Fair – for Prue would have beauty, he
thought, how could she help it? – and Andrew brains. While he walked up the drive and Lily Briscoe said yes and no and capped his comments
(for she was in love with them all, in love with this world) he weighed Ramsay’s case, commiserated him, envied him, as if he had seen him divest
himself of all those glories of isolation and austerity which crowned him in youth to cumber himself definitely with fluttering wings and clucking
domesticities. They gave him something – William Bankes acknowledged that; it would have been pleasant if Cam had stuck a flower in his coat or
clambered over his shoulder, as over her father’s, to look at a picture of Vesuvius in eruption; but they had also, his old friends could not but feel,
destroyed something. What would a stranger think now? What did this Lily Briscoe think? Could one help noticing that habits grew on him?
eccentricities, weaknesses perhaps? It was astonishing that a man of his intellect could stoop so low as he did – but that was too harsh a phrase –
could depend so much as he did upon people’s praise.
‘Oh but,’ said Lily, ‘think of his work!’
Whenever she ‘thought of his work’ she always saw clearly before her a large kitchen table. It was Andrew’s doing. She asked him what his
father’s books were about. ‘Subject and object and the nature of reality’,
25
Andrew had said. And when she said Heavens, she had no notion what
that meant, ‘Think of a kitchen table then’, he told her, ‘when you’re not there’.
So she always saw, when she thought of Mr. Ramsay’s work, a scrubbed kitchen table. It lodged now in the fork of a pear tree, for they had
reached the orchard. And with a painful effort of concentration, she focused her mind, not upon the silver-bossed bark of the tree, or upon its fish-
shaped leaves, but upon a phantom kitchen table, one of those scrubbed board tables, grained and knotted, whose virtue seems to have been laid
bare by years of muscular integrity, which stuck there, its four legs in air. Naturally, if one’s days were passed in this seeing of angular essences, this
reducing of lovely evenings, with all their flamingo clouds and blue and silver to a white deal four-legged table (and it was a mark of the finest
minds so to do), naturally one could not be judged like an ordinary person.
Mr. Bankes liked her for bidding him ‘think of his work’. He had thought of it, often and often. Times without number, he had said, ‘Ramsay is
one of those men who do their best work before they are forty’. He had made a definite contribution to philosophy in one little book when he was
only five and twenty; what came after was more or less amplification, repetition. But the number of men who make a definite contribution to
anything whatsoever is very small, he said, pausing by the pear tree, well brushed, scrupulously exact, exquisitely judicial. Suddenly, as if the
movement of his hand had released it, the load of her accumulated impressions of him tilted up, and down poured in a ponderous avalanche all
she felt about him. That was one sensation. Then up rose in a fume the essence of his being. That was another. She felt herself transfixed by the
intensity of her perception; it was his severity; his goodness. I respect you (she addressed him silently) in every atom; you are not vain; you are
entirely impersonal; you are finer than Mr. Ramsay; you are the finest human being that I know; you have neither wife nor child (without any
sexual feeling, she longed to cherish that loneliness), you live for science (involuntarily, sections of potatoes rose before her eyes); praise would be
sexual feeling, she longed to cherish that loneliness), you live for science (involuntarily, sections of potatoes rose before her eyes); praise would be
an insult to you; generous, pure-hearted, heroic man! But simultaneously, she remembered how he had brought a valet
26
all the way up here;
objected to dogs on chairs; would prose for hours (until Mr. Ramsay slammed out of the room) about salt in vegetables and the iniquity of English
cooks.
How then did it work out, all this? How did one judge people, think of them? How did one add up this and that and conclude that it was liking
one felt, or disliking? And to those words, what meaning attached, after all? Standing now, apparently transfixed, by the pear tree, impressions
poured in upon her of those two men, and to follow her thought was like following a voice which speaks too quickly to be taken down by one’s
pencil, and the voice was her own voice saying without prompting undeniable, everlasting, contradictory things, so that even the fissures and
humps on the bark of the pear tree were irrevocably fixed there for eternity. You have greatness, she continued, but Mr. Ramsay has none of it. He
is petty, selfish, vain, egotistical; he is spoilt; he is a tyrant; he wears Mrs. Ramsay to death; but he has what you (she addressed Mr. Bankes) have
not; a fiery unworldliness; he knows nothing about trifles; he loves dogs and his children. He has eight. You have none. Did he not come down in
two coats the other night and let Mrs. Ramsay trim his hair into a pudding basin? All of this danced up and down, like a company of gnats, each
separate, but all marvellously controlled in an invisible elastic net – danced up and down in Lily’s mind, in and about the branches of the pear
tree, where still hung in effigy the scrubbed kitchen table, symbol of her profound respect for Mr. Ramsay’s mind, until her thought which had spun
quicker and quicker exploded of its own intensity; she felt released; a shot went off close at hand, and there came, flying from its fragments,
frightened, effusive, tumultuous, a flock of starlings.
‘Jasper!’ said Mr. Bankes. They turned the way the starlings flew, over the terrace. Following the scatter of swift-flying birds in the sky they
stepped through the gap in the high hedge straight into Mr. Ramsay, who boomed tragically at them, ‘Someone had blundered!’
His eyes, glazed with emotion, defiant with tragic intensity, met theirs for a second, and trembled on the verge of recognition; but then, raising
his hand half-way to his face as if to avert, to brush off, in an agony of peevish shame, their normal gaze, as if he begged them to withhold for a
moment what he knew to be inevitable, as if he impressed upon them his own child-like resentment of interruption, yet even in the moment of
discovery was not to be routed utterly, but was determined to hold fast to something of this delicious emotion, this impure rhapsody of which he
was ashamed, but in which he revelled – he turned abruptly, slammed his private door on them; and Lily Briscoe and Mr. Bankes, looking uneasily
up into the sky, observed that the flock of starlings which Jasper had routed with his gun had settled on the tops of the elm trees.
5
5
‘And even if it isn’t fine to-morrow,’ said Mrs. Ramsay, raising her eyes to glance at William Bankes and Lily Briscoe as they passed, ‘it will be
another day. And now,’ she said, thinking that Lily’s charm was her Chinese eyes, aslant in her white, puckered little face, but it would take a
clever man to see it, ‘and now stand up, and let me measure your leg,’ for they might go to the Lighthouse after all, and she must see if the stocking
did not need to be an inch or two longer in the leg.
Smiling, for an admirable idea had flashed upon her this very second – William and Lily should marry – she took the heather mixture stocking,
with its criss-cross of steel needles at the mouth of it, and measured it against James’s leg.
‘My dear, stand still,’ she said, for in his jealousy, not liking to serve as measuring-block for the Lighthouse keeper’s little boy, James fidgeted
purposely; and if he did that, how could she see, was it too long, was it too short? she asked.
She looked up – what demon possessed him, her youngest, her cherished? – and saw the room, saw the chairs, thought them fearfully shabby.
Their entrails, as Andrew said the other day, were all over the floor; but then what was the point, she asked herself, of buying good chairs to let
them spoil up here all through the winter when the house, with only one old woman
27
to see to it, positively dripped with wet? Never mind: the
rent was precisely twopence halfpenny; the children loved it; it did her husband good to be three thousand, or if she must be accurate, three
hundred miles from his library and his lectures and his disciples; and there was room for visitors. Mats, camp beds, crazy ghosts of chairs and tables
whose London life of service was done – they did well enough here; and a photograph or two, and books. Books, she thought, grew of themselves.
She never had time to read them. Alas! even the books that had been given her, and inscribed by the hand of the poet himself: ‘For her whose
wishes must be obeyed’… ‘The happier Helen
28
of our days’… disgraceful to say, she had never read them. And Croom on the Mind and Bates on
the Savage Customs of Polynesia
29
(’My dear, stand still,’ she said) – neither of those could one send to the Lighthouse. At a certain moment, she
supposed, the house would become so shabby that something must be done. If they could be taught to wipe their feet and not bring the beach in
with them – that would be something. Crabs, she had to allow, if Andrew really wished to dissect them, or if Jasper believed that one could make
soup from seaweed, one could not prevent it; or Rose’s objects – shells, reeds, stones; for they were gifted, her children, but all in quite different
ways. And the result of it was, she sighed, taking in the whole room from floor to ceiling, as she held the stocking against James’s leg, that things
got shabbier and got shabbier summer after summer. The mat was fading; the wall-paper was flapping. You couldn’t tell any more that those were
roses on it. Still, if every door in a house is left perpetually open, and no lockmaker in the whole of Scodand can mend a bolt, things must spoil.
What was the use of flinging a green Cashmere shawl over the edge of a picture frame? In two weeks it would be the colour of pea soup. But it
was the doors that annoyed her; every door was left open. She listened. The drawing-room door was open; the hall door was open; it sounded as if
the bedroom doors were open; and certainly the window on the landing was open, for that she had opened herself. That windows should be open,
and doors shut – simple as it was, could none of them remember it? She would go into the maids’ bedrooms at night and find them sealed like
ovens, except for Marie’s,
30
the Swiss girl, who would rather go without a bath than without fresh air, but then at home, she had said, ‘the
mountains are so beautiful.’ She had said that last night looking out of the window with tears in her eyes. ‘The mountains are so beautiful.’ Her
father was dying there, Mrs. Ramsay knew. He was leaving them fatherless. Scolding and demonstrating (how to make a bed, how to open a
window, with hands that shut and spread like a Frenchwoman’s) all had folded itself quietly about her, when the girl spoke, as, after a flight
through the sunshine the wings of a bird fold themselves quietly and the blue of its plumage changes from bright steel to soft purple. She had stood
there silent for there was nothing to be said. He had cancer of the throat. At the recollection – how she had stood there, how the girl had said ‘At
home the mountains are so beautiful’, and there was no hope, no hope whatever, she had a spasm of irritation, and speaking sharply, said to
James:
‘Stand still. Don’t be tiresome,’ so that he knew instantly that her severity was real, and straightened his leg and she measured it.
The stocking was too short by half an inch at least, making allowance for the fact that Sorley’s little boy would be less well grown than James.
‘It’s too short,’ she said, ‘ever so much too short.’
Never did anybody look so sad.
31
Bitter and black, halfway down, in the darkness, in the shaft which ran from the sunlight to the depths,
perhaps a tear formed; a tear fell; die waters swayed this way and that, received it, and were at rest. Never did anybody look so sad.
But was it nothing but looks? people said. What was there behind it – her beauty, her splendour? Had he blown his brains out, they asked, had
he died the week before they were married – some other, earlier lover, of whom rumours reached one? Or was there nothing? nothing but an
incomparable beauty which she lived behind, and could do nothing to disturb? For easily though she might have said at some moment of intimacy
when stories of great passion, of love foiled, of ambition thwarted came her way how she too had known or felt or been through it herself, she
never spoke. She was silent always. She knew then – she knew without having learnt. Her simplicity fathomed what clever people falsified. Her
singleness of mind made her drop plumb like a stone, alight exact as a bird, gave her, naturally, this swoop and fall of the spirit upon truth which
delighted, eased, sustained – falsely perhaps.
(’Nature has but little clay’, said Mr. Bankes once, hearing her voice on the telephone, and much moved by it though she was only telling him a
fact about a train, ‘like that of which she moulded you.’ He saw her at the end of the line, Greek, blue-eyed, straight-nosed. How incongruous it
seemed to be telephoning to a woman like that. The Graces assembling seemed to have joined hands in meadows of asphodel
32
to compose that
seemed to be telephoning to a woman like that. The Graces assembling seemed to have joined hands in meadows of asphodel to compose that
face. Yes, he would catch the 10.30 at Euston.
‘But she’s no more aware of her beauty than a child,’ said Mr. Bankes, replacing the receiver and crossing the room to see what progress the
workmen were making with an hotel which they were building at the back of his house. And he thought of Mrs. Ramsay as he looked at that stir
among the unfinished walls. For always, he thought, there was something incongruous to be worked into the harmony of her face. She clapped a
deer-stalker’s hat on her head; she ran across the lawn in goloshes to snatch a child from mischief. So that if it was her beauty merely that one
thought of, one must remember the quivering thing, the living thing (they were carrying bricks up a little plank as he watched them), and work it
into the picture; or if one thought of her simply as a woman, one must endow her with some freak of idiosyncrasy; or suppose some latent desire
to doff her royalty of form as if her beauty bored her and all that men say of beauty, and she wanted only to be like other people, insignificant. He
did not know. He did not know. He must go to his work.)
Knitting
33
her reddish-brown hairy stocking, with her head outlined absurdly by the gilt frame, the green shawl which she had tossed over the
edge of the frame, and the authenticated masterpiece by Michael Angelo,
34
Mrs. Ramsay smoothed out what had been harsh in her manner a
moment before, raised his head, and kissed her little boy on the forehead. ‘Let’s find another picture to cut out,’ she said.
6
6
But what had happened?
Someone had blundered.
Starting from her musing she gave meaning to words which she had held meaningless in her mind for a long stretch of time. ‘Someone had
blundered’ – Fixing her short-sighted eyes upon her husband, who was now bearing down upon her, she gazed steadily until his closeness revealed
to her (the jingle mated itself in her head) that something had happened, someone had blundered. But she could not for the life of her think what.
He shivered; he quivered.
35
All his vanity, all his satisfaction in his own splendour, riding fell as a thunderbolt, fierce as a hawk at the head of
his men through the valley of death, had been shattered, destroyed. Stormed at by shot and shell, boldly we rode and well, flashed through the
valley of death, volleyed and thundered – straight into Lily Briscoe and William Bankes. He quivered; he shivered.
Not for the world would she have spoken to him, realising, from the familiar signs, his eyes averted, and some curious gathering together of his
person, as if he wrapped himself about and needed privacy in which to regain his equilibrium, that he was outraged and anguished. She stroked
James’s head; she transferred to him what she felt for her husband, and, as she watched him chalk yellow the white dress shirt of a gentleman in
the Army and Navy Stores catalogue, thought what a delight it would be to her should he turn out a great artist; and why should he not? He had a
splendid forehead. Then, looking up, as her husband passed her once more, she was relieved to find that the ruin was veiled; domesticity
triumphed; custom crooned its soothing rhythm, so that when stopping deliberately, as his turn came round again, at the window he bent
quizzically and whimsically to tickle James’s bare calf with a sprig of something, she twitted him for having dispatched ‘that poor young man’,
Charles Tansley. Tansley had had to go in and write his dissertation, he said.
‘James will have to write his dissertation one of these days,’ he added ironically, flicking his sprig.
Hating his father, James brushed away the tickling spray with which in a manner peculiar to him, compound of severity and humour, he teased
his youngest son’s bare leg.
She was trying to get these tiresome stockings finished to send to Sorley’s little boy to-morrow, said Mrs. Ramsay.
There wasn’t the slightest possible chance that they could go to the Lighthouse to-morrow, Mr. Ramsay snapped out irascibly.
How did he know? she asked. The wind often changed.
The extraordinary irrationality of her remark, the folly of women’s minds enraged him. He had ridden through the valley of death, been
shattered and shivered; and now she flew in the face of facts, made his children hope what was utterly out of the question, in effect, told lies. He
stamped his foot on the stone step. ‘Damn you,’ he said. But what had she said? Simply that it might be fine tomorrow. So it might.
Not with the barometer falling and the wind due west.
To pursue truth with such astonishing lack of consideration for other people’s feelings, to rend the thin veils of civilisation so wantonly, so
brutally, was to her so horrible an outrage of human decency that, without replying, dazed and blinded, she bent her head as if to let the pelt of
jagged hail, the drench of dirty water, bespatter her unrebuked. There was nothing to be said.
He stood by her in silence. Very humbly, at length, he said that he would step over and ask the Coastguards if she liked.
There was nobody whom she reverenced as she reverenced him.
She was quite ready to take his word for it, she said. Only then they need not cut sandwiches – that was all. They came to her, naturally, since
she was a woman, all day long with this and that; one wanting this, another that; the children were growing up; she often felt she was nothing but
a sponge sopped full of human emotions. Then he said, Damn you. He said, It must rain. He said, It won’t rain; and instantly a Heaven of security
opened before her. There was nobody she reverenced more. She was not good enough to tie his shoe strings, she felt.
Already ashamed of that petulance, of that gesticulation of the hands when charging at the head of his troops, Mr. Ramsay rather sheepishly
prodded his son’s bare legs once more, and then, as if he had her leave for it, with a movement which oddly reminded his wife of the great sea-lion
at the Zoo tumbling backwards after swallowing his fish and walloping off so that the water in the tank washes from side to side, he dived into the
evening air which already thinner was taking the substance from leaves and hedges but, as if in return, restoring to roses and pinks a lustre which
they had not had by day.
‘Someone had blundered,’ he said again, striding off, up and down the terrace.
But how extraordinarily his note had changed! It was like the cuckoo; ‘in June he gets out of tune’;
36
as if he were trying over, tentatively
seeking, some phrase for a new mood, and having only this at hand, used it, cracked though it was. But it sounded ridiculous – ‘Someone had
blundered’ – said like that, almost as a question, without any conviction, melodiously. Mrs. Ramsay could not help smiling, and soon, sure enough,
walking up and down, he hummed it, dropped it, fell silent.
He was safe, he was restored to his privacy. He stopped to light his pipe, looked once at his wife and son in the window, and as one raises one’s
eyes from a page in an express train and sees a farm, a tree, a cluster of cottages as an illustration, a confirmation of something on the printed page
to which one returns, fortified, and satisfied, so without his distinguishing either his son or his wife, the sight of them fortified him and satisfied
him and consecrated his effort to arrive at a perfectly clear understanding of the problem which now engaged the energies of his splendid mind.
It was a splendid mind. For if thought is like the keyboard of a piano, divided into so many notes, or like the alphabet is ranged in twenty-six
letters all in order, then his splendid mind had no sort of difficulty in running over those letters one by one, firmly and accurately, until it had
reached, say, the letter Q. He reached Q. Very few people in the whole of England ever reach Q. Here, stopping for one moment by the stone urn
which held the geraniums, he saw, but now far far away, like children picking up shells, divinely innocent and occupied with little trifles at their
feet and somehow entirely defenceless against a doom which he perceived, his wife and son, together, in the window. They needed his protection;
he gave it them. But after Q? What comes next? After Q there are a number of letters the last of which is scarcely visible to mortal eyes, but
glimmers red in the distance. Z is only reached once by one man in a generation. Still, if he could reach R it would be something. Here at least was
Q. He dug his heels in at Q. Q he was sure of. Q he could demonstrate. If Q then is Q – R – Here he knocked his pipe out, with two or three
resonant taps on the ram’s horn which made the handle of the urn, and proceeded. ‘Then R…’ He braced himself. He clenched himself.
Qualities that would have saved a ship’s company exposed on a broiling sea with six biscuits and a flask of water – endurance and justice,
foresight, devotion, skill, came to his help. R is then – what is R?
A shutter, like the leathern eyelid of a lizard, flickered over the intensity of his gaze and obscured the letter R. In that flash of darkness he heard
people saying – he was a failure – that R was beyond him. He would never reach R. On to R, once more. R—
Qualities that in a desolate expedition across the icy solitudes of the Polar region
37
would have made him the leader, the guide, the counsellor,
whose temper, neither sanguine nor despondent, surveys with equanimity what is to be and faces it, came to his help again. R—
The lizard’s eye flickered once more. The veins on his forehead bulged. The geranium in the urn became start-lingly visible and, displayed
among its leaves, he could see, without wishing it, that old, that obvious distinction between the two classes of men; on the one hand the steady
goers of superhuman strength who, plodding and persevering, repeat the whole alphabet in order, twenty-six letters in all, from start to finish; on
the other the gifted, the inspired who, miraculously, lump all the letters together in one flash – the way of genius. He had not genius; he laid no
claim to that: but he had, or might have had, the power to repeat every letter of the alphabet from A to Z accurately in order. Meanwhile, he stuck
at Q. On, then, on to R.
Feelings that would not have disgraced a leader who, now that the snow has begun to fall and the mountain top is covered in mist, knows that
he must lay himself down and die before morning comes, stole upon him, paling the colour of his eyes, giving him, even in the two minutes of his
turn on the terrace, the bleached look of withered old age. Yet he would not die lying down; he would find some crag of rock, and there, his eyes
fixed on the storm, trying to the end to pierce the darkness, he would die standing. He would never reach R.
He stood
38
stock still, by the urn, with the geranium flowing over it. How many men in a thousand million, he asked himself, reach Z after all?
Surely the leader of a forlorn hope may ask himself that, and answer, without treachery to the expedition behind him, ‘One perhaps’. One in a
generation. Is he to be blamed then if he is not that one? provided he has toiled honestly, given to the best of his power, till he has no more left to
give? And his fame lasts how long? It is permissible even for a dying hero to think before he dies how men will speak of him hereafter. His fame
lasts perhaps two thousand years. And what are two thousand years? (asked Mr. Ramsay ironically, staring at the hedge). What, indeed, if you look
from a mountain-top down the long wastes of the ages? The very stone one kicks with one’s boot will outlast Shakespeare.
39
His own little light
40
would shine, not very brightly, for a year or two, and would then be merged in some bigger light, and that in a bigger still. (He looked into the
darkness, into the intricacy of the twigs.) Who then could blame the leader of that forlorn party which after all has climbed high enough to see the
waste of the years and the perishing of stars, if before death stiffens his limbs beyond the power of movement he does a little consciously raise his
numbed fingers to his brow, and square his shoulders, so that when the search party comes they will find him dead at his post, the fine figure of a
soldier? Mr. Ramsay squared his shoulders and stood very upright by the urn.
Who shall blame him, if, so standing for a moment, he dwells upon fame, upon search parties, upon cairns raised by grateful followers over his
bones? Finally, who shall blame the leader of the doomed expedition, if, having adventured to the uttermost, and used his strength wholly to the
last ounce and fallen asleep not much caring if he wakes or not, he now perceives by some pricking in his toes that he lives, and does not on the
whole object to live, but requires sympathy, and whisky, and someone to tell the story of his suffering to at once? Who shall blame him? Who will
not secretly rejoice when the hero puts his armour off, and halts by the window and gazes at his wife and son,
41
who very distant at first, gradually
come closer and closer, till lips and book and head are clearly before him, though still lovely and unfamiliar from the intensity of his isolation and
the waste of ages and the perishing of the stars, and finally putting his pipe in his pocket and bending his magnificent head before her – who will
blame him if he does homage to the beauty of the world?
7
7
But his son hated him. He hated him for coming up to them, for stopping and looking down on them; he hated him for interrupting them; he hated
him for the exaltation and sublimity of his gestures; for the magnificence of his head; for his exactingness and egotism (for there he stood,
commanding them to attend to him); but most of all he hated the twang and twitter of his father’s emotion which, vibrating round them, disturbed
the perfect simplicity and good sense of his relations with his mother. By looking fixedly at the page, he hoped to make him move on; by pointing
his finger at a word, he hoped to recall his mother’s attention, which, he knew angrily, wavered instantly his father stopped. But no. Nothing
would make Mr. Ramsay move on. There he stood, demanding sympathy.
Mrs. Ramsay, who had been sitting loosely, folding her son in her arm, braced herself, and, half turning, seemed to raise herself with an effort,
and at once to pour erect into the air a rain of energy, a column of spray, looking at the same time animated and alive as if all her energies were
being fused into force, burning and illuminating (quietly though she sat, taking up her stocking again), and into this delicious fecundity, this
fountain and spray of life, the fatal sterility of the male plunged itself, like a beak of brass, barren and bare. He wanted sympathy. He was a failure,
he said. Mrs. Ramsay flashed her needles. Mr. Ramsay repeated, never taking his eyes from her face, that he was a failure. She blew the words back
at him. ‘Charles Tansley…’ she said. But he must have more than that. It was sympathy he wanted, to be assured of his genius, first of all, and then
to be taken within the circle of life, warmed and soothed, to have his senses restored to him, his barrenness made fertile, and all the rooms of the
house made full of life – the drawing-room; behind the drawing-room the kitchen; above the kitchen the bedrooms; and beyond them the nurseries;
they must be furnished, they must be filled with life.
Charles Tansley thought him the greatest metaphysician of the time, she said. But he must have more than that. He must have sympathy. He
must be assured that he too lived in the heart of life; was needed; not here only, but all over the world. Flashing her needles, confident, upright,
she created drawing-room and kitchen, set them all aglow; bade him take his ease there, go in and out, enjoy himself. She laughed, she knitted.
Standing between her knees, very stiff, James felt all her strength flaring up to be drunk and quenched by the beak of brass, the arid scimitar of the
male, which smote mercilessly, again and again, demanding sympathy.
He was a failure, he repeated. Well, look then, feel then. Flashing her needles, glancing round about her, out of the window, into the room, at
James himself, she assured him, beyond a shadow of a doubt, by her laugh, her poise, her competence (as a nurse carrying a light across a dark
room assures a fractious child), that it was real; the house was full; the garden blowing. If he put implicit faith in her, nothing should hurt him;
however deep he buried himself or climbed high, not for a second should he find himself without her. So boasting of her capacity to surround and
protect, there was scarcely a shell of herself left for her to know herself by; all was so lavished and spent; and James, as he stood stiff between her
knees, felt her rise in a rosy-flowered fruit tree laid with leaves and dancing boughs into which the beak of brass, the arid scimitar of his father, the
egotistical man, plunged and smote, demanding sympathy.
Filled with her words, like a child who drops off satisfied, he said, at last, looking at her with humble gratitude, restored, renewed, that he
would take a turn; he would watch the children playing cricket. He went.
Immediately, Mrs. Ramsay seemed to fold herself together, one petal closed in another, and the whole fabric fell in exhaustion upon itself, so
that she had only strength enough to move her finger, in exquisite abandonment to exhaustion, across the page of Grimm’s fairy story,
42
while there
throbbed through her, like the pulse in a spring which has expanded to its full width and now gently ceases to beat, the rapture of successful
creation.
Every throb of this pulse seemed, as he walked away, to enclose her and her husband, and to give to each that solace which two different notes,
one high, one low, struck together, seem to give each other as they combine. Yet, as the resonance died, and she turned to the Fairy Tale again,
Mrs. Ramsay felt not only exhausted in body (afterwards, not at the time, she always felt this) but also there tinged her physical fatigue some faintly
disagreeable sensation with another origin. Not that, as she read aloud the story of the Fisherman’s Wife, she knew precisely what it came from;
nor did she let herself put into words her dissatisfaction when she realised, at the turn of the page when she stopped and heard dully, ominously, a
wave fall, how it came from this: she did not like, even for a second, to feel finer than her husband; and further, could not bear not being entirely
sure, when she spoke to him, of the truth of what she said. Universities and people wanting him, lectures and books and their being of the highest
importance – all that she did not doubt for a moment; but it was their relation, and his coming to her like that, openly, so that anyone could see,
that discomposed her; for then people said he depended on her, when they must know that of the two he was infinitely the more important, and
what she gave the world, in comparison with what he gave, negligible. But then again, it was the other thing too – not being able to tell him the
truth, being afraid, for instance, about the greenhouse roof and the expense it would be, fifty pounds perhaps, to mend it; and then about his
books, to be afraid that he might guess, what she a little suspected, that his last book was not quite his best book (she gathered that from William
Bankes); and then to hide small daily things, and the children seeing it, and the burden it laid on them – all this diminished the entire joy, the pure
joy, of the two notes sounding together, and let the sound die on her ear now wth a dismal flatness.
A shadow was on the page; she looked up. It was Augustus Carmichael shuffling past, precisely now, at the very moment when it was painful to
be reminded of the inadequacy of human relationships, that the most perfect was flawed, and could not bear the examination which, loving her
husband, with her instinct for truth, she turned upon it; when it was painful to feel herself convicted of unworthiness, and impeded in her proper
husband, with her instinct for truth, she turned upon it; when it was painful to feel herself convicted of unworthiness, and impeded in her proper
function by these lies, these exaggerations, – it was at this moment when she was fretted thus ignobly in the wake of her exaltation, that Mr.
Carmichael shuffled past, in his yellow slippers, and some demon in her made it necessary for her to call out, as he passed,
‘Going indoors, Mr. Carmichael?’
8
8
He said nothing. He took opium. The children said he had stained his beard yellow with it. Perhaps. What was obvious to her was that the poor
man was unhappy, came to them every year as an escape; and yet every year, she felt the same thing; he did not trust her. She said, ‘I am going to
the town. Shall I get you stamps, paper, tobacco?’ and she felt him wince. He did not trust her. It was his wife’s doing. She remembered that
iniquity of his wife’s towards him, which had made her turn to steel and adamant there, in the horrid little room in St. John’s Wood, when with
her own eyes she had seen that odious woman turn him out of the house. He was unkempt; he dropped things on his coat; he had the tiresomeness
of an old man with nothing in the world to do; and she turned him out of the room. She said, in her odious way, ‘Now, Mrs. Ramsay and I want to
have a little talk together,’ and Mrs. Ramsay could see, as if before her eyes, the innumerable miseries of his life. Had he money enough to buy
tobacco? Did he have to ask her for it? half a crown? eighteenpence? Oh, she could not bear to think of the little indignities she made him suffer.
And always now (why, she could not guess, except that it came probably from that woman somehow) he shrank from her. He never told her
anything. But what more could she have done? There was a sunny room given up to him. The children were good to him. Never did she show a
sign of not wanting him. She went out of her way indeed to be friendly. Do you want stamps, do you want tobacco? Here’s a book you might like
and so on. And after all – after all (here insensibly she drew herself together, physically, the sense of her own beauty becoming, as it did so seldom,
present to her) – after all, she had not generally any difficulty in making people like her; for instance, George Manning; Mr. Wallace; famous as
they were, they would come to her of an evening, quietly, and talk alone over her fire. She bore about with her, she could not help knowing it, the
torch of her beauty; she carried it erect into any room that she entered; and after all, veil it as she might, and shrink from the monotony of bearing
that it imposed on her, her beauty was apparent. She had been admired. She had been loved. She had entered rooms where mourners sat. Tears
had flown in her presence. Men, and women too, letting go the multiplicity of things, had allowed themselves with her the relief of simplicity. It
injured her that he should shrink. It hurt her. And yet not cleanly, not rightly. That was what she minded, coming as it did on top of her discontent
with her husband; the sense she had now when Mr. Carmichael shuffled past, just nodding to her question, with a book
43
beneath his arm, in his
yellow slippers, that she was suspected; and that all this desire of hers to give, to help, was vanity. For her own self-satisfaction was it that she
wished so instinctively to help, to give, that people might say of her, ‘O Mrs. Ramsay! dear Mrs. Ramsay… Mrs. Ramsay, of course!’ and need her
and send for her and admire her? Was it not secretly this that she wanted, and therefore when Mr. Carmichael shrank away from her, as he did at
this moment, making off to some corner where he did acrostics endlessly, she did not feel merely snubbed back in her instinct, but made aware of
the pettiness of some part of her, and of human relations, how flawed they are, how despicable, how self-seeking, at their best. Shabby and worn
out, and not presumably (her cheeks were hollow, her hair was white) any longer a sight that filled the eyes with joy, she had better devote her
mind to the story of the Fisherman and his Wife and so pacify that bundle of sensitiveness (none of her children was as sensitive as he was) her son
James.
‘The man’s heart grew heavy,’ she read aloud, ‘and he would not go. He said to himself, “It is not right,” and yet he went. And when he came to
the sea the water was quite purple and dark blue, and grey and thick, and no longer so green and yellow, but it was still quiet. And he stood there
and said—’
Mrs. Ramsay could have wished that her husband had not chosen that moment to stop. Why had he not gone as he said to watch the children
playing cricket? But he did not speak; he looked; he nodded; he approved; he went on. He slipped seeing before him that hedge which had over
and over again rounded some pause, signified some conclusion, seeing his wife and child, seeing again the urns with the trailing red geraniums
which had so often decorated processes of thought, and bore, written up among their leaves, as if they were scraps of paper on which one scribbles
notes in the rush of reading – he slipped, seeing all this, smoothly into speculation suggested by an article in The Times about the number of
Americans who visit Shakespeare’s house every year. If Shakespeare had never existed, he asked, would the world have differed much from what it
is to-day? Does the progress of civilisation
44
depend upon great men? Is the lot of the average human being better now than in the time of the
Pharaohs? Is the lot of the average human being, however, he asked himself, the criterion by which we judge the measure of civilisation? Possibly
not. Possibly the greatest good requires the existence of a slave class. The liftman in the Tube
45
is an eternal necessity. The thought was distasteful
to him. He tossed his head. To avoid it, he would find some way of snubbing the predominance of the arts. He would argue that the world exists
for the average human being; that the arts are merely a decoration imposed on the top of human life; they do not express it. Nor is Shakespeare
necessary to it. Not knowing precisely why it was that he wanted to disparage Shakespeare and come to the rescue of the man who stands eternally
in the door of the lift, he picked a leaf sharply from the hedge. All this would have to be dished up for the young men at Cardiff next month, he
thought; here, on his terrace, he was merely foraging and picnicking (he threw away the leaf that he had picked so peevishly) like a man who
reaches from his horse to pick a bunch of roses, or stuffs his pockets with nuts as he ambles at his ease through the lanes and fields of a country
known to him from boyhood. It was all familiar; this turning, that stile, that cut across the fields. Hours he would spend thus, with his pipe, of an
evening, thinking up and down and in and out of the old familiar lanes and commons, which were all stuck about with the history of that
campaign there, the life of this statesman here, with poems and with anecdotes, with figures too, this thinker, that soldier; all very brisk and clear;
but at length the lane, the field, the common, the fruitful nut-tree and the flowering hedge led him on to that further turn of the road where he
dismounted always, tied his horse to a tree, and proceeded on foot alone. He reached the edge of the lawn and looked out on the bay beneath.
It was his fate, his peculiarity, whether he wished it or not, to come out thus on a spit of land which the sea is slowly eating away, and there to
stand, like a desolate sea-bird, alone. It was his power, his gift, suddenly to shed all superfluities, to shrink and diminish so that he looked barer
and felt sparer, even physically, yet lost none of his intensity of mind, and so to stand on his little ledge facing the dark of human ignorance, how
we know nothing and the sea eats away the ground we stand on – that was his fate, his gift. But having thrown away, when he dismounted, all
gestures and fripperies, all trophies of nuts and roses, and shrunk so that not only fame but even his own name was forgotten by him, he kept even
in that desolation a vigilance which spared no phantom and luxuriated in no vision, and it was in this guise that he inspired in William Bankes
(intermittently) and in Charles Tansley (obsequiously) and in his wife now, when she looked up and saw him standing at the edge of the lawn,
profound reverence, and pity, and gratitude too, as a stake driven into the bed of a channel upon which the gulls perch and the waves beat inspires
in merry boat-loads a feeling of gratitude for the duty it has taken upon itself of marking the channel out there in the floods alone.
‘But the father of eight children has no choice.…’ Muttering half aloud, so he broke off, turned, sighed, raised his eyes, sought the figure of his
wife reading stories to the little boy; filled his pipe. He turned from the sight of human ignorance and human fate and the sea eating the ground we
stand on, which, had he been able to contemplate it fixedly might have led to something; and found consolation in trifles so slight compared with
the august theme just now before him that he was disposed to slur that comfort over, to deprecate it, as if to be caught happy in a world of misery
was for an honest man the most despicable of crimes. It was true; he was for the most part happy; he had his wife; he had his children; he had
promised in six weeks’ time to talk ‘some nonsense’ to the young men of Cardiff about Locke, Hume, Berkeley,
46
and the causes of the French
Revolution. But this and his pleasure in it, in the phrases he made, in the ardour of youth, in his wife’s beauty, in the tributes that reached him
from Swansea, Cardiff, Exeter, Southampton, Kidderminster, Oxford, Cambridge – all had to be deprecated and concealed under the phrase ‘talking
nonsense,’ because, in effect, he had not done the thing he might have done. It was a disguise; it was the refuge of a man afraid to own his own
feelings, who could not say, This is what I like – this is what I am; and rather pitiable and distasteful to William Bankes and Lily Briscoe, who
wondered why such concealments should be necessary; why he needed always praise; why so brave a man in thought should be so timid in life;
how strangely he was venerable and laughable at one and the same time.
Teaching and preaching is beyond human power, Lily suspected. (She was putting away her things.) If you are exalted you must somehow come
a cropper. Mrs. Ramsay gave him what he asked too easily. Then the change must be so upsetting, Lily said. He comes in from his books and finds
us all playing games and talking nonsense. Imagine what a change from the things he thinks about, she said.
He was bearing down upon them. Now he stopped dead and stood looking in silence at the sea. Now he had turned away again.
9
9
Yes, Mr. Bankes said, watching him go. It was a thousand pities. (Lily had said something about his frightening her – he changed from one mood to
another so suddenly.) Yes, said Mr. Bankes, it was a thousand pities that Ramsay could not behave a little more like other people. (For he liked
Lily Briscoe; he could discuss Ramsay with her quite openly.) It was for that reason, he said, that the young don’t read Carlyle.
47
A crusty old
grumbler who lost his temper if the porridge was cold, why should he preach to us? was what Mr. Bankes understood that young people said
nowadays. It was a thousand pities if you thought, as he did, that Carlyle was one of the great teachers of mankind. Lily was ashamed to say that
she had not read Carlyle since she was at school. But in her opinion one liked Mr. Ramsay all the better for thinking that if his little finger ached
the whole world must come to an end. It was not that she minded. For who could be deceived by him? He asked you quite openly to flatter him,
to admire him, his little dodges deceived nobody. What she disliked was his narrowness, his blindness, she said, looking after him.
‘A bit of a hypocrite?’ Mr. Bankes suggested, looking, too, at Mr. Ramsay’s back, for was he not thinking of his friendship, and of Cam refusing to
give him a flower, and of all those boys and girls, and his own house, full of comfort, but, since his wife’s death, quiet rather? Of course, he had his
work… All the same, he rather wished Lily to agree that Ramsay was, as he said, ‘a bit of a hypocrite’.
Lily Briscoe went on putting away her brushes, looking up, looking down. Looking up, there he was – Mr. Ramsay – advancing towards them,
swinging, careless, oblivious, remote. A bit of a hypocrite? she repeated. Oh no – the most sincere of men, the truest (here he was), the best; but,
looking down, she thought, he is absorbed in himself, he is tyrannical, he is unjust; and kept looking down, purposely, for only so could she keep
steady, staying with the Ramsays. Directly one looked up and saw them, what she called ‘being in love’ flooded them. They became part of that
unreal but penetrating and exciting universe which is the world seen through the eyes of love. The sky stuck to them; the birds sang through them.
And, what was even more exciting, she felt, too, as she saw Mr. Ramsay bearing down and retreating, and Mrs. Ramsay sitting with James in the
window and the cloud moving and the tree bending, how life, from being made up of little separate incidents which one lived one by one, became
curled and whole like i wave which bore one up with it and threw one down with it, there, with a dash on the beach.
Mr. Bankes expected her to answer. And she was about to say something criticising Mrs. Ramsay, how she was alarming, too, in her way, high-
handed, or words to that effect, when Mr. Bankes made it entirely unnecessary for her to speak by his rapture. For such it was considering his age,
turned sixty, and his cleanliness and his impersonality, and the white scientific coat which seemed to clothe him. For him to gaze as Lily saw him
gazing at Mrs. Ramsay was a rapture, equivalent, Lily felt, to the loves of dozens of young men (and perhaps Mrs. Ramsay had never excited the
loves of dozens of young men). It was love, she thought, pretending to move her canvas, distilled and filtered; love that never attempted to clutch
its object; but, like the love which mathematicians bear their symbols, or poets their phrases, was meant to be spread over the world and become
part of the human gain. So it was indeed. The world by all means should have shared it, could Mr. Bankes have said why that woman pleased him
so; why the sight of her reading a fairy tale to her boy had upon him precisely the same effect as the solution of a scientific problem, so that he
rested in contemplation of it, and felt, as he felt when he had proved something absolute about the digestive system of plants, that barbarity was
tamed, the reign of chaos subdued.
Such a rapture – for by what other name could one call it? – made Lily Briscoe forget entirely what she had been about to say. It was nothing of
importance; something about Mrs. Ramsay. It paled beside this ‘rapture’, this silent stare, for which she felt intense gratitude; for nothing so solaced
her, eased her of the perplexity of life, and miraculously raised its burdens, as this sublime power, this heavenly gift, and one would no more
disturb it, while it lasted, than break up the shaft of sunlight lying level across the floor.
That people should love like this, that Mr. Bankes should feel this for Mrs. Ramsay (she glanced at him musing) was helpful, was exalting. She
wiped one brush after another upon a piece of old rag, menially, on purpose. She took shelter from the reverence which covered all women; she
felt herself praised. Let him gaze; she would steal a look at her picture.
She could have wept. It was bad, it was bad, it was infinitely bad! She could have done it differently of course; the colour could have been
thinned and faded; the shapes etherealised; that was how Paunceforte would have seen it. But then she did not see it like that. She saw the colour
burning on a framework of steel; the light of a butterfly’s wing lying upon the arches of a cathedral. Of all that only a few random marks scrawled
upon the canvas remained. And it would never be seen; never be hung even, and there was Mr. Tansley whispering in her ear, ‘Women can’t paint,
women can’t write…’
She now remembered what she had been going to say about Mrs. Ramsay. She did not know how she would have put it; but it would have been
something critical. She had been annoyed the other night by some highhandedness. Looking along the level of Mr. Bankes’ glance at her, she
thought that no woman could worship another woman in the way he worshipped; they could only seek shelter under the shade which Mr. Bankes
extended over them both. Looking along his beam she added to it her different ray, thinking that she was unquestionably the loveliest of people
(bowed over her book); the best perhaps; but also, different too from the perfect shape which one saw there. But why different, and how different?
she asked herself, scraping her palette of all those mounds of blue and green which seemed to her like clods with no life in them now, yet she
vowed, she would inspire them, force them to move, flow, do her bidding tomorrow. How did she differ? What was the spirit in her, the essential
thing, by which, had you found a glove in the corner of a sofa, you would have known it, from its twisted finger, hers indisputably? She was like a
bird for speed, an arrow for directness. She was wilful; she was commanding (of course, Lily reminded herself, I am thinking of her relations with
bird for speed, an arrow for directness. She was wilful; she was commanding (of course, Lily reminded herself, I am thinking of her relations with
women, and I am much younger, an insignificant person, living off the Brompton Road). She opened bedroom windows. She shut doors. (So she
tried to start the tune of Mrs. Ramsay in her head.) Arriving late at night, with a light tap on one’s bedroom door, wrapped in an old fur coat (for
the setting of her beauty was always that – hasty, but apt), she would enact again whatever it might be – Charles Tansley losing his umbrella; Mr.
Carmichael snuffling and sniffing; Mr. Bankes saying, ‘the vegetable salts are lost’. All this she would adroitly shape; even maliciously twist; and,
moving over to the window, in pretence that she must go, – it was dawn, she could see the sun rising, – half turn back, more intimately, but still
always laughing, insist that she must, Minta must, they all must marry, since in the whole world, whatever laurels might be tossed to her (but Mrs.
Ramsay cared not a fig for her painting), or triumphs won by her (probably Mrs. Ramsay had had her share of those), and here she saddened,
darkened, and came back to her chair, there could be no disputing this: an unmarried woman (she lightly took her hand for a moment), an
unmarried woman has missed the best of life. The house seemed full of children sleeping and Mrs. Ramsay listening; of shaded lights and regular
breathing.
Oh but, Lily would say, there was her father; her home; even, had she dared to say it, her painting. But all this seemed so little, so virginal,
against the other. Yet, as the night wore on, and white lights parted the curtains, and even now and then some bird chirped in the garden, gathering
a desperate courage she would urge her own exemption from the universal law; plead for it; she liked to be alone; she liked to be herself; she was
not made for that; and so have to meet a serious stare from eyes of unparalleled depth, and confront Mrs. Ramsay’s simple certainty (and she was
childlike now) that her dear Lily, her little Brisk, was a fool. Then, she remembered, she had laid her head on Mrs. Ramsay’s lap and laughed and
laughed and laughed, laughed almost hysterically at the thought of Mrs. Ramsay presiding with immutable calm over destinies which she
completely failed to understand. There she sat, simple, serious. She had recovered her sense of her now – this was the glove’s twisted finger. But
into what sanctuary had one penetrated? Lily Briscoe had looked up at last, and there was Mrs. Ramsay, unwitting entirely what had caused her
laughter, still presiding, but now with every trace of wilfulness abolished, and in its stead, something clear as the space which the clouds at last
uncover – the little space of sky which sleeps beside the moon.
Was it wisdom? Was it knowledge? Was it, once more, the deceptiveness of beauty, so that all one’s perceptions, half-way to truth, were tangled
in a golden mesh? or did she lock up within her some secret which certainly Lily Briscoe believed people must have for the world to go on at all?
Every one could not be as helter skelter, hand to mouth as she was. But if they knew, could they tell one what they knew? Sitting on the floor with
her arms round Mrs. Ramsay’s knees, close as she could get, smiling to think that Mrs. Ramsay would never know the reason of that pressure, she
imagined how in the chambers of the mind and heart of the woman who was, physically, touching her, were stood, like the treasures in the tombs
of kings, tablets bearing sacred inscriptions, which if one could spell them out would teach one everything, but they would never be offered
openly, never made public. What art was there, known to love or cunning, by which one pressed through into those secret chambers? What device
for becoming, like waters poured into one jar, inextricably the same, one with the object one adored? Could the body achieve it, or the mind,
subtly mingling in the intricate passages of the brain? or the heart? Could loving, as people called it, make her and Mrs. Ramsay one? for it was
not knowledge but unity that she desired, not inscriptions on tablets, nothing that could be written in any language known to men, but intimacy
itself, which is knowledge, she had thought, leaning her head on Mrs. Ramsay’s knee.
Nothing happened. Nothing! Nothing! as she leant her head against Mrs. Ramsay’s knee. And yet, she knew knowledge and wisdom were stored
in Mrs. Ramsay’s heart. How then, she had asked herself, did one know one thing or another thing about people, sealed as they were? Only like a
bee, drawn by some sweetness or sharpness in the air intangible to touch or taste, one haunted the dome-shaped hive, ranged the wastes of the air
over the countries of the world alone, and then haunted the hives with their murmurs and their stirrings; the hives which were people. Mrs.
Ramsay rose. Lily rose. Mrs. Ramsay went. For days there hung about her, as after a dream some subtle change is felt in the person one has dreamt
of, more vividly than anything she said, the sound of murmuring and, as she sat in the wicker arm-chair in the drawing-room window she wore, to
Lily’s eyes, an august shape; the shape of a dome.
This ray passed level with Mr. Bankes’s ray straight to Mrs. Ramsay sitting reading there with James at her knee. But now while she still looked,
Mr. Bankes had done. He had put on his spectacles. He had stepped back. He had raised his hand. He had slightly narrowed his clear blue eyes,
when Lily, rousing herself, saw what he was at, and winced like a dog who sees a hand raised to strike it. She would have snatched her picture off
the easel, but she said to herself, One must. She braced herself to stand the awful trial of someone looking at her picture. One must, she said, one
must. And if it must be seen, Mr. Bankes was less alarming than another. But that any other eyes should see the residue
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of her thirty-three years,
the deposit of each day’s living, mixed with something more secret than she had ever spoken or shown in the course of all those days was an
agony. At the same time it was immensely exciting.
Nothing could be cooler and quieter. Taking out a penknife, Mr. Bankes tapped the canvas with the bone handle. What did she wish to indicate
by the triangular purple shape, ‘just there?’ he asked.
It was Mrs. Ramsay reading to James, she said. She knew his objection – that no one could tell it for a human shape. But she had made no
attempt at likeness, she said. For what reason had she introduced them then? he asked. Why indeed? – except that if there, in that corner, it was
bright, here, in this, she felt the need of darkness. Simple, obvious, commonplace, as it was, Mr. Bankes was interested. Mother and child then –
objects of universal veneration, and in this case the mother was famous for her beauty – might be reduced, he pondered, to a purple shadow
without irreverence.
But the picture was not of them, she said. Or, not in his sense. There were other senses, too, in which one might reverence them. By a shadow
here and a light there, for instance. Her tribute took that form, if, as she vaguely supposed, a picture must be a tribute. A mother and child might
be reduced to a shadow without irreverence. A light here required a shadow there. He considered. He was interested. He took it scientifically in
complete good faith. The truth was that all his prejudices were on the other side, he explained. The largest picture in his drawing-room, which
painters had praised, and valued at a higher price than he had given for it, was of the cherry trees in blossom on the banks of the Kennet.
49
He had
spent his honeymoon on the banks of the Kennet, he said. Lily must come and see that picture, he said. But now – he turned, with his glasses raised
to the scientific examination of her canvas. The question being one of the relations of masses, of light and shadows, which, to be honest, he had
never considered before, he would like to have it explained – what then did she wish to make of it? And he indicated the scene before them. She
looked. She could not show him what she wished to make of it, could not see it even herself, without a brush in her hand. She took up once more
her old painting position with the dim eyes and the absent-minded manner, subduing all her impressions as a woman to something much more
general; becoming once more under the power of that vision which she had seen clearly once and must now grope for among hedges and houses
and mothers and children – her picture. It was a question, she remembered, how to connect this mass on the right hand with that on the left. She
might do it by bringing the line of the branch across so; or break the vacancy in the foreground by an object (James perhaps) so. But the danger
was that by doing that the unity of the whole might be broken. She stopped; she did not want to bore him; she took the canvas lightly off the easel.
But it had been seen; it had been taken from her. This man had shared with her something profoundly intimate. And, thanking Mr. Ramsay for it
and Mrs. Ramsay for it and the hour and the place, crediting the world with a power which she had not suspected, that one could walk away down
that long gallery not alone any more but arm in arm with somebody – the strangest feeling in the world, and the most exhilarating – she nicked the
catch of her paint-box to, more firmly than was necessary, and the nick seemed to surround in a circle for ever the paint-box, the lawn, Mr. Bankes,
and that wild villain, Cam, dashing past.
10
10
For Cam grazed the easel by an inch; she would not stop for Mr. Bankes and Lily Briscoe; though Mr. Bankes, who would have liked a daughter of
his own, held out his hand; she would not stop for her father, whom she grazed also by an inch; nor for her mother, who called ‘Cam! I want you a
moment!’ as she dashed past. She was off like a bird, bullet, or arrow, impelled by what desire, shot by whom, at what directed, who could say?
What, what? Mrs. Ramsay pondered, watching her. It might be a vision – of a shell, of a wheelbarrow, of a fairy kingdom on the far side of the
hedge; or it might be the glory of speed; no one knew. But when Mrs. Ramsay called ‘Cam!’ a second time, the projectile dropped in mid career,
and Cam came lagging back, pulling a leaf by the way, to her mother.
What was she dreaming about, Mrs. Ramsay wondered, seeing her engrossed, as she stood there, with some thought of her own, so that she had
to repeat the message twice – ask Mildred if Andrew, Miss Doyle, and Mr. Rayley have come back? – The words seemed to be dropped into a well,
where, if the waters were clear, they were also so extraordinarily distorting that, even as they descended, one saw them twisting about to make
Heaven knows what pattern on the floor of the child’s mind. What message would Cam give the cook? Mrs. Ramsay wondered. And indeed it was
only by waiting patiently, and hearing that there was an old woman
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in the kitchen with very red cheeks, drinking soup out of a basin, that Mrs.
Ramsay at last prompted that parrot-like instinct which had picked up Mildred’s words quite accurately and could now produce them, if one
waited, in a colourless singsong. Shifting from foot to foot, Cam repeated the words, ‘No, they haven’t, and I’ve told Ellen to clear away tea.’
Minta Doyle and Paul Rayley had not come back then. That could only mean, Mrs. Ramsay thought, one thing. She must accept him, or she must
refuse him. This going off after luncheon for a walk, even though Andrew was with them – what could it mean? except that she had decided,
rightly, Mrs. Ramsay thought (and she was very, very fond of Minta), to accept that good fellow, who might not be brilliant, but then, thought Mrs.
Ramsay, realising that James was tugging at her to make her go on reading aloud the Fisherman and his Wife, she did in her own heart infinitely
prefer boobies to clever men who wrote dissertations; Charles Tansley for instance. Anyhow it must have happened, one way or the other, by now.
But she read, ‘Next morning the wife awoke first, and it was just daybreak, and from her bed she saw the beautiful country lying before her. Her
husband was still stretching himself…’
But how could Minta say now that she would not have him? Not if she agreed to spend whole afternoons trapesing about the country alone –
for Andrew would be off after his crabs – but possibly Nancy was with them. She tried to recall the sight of them standing at the hall door after
lunch. There they stood, looking at the sky, wondering about the weather, and she had said, thinking partly to cover their shyness, partly to
encourage them to be off (for her sympathies were with Paul),
‘There isn’t a cloud anywhere within miles,’ at which she could feel little Charles Tansley, who had followed them out, snigger. But she did it on
purpose. Whether Nancy was there or not, she could not be certain, looking from one to the other in her mind’s eye.
She read on: ‘ “Ah, wife,” said the man, “why should we be King? I do not want to be King.” “Well,” said the wife, “if you won’t be King, I will;
go to the Flounder, for I will be King.”
‘Come in or go out, Cam,’ she said, knowing that Cam was attracted only by the word ‘Flounder’ and that in a moment she would fidget and
fight with James as usual. Cam shot off. Mrs. Ramsay went on reading, relieved, for she and James shared the same tastes and were comfortable
together.
‘And when he came to the sea, it was quite dark grey, and the water heaved up from below, and smelt putrid. Then he went and stood by it and
said,
“Flounder, flounder, in the sea,
Come, I pray thee, here to me;
For my wife, good Ilsabil,
Wills not as I’d have her will.”
“Well, what does she want then?” said the Flounder.’ And where were they now? Mrs. Ramsay wondered, reading and thinking, quite easily, both
at the same time; for the story of the Fisherman and his Wife was like the bass gently accompanying a tune, which now and then ran up
unexpectedly into the melody. And when should she be told? If nothing happened, she would have to speak seriously to Minta. For she could not
go trapesing about all over the country, even if Nancy were with them (she tried again, unsuccessfully, to visualise their backs going down the path,
and to count them). She was responsible to Minta’s parents – the Owl and the Poker.
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Her nicknames for them shot into her mind as she read. The
Owl and the Poker – yes, they would be annoyed if they heard – and they were certain to hear – that Minta, staying with the Ramsays, had been
seen etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. ‘He wore a wig in the House of Commons and she ably assisted him at the head of the stairs,’ she repeated, fishing
them up out of her mind by a phrase which, coming back from some party, she had made to amuse her husband. Dear, dear, Mrs. Ramsay said to
herself, how did they produce this incongruous daughter? this tomboy Minta, with a hole in her stocking? How did she exist in that portentous
atmosphere where the maid was always removing in a dust-pan the sand that the parrot had scattered, and conversation was almost entirely
reduced to the exploits – interesting perhaps, but limited after all – of that bird? Naturally, one had asked her to lunch, tea, dinner, finally to stay
with them up at Finlay, which had resulted in some friction with the Owl, her mother, and more calling, and more conversation, and more sand,
with them up at Finlay, which had resulted in some friction with the Owl, her mother, and more calling, and more conversation, and more sand,
and really at the end of it, she had told enough lies about parrots to last her a lifetime (so she had said to her husband that night, coming back
from the party). However, Minta came… Yes, she came, Mrs. Ramsay thought, suspecting some thorn in the tangle of this thought; and disengaging
it found it to be this: a woman had once accused her of ‘robbing her of her daughter’s affections’; something Mrs. Doyle had said made her
remember that charge again. Wishing to dominate, wishing to interfere, making people do what she wished – that was the charge against her, and
she thought it most unjust. How could she help being ‘like that’ to look at? No one could accuse her of taking pains to impress. She was often
ashamed of her own shabbiness. Nor was she domineering, nor was she tyrannical. It was more true about hospitals and drains and the dairy.
About things like that she did feel passionately, and would, if she had had the chance, have liked to take people by the scruff of their necks and
make them see. No hospital on the whole island. It was a disgrace. Milk
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delivered at your door in London positively brown with dirt. It should
be made illegal. A model dairy and a hospital up here – those two things she would have liked to do, herself. But how? With all these children?
When they were older, then perhaps she would have time; when they were all at school.
Oh, but she never wanted James to grow a day older or Cam either. These two she would have liked to keep for ever just as they were, demons
of wickedness, angels of delight, never to see them grow up into long-legged monsters. Nothing made up for the loss. When she read just now to
James, ‘and there were numbers of soldiers with kettle-drums and trumpets’, and his eyes darkened, she thought, why should they grow up, and
lose all that? He was the most gifted, the most sensitive of her children.
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But all, she thought, were full of promise. Prue, a perfect angel with the
others, and sometimes now, at night especially, she took one’s breath away with her beauty. Andrew – even her husband admitted that his gift for
mathematics was extraordinary. And Nancy and Roger, they were both wild creatures now, scampering about over the country all day long. As for
Rose, her mouth was too big, but she had a wonderful gift with her hands. If they had charades, Rose made the dresses; made everything; liked best
arranging tables, flowers, anything. She did not like it that Jasper should shoot birds; but it was only a stage; they all went through stages. Why, she
asked, pressing her chin on James’s head, should they grow up so fast? Why should they go to school? She would have liked always to have had a
baby. She was happiest carrying one in her arms. Then people might say she was tyrannical, domineering, masterful, if they chose; she did not
mind. And, touching his hair with her lips, she thought, he will never be so happy again, but stopped herself, remembering how it angered her
husband that she should say that. Still, it was true. They were happier now than they would ever be again. A tenpenny tea set made Cam happy for
days. She heard them stamping and crowing on the floor above her head the moment they woke. They came bustling along the passage. Then the
door sprang open and in they came, fresh as roses, staring, wide awake, as if this coming into the dining-room after breakfast, which they did every
day of their lives was a positive event to them; and so on, with one thing after another, all day long, until she went up to say good-night to them,
and found them netted in their cots like birds among cherries and raspberries still making up stories about some little bit of rubbish – something
they had heard, something they had picked up in the garden. They had all their little treasures… And so she went down and said to her husband,
Why must they grow up and lose it all? Never will they be so happy again. And he was angry. Why take such a gloomy view of life? he said. It is
not sensible. For it was odd; and she believed it to be true; that with all his gloom and desperation he was happier, more hopeful on the whole,
than she was. Less exposed to human worries – perhaps that was it. He had always his work to fall back on.
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Not that she herself was
‘pessimistic’, as he accused her of being. Only she thought life – and a little strip of time presented itself to her eyes, her fifty years. There it was
before her – life. Life: she thought but she did not finish her thought. She took a look at life, for she had a clear sense of it there, something real,
something private, which she shared neither with her children nor with her husband. A sort of transaction went on between them, in which she
was on one side, and life was on another, and she was always trying to get the better of it, as it was of her; and sometimes they parleyed (when she
sat alone); there were, she remembered, great reconciliation scenes; but for the most part, oddly enough, she must admit that she felt this thing that
she called life terrible, hostile, and quick to pounce on you if you gave it a chance. There were the eternal problems: suffering; death; the poor.
There was always a woman dying of cancer even here. And yet she had said to all these children, You shall go through with it. To eight people she
had said relentlessly that (and the bill for the greenhouse would be fifty pounds). For that reason, knowing what was before them – love and
ambition and being wretched alone in dreary places – she had often the feeling, Why must they grow up and lose it all? And then she said to
herself, brandishing her sword at life, nonsense. They will be perfectly happy. And here she was, she reflected, feeling life rather sinister again,
making Minta marry Paul Rayley; because whatever she might feel about her own transaction and she had had experiences which need not happen
to everyone (she did not name them to herself); she was driven on, too quickly she knew, almost as if it were an escape for her too, to say that
people must marry; people must have children.
Was she wrong in this, she asked herself, reviewing her conduct for the past week or two, and wondering if she had indeed put any pressure
upon Minta, who was only twenty-four, to make up her mind. She was uneasy. Had she not laughed about it? Was she not forgetting again how
strongly she influenced people? Marriage needed – oh all sorts of qualities (the bill for the greenhouse would be fifty pounds); one – she need not
name it – that was essential; the thing she had with her husband. Had they that?
‘Then he put on his trousers and ran away like a madman,’ she read. ‘But outside a great storm was raging and blowing so hard that he could
scarcely keep his feet; houses and trees toppled over, the mountains trembled, rocks rolled into the sea, the sky was pitch black, and it thundered
and lightened, and the sea came in with black waves as high as church towers and mountains, and all with white foam at the top.’
‘Then he put on his trousers and ran away like a madman,’ she read. ‘But outside a great storm was raging and blowing so hard that he could
scarcely keep his feet; houses and trees toppled over, the mountains trembled, rocks rolled into the sea, the sky was pit1ch black, and it thundered
scarcely keep his feet; houses and trees toppled over, the mountains trembled, rocks rolled into the sea, the sky was pit1ch black, and it thundered
and lightened, and the sea came in with black waves as high as church towers and mountains, and all with white foam at the top.’
She turned the page; there were only a few lines more, so that she would finish the story, though it was past bedtime. It was getting late. The
light in the garden told her that; and the whitening of the flowers and something grey in the leaves conspired together to rouse in her a feeling of
anxiety. What it was about she could not think at first. Then she remembered; Paul and Minta and Andrew had not come back. She summoned
before her again the little group on the terrace in front of the hall door, standing looking up into the sky. Andrew had his net and basket. That
meant he was going to catch crabs and things. That meant he would climb out on to a rock; he would be cut off. Or coming back single file on one
of those little paths above the cliff one of them might slip. He would roll and then crash. It was growing quite dark.
But she did not let her voice change in the least as she finished the story, and added, shutting the book, and speaking the last words as if she had
made them up herself, looking into James’s eyes: ‘And there they are living still at this very time.’
‘And that’s the end,’
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she said, and she saw in his eyes, as the interest of the story died away in them, something else take its place; something
wondering, pale, like the reflection of a light, which at once made him gaze and marvel. Turning, she looked across the bay, and there, sure
enough, coming regularly across the waves first two quick strokes and then one long steady stroke, was the light of the Lighthouse. It had been lit.
In a moment he would ask her, ‘Are we going to the Lighthouse?’ And she would have to say, ‘No: not tomorrow; your father says not.’ Happily,
Mildred came in to fetch them, and the bustle distracted them. But he kept looking back over his shoulder as Mildred carried him out, and she was
certain that he was thinking, we are not going to the Lighthouse to-morrow; and she thought, he will remember that all his life.
11
11
No, she thought, putting together some of the pictures he had cut out – a refrigerator, a mowing machine, a gentleman in evening dress – children
never forget. For this reason, it was so important what one said, and what one did, and it was a relief when they went to bed. For now she need
not think about anybody. She could be herself, by herself. And that was what now she often felt the need of – to think; well not even to think. To
be silent; to be alone. All the being and the doing, expansive, glittering, vocal, evaporated; and one shrunk, with a sense of solemnity, to being
oneself, a wedge-shaped core of darkness, something invisible to others. Although she continued to knit, and sat upright, it was thus that she felt
herself; and this self having shed its attachments was free for the strangest adventures. When life sank down for a moment, the range of experience
seemed limitless. And to everybody there was always this sense of unlimited resources, she supposed; one after another, she, Lily, Augustus
Carmichael, must feel, our apparitions, the things you know us by, are simply childish. Beneath it is all dark, it is all spreading, it is unfathomably
deep; but now and again we rise to the surface and that is what you see us by. Her horizon seemed to her limitless. There were all the places she
had not seen; the Indian plains; she felt herself pushing aside the thick leather curtain of a church in Rome.
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This core of darkness could go
anywhere, for no one saw it. They could not stop it, she thought, exulting. There was freedom, there was peace, there was, most welcome of all, a
summoning together, a resting on a platform of stability. Not as oneself did one find rest ever, in her experience (she accomplished here something
dexterous with her needles), but as a wedge of darkness. Losing personality, one lost the fret, the hurry, the stir; and there rose to her lips always
some exclamation of triumph over life when things came together in this peace, this rest, this eternity; and pausing there she looked out to meet
that stroke of the Lighthouse, the long steady stroke, the last of the three, which was her stroke, for watching them in this mood always at this hour
one could not help attaching oneself to one thing especially of the things one saw; and this thing, the long steady stroke, was her stroke. Often she
found herself sitting and looking, sitting and looking, with her work in her hands until she became the thing she looked at – that light for example.
And it would lift up on it some little phrase or other which had been lying in her mind like that– ‘Children don’t forget, children don’t forget’–
which she would repeat and begin adding to it, It will end, It will end, she said. It will come, it will come, when suddenly she added, We are in the
hands of the Lord.
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But instantly she was annoyed with herself for saying that. Who had said it? not she; she had been trapped into saying something she did not
mean. She looked up over her knitting and met the third stroke and it seemed to her like her own eyes meeting her own eyes, searching as she
alone could search into her mind and her heart, purifying out of existence that lie, any lie. She praised herself in praising the light, without vanity,
for she was stern, she was searching, she was beautiful like that light. It was odd, she thought, how if one was alone, one leant to things, inanimate
things; trees, streams, flowers; felt they expressed one; felt they became one; felt they knew one, in a sense were one; felt an irrational tenderness
thus (she looked at that long steady light) as for oneself. There rose, and she looked and looked with her needles suspended, there curled up off the
floor of the mind, rose from the lake of one’s being, a mist, a bride to meet her lover.
What brought her to say that: ‘We are in the hands of the Lord’? she wondered. The insincerity slipping in among the truths roused her, annoyed
her. She returned to her knitting again. How could any Lord have made this world? she asked. With her mind she had always seized the fact that
there is no reason, order, justice: but suffering, death, the poor. There was no treachery too base for the world to commit; she knew that. No
happiness lasted; she knew that. She knitted with firm composure, slightly pursing her lips and, without being aware of it, so stiffened and
composed the lines of her face in a habit of sternness that when her husband passed, though he was chuckling at the thought that Hume, the
philosopher, grown enormously fat, had stuck in a bog, he could not help noting, as he passed, the sternness at the heart of her beauty. It saddened
him, and her remoteness pained him, and he felt, as he passed, that he could not protect her, and, when he reached the hedge, he was sad. He
could do nothing to help her. He must stand by and watch her. Indeed, the infernal truth was, he made things worse for her. He was irritable – he
was touchy. He had lost his temper over the Lighthouse. He looked into the hedge, into its intricacy, its darkness.
Always, Mrs. Ramsay felt, one helped oneself out of solitude reluctantly by laying hold of some little odd or end, some sound, some sight. She
listened, but it was all very still; cricket was over; the children were in their baths; there was only the sound of the sea. She stopped knitting; she
held the long reddish-brown stocking dangling in her hands a moment. She saw the light again. With some irony in her interrogation, for when one
woke at all, one’s relations changed, she looked at the steady light, the pitiless, the remorseless, which was so much her, yet so little her, which had
her at its beck and call (she woke in the night and saw it bent across their bed, stroking the floor), but for all that she thought, watching it with
fascination, hypnotised, as if it were stroking with its silver fingers some sealed vessel in her brain whose bursting would flood her with delight,
she had known happiness, exquisite happiness, intense happiness, and it silvered the rough waves a little more brightly, as daylight faded, and the
blue went out of the sea and it rolled in waves of pure lemon which curved and swelled and broke upon the beach and the ecstasy burst in her
eyes and waves of pure delight raced over the floor of her mind and she felt, It is enough! It is enough!
He turned and saw her. Ah! She was lovely, lovelier now than ever he thought. But he could not speak to her. He could not interrupt her. He
wanted urgently to speak to her now that James was gone and she was alone at last. But he resolved, no; he would not interrupt her. She was aloof
from him now in her beauty, in her sadness. He would let her be, and he passed her without a word, though it hurt him that she should look so
distant, and he could not reach her, he could do nothing to help her. And again he would have passed her without a word had she not, at that very
moment, given him of her own free will what she knew he would never ask, and called to him and taken the green shawl off the picture frame,
moment, given him of her own free will what she knew he would never ask, and called to him and taken the green shawl off the picture frame,
and gone to him. For he wished, she knew, to protect her.
12
12
She folded the green shawl about her shoulders. She took his arm. His beauty was so great, she said, beginning to speak of Kennedy the gardener at
once; he was so awfully handsome, that she couldn’t dismiss him. There was a ladder against the greenhouse, and little lumps of putty stuck about,
for they were beginning to mend the green-house roof. Yes, but as she strolled along with her husband, she felt that that particular source of worry
had been placed. She had it on the tip of her tongue to say, as they strolled, ‘It’ll cost fifty pounds’, but instead, for her heart failed her about
money, she talked about Jasper shooting birds, and he said, at once, soothing her instantly, that it was natural in a boy, and he trusted he would
find better ways of amusing himself before long. Her husband was so sensible, so just. And so she said, ‘Yes; all children go through stages,’ and
began considering the dahlias in the big bed, and wondering what about next year’s flowers, and had he heard the children’s nickname for Charles
Tansley, she asked. The atheist, they called him, the little atheist. ‘He’s not a polished specimen,’ said Mr. Ramsay. ‘Far from it,’ said Mrs. Ramsay.
She supposed it was all right leaving him to his own devices, Mrs. Ramsay said, wondering whether it was any use sending down bulbs; did they
plant them? ‘Oh, he has his dissertation to write,’ said Mr. Ramsay. She knew all about that, said Mrs. Ramsay. He talked of nothing else. It was
about the influence of somebody upon something. ‘Well, it’s all he has to count on,’ said Mr. Ramsay. ‘Pray Heaven he won’t fall in love with Prue,’
said Mrs. Ramsay. He’d disinherit her if she married him, said Mr. Ramsay. He did not look at the flowers, which his wife was considering, but at a
spot about a foot or so above them. There was no harm in him, he added, and was just about to say that anyhow he was the only young man in
England who admired his – when he choked it back. He would not bother her again about his books. These flowers seemed creditable, Mr. Ramsay
said, lowering his gaze and noticing something red, something brown. Yes, but then these she had put in with her own hands, said Mrs. Ramsay.
The question was, what happened if she sent bulbs down; did Kennedy plant them? It was his incurable laziness; she added, moving on. If she
stood over him all day long with a spade in her hand, he did sometimes do a stroke of work. So they strolled along, towards the red-hot pokers.
‘You’re teaching your daughters to exaggerate,’ said Mr. Ramsay, reproving her. Her Aunt Camilla
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was far worse than she was, Mrs. Ramsay
remarked. ‘Nobody ever held up your Aunt Camilla as a model of virtue that I’m aware of,’ said Mr. Ramsay. ‘She was the most beautiful woman I
ever saw,’ said Mrs. Ramsay. ‘Somebody else was that,’ said Mr. Ramsay. Prue was going to be far more beautiful than she was, said Mrs. Ramsay.
He saw no trace of it, said Mr. Ramsay. ‘Well, then, look to-night,’ said Mrs. Ramsay. They paused. He wished Andrew could be induced to work
harder. He would lose every chance of a scholarship
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if he didn’t. ‘Oh scholarships!’ she said. Mr. Ramsay thought her foolish for saying that, about
a serious thing, like a scholarship. He should be very proud of Andrew if he got a scholarship, he said. She would be just as proud of him if he
didn’t, she answered. They disagreed always about this, but it did not matter. She liked him to believe in scholarships, and he liked her to be proud
of Andrew whatever he did. Suddenly she remembered those little paths on the edge of the cliffs.
Wasn’t it late? she asked. They hadn’t come home yet. He flicked his watch carelessly open. But it was only just past seven. He held his watch
open for a moment, deciding that he would tell her what he had felt on the terrace. To begin with, it was not reasonable to be so nervous. Andrew
could look after himself. Then, he wanted to tell her that when he was walking on the terrace just now – here he became uncomfortable, as if he
were breaking into that solitude, that aloofness, that remoteness of hers… But she pressed him. What had he wanted to tell her, she asked, thinking
it was about going to the Lighthouse; and that he was sorry he had said ‘Damn you’. But no. He did not like to see her look so sad, he said. Only
wool-gathering, she protested, flushing a little. They both felt uncomfortable, as if they did not know whether to go on or go back. She had been
reading fairy tales to James, she said. No, they could not share that; they could not say that.
They had reached the gap between the two clumps of red-hot pokers, and there was the Lighthouse again, but she would not let herself look at
it. Had she known that he was looking at her, she thought, she would not have let herself sit there, thinking. She disliked anything that reminded
her that she had been seen sitting thinking. So she looked over her shoulder, at the town. The lights were rippling and running as if they were
drops of silver water held firm in a wind. And all the poverty, all the suffering had turned to that, Mrs. Ramsay thought. The lights of the town and
of the harbour and of the boats seemed like a phantom net floating there to mark something which had sunk. Well, if he could not share her
thoughts, Mr. Ramsay said to himself, he would be off, then, on his own. He wanted to go on thinking, telling himself the story how Hume was
stuck in a bog; he wanted to laugh. But first it was nonsense to be anxious about Andrew. When he was Andrew’s age he used to walk about the
country
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all day long, with nothing but a biscuit in his pocket and nobody bothered about him, or thought that he had fallen over a cliff. He said
aloud he thought he would be off for a day’s walk if the weather held. He had had about enough of Bankes and of Carmichael. He would like a
little solitude. Yes, she said. It annoyed him that she did not protest. She knew that he would never do it. He was too old now to walk all day long
with a biscuit in his pocket. She worried about the boys, but not about him. Years ago, before he had married, he thought, looking across the bay,
as they stood between the clumps of red-hot pokers, he had walked all day. He had made a meal off bread and cheese in a public house. He had
worked ten hours at a stretch; an old woman just popped her head in now and again and saw to the fire. That was the country he liked best, over
there; those sandhills dwindling away into darkness. One could walk all day without meeting a soul. There was not a house scarcely, not a single
village for miles on end. One could worry things out alone. There were little sandy beaches where no one had been since the beginning of time.
The seals sat up and looked at you. It sometimes seemed to him that in a little house out there, alone – he broke off, sighing. He had no right. The
father of eight children – he reminded himself. And he would have been a beast and a cur to wish a single thing altered. Andrew would be a better
man than he had been. Prue would be a beauty, her mother said. They would stem the flood a bit. That was a good bit of work on the whole– his
man than he had been. Prue would be a beauty, her mother said. They would stem the flood a bit. That was a good bit of work on the whole– his
eight children. They showed he did not damn the poor little universe entirely, for on an evening like this, he thought, looking at the land
dwindling away, the little island seemed pathetically small, half swallowed up in the sea.
‘Poor little place,’ he murmured with a sigh.
She heard him. He said the most melancholy things, but she noticed that directly he had said them he always seemed more cheerful than usual.
All this phrase-making was a game, she thought, for if she had said half what he said, she would have blown her brains out by now.
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It annoyed her, this phrase-making, and she said to him, in a matter-of-fact way, that it was a perfectly lovely evening. And what was he
groaning about, she asked, half laughing, half complaining, for she guessed what he was thinking – he would have written better books if he had
not married.
He was not complaining, he said. She knew that he did not complain. She knew that he had nothing whatever to complain of. And he seized her
hand and raised it to his lips and kissed it with an intensity that brought the tears to her eyes, and quickly he dropped it.
They turned away from the view and began to walk up the path where the silver-green spear-like plants grew, arm in arm. His arm was almost
like a young man’s arm, Mrs. Ramsay thought, thin and hard, and she thought with delight how strong he still was, though he was over sixty, and
how untamed and optimistic, and how strange it was that being convinced, as he was, of all sorts of horrors, seemed not to depress him, but to
cheer him. Was it not odd, she reflected? Indeed he seemed to her sometimes made differently from other people, born blind, deaf, and dumb, to
the ordinary things, but to the extraordinary things, with an eye like an eagle’s. His understanding often astonished her. But did he notice the
flowers? No. Did he notice the view? No. Did he even notice his own daughter’s beauty, or whether there was pudding on his plate or roast beef?
He would sit at table with them like a person in a dream. And his habit of talking aloud, or saying poetry aloud, was growing on him, she was
afraid; for sometimes it was awkward –
Best and brightest, come away!
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poor Miss Giddings, when he shouted that at her, almost jumped out of her skin. But then, Mrs. Ramsay, though instantly taking his side against all
the silly Giddingses in the world, then, she thought, intimating by a little pressure on his arm that he walked up hill too fast for her, and she must
stop for a moment to see whether those were fresh mole-hills on the bank, then, she thought, stooping down to look, a great mind like his must be
different in every way from ours. All the great men she had ever known, she thought, deciding that a rabbit must have got in, were like that, and it
was good for young men (though the atmosphere of lecture-rooms was stuffy and depressing to her beyond endurance almost) simply to hear him,
simply to look at him. But without shooting rabbits, how was one to keep them down? she wondered. It might be a rabbit; it might be a mole.
Some creature anyhow was ruining her evening primroses.
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And looking up, she saw above the thin trees the first pulse of the full-throbbing star,
and wanted to make her husband look at it; for the sight gave her such keen pleasure. But she stopped herself. He never looked at things. If he did,
all he would say would be, Poor little world, with one of his sighs.
At that moment, he said, ‘Very fine’, to please her, and pretended to admire the flowers. But she knew quite well that he did not admire them,
or even realise that they were there. It was only to please her… Ah, but was that not Lily Briscoe strolling along with William Bankes? She
focussed her short-sighted eyes upon the backs of a retreating couple. Yes, indeed it was. Did that not mean that they would marry? Yes, it must!
What an admirable idea! They must marry!
13
13
He had been to Amsterdam,
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Mr. Bankes was saying as he strolled across the lawn with Lily Briscoe. He had seen the Rembrandts. He had been to
Madrid. Unfortunately, it was Good Friday and the Prado was shut. He had been to Rome. Had Miss Briscoe never been to Rome? Oh, she should—
It would be a wonderful experience for her – the Sistine Chapel; Michael Angelo; and Padua, with its Giottos. His wife had been in bad health for
many years, so that their sight-seeing had been on a modest scale.
She had been to Brussels; she had been to Paris, but only for a flying visit to see an aunt who was ill. She had been to Dresden; there were
masses of pictures she had not seen; however, Lily Briscoe reflected, perhaps it was better not to see pictures: they only made one hopelessly
discontented with one’s own work. Mr. Bankes thought one could carry that point of view too far. We can’t all be Titians and we can’t all be
Darwins,
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he said; at the same time he doubted whether you could have your Darwin and your Titian if it weren’t for humble people like
ourselves. Lily would have liked to pay him a compliment; you’re not humble, Mr. Bankes, she would have liked to have said. But he did not want
compliments (most men do, she thought), and she was a little ashamed of her impulse and said nothing while he remarked that perhaps what he
was saying did not apply to pictures. Anyhow, said Lily, tossing off her little insincerity, she would always go on painting, because it interested her.
Yes, said Mr. Bankes, he was sure she would, and as they reached the end of the lawn he was asking her whether she had difficulty in finding
subjects in London when they turned and saw the Ramsays. So that is marriage, Lily thought, a man and a woman looking at a girl throwing a ball.
That is what Mrs. Ramsay tried to tell me the other night, she thought. For she was wearing a green shawl, and they were standing close together
watching Prue and Jasper throwing catches. And suddenly the meaning which, for no reason at all, as perhaps they are stepping out of the Tube or
ringing a doorbell, descends on people, making them symbolical,
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making them representative, came upon them, and made them in the dusk
standing, looking, the symbols of marriage, husband and wife. Then, after an instant, the symbolical outline which transcended the real figures sank
down again, and they became, as they met them, Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay watching the children throwing catches. But still for a moment, though Mrs.
Ramsay greeted them with her usual smile (oh, she’s thinking we’re going to get married, Lily thought) and said, ‘I have triumphed to-night,’
meaning that for once Mr. Bankes had agreed to dine with them and not run off to his own lodging where his man cooked vegetables properly;
still, for one moment, there was a sense of things having been blown apart, of space, of irresponsibility as the ball soared high, and they followed it
and lost it and saw the one star and the draped branches. In the failing light they all looked sharp-edged and ethereal and divided by great
distances. Then, darting backwards over the vast space (for it seemed as if solidity had vanished altogether), Prue ran full tilt into them and caught
the ball brilliantly high up in her left hand, and her mother said, ‘Haven’t they come back yet?’ whereupon the spell was broken. Mr. Ramsay felt
free now to laugh out loud at Hume, who had stuck in a bog and an old woman rescued him on condition he said the Lord’s Prayer, and chuckling
to himself he strolled off to his study. Mrs. Ramsay, bringing Prue back into the alliance of family life again, from which she had escaped, throwing
catches, asked,
‘Did Nancy go with them?’
14
14
(Certainly, Nancy had gone with them, since Minta Doyle had asked it with her dumb look, holding out her hand, as Nancy made off, after lunch,
to her attic, to escape the horror of family life. She supposed she must go then. She did not want to go. She did not want to be drawn into it all.
For as they walked along the road to the cliff Minta kept on taking her hand. Then she would let it go. Then she would take it again. What was it
she wanted? Nancy asked herself. There was something, of course, that people wanted; for when Minta took her hand and held it, Nancy,
reluctantly, saw the whole world spread out beneath her, as if it were Constantinople
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seen through a mist, and then, however heavy-eyed one
might be, one must needs ask, ‘Is that Santa Sofia?’ ‘Is that the Golden Horn?’ So Nancy asked, when Minta took her hand, ‘What is it that she
wants? Is it that?’ And what was that? Here and there emerged from the mist (as Nancy looked down upon life spread beneath her) a pinnacle, a
dome; prominent things, without names. But when Minta dropped her hand, as she did when they ran down the hillside, all that, the dome, the
pinnacle, whatever it was that had protruded through the mist, sank down into it and disappeared.
Minta, Andrew observed, was rather a good walker. She wore more sensible clothes than most women. She wore very short skirts and black
knickerbockers. She would jump straight into a stream and flounder across. He liked her rashness, but he saw that it would not do – she would kill
herself in some idiotic way one of these days. She seemed to be afraid of nothing – except bulls. At the mere sight of a bull in a field she would
throw up her arms and fly screaming, which was the very thing to enrage a bull of course. But she did not mind owning up to it in the least; one
must admit that. She knew she was an awful coward about bulls, she said. She thought she must have been tossed in her perambulator when she
was a baby. She didn’t seem to mind what she said or did. Suddenly now she pitched down on the edge of the cliff and began to sing some song
about
Damn your eyes, damn your eyes.
They all had to join in and sing the chorus, and shout out together:
Damn your eyes, damn your eyes,
but it would be fatal to let the tide come in and cover up all the good hunting-grounds before they got on to the beach.
‘Fatal,’ Paul agreed, springing up, and as they went slithering down, he kept quoting the guide-book about ‘these islands being justly celebrated
for their park-like prospects and the extent and variety of their marine curiosities’. But it would not do altogether, this shouting and damning your
eyes, Andrew felt, picking his way down the cliff, this clapping him on the back, and calling him ‘old fellow’ and all that; it would not altogether
do. It was the worst of taking women on walks. Once on the beach they separated, he going out on to the Pope’s Nose,
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taking his shoes off, and
rolling his socks in them and letting that couple look after themselves; Nancy waded out to her own rocks and searched her own pools and let that
couple look after themselves. She crouched low down and touched the smooth rubber-like sea anemones, who were stuck like lumps of jelly to the
side of the rock. Brooding, she changed the pool into the sea, and made the minnows into sharks and whales, and cast vast clouds over this tiny
world by holding her hand against the sun, and so brought darkness and desolation, like God himself, to millions of ignorant and innocent
creatures, and then took her hand away suddenly and let the sun stream down. Out on the pale criss-crossed sand, high-stepping, fringed,
gauntletted, stalked some fantastic leviathan (she was still enlarging the pool), and slipped into the vast fissures of the mountain side. And then,
letting her eyes slide imperceptibly above the pool and rest on that wavering line of sea and sky, on the tree trunks which the smoke of steamers
made waver upon the horizon, she became with all that power sweeping savagely in and inevitably withdrawing, hypnotised, and the two senses
of that vastness and this tininess (the pool had diminished again) flowering within it made her feel that she was bound hand and foot and unable
to move by the intensity of feelings which reduced her own body, her own life, and the lives of all the people in the world, for ever, to
nothingness. So listening to the waves, crouched over the pool, she brooded.
And Andrew shouted that the sea was coming in, so she leapt splashing through the shallow waves on to the shore and ran up the beach and
was carried by her own impetuosity and her desire for rapid movement right behind a rock and there oh heavens! in each other’s arms were Paul
and Minta! kissing probably.
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She was outraged, indignant. She and Andrew put on their shoes and stockings in dead silence without saying a
thing about it. Indeed they were rather sharp with each other. She might have called him when she saw the crayfish or whatever it was, Andrew
grumbled. However, they both felt, it’s not our fault. They had not wanted this horrid nuisance to happen. All the same it irritated Andrew that
Nancy should be a woman, and Nancy that Andrew should be a man and they tied their shoes very neatly and drew the bows rather tight.
It was not until they had climbed right up on to the top of the cliff again that Minta cried out that she had lost her grandmother’s brooch
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– her
grandmother’s brooch, the sole ornament she possessed – a weeping willow, it was (they must remember it) set in pearls. They must have seen it,
she said, with the tears running down her cheeks, the brooch which her grandmother had fastened her cap with till the last day of her life. Now she
had lost it. She would rather have lost anything than that! She would go back and look for it. They all went back. They poked and peered and
looked. They kept their heads very low, and said things shortly and gruffly. Paul Rayley searched like a madman all about the rock where they had
been sitting. All this pother about a brooch really didn’t do at all, Andrew thought, as Paul told him to make a ‘thorough search between this point
been sitting. All this pother about a brooch really didn’t do at all, Andrew thought, as Paul told him to make a ‘thorough search between this point
and that’. The tide was coming in fast. The sea would cover the place where they had sat in a minute. There was not a ghost of a chance of their
finding it now. ‘We shall be cut off!’ Minta shrieked, suddenly terrified. As if there were any danger of that! It was the same as the bulls all over
again – she had no control over her emotions, Andrew thought. Women hadn’t. The wretched Paul had to pacify her. The men (Andrew and Paul at
once became manly, and different from usual) took counsel briefly and decided that they would plant Rayley’s stick where they had sat and come
back at low tide again. There was nothing more that could be done now. If the brooch was there, it would still be there in the morning, they
assured her, but Minta still sobbed, all the way up to the top of the cliff. It was her grandmother’s brooch; she would rather have lost anything but
that, and yet Nancy felt, though it might be true that she minded losing her brooch, she wasn’t crying only for that. She was crying for something
else. We might all sit down and cry, she felt. But she did not know what for.
They drew ahead together, Paul and Minta, and he comforted her, and said how famous he was for finding things. Once when he was a little boy
he had found a gold watch. He would get up at daybreak and he was positive he would find it. It seemed to him that it would be almost dark, and
he would be alone on the beach, and somehow it would be rather dangerous. He began telling her, however, that he would certainly find it, and
she said that she would not hear of his getting up at dawn: it was lost: she knew that: she had had a presentiment when she put it on that
afternoon. And secretly he resolved that he would not tell her, but he would slip out of the house at dawn when they were all asleep and if he
could not find it he would go to Edinburgh
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. and buy her another, just like it but more beautiful. He would prove what he could do. And as they
came out on the hill and saw the lights of the town beneath them, the lights coming out suddenly one by one seemed like things that were going to
happen to him – his marriage, his children, his house; and again he thought, as they came out on to the high road, which was shaded with high
bushes, how they would retreat into solitude together, and walk on and on, he always leading her, and she pressing close to his side (as she did
now). As they turned by the cross roads he thought what an appalling experience he had been through, and he must tell some one – Mrs. Ramsay
of course, for it took his breath away to think what he had been and done. It had been far and away the worst moment of his life when he asked
Minta to marry him. He would go straight to Mrs. Ramsay, because he felt somehow that she was the person who had made him do it. She had
made him think he could do anything. Nobody else took him seriously. But she made him believe that he could do whatever he wanted. He had
felt her eyes on him all day to-day, following him about (though she never said a word) as if she were saying, ‘Yes, you can do it. I believe in you. I
expect it of you.’ She had made him feel all that, and directly they got back (he looked for the lights of the house above the bay) he would go to
her and say, ‘I’ve done it, Mrs. Ramsay; thanks to you.’ And so turning into the lane that led to the house he could see lights moving about in the
upper windows. They must be awfully late then. People were getting ready for dinner. The house was all lit up,
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and the lights after the darkness
made his eyes feel full, and he said to himself, childishly, as he walked up the drive, Lights, lights, lights, and repeated in a dazed way, Lights,
lights, lights, as they came into the house, staring about him with his face quite stiff. But, good heavens, he said to himself, putting his hand to his
tie, I must not make a fool of myself.)
15
15
‘Yes,’ said Prue, in her considering way, answering her mother’s question, ‘I think Nancy did go with them.’
16
16
Well then, Nancy had gone with them, Mrs. Ramsay supposed, wondering, as she put down a brush, took up a comb, and said ‘Come in’ to a tap at
the door (Jasper and Rose came in), whether the fact that Nancy was with them made it less likely or more likely that anything would happen; it
made it less likely, somehow, Mrs. Ramsay felt, very irrationally, except that after all holocaust on such a scale was not probable. They could not
all be drowned. And again she felt alone in the presence of her old antagonist, life.
Jasper and Rose said that Mildred wanted to know whether she should wait dinner.
‘Not for the Queen of England,’ said Mrs. Ramsay emphatically.
‘Not for the Empress of Mexico,’ she added, laughing at Jasper; for he shared his mother’s vice: he, too, exaggerated.
And if Rose liked, she said, while Jasper took the message, she might choose which jewels she was to wear.
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When there are fifteen people
sitting down to dinner,
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one cannot keep things waiting for ever. She was now beginning to feel annoyed with them for being so late; it was
inconsiderate of them, and it annoyed her on top of her anxiety about them, that they should choose this very night to be out late, when, in fact,
she wished the dinner to be particularly nice, since William Bankes had at last consented to dine with them; and they were having Mildred’s
master-piece – Bœuf en Daube.
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Everything depended upon things being served up the precise moment they were ready. The beef, the bayleaf,
and the wine – all must be done to a turn. To keep it waiting was out of the question. Yet of course to-night, of all nights, out they went, and they
came in late, and things had to be sent out, things had to be kept hot; the Bœuf en Daube would be entirely spoilt.
Jasper offered her an opal necklace; Rose a gold necklace. Which looked best against her black dress? Which did indeed? said Mrs. Ramsay
absent-mindedly, looking at her neck and shoulders (but avoiding her face), in the glass. And then, while the children rummaged among her things,
she looked out of the window at a sight which always amused her – the rooks trying to decide which tree to settle on. Every time, they seemed to
change their minds and rose up into the air again, because, she thought, the old rook, the father rook, old Joseph was her name for him, was a bird
of a very trying and difficult disposition. He was a disreputable old bird, with half his wing feathers missing. He was like some seedy old
gentleman in a top hat she had seen playing the horn in front of a public house.
‘Look!’ she said, laughing. They were actually fighting. Joseph and Mary
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were fighting. Anyhow they all went up again, and the air was
shoved aside by their black wings and cut into exquisite scimitar shapes. The movement of the wings beating out, out, out – she could never
describe it accurately enough to please herself – was one of the loveliest of all to her. Look at that, she said to Rose, hoping that Rose would see it
more clearly than she could. For one’s children so often gave one’s own perceptions a little thrust forwards.
But which was it to be? They had all the trays of her jewel-case open. The gold necklace, which was Italian, or the opal necklace, which Uncle
James had brought her from India; or should she wear her amethysts?
‘Choose, dearests, choose,’ she said, hoping that they would make haste.
But she let them take their time to choose: she let Rose, particularly, take up this and then that, and hold her jewels against the black dress, for
this little ceremony of choosing jewels, which was gone through every night, was what Rose liked best, she knew. She had some hidden reason of
her own for attaching great importance to this choosing what her mother was to wear. What was the reason, Mrs. Ramsay wondered, standing still
to let her clasp the necklace she had chosen, divining, through her own past, some deep, some buried, some quite speechless feeling that one had
for one’s mother at Rose’s age. Like all feelings felt for oneself, Mrs. Ramsay thought, it made one sad. It was so inadequate, what one could give in
return; and what Rose felt was quite out of proportion to anything she actually was. And Rose would grow up; and Rose would suffer, she
supposed, with these deep feelings, and she said she was ready now, and they would go down, and Jasper, because he was the gentleman, should
give her his arm, and Rose, as she was the lady, should carry her handkerchief (she gave her the handkerchief), and what else? oh, yes, it might be
cold: a shawl. Choose me a shawl, she said, for that would please Rose, who was bound to suffer so. ‘There,’ she said, stopping by the window on
the landing, ‘there they are again.’ Joseph had settled on another tree-top. ‘Don’t you think they mind’, she said to Jasper, ‘having their wings
broken?’ Why did he want to shoot poor old Joseph and Mary? He shuffled a little on the stairs, and felt rebuked, but not seriously, for she did not
understand the fun of shooting birds; that they did not feel; and being his mother she lived away in another division of the world, but he rather
liked her stories about Mary and Joseph. She made him laugh. But how did she know that those were Mary and Joseph? Did she think the same
birds came to the same trees every night? he asked. But here, suddenly, like all grown-up people, she ceased to pay him the least attention. She
was listening to a clatter in the hall.
‘They’ve come back!’ she exclaimed, and at once she felt much more annoyed with them than relieved. Then she wondered, had it happened?
She would go down and they would tell her – but no. They could not tell her anything, with all these people about. So she must go down and
begin dinner and wait. And, like some queen who, finding her people gathered in the hall, looks down upon them, and descends among them, and
acknowledges their tributes silently, and accepts their devotion and their prostration before her (Paul did not move a muscle but looked straight
before him as she passed), she went down, and crossed the hall and bowed her head very slightly, as if she accepted what they could not say: their
tribute to her beauty.
But she stopped. There was a smell of burning. Could they have let the Bœuf en Daube overboil, she wondered? pray heaven not! when the
But she stopped. There was a smell of burning. Could they have let the Bœuf en Daube overboil, she wondered? pray heaven not! when the
great clangour of the gong announced solemnly, authoritatively, that all those scattered about, in attics, in bedrooms, on little perches of their own,
reading, writing, putting the last smooth to their hair, or fastening dresses, must leave all that, and the little odds and ends on their washing-tables
and dressing-tables, and the novels on the bed-tables, and the diaries which were so private, and assemble in the dining-room for dinner.
17
17
But what have I done with my life? thought Mrs. Ramsay, taking her place at the head of the table, and looking at all the plates making white
circles on it. ‘William, sit by me,’ she said. ‘Lily,’ she said, wearily, ‘over there.’ They had that – Paul Rayley and Minta Doyle – she, only this – an
infinitely long table and plates and knives. At the far end, was her husband, sitting down, all in a heap, frowning. What at? She did not know. She
did not mind. She could not understand how she had ever felt any emotion or any affection for him. She had a sense of being past everything,
through everything, out of everything, as she helped the soup, as if there was an eddy – there– and one could be in it, or one could be out of it, and
she was out of it. It’s all come to an end, she thought, while they came in one after another, Charles Tansley – ‘Sit there, please,’ she said –
Augustus Carmichael – and sat down. And meanwhile she waited, passively, for someone to answer her, for something to happen. But this is not a
thing, she thought, ladling out soup, that one says.
Raising her eyebrows at the discrepancy– that was what she was thinking, this was what she was doing– ladling out soup – she felt, more and
more strongly, outside that eddy; or as if a shade had fallen, and, robbed of colour, she saw things truly. The room (she looked round it) was very
shabby. There was no beauty anywhere. She forebore to look at Mr. Tansley. Nothing seemed to have merged. They all sat separate. And the whole
of the effort of merging and flowing and creating rested on her. Again she felt, as a fact without hostility, the sterility of men, for if she did not do it
nobody would do it, and so, giving herself the little shake that one gives a watch that has stopped, the old familiar pulse began beating, as the
watch begins ticking– one, two, three, one, two, three. And so on and so on, she repeated, listening to it, sheltering and fostering the still feeble
pulse as one might guard a weak flame with a newspaper. And so then, she concluded, addressing herself by bending silently in his direction to
William Bankes – poor man! who had no wife and no children, and dined alone in lodgings except for to-night; and in pity for him, life being now
strong enough to bear her on again, she began all this business, as a sailor not without weariness sees the wind fill his sail and yet hardly wants to
be off again and thinks how, had the ship sunk, he would have whirled round and round and found rest on the floor of the sea.
‘Did you find your letters? I told them to put them in the hall for you,’ she said to William Bankes.
Lily Briscoe watched her drifting into that strange noman’s land where to follow people is impossible and yet their going inflicts such a chill on
those who watch them that they always try at least to follow them with their eyes as one follows a fading ship until the sails have sunk beneath the
horizon.
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How old she looks, how worn she looks, Lily thought, and how remote. Then when she turned to William Bankes, smiling, it was as if the ship
had turned and the sun had struck its sails again, and Lily thought with some amusement because she was relieved, Why does she pity him? For
that was the impression she gave, when she told him that his letters were in the hall. Poor William Bankes, she seemed to be saying, as if her own
weariness had been partly pitying people, and the life in her, her resolve to live again, had been stirred by pity. And it was not true, Lily thought;
it was one of those misjudgments of hers that seemed to be instinctive and to arise from some need of her own rather than of other people’s. He is
not in the least pitiable. He has his work, Lily said to herself. She remembered, all of a sudden as if she had found a treasure, that she too had her
work. In a flash she saw her picture, and thought, Yes, I shall put the tree further in the middle; then I shall avoid that awkward space. That’s what
I shall do. That’s what has been puzzling me. She took up the salt cellar and put it down again on a flower in the pattern in the table-cloth, so as to
remind herself to move the tree.
‘It’s odd that one scarcely gets anything worth having by post, yet one always wants one’s letters,’ said Mr. Bankes.
What damned rot they talk, thought Charles Tansley, laying down his spoon precisely in the middle of his plate, which he had swept clean, as if,
Lily thought (he sat opposite to her with his back to the window precisely in the middle of the view), he were determined to make sure of his
meals. Everything about him had that meagre fixity, that bare unloveliness. But nevertheless, the fact remained, it was almost impossible to dislike
anyone if one looked at them. She liked his eyes; they were blue, deep set, frightening.
‘Do you write many letters, Mr. Tansley?’ asked Mrs. Ramsay, pitying him too, Lily supposed; for that was true of Mrs. Ramsay – she pitied men
always as if they lacked something – women never, as if they had something. He wrote to his mother; otherwise he did not suppose he wrote one
letter a month, said Mr. Tansley, shortly.
For he was not going to talk the sort of rot these people wanted him to talk. He was not going to be condescended to by these silly women. He
had been reading in his room, and now he came down and it all seemed to him silly, superficial, flimsy. Why did they dress? He had come down
in his ordinary clothes. He had not got any dress clothes. ‘One never gets anything worth having by post’– that was the sort of thing they were
always saying. They made men say that sort of thing. Yes, it was pretty well true, he thought. They never got anything worth having from one year’s
end to another. They did nothing but talk, talk, talk, eat, eat, eat. It was the women’s fault. Women made civilisation impossible with all their
‘charm’, all their silliness.
‘No going to the Lighthouse to-morrow, Mrs. Ramsay,’ he said asserting himself. He liked her; he admired her; he still thought of the man in the
drain-pipe looking up at her; but he felt it necessary to assert himself.
He was really, Lily Briscoe thought, in spite of his eyes, the most uncharming human being she had ever met. Then why did she mind what he
said? Women can’t write, women can’t paint
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– what did that matter coming from him, since clearly it was not true to him but for some reason
helpful to him, and that was why he said it? Why did her whole being bow, like corn under a wind, and erect itself again from this abasement only
helpful to him, and that was why he said it? Why did her whole being bow, like corn under a wind, and erect itself again from this abasement only
with a great and rather painful effort? She must make it once more. There’s the sprig on the table-cloth; there’s my painting; I must move the tree
to the middle; that matters – nothing else. Could she not hold fast to that, she asked herself, and not lose her temper, and not argue; and if she
wanted a little revenge take it by laughing at him?
‘Oh, Mr. Tansley,’ she said, ‘do take me to the Lighthouse with you. I should so love it.’
She was telling lies he could see. She was saying what she did not mean to annoy him, for some reason. She was laughing at him. He was in his
old flannel trousers. He had no others. He felt very rough and isolated and lonely. He knew that she was trying to tease him for some reason; she
didn’t want to go to the Lighthouse with him; she despised him: so did Prue Ramsay; so did they all. But he was not going to be made a fool of by
women, so he turned deliberately in his chair and looked out of the window and said, all in a jerk, very rudely, it would be too rough for her to-
morrow. She would be sick.
It annoyed him that she should have made him speak like that, with Mrs. Ramsay listening. If only he could be alone in his room working, he
thought, among his books. That was where he felt at his ease. And he had never run a penny into debt; he had never cost his father a penny since
he was fifteen; he had helped them at home out of his savings; he was educating his sister. Still, he wished he had known how to answer Miss
Briscoe properly; he wished it had not come out all in a jerk like that. ‘You’d be sick.’ He wished he could think of something to say to Mrs.
Ramsay, something which would show her that he was not just a dry prig. That was what they all thought him. He turned to her. But Mrs. Ramsay
was talking about people he had never heard of to William Bankes.
‘Yes, take it away,’ she said briefly, interrupting what she was saying to Mr. Bankes to speak to the maid. ‘It must have been fifteen – no, twenty
years ago – that I last saw her,’ she was saying, turning back to him again as if she could not lose a moment of their talk, for she was absorbed by
what they were saying. So he had actually heard from her this evening! And was Carrie still living at Marlow, and was everything still the same?
Oh she could remember it as if it were yesterday – going on the river, feeling very cold. But if the Mannings made a plan they stuck to it. Never
should she forget Herbert killing a wasp with a teaspoon on the bank! And it was still going on, Mrs. Ramsay mused, gliding like a ghost among
the chairs and tables of that drawing-room on the banks of the Thames where she had been so very, very cold twenty years ago; but now she went
among them like a ghost; and it fascinated her, as if, while she had changed, that particular day, now become very still and beautiful, had remained
there, all these years. Had Carrie written to him herself? she asked.
‘Yes. She says they’re building a new billiard room,’ he said. No! No! That was out of the question! Building a billiard room! It seemed to her
impossible.
Mr. Bankes could not see that there was anything very odd about it. They were very well off now. Should he give her love to Carrie?
‘Oh,’ said Mrs. Ramsay with a little start, ‘No,’ she added, reflecting that she did not know this Carrie who built a new billiard room. But how
strange, she repeated, to Mr. Bankes’s amusement, that they should be going on there still. For it was extraordinary to think that they had been
capable of going on living all these years when she had not thought of them more than once all that time. How eventful her own life had been,
during those same years. Yet perhaps Carrie Manning had not thought about her either. The thought was strange and distasteful.
‘People soon drift apart,’ said Mr. Bankes, feeling, however, some satisfaction when he thought that after all he knew both the Mannings and the
Ramsays. He had not drifted apart, he thought, laying down his spoon and wiping his clean-shaven lips punctiliously. But perhaps he was rather
unusual, he thought, in this; he never let himself get into a groove. He had friends in all circles… Mrs. Ramsay had to break off here to tell the
maid something about keeping food hot. That was why he preferred dining alone. All these interruptions annoyed him. Well, thought William
Bankes, preserving a demeanour of exquisite courtesy and merely spreading the fingers of his left hand on the table-cloth as a mechanic examines a
tool beautifully polished and ready for use in an interval of leisure, such are the sacrifices one’s friends ask of one. It would have hurt her if he had
refused to come. But it was not worth it for him. Looking at his hand he thought that if he had been alone dinner would have been almost over
now; he would have been free to work. Yes, he thought, it is a terrible waste of time. The children were dropping in still. ‘I wish one of you would
run up to Roger’s room,’ Mrs. Ramsay was saying. How trifling it all is, how boring it all is, he thought, compared with the other thing – work.
Here he sat drumming his fingers on the table-cloth when he might have been – he took a flashing bird’s-eye view of his work. What a waste of
time it all was to be sure! Yet, he thought, she is one of my oldest friends. I am by way of being devoted to her. Yet now, at this moment her
presence meant absolutely nothing to him: her beauty meant nothing to him; her sitting with her little boy at the window– nothing, nothing. He
wished only to be alone and to take up that book. He felt uncomfortable; he felt treacherous, that he could sit by her side and feel nothing for her.
The truth was that he did not enjoy family life. It was in this sort of state that one asked oneself, What does one live for? Why, one asked oneself,
does one take all these pains for the human race to go on? Is it so very desirable? Are we attractive as a species? Not so very, he thought, looking
at those rather untidy boys. His favourite, Cam, was in bed, he supposed. Foolish questions, vain questions, questions one never asked if one was
occupied. Is human life this? Is human life that? One never had time to think about it. But here he was asking himself that sort of question, because
Mrs. Ramsay was giving orders to servants, and also because it had struck him, thinking how surprised Mrs. Ramsay was that Carrie Manning should
still exist, that friendships, even the best of them, are frail things. One drifts apart. He reproached himself again. He was sitting beside Mrs. Ramsay
and he had nothing in the world to say to her.
‘I’m so sorry,’ said Mrs. Ramsay, turning to him at last. He felt rigid and barren, like a pair of boots that has been soaked and gone dry so that
‘I’m so sorry,’ said Mrs. Ramsay, turning to him at last. He felt rigid and barren, like a pair of boots that has been soaked and gone dry so that
you can hardly force your feet into them. Yet he must force his feet into them. He must make himself talk. Unless he were very careful, she would
find out this treachery of his; that he did not care a straw for her, and that would not be at all pleasant, he thought. So he bent his head courteously
in her direction.
‘How you must detest dining in this bear garden,’ she said, making use, as she did when she was distracted, of her social manner. So, when there
is a strife of tongues at some meeting, the chairman, to obtain unity, suggests that every one shall speak in French. Perhaps it is bad French; French
may not contain the words that express the speaker’s thoughts; nevertheless speaking French imposes some order, some uniformity. Replying to her
in the same language, Mr. Bankes said, ‘No, not at all,’ and Mr. Tansley, who had no knowledge of this language, even spoken thus in words of one
syllable, at once suspected its insincerity. They did talk nonsense, he thought, the Ramsays; and he pounced on this fresh instance with joy, making
a note which, one of these days, he would read aloud, to one or two friends. There, in a society where one could say what one liked he would
sarcastically describe ‘staying with the Ramsays’ and what nonsense they talked. It was worth while doing it once, he would say; but not again. The
women bored one so, he would say. Of course Ramsay had dished himself by marrying a beautiful woman and having eight children. It would
shape itself something like that, but now, at this moment, sitting stuck there with an empty seat beside him nothing had shaped itself at all. It was
all in scraps and fragments. He felt extremely, even physically, uncomfortable. He wanted somebody to give him a chance of asserting himself. He
wanted it so urgently that he fidgeted in his chair, looked at this person, then at that person, tried to break into their talk, opened his mouth and
shut it again. They were talking about the fishing industry. Why did no one ask him his opinion? What did they know about the fishing industry?
Lily Briscoe knew all that. Sitting opposite him could she not see, as in an X-ray photograph, the ribs and thigh bones of the young man’s desire
to impress himself lying dark in the mist of his flesh – that thin mist which convention had laid over his burning desire to break into the
conversation? But, she thought, screwing up her Chinese eyes, and remembering how he sneered at women, ‘can’t paint, can’t write’, why should I
help him to relieve himself?
There is a code of behaviour she knew, whose seventh article (it may be) says that on occasions of this sort it behoves the woman, whatever her
own occupation may be, to go to the help of the young man opposite so that he may expose and relieve the thigh bones, the ribs, of his vanity, of
his urgent desire to assert himself; as indeed it is their duty, she reflected, in her old-maidenly fairness, to help us, suppose the Tube were to burst
into flames. Then, she thought, I should certainly expect Mr. Tansley to get me out. But how would it be, she thought, if neither of us did either of
these things? So she sat there smiling.
‘You’re not planning to go to the Lighthouse, are you, Lily?’ said Mrs. Ramsay. ‘Remember poor Mr. Langley; he had been round the world
dozens of times, but he told me he never suffered as he did when my husband took him there. Are you a good sailor, Mr. Tansley?’ she asked.
Mr. Tansley raised a hammer: swung it high in air; but realising, as it descended, that he could not smite that butterfly with such an instrument
as this, said only that he had never been sick in his life. But in that one sentence lay compact, like gunpowder, that his grandfather was a
fisherman; his father a chemist; that he had worked his way up entirely himself; that he was proud of it; that he was Charles Tansley – a fact that
nobody there seemed to realise; but one of these days every single person would know it. He scowled ahead of him. He could almost pity these
mild cultivated people, who would be blown sky high, like bales of wool and barrels of apples, one of these days by the gunpowder that was in
him.
‘Will you take me, Mr. Tansley?’ said Lily, quickly, kindly, for, of course, if Mrs. Ramsay said to her, as in effect she did, ‘I am drowning, my
dear, in seas of fire. Unless you apply some balm to the anguish of this hour and say something nice to that young man there, life will run upon
the rocks– indeed I hear the grating and the growling at this minute. My nerves are taut as fiddle strings. Another touch and they will snap’ – when
Mrs. Ramsay said all this, as the glance in her eyes said it, of course for the hundred and fiftieth time Lily Briscoe had to renounce the experiment –
what happens if one is not nice to that young man there – and be nice.
Judging the turn in her mood correctly – that she was friendly to him now – he was relieved of his egotism, and told her how he had been
thrown out of a boat when he was a baby; how his father used to fish him out with a boat-hook; that was how he had learnt to swim. One of his
uncles kept the light on some rock or other off the Scottish coast, he said. He had been there with him in a storm. This was said loudly in a pause.
They had to listen to him when he said that he had been with his uncle in a lighthouse in a storm. Ah, thought Lily Briscoe, as the conversation
took this auspicious turn, and she felt Mrs. Ramsay’s gratitude (for Mrs. Ramsay was free now to talk for a moment herself), ah, she thought, but
what haven’t I paid to get it for you? She had not been sincere.
She had done the usual trick – been nice. She would never know him. He would never know her. Human relations were all like that, she
thought, and the worst (if it had not been for Mr. Bankes) were between men and women. Inevitably these were extremely insincere. Then her eye
caught the salt cellar, which she had placed there to remind her, and she remembered that next morning she would move the tree further towards
the middle, and her spirits rose so high at the thought of painting to-morrow that she laughed out loud at what Mr. Tansley was saying. Let him
talk all night if he liked it.
‘But how long do they leave men on a lighthouse?’ she asked. He told her. He was amazingly well informed. And as he was grateful, and as he
liked her, and as he was beginning to enjoy himself, so now, Mrs. Ramsay thought, she could return to that dream land, that unreal but fascinating
place, the Mannings’ drawing-room at Marlow twenty years ago; where one moved about without haste or anxiety, for there was no future to worry
place, the Mannings’ drawing-room at Marlow twenty years ago; where one moved about without haste or anxiety, for there was no future to worry
about. She knew what had happened to them, what to her. It was like reading a good book again, for she knew the end of that story, since it had
happened twenty years ago, and life, which shot down even from this dining-room table in cascades, heaven knows where, was sealed up there,
and lay, like a lake, placidly between its banks. He said they had built a billiard room – was it possible? Would William go on talking about the
Mannings? She wanted him to. But no – for some reason he was no longer in the mood. She tried. He did not respond. She could not force him.
She was disappointed.
‘The children are disgraceful,’ she said, sighing. He said something about punctuality being one of the minor virtues which we do not acquire
until later in life.
‘If at all,’ said Mrs. Ramsay merely to fill up space, thinking what an old maid William was becoming. Conscious of his treachery, conscious of
her wish to talk about something more intimate, yet out of mood for it at present, he felt come over him the disagreeableness of life, sitting there,
waiting. Perhaps the others were saying something interesting? What were they saying?
That the fishing season was bad; that the men were emigrating. They were talking about wages and unemployment. The young man was abusing
the government.
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William Bankes, thinking what a relief it was to catch on to something of this sort when private life was disagreeable, heard him
say something about ‘one of the most scandalous acts of the present government.’ Lily was listening; Mrs. Ramsay was listening; they were all
listening. But already bored, Lily felt that something was lacking; Mr. Bankes felt that something was lacking. Pulling her shawl round her, Mrs.
Ramsay felt that something was lacking. All of them bending themselves to listen thought, ‘Pray heaven that the inside of my mind may not be
exposed,’ for each thought, ‘The others are feeling this. They are outraged and indignant with the government about the fishermen. Whereas, I feel
nothing at all.’ But perhaps, thought Mr. Bankes, as he looked at Mr. Tansley, here is the man. One was always waiting for the man. There was
always a chance. At any moment the leader might arise; the man of genius, in politics as in anything else. Probably he will be extremely
disagreeable to us old fogies, thought Mr. Bankes, doing his best to make allowances, for he knew by some curious physical sensation, as of nerves
erect in his spine, that he was jealous, for himself partly, partly more probably for his work, for his point of view, for his science; and therefore he
was not entirely open-minded or altogether fair, for Mr. Tansley seemed to be saying, You have wasted your lives. You are all of you wrong. Poor
old fogies, you’re hopelessly behind the times. He seemed to be rather cocksure, this young man; and his manners were bad. But Mr. Bankes bade
himself observe, he had courage; he had ability; he was extremely well up in the facts. Probably, Mr. Bankes thought, as Tansley abused the
government, there is a good deal in what he says.
‘Tell me now…’ he said. So they argued about politics, and Lily looked at the leaf on the table-cloth; and Mrs. Ramsay, leaving the argument
entirely in the hands of the two men, wondered why she was so bored by this talk, and wished, looking at her husband at the other end of the
table, that he would say something. One word, she said to herself. For if he said a thing, it would make all the difference. He went to the heart of
things. He cared about fishermen and their wages. He could not sleep for thinking of them. It was altogether different when he spoke; one did not
feel then, pray heaven you don’t see how little I care, because one did care. Then, realising that it was because she admired him so much that she
was waiting for him to speak, she felt as if somebody had been praising her husband to her and their marriage, and she glowed all over without
realising that it was she herself who had praised him. She looked at him thinking to find this shown in his face; he would be looking magnificent…
But not in the least! He was screwing his face up, he was scowling and frowning, and flushing with anger. What on earth was it about? she
wondered. What could be the matter? Only that poor old Augustus had asked for another plate of soup – that was all. It was unthinkable, it was
detestable (so he signalled to her across the table) that Augustus should be beginning his soup over again. He loathed people eating when he had
finished. She saw his anger fly like a pack of hounds into his eyes, his brow, and she knew that in a moment something violent would explode, and
then – but thank goodness! she saw him clutch himself and clap a brake on the wheel, and the whole of his body seemed to emit sparks but not
words. He sat there scowling. He had said nothing, he would have her observe. Let her give him the credit for that! But why after all should poor
Augustus not ask for another plate of soup? He had merely touched Ellen’s arm and said:
‘Ellen, please, another plate of soup,’ and then Mr. Ramsay scowled like that.
And why not? Mrs. Ramsay demanded. Surely they could let Augustus have his soup if he wanted it. He hated people wallowing in food, Mr.
Ramsay frowned at her. He hated everything dragging on for hours like this. But he had controlled himself, Mr. Ramsay would have her observe,
disgusting though the sight was. But why show it so plainly, Mrs. Ramsay demanded (they looked at each other down the long table sending these
questions and answers across, each knowing exactly what the other felt). Everybody could see, Mrs. Ramsay thought. There was Rose
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gazing at her
father, there was Roger gazing at his father; both would be off in spasms of laughter in another second, she knew, and so she said promptly (indeed
it was time):
‘Light the candles,’ and they jumped up instantly and went and fumbled at the sideboard.
Why could he never conceal his feelings? Mrs. Ramsay wondered, and she wondered if Augustus Carmichael had noticed. Perhaps he had;
perhaps he had not. She could not help respecting the composure with which he sat there, drinking his soup. If he wanted soup, he asked for soup.
Whether people laughed at him or were angry with him he was the same. He did not like her, she knew that; but partly for that very reason she
respected him, and looking at him, drinking soup, very large and calm in the failing light, and monumental, and contemplative, she wondered
what he did feel then, and why he was always content and dignified; and she thought how devoted he was to Andrew, and would call him into his
what he did feel then, and why he was always content and dignified; and she thought how devoted he was to Andrew, and would call him into his
room, and, Andrew said, ‘show him things’. And there he would lie all day long on the lawn brooding presumably over his poetry, till he reminded
one of a cat watching birds, and then he clapped his paws together when he had found the word, and her husband said, ‘Poor old Augustus – he’s a
true poet’, which was high praise from her husband.
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Now eight candles were stood down the table, and after the first stoop the flames stood upright and drew with them into visibility the long table
entire, and in the middle a yellow and purple dish of fruit. What had she done with it, Mrs. Ramsay wondered, for Rose’s arrangement of the
grapes and pears, of the horny pink-lined shell, of the bananas, made her think of a trophy fetched from the bottom of the sea, of Neptune’s
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banquet, of the bunch that hangs with vine leaves over the shoulder of Bacchus
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(in some picture), among the leopard skins and the torches
lolloping red and gold… Thus brought up suddenly into the light it seemed possessed of great size and depth, was like a world in which one could
take one’s staff and climb up hills, she thought, and go down into valleys, and to her pleasure (for it brought them into sympathy momentarily) she
saw that Augustus too feasted his eyes on the same plate of fruit, plunged in, broke off a bloom there, a tassel here, and returned, after feasting, to
his hive. That was his way of looking, different from hers. But looking together united them.
Now all the candles were lit, and the faces on both sides of the table were brought nearer by the candle-light, and composed, as they had not
been in the twilight, into a party round a table, for the night was now shut off by panes of glass, which, far from giving any accurate view of the
outside world, rippled it so strangely that here, inside the room, seemed to be order and dry land; there, outside, a reflection in which things
wavered and vanished, waterily.
Some change at once went through them all, as if this had really happened, and they were all conscious of making a party together in a hollow,
on an island; had their common cause against that fluidity out there. Mrs. Ramsay, who had been uneasy, waiting for Paul and Minta to come in,
and unable, she felt, to settle to things, now felt her uneasiness changed to expectation. For now they must come, and Lily Briscoe, trying to analyse
the cause of the sudden exhilaration, compared it with that moment on the tennis lawn, when solidity suddenly vanished, and such vast spaces lay
between them; and now the same effect was got by the many candles in the sparely furnished room, and the uncurtained windows, and the bright
mask-like look of faces seen by candlelight. Some weight was taken off them; anything might happen, she felt. They must come now, Mrs. Ramsay
thought, looking at the door, and at that instant, Minta Doyle, Paul Rayley, and a maid carrying a great dish in her hands came in together. They
were awfully late; they were horribly late, Minta said, as they found their way to different ends of the table.
‘I lost my brooch – my grandmother’s brooch,’ said Minta with a sound of lamentation in her voice, and a suffusion in her large brown eyes,
looking down, looking up, as she sat by Mr. Ramsay, which roused his chivalry so that he bantered her.
How could she be such a goose, he asked, as to scramble about the rocks in jewels?
She was by way of being terrified of him – he was so fearfully clever, and the first night when she had sat by him, and he talked about George
Eliot, she had been really frightened, for she had left the third volume of Middle-march
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in the train and she never knew what happened in the
end; but afterwards she got on perfectly, and made herself out even more ignorant than she was, because he liked telling her she was a fool. And so
to-night, directly he laughed at her she was not frightened. Besides, she knew, directly she came into the room, that the miracle had happened; she
wore her golden haze. Sometimes she had it; sometimes not. She never knew why it came or why it went, or if she had it until she came into the
room and then she knew instantly by the way some man looked at her. Yes, to-night she had it, tremendously; she knew that by the way Mr.
Ramsay told her not to be a fool. She sat beside him, smiling.
It must have happened then, thought Mrs. Ramsay; they are engaged. And for a moment she felt what she had never expected to feel again –
jealousy. For he, her husband, felt it too – Minta’s glow; he liked these girls, these golden-reddish girls, with something flying, something a little
wild and harum-scarum about them, who didn’t ‘scrape their hair off, weren’t, as he said about poor Lily Briscoe, ‘skimpy’. There was some quality
which she herself had not, some lustre, some richness, which attracted him, amused him, led him to make favourites of girls like Minta. They might
cut his hair for him, plait him watch-chains, or interrupt him at his work, hailing him (she heard them), ‘Come along, Mr. Ramsay; it’s our turn to
beat them now,’ and out he came to play tennis.
But indeed she was not jealous, only, now and then, when she made herself look in her glass a little resentful that she had grown old, perhaps,
by her own fault. (The bill for the greenhouse and all the rest of it.) She was grateful to them for laughing at him (‘How many pipes have you
smoked to-day, Mr. Ramsay?’ and so on), till he seemed a young man; a man very attractive to women, not burdened, not weighed down with the
greatness of his labours and the sorrows of the world and his fame or his failure, but again as she had first known him, gaunt but gallant; helping
her out of a boat, she remembered; with delightful ways, like that (she looked at him, and he looked astonishingly young, teasing Minta). For
herself – ‘Put it down there,’ she said, helping the Swiss girl to place gently before her the huge brown pot in which was the Bœuf en Daube – for
her own part she liked her boobies. Paul must sit by her. She had kept a place for him. Really, she sometimes thought she liked the boobies best.
They did not bother one with their dissertations. How much they missed, after all, these very clever men! How dried up they did become, to be
sure. There was something, she thought as he sat down, very charming about Paul. His manners were delightful to her, and his sharp-cut nose and
his bright blue eyes. He was so considerate. Would he tell her – now that they were all talking again – what had happened?
‘We went back to look for Minta’s brooch,’ he said, sitting down by her. ‘We’ – that was enough. She knew from the effort, the rise in his voice
to surmount a difficult word that it was the first time he had said ‘we’. ‘We’ did this, ‘we’ did that. They’ll say that all their lives, she thought, and
to surmount a difficult word that it was the first time he had said ‘we’. ‘We’ did this, ‘we’ did that. They’ll say that all their lives, she thought, and
an exquisite scent of olives and oil and juice rose from the great brown dish as Marthe, with a little flourish, took the cover off. The cook had spent
three days over that dish. And she must take great care, Mrs. Ramsay thought, diving into the soft mass, to choose a specially tender piece for
William Bankes. And she peered into the dish, with its shiny walls and its confusion of savoury brown and yellow meats, and its bay leaves and its
wine, and thought, This will celebrate the occasion – a curious sense rising in her, at once freakish and tender, of celebrating a festival, as if two
emotions were called up in her, one profound – for what could be more serious than the love of man for woman, what more commanding, more
impressive, bearing in its bosom the seeds of death; at the same time these lovers, these people entering into illusion glittering-eyed, must be
danced round with mockery, decorated with garlands.
‘It is a triumph,’ said Mr. Bankes, laying his knife down for a moment. He had eaten attentively. It was rich; it was tender. It was perfectly
cooked. How did she manage these things in the depths of the country? he asked her. She was a wonderful woman. All his love, all his reverence
had returned; and she knew it.
‘It is a French recipe
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of my grandmother’s,’ said Mrs. Ramsay, speaking with a ring of great pleasure in her voice. Of course it was French.
What passes for cookery in England is an abomination (they agreed). It is putting cabbages in water. It is roasting meat till it is like leather. It is
cutting off the delicious skins of vegetables. ‘In which’, said Mr. Bankes, ‘all the virtue of the vegetable is contained.’ And the waste, said Mrs.
Ramsay. A whole French family could live on what an English cook throws away. Spurred on by her sense that William’s affection had come back
to her, and that everything was all right again, and that her suspense was over, and that now she was free both to triumph and to mock, she
laughed, she gesticulated, till Lily thought, How childlike, how absurd she was, sitting up there with all her beauty opened again in her, talking
about the skins of vegetables. There was something frightening about her. She was irresistible. Always she got her own way in the end, Lily
thought. Now she had brought this off – Paul and Minta, one might suppose, were engaged. Mr. Bankes was dining here. She put a spell on them
all, by wishing, so simply, so directly, and Lily contrasted that abundance with her own poverty of spirit, and supposed that it was partly that belief
(for her face was all lit up – without looking young, she looked radiant) in this strange, this terrifying thing, which made Paul Rayley, the centre of
it, all of a tremor, yet abstract, absorbed, silent. Mrs. Ramsay, Lily felt, as she talked about the skins of vegetables, exalted that, worshipped that;
held her hands over it to warm them, to protect it, and yet, having brought it all about, somehow laughed, led her victims, Lily felt, to the altar. It
came over her too now – the emotion, the vibration of love. How inconspicuous she felt herself by Paul’s side! He, glowing, burning; she, aloof,
satirical; he, bound for adventure; she, moored to the shore; he, launched, incautious; she solitary, left out – and, ready to implore a share, if it were
disaster, in his disaster, she said shyly:
‘When did Minta lose her brooch?’
He smiled the most exquisite smile, veiled by memory, tinged by dreams. He shook his head. ‘On the beach,’ he said.
‘I’m going to find it,’ he said, ‘I’m getting up early.’This being kept secret from Minta, he lowered his voice, and turned his eyes to where she sat,
laughing, beside Mr. Ramsay.
Lily wanted to protest violently and outrageously her desire to help him, envisaging how in the dawn on the beach she would be the one to
pounce on the brooch half-hidden by some stone, and thus herself be included among the sailors and adventurers. But what did he reply to her
offer? She actually said with an emotion that she seldom let appear, ‘Let me come with you’; and he laughed. He meant yes or no – either perhaps.
But it was not his meaning – it was the odd chuckle he gave, as if he had said, Throw yourself over the cliff if you like, I don’t care. He turned on
her cheek the heat of love, its horror, its cruelty, its unscrupulosity. It scorched her, and Lily, looking at Minta being charming to Mr. Ramsay at the
other end of the table, flinched for her exposed to those fangs, and was thankful. For at any rate, she said to herself, catching sight of the salt cellar
on the pattern, she need not marry, thank Heaven: she need not undergo that degradation. She was saved from that dilution. She would move the
tree rather more to the middle.
Such was the complexity of things. For what happened to her, especially staying with the Ramsays, was to be made to feel violently two
opposite things at the same time; that’s what you feel, was one; that’s what I feel was the other, and then they fought together in her mind, as now.
It is so beautiful, so exciting, this love, that I tremble on the verge of it, and offer, quite out of my own habit, to look for a brooch on a beach; also
it is the stupidest, the most barbaric of human passions, and turns a nice young man with a profile like a gem (Paul’s was exquisite) into a bully
with a crowbar (he was swaggering, he was insolent) in the Mile End Road.
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Yet she said to herself, from the dawn of time odes have been sung to
love; wreaths heaped and roses; and if you asked nine people out of ten they would say they wanted nothing but this; while the women, judging
from her own experience, would all the time be feeling, This is not what we want; there is nothing more tedious, puerile, and inhumane than love;
yet it is also beautiful and necessary. Well then, well then? she asked, somehow expecting the others to go on with the argument, as if in an
argument like this one threw one’s own little bolt which fell short obviously and left the others to carry it on. So she listened again to what they
were saying in case they should throw any light upon the question of love.
‘Then,’ said Mr. Bankes, ‘there is that liquid the English call coffee.’
‘Oh coffee!’ said Mrs. Ramsay. But it was much rather a question (she was thoroughly roused, Lily could see, and talked very emphatically) of
real butter and clean milk. Speaking with warmth and eloquence she described the iniquity of the English dairy system, and in what state milk was
delivered at the door, and was about to prove her charges, for she had gone into the matter, when all round the table, beginning with Andrew in
delivered at the door, and was about to prove her charges, for she had gone into the matter, when all round the table, beginning with Andrew in
the middle, like a fire leaping from tuft to tuft of furze, her children laughed; her husband laughed; she was laughed at, fire-encircled, and forced to
vail her crest, dismount her batteries, and only retaliate by displaying the raillery and ridicule of the table to Mr. Bankes as an example of what
one suffered if one attacked the prejudices of the British Public.
Purposely, however, for she had it on her mind that Lily, who had helped her with Mr. Tansley, was out of things, she exempted her from the
rest; said ‘Lily anyhow agrees with me,’ and so drew her in, a little fluttered, a little startled. (For she was thinking about love.) They were both out
of things, Mrs. Ramsay had been thinking, both Lily and Charles Tansley. Both suffered from the glow of the other two. He, it was clear, felt himself
utterly in the cold; no woman would look at him with Paul Rayley in the room. Poor fellow! Still, he had his dissertation, the influence of
somebody upon something: he could take care of himself. With Lily it was different. She faded, under Minta’s glow; became more inconspicuous
than ever, in her little grey dress with her little puckered face and her little Chinese eyes. Everything about her was so small. Yet, thought Mrs.
Ramsay, comparing her with Minta, as she claimed her help (for Lily should bear her out she talked no more about her dairies than her husband
did about his boots – he would talk by the hour about his boots), of the two Lily at forty will be the better. There was in Lily a thread of
something; a flare of something; something of her own which Mrs. Ramsay liked very much indeed, but no man would, she feared. Obviously, not,
unless it were a much older man, like William Bankes. But then he cared, well, Mrs. Ramsay sometimes thought that he cared, since his wife’s
death, perhaps for her. He was not ‘in love’ of course; it was one of those unclassified affections of which there are so many. Oh but nonsense, she
thought; William must marry Lily. They have so many things in common. Lily is so fond of flowers. They are both cold and aloof and rather self-
sufficing. She must arrange for them to take a long walk together.
Foolishly, she had set them opposite each other. That could be remedied to-morrow. If it were fine, they should go for a picnic. Everything
seemed possible. Everything seemed right. Just now (but this cannot last, she thought, dissociating herself from the moment while they were all
talking about boots) just now she had reached security; she hovered like a hawk suspended; like a flag floated in an element of joy which filled
every nerve of her body fully and sweetly, not noisily, solemnly rather, for it arose, she thought, looking at them all eating there, from husband and
children and friends; all of which rising in this profound stillness (she was helping William Bankes to one very small piece more and peered into
the depths of the earthenware pot) seemed now for no special reason to stay there like a smoke, like a fume rising upwards, holding them safe
together. Nothing need be said; nothing could be said. There it was, all round them. It partook, she felt, carefully helping Mr. Bankes to a specially
tender piece, of eternity; as she had already felt about something different once before that afternoon; there is a coherence in things, a stability;
something, she meant, is immune from change, and shines out (she glanced at the window with its ripple of reflected lights) in the face of the
flowing, the fleeting, the spectral, like a ruby; so that again to-night she had the feeling she had had once to-day already, of peace, of rest. Of such
moments, she thought, the thing is made that remains for ever after. This would remain.
‘Yes,’ she assured William Bankes, ‘there is plenty for everybody.’
‘Andrew,’ she said, ‘hold your plate lower, or I shall spill it.’ (The Boeuf en Daube was a perfect triumph.) Here, she felt, putting the spoon
down, was the still space that lies about the heart of things, where one could move or rest; could wait now (they were all helped) listening; could
then, like a hawk which lapses suddenly from its high station, flaunt and sink on laughter easily, resting her whole weight upon what at the other
end of the table her husband was saying about the square root of one thousand two hundred and fifty-three, which happened to be the number on
his railway ticket.
What did it all mean? To this day she had no notion. A square root? What was that? Her sons knew. She leant on them; on cubes and square
roots; that was what they were talking about now; on Voltaire
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and Madame de Staël;
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on the character of Napoleon;
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on the French system of
land tenure;
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on Lord Rosebery;
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on Creevey’s Memoirs:
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she let it uphold her and sustain her, this admirable fabric of the masculine
intelligence, which ran up and down, crossed this way and that, like iron girders spanning the swaying fabric, upholding the world, so that she
could trust herself to it utterly, even shut her eyes, or flicker them for a moment, as a child staring up from its pillow winks at the myriad layers of
the leaves of a tree. Then she woke up. It was still being fabricated. William Bankes was praising the Waverley novels.
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He read one of them every six months, he said. And why should that make Charles Tansley angry? He rushed in (all, thought Mrs. Ramsay,
because Prue will not be nice to him) and denounced the Waverley novels when he knew nothing about it, nothing about it whatsoever, Mrs.
Ramsay thought, observing him rather than listening to what he said. She could see how it was from his manner – he wanted to assert himself, and
so it would always be with him till he got his Professorship or married his wife, and so need not be always saying, ‘I—I—I.’
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For that was what his
criticism of poor Sir Walter, or perhaps it was Jane Austen, amounted to. ‘I—I—I.’ He was thinking of himself and the impression he was making,
as she could tell by the sound of his voice, and his emphasis and his uneasiness. Success would be good for him. At any rate they were off again.
Now she need not listen. It could not last she knew, but at the moment her eyes were so clear that they seemed to go round the table unveiling
each of these people, and their thoughts and their feelings, without effort like a light stealing under water so that its ripples and the reeds in it and
the minnows balancing themselves, and the sudden silent trout are all lit up hanging, trembling. So she saw them; she heard them; but whatever
they said had also this quality, as if what they said was like the movement of a trout when, at the same time, one can see the ripple and the gravel,
something to the right, something to the left; and the whole is held together; for whereas in active life she would be netting and separating one
thing from another; she would be saying she liked the Waverley novels or had not read them; she would be urging herself forward; now she said
nothing. For the moment she hung suspended.
‘Ah, but how long do you think it’ll last?’ said somebody. It was as if she had antennae trembling out from her, which, intercepting certain
sentences, forced them upon her attention. This was one of them. She scented danger for her husband. A question like that would lead, almost
certainly, to something being said which reminded him of his own failure. How long would he be read – he would think at once. William Bankes
(who was entirely free from all such vanity) laughed, and said he attached no importance to changes in fashion. Who could tell what was going to
last – in literature or indeed in anything else?
‘Let us enjoy what we do enjoy,’ he said. His integrity seemed to Mrs. Ramsay quite admirable. He never seemed for a moment to think, But
how does this affect me? But then if you had the other temperament, which must have praise, which must have encouragement, naturally you
began (and she knew that Mr. Ramsay was beginning) to be uneasy; to want somebody to say, Oh, but your work will last, Mr. Ramsay, or
something like that. He showed his uneasiness quite clearly now by saying, with some irritation, that, anyhow, Scott (or was it Shakespeare?)
would last him his lifetime. He said it irritably. Everybody, she thought, felt a little uncomfortable, without knowing why. Then Minta Doyle,
whose instinct was fine, said bluffly, absurdly, that she did not believe that any one really enjoyed reading Shakespeare. Mr. Ramsay said grimly
(but his mind was turned away again) that very few people liked it as much as they said they did. But, he added, there is considerable merit in
some of the plays nevertheless, and Mrs. Ramsay saw that it would be all right for the moment anyhow; he would laugh at Minta, and she, Mrs.
Ramsay saw, realising his extreme anxiety about himself, would, in her own way, see that he was taken care of, and praise him, somehow or other.
But she wished it was not necessary: perhaps it was her fault that it was necessary. Anyhow, she was free now to listen to what Paul Rayley was
trying to say about books one had read as a boy. They lasted, he said. He had read some of Tolstoi
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at school. There was one he always
remembered, but he had forgotten the name. Russian names were impossible, said Mrs. Ramsay. ‘Vron-sky,’ said Paul. He remembered that because
he always thought it such a good name for a villain. ‘Vronsky,’ said Mrs. Ramsay; ‘O, Anna Karenina,’ but that did not take them very far; books
were not in their line. No, Charles Tansley would put them both right in a second about books, but it was all so mixed up with, Am I saying the
right thing? Am I making a good impression? that, after all, one knew more about him than about Tolstoi, whereas what Paul said was about the
thing simply, not himself.Like all stupid people, he had a kind of modesty too, a consideration for what you were feeling, which, once in a way at
least, she found attractive. Now he was thinking, not about himself or about Tolstoi, but whether she was cold, whether she felt a draught, whether
she would like a pear.
No, she said, she did not want a pear. Indeed she had been keeping guard over the dish of fruit (without realising it) jealously, hoping that
nobody would touch it. Her eyes had been going in and out among the curves and shadows of the fruit, among the rich purples of the lowland
grapes, then over the horny ridge of the shell, putting a yellow against a purple, a curved shape against a round shape, without knowing why she
did it, or why, every time she did it, she felt more and more serene; until, oh, what a pity that they should do it – a hand reached out, took a pear,
and spoilt the whole thing. In sympathy she looked at Rose. She looked at Rose sitting between Jasper and Prue. How odd that one’s child should
do that!
How odd to see them sitting there, in a row, her children, Jasper, Rose, Prue, Andrew, almost silent, but with some joke of their own going on,
she guessed, from the twitching at their lips. It was something quite apart from everything else, something they were hoarding up to laugh over in
their own room. It was not about their father, she hoped. No, she thought not. What was it, she wondered, sadly rather, for it seemed to her that
they would laugh when she was not there. There was all that hoarded behind those rather set, still, mask-like faces, for they did not join in easily;
they were like watchers, surveyors, a little raised or set apart from the grown-up people. But when she looked at Prue to-night, she saw that this
was not now quite true of her. She was just beginning, just moving, just descending. The faintest light was on her face, as if the glow of Minta
opposite, some excitement, some anticipation of happiness was reflected in her, as if the sun of the love of men and women rose over the rim of
the table-cloth, and without knowing what it was she bent towards it and greeted it. She kept looking at Minta, shyly, yet curiously, so that Mrs.
Ramsay looked from one to the other and said, speaking to Prue in her own mind, You will be as happy as she is one of these days. You will be
much happier, she added, because you are my daughter, she meant; her own daughter must be happier than other people’s daughters. But dinner
was over. It was time to go. They were only playing with things on their plates. She would wait until they had done laughing at some story her
husband was telling. He was having a joke with Minta about a bet. Then she would get up.
She liked Charles Tansley, she thought, suddenly; she liked his laugh. She liked him for being so angry with Paul and Minta. She liked his
awkwardness. There was a lot in that young man after all. And Lily, she thought, putting her napkin beside her plate, she always has some joke of
her own. One need never bother about Lily. She waited. She tucked her napkin under the edge of her plate. Well, were they done now? No. That
story had led to another story. Her husband was in great spirits to-night, and wishing, she supposed, to make it all right with old Augustus after that
scene about the soup, had drawn him in – they were telling stories about some one they had both known at college. She looked at the window in
which the candle flames burnt brighter now that the panes were black, and looking at that outside the voices came to her very strangely, as if they
were voices at a service in a cathedral, for she did not listen to the words. The sudden bursts of laughter and then one voice (Minta’s) speaking
alone, reminded her of men and boys crying out the Latin words of a service in some Roman Catholic cathedral. She waited. Her husband spoke.
He was repeating something, and she knew it was poetry from the rhythm and the ring of exaltation and melancholy in his voice:
Come out and climb the garden path,
Luriana Lurilee.
The China rose is all abloom and buzzing with the yellow bee.
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The words (she was looking at the window) sounded as if they were floating like flowers on water out there, cut off from them all, as if no one
had said them, but they had come into existence of themselves.
And all the lives we ever lived and all the lives to be
Are full of trees and changing leaves.
She did not know what they meant, but, like music, the words seemed to be spoken by her own voice, outside her self, saying quite easily and
naturally what had been in her mind the whole evening while she said different things. She knew, without looking round, that every one at the
table was listening to the voice saying:
I wonder if it seems to you
Luriana, Lurilee
with the same sort of relief and pleasure that she had, as if this were, at last, the natural thing to say, this were their own voice speaking.
But the voice stopped. She looked round. She made herself get up. Augustus Carmichael had risen and, holding his table napkin so that it
looked like a long white robe he stood chanting:
To see the Kings go riding by
Over lawn and daisy lea
With their palm leaves and cedar sheaves,
Luriana, Lurilee,
and as she passed him he turned slightly towards her repeating the last words:
Luriana, Lurilee,
and bowed to her as if he did her homage. Without knowing why, she felt that he liked her better than he had ever done before; and with a feeling
of relief and gratitude she returned his bow and passed through the door which he held open for her.
It was necessary now to carry everything a step further. With her foot on the threshold she waited a moment longer in a scene which was
vanishing even as she looked, and then, as she moved and took Minta’s arm and left the room, it changed, it shaped itself differently; it had
become, she knew, giving one last look at it over her shoulder, already the past.
18
18
As usual, Lily thought. There was always something that had to be done at that precise moment, something that Mrs. Ramsay had decided for
reasons of her own to do instantly, it might be with every one standing about making jokes, as now, not being able to decide whether they were
going into the smoking-room, into the drawing-room, up to the attics. Then one saw Mrs. Ramsay in the midst of this hubbub standing there with
Minta’s arm in hers, bethink her ‘Yes, it is time for that now,’ and so make off at once with an air of secrecy to do something alone. And directly
she went a sort of disintegration set in; they wavered about, went different ways, Mr. Bankes took Charles Tansley by the arm and went off to finish
on the terrace the discussion they had begun at dinner about politics, thus giving a turn to the whole poise of the evening, making the weight fall
in a different direction, as if, Lily thought, seeing them go, and hearing a word or two about the policy of the Labour Party,
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they had gone up on
to the bridge of the ship and were taking their bearings; the change from poetry to politics struck her like that; so Mr. Bankes and Charles Tansley
went off, while the others stood looking at Mrs. Ramsay going upstairs in the lamplight alone. Where, Lily wondered, was she going so quickly?
Not that she did in fact run or hurry; she went indeed rather slowly. She felt rather inclined just for a moment to stand still after all that chatter,
and pick out one particular thing; the thing that mattered; to detach it; separate it off; clean it of all the emotions and odds and ends of things, and
so hold it before her, and bring it to the tribunal where, ranged about in conclave, sat the judges she had set up to decide these things. Is it good, is
it bad, is it right or wrong? Where are we going to? and so on. So she righted herself after the shock of the event, and quite unconsciously and
incongruously, used the branches of the elm trees outside to help her to stabilise her position. Her world was changing: they were still. The event
had given her a sense of movement. All must be in order. She must get that right and that right, she thought, insensibly approving of the dignity of
the trees’ stillness, and now again of the superb upward rise (like the beak of a ship up a wave) of the elm branches as the wind raised them. For it
was windy (she stood a moment to look out). It was windy, so that the leaves now and then brushed open a star, and the stars themselves seemed
to be shaking and darting light and trying to flash out between the edges of the leaves. Yes, that was done then, accomplished; and as with all
things done, become solemn. Now one thought of it, cleared of chatter and emotion, it seemed always to have been, only was shown now, and so
being shown struck everything into stability. They would, she thought, going on again, however long they lived, come back to this night; this moon;
this wind; this house: and to her too. It flattered her, where she was most susceptible of flattery, to think how, wound about in their hearts,
however long they lived she would be woven; and this, and this, and this, she thought, going upstairs, laughing, but affectionately, at the sofa on
the landing (her mother’s
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) at the rocking-chair (her father’s); at the map of the Hebrides. All that would be revived again in the Uves of Paul and
Minta; ‘the Rayleys’ – she tried the new name over; and she felt, with her hand on the nursery door, that community of feeling with other people
which emotion gives as if the walls of partition had become so thin that practically (the feeling was one of relief and happiness) it was all one
stream, and chairs, tables, maps, were hers, were theirs, it did not matter whose, and Paul and Minta would carry it on when she was dead.
She turned the handle, firmly, lest it should squeak, and went in, pursing her lips slightly, as if to remind herself that she must not speak aloud.
But directly she came in she saw, with annoyance, that the precaution was not needed. The children were not asleep. It was most annoying.
Mildred should be more careful. There was James wide awake and Cam sitting bolt upright, and Mildred out of bed in her bare feet, and it was
almost eleven and they were all talking. What was the matter? It was that horrid skull
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again. She had told Mildred to move it, but Mildred, of
course, had forgotten, and now there was Cam wide awake and James wide awake quarrelling when they ought to have been asleep hours ago.
What had possessed Edward to send them this horrid skull? She had been so foolish as to let them nail it up there. It was nailed fast, Mildred said,
and Cam couldn’t go to sleep with it in the room, and James screamed if she touched it.
Then Cam must go to sleep (it had great horns said Cam –) must go to sleep and dream of lovely palaces, said Mrs. Ramsay, sitting down on the
bed by her side. She could see the horns, Cam said, all over the room. It was true. Wherever they put the light (and James could not sleep without
a light) there was always a shadow somewhere.
‘But think, Cam, it’s only an old pig,’ said Mrs. Ramsay, ‘a nice black pig like the pigs at the farm.’ But Cam thought it was a horrid thing,
branching at her all over the room.
‘Well then,’ said Mrs. Ramsay, ‘we will cover it up,’ and they all watched her go to the chest of drawers, and open the little drawers quickly one
after another, and not seeing anything that would do, she quickly took her own shawl off and wound it round the skull, round and round and
round, and then she came back to Cam and laid her head almost flat on the pillow beside Cam’s and said how lovely it looked now; how the
fairies would love it; it was like a bird’s nest; it was like a beautiful mountain such as she had seen abroad, with valleys and flowers and bells
ringing and birds singing and little goats and antelopes… She could see the words
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echoing as she spoke them rhythmically in Cam’s mind, and
Cam was repeating after her how it was like a mountain, a bird’s nest, a garden, and there were little antelopes, and her eyes were opening and
shutting, and Mrs. Ramsay went on saying still more monotonously, and more rhythmically and more nonsensically, how she must shut her eyes
and go to sleep and dream of mountains and valleys and stars falling and parrots and antelopes and gardens, and everything lovely, she said,
raising her head very slowly and speaking more and more mechanically, until she sat upright and saw that Cam was asleep.
Now, she whispered, crossing over to his bed, James must go to sleep too, for see, she said, the boar’s skull was still there; they had not touched
it; they had done just what he wanted; it was there quite unhurt. He made sure that the skull was still there under the shawl. But he wanted to ask
her something more. Would they go to the Lighthouse to-morrow?
No, not to-morrow, she said, but soon, she promised him; the next fine day. He was very good. He lay down. She covered him up. But he would
never forget, she knew, and she felt angry with Charles Tansley, with her husband, and with herself, for she had raised his hopes. Then feeling for
her shawl and remembering that she had wrapped it round the boar’s skull, she got up, and pulled the window down another inch or two, and
heard the wind, and got a breath of the perfectly indifferent chill night air and murmured good-night to Mildred and left the room and let the
tongue of the door slowly lengthen in the lock and went out.
She hoped he would not bang his books on the floor above their heads, she thought, still thinking how annoying Charles Tansley was. For
neither of them slept well; they were excitable children, and since he said things like that about the Lighthouse, it seemed to her likely that he
would knock a pile of books over, just as they were going to sleep, clumsily sweeping them off the table with his elbow. For she supposed that he
had gone upstairs to work. Yet he looked so desolate; yet she would feel relieved when he went; yet she would see that he was better treated
tomorrow; yet he was admirable with her husband; yet his manners certainly wanted improving; yet she liked his laugh – thinking this, as she came
downstairs, she noticed that she could now see the moon itself through the staircase window – the yellow harvest moon – and turned, and they saw
her, standing above them on the stairs.
‘That’s my mother,’ thought Prue. Yes; Minta should look at her; Paul Rayley should look at her. That is the thing itself, she felt, as if there were
only one person like that in the world; her mother. And, from having been quite grown up, a moment before, talking with the others, she became
a child again, and what they had been doing was a game, and would her mother sanction their game, or condemn it, she wondered. And thinking
what a chance it was for Minta and Paul and Lily to see her, and feeling what an extraordinary stroke of fortune it was for her to have her, and
how she would never grow up and never leave home, she said, like a child, ‘We thought of going down to the beach to watch the waves.’
Instantly, for no reason at all, Mrs. Ramsay became like a girl of twenty, full of gaiety. A mood of revelry suddenly took possession of her. Of
course they must go; of course they must go, she cried, laughing; and running down the last three or four steps quickly, she began turning from one
to the other and laughing and drawing Minta’s wrap round her and saying she only wished she could come too, and would they be very late, and
had any of them got a watch?
‘Yes, Paul has,’ said Minta. Paul slipped a beautiful gold watch out of a little wash-leather case to show her. And as he held it in the palm of his
hand before her, he felt ‘She knows all about it. I need not say anything.’ He was saying to her as he showed her the watch, ‘I’ve done it, Mrs.
Ramsay. I owe it all to you.’ And seeing the gold watch lying in his hand, Mrs. Ramsay felt, How extraordinarily lucky Minta is! She is marrying a
man who has a gold watch in a wash-leather bag!
‘How I wish I could come with you!’ she cried. But she was withheld by something so strong that she never even thought of asking herself what
it was. Of course it was impossible for her to go with them. But she would have liked to go, had it not been for the other thing, and tickled by the
absurdity of her thought (how lucky to marry a man with a wash-leather bag for his watch) she went with a smile on her lips into the other room,
where her husband sat reading.
19
19
Of course, she said to herself, coming into the room, she had to come here to get something she wanted. First she wanted to sit down in a
particular chair under a particular lamp. But she wanted something more, though she did not know, could not think what it was that she wanted.
She looked at her husband (taking up her stocking and beginning to knit), and saw that he did not want to be interrupted – that was clear. He was
reading something that moved him very much. He was half smiling and then she knew he was controlling his emotion. He was tossing the pages
over. He was acting it – perhaps he was thinking himself the person in the book. She wondered what book it was. Oh, it was one of old Sir
Walter’s,
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she saw, adjusting the shade of her lamp so that the light fell on her knitting. For Charles Tansley had been saying (she looked up as if
she expected to hear the crash of books on the floor above) had been saying that people don’t read Scott any more. Then her husband thought,
‘That’s what they’ll say of me’; so he went and got one of those books. And if he came to the conclusion ‘That’s true’ what Charles Tansley said, he
would accept it about Scott. (She could see that he was weighing, considering, putting this with that as he read.) But not about himself. He was
always uneasy about himself. That troubled her. He would always be worrying about his own books – will they be read, are they good, why aren’t
they better, what do people think of me? Not liking to think of him so, and wondering if they had guessed at dinner why he suddenly became
irritable when they talked about fame and books lasting, wondering if the children were laughing at that, she twitched the stocking out, and all the
fine gravings came drawn with steel instruments about her lips and forehead, and she grew still like a tree which has been tossing and quivering
and now, when the breeze falls, settles, leaf by leaf, into quiet.
It didn’t matter, any of it, she thought. A great man, a great book, fame – who could tell? She knew nothing about it. But it was his way with
him, his truthfulness – for instance at dinner she had been thinking quite instinctively, If only he would speak! She had complete trust in him. And
dismissing all this, as one passes in diving now a weed, now a straw, now a bubble, she felt again, sinking deeper, as she had felt in the hall when
the others were talking, There is something I want – something I have come to get, and she fell deeper and deeper without knowing quite what it
was, with her eyes closed. And she waited a little, knitting, wondering, and slowly those words they had said at dinner, ‘the China rose is all
abloom and buzzing with the honey bee,’ began washing from side to side of her mind rhythmically, and as they washed, words, like little shaded
lights, one red, one blue, one yellow, lit up in the dark of her mind, and seemed leaving their perches up there to fly across and across, or to cry
out and to be echoed; so she turned and felt on the table beside her for a book.
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And all the lives we ever lived
And all the lives to be,
Are full of trees and changing leaves,
she murmured, stocking her needles into the stocking. And she opened the book and began reading here and there at random, and as she did so she
felt that she was climbing backwards, upwards, shoving her way up under petals that curved over her, so that she only knew this is white, or this is
red. She did not know at first what the words meant at all.
Steer, hither steer your winged pines, all beaten Mariners
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she read and turned the page, swinging herself, zigzagging this way and that, from one line to another as from one branch to another, from one red
and white flower to another, until a little sound roused her – her husband slapping his thighs. Their eyes met for a second; but they did not want to
speak to each other. They had nothing to say, but something seemed, nevertheless, to go from him to her. It was the life, it was the power of it, it
was the tremendous humour, she knew, that made him slap his thighs. Don’t interrupt me, he seemed to be saying, don’t say anything; just sit
there. And he went on reading. His lips twitched. It filled him. It fortified him. He clean forgot all the little rubs and digs of the evening, and how it
bored him unutterably to sit still while people ate and drank interminably, and his being so irritable with his wife and so touchy and minding
when they passed his books over as if they didn’t exist at all. But now, he felt, it didn’t matter a damn who reached Z (if thought ran like an
alphabet from A to Z). Somebody would reach it – if not he, then another. This man’s strength and sanity, his feeling for straightforward simple
things, these fishermen, the poor old crazed creature in Mucklebackit’s cottage made him feel so vigorous, so relieved of something that he felt
roused and triumphant and could not choke back his tears. Raising the book a little to hide his face he let them fall and shook his head from side
to side and forgot himself completely (but not one or two reflections about morality and French novels and English novels and Scott’s hands being
tied but his view perhaps being as true as the other view) forgot his own bothers and failures completely in poor Steenie’s drowning and
Mucklebackit’s sorrow (that was Scott at his best) and the astonishing delight and feeling of vigour that it gave him.
Well, let them improve upon that, he thought as he finished the chapter. He felt that he had been arguing with somebody, and had got the better
of him. They could not improve upon that, whatever they might say; and his own position became more secure. The lovers were fiddlesticks, he
thought, collecting it all in his mind again. That’s fiddlesticks, that’s first-rate, he thought, putting one thing beside another. But he must read it
again. He could not remember the whole shape of the thing. He had to keep his judgement in suspense. So he returned to the other thought – if
young men did not care for this, naturally they did not care for him either. One ought not to complain, thought Mr. Ramsay, trying to stifle his
desire to complain to his wife that young men did not admire him. But he was determined; he would not bother her again. Here he looked at her
reading. She looked very peaceful, reading. He liked to think that every one had taken themselves off and that he and she were alone. The whole
reading. She looked very peaceful, reading. He liked to think that every one had taken themselves off and that he and she were alone. The whole
of life did not consist in going to bed with a woman, he thought, returning to Scott and Balzac, to the English novel and the French novel.
Mrs. Ramsay raised her head and like a person in a light sleep seemed to say that if he wanted her to wake she would, she really would, but
otherwise, might she go on sleeping, just a little longer, just a little longer? She was climbing up those branches, this way and that, laying hands on
one flower and then another.
Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose,
she read, and so reading she was ascending, she felt, on to the top, on to the summit. How satisfying! How restful! All the odds and ends of the day
stuck to this magnet; her mind felt swept, felt clean. And then there it was, suddenly entire shaped in her hands, beautiful and reasonable, clear and
complete, the essence sucked out of life and held rounded here – the sonnet.
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But she was becoming conscious of her husband looking at her. He was smiling at her, quizzically, as if he were ridiculing her gently for being
asleep in broad daylight, but at the same time he was thinking, Go on reading. You don’t look sad now, he thought. And he wondered what she
was reading, and exaggerated her ignorance, her simplicity, for he liked to think that she was not clever, not book-learned at all. He wondered if
she understood what she was reading. Probably not, he thought. She was astonishingly beautiful. Her beauty seemed to him, if that were possible,
to increase.
Yet seem’d it winter still, and, you away,
As with your shadow I with these did play,
she finished.
‘Well?’ she said, echoing his smile dreamily, looking up from her book.
As with your shadow I with these did play,
she murmured putting the book on the table.
What had happened she wondered, as she took up her knitting, since she had last seen him alone? She remembered dressing, and seeing the
moon; Andrew holding his plate too high at dinner; being depressed by something William had said; the birds in the trees; the sofa on the landing;
the children being awake; Charles Tansley waking them with his books falling – oh no, that she had invented; and Paul having a wash-leather case
for his watch. Which should she tell him about?
‘They’re engaged,’ she said, beginning to knit, ‘Paul and Minta.’
‘So I guessed,’ he said. There was nothing very much to be said about it. Her mind was still going up and down, up and down with the poetry;
he was still feeling very vigorous, very forthright, after reading about Steenie’s funeral. So they sat silent. Then she became aware that she wanted
him to say something.
Anything, anything, she thought, going on with her knitting. Anything will do.
‘How nice it would be to marry a man with a wash-leather bag for his watch,’ she said, for that was the sort of joke they had together.
He snorted. He felt about this engagement as he always felt about any engagement; the girl is much too good for that young man. Slowly it came
into her head, why is it then that one wants people to marry? What was the value, the meaning of things? (Every word they said now would be
true.) Do say something, she thought, wishing only to hear his voice. For the shadow, the thing folding them in was beginning, she felt, to close
round her again. Say anything, she begged, looking at him, as if for help.
He was silent, swinging the compass
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on his watch-chain to and fro, and thinking of Scott’s novels and Balzac’s novels. But through the
crepuscular walls of their intimacy, for they were drawing together, involuntarily, coming side by side, quite close, she could feel his mind like a
raised hand shadowing her mind; and he was beginning now that her thoughts took a turn he disliked – towards this ‘pessimism’ as he called it – to
fidget, though he said nothing, raising his hand to his forehead, twisting a lock of hair, letting it fall again.
‘You won’t finish that stocking to-night,’ he said, pointing to her stocking. That was what she wanted – the asperity in his voice reproving her. If
he says it’s wrong to be pessimistic probably it is wrong, she thought; the marriage will turn out all right.
‘No,’ she said, flattening the stocking out upon her knee, ‘I shan’t finish it.’
And what then? For she felt that he was still looking at her, but that his look had changed. He wanted something – wanted the thing she always
found it so difficult to give him; wanted her to tell him that she loved him. And that, no, she could not do. He found talking so much easier than
she did. He could say things – she never could. So naturally it was always he that said the things, and then for some reason he would mind this
suddenly, and would reproach her. A heartless woman he called her; she never told him that she loved him. But it was not so – it was not so. It was
only that she never could say what she felt. Was there no crumb on his coat? Nothing she could do for him? Getting up she stood at the window
with the reddish-brown stocking in her hands, partly to turn away from him, partly because she did not mind looking now, with him watching, at
with the reddish-brown stocking in her hands, partly to turn away from him, partly because she did not mind looking now, with him watching, at
the Lighthouse. For she knew that he had turned his head as she turned; he was watching her. She knew that he was thinking, You are more
beautiful than ever. And she felt herself very beautiful. Will you not tell me just for once that you love me? He was thinking that, for he was
roused, what with Minta and his book, and its being the end of the day and their having quarrelled about going to the Lighthouse. But she could
not do it; she could not say it. Then, knowing that he was watching her, instead of saying anything she turned, holding her stocking, and looked at
him. And as she looked at him she began to smile, for though she had not said a word, he knew, of course he knew, that she loved him. He could
not deny it. And smiling she looked out of the window and said (thinking to herself, Nothing on earth can equal this happiness) –
‘Yes, you were right. It’s going to be wet to-morrow.’ She had not said it, but he knew it. And she looked at him smiling. For she had triumphed
again.
II
II
TIME PASSES
1
1
2
‘Well, we must wait for the future to show,’ said Mr. Bankes, coming in from the terrace.
‘It’s almost too dark to see,’ said Andrew, coming up from the beach.
‘One can hardly tell which is the sea and which is the land,’ said Prue.
‘Do we leave that light burning?’ said Lily as they took their coats off indoors.
‘No,’ said Prue, ‘not if everyone’s in.’
‘Andrew,’ she called back, ‘just put out the light in the hall.’
One by one the lamps were all extinguished, except that Mr. Carmichael, who liked to lie awake a little reading Virgil,
3
kept his candle burning
rather longer than the rest.
2
2
So with the lamps all put out, the moon sunk, and a thin rain drumming on the roof a downpouring of immense darkness began. Nothing, it
seemed, could survive the flood, the profusion of darkness which, creeping in at keyholes and crevices, stole round window blinds, came into
bedrooms, swallowed up here a jug and basin, there a bowl of red and yellow dahlias, there the sharp edges and firm bulk of a chest of drawers.
Not only was furniture confounded; there was scarcely anything left of body or mind by which one could say ‘This is he’ or ‘This is she.’ Sometimes
a hand was raised as if to clutch something or ward off something, or somebody groaned, or somebody laughed aloud as if sharing a joke with
nothingness.
Nothing stirred in the drawing-room or in the dining-room or on the staircase. Only through the rusty hinges and swollen sea-moistened
woodwork certain airs, detached from the body of the wind (the house was ramshackle after all) crept round corners and ventured indoors. Almost
one might imagine them, as they entered the drawing-room, questioning and wondering, toying with the flap of hanging wall-paper, asking, would
it hang much longer, when would it fall? Then smoothly brushing the walls, they passed on musingly as if asking the red and yellow roses on the
wall-paper whether they would fade, and questioning (gently, for there was time at their disposal) the torn letters in the wastepaper basket, the
flowers, the books, all of which were now open to them and asking, Were they allies?
4
Were they enemies? How long would they endure?
So some random light directing them from some uncovered star, or wandering ship, or the Lighthouse even, with its pale footfall upon stair and
mat, the little airs mounted the staircase and nosed round bedroom doors. But here surely, they must cease. Whatever else may perish and
disappear what lies here is steadfast. Here one might say to those sliding lights, those fumbling airs, that breathe and bend over the bed itself, here
you can neither touch nor destroy. Upon which, wearily, ghostlily as if they had feather-light fingers and the light persistency of feathers, they
would look, once, on the shut eyes and the loosely clasping fingers, and fold their garments wearily and disappear. And so, nosing, rubbing, they
went to the window on the staircase, to the servants’ bedrooms, to the boxes in the attics; descending, blanched the apples on the dining-room
table, fumbled the petals of roses, tried the picture on the easel, brushed the mat and blew a little sand along the floor. At length, desisting, all
ceased together, gathered together, all sighed together; all together gave off an aimless gust of lamentation to which some door in the kitchen
replied; swung wide; admitted nothing; and slammed to.
[Here Mr. Carmichael, who was reading Virgil, blew out his candle. It was past midnight.]
3
3
But what after all is one night? A short space, especially when the darkness dims so soon, and so soon a bird sings, a cock crows, or a faint green
quickens, like a turning leaf, in the hollow of the wave. Night, however, succeeds to night. The winter holds a pack of them in store and deals them
equally, evenly, with indefatigable fingers. They lengthen; they darken. Some of them hold aloft clear planets, plates of brightness. The autumn
trees, ravaged as they are, take on the flash of tattered flags kindling in the gloom of cool cathedral caves where gold letters on marble pages
describe death in battle and how bones bleach and burn far away in Indian sands. The autumn trees gleam in the yellow moonlight, in the light of
harvest moons, the light which mellows the energy of labour, and smooths the stubble, and brings the wave lapping blue to the shore.
It seemed now as if, touched by human penitence and all its toil, divine goodness had parted the curtain and displayed behind it, single, distinct,
the hare erect; the wave falling; the boat rocking, which, did we deserve them, should be ours always. But alas, divine goodness, twitching the cord,
draws the curtain; it does not please him; he covers his treasures in a drench of hail, and so breaks them, so confuses them that it seems impossible
that their calm should ever return or that we should ever compose from their fragments a perfect whole or read in the littered pieces the clear
words of truth. For our penitence deserves a glimpse only; our toil respite only.
The nights now are full of wind and destruction; the trees plunge and bend and their leaves fly helter skelter until the lawn is plastered with
them and they lie packed in gutters and choke rain pipes and scatter damp paths. Also the sea tosses itself and breaks itself, and should any sleeper
fancying that he might find on the beach an answer to his doubts, a sharer of his solitude, throw off his bedclothes and go down by himself to walk
on the sand, no image with semblance of serving and divine promptitude comes readily to hand bringing the night to order and making the world
reflect the compass
5
of the soul. The hand dwindles in his hand; the voice bellows in his ear. Almost it would appear that it is useless in such
confusion to ask the night those questions as to what, and why, and wherefore, which tempt the sleeper from his bed to seek an answer.
[Mr. Ramsay stumbling along a passage stretched his arms out one dark morning, but, Mrs. Ramsay having died rather suddenly the night before,
he stretched his arms out. They remained empty.
6
]
4
4
So with the house empty and the doors locked and the mattresses rolled round, those stray airs, advance guards of great armies, blustered in,
brushed bare boards, nibbled and fanned, met nothing in bedroom or drawing-room that wholly resisted them but only hangings that flapped,
wood that creaked, the bare legs of tables, saucepans and china already furred, tarnished, cracked. What people had shed and left – a pair of shoes,
a shooting cap, some faded skirts and coats in wardrobes – those alone kept the human shape and in the emptiness indicated how once they were
filled and animated; how once hands were busy with hooks and buttons; how once the looking-glass had held a face; had held a world hollowed
out in which a figure turned, a hand flashed, the door opened, in came children rushing and tumbling; and went out again. Now, day after day,
light turned, like a flower reflected in water, its clear image on the wall opposite. Only the shadows of the trees, flourishing in the wind, made
obeisance on the wall, and for a moment darkened the pool in which light reflected itself; or birds, flying, made a soft spot flutter slowly across the
bedroom floor.
So loveliness reigned and stillness, and together made the shape of loveliness itself, a form from which life had parted; solitary like a pool at
evening, far distant, seen from a train window, vanishing so quickly that the pool, pale in the evening, is scarcely robbed of its solitude, though
once seen. Loveliness and stillness clasped hands in the bedroom, and among the shrouded jugs and sheeted chairs even the prying of the wind,
and the soft nose of the clammy sea airs, rubbing, snuffling, iterating, and reiterating their questions – ‘Will you fade? Will you perish?’ – scarcely
disturbed the peace, the indifference, the air of pure integrity, as if the question they asked scarcely needed that they should answer: we remain.
Nothing it seemed could break that image, corrupt that innocence, or disturb the swaying mantle of silence which, week after week, in the
empty room, wove into itself the falling cries of birds, ships hooting, the drone and hum of the fields, a dog’s bark, a man’s shout, and folded them
round the house in silence. Once only a board sprang on the landing; once in the middle of the night with a roar, with a rupture, as after centuries
of quiescence, a rock rends itself from the mountain and hurtles crashing into the valley, one fold of the shawl loosened and swung to and fro.
Then again peace descended; and the shadow wavered; light bent to its own image in adoration on the bedroom wall; when Mrs. McNab,
7
tearing
the veil of silence with hands that had stood in the wash-tub, grinding it with boots that had crunched the shingle, came as directed to open all
windows, and dust the bedrooms.
5
5
As she lurched (for she rolled like a ship at sea) and leered (for her eyes fell on nothing directly, but with a sidelong glance that deprecated the
scorn and anger of the world – she was witless, she knew it), as she clutched the banisters and hauled herself upstairs and rolled from room to
room, she sang. Rubbing the glass of the long looking-glass and leering sideways at her swinging figure a sound issued from her lips – something
that had been gay twenty years before on the stage perhaps, had been hummed and danced to, but now, coming from the toothless, bonneted, care-
taking woman, was robbed of meaning, was like the voice of witlessness, humour, persistency itself, trodden down but springing up again, so that
as she lurched, dusting, wiping, she seemed to say how it was one long sorrow and trouble, how it was getting up and going to bed again, and
bringing things out and putting them away again. It was not easy or snug this world she had known for close on seventy years. Bowed down she
was with weariness. How long, she asked, creaking and groaning on her knees under the bed, dusting the boards, how long shall it endure? but
hobbled to her feet again, pulled herself up, and again with her sidelong leer which slipped and turned aside even from her own face, and her own
sorrows, stood and gaped in the glass, aimlessly smiling, and began again the old amble and hobble, taking up mats, putting down china, looking
sideways in the glass, as if, after all, she had her consolations, as if indeed there twined about her dirge some incorrigible hope. Visions of joy there
must have been at the wash-tub, say with her children (yet two had been base-born and one had deserted her), at the public-house, drinking;
turning over scraps in her drawers. Some cleavage of the dark there must have been, some channel in the depths of obscurity through which light
enough issued to twist her face grinning in the glass and make her, turning to her job again, mumble out the old music hall song. Meanwhile the
mystic, the visionary, walked the beach, stirred a puddle, looked at a stone, and asked themselves ‘What am I?’ ‘What is this?’ and suddenly an
answer was vouchsafed them (what it was they could not say): so that they were warm in the frost and had comfort in the desert. But Mrs. McNab
continued to drink and gossip as before.
6
6
The spring without a leaf to toss, bare and bright like a virgin fierce in her chastity, scornful in her purity, was laid out on fields wide-eyed and
watchful and entirely careless of what was done or thought by the beholders.
[Prue Ramsay, leaning on her father’s arm, was given in marriage that May. What, people said, could have been more fitting? And, they added,
how beautiful she looked!]
As summer neared, as the evenings lengthened, there came to the wakeful, the hopeful, walking the beach, stirring the pool, imaginations of the
strangest kind – of flesh turned to atoms which drove before the wind, of stars flashing in their hearts, of cliff, sea, cloud, and sky brought
purposely together to assemble outwardly the scattered parts of the vision within. In those mirrors, the minds of men, in those pools of uneasy
water, in which clouds for ever turn and shadows form, dreams persisted, and it was impossible to resist the strange intimation which every gull,
flower, tree, man and woman, and the white earth itself seemed to declare (but if questioned at once to withdraw) that good triumphs, happiness
prevails, order rules; or to resist the extraordinary stimulus to range hither and thither in search of some absolute good, some crystal of intensity,
remote from the known pleasures and familiar virtues, something alien to the processes of domestic life, single, hard, bright, like a diamond in the
sand, which would render the possessor secure. Moreover, softened and acquiescent, the spring with her bees humming and gnats dancing threw
her cloak about her, veiled her eyes, averted her head, and among passing shadows and flights of small rain seemed to have taken upon her a
knowledge of the sorrows of mankind.
[Prue Ramsay died that summer in some illness connected with childbirth, which was indeed a tragedy, people said. They said nobody deserved
happiness more.]
And now in the heat of summer the wind sent its spies about the house again. Flies wove a web in the sunny rooms; weeds that had grown close
to the glass in the night tapped methodically at the window pane. When darkness fell, the stroke of the Lighthouse, which had laid itself with such
authority upon the carpet in the darkness, tracing its pattern, came now in the softer light of spring mixed with moonlight gliding gently as if it
laid its caress and lingered stealthily and looked and came lovingly again. But in the very lull of this loving caress, as the long stroke leant upon the
bed, the rock was rent asunder; another fold of the shawl loosened; there it hung, and swayed. Through the short summer nights and the long
summer days, when the empty rooms seemed to murmur with the echoes of the fields and the hum of flies, the long streamer waved gently,
swayed aimlessly; while the sun so striped and barred the rooms and filled them with yellow haze that Mrs. McNab, when she broke in and
lurched about, dusting, sweeping, looked like a tropical fish oaring its way through sun-lanced waters.
But slumber and sleep though it might there came later in the summer ominous sounds like the measured blows of hammers dulled on felt,
which, with their repeated shocks still further loosened the shawl and cracked the tea-cups. Now and again some glass tinkled in the cupboard as if
a giant voice had shrieked so loud in its agony that tumblers stood inside a cupboard vibrated too. Then again silence fell; and then, night after
night, and sometimes in plain mid-day when the roses were bright and light turned on the wall its shape clearly there seemed to drop into this
silence this indifference, this integrity, the thud of something falling.
[A shell exploded. Twenty or thirty young men were blown up in France, among them Andrew Ramsay, whose death, mercifully, was
instantaneous.]
At that season those who had gone down to pace the beach and ask of the sea and sky what message they reported or what vision they affirmed
had to consider among the usual tokens of divine bounty – the sunset on the sea, the pallor of dawn, the moon rising, fishing-boats against the
moon, and children pelting each other with handfuls of grass, something out of harmony with this jocundity, this serenity. There was the silent
apparition of an ashen-coloured ship
8
for instance, come, gone; there was a purplish stain upon the bland surface of the sea as if something had
boiled and bled, invisibly, beneath. This intrusion into a scene calculated to stir the most sublime reflections and lead to the most comfortable
conclusions stayed their pacing. It was difficult blandly to overlook them, to abolish their significance in the landscape; to continue, as one walked
by the sea, to marvel how beauty outside mirrored beauty within.
Did Nature supplement what man advanced? Did she complete what he began? With equal complacence she saw his misery, condoned his
meanness, and acquiesced in his torture. That dream, then, of sharing, completing, finding in solitude on the beach an answer, was but a reflection
in a mirror, and the mirror itself was but the surface glassiness which forms in quiescence when the nobler powers sleep beneath? Impatient,
despairing yet loth to go (for beauty offers her lures, has her consolations), to pace the beach was impossible; contemplation was unendurable; the
mirror was broken.
[Mr. Carmichael brought out a volume of poems that spring, which had an unexpected success. The war, people said, had revived their interest
in poetry.]
7
7
Night after night, summer and winter, the torment of storms, the arrow-like stillness of fine weather, held their court without interference. Listening
(had there been any one to listen) from the upper rooms of the empty house only gigantic chaos streaked with lightning could have been heard
tumbling and tossing, as the winds and waves disported themselves like the amorphous bulks of leviathans whose brows are pierced by no light of
reason, and mounted one on top of another, and lunged and plunged in the darkness or the daylight (for night and day, month and year ran
shapelessly together) in idiot games, until it seemed as if the universe were battling and tumbling, in brute confusion and wanton lust aimlessly by
itself.
In spring the garden urns, casually filled with windblown plants, were gay as ever. Violets came and daffodils. But the stillness and the
brightness of the day were as strange as the chaos and tumult of night, with the trees standing there, and the flowers standing there, looking before
them, looking up, yet beholding nothing, eyeless, and so terrible.
8
8
Thinking no harm, for the family would not come, never again, some said, and the house would be sold at Michaelmas perhaps, Mrs. McNab
stooped and picked a bunch of flowers to take home with her. She laid them on the table while she dusted. She was fond of flowers. It was a pity
to let them waste. Suppose the house were sold (she stood arms akimbo in front of the looking-glass) it would want seeing to – it would. There it
had stood all these years without a soul in it. The books and things were mouldy, for, what with the war and help being hard to get, the house had
not been cleaned as she could have wished. It was beyond one person’s strength to get it straight now. She was too old. Her legs pained her. All
those books needed to be laid out on the grass in the sun; there was plaster fallen in the hall; the rain-pipe had blocked over the study window and
let the water in; the carpet was ruined quite. But people should come themselves; they should have sent somebody down to see. For there were
clothes in the cupboards; they had left clothes in all the bedrooms. What was she to do with them? They had the moth in them – Mrs. Ramsay’s
things. Poor lady! She would never want them again. She was dead, they said; years ago, in London. There was the old grey cloak she wore
gardening. (Mrs. McNab fingered it.) She could see her, as she came up the drive with the washing, stooping over her flowers (the garden was a
pitiful sight now, all run to riot, and rabbits scuttling at you out of the beds) – she could see her with one of the children by her in that grey cloak.
There were boots and shoes; and a brush and comb left on the dressing-table, for all the world as if she expected to come back to-morrow. (She
had died very sudden at the end, they said.) And once they had been coming, but had put off coming, what with the war, and travel being so
difficult these days; they had never come all these years; just sent her money; but never wrote, never came, and expected to find things as they had
left them, ah dear! Why the dressing-table drawers were full of things (she pulled them open), handkerchiefs, bits of ribbon. Yes, she could see Mrs.
Ramsay as she came up the drive with the washing.
‘Good-evening, Mrs. McNab,’ she would say.
She had a pleasant way with her. The girls all liked her. But dear, many things had changed since then (she shut the drawer); many families had
lost their dearest. So she was dead; and Mr. Andrew killed; and Miss Prue dead too, they said, with her first baby; but every one had lost some one
these years. Prices had gone up
9
shamefully, and didn’t come down again neither. She could well remember her in her grey cloak.
‘Good-evening, Mrs. McNab,’ she said, and told cook to keep a plate of milk soup for her – quite thought she wanted it, carrying that heavy
basket all the way up from town. She could see her now, stooping over her flowers; (and faint and flickering, like a yellow beam or the circle at
the end of a telescope, a lady in a grey cloak, stooping over her flowers, went wandering over the bedroom wall, up the dressing-table, across the
wash-stand, as Mrs. McNab hobbled and ambled, dusting, straightening).
And cook’s name now? Mildred? Marian? – some name like that. Ah, she had forgotten – she did forget things. Fiery, like all red-haired women.
Many a laugh they had had. She was always welcome in the kitchen. She made them laugh, she did. Things were better then than now.
She sighed; there was too much work for one woman. She wagged her head this side and that. This had been the nursery. Why, it was all damp
in here; the plaster was falling. Whatever did they want to hang a beast’s skull there for? gone mouldy too. And rats in all the attics. The rain came
in. But they never sent; never came. Some of the locks had gone, so the doors banged. She didn’t like to be up here at dusk alone neither. It was
too much for one woman, too much, too much. She creaked, she moaned. She banged the door. She turned the key in the lock, and left the house
shut up, locked, alone.
9
9
The house was left; the house was deserted. It was left like a shell on a sandhill to fill with dry salt grains now that life had left it. The long night
seemed to have set in; the trifling airs, nibbling, the clammy breaths, fumbling, seemed to have triumphed. The saucepan had rusted and the mat
decayed. Toads had nosed their way in. Idly, aimlessly, the swaying shawl swung to and fro. A thistle thrust itself between the tiles in the larder.
The swallows nested in the drawing-room; the floor was strewn with straw; the plaster fell in shovelfuls; rafters were laid bare; rats carried off this
and that to gnaw behind the wainscots. Tortoise-shell butterflies burst from the chrysalis and pattered their life out on the window-pane. Poppies
sowed themselves among the dahlias; the lawn waved with long grass; giant artichokes towered among roses; a fringed carnation flowered among
the cabbages; while the gentle tapping of a weed at the window had become, on winters’ nights, a drumming from sturdy trees and thorned briars
which made the whole room green in summer.
What power could now prevent the fertility, the insensibility of nature? Mrs. McNab’s dream of a lady, of a child, of a plate of milk soup? It had
wavered over the walls like a spot of sunlight and vanished. She had locked the door; she had gone. It was beyond the strength of one woman, she
said. They never sent. They never wrote. There were things up there rotting in the drawers – it was a shame to leave them so, she said. The place
was gone to rack and ruin. Only the Lighthouse beam entered the rooms for a moment, sent its sudden stare over bed and wall in the darkness of
winter, looked with equanimity at the thistle and the swallow, the rat and the straw. Nothing
10
now withstood them; nothing said no to them. Let
the wind blow; let the poppy seed itself and the carnation mate with the cabbage. Let the swallow build in the drawing-room, and the thistle thrust
aside the tiles, and the butterfly sun itself on the faded chintz of the arm-chairs. Let the broken glass and the china lie out on the lawn and be
tangled over with grass and wild berries.
For now had come that moment, that hesitation when dawn trembles and night pauses, when if a feather alight in the scale it will be weighed
down. One feather, and the house, sinking, falling, would have turned and pitched downwards to the depths of darkness. In the ruined room,
picnickers would have lit their kettles; lovers sought shelter there, lying on the bare boards; and the shepherd stored his dinner on the bricks, and
the tramp slept with his coat round him to ward off the cold. Then the roof would have fallen; briars and hemlocks would have blotted out path,
step, and window; would have grown, unequally but lustily over the mound, until some trespasser, losing his way, could have told only by a red-
hot poker among the nettles, or a scrap of china in the hemlock, that here once some one had lived; there had been a house.
If the feather had fallen, if it had tipped the scale downwards, the whole house would have plunged to the depths to lie upon the sands of
oblivion. But there was a force working; something not highly conscious; something that leered, something that lurched; something not inspired to
go about its work with dignified ritual or solemn chanting. Mrs. McNab groaned; Mrs. Bast
11
creaked. They were old; they were stiff; their legs
ached. They came with their brooms and pails at last; they got to work. All of a sudden, would Mrs. McNab see that the house was ready, one of
the young ladies wrote: would she get this done; would she get that done; all in a hurry. They might be coming for the summer; had left everything
to the last; expected to find things as they had left them. Slowly and painfully, with broom and pail, mopping, scouring, Mrs. McNab, Mrs. Bast
stayed the corruption and the rot; rescued from the pool of Time that was fast closing over them now a basin, now a cupboard; fetched up from
oblivion all the Waverley novels and a tea-set one morning; in the afternoon restored to sun and air a brass fender and a set of steel fire-irons.
George, Mrs. Bast’s son, caught the rats, and cut the grass. They had the builders. Attended with the creaking of hinges and the screeching of bolts,
the slamming and banging of damp-swollen woodwork, some rusty laborious birth seemed to be taking place, as the women, stooping, rising,
groaning, singing, slapped and slammed, upstairs now, now down in the cellars. Oh, they said, the work!
They drank their tea in the bedroom sometimes, or in the study; breaking off work at mid-day with the smudge on their faces, and their old
hands clasped and cramped with the broom handles. Flopped on chairs they contemplated now the magnificent conquest over taps and bath; now
the more arduous, more partial triumph over long rows of books, black as ravens once, now white-stained, breeding pale mushrooms and secreting
furtive spiders. Once more, as she felt the tea warm in her, the telescope fitted itself to Mrs. McNab’s eyes, and in a ring of light she saw the old
gentleman, lean as a rake, wagging his head, as she came up with the washing, talking to himself, she supposed, on the lawn. He never noticed her.
Some said he was dead; some said she was dead. Which was it? Mrs. Bast didn’t know for certain either. The young gentleman was dead. That she
was sure. She had read his name in the papers.
There was the cook now, Mildred, Marian, some such name as that – a red-headed woman, quick-tempered like all her sort, but kind, too, if you
knew the way with her. Many a laugh they had had together. She saved a plate of soup for Maggie; a bite of ham, sometimes; whatever was over.
They lived well in those days. They had everything they wanted (glibly, jovially, with the tea hot in her, she unwound her ball of memories, sitting
in the wicker armchair by the nursery fender). There was always plenty doing, people in the house, twenty staying sometimes, and washing up till
long past midnight.
Mrs. Bast (she had never known them; had lived in Glasgow at that time) wondered, putting her cup down, whatever they hung that beast’s skull
there for? Shot in foreign parts no doubt.
It might well be, said Mrs. McNab, wantoning on with her memories; they had friends in eastern countries; gentlemen staying there, ladies in
evening dress; she had seen them once through the dining-room door all sitting at dinner. Twenty she dared say in all their jewellery, and she
asked to stay help wash up, might be till after midnight.
Ah, said Mrs. Bast, they’d find it changed. She leant out of the window. She watched her son George scything the grass. They might well ask,
what had been done to it? seeing how old Kennedy was supposed to have charge of it, and then his leg got so bad after he fell from the cart; and
perhaps then no one for a year, or the better part of one; and then Davie Macdonald, and seeds might be sent, but who should say if they were ever
planted? They’d find it changed.
She watched her son scything. He was a great one for work – one of those quiet ones. Well they must be getting along with the cupboards, she
supposed. They hauled themselves up.
At last, after days of labour within, of cutting and digging without, dusters were flicked from the windows, the windows were shut to, keys were
turned all over the house; the front door was banged; it was finished.
And now as if the cleaning and the scrubbing and the scything and the mowing had drowned it there rose that half-heard melody, that
intermittent music which the ear half catches but lets fall; a bark, a bleat; irregular, intermittent, yet somehow related; the hum of an insect, the
tremor of cut grass, dissevered yet somehow belonging; the jar of a dor beetle, the squeak of a wheel, loud, low, but mysteriously related; which
the ear strains to bring together and is always on the verge of harmonising but they are never quite heard, never fully harmonised, and at last, in
the evening, one after another the sounds die out, and the harmony falters, and silence falls. With the sunset sharpness was lost, and like mist rising,
quiet rose, quiet spread, the wind settled; loosely the world shook itself down to sleep, darkly here without a light to it, save what came green
suffused through leaves, or pale on the white flowers by the window.
[Lily Briscoe
12
had her bag carried up to the house late one evening in September. Mr. Carmichael came by the same train.]
10
10
Then indeed peace had come. Messages of peace breathed from the sea to the shore. Never to break its sleep any more, to lull it rather more
deeply to rest and whatever the dreamers dreamt holily, dreamt wisely, to confirm – what else was it murmuring – as Lily Briscoe laid her head on
the pillow in the clean still room and heard the sea. Through the open window the voice of the beauty of the world came murmuring, too softly to
hear exactly what it said – but what mattered if the meaning were plain? – entreating the sleepers (the house was full again; Mrs. Beckwith was
staying there, also Mr. Carmichael), if they would not actually come down to the beach itself at least to lift the blind and look out. They would see
then night flowing down in purple; his head crowned; his sceptre jewelled; and how in his eyes a child might look. And if they still faltered (Lily
was tired out with travelling and slept almost at once; but Mr. Carmichael read a book by candlelight), if they still said no, that it was vapour this
splendour of his, and the dew had more power than he, and they preferred sleeping; gently then without complaint, or argument, the voice would
sing its song. Gently the waves
13
would break (Lily heard them in her sleep); tenderly the light fell (it seemed to come through her eyelids). And it
all looked, Mr. Carmichael thought, shutting his book, falling asleep, much as it used to look years ago.
Indeed the voice might resume, as the curtains of dark wrapped themselves over the house, over Mrs. Beckwith, Mr. Carmichael, and Lily
Briscoe so that they lay with several folds of blackness on their eyes, why not accept this, be content with this, acquiesce and resign? The sigh of all
the seas breaking in measure round the isles soothed them; the night wrapped them; nothing broke their sleep, until, the birds beginning and the
dawn weaving their thin voices in to its whiteness, a cart grinding, a dog somewhere barking, the sun lifted the curtains, broke the veil on their
eyes, and Lily Briscoe stirring in her sleep clutched at her blankets as a faller clutches at the turf on the edge of a cliff. Her eyes opened wide. Here
she was again, she thought, sitting bolt upright in bed. Awake.
III
III
THE LIGHTHOUSE
1
What does it mean then, what can it all mean? Lily Briscoe asked herself, wondering whether, since she had been left alone, it behoved her to go to
the kitchen to fetch another cup of coffee or wait here. What does it mean? – a catchword that was, caught up from some book, fitting her thought
loosely, for she could not, this first morning with the Ramsays, contract her feelings, could only make a phrase resound to cover the blankness of
her mind until these vapours had shrunk. For really, what did she feel, come back after all these years and Mrs. Ramsay dead? Nothing, nothing –
nothing that she could express at all.
She had come late last night when it was all mysterious, dark. Now she was awake, at her old place at the breakfast table, but alone. It was very
early too, not yet eight. There was this expedition – they were going to the Lighthouse, Mr. Ramsay, Cam, and James. They should have gone
already – they had to catch the tide or something. And Cam was not ready and James was not ready and Nancy had forgotten to order the
sandwiches and Mr. Ramsay had lost his temper and banged out of the room.
‘What’s the use of going now?’ he had stormed.
Nancy had vanished. There he was, marching up and down the terrace in a rage. One seemed to hear doors slamming and voices calling all over
the house. Now Nancy burst in, and asked, looking round the room, in a queer half dazed, half desperate way, ‘What does one send to the
Lighthouse?’ as if she were forcing herself to do what she despaired of ever being able to do.
What does one send to the Lighthouse indeed! At any other time Lily could have suggested reasonably tea, tobacco, newspapers. But this
morning everything seemed so extraordinarily queer that a question like Nancy’s – What does one send to the Lighthouse? – opened doors in one’s
mind that went banging and swinging to and fro and made one keep asking, in a stupefied gape, What does one send? What does one do? Why is
one sitting here after all?
Sitting alone (for Nancy went out again) among the clean cups at the long table she felt cut off from other people, and able only to go on
watching, asking, wondering. The house, the place, the morning, all seemed strangers to her. She had no attachment here, she felt, no relations with
it, anything might happen, and whatever did happen, a step outside, a voice calling (‘It’s not in the cupboard; it’s on the landing,’ some one cried),
was a question, as if the link that usually bound things together had been cut, and they floated up here, down there, off, anyhow. How aimless it
was, how chaotic, how unreal it was, she thought, looking at her empty coffee cup. Mrs. Ramsay dead; Andrew killed;
1
Prue dead too – repeat it as
she might, it roused no feeling in her. And we all get together in a house like this on a morning like this, she said, looking out of the window – it
was a beautiful still day.
Suddenly Mr. Ramsay raised his head as he passed and looked straight at her, with his distraught wild gaze which was yet so penetrating, as if he
saw you, for one second, for the first time, for ever; and she pretended to drink out of her empty coffee cup so as to escape him – to escape his
demand on her, to put aside a moment longer that imperious need. And he shook his head at her, and strode on (‘Alone’ she heard him say,
‘Perished’
2
she heard him say) and like everything else this strange morning the words became symbols, wrote themselves all over the grey-green
walls. If only she could put them together, she felt, write them out in some sentence, then she would have got at the truth of things. Old Mr.
Carmichael came padding softly in, fetched his coffee, took his cup and made off to sit in the sun. The extraordinary unreality was frightening; but
it was also exciting. Going to the Lighthouse. But what does one send to the Lighthouse? Perished. Alone. The grey-green light on the wall
opposite. The empty places. Such were some of the parts, but how bring them together? she asked. As if any interruption would break the frail
shape she was building on the table she turned her back to the window lest Mr. Ramsay should see her. She must escape somehow, be alone
somewhere. Suddenly she remembered. When she had sat there last ten years ago there had been a little sprig or leaf pattern on the table-cloth,
which she had looked at in a moment of revelation. There had been a problem about a foreground of a picture.
3
Move the tree to the middle, she
had said. She had never finished that picture. It had been knocking about in her mind all these years. She would paint that picture now. Where
were her paints, she wondered? Her paints, yes. She had left them in the hall last night. She would start at once. She got up quickly, before Mr.
Ramsay turned.
She fetched herself a chair. She pitched her easel with her precise old-maidish movements on the edge of the lawn, not too close to Mr.
Carmichael, but close enough for his protection. Yes, it must have been precisely here that she had stood ten years ago. There was the wall; the
hedge; the tree. The question was of some relation between those masses. She had borne it in her mind all these years. It seemed as if the solution
had come to her: she knew now what she wanted to do.
But with Mr. Ramsay bearing down on her, she could do nothing. Every time he approached – he was walking up and down the terrace – ruin
approached, chaos approached. She could not paint. She stooped, she turned; she took up this rag; she squeezed that tube. But all she did was to
ward him off a moment. He made it impossible for her to do anything. For if she gave him the least chance, if he saw her disengaged a moment,
looking his way a moment, he would be on her, saying, as he had said last night, ‘You find us much changed.’ Last night he had got up and stopped
before her, and said that. Dumb and staring though they had all sat, the six children whom they used to call after the Kings and Queens of England
before her, and said that. Dumb and staring though they had all sat, the six children whom they used to call after the Kings and Queens of England
– the Red, the Fair, the Wicked, the Ruthless, – she felt how they raged under it. Kind old Mrs. Beckwith said something sensible. But it was a house
full of unrelated passions – she had felt that all the evening. And on top of this chaos Mr. Ramsay got up, pressed her hand, and said: ‘You will find
us much changed’ and none of them had moved or had spoken; but had sat there as if they were forced to let him say it. Only James (certainly the
Sullen) scowled at the lamp; and Cam screwed her handkerchief round her finger. Then he reminded them that they were going to the Lighthouse
to-morrow. They must be ready, in the hall, on the stroke of half-past seven. Then, with his hand on the door, he stopped; he turned upon them.
Did they not want to go? he demanded. Had they dared say No (he had some reason for wanting it) he would have flung himself tragically
backwards into the bitter waters of despair. Such a gift he had for gesture. He looked like a king in exile. Doggedly James said yes. Cam stumbled
more wretchedly. Yes, oh yes, they’d both be ready, they said. And it struck her, this was tragedy – not palls, dust, and the shroud; but children
coerced, their spirits subdued. James was sixteen, Cam seventeen, perhaps. She had looked round for someone who was not there, for Mrs. Ramsay,
presumably. But there was only kind Mrs. Beckwith turning over her sketches under the lamp. Then, being tired, her mind still rising and falling
with the sea, the taste and smell that places have after long absence possessing her, the candles wavering in her eyes, she had lost herself and gone
under. It was a wonderful night, starlit; the waves sounded as they went upstairs; the moon surprised them, enormous, pale, as they passed the
staircase window. She had slept at once.
She set her clean canvas firmly upon the easel, as a barrier, frail, but she hoped sufficiently substantial to ward off Mr. Ramsay and his
exactingness. She did her best to look, when his back was turned, at her picture; that line there, that mass there. But it was out of the question. Let
him be fifty feet away, let him not even speak to you, let him not even see you, he permeated, he prevailed, he imposed himself. He changed
everything. She could not see the colour; she could not see the lines; even with his back turned to her, she could only think, But he’ll be down on
me in a moment, demanding – something she felt she could not give him. She rejected one brush; she chose another. When would those children
come? When would they all be off? she fidgeted. That man, she thought, her anger rising in her, never gave; that man took. She, on the other hand,
would be forced to give. Mrs. Ramsay had given. Giving, giving, giving, she had died – and had left all this. Really, she was angry with Mrs. Ramsay.
With the brush slightly trembling in her fingers she looked at the hedge, the step, the wall. It was all Mrs. Ramsay’s doing. She was dead. Here was
Lily, at forty-four, wasting her time, unable to do a thing, standing there, playing at painting, playing at the one thing one did not play at, and it
was all Mrs. Ramsay’s fault. She was dead. The step where she used to sit was empty. She was dead.
But why repeat this over and over again? Why be always trying to bring up some feeling she had not got? There was a kind of blasphemy in it.
It was all dry: all withered: all spent. They ought not to have asked her; she ought not to have come. One can’t waste one’s time at forty-four, she
thought. She hated playing at painting. A brush, the one dependable thing in a world of strife, ruin, chaos – that one should not play with,
knowingly even: she detested it. But he made her. You shan’t touch your canvas, he seemed to say, bearing down on her, till you’ve given me what
I want of you. Here he was, close upon her again, greedy, distraught. Well, thought Lily in despair, letting her right hand fall at her side, it would
be simpler then to have it over. Surely she could imitate from recollection the glow, the rhapsody, the self-surrender she had seen on so many
women’s faces (on Mrs. Ramsay’s, for instance) when on some occasion like this they blazed up – she could remember the look on Mrs. Ramsay’s
face – into a rapture of sympathy, of delight in the reward they had, which, though the reason of it escaped her, evidently conferred on them the
most supreme bliss of which human nature was capable. Here he was, stopped by her side. She would give him what she could.
2
2
She seemed to have shrivelled slightly, he thought. She looked a little skimpy, wispy; but not unattractive. He liked her. There had been some talk
of her marrying William Bankes once, but nothing had come of it. His wife had been fond of her. He had been a little out of temper too at
breakfast. And then, and then – this was one of those moments when an enormous need urged him, without being conscious what it was, to
approach any woman, to force them, he did not care how, his need was so great, to give him what he wanted: sympathy.
Was anybody looking after her? he said. Had she everything she wanted?
‘Oh, thanks, everything,’ said Lily Briscoe nervously. No; she could not do it. She ought to have floated off instantly upon some wave of
sympathetic expansion: the pressure on her was tremendous. But she remained stuck. There was an awful pause. They both looked at the sea. Why,
thought Mr. Ramsay, should she look at the sea when I am here? She hoped it would be calm enough for them to land at the Lighthouse, she said.
The Lighthouse! The Lighthouse! What’s that got to do with it? he thought impatiently. Instantly, with the force of some primeval gust (for really
he could not restrain himself any longer), there issued from him such a groan that any other woman in the whole world would have done
something, said something – all except myself, thought Lily, girding at herself bitterly, who am not a woman, but a peevish, ill-tempered, dried-up
old maid presumably.
Mr. Ramsay sighed to the full. He waited. Was she not going to say anything? Did she not see what he wanted from her? Then he said he had a
particular reason for wanting to go to the Lighthouse. His wife used to send the men things. There was a poor boy with a tuberculous hip, die
lightkeeper’s son. He sighed profoundly. He sighed significantly. All Lily wished was that this enormous flood of grief, this insatiable hunger for
sympathy, this demand that she should surrender herself up to him entirely, and even so he had sorrows enough to keep her supplied for ever,
should leave her, should be diverted (she kept looking at the house, hoping for an interruption) before it swept her down in its flow.
‘Such expeditions,’ said Mr. Ramsay, scraping the ground with his toe, ‘are very painful.’ Still Lily said nothing. (She is a stock, she is a stone, he
said to himself.) ‘They are very exhausting,’ he said, looking, with a sickly look that nauseated her (he was acting, she felt, this great man was
dramatising himself), at his beautiful hands. It was horrible, it was indecent. Would they never come, she asked, for she could not sustain this
enormous weight of sorrow, support these heavy draperies of grief (he had assumed a pose of extreme decrepitude; he even tottered a little as he
stood there) a moment longer.
Still she could say nothing; the whole horizon seemed swept bare of objects to talk about; could only feel, amaz-edly, as Mr. Ramsay stood there,
how his gaze seemed to fall dolefully over the sunny grass and discolour it, and cast over the rubicund, drowsy, entirely contented figure of Mr.
Carmichael, reading a French novel on a deck-chair, a veil of crape, as if such an existence, flaunting its prosperity in a world of woe, were enough
to provoke the most dismal thoughts of all. Look at him, he seemed to be saying, look at me; and indeed, all the time he was feeling, Think of me,
think of me. Ah, could that bulk only be wafted alongside of them, Lily wished; had she only pitched her easel a yard or two closer to him; a man,
any man, would staunch this effusion, would stop these lamentations. A woman, she had provoked this horror; a woman, she should have known
how to deal with it. It was immensely to her discredit, sexually, to stand there dumb. One said – what did one say? – Oh, Mr. Ramsay! Dear Mr.
Ramsay! That was what that kind old lady who sketched, Mrs. Beckwith, would have said instantly, and rightly. But no. They stood there, isolated
from the rest of the world. His immense self-pity, his demand for sympathy poured and spread itself in pools at her feet, and all she did, miserable
sinner that she was, was to draw her skirts a little closer round her ankles, lest she should get wet. In complete silence she stood there, grasping her
paint brush.
Heaven could never be sufficiently praised! She heard sounds in the house. James and Cam must be coming. But Mr. Ramsay, as if he knew that
his time ran short, exerted upon her solitary figure the immense pressure of his concentrated woe; his age; his frailty; his desolation; when
suddenly, tossing his head impatiently, in his annoyance – for, after all, what woman could resist him? – he noticed that his boot-laces were untied.
Remarkable boots they were too, Lily thought, looking down at them: sculptured; colossal; like everything that Mr. Ramsay wore, from his frayed
tie to his half-buttoned waistcoat, his own indisputably. She could see them walking to his room of their own accord, expressive in his absence of
pathos, surliness, ill-temper, charm.
‘What beautiful boots!’ she exclaimed. She was ashamed of herself. To praise his boots when he asked her to solace his soul; when he had shown
her his bleeding hands, his lacerated heart, and asked her to pity them, then to say, cheerfully, ‘Ah, but what beautiful boots you wear!’ deserved,
she knew, and she looked up expecting to get it, in one of his sudden roars of ill-temper, complete annihilation.
Instead, Mr. Ramsay smiled. His pall, his draperies, his infirmities fell from him. Ah yes, he said, holding his foot up for her to look at, they
were first-rate boots. There was only one man in England who could make boots like that. Boots are among the chief curses of mankind, he said.
‘Bootmakers make it their business,’ he exclaimed, ‘to cripple and torture the human foot.’ They are also the most obstinate and perverse of
mankind. It had taken him the best part of his youth to get boots made as they should be made. He would have her observe (he lifted his right foot
and then his left) that she had never seen boots made quite that shape before. They were made of the finest leather in the world, also. Most leather
was mere brown paper and cardboard. He looked complacently at his foot, still held in the air. They had reached, she felt, a sunny island where
peace dwelt, sanity reigned and the sun for ever shone, the blessed island of good boots. Her heart warmed to him. ‘Now let me see if you can tie a
knot,’ he said. He poohpoohed her feeble system. He showed her his own invention. Once you tied it, it never came undone. Three times he
knot,’ he said. He poohpoohed her feeble system. He showed her his own invention. Once you tied it, it never came undone. Three times he
knotted her shoe; three times he unknotted it.
Why, at this completely inappropriate moment, when he was stooping over her shoe, should she be so tormented with sympathy for him that,
as she stooped too, the blood rushed to her face, and, thinking of her callousness (she had called him a play-actor) she felt her eyes swell and tingle
with tears? Thus occupied he seemed to her a figure of infinite pathos. He tied knots. He bought boots. There was no helping Mr. Ramsay on the
journey he was going. But now just as she wished to say something, could have said something, perhaps, here they were – Cam and James.
4
They
appeared on the terrace. They came, lagging, side by side, a serious, melancholy couple.
But why was it like that they came? She could not help feeling annoyed with them; they might have come more cheerfully; they might have
given him what, now that they were off, she would not have the chance of giving him. For she felt a sudden emptiness; a frustration. Her feeling
had come too late; there it was ready; but he no longer needed it. He had become a very distinguished, elderly man, who had no need of her
whatsoever. She felt snubbed. He slung a knapsack round his shoulders. He shared out the parcels – there were a number of them, ill tied, in
brown paper. He sent Cam for a cloak. He had all the appearance of a leader making ready for an expedition. Then, wheeling about, he led the
way with his firm military tread, in those wonderful boots, carrying brown paper parcels, down the path, his children following him. They looked,
she thought, as if fate had devoted them to some stern enterprise, and they went to it, still young enough to be drawn acquiescent in their father’s
wake, obediently, but with a pallor in their eyes which made her feel that they suffered something beyond their years in silence. So they passed the
edge of the lawn, and it seemed to Lily that she watched a procession go, drawn on by some stress of common feeling which made it, faltering and
flagging as it was, a little company bound together and strangely impressive to her. Politely, but very distantly, Mr. Ramsay raised his hand and
saluted her as they passed.
But what a face, she thought, immediately finding the sympathy which she had not been asked to give troubling her for expression. What had
made it like that? Thinking, night after night, she supposed – about the reality of kitchen tables, she added, remembering the symbol which in her
vagueness as to what Mr. Ramsay did think about Andrew had given her. (He had been killed by the splinter of a shell instantly, she bethought
her.) The kitchen table was something visionary, austere; something bare, hard, not ornamental. There was no colour to it; it was all edges and
angles; it was uncompromisingly plain. But Mr. Ramsay kept always his eyes fixed upon it, never allowed himself to be distracted or deluded, until
his face became worn too and ascetic and partook of this unornamented beauty which so deeply impressed her. Then, she recalled (standing where
he had left her, holding her brush), worries had fretted it – not so nobly. He must have had his doubts about that table, she supposed; whether the
table was a real table; whether it was worth the time he gave to it; whether he was able after all to find it. He had had doubts, she felt, or he
would have asked less of people. That was what they talked about late at night sometimes, she suspected; and then next day Mrs. Ramsay looked
tired, and Lily flew into a rage with him over some absurd little thing. But now he had nobody to talk to about that table, or his boots, or his knots;
and he was like a lion seeking whom he could devour, and his face had that touch of desperation, of exaggeration in it which alarmed her, and
made her pull her skirts about her. And then, she recalled, there was that sudden revivication, that sudden flare (when she praised his boots), that
sudden recovery of vitality and interest in ordinary human things, which too passed and changed (for he was always changing, and hid nothing)
into that other final phase which was new to her and had, she owned, made herself ashamed of her own irritability, when it seemed as if he had
shed worries and ambitions, and the hope of sympathy and the desire for praise, had entered some other region, was drawn on, as if by curiosity,
in dumb colloquy, whether with himself or another, at the head of that little procession out of one’s range. An extraordinary face! The gate banged.
3
3
So they’re gone, she thought, sighing with relief and disappointment. Her sympathy seemed to fly back in her face, like a bramble sprung. She felt
curiously divided, as if one part of her were drawn out there – it was a still day, hazy; the Lighthouse looked this morning at an immense distance;
the other had fixed itself doggedly, solidly, here on the lawn. She saw her canvas as if it had floated up and placed itself white and
uncompromising directly before her. It seemed to rebuke her with its cold stare for all this hurry and agitation; this folly and waste of emotion; it
drastically recalled her and spread through her mind first a peace, as her disorderly sensations (he had gone and she had been so sorry for him and
she had said nothing) trooped off the field; and then, emptiness. She looked blankly at the canvas, with its uncompromising white stare; from the
canvas to the garden. There was something (she stood screwing up her little Chinese eyes in her small puckered face) something she remembered
in the relations of those lines cutting across, slicing down, and in the mass of the hedge with its green cave of blues and browns, which had stayed
in her mind; which had tied a knot in her mind so that at odds and ends of time, involuntarily, as she walked along the Brompton Road, as she
brushed her hair, she found herself painting that picture, passing her eye over it, and untying the knot in imagination. But there was all the
difference in the world between this planning airily away from the canvas, and actually taking her brush and making the first mark.
She had taken the wrong brush in her agitation at Mr. Ramsay’s presence, and her easel, rammed into the earth so nervously, was at the wrong
angle. And now that she had put that right, and in so doing had subdued the impertinences and irrelevances that plucked her attention and made
her remember how she was such and such a person, had such and such relations to people, she took her hand and raised her brush. For a moment
it stayed trembling in a painful but exciting ecstasy in the air. Where to begin? – that was the question; at what point to make the first mark? One
line placed on the canvas committed her to innumerable risks, to frequent and irrevocable decisions. All that in idea seemed simple became in
practice immediately complex; as the waves shape themselves symmetrically from the cliff top, but to the swimmer among them are divided by
steep gulfs, and foaming crests. Still the risk must be run; the mark made.
With a curious physical sensation, as if she were urged forward and at the same time must hold herself back, she made her first quick decisive
stroke. The brush descended. It flickered brown over the white canvas; it left a running mark. A second time she did it – a third time. And so
pausing and so flickering, she attained a dancing rhythmical movement, as if the pauses were one part of the rhythm and the strokes another, and
all were related; and so, lightly and swiftly pausing, striking, she scored her canvas with brown running nervous lines which had no sooner settled
there than they enclosed (she felt it looming out at her) a space. Down in the hollow of one wave she saw the next wave towering higher and
higher above her. For what could be more formidable than that space? Here she was again, she thought, stepping back to look at it, drawn out of
gossip, out of living, out of community with people into the presence of this formidable ancient enemy of hers – this other thing, this truth, this
reality, which suddenly laid hands on her, emerged stark at the back of appearances and commanded her attention. She was half unwilling, half
reluctant. Why always be drawn out and haled away? Why not left in peace, to talk to Mr. Carmichael on the lawn? It was an exacting form of
intercourse anyhow. Other worshipful objects were content with worship; men, women, God, all let one kneel prostrate; but this form, were it only
the shape of a white lamp-shade looming on a wicker table, roused one to perpetual combat, challenged one to a fight in which one was bound to
be worsted. Always (it was in her nature, or in her sex, she did not know which) before she exchanged the fluidity of life for the concentration of
painting she had a few moments of nakedness when she seemed like an unborn soul, a soul reft of body, hesitating on some windy pinnacle and
exposed without protection to all the blasts of doubt. Why then did she do it? She looked at the canvas, lightly scored with running lines. It would
be hung in the servants’ bedrooms. It would be rolled up and stuffed under a sofa. What was the good of doing it then, and she heard some voice
saying she couldn’t paint, saying she couldn’t create, as if she were caught up in one of those habitual currents which after a certain time
experience forms in the mind, so that one repeats words without being aware any longer who originally spoke them.
Can’t paint, can’t write, she murmured monotonously, anxiously considering what her plan of attack should be. For the mass loomed before her;
it protruded; she felt it pressing on her eyeballs. Then, as if some juice necessary for the lubrication of her faculties were spontaneously squirted,
she began precariously dipping among the blues and ambers, moving her brush hither and thither, but it was now heavier and went slower, as if it
had fallen in with some rhythm which was dictated to her (she kept looking at the hedge, at the canvas) by what she saw, so that while her hand
quivered with life, this rhythm was strong enough to bear her along with it on its current. Certainly she was losing consciousness of outer things.
And as she lost consciousness of outer things, and her name and her personality and her appearance, and whether Mr. Carmichael was there or not,
her mind kept throwing up from its depths, scenes, and names, and sayings, and memories and ideas, like a fountain spurting over that glaring,
hideously difficult white space, while she modelled it with greens and blues.
Charles Tansley
5
used to say that, she remembered, women can’t paint, can’t write. Coming up behind her he had stood close beside her, a thing
she hated, as she painted here on this very spot. ‘Shag tobacco’, he said, ‘fivepence an ounce’, parading his poverty, his principles. (But the war had
drawn the sting of her femininity. Poor devils, one thought, poor devils of both sexes, getting into such messes.) He was always carrying a book
about under his arm – a purple book. He ‘worked’. He sat, she remembered, working in a blaze of sun. At dinner he would sit right in the middle
of the view. And then, she reflected, there was that scene on the beach. One must remember that. It was a windy morning. They had all gone to the
beach. Mrs. Ramsay sat and wrote letters by a rock. She wrote and wrote. ‘Oh,’ she said, looking up at last at something floating in the sea, ‘is it a
lobster pot? Is it an upturned boat?’ She was so short-sighted that she could not see, and then Charles Tansley became as nice as he could possibly
lobster pot? Is it an upturned boat?’ She was so short-sighted that she could not see, and then Charles Tansley became as nice as he could possibly
be. He began playing ducks and drakes. They chose little flat black stones and sent them skipping over the waves. Every now and then Mrs. Ramsay
looked up over her spectacles and laughed at them. What they said she could not remember, but only she and Charles throwing stones and getting
on very well all of a sudden and Mrs. Ramsay watching them. She was highly conscious of that. Mrs. Ramsay, she thought, stepping back and
screwing up her eyes. (It must have altered the design a good deal when she was sitting on the step with James. There must have been a shadow.)
Mrs. Ramsay. When she thought of herself and Charles throwing ducks and drakes and of the whole scene on the beach, it seemed to depend
somehow upon Mrs. Ramsay sitting under the rock, with a pad on her knee, writing letters. (She wrote innumerable letters, and sometimes the
wind took them and she and Charles just saved a page from the sea.) But what a power was in the human soul! she thought. That woman sitting
there, writing under the rock resolved everything into simplicity; made these angers, irritations fall off like old rags; she brought together this and
that and then this, and so made out of that miserable silliness and spite (she and Charles squabbling, sparring, had been silly and spiteful)
something – this scene on the beach for example, this moment of friendship and liking – which survived, after all these years, complete, so that she
dipped into it to re-fashion her memory of him, and it stayed in the mind almost like a work of art.
‘Like a work of art,’ she repeated, looking from her canvas to the drawing-room steps and back again. She must rest for a moment. And, resting,
looking from one to the other vaguely, the old question which traversed the sky of the soul perpetually, the vast, the general question which was
apt to particularise itself at such moments as these, when she released faculties that had been on the strain, stood over her, paused over her,
darkened over her. What is the meaning of life? That was all – a simple question; one that tended to close in on one with years. The great
revelation had never come. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck
unexpectedly in the dark; here was one. This, that, and the other; herself and Charles Tansley and the breaking wave; Mrs. Ramsay bringing them
together; Mrs. Ramsay saying ‘Life stand still here’; Mrs. Ramsay making of the moment
6
something permanent (as in another sphere Lily herself
tried to make of the moment something permanent) – this was of the nature of a revelation. In the midst of chaos there was shape; this eternal
passing and flowing (she looked at the clouds going and the leaves shaking) was struck into stability. Life stand still here, Mrs. Ramsay said. ‘Mrs.
Ramsayl Mrs. Ramsay!’ she repeated. She owed this revelation to her.
All was silence. Nobody seemed yet to be stirring in the house. She looked at it there sleeping in the early sunlight with its windows green and
blue with the reflected leaves. The faint thought she was thinking of Mrs. Ramsay
7
seemed in consonance with this quiet house; this smoke; this
fine early morning air. Faint and unreal, it was amazingly pure and exciting. She hoped nobody would open the window or come out of the house,
but that she might be left alone to go on thinking, to go on painting. She turned to her canvas. But impelled by some curiosity, driven by the
discomfort of the sympathy which she held undischarged, she walked a pace or so to the end of the lawn to see whether, down there on the beach,
she could see that little company setting sail. Down there among the little boats which floated, some with their sails furled, some slowly, for it was
very calm, moving away, there was one rather apart from the others. The sail was even now being hoisted. She decided that there in that very
distant and entirely silent little boat Mr. Ramsay was sitting with Cam and James. Now they had got the sail up; now after a little flagging and
hesitation the sails filled and, shrouded in profound silence, she watched the boat take its way with deliberation past the other boats out to sea.
4
4
The sails flapped over their heads. The water chuckled and slapped the sides of the boat, which drowsed motionless in the sun. Now and then the
sails rippled with a little breeze in them, but the ripple ran over them and ceased. The boat made no motion at all. Mr. Ramsay sat in the middle
of the boat. He would be impatient in a moment, James thought, and Cam thought, looking at their father, who sat in the middle of the boat
between them (James steered; Cam sat alone in the bow) with his legs tightly curled. He hated hanging about. Sure enough, after fidgeting a second
or two, he said something sharp to Macalister’s boy, who got out his oars and began to row. But their father, they knew, would never be content
until they were flying along. He would keep looking for a breeze, fidgeting, saying things under his breath, which Macalister and Macalister’s boy
would overhear, and they would both be made horribly uncomfortable. He had made them come. He had forced them to come. In their anger they
hoped that the breeze would never rise, that he might be thwarted in every possible way, since he had forced them to come against their wills.
All the way down to the beach they had lagged behind together, though he bade them ‘Walk up, walk up’, without speaking. Their heads were
bent down, their heads were pressed down by some remorseless gale. Speak to him they could not. They must come; they must follow. They must
walk behind him carrying brown paper parcels.
8
But they vowed, in silence, as they walked, to stand by each other and carry out the great
compact – to resist tyranny to the death. So there they would sit, one at one end of the boat, one at the other, in silence. They would say nothing,
only look at him now and then where he sat with his legs twisted, frowning and fidgeting, and pishing and pshawing and muttering things to
himself, and waiting impatiently for a breeze. And they hoped it would be calm. They hoped he would be thwarted. They hoped the whole
expedition would fail, and they would have to put back, with their parcels, to the beach.
But now, when Macalister’s boy had rowed a little way out, the sails slowly swung round, the boat quickened itself, flattened itself, and shot off.
Instantly, as if some great strain had been relieved, Mr. Ramsay uncurled his legs, took out his tobacco pouch, handed it with a little grunt to
Macalister, and felt, they knew, for all they suffered, perfectly content. Now they would sail on for hours like this, and Mr. Ramsay would ask old
Macalister a question – about the great storm last winter probably – and old Macalister would answer it, and they would puff their pipes together,
and Macalister would take a tarry rope in his fingers, tying or untying some knot, and the boy would fish, and never say a word to any one. James
would be forced to keep his eye all the time on the sail. For if he forgot, then the sail puckered, and shivered, and the boat slackened, and Mr.
Ramsay would say sharply, ‘Look out! Look out!’ and old Macalister would turn slowly on his seat. So they heard Mr. Ramsay asking some question
about the great storm at Christmas. ‘She comes driving round the point,’ old Macalister said, describing the great storm last Christmas, when ten
ships had been driven into the bay for shelter, and he had seen ‘one there, one there, one there’ (he pointed slowly round the bay. Mr. Ramsay
followed him, turning his head). He had seen three men clinging to the mast. Then she was gone. ‘And at last we shoved her off,’ he went on (but
in their anger and their silence they only caught a word here and there, sitting at opposite ends of the boat, united by their compact to fight
tyranny to the death). At last they had shoved her off, they had launched the lifeboat, and they had got her out past the point – Macalister told the
story; and though they only caught a word here and there, they were conscious all the time of their father – how he leant forward, how he brought
his voice into tune with Macalister’s voice; how, puffing at his pipe, and looking there and there where Macalister pointed, he relished the thought
of the storm and the dark night and the fishermen striving there.
9
He liked that men should labour and sweat on the windy beach at night, pitting
muscle and brain against the waves and the wind; he liked men to work like that, and women to keep house, and sit beside sleeping children
indoors, while men were drowned, out there in a storm. So James could tell, so Cam could tell (they looked at him, they looked at each other),
from his toss and his vigilance and the ring in his voice, and the little tinge of Scottish accent which came into his voice, making him seem like a
peasant himself, as he questioned Macalister about the eleven ships that had been driven into the bay in a storm. Three had sunk.
He looked proudly where Macalister pointed;
10
and Cam thought, feeling proud of him without knowing quite why, had he been there he
would have launched the lifeboat, he would have reached the wreck, Cam thought. He was so brave, he was so adventurous, Cam thought. But she
remembered. There was the compact; to resist tyranny to the death. Their grievance weighed them down. They had been forced; they had been
bidden. He had borne them down once more with his gloom and his authority, making them do his bidding, on this fine morning, come, because
he wished it, carrying these parcels, to the Lighthouse; take part in those rites he went through for his own pleasure in memory of dead people,
which they hated, so that they lagged after him, and all the pleasure of the day was spoilt.
Yes, the breeze was freshening. The boat was leaning, the water was sliced sharply and fell away in green cascades, in bubbles, in cataracts. Cam
looked down into the foam, into the sea with all its treasure in it, and its speed hypnotised her, and the tie between her and James sagged a little.
It slackened a little. She began to think, How fast it goes. Where are we going? and the movement hypnotised her, while James, with his eye fixed
on the sail and on the horizon, steered
11
grimly. But he began to think as he steered that he might escape; he might be quit of it all. They might
land somewhere; and be free then. Both of them, looking at each other for a moment, had a sense of escape and exaltation, what with the speed
and the change. But the breeze bred in Mr. Ramsay too the same excitement, and, as old Macalister turned to fling his line overboard, he cried
aloud, ‘We perished,’ and then again, ‘each alone.’ And then with his usual spasm of repentance or shyness, pulled himself up, and waved his hand
towards the shore.
‘See the little house,’ he said pointing, wishing Cam to look. She raised herself reluctantly and looked. But which was it? She could no longer
make out, there on the hillside, which was their house. All looked distant and peaceful and strange. The shore seemed refined, far away, unreal.
make out, there on the hillside, which was their house. All looked distant and peaceful and strange. The shore seemed refined, far away, unreal.
Already the little distance they had sailed had put them far from it and given it the changed look, the composed look, of something receding in
which one has no longer any part. Which was their house? She could not see it.
‘But I beneath a rougher sea,’ Mr. Ramsay murmured. He had found the house and so seeing it, he had also seen himself there; he had seen
himself walking on the terrace, alone. He was walking up and down between the urns; and he seemed to himself very old, and bowed. Sitting in
the boat he bowed, he crouched himself, acting instantly his part – the part of a desolate man, widowed, bereft; and so called up before him in
hosts people sympathising with him; staged for himself as he sat in the boat, a little drama; which required of him decrepitude and exhaustion and
sorrow (he raised his hands and looked at the thinness of them, to confirm his dream) and then there was given him in abundance women’s
sympathy, and he imagined how they would soothe him and sympathise with him, and so getting in his dream some reflection of the exquisite
pleasure women’s sympathy was to him, he sighed and said gently and mournfully,
But I beneath a rougher sea
Was whelmed in deeper gulfs than he,
so that the mournful words were heard quite clearly by them all. Cam half started on her seat. It shocked her – it outraged her. The movement
roused her father; and he shuddered, and broke off, exclaiming: ‘Look! Look!’ so urgently that James also turned his head to look over his shoulder
at the island. They all looked. They looked at the island.
But Cam could see nothing. She was thinking how all those paths and the lawn, thick and knotted with the lives they had lived there, were
gone: were rubbed out; were past; were unreal, and now this was real; the boat and the sail with its patch; Macalister with his earrings; the noise of
the waves – all this was real. Thinking this, she was murmuring to herself ‘We perished, each alone’, for her father’s words broke and broke again
in her mind, when her father, seeing her gazing so vaguely, began to tease her. Didn’t she know the points of the compass? he asked. Didn’t she
know the North from the South? Did she really think they lived right out there? And he pointed again, and showed her where their house was,
there, by those trees. He wished she would try to be more accurate, he said: ‘Tell me – which is East, which is West?’ he said, half laughing at her,
half scolding her, for he could not understand the state of mind of any one, not absolutely imbecile, who did not know the points of the compass.
Yet she did not know. And seeing her gazing, with her vague, now rather frightened, eyes fixed where no house was Mr. Ramsay forgot his dream;
how he walked up and down between the urns on the terrace; how the arms were stretched out to him. He thought, women are always like that;
the vagueness of their minds is hopeless; it was a thing he had never been able to understand; but so it was. It had been so with her – his wife.
They could not keep anything clearly fixed in their minds. But he had been wrong to be angry with her; moreover, did he not rather like this
vagueness in women? It was part of their extraordinary charm. I will make her smile at me, he thought. She looks frightened. She was so silent. He
clutched his fingers, and determined that his voice and his face and all the quick expressive gestures which had been at his command making
people pity him and praise him all these years should subdue themselves. He would make her smile at him. He would find some simple easy thing
to say to her. But what? For, wrapped up in his work as he was, he forgot the sort of thing one said. There was a puppy. They had a puppy. Who
was looking after the puppy to-day? he asked. Yes, thought James pitilessly, seeing his sister’s head against the sail, now she will give way. I shall
be left to fight the tyrant alone. The compact would be left to him to carry out. Cam would never resist tyranny to the death, he thought grimly,
watching her face, sad, sulky, yielding. And as sometimes happens when a cloud falls on a green hillside and gravity descends and there among all
the surrounding hills is gloom and sorrow, and it seems as if the hills themselves must ponder the fate of the clouded, the darkened, either in pity,
or maliciously rejoicing in her dismay: so Cam now felt herself overcast, as she sat there among calm, resolute people and wondered how to
answer her father about the puppy; how to resist his entreaty – forgive me, care for me; while James the lawgiver, with the tablets of eternal
wisdom laid open on his knee (his hand on the tiller had become symbolical to her), said, Resist him. Fight him. He said so rightly; justly. For they
must fight tyranny to the death, she thought. Of all human qualities she reverenced justice most. Her brother was most god-like, her father most
suppliant. And to which did she yield, she thought, sitting between them, gazing at the shore whose points were all unknown to her, and thinking
how the lawn and the terrace and the house were smoothed away now and peace dwelt there.
‘Jasper,’ she said sullenly. He’d look after the puppy.
And what was she going to call him? her father persisted. He had had a dog when he was a little boy, called Frisk. She’ll give way, James
thought, as he watched a look come upon her face, a look he remembered. They look down, he thought, at their knitting or something. Then
suddenly they look up. There was a flash of blue, he remembered, and then somebody sitting with him laughed, surrendered, and he was very
angry. It must have been his mother, he thought, sitting on a low chair, with his father standing over her. He began to search among the infinite
series of impressions which time had laid down, leaf upon leaf, fold upon fold softly, incessantly upon his brain; among scents, sounds; voices,
harsh, hollow, sweet; and lights passing, and brooms tapping; and the wash and hush of the sea, how a man had marched up and down and
stopped dead, upright, over them. Meanwhile, he noticed, Cam dabbled her fingers in the water, and stared at the shore and said nothing. No, she
won’t give way, he thought; she’s different, he thought. Well, if Cam would not answer him, he would not bother her, Mr. Ramsay decided, feeling
in his pocket for a book.
12
But she would answer him; she wished, passionately, to move some obstacle that lay upon her tongue and to say, Oh
yes, Frisk. I’ll call him Frisk. She wanted even to say, Was that the dog that found its way over the moor alone? But try as she might, she could
think of nothing to say like that, fierce and loyal to the compact, yet passing on to her father, unsuspected by James, a private token of the love she
think of nothing to say like that, fierce and loyal to the compact, yet passing on to her father, unsuspected by James, a private token of the love she
felt for him. For she thought, dabbling her hand (and now Macalister’s boy had caught a mackerel, and it lay kicking on the floor, with blood on its
gills) for she thought, looking at James who kept his eyes dispassionately on the sail, or glanced now and then for a second at the horizon, you’re
not exposed to it, to this pressure and division of feeling, this extraordinary temptation. Her father was feeling in his pockets; in another second, he
would have found his book. For no one attracted her more; his hands were beautiful to her and his feet,
13
and his voice, and his words, and his
haste, and his temper, and his oddity, and his passion, and his saying straight out before every one, we perish, each alone, and his remoteness. (He
had opened his book.) But what remained intolerable, she thought, sitting upright, and watching Macalister’s boy tug the hook out of the gills of
another fish, was that crass blindness and tyranny
14
of his which had poisoned her childhood and raised bitter storms, so that even now she woke
in the night trembling with rage and remembered some command of his; some insolence: ‘Do this’, ‘Do that’; his dominance: his ‘Submit to me’.
So she said nothing, but looked doggedly and sadly at the shore, wrapped in its mantle of peace; as if the people there had fallen asleep, she
thought; were free like smoke, were free to come and go like ghosts. They have no suffering there, she thought.
5
5
Yes, that is their boat, Lily Briscoe decided, standing on the edge of the lawn. It was the boat with greyish-brown sails, which she saw now flatten
itself upon the water and shoot off across the bay. There he sits, she thought, and the children are quite silent still. And she could not reach him
either. The sympathy she had not given him weighed her down. It made it difficult for her to paint.
She had always found him difficult. She had never been able to praise him to his face, she remembered. And that reduced their relationship to
something neutral, without that element of sex in it which made his manner to Minta so gallant, almost gay. He would pick a flower for her, lend
her his books. But could he believe that Minta read them? She dragged them about the garden, sticking in leaves to mark the place.
‘D’you remember, Mr. Carmichael?’ she was inclined to ask, looking at the old man. But he had pulled his hat half over his forehead; he was
asleep, or he was dreaming, or he was lying there catching words, she supposed.
‘D’you remember?’ she felt inclined to ask him as she passed him, thinking again of Mrs. Ramsay on the beach; the cask bobbing up and down;
and the pages flying. Why, after all these years had that survived, ringed round, lit up, visible to the last detail, with all before it blank and all after
it blank, for miles and miles?
‘Is it a boat? Is it a cork?’ she would say, Lily repeated, turning back, reluctantly again, to her canvas. Heaven be praised for it, the problem of
space remained, she thought, taking up her brush again. It glared at her. The whole mass of the picture was poised upon that weight. Beautiful and
bright it should be on the surface, feathery and evanescent, one colour melting into another like the colours on a butterfly’s wing; but beneath the
fabric must be clamped together with bolts of iron. It was to be a thing you could ruffle with your breath; and a thing you could not dislodge with
a team of horses. And she began to lay on a red, a grey, and she began to model her way into the hollow there. At the same time, she seemed to be
sitting beside Mrs. Ramsay on the beach.
‘Is it a boat? Is it a cask?’ Mrs. Ramsay said. And she began hunting round for her spectacles. And she sat, having found them, silent, looking out
to sea. And Lily, painting steadily, felt as if a door had opened, and one went in and stood gazing silently about in a high cathedral-like place, very
dark, very solemn. Shouts came from a world far away. Steamers vanished in stalks of smoke on the horizon. Charles threw stones and sent them
skipping.
Mrs. Ramsay sat silent. She was glad, Lily thought, to rest in silence, uncommunicative; to rest in the extreme obscurity of human relationships.
Who knows what we are, what we feel? Who knows even at the moment of intimacy, This is knowledge? Aren’t things spoilt then, Mrs. Ramsay
may have asked (it seemed to have happened so often, this silence by her side) by saying them? Aren’t we more expressive thus? The moment at
least seemed extraordinarily fertile. She rammed a little hole in the sand and covered it up, by way of burying in it the perfection of the moment. It
was like a drop of silver in which one dipped and illumined the darkness of the past.
Lily stepped back to get her canvas – so – into perspective. It was an odd road to be walking, this of painting. Out and out one went, further and
further, until at last one seemed to be on a narrow plank, perfectly alone, over the sea. And as she dipped into the blue paint, she dipped too into
the past there. Now Mrs. Ramsay got up, she remembered. It was time to go back to the house – time for luncheon. And they all walked up from
the beach together, she walking behind with William Bankes, and there was Minta in front of them with a hole in her stocking. How that little
round hole of pink heel seemed to flaunt itself before them! How William Bankes deplored it, without, so far as she could remember, saying
anything about it! It meant to him the annihilation of womanhood, and dirt and disorder, and servants leaving and beds not made at midday – all
the things he most abhorred. He had a way of shuddering and spreading his fingers out as if to cover an unsightly object, which he did now –
holding his hand in front of him. And Minta walked on ahead, and presumably Paul met her and she went off with Paul in the garden.
The Rayleys, thought Lily Briscoe, squeezing her tube of green paint. She collected her impressions of the Rayleys. Their lives appeared to her in
a series of scenes; one, on the staircase at dawn. Paul had come in and gone to bed early; Minta was late. There was Minta, wreathed, tinted, garish
on the stairs about three o’clock in the morning. Paul came out in his pyjamas carrying a poker in case of burglars. Minta was eating a sandwich,
standing half-way up by a window, in the cadaverous early morning light, and the carpet had a hole in it. But what did they say? Lily asked herself,
as if by looking she could hear them. Something violent. Minta went on eating her sandwich, annoyingly, while he spoke. He spoke indignant,
jealous words, abusing her, in a mutter so as not to wake the children, the two little boys. He was withered, drawn; she flamboyant, careless. For
things had worked loose after the first year or so; the marriage had turned out rather badly.
And this, Lily thought, taking the green paint on her brush, this making up scenes about them, is what we call ‘knowing’ people, ‘thinking’ of
them, ‘being fond’ of them! Not a word of it was true; she had made it up; but it was what she knew them by all the same. She went on tunnelling
her way into her picture, into the past.
Another time, Paul said he ‘played chess in coffeehouses’. She had built up a whole structure of imagination on that saying too. She remembered
how, as he said it, she thought how he rang up the servant, and she said ‘Mrs. Rayley’s out, sir’, and he decided that he would not come home
either. She saw him sitting in the corner of some lugubrious place where the smoke attached itself to the red plush seats, and the waitresses got to
know you, playing chess with a little man who was in the tea trade and lived at Surbiton, but that was all Paul knew about him. And then Minta
was out when he came home and then there was that scene on the stairs, when he got the poker in case of burglars (no doubt to frighten her too)
and spoke so bitterly, saying she had ruined his life. At any rate when she went down to see them at a cottage near Rickmans-worth, things were
and spoke so bitterly, saying she had ruined his life. At any rate when she went down to see them at a cottage near Rickmans-worth, things were
horribly strained. Paul took her down the garden to look at the Belgian hares which he bred, and Minta followed them, singing, and put her bare
arm on his shoulder, lest he should tell her anything.
Minta was bored by hares, Lily thought. But Minta never gave herself away. She never said things like that about playing chess in coffee-houses.
She was far too conscious, far too wary. But to go on with their story – they had got through the dangerous stage by now. She had been staying with
them last summer some time and the car broke down and Minta had to hand him his tools. He sat on the road mending the car, and it was the way
she gave him the tools – business-like, straightforward, friendly – that proved it was all right now. They were ‘in love’ no longer; no, he had taken
up with another woman, a serious woman, with her hair in a plait and a case in her hand (Minta had described her gratefully, almost admiringly),
who went to meetings and shared Paul’s views (they had got more and more pronounced) about the taxation of land values
15
and a capital levy.
Far from breaking up the marriage, that alliance had righted it. They were excellent friends, obviously, as he sat on the road and she handed him
his tools.
So that was the story of the Rayleys, Lily smiled. She imagined herself telling it to Mrs. Ramsay, who would be full of curiosity to know what
had become of the Rayleys. She would feel a little triumphant, telling Mrs. Ramsay that the marriage had not been a success.
But the dead, thought Lily, encountering some obstacle in her design which made her pause and ponder, stepping back a foot or so, Oh the
dead! she murmured, one pitied them, one brushed them aside, one had even a little contempt for them. They are at our mercy. Mrs. Ramsay has
faded and gone, she thought. We can over-ride her wishes, improve away her limited, old-fashioned ideas. She recedes further and further from us.
Mockingly she seemed to see her there at the end of the corridor of years saying, of all incongruous things, ‘Marry, marry!’ (sitting very upright
early in the morning with the birds beginning to cheep in the garden outside). And one would have to say to her, It has all gone against your
wishes. They’re happy like that; I’m happy like this. Life has changed completely. At that all her being, even her beauty, became for a moment,
dusty and out of date. For a moment Lily, standing there, with the sun hot on her back, summing up the Rayleys, triumphed over Mrs. Ramsay,
who would never know how Paul went to coffee-houses and had a mistress; how he sat on the ground and Minta handed him his tools; how she
stood here painting, had never married, not even William Bankes.
Mrs. Ramsay had planned it. Perhaps, had she lived, she would have compelled it. Already that summer he was ‘the kindest of men’. He was ‘the
first scientist of his age, my husband says’. He was also ‘poor William – it makes me so unhappy, when I go to see him, to find nothing nice in his
house – no one to arrange the flowers’. So they were sent for walks together, and she was told, with that faint touch of irony that made Mrs.
Ramsay slip through one’s fingers, that she had a scientific mind; she liked flowers; she was so exact. What was this mania of hers for marriage?
16
Lily wondered, stepping to and fro from her easel.
(Suddenly, as suddenly as a star slides in the sky, a reddish light seemed to burn in her mind, covering Paul Rayley, issuing from him. It rose like
a fire sent up in token of some celebration by savages on a distant beach. She heard the roar and the crackle. The whole sea for miles round ran
red and gold. Some winy smell mixed with it and intoxicated her, for she felt again her own headlong desire to throw herself off the cliff and be
drowned looking for a pearl brooch on a beach. And the roar and the crackle repelled her with fear and disgust, as if while she saw its splendour
and power she saw too how it fed on the treasure of the house, greedily, disgustingly, and she loathed it. But for a sight, for a glory it surpassed
everything in her experience, and burnt year after year like a signal fire on a desert island at the edge of the sea, and one had only to say ‘in love’
and instantly, as happened now, up rose Paul’s fire again. And it sank and she said to herself, laughing, ‘The Rayleys’; how Paul went to
coffeehouses and played chess.)
She had only escaped by the skin of her teeth though, she thought. She had been looking at the table-cloth, and it had flashed upon her that she
would move the tree to the middle, and need never marry anybody, and she had felt an enormous exultation. She had felt, now she could stand up
to Mrs. Ramsay – a tribute to the astonishing power that Mrs. Ramsay had over one. Do this, she said, and one did it. Even her shadow at the
window with James was full of authority. She remembered how William Bankes had been shocked by her neglect of the significance of mother and
son. Did she not admire their beauty? he said. But William, she remembered, had listened to her with his wise child’s eyes when she explained
how it was not irreverence: how a light there needed a shadow there and so on. She did not intend to disparage a subject which, they agreed,
Raphael
17
had treated divinely. She was not cynical. Quite the contrary. Thanks to his scientific mind he understood – a proof of disinterested
intelligence which had pleased her and comforted her enormously. One could talk of painting then seriously to a man. Indeed, his friendship had
been one of the pleasures of her life. She loved William Bankes.
They went to Hampton Court
18
and he always left her, like the perfect gentleman he was, plenty of time to wash her hands, while he strolled
by the river. That was typical of their relationship. Many things were left unsaid. Then they strolled through the courtyards, and admired, summer
after summer, the proportions and the flowers, and he would tell her things, about perspective, about architecture, as they walked, and he would
stop to look at a tree, or the view over the lake, and admire a child (it was his great grief – he had no daughter) in the vague aloof way that was
natural to a man who spent so much time in laboratories that the world when he came out seemed to dazzle him, so that he walked slowly, lifted
his hand to screen his eyes and paused, with his head thrown back, merely to breathe the air. Then he would tell her how his housekeeper was on
her holiday; he must buy a new carpet for the staircase. Perhaps she would go with him to buy a new carpet for the staircase. And once something
led him to talk about the Ramsays and he had said how when he first saw her she had been wearing a grey hat; she was not more than nineteen or
led him to talk about the Ramsays and he had said how when he first saw her she had been wearing a grey hat; she was not more than nineteen or
twenty. She was astonishingly beautiful. There he stood looking down the avenue at Hampton Court, as if he could see her there among the
fountains.
She looked now at the drawing-room step. She saw, through William’s eyes,
19
the shape of a woman, peaceful and silent, with downcast eyes.
She sat musing, pondering (she was in grey that day, Lily thought). Her eyes were bent. She would never lift them. Yes, thought Lily, looking
intently, I must have seen her look like that, but not in grey; nor so still, nor so young, nor so peaceful. The figure came readily enough. She was
astonishingly beautiful, William said. But beauty was not everything. Beauty had this penalty – it came too readily, came too completely. It stilled
life – froze it. One forgot the little agitations; the flush, the pallor, some queer distortion, some light or shadow, which made the face
unrecognisable for a moment and yet added a quality one saw for ever after. It was simpler to smooth that all out under the cover of beauty. But
what was the look she had, Lily wondered, when she clapped her deer-stalker’s hat on her head, or ran across the grass, or scolded Kennedy, the
gardener? Who could tell her? Who could help her?
Against her will she had come to the surface, and found herself half out of the picture, looking, a little dazedly, as if at unreal things, at Mr.
Carmichael. He lay on his chair with his hands clasped above his paunch not reading, or sleeping, but basking like a creature gorged with
existence. His book had fallen on to the grass.
She wanted to go straight up to him and say, ‘Mr. Carmichael!’ Then he would look up benevolently as always, from his smoky vague green
eyes. But one only woke people if one knew what one wanted to say to them. And she wanted to say not one thing, but everything. Little words
that broke up the thought and dismembered it said nothing. ‘About life, about death; about Mrs. Ramsay’ – no, she thought, one could say nothing
to nobody. The urgency of the moment always missed its mark. Words fluttered sideways and struck the object inches too low. Then one gave it
up; then the idea sunk back again; then one became like most middle-aged people, cautious, furtive, with wrinkles between the eyes and a look of
perpetual apprehension. For how could one express in words these emotions of the body? express that emptiness there? (She was looking at the
drawing-room steps; they looked extraordinarily empty.) It was one’s body feeling, not one’s mind. The physical sensations that went with the bare
look of the steps had become suddenly extremely unpleasant. To want and not to have, sent all up her body a hardness, a hollowness, a strain. And
then to want and not to have – to want and want – how that wrung the heart, and wrung it again and again! Oh Mrs. Ramsay! she called out
silently, to that essence which sat by the boat, that abstract one made of her, that woman in grey, as if to abuse her for having gone, and then
having gone, come back again. It had seemed so safe, thinking of her. Ghost, air, nothingness, a thing you could play with easily and safely at any
time of day or night, she had been that, and then suddenly she put her hand out and wrung the heart thus. Suddenly, the empty drawing-room
steps, the frill of the chair inside, the puppy tumbling on the terrace, the whole wave and whisper of the garden became like curves and
arabesques flourishing round a centre of complete emptiness.
‘What does it mean? How do you explain it all?’ she wanted to say, turning to Mr. Carmichael again. For the whole world seemed to have
dissolved in this early morning hour into a pool of thought, a deep basin of reality, and one could almost fancy that had Mr. Carmichael spoken, a
little tear would have rent the surface of the pool. And then? Something would emerge. A hand
20
would be shoved up, a blade would be flashed.
It was nonsense of course.
A curious notion came to her that he did after all hear the things she could not say. He was an inscrutable old man, with the yellow stain on his
beard, and his poetry, and his puzzles, sailing serenely through a world which satisfied all his wants, so that she thought he had only to put down
his hand where he lay on the lawn to fish up anything he wanted. She looked at her picture. That would have been his answer, presumably – how
‘you’ and T and ‘she’ pass and vanish; nothing stays; all changes; but not words, not paint. Yet it would be hung in the attics, she thought; it would
be rolled up and flung under a sofa; yet even so, even of a picture
21
like that, it was true. One might say, even of this scrawl, not of that actual
picture, perhaps, but of what it attempted, that it ‘remained for ever’, she was going to say, or, for the words spoken sounded even to herself, too
boastful, to hint, wordlessly; when, looking at the picture, she was surprised to find that she could not see it. Her eyes were full of a hot liquid (she
did not think of tears at first) which, without disturbing the firmness of her lips, made the air thick, rolled down her cheeks. She had perfect
control of herself – Oh yes! – in every other way. Was she crying then for Mrs. Ramsay, without being aware of any unhappiness? She addressed old
Mr. Carmichael again. What was it then? What did it mean? Could things thrust their hands up and grip one; could the blade cut; the fist grasp?
Was there no safety? No learning by heart of the ways of the world? No guide, no shelter, but all was miracle, and leaping from the pinnacle of a
tower into the air? Could it be, even for elderly people, that this was life? – startling, unexpected, unknown? For one moment she felt that if they
both got up, here, now on the lawn, and demanded an explanation, why was it so short, why was it so inexplicable, said it with violence, as two
fully equipped human beings from whom nothing should be hid might speak, then, beauty would roll itself up; the space would fill; those empty
flourishes would form into shape; if they shouted loud enough Mrs. Ramsay would return. ‘Mrs. Ramsay!’ she said aloud, ‘Mrs. Ramsay!’ The tears
ran down her face.
6
6
[Macalister’s boy took one of the fish and cut a square out of its side to bait his hook with. The mutilated body (it was alive still) was thrown back
into the sea.]
7
7
‘Mrs. Ramsay!’ Lily cried, ‘Mrs. Ramsay!’ But nothing happened. The pain increased. That anguish could reduce one to such a pitch of imbecility,
she thought! Anyhow the old man had not heard her. He remained benignant, calm – if one chose to think it, sublime. Heaven be praised, no one
had heard her cry that ignominious cry, stop pain, stop! She had not obviously taken leave of her senses. No one had seen her step off her strip of
board into the waters of annihilation. She remained a skimpy old maid, holding a paint-brush on the lawn.
And now slowly the pain of the want, and the bitter anger (to be called back, just as she thought she would never feel sorrow for Mrs. Ramsay
again. Had she missed her among the coffee cups at breakfast? not in the least) lessened; and of their anguish left, as antidote, a relief that was
balm in itself, and also, but more mysteriously, a sense of some one there, of Mrs. Ramsay, relieved for a moment of the weight that the world had
put on her, staying lightly by her side and then (for this was Mrs. Ramsay in all her beauty) raising to her forehead a wreath of white flowers with
which she went. Lily squeezed her tubes again. She attacked that problem of the hedge. It was strange how clearly she saw her, stepping with her
usual quickness across fields among whose folds, purplish and soft, among whose flowers, hyacinths or lilies, she vanished. It was some trick of the
painter’s eye. For days after she had heard of her death
22
she had seen her thus, putting her wreath to her forehead and going unquestioningly with
her companion, a shadow, across the fields. The sight, the phrase, had its power to console. Wherever she happened to be, painting, here, in the
country or in London, the vision would come to her, and her eyes, half closing, sought something to base her vision on. She looked down the
railway carriage, the omnibus; took a line from shoulder or cheek; looked at the windows opposite; at Piccadilly, lamp-strung in the evening. All
had been part of the fields of death. But always something – it might be a face, a voice, a paper boy crying Standard, News
23
– thrust through,
snubbed her, waked her, required and got in the end an effort of attention, so that the vision must be perpetually remade. Now again, moved as
she was by some instinctive need of distance and blue, she looked at the bay beneath her, making hillocks of the blue bars of the waves, and stony
fields of the purpler spaces. Again she was roused as usual by something incongruous. There was a brown spot in the middle of the bay. It was a
boat. Yes, she realised that after a second. But whose boat? Mr. Ramsay’s boat, she replied. Mr. Ramsay; the man who had marched past her, with
his hand raised, aloof, at the head of a procession, in his beautiful boots, asking her for sympathy, which she had refused. The boat was now half
way across the bay.
So fine was the morning except for a streak of wind here and there that the sea and sky looked all one fabric, as if sails were stuck high up in
the sky, or the clouds had dropped down into the sea. A steamer far out at sea had drawn in the air a great scroll of smoke which stayed there
curving and circling decoratively, as if the air were a fine gauze which held things and kept them softly in its mesh, only gently swaying them this
way and that. And as happens sometimes when the weather is very fine, the cliffs looked as if they were conscious of the ships, and the ships
looked as if they were conscious of the cliffs, as if they signalled to each other some secret message of their own. For sometimes quite close to the
shore, the Lighthouse looked this morning in the haze an enormous distance away.
‘Where are they now?’ Lily thought, looking out to sea. Where was he, that very old man who had gone past her silently, holding a brown paper
parcel under his arm? The boat was in the middle of the bay.
8
8
They don’t feel a thing there, Cam thought, looking at the shore, which, rising and falling, became steadily more distant and more peaceful. Her
hand cut a trail in the sea, as her mind made the green swirls and streaks into patterns and, numbed and shrouded, wandered in imagination in
that underworld of waters where the pearls stuck in clusters to white sprays, where in the green light a change came over one’s entire mind and
one’s body shone half transparent enveloped in a green cloak.
Then the eddy slackened round her hand. The rush of the water ceased; the world became full of little creaking and squeaking sounds. One
heard the waves breaking and flapping against the side of the boat as if they were anchored in harbour. Everything became very close to one. For
the sail, upon which James had his eyes fixed until it had become to him like a person whom he knew, sagged entirely; there they came to a stop,
flapping about waiting for a breeze, in the hot sun, miles from shore, miles from the Lighthouse. Everything in the whole world seemed to stand
still. The Lighthouse became immovable, and the line of the distant shore became fixed. The sun grew hotter and everybody seemed to come very
close together and to feel each other’s presence, which they had almost forgotten. Macalister’s fishing line went plumb down into the sea. But Mr.
Ramsay went on reading with his legs curled under him.
He was reading a little shiny book with covers mottled like a plover’s egg. Now and again, as they hung about in that horrid calm, he turned a
page. And James felt that each page was turned with a peculiar gesture aimed at him: now assertively, now commandingly; now with the intention
of making people pity him; and all the time, as his father read and turned one after another of those little pages, James kept dreading the moment
when he would look up and speak sharply to him about something or other. Why were they lagging about here? he would demand, or something
quite unreasonable like that. And if he does, James thought, then I shall take a knife and strike him to the heart.
He had always kept this old symbol of taking a knife and striking his father to the heart. Only now, as he grew older, and sat staring at his father
in an impotent rage, it was not him, that old man reading, whom he wanted to kill, but it was the thing that descended on him – without his
knowing it perhaps: that fierce sudden black-winged harpy, with its talons and its beak all cold and hard, that struck and struck at you (he could
feel the beak on his bare legs, where it had struck when he was a child) and then made off, and there he was again, an old man, very sad, reading
his book. That he would kill, that he would strike to the heart. Whatever he did – (and he might do anything, he felt, looking at the Lighthouse and
the distant shore) whether he was in a business, in a bank, a barrister, a man at the head of some enterprise, that he would fight, that he would
track down and stamp out – tyranny, despotism, he called it – making people do what they did not want to do, cutting off their right to speak.
How could any of them say, But I won’t, when he said, Come to the Lighthouse. Do this. Fetch me that. The black wings spread, and the hard beak
tore. And then next moment, there he sat reading his book; and he might look up – one never knew
quite reasonably. He might talk to the Macalisters. He might be pressing a sovereign into some frozen old woman’s hand in the street, James
thought; he might be shouting out at some fisherman’s sports; he might be waving his arms in the air with excitement. Or he might sit at the head
of the table dead silent from one end of dinner to the other. Yes, thought James, while the boat slapped and dawdled there in the hot sun; there
was a waste of snow and rock very lonely and austere; and there he had come to feel, quite often lately, when his father said something which
surprised the others, were two pairs of footprints only; his own and his father’s. They alone knew each other. What then was this terror, this
hatred? Turning back among the many leaves which the past had folded in him, peering into the heart of that forest where light and shade so
chequer each other that all shape is distorted, and one blunders, now with the sun in one’s eyes, now with a dark shadow, he sought an image to
cool and detach and round off his feeling in a concrete shape. Suppose then that as a child sitting helpless in a perambulator, or on someone’s
knee, he had seen a waggon crush ignorantly and innocently, someone’s foot? Suppose he had seen the foot first, in the grass, smooth, and whole;
then the wheel; and the same foot, purple, crushed. But the wheel was innocent. So now, when his father came striding down the passage knocking
them up early in the morning to go to the Lighthouse down it came over his foot, over Cam’s foot, over anybody’s foot. One sat and watched it.
But whose foot
24
was he thinking of, and in what garden
25
did all this happen? For one had settings for these scenes; trees that grew there;
flowers; a certain light; a few figures. Everything tended to set itself in a garden where there was none of this gloom and none of this throwing of
hands about; people spoke in an ordinary tone of voice. They went in and out all day long. There was an old woman gossiping in the kitchen; and
the blinds were sucked in and out by the breeze; all was blowing, all was growing; and over all those plates and bowls and tall brandishing red
and yellow flowers a very thin yellow veil would be drawn, like a vine leaf, at night. Things became stiller and darker at night. But the leaf-like
veil was so fine that lights lifted it, voices crinkled it; he could see through it a figure stooping, hear, coming close, going away, some dress rustling,
some chain tinkling.
It was in this world that the wheel went over the person’s foot. Something, he remembered, stayed and darkened over him; would not move;
something flourished up in the air, something arid and sharp descended even there, like a blade, a scimitar, smiting through the leaves and flowers
even of that happy world and making them shrivel and fall.
‘It will rain,’ he remembered his father saying. ‘You won’t be able to go to the Lighthouse.’
The Lighthouse was then a silvery, misty-looking tower with a yellow eye that opened suddenly and softly in the evening. Now—
James looked at the Lighthouse.
26
He could see the white-washed rocks; the tower, stark and straight; he could see that it was barred with black
and white; he could see windows in it; he could even see washing spread on the rocks to dry. So that was the Lighthouse, was it?
No, the other was also the Lighthouse. For nothing was simply one thing. The other was the Lighthouse too. It was sometimes hardly to be seen
across the bay. In the evening one looked up and saw the eye opening and shutting and the light seemed to reach them in that airy sunny garden
where they sat.
But he pulled himself up. Whenever he said ‘they’ or ‘a person’, and then began hearing the rustle of some one coming, the tinkle of some one
going, he became extremely sensitive to the presence of whoever might be in the room. It was his father now. The strain became acute. For in one
moment if there was no breeze, his father would slap the covers of his book together, and say: ‘What’s happening now? What are we dawdling
about here for, eh?’ as, once before he had brought his blade down among them on the terrace and she had gone stiff all over, and if there had
been an axe handy, a knife, or anything with a sharp point he would have seized it and struck his father through the heart. His mother had gone
stiff all over, and then, her arm slackening, so that he felt she listened to him no longer, she had risen somehow and gone away and left him there,
impotent, ridiculous, sitting on the floor grasping a pair of scissors.
Not a breath of wind blew. The water chuckled and gurgled in the bottom of the boat where three or four mackerel beat their tails up and
down in a pool of water not deep enough to cover them. At any moment Mr. Ramsay (James scarcely dared look at him) might rouse himself, shut
his book, and say something sharp; but for the moment he was reading, so that James stealthily, as if he were stealing downstairs on bare feet,
afraid of waking a watch-dog by a creaking board, went on thinking what was she like, where did she go that day? He began following her from
room to room and at last they came to a room where in a blue light, as if the reflection came from many china dishes, she talked to somebody; he
listened to her talking. She talked to a servant, saying simply whatever came into her head. ‘We shall need a big dish to-night. Where is it – the
blue dish?’ She alone spoke the truth;
27
to her alone could he speak it. That was the source of her everlasting attraction for him, perhaps; she was
a person to whom one could say what came into one’s head. But all the time he thought of her, he was conscious of his father following his
thought, shadowing it, making it shiver and falter.
At last he ceased to think; there he sat with his hand on the tiller in the sun, staring at the Lighthouse, powerless to move, powerless to flick off
these grains of misery which settled on his mind one after another. A rope seemed to bind him there, and his father had knotted it and he could
only escape by taking a knife and plunging it… But at that moment the sail swung slowly round, filled slowly out, the boat seemed to shake
herself, and then to move off half conscious in her sleep, and then she woke and shot through the waves. The relief was extraordinary. They all
seemed to fall away from each other again and to be at their ease and the fishing-lines slanted taut across the side of the boat. But his father did not
rouse himself. He only raised his right hand mysteriously high in the air, and let it fall upon his knee again as if he were conducting some secret
symphony.
9
9
[The sea without a stain on it, thought Lily Briscoe, still standing and looking out over the bay. The sea is stretched like silk across the bay.
Distance had an extraordinary power; they had been swallowed up in it, she felt, they were gone for ever, they had become part of the nature of
things. It was so calm; it was so quiet. The steamer itself had vanished, but the great scroll of smoke still hung in the air and drooped like a flag
mournfully in valediction.]
10
10
It was like that then, the island, thought Cam, once more drawing her fingers through the waves. She had never seen it from out at sea before. It lay
like that on the sea, did it, with a dent in the middle and two sharp crags, and the sea swept in there, and spread away for miles and miles on
either side of the island. It was very small; shaped something like a leaf stood on end. So we took a little boat, she thought, beginning to tell herself
a story of adventure about escaping from a sinking ship. But with the sea streaming through her fingers, a spray of seaweed vanishing behind them,
she did not want to tell herself seriously a story; it was the sense of adventure and escape that she wanted, for she was thinking, as the boat sailed
on, how her father’s anger about the points of the compass, James’s obstinacy about the compact, and her own anguish, all had slipped, all had
passed, all had streamed away. What then came next? Where were they going? From her hand, ice cold, held deep in the sea, there spurted up a
fountain of joy at the change, at the escape, at the adventure (that she should be alive, that she should be there). And the drops falling from this
sudden and unthinking fountain of joy fell here and there on the dark, the slumbrous shapes in her mind; shapes of a world not realised
28
but
turning in their darkness, catching here and there, a spark of light; Greece, Rome, Constantinople. Small as it was, and shaped something like a leaf
stood on end with the gold sprinkled waters flowing in and about it, it had, she supposed, a place in the universe – even that little island? The old
gentlemen
29
in the study she thought could have told her. Sometimes she strayed in from the garden purposely to catch them at it. There they were
(it might be Mr. Carmichael or Mr. Bankes, very old, very stiff) sitting opposite each other in their low arm-chairs. They were crackling in front of
them the pages of The Times, when she came in from the garden, all in a muddle, about something some one had said about Christ; a mammoth
had been dug up in a London street; what was the great Napoleon
30
like? Then they took all this with their clean hands (they wore grey coloured
clothes; they smelt of heather) and they brushed the scraps together, turning the paper, crossing their knees, and said something now and then very
brief. In a kind of trance she would take a book from the shelf and stand there, watching her father write, so equally, so neatly from one side of the
page to another, with a little cough now and then, or something said briefly to the other old gentleman opposite. And she thought, standing there
with her book open, here one could let whatever one thought expand like a leaf in water; and if it did well here, among the old gentlemen
smoking and The Times crackling, then it was right. And watching her father as he wrote in his study, she thought (now sitting in the boat) he was
most lovable, he was most wise; he was not vain nor a tyrant. Indeed, if he saw she was there, reading a book, he would ask her, as gently as any
one could, Was there nothing he could give her?
Lest this should be wrong, she looked at him reading the little book with the shiny cover mottled like a plover’s egg. No; it was right. Look at
him now, she wanted to say aloud to James. (But James had his eye on the sail.) He is a sarcastic brute, James would say. He brings the talk round
to himself and his books, James would say. He is intolerably egotistical. Worst of all, he is a tyrant. But look! she said, looking at him. Look at him
now. She looked at him reading the little book with his legs curled; the little book whose yellowish pages she knew, without knowing what was
written on them. It was small; it was closely printed; on the fly-leaf, she knew, he had written that he had spent fifteen francs on dinner; the wine
had been so much; he had given so much to the waiter; all was added up neatly at the bottom of the page. But what might be written in the book
which had rounded its edges off in his pocket, she did not know. What he thought they none of them knew. But he was absorbed in it, so that
when he looked up, as he did now for an instant, it was not to see anything; it was to pin down some thought more exactly. That done, his mind
flew back again and he plunged into his reading. He read, she thought, as if he were guiding something, or wheedling a large flock of sheep, or
pushing his way up and up a single narrow path; and sometimes he went fast and straight, and broke his way through the thicket, and sometimes it
seemed a branch struck at him, a bramble blinded him, but he was not going to let himself be beaten by that; on he went, tossing over page after
page. And she went on telling herself a story about escaping from a sinking ship, for she was safe, while he sat there; safe, as she felt herself when
she crept in from the garden, and took a book down, and the old gentleman, lowering the paper suddenly, said something very brief over the top
of it about the character of Napoleon.
She gazed back over the sea, at the island. But the leaf was losing its sharpness. It was very small; it was very distant. The sea was more
important now than the shore. Waves were all round them, tossing and sinking, with a log wallowing down one wave; a gull riding on another.
About here, she thought, dabbling her fingers in the water, a ship had sunk, and she murmured, dreamily, half asleep, how we perished, each
alone.
11
11
So much depends then, thought Lily Briscoe, looking at the sea which had scarcely a stain on it, which was so soft that the sails and the clouds
seemed set in its blue, so much depends, she thought, upon distance: whether people are near us or far from us; for her feeling for Mr. Ramsay
changed as he sailed further and further across the bay. It seemed to be elongated, stretched out; he seemed to become more and more remote. He
and his children seemed to be swallowed up in that blue, that distance; but here, on the lawn, close at hand, Mr. Carmichael suddenly grunted. She
laughed. He clawed his book up from the grass. He settled into his chair again puffing and blowing like some sea monster. That was different
altogether, because he was so near. And now again all was quiet. They must be out of bed by this time, she supposed, looking at the house, but
nothing appeared there. But then, she remembered, they had always made off directly a meal was over, on business of their own. It was all in
keeping with this silence, this emptiness, and the unreality of the early morning hour. It was a way things had sometimes, she thought, lingering for
a moment and looking at the long glittering windows and the plume of blue smoke: they became unreal. So coming back from a journey, or after
an illness, before habits had spun themselves across the surface, one felt that same unreality, which was so startling; felt something emerge. Life
was most vivid then. One could be at one’s ease. Mercifully one need not say, very briskly, crossing the lawn to greet old Mrs. Beckwith, who
would be coming out to find a corner to sit in, ‘Oh good-morning, Mrs. Beckwith! What a lovely day! Are you going to be so bold as to sit in the
sun? Jasper’s hidden the chairs. Do let me find you one!’ and all the rest of the usual chatter. One need not speak at all. One glided, one shook
one’s sails (there was a good deal of movement in the bay, boats were starting off) between things, beyond things. Empty it was not, but full to the
brim. She seemed to be standing up to the lips in some substance, to move and float and sink in it, yes, for these waters were unfathomably deep.
Into them had spilled so many lives. The Ramsays’; the children’s; and all sorts of waifs and strays of things besides. A washerwoman with her
basket; a rook; a red-hot poker; the purples and grey-greens of flowers: some common feeling which held the whole together.
It was some such feeling of completeness perhaps which, ten years ago, standing almost where she stood now, had made her say that she must
be in love with the place. Love had a thousand shapes. There might be lovers whose gift it was to choose out the elements of things and place
them together and so, giving them a wholeness not theirs in life, make of some scene, or meeting of people (all now gone and separate), one of
those globed compacted things over which thought lingers, and love plays.
Her eyes rested on the brown speck of Mr. Ramsay’s sailing boat. They would be at the Lighthouse by lunch time she supposed. But the wind
had freshened, and, as the sky changed slightly and the sea changed slightly and the boats altered their positions, the view, which a moment before
had seemed miraculously fixed, was now unsatisfactory. The wind had blown the trail of smoke about; there was something displeasing about the
placing of the ships.
The disproportion there seemed to upset some harmony in her own mind. She felt an obscure distress. It was confirmed when she turned to her
picture. She had been wasting her morning. For whatever reason she could not achieve that razor edge of balance between two opposite forces; Mr.
Ramsay and the picture; which was necessary. There was something perhaps wrong with the design? Was it, she wondered, that the line of the wall
wanted breaking, was it that the mass of the trees was too heavy? She smiled ironically; for had she not thought, when she began, that she had
solved her problem?
What was the problem then? She must try to get hold of something that evaded her. It evaded her when she thought of Mrs. Ramsay; it evaded
her now when she thought of her picture. Phrases came. Visions came. Beautiful pictures. Beautiful phrases. But what she wished to get hold of was
that very jar on the nerves, the thing itself
31
before it has been made anything. Get that and start afresh; get that and start afresh; she said
desperately, pitching herself firmly again before her easel. It was a miserable machine, an inefficient machine, she thought, the human apparatus
for painting or for feeling; it always broke down at the critical moment; heroically, one must force it on. She stared, frowning. There was the
hedge, sure enough. But one got nothing by soliciting urgently. One got only a glare in the eye from looking at the line of the wall, or from
thinking – she wore a grey hat. She was astonishingly beautiful. Let it come, she thought, if it will come. For there are moments when one can
neither think nor feel. And if one can neither think nor feel, she thought, where is one?
Here on the grass, on the ground, she thought, sitting down, and examining with her brush a little colony of plantains. For the lawn was very
rough. Here sitting on the world, she thought, for she could not shake herself free from the sense that everything this morning was happening for
the first time, perhaps for the last time, as a traveller, even though he is half asleep, knows, looking out of the train window, that he must look
now, for he will never see that town, or that mule-cart, or that woman at work in the fields, again. The lawn was the world; they were up here
together, on this exalted station, she thought, looking at old Mr. Carmichael, who seemed (though they had not said a word all this time) to share
her thoughts. And she would never see him again perhaps. He was growing old. Also, she remembered, smiling at the slipper that dangled from his
foot, he was growing famous.
32
People said that his poetry was ‘so beautiful.’ They went and published things he had written forty years ago.
There was a famous man now called Carmichael, she smiled, thinking how many shapes one person might wear, how he was that in the
newspapers, but here the same as he had always been. He looked the same – greyer, rather. Yes, he looked the same, but somebody had said, she
recalled, that when he had heard of Andrew Ramsay’s death (he was killed in a second by a shell; he should have been a great mathematician) Mr.
Carmichael had ‘lost all interest in life’. What did it mean – that? she wondered. Had he marched through Trafalgar Square grasping a big stick?
Had he turned pages over and over, without reading them, sitting in his room in St. John’s Wood alone? She did not know what he had done,
Had he turned pages over and over, without reading them, sitting in his room in St. John’s Wood alone? She did not know what he had done,
when he heard that Andrew was killed, but she felt it in him all the same. They only mumbled at each other on staircases; they looked up at the
sky and said it will be fine or it won’t be fine. But this was one way of knowing people, she thought: to know the outline, not the detail, to sit in
one’s garden and look at the slopes of a hill running purple down into the distant heather. She knew him in that way. She knew that he had
changed somehow. She had never read a line of his poetry. She thought that she knew how it went though, slowly and sonorously. It was seasoned
and mellow. It was about the desert and the camel. It was about the palm tree and the sunset. It was extremely impersonal; it said something about
death; it said very little about love. There was an aloofness about him. He wanted very little of other people. Had he not always lurched rather
awkwardly past the drawing-room window with some newspaper under his arm, trying to avoid Mrs. Ramsay whom for some reason he did not
much like? On that account, of course, she would always try to make him stop. He would bow to her. He would halt unwillingly and bow
profoundly. Annoyed that he did not want anything of her, Mrs. Ramsay would ask him (Lily could hear her) wouldn’t he like a coat, a rug, a
newspaper? No, he wanted nothing. (Here he bowed.) There was some quality in her which he did not much like. It was perhaps her
masterfulness, her positiveness, something matter-of-fact in her. She was so direct.
(A noise drew her attention to the drawing-room window – the squeak of a hinge. The light breeze was toying with the window.)
There must have been people who disliked her
33
very much, Lily thought (Yes; she realised that the drawing-room step was empty, but it had
no effect on her whatever. She did not want Mrs. Ramsay now). – People who thought her too sure, too drastic. Also her beauty offended people
probably. How monotonous, they would say, and the same always! They preferred another type – the dark, the vivacious. Then she was weak with
her husband. She let him make those scenes. Then she was reserved. Nobody knew exactly what had happened to her. And (to go back to Mr.
Carmichael and his dislike) one could not imagine Mrs. Ramsay standing painting, lying reading, a whole morning on the lawn. It was unthinkable.
Without saying a word, the only token of her errand a basket on her arm, she went off to the town, to the poor, to sit in some stuffy little bedroom.
Often and often Lily had seen her go silently in the midst of some game, some discussion, with her basket on her arm, very upright. She had noted
her return. She had thought, half laughing (she was so methodical with the tea cups) half moved (her beauty took one’s breath away), eyes that are
closing in pain have looked on you. You have been with them there.
And then Mrs. Ramsay would be annoyed because somebody was late, or the butter not fresh, or the teapot chipped. And all the time she was
saying that the butter was not fresh one would be thinking of Greek temples, and how beauty had been with them there. She never talked of it –
she went, punctually, directly. It was her instinct to go, an instinct like the swallows for the south, the artichokes for the sun, turning her infallibly
to the human race, making her nest in its heart. And this, like all instincts, was a little distressing to people who did not share it; to Mr. Carmichael
perhaps, to herself certainly. Some notion was in both of them about the ineffectiveness of action, the supremacy of thought. Her going was a
reproach to them, gave a different twist to the world, so that they were led to protest, seeing their own prepossessions disappear, and clutch at
them vanishing. Charles Tansley did that too: it was part of the reason why one disliked him. He upset the proportions of one’s world. And what
had happened to him, she wondered, idly stirring the plantains with her brush. He had got his fellowship. He had married; he lived at Golders
Green.
She had gone one day into a Hall and heard him speaking during the war. He was denouncing something: he was condemning somebody. He
was preaching brotherly love. And all she felt was how could he love his kind who did not know one picture from another, who had stood behind
her smoking shag (‘fivepence an ounce, Miss Bris-coe’) and making it his business to tell her women can’t write, women can’t paint, not so much
that he believed it, as that for some odd reason he wished it? There he was, lean and red and raucous, preaching love from a platform (there were
ants crawling about among the plantains which she disturbed with her brush – red, energetic ants, rather like Charles Tansley). She had looked at
him ironically from her seat in the half-empty hall, pumping love into that chilly space, and suddenly, there was the old cask or whatever it was
bobbing up and down among the waves and Mrs. Ramsay looking for her spectacle case among the pebbles. ‘Oh dear! What a nuisance! Lost again.
Don’t bother, Mr. Tansley. I lose thousands every summer,’ at which he pressed his chin back against his collar, as if afraid to sanction such
exaggeration, but could stand it in her whom he liked, and smiled very charmingly. He must have confided in her on one of those long expeditions
when people got separated and walked back alone. He was educating his little sister, Mrs. Ramsay had told her. It was immensely to his credit. Her
own idea of him was grotesque, Lily knew well, stirring the plantains with her brush. Half one’s notions of other people were, after all, grotesque.
They served private purposes of one’s own. He did for her instead of a whipping-boy.
34
She found herself flagellating his lean flanks when she was
out of temper. If she wanted to be serious about him she had to help herself to Mrs. Ramsay’s sayings, to look at him through her eyes.
She raised a little mountain for the ants to climb over. She reduced them to a frenzy of indecision by this interference in their cosmogony. Some
ran this way, others that.
One wanted fifty pairs of eyes to see with, she reflected. Fifty pairs of eyes were not enough to get round that one woman with, she thought.
Among them, must be one that was stone blind to her beauty. One wanted most some secret sense, fine as air, with which to steal through keyholes
and surround her where she sat knitting, talking, sitting silent in the window alone; which took to itself and treasured up like the air which held
the smoke of the steamer, her thoughts, her imaginations, her desires. What did the hedge mean to her, what did the garden mean to her, what did
it mean to her when a wave broke? (Lily looked up, as she had seen Mrs. Ramsay look up; she too heard a wave falling on the beach.) And then
what stirred and trembled in her mind when the children cried, ‘How’s that? How’s that?’ cricketing? She would stop knitting for a second. She
would look intent. Then she would lapse again, and suddenly Mr. Ramsay stopped dead in his pacing in front of her, and some curious shock
would look intent. Then she would lapse again, and suddenly Mr. Ramsay stopped dead in his pacing in front of her, and some curious shock
passed through her and seemed to rock her in profound agitation on its breast when stopping there he stood over her, and looked down at her.
Lily could see him.
He stretched out his hand and raised her from her chair. It seemed somehow as if he had done it before; as if he had once bent in the same way
and raised her from a boat which, lying a few inches off some island, had required that the ladies should thus be helped on shore by the
gentlemen. An old-fashioned scene that was, which required, very nearly, crinolines and peg-top trousers.
35
Letting herself be helped by him, Mrs.
Ramsay had thought (Lily supposed) the time has come now; Yes, she would say it now. Yes, she would marry him. And she stepped slowly,
quietly on shore. Probably she said one word only, letting her hand rest still in his. I will marry you, she might have said, with her hand in his; but
no more. Time after time the same thrill had passed between them – obviously it had, Lily thought, smoothing a way for her ants. She was not
inventing; she was only trying to smooth out something she had been given years ago folded up; something she had seen. For in the rough and
tumble of daily life, with all those children about, all those visitors, one had constantly a sense of repetition – of one thing falling where another
had fallen, and so setting up an echo which chimed in the air and made it full of vibrations.
But it would be a mistake, she thought, thinking how they walked off together, she in her green shawl, he with his tie flying, arm in arm, past
the greenhouse, to simplify their relationship. It was no monotony of bliss – she with her impulses and quicknesses; he with his shudders and
glooms. Oh no. The bedroom door would slam violently early in the morning. He would whizz his plate through the window. Then all through the
house there would be a sense of doors slamming and blinds fluttering as if a gusty wind were blowing and people scudded about trying in a hasty
way to fasten hatches and make things shipshape. She had met Paul Rayley like that one day on the stairs. They had laughed and laughed, like a
couple of children, all because Mr. Ramsay, finding an earwig in his milk at breakfast had sent the whole thing flying through the air on to the
terrace outside. ‘An earwig,’ Prue murmured, awestruck, ‘in his milk.’ Other people might find centipedes. But he had built round him such a fence
of sanctity,
36
and occupied the space with such a demeanour of majesty that an earwig in his milk was a monster.
But it tired Mrs. Ramsay, it cowed her a little– the plates whizzing and the doors slamming. And there would fall between them sometimes long
rigid silences, when, in a state of mind which annoyed Lily in her, half plaintive, half resentful, she seemed unable to surmount the tempest calmly,
or to laugh as they laughed, but in her weariness perhaps concealed something. She brooded and sat silent. After a time he would hang stealthily
about the places where she was – roaming under the window where she sat writing letters or talking, for she would take care to be busy when he
passed, and evade him, and pretend not to see him. Then he would turn smooth as silk, affable, urbane, and try to win her so. Still she would hold
off, and now she would assert for a brief season some of those prides and airs the due of her beauty which she was generally utterly without;
would turn her head; would look so, over her shoulder, always with some Minta, Paul, or William Bankes at her side. At length, standing outside
the group the very figure of a famished wolfhound (Lily got up off the grass and stood looking at the steps, at the window, where she had seen
him), he would say her name,
37
once only, for all the world like a wolf barking in the snow, but still she held back; and he would say it once
more, and this time something in the tone would rouse her, and she would go to him, leaving them all of a sudden, and they would walk off
together among the pear trees, the cabbages, and the raspberry beds. They would have it out together. But with what attitudes and with what
words? Such a dignity
38
was theirs in this relationship that, turning away, she and Paul and Minta would hide their curiosity and their discomfort,
and begin picking flowers, throwing balls, chattering, until it was time for dinner, and there they were, he at one end of the table, she at the other,
as usual.
‘Why don’t some of you take up botany?… With all those legs and arms why doesn’t one of you…?’ So they would talk as usual, laughing,
among the children. All would be as usual, save only for some quiver, as of a blade in the air, which came and went between them as if the usual
sight of the children sitting round their soup plates had freshened itself in their eyes after that hour among the pears and the cabbages. Especially,
Lily thought, Mrs. Ramsay would glance at Prue. She sat in the middle between brothers and sisters, always so occupied, it seemed, seeing that
nothing went wrong that she scarcely spoke herself. How Prue must have blamed herself for that earwig in the milk! How white she had gone
when Mr. Ramsay threw his plate through the window! How she drooped under those long silences between them! Anyhow, her mother now
would seem to be making it up to her; assuring her that everything was well; promising her that one of these days that same happiness would be
hers. She had enjoyed it for less than a year, however.
She had let the flowers fall from her basket, Lily thought, screwing up her eyes and standing back as if to look at her picture, which she was not
touching, however, with all her faculties in a trance, frozen over superficially but moving underneath with extreme speed.
She let her flowers fall from her basket, scattered and tumbled them on to the grass and, reluctantly
39
and hesitatingly, but without question or
complaint had she not the faculty of obedience to perfection? – went too. Down fields, across valleys, white, flower-strewn – that was how she
would have painted it. The hills were austere. It was rocky; it was steep. The waves sounded hoarse on the stones beneath. They went, the three of
them together, Mrs. Ramsay walking rather fast in front, as if she expected to meet some one round the corner.
Suddenly the window at which she was looking was whitened by some light stuff behind it. At last then somebody had come into the drawing-
room; somebody was sitting in the chair.
40
For Heaven’s sake, she prayed, let them sit still there and not come floundering out to talk to her.
Mercifully, whoever it was stayed still inside; had settled by some stroke of luck so as to throw an odd-shaped triangular shadow over the step. It
altered the composition of the picture a little. It was interesting. It might be useful. Her mood was coming back to her. One must keep on looking
altered the composition of the picture a little. It was interesting. It might be useful. Her mood was coming back to her. One must keep on looking
without for a second relaxing the intensity of emotion, the determination not to be put off, not to be bamboozled. One must hold the scene – so –
in a vice and let nothing come in and spoil it. One wanted, she thought, dipping her brush deliberately, to be on a level with ordinary experience,
to feel simply that’s a chair, that’s a table, and yet at the same time, It’s a miracle, it’s an ecstasy. The problem might be solved after all. Ah, but
what had happened? Some wave of white went over the window pane. The air must have stirred some flounce in the room. Her heart leapt at her
and seized her and tortured her.
‘Mrs. Ramsay! Mrs. Ramsay!’ she cried, feeling the old horror come back – to want and want and not to have. Could she inflict that still? And
then, quietly, as if she refrained, that too became part of ordinary experience, was on a level with the chair, with the table. Mrs. Ramsay – it was
part of her perfect goodness to Lily – sat there quite simply, in the chair, flicked her needles to and fro, knitted her reddish-brown stocking, cast her
shadow on the step. There she sat.
And as if she had something she must share, yet could hardly leave her easel, so full her mind was of what she was thinking, of what she was
seeing, Lily went past Mr. Carmichael holding her brush to the edge of the lawn. Where was that boat now? Mr. Ramsay? She wanted him.
12
12
Mr. Ramsay had almost done reading. One hand hovered over the page as if to be in readiness to turn it the very instant he had finished it. He sat
there bareheaded with the wind blowing his hair about, extraordinarily exposed to everything. He looked very old. He looked, James thought,
getting his head now against the Lighthouse, now against the waste of waters running away into the open, like some old stone lying on the sand; he
looked as if he had become physically what was always at the back of both of their minds – that loneliness which was for both of them the truth
about things.
He was reading very quickly, as if he were eager to get to the end. Indeed they were very close to the Lighthouse now. There it loomed up, stark
and straight, glaring white and black, and one could see the waves breaking in white splinters like smashed glass upon the rocks. One could see
lines and creases in the rocks. One could see the windows clearly; a dab of white on one of them, and a little tuft of green on the rock. A man had
come out and looked at them through a glass and gone in again. So it was like that, James thought, the Lighthouse one had seen across the bay all
these years; it was a stark tower on a bare rock. It satisfied him.
41
It confirmed some obscure feeling of his about his own character. The old ladies,
he thought, thinking of the garden at home, went dragging their chairs about on the lawn. Old Mrs. Beckwith, for example, was always saying how
nice it was and how sweet it was and how they ought to be so proud and they ought to be so happy, but as a matter of fact James thought, looking
at the Lighthouse stood there on its rock, it’s like that. He looked at his father reading fiercely with his legs curled tight. They shared that
knowledge. ‘We are driving before a gale – we must sink,’ he began saying to himself, half aloud exactly as his father said it.
Nobody seemed to have spoken for an age. Cam was tired of looking at the sea. Little bits of black cork had floated past; the fish were dead in
the bottom of the boat. Still her father read, and James looked at him and she looked at him, and they vowed that they would fight tyranny to the
death, and he went on reading quite unconscious of what they thought. It was thus that he escaped, she thought. Yes, with his great forehead and
his great nose, holding his little mottled book firmly in front of him, he escaped. You might try to lay hands on him, but then like a bird, he spread
his wings, he floated off to settle out of your reach somewhere far away on some desolate stump. She gazed at the immense expanse of the sea. The
island had grown so small that it scarcely looked like a leaf any longer. It looked like the top of a rock which some big wave would cover. Yet in
its frailty were all those paths, those terraces, those bedrooms – all those innumerable things. But as, just before sleep, things simplify themselves so
that only one of all the myriad details has power to assert itself, so, she felt, looking drowsily at the island, all those paths and terraces and
bedrooms were fading and disappearing, and nothing was left but a pale blue censer swinging rhythmically this way and that across her mind. It
was a hanging garden; it was a valley, full of birds, and flowers, and antelopes… She was falling asleep.
‘Come now,’ said Mr. Ramsay, suddenly shutting his book.
Come where? To what extraordinary adventure? She woke with a start. To land somewhere, to climb somewhere? Where was he leading them?
For after his immense silence the words startled them. But it was absurd. He was hungry, he said. It was time for lunch. Besides, look, he said.
There’s the Lighthouse. ‘We’re almost there.’
‘He’s doing very well,’ said Macalister, praising James. ‘He’s keeping her very steady.’
But his father never praised him, James thought grimly.
Mr. Ramsay opened the parcel and shared out the sandwiches
42
among them. Now he was happy, eating bread and cheese with these
fishermen. He would have liked to live in a cottage and lounge about in the harbour spitting with the other old men, James thought, watching him
slice his cheese into thin yellow sheets with his penknife.
This is right, this is it, Cam kept feeling, as she peeled her hard-boiled egg. Now she felt as she did in the study when the old men were reading
The Times. Now I can go on thinking whatever I like, and I shan’t fall over a precipice or be drowned, for there he is, keeping his eye on me, she
thought.
At the same time they were sailing so fast along by the rocks that it was very exciting – it seemed as if they were doing two things at once; they
were eating their lunch here in the sun and they were also making for safety in a great storm after a shipwreck. Would the water last? Would the
provisions last? she asked herself, telling herself a story but knowing at the same time what was the truth.
They would soon be out of it, Mr. Ramsay was saying to old Macalister; but their children would see some strange things. Macalister said he was
seventy-five last March; Mr. Ramsay was seventy-one. Macalister said he had never seen a doctor; he had never lost a tooth. And that’s the way I’d
like my children to live – Cam was sure that her father was thinking that, for he stopped her throwing a sandwich into the sea and told her, as if he
were thinking of the fishermen and how they live, that if she did not want it she should put it back in the parcel. She should not waste it. He said it
so wisely, as if he knew so well all the things that happened in the world, that she put it back at once, and then he gave her, from his own parcel,
a gingerbread nut, as if he were a great Spanish gentleman, she thought, handing a flower to a lady at a window (so courteous his manner was).
But he was shabby, and simple, eating bread and cheese; and yet he was leading them on a great expedition where, for all she knew, they would
be drowned.
‘That was where she sunk,’ said Macalister’s boy suddenly.
‘Three men were drowned where we are now,’ said the old man. He had seen them clinging to the mast himself. And Mr. Ramsay taking a look
‘Three men were drowned where we are now,’ said the old man. He had seen them clinging to the mast himself. And Mr. Ramsay taking a look
at the spot was about, James and Cam were afraid, to burst out:
But I beneath a rougher sea,
and if he did, they could not bear it; they would shriek aloud; they could not endure another explosion of the passion that boiled in him; but to
their surprise all he said was ‘Ah’ as if he thought to himself, But why make a fuss about that? Naturally men are drowned in a storm, but it is a
perfectly straightforward affair, and the depths of the sea (he sprinkled the crumbs from his sandwich paper over them) are only water after all.
Then having lighted his pipe he took out his watch. He looked at it attentively; he made, perhaps, some mathematical calculation. At last he said,
triumphantly:
‘Well done!’ James had steered them like a born sailor.
There! Cam thought, addressing herself silently to James. You’ve got it at last. For she knew that this was what James had been wanting, and she
knew that now he had got it he was so pleased that he would not look at her or at his father or at any one. There he sat with his hand on the tiller
sitting bolt upright, looking rather sulky and frowning slightly. He was so pleased that he was not going to let anybody take away a grain of his
pleasure. His father had praised him. They must think that he was perfectly indifferent. But you’ve got it now, Cam thought.
They had tacked, and they were sailing swiftly, buoyantly on long rocking waves which handed them on from one to another with an
extraordinary lilt and exhilaration beside the reef. On the left a row of rocks showed brown through the water which thinned and became greener
and on one, a higher rock, a wave incessantly broke and spurted a little column of drops which fell down in a shower. One could hear the slap of
the water and the patter of falling drops and a kind of hushing and hissing sound from the waves rolling and gambolling and slapping the rocks as
if they were wild creatures who were perfectly free and tossed and tumbled and sported like this for ever.
Now they could see two men on the Lighthouse, watching them and making ready to meet them.
Mr. Ramsay buttoned his coat, and turned up his trousers. He took the large, badly packed, brown paper parcel which Nancy had got ready and
sat with it on his knee. Thus in complete readiness to land he sat looking back at the island. With his long-sighted eyes perhaps he could see the
dwindled leaf-like shape standing on end on a plate of gold quite clearly. What could he see? Cam wondered. It was all a blur to her. What was he
thinking now? she wondered. What was it he sought, so fixedly, so intently, so silently? They watched him, both of them, sitting bareheaded with
his parcel on his knee staring and staring at the frail blue shape which seemed like the vapour of something that had burnt itself away. What do
you want? they both wanted to ask. They both wanted to say, Ask us anything and we will give it you. But he did not ask them anything. He sat
and looked at the island and he might be thinking, We perished, each alone, or he might be thinking, I have reached it. I have found it, but he said
nothing.
Then he put on his hat.
‘Bring those parcels,’ he said, nodding his head at the things Nancy had done up for them to take to the Lighthouse. ‘The parcels for the
Lighthouse men,’ he said. He rose and stood in the bow of the boat, very straight and tall, for all the world, James thought, as if he were saying,
‘There is no God,’ and Cam thought, as if he were leaping into space, and they both rose to follow him as he sprang, lightly like a young man,
holding his parcel, on to the rock.
13
13
‘He must have reached it,’ said Lily Briscoe aloud, feeling suddenly completely tired out. For the Lighthouse had become almost invisible, had
melted away into a blue haze, and the effort of looking at it and the effort of thinking of him landing there, which both seemed to be one and the
same effort, had stretched her body and mind to the utmost. Ah, but she was relieved. What-ever she had wanted to give him, when he left her that
morning, she had given him at last.
‘He has landed,’ she said aloud. ‘It is finished.’ Then, surging up, puffing slightly, old Mr. Carmichael stood beside her, looking like an old pagan
god, shaggy, with weeds in his hair and the trident (it was only a French novel) in his hand. He stood by her on the edge of the lawn, swaying a
little in his bulk, and said, shading his eyes with his hand: ‘They will have landed,’ and she felt that she had been right. They had not needed to
speak. They had been thinking the same things and he had answered her without her asking him anything. He stood there spreading his hands over
all the weakness and suffering of mankind; she thought he was surveying, tolerantly, compassionately, their final destiny. Now he has crowned the
occasion, she thought, when his hand slowly fell, as if she had seen him let fall from his great height a wreath of violets and asphodels which,
fluttering slowly, lay at length upon the earth.
Quickly, as if she were recalled by something over there, she turned to her canvas. There it was – her picture. Yes, with all its greens and blues,
its lines running up and across, its attempt at something. It would be hung in the attics, she thought; it would be destroyed. But what did that
matter? she asked herself, taking up her brush again. She looked at the steps; they were empty; she looked at her canvas; it was blurred. With a
sudden intensity, as if she saw it clear for a second, she drew a line there, in the centre. It was done; it was finished.
43
Yes, she thought, laying
down her brush in extreme fatigue, I have had my vision.
THE END
Notes
Notes
THE WINDOW
1. There are no section titles in MS.
2. the expedition: see Quentin Bell, Virginia Woolf, I, p. 32 (Hogarth Press, 1972). Hyde Park Gate News, 12 September 1892: ‘On Saturday
morning Master Hilary Hunt and Master Basil Smith came up to Talland House and asked Master Thoby and Miss Virginia Stephen to accompany
them to the light-house as Freeman the boatman said that there was a perfect tide and wind for going there. Master Adrian Stephen was much
disappointed at not being allowed to go.’
3. Army and Navy Stores: large all-purpose department store in Victoria Street, much patronized by the middle classes.
4. Our frail barks: a faint echo of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116, in which love is ‘the star to every wand’ring bark’.
5. tuberculous hip: TB was a very common illness especially among the poor, and could affect the joints. It was often caught from drinking
unpasteurized milk, so Mrs Ramsay’s concern for the lighthouse-keeper’s son is related to her concern about the milk, p. 112. In Mausoleum, p.
63, Leslie Stephen describes Julia’s dedication to the poor and sick of St Ives.
6. the atheist Tansley: in MS, Tansley’s atheism is more emphasized and contrasted with Lily’s belief (MS, p. 34, ‘She worshipped God’).
7. the Hebrides: islands off the west coast of Scotland, which include the Isle of Skye. Woolf transfers the house from Talland House, St Ives, where
the Stephen family spent their summers from 1882–95, the year of Julia Stephen’s death. The Stephen children revisited the house in 1905.
Talland House is described in Moments of Being, pp. 110–12 (including its ‘view of the bay to Godrevy Lighthouse’), and in Mausoleum, p. 62: ‘a
small but roomy house, with a garden of an acre or two all up and down hill, with quaint little terraces divided by hedges of escallonia, a grape-
house and kitchen garden and a so-called “orchard” beyond… Every corner of the house and garden is full of memories for me – I could hardly
bear to look at it again, I think.’
8. ruled India: there are a number of references in TL to the Indian empire. Julia Stephen was born in India and was the daughter of one of the
Pattle sisters. Her mother married a doctor with a practice in Calcutta; her aunt, Sarah Pattle, married a distinguished administrator of British
colonial rule in India, Thoby Pattle.
9. she looked in the glass: perhaps a faint echo of Hardy’s poem:
I look into my glass
And view my wasted skin
And say, would god it came to pass
My heart had grown as thin.
(‘I look into my glass’, Complete Poems of Thomas Hardy, Macmillan, 1976, p. 81.)
10. Prolegomena: an abstract of a thesis. Latin verses were entered for prizes at Oxford and Cambridge, but in this gossip about Balliol College,
Oxford, it is not made clear which university Mr Ramsay attended. Leslie Stephen was at Cambridge.
11. the passing of the Reform Bill: in ‘Social Life in England’ (Essays, II, 1916 pp. 64–6), Woolf reviews a series of lectures by Dr Foakes Jackson on
the period 1750–1850. The lectures drew on Thomas Creevey’s (1768–1838) Memoirs, lively accounts of the Georgian era and of Brussels at the
time of the Battle of Waterloo (cf. the reference to Creevey’s Memoirs on p. 115). The review uses the phrase ‘the passing of the Reform Bill’;
Jackson had commented that ‘The ruling aristocracy came to an end when the Reform Bill was passed in 1832, but their prestige remained.’ This
echo suggests that the Ramsay children may have been discussing the history of their parents’ vanishing mid-Victorian age; or they may have been
having more topical conversations about the moves towards the Liberal Government’s Parliament Act of 1911.
12. the Grisons: a canton of Switzerland.
13. Italian house: Julia Stephen’s ancestors were French; her mother was descended from the Chevalier d’Etang. In MS, p. 15, she is descended from
the French house of Clareville. While writing TL, Woolf wrote an introduction to a book of photographs by her great-aunt, Julia Margaret
Cameron (Victorian Photographs of Famous Men and Fair Women, Hogarth Press, 1926), and wrote to Vita Sackville-West trying to prove
Cameron’s aristocratic French ancestry (Letters, III, 19 July 1926, pp. 278–80). Cameron’s photographs of Julia Stephen, which had been hung
on the walls of Gordon Square in 1905, were, thus, in Woolf’s mind while writing the novel.
14. an affair at Oxford… Hindustanee: in MS, pp. 39–40, there is more detail about Augustus Carmichael’s awful marriage and on his translating
proverbs from the Persian. In Moments of Being, p. 87, Woolf refers to her mother’s fondness for her uncle Thoby Prinsep, who used to ‘read his
translations from the Persian poets’. She also describes a family friend, Professor Wolstenholme Moments of Being, pp. 73, 142; Bell, op. cit., I, p.
32) who has a strong resemblance to Carmichael: ‘We called him “The Woolly One” ’. In Mausoleum, p. 79, Leslie Stephen describes Julia’s
kindness to ‘poor old Wolstenholme, called “the Woolly” by you irreverent children, a man whom I had first known as a brilliant mathematician
at Cambridge, whose Bohemian tastes and heterodox opinions had made a Cambridge career unadvisable, who had tried to become a hermit in
at Cambridge, whose Bohemian tastes and heterodox opinions had made a Cambridge career unadvisable, who had tried to become a hermit in
Wastdale. He had emerged, married an uncongenial and rather vulgar Swiss girl… was despondent and dissatisfied and consoled himself with
mathematics and opium.’ There may also be something of T. S. Eliot’s marriage (Diary, II, 21 June 1924, p. 304) in the character.
15. a working man: in MS, there is more detail on Tansley’s class hostility to the Ramsays, here and at the dinner party: his ‘commitment to social
injustice’ (p. 16); his wanting to teach ‘working men like himself’ (p. 20); he reads Meredith and Tolstoi but thinks that literature is not ‘a
pasttime for idle hours’ (pp. 135, 173).
16. Ibsen: Henrik Ibsen (1828–1906), dealt with serious political subjects of the sort that would interest Tansley (as well as using symbolical
images like the wild duck, or the tower in The Master Builder, which are not unlike the lighthouse).
17. hoary: white.
18. Mr. Paunceforte: in the 1890s St Ives became a centre for artists, including Whistler and Sickert. See Frances Spalding, Vanessa Bell (Weidenfeld
& Nicolson, 1983, p. 11).
19. her grandmother’s friends… moist: Julia’s aunt, Sara Prinsep, entertained the Pre-Raphaelite painters at Little Holland House. Julia spent much
of her youth there and was proposed to by two of the painters. In MS, p. 21, there is more detail about their painting techniques, and their
signed photographs are hanging in the house (MS, p. 54). When Vanessa Bell reads TL she is ‘a little doubtful about covering paints with damp
cloths’ (Letters, III, appendix, p. 573). Woolf replies: ‘I think Watts used to buy lapiz lazuli, break it up with a small hammer, and keep it under
damp cloths. I think, too, the pre-raphaelites thought it more like nature to use garden clay, whenever possible; to serve for colours’ (Letter to
Vanessa Bell, 22 May 1927, Letters, III, p. 379).
20. a picture… Garter: Mrs Ramsay is often identified with Victorian monarchy and empire, and seen as a Queen or an Empress. (In Moments of
Being, p. 35, Julia Stephen is compared to ‘some commanding Empress’.) The Garter is the highest order of British knighthood, worn by the
sovereign. In MS, p. 22, the picture is of the Queen as a widow.
21. tap of balls: cricket was the summer game at St Ives and an important part of the Stephen family childhood. In her first notes for TL, Woolf lists
under ‘Topics that may come in’: ‘The waves breaking. Tapping of cricket balls. The bark “How’s that?” ’ (MS, appendix A, p. 49.)
22. an impulse of terror: in MS, p. 24, Mrs Ramsay has a wish at this point ‘that she might die first’.
23. Stormed at with shot and shell: Mr Ramsay quotes from verses two and three of Tennyson’s ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’ (1854), which
commemorates (and glorifies) a futile and disastrous charge at the Battle of Balaclava in the Crimean War:
Forward, the Light Brigade!
Was there a man dismayed?
Not though the soldiers knew
Some one had blundered:
Their’s not to make reply,
Their’s not to reason why,
Their’s but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.
24. jacmanna: or jacmanii, purple clematis which flowers all summer long. The engagement of Kitty Lushington and Leo Maxse ‘under the
jackmanii in the Love Corner at St Ives was my first introduction to the passion of love’ (Moments of Being, p. 143).
25. Subject and object and the nature of reality: Leslie Stephen was a rationalist metaphysician who, in a work such as The Science of Ethics
(1882), which failed to establish him as a successful speculative philosopher (Gordon, op. cit., p. 25), was determined to separate ethics from
religion. Mr Ramsay’s ‘work’ is even more baffling in MS, p. 31: ‘truth, good, things subject & object. Meaning. The Nature of Reality (here Lily
repeated words she had seen in one of Mr Ramsay’s books, purloined to read, but utterly unintelligible).’ In An Agnostic’s Apology (1893), p.
repeated words she had seen in one of Mr Ramsay’s books, purloined to read, but utterly unintelligible).’ In An Agnostic’s Apology (1893), p.
137, Stephen writes: ‘ “This is a table” is a phrase which in the first place asserts that I have a certain set of organized sense-impressions.’
Woolf’s account of Mr Ramsay’s epistemology may have been influenced by the discussions of Thoby’s Cambridge friends on the ethics of G.
E. Moore and Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson; cf. the argument over the cow in E. M. Forster’s The Longest Journey (1907): ‘ “The cow is there,”
said Ansell… “You have not proved it”… It was philosophy. They were discussing the existence of objects. Do they exist only when there is
someone to look at them? or have they a real existence of their own? It is all very interesting, but at the same time it is difficult. Hence the cow.
She seemed to make things easier’ (The Longest Journey, The Abinger Edition, Edward Arnold, 1984, p. 3).
26. a valet: a valet who can also cook vegetables properly, see p. 80.
27. one old woman: Mrs McNab.
28. Helen: in MS, p. 55, Woolf writes in the margin, after the reference to Helen: ‘Old Jones had written about the face that launched a thousand
ships’, an allusion to Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus and the speech in praise of Helen’s beauty. Greek allusions, direct and indirect, are frequent in
the novel.
29. Croom on the Mind and Bates on the Savage Customs of Polynesia: in MS, p. 55, it is ‘Crooms translation of the sagas, or Jones on Mind’.
George Croom Robinson (1842–92) was a close friend of Leslie Stephen, Professor of Philosophy at University College, London and editor of the
philosophical journal Mind. The relation between the mind and savage customs had a bearing on Leslie Stephen’s work, who argued that
‘Evolution replaces God’ (Noel Annan, Leslie Stephen: The Godless Victorian, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1984, pp. 282, 289) and, in The Science of
Ethics, that societies which permitted intellectual freedom were more likely to survive.
30. Marie: becomes Marthe, p. 109.
31. Never did anybody look so sad: in MS, p. 57, more explanation is given for her sadness: ‘was it true that somebody whom she was to marry had
blown his brains out or had died, [less dramatically] in India? There had been [something; but] Nobody knew/could say. Mrs Ramsay [never]
made [a] sign.’ In Moments of Being, p. 82, Woolf says that her mother ‘looked very sad’.
32. The Graces… asphodel: in classical mythology the three Graces were the goddesses who bestowed beauty. Asphodel is the lily plant, planted on
graves, associated in Greek myth with death and the underworld. The image of the goddess and the flowers of death is used later in the novel,
suggesting the story of Demeter and Persephone; cf. Diary, II, 16 Jan. 1923, p. 226, on Katherine Mansfield’s death: ‘Visual impressions kept
coming & coming before me – always of Katherine putting on a white wreath, & leaving us, called away; made dignified, chosen.’ For the myths
of Demeter and Persephone and their association with ancient matriarchal mythology, in which there is ‘a strange equation of marriage and
death, the bridal chamber and the grave’, see Joseph Blotner, ‘Mythic Patterns in To the Lighthouse’ (PMLA, No. 71, 1956, pp. 547ff.). Woolf’s
friend, the classical anthropologist Jane Harrison, described in Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion, (CUP, 1903, 1908, 1922), which
Woolf read (see Diary, II, 12 Sept. 1921, p. 136), the ‘matriarchal’ mythology of Demeter, Kore and Persephone, and the Greek ritual festivals in
which ‘before they were bidden to depart the ghosts were feasted’, and ‘at the end of the meal the priest rose from the table and hunted out the
souls of the dead’.
33. Knitting: this is one of the attitudes Woolf remembers her mother in, ‘knitting on the hall step while we play cricket’ (Moments of Being, p.
84).
34. Michael Angelo: in MS, p. 54, the picture is on an easel. In Moments of Being, p. 84, Woolf remembers her mother sitting under an engraving
of Beatrice; cf. other references to great Renaissance paintings and to Michael Angelo in the Sistine Chapel, p. 79.
35. he quivered: at this point in MS, p. 60, he is named as ‘Rhoderick Ramsay’.
36. in June he gets out of tune: a version of the old rhyme about the cuckoo:
In April he shows his bill
In May he sings all day [or ‘he’s here to stay’]
In June he’ll change his tune
In July away he’ll fly.
(Lona and Peter Opie, Oxford Nursery Rhyme Book, Oxford, 195 5, p. 54.)
37. Polar region: R. F. Scott’s The Voyage of the Discovery was published in 1905 to enormous publicity, after his first ant-arctic expedition of
1902–4. His second, in 1910, ended in tragedy.
Mr Ramsay’s struggle to reach ‘R’, and his anxiety about his own failure, may have been drawn in part from Leslie Stephen’s account of his
feelings about his work in Mausoleum. On the Dictionary of National Biography he wrote ‘It became a burthen and yet, as I must confess, I took
a pride in it and had a kind of dogged resolution to see it through as far as I could’ (p. 87). On his achievements he wrote ‘The sense in which I
do take myself to be a failure is this: I have scattered myself too much. I think that I had it in me to make something like a real contribution to
philosophical or ethical thought. Unluckily, what with journalism and dictionary making, I have been a jack of all trades… if the history of
English thought in the nineteenth century should ever be written, my name will only be mentioned in small type and footnotes whereas, had
my energies been wisely directed, I might have had the honour of a paragraph in full sized type or even a section in a chapter all to myself’ (p.
my energies been wisely directed, I might have had the honour of a paragraph in full sized type or even a section in a chapter all to myself’ (p.
93). He goes on to describe Julia’s support and his ‘extortion’ of compliments from her.
38. He stood… by the urn: there was a point on the terrace of Talland House known as ‘The Lookout Place’ (Moments of Being, p. m). Woolf’s
language for Mr Ramsay here is a faint echo of Hardy’s portrayal of his friend Leslie Stephen in his poem ‘The Schreckhorn’, about the Alpine
mountain (which Stephen climbed):
Aloof, as if a thing of mood and whim;
Now that its spare and desolate figure gleams
Upon my nearing vision, less it seems
A looming Alp-height than a guise of him
Who scaled its horn with ventured life and limb
(Poems of Thomas Hardy, Macmillan, 1974, p. 107.)
39. Shakespeare: a frequent figure in Mr Ramsay’s thoughts (cf. pp. 48, 117) who also was read by Mrs Ramsay.
40. His own little light: at this point in MS, p. 68, Mr Ramsay misquotes from Matthew Arnold’s ‘Thyrsis’, his elegy for the lost scholar, Arthur
Clough, and the lost Arcadia. Mr Ramsay says:
Roam on. The light we sought is
shining still. I wandered till I died.
The lines are:
Why faintest thou? I wandered till I died.
Roam on! The light we sought is shining still.
41. his wife and son: in MS, p. 69, this is a long passage comparing the vision of wife and child to ‘the profound spirit brooding over the waters of
life’. The language closely resembles De Quincey’s on the ‘burthen of solitude’: ‘thou broodest, like the spirit of God moving upon the surface of
the deeps, over every heart that sleeps in the nurseries of Christendom’ (Suspiria de Profundis (1845), in Confessions of an English Opium Eater
and Other Writings, OUP, 1985, p. 114). See notes 57, 102.
42. Grimm’s fairy story: in the Brothers Grimm story of ‘The Fisherman and his Wife’ (Grimm’s Household Tales, translated and edited by Margaret
Hunt with an introduction by Andrew Lang, Bohn’s Standard Library, George Bell & Son, London, 1884), the poor fisherman who lives in a
pigsty catches and releases a golden Flounder, who is a Prince in disguise. He is urged by his bullying wife to ask the fish, first for a little hut,
and then, successively, for more and more exorbitant requests: he must be king, emperor, Pope, and, at last, like God. Each request is granted in
stormier weather, and, at the final blasphemy, the Flounder sends them back to their original pigsty. The throwing of the mutilated fish into the
sea by Macalister’s boy, p. 196, seems to echo the story of the Flounder.
43. a book: in MS, p. 77, it is a copy of the Spectator.
44. civilisation: in MS, p. 80, the idea is developed into ‘what relation the arts bear to human life’.
45. the Tube: referred to again in the novel on pp. 80, 99.
46. Locke, Hume, Berkeley: in Annan, op. cit., p. 223: ‘Leslie Stephen set out to rescue the English empiricists, Locke, Berkeley and Hume, from
Taine’s contention that they were insignificant.’ In Stephen’s The History of English Thought in the Eighteenth Century (2 vols., 1876, 1902),
Hume was one of his ‘rationalist heroes’ (Annan, p. 225). In English Literature and Society in the Eighteenth Century (1903, 1904) Stephen
lectured on the English philosophers and their intellectual relationship to the Revolution. Annan comments that Stephen would ‘never have
come out on the side of the Jacobins’ but appreciated that Paine, for instance, ‘really feels for the people’ (p. 226). In MS, p. 135, Charles
Tansley has been reading ‘the second volume of Sorel’s history of the French Revolution’; later in the novel, Cam thinks of the old gentlemen
talking about Napoleon, p. 205.
47. Carlyle: closely identified by Woolf with Leslie Stephen. Stephen greatly admired Carlyle (though the admiration was not reciprocated), calling
him ‘a really noble old cove and by far the best specimen of the literary gent we can at present produce’ (Annan, op. cit., p. 172). He wrote his
biography for the Dictionary of National Biography. In his Mausoleum, an autobiographical account of his marriage written for his children, he
hopes that he has not behaved as badly as Carlyle (p. 89) in his domestic life (‘I was not as bad as Carlyle, was I?’ she remembers (1908) his
saying to Stella Duckworth, Moments of Being, p. 41). Woolf read ‘masses’ of Carlyle in her youth (Diary, II, 15 Aug. 1924, p. 310) and
associated him with her father, remembering, for instance, visiting Anny Thackeray who told ‘a story of Carlyle and father; Carlyle saying he’d as
soon wash his face in a dirty puddle as write journalism’ (Diary, I, 5 March 1919, p. 248). She was interested in the Carlyles’ difficult and
extraordinary marriage. See ‘More Carlyle Letters’, (Essays, I, pp. 259–61) and ‘Geraldine and Jane’ (CE, IV, pp. 27–39). Rereading him in 1921,
she thinks of him as ‘an old toothless grave digger’ (Diary, II, 29 April 1921, p. 115).
In A Room of One’s Own (1928), ch.2, she says ‘we do know what Carlyle went through when he wrote the French Revolution.’
48. residue: in MS, p. 92, it is ‘what had been in her mind as a baby, [&] what was the residue of [all] her thirty three years’, and so very like the
48. residue: in MS, p. 92, it is ‘what had been in her mind as a baby, [&] what was the residue of [all] her thirty three years’, and so very like the
way Woolf describes the contents of her own memories in Moments of Being.
49. Kennet: in Wiltshire.
50. an old woman: Mrs McNab remembers, on pp. 152–3, the cook (‘Mildred, Marian, some such name as that’) saving her ‘a plate of soup’.
51. The Owl and the Poker: the faint nonsense-poem or nursery-rhyme effect of this (as if from Edward Lear) is accentuated in MS;, p. 96: ‘Mrs
Ramsay always thought of them as a poker & a stuffed owl.’
52. Milk: Julia Stephen’s short book on advice for nurses, drawn from her own experience, is very precise with instructions about milk: ‘The nurse
must see the milkman herself and impress on him the importance of sweet fresh milk from one cow being always brought’ (Notes from Sick
Rooms, Smith Elder & Co., London, 1883, p. 39).
53. her children: in MS, p. 99, the children are more distinctly characterized here: ‘Nancy was fond of reading, & Roger, she believed, had a real
feeling for architecture.’ Timothy (who becomes Jasper) had ‘her love of music’.
54. He had always his work to fall back on: in MS, p. 101, Mrs Ramsay’s line of thought is rather different here, and incorporates the image from
Mr Ramsay’s mind: in spite of their lack of money, she is determined that he ‘should never [desert his have] to give up his own [special] work,
his philosophy – [that] pursuit of the letter Z [which still escaped him].’
55. the end: in MS, p. 103, Cam does not go out, and Mrs Ramsay reads the whole story to both children.
56. a church in Rome: cf. ‘some Roman Catholic Cathedral’, p. 120; ‘a cathedral-like place’, p. 186. Woolf visited Rome in April 1927 and wrote ‘I
like the Roman Catholic religion… I am sure Rome is the city where I shall come to die’ (Letters, III, 9 April 1927, pp. 360–61). In MS, p. no,
Lily imagines converting to Roman Catholicism.
57. We are in the hands of the Lord: in MS, p. 105, Mrs Ramsay remembers her own mother saying this. The ‘quotation’ may have several sources:
‘We will fall into the hands of the Lord, and not into the hands of men; for as His majesty is, so is His mercy’ (Eccles., 2:18); ‘It is a fearful thing
to fall into the hands of the living God’ (Heb., 10:13); ‘Father, into thy hands 1 commend my spirit’ (Luke, 23:46); ‘Into thy hands I commend my
spirit’ (PB, 31:6). In De Quincey’s Suspiria de Profundis, which Woolf was writing about at the same time as TL (see Note 102), a very similar
passage occurs:
Said but once, said but softly, not marked at all, words revive before me in darkness and solitude; and they arrange themselves gradually
into sentences, but through an effort sometimes of a distressing kind, to which I am in a manner forced to become a party.
After the death of his sister, passages from the funeral service about the dead being ‘taken unto’ the Lord come into his mind in this way. Like Mrs
Ramsay, ‘annoyed with herself for saying that’, De Quincey is ‘incensed’ and ‘offended’ by finding these words in his mind, though he acknowledges
their ‘consolatory’ power (De Quincey, op. cit., pp. 117–19).
58. Aunt Camilla: the Pattle sisters, Julia Stephen’s mother and aunts, were legendary beauties.
59. scholarship: to Oxford or Cambridge. In MS, p. 113, to ‘Balloil [sic] or Trinity’.
60. to walk about the country: see Annan, op. cit., pp. 30, 97, on Leslie Stephen as a great walker (as well as cross-country runner and
mountaineer) and organizer of the ‘Sunday Tramps’, a group of Sunday walking friends which lasted for fifteen years and achieved 252 walks.
Woolf’s ‘Cornwall Diary’ for 1905 records her own taste for ‘solitary tramping’, rambling over uncharted territory and reciting poems to herself
like her father, like ‘A blinding mist came down and hid the land’ (from Kingsley’s ‘The Sands of Dee’: ‘The rolling mist came down and hid the
land/And never home came she’). (Virginia Woolf, A Passionate Apprentice, Chatto and Windus, 1990, p. 286.)
61. she would have blown her brains out by now: in MS, p. 116, the feeling is attributed to Mr, not Mrs Ramsay: ‘If he had believed what he said,
he should have shot himself long ago.’
62. Best and brightest, come away!: Shelley, ‘To Jane: The Invitation’ (1822): ‘Best and brightest, come away!/ Fairer far than this fair Day…’ The
poet compares the ‘radiant sister of the Day’ to ‘the brightest hour of unborn Spring’, who ‘like a prophetess of May/ Strewed flowers upon the
barren way, / Making the wintry world appear/ Like one on whom thou smilest, dear.’ Leaving a notice on his door for his ‘accustomed’ visitors
(Reflection, Care, Death) he invites her ‘away’ to ‘the wild woods and the plains’, a pastoral paradise ‘where the earth and ocean meet/ And all
things seem only one/ In the universal sun.’
63. evening primroses: in ‘Reading’ (Essays, III, 1919, p. 150) the ‘yellow of the Evening Primroses’ is imagined on ‘a hot summer morning’. But in
letters to Vita Sackville-West, 13 May and 22 May 1927, she writes: ‘An old creature writes to say that all my fauna and flora of the Hebrides is
totally inaccurate’; ‘my horticulture is in every instance wrong: there are no rooks, elms, or dahlias in the Hebrides; my sparrows are wrong; so
are my carnations…’ (Letters, III, pp. 374, 379.)
64. He had been to Amsterdam… Giottos: Mr Bankes has been to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the Prado in Madrid. In MS, p. 119, Woolf
has ‘Siena’, not Padua, with its Giottos. Their conversation about great paintings is one of several references to Renaissance art, especially to
madonnas; cf. pp. 35, 105.
65. Darwin: Leslie Stephen was acquainted with, and profoundly influenced by, Darwin, so (like Carlyle) they were associated in Woolf’s mind.
66. symbolical: in MS, p. 120, ‘Crucified, & transcendent’.
67. Constantinople… Santa Sofia: images of the East and of a Byzantine ‘golden dome’ recur (cf. p. 205). Constantinople and the dome of Santa
Sophia are two of the settings in Orlando (ch. 3). Woolf visited it on the journey of 1906 in which Vanessa and Thoby Stephen both caught
typhoid and after which Thoby died. In her travel diary for 1906 (A Passionate Apprentice, p. 347) she saw Santa Sophia like ‘a treble globe of
bubbles frozen solid, floating out to meet us. For it is fashioned in the shape of some fine substance, thin as glass, blown in plump curves; save
that it is also substantial as a pyramid.’ Lyndall Gordon (op. cit., p. 111) compares this to her ideas of form in TL. In MS, p. 320, when the image
of Byzantium recurs, Cam thinks more explicitly about ‘how [the] world had come into existence; about the ancient civilizations of Egyptians;
Greeks & Romans; the Byzantine Empire.’
68. Pope’s Nose: in MS, p. 124, ‘the pope’s nose rocks’.
69. Paul and Minta! kissing probably: in MS, pp. 125–6, Nancy is more disgusted by this sight (‘the lust and the warmth, the ravening and the
cruelty’), like Rachel coming across the lovers in The Voyage Out (‘I don’t like that’, ch. 11). In Moments of Being, p. 105, Woolf remembers the
courtship of Stella Duckworth and Jack Hills at Hyde Park Gate in 1895, as her ‘first vision of love between man and woman’. See also Note 24.
70. brooch: in Moments of Being, p. 114, Woolf remembers the town crier at St Ives advertising for one of their guests’ lost brooch. While writing
TL, Woolf lost her ‘little mother of pearl brooch’ after a visit to Cookham, near Marlow (Diary, III, 3 March 1926, p. 64).
71. Edinburgh: not an easy day’s journey from the Isle of Skye. In MS, p. 172, he plans to go by boat.
72. The house was all lit up: cf. ‘How Should One Read a Book?’, written in 1926 (a fragment of it is drafted in MS): ‘Shall we read [biographies
and autobiographies] to satisfy that curiosity which possesses us sometimes when in the evening we linger in front of a house where the lights
are lit and the blinds not yet drawn, and each floor of the house shows us a different section of human life in being?’ (CE, II, p. 3.)
73. choose which jewels she was to wear: in Moments of Being, p. 95, Woolf remembers that it was ‘one of those snatched moments’ with her
mother ‘that was so amusing and for some reason so soothing and yet exciting’, when one ‘chose the jewels she was to wear’.
74. fifteen people sitting down to dinner, in fact fourteen: Mr and Mrs Ramsay, William Bankes, Charles Tansley, Augustus Carmichael, Lily Briscoe,
Paul Rayley, Minta Doyle, Andrew, Prue, Nancy, Rose, Roger and Jasper.
75. Bœuf en Daube: a very slow-cooking beef casserole. Instructions for cooking are given in MS, p. 129: ‘You stand it in water for 24 hours: you
stir continuously; you add a little bay leaf, and then a dash of sherry: the whole never being allowed, of course, to come to the boil.’ Vanessa Bell
in a letter to Woolf on ii May 1927, comments: ‘But how do you make Boeuf en Daube? Does it have to be eaten on the moment after cooking 3
days?’ (Letters, III, appendix, p. 573.)
76. Joseph and Mary: in MS, pp. 130–31, the old ‘father rook’ is mentioned, but the rooks are not given these holy names.
77. follows a fading ship… horizon: a faint echo of Tennyson’s ‘Tears, Idle Tears’ (1847):
Fresh as the first beam glittering on a sail,
That brings our friends up from the underworld,
Sad as the last which reddens over one
That sinks with all we love below the verge;
So sad, so fresh, the days that are no more.
In Essays (II, 1916, p. 49), she remarks of this poem, ‘the beauty of it is so much greater than we remembered.’
78. Women can’t write, women can’t paint: in MS, p. 138, Lily finds it difficult to argue with this because ‘she had no militancy in her and could
not bear to be be [sic] called, as she might have been called had she come out with her views a feminist.’ This is like Woolf’s later argument
with herself over A Room of One’s Own (is there ‘a shrill feminine tone’, Diary, III, 23 Oct. 1929, p. 262).
79. the government, in MS, p. 152, there is more detail about the fishermen emigrating to America. Of the political discussion, Bankes feels that ‘in
sciences, there is creation; in art, creation, but in this art [politics] there is nothing but abuse.’ The sufferings of the fishermen sets up the
connection with Scott’s The Antiquary, see Note 101.
80. Rose: in MS, p. 161, there is more detail about the children’s ages here: Nancy is sixteen, Prue is eighteen.
81. She could not help… from her husband: in MS, pp. 154–6, there is a much longer account of Carmichael’s character here, his failure at
governing India, his twiddling thumbs, his refusal to hurry, either when meeting a bear in the Himalayas or doing acrostics. The ‘things’ he shows
Andrew are described as ‘the sacred relics in a little box such as one keeps studs in.’
82. Neptune: Mr Carmichael is later compared to an old pagan god with a trident, p. 225.
83. Bacchus: Woolf seems to be conflating two paintings, Caravaggio’s self-portrait as Adolescent Bacchus, a half-naked torso draped in a white
robe, vine leaves in his dark hair, with wine and a fruit bowl, in the Uffizi (which she visited in 1904 and 1909), and Titian’s ‘Bacchus and
Ariadne’, with Bacchus’s chariot, in his procession of gods, nymphs, satyrs and animals, drawn by leopards (or cheetahs) as he encounters
Ariadne by the seashore. Titian derives his subject from Catullus and Ovid’s Ars Amatoria. The painting is in the National Gallery, which Woolf
told Vanessa Bell in 1918 (Letters, II, p. 260) she did not enjoy visiting.
84. Middlemarch: see ‘George Eliot’ (CE, I, 1919, p. 201), where Woolf calls it ‘one of the few English novels written for grown-up people’. In MS,
p. 164, Minta has left it ‘in the Tube’. In Moments of Being, p. 146, Woolf remembers (in 1920/21) that her half-brother George Duckworth
mastered the first volume of Middlemarch in order to impress Flora Russell, daughter of the grand hostess Lady Arthur Russell, and was
immensely relieved ‘when he left the second volume in a train and got my father, whose set was ruined, to declare that in his opinion one
volume of Middlemarch was enough.’
85. a French recipe: Woolf forgets here that she has given Mrs Ramsay Italian ancestors. See Note 13.
86. Mile End Road: a rough district of East London. In MS, p. 170, it is the Old Kent Road, and Paul is imagined as a type who might ‘break down
the doors of timid maiden ladies’.
87. Voltaire: freethinking Deist French philosopher and satirist (1694–1778). Leslie Stephen derived his arguments against Christianity from
Voltaire, though he dissociated himself from Voltaire’s ‘obscenity’ (Annan, op. cit., p. 254). Voltaire was admired by Woolf as ‘scathing, wild and
witty’ (Essays, I, ‘Fantasy’, I921,p. 317).
88. Madame de Staël: French critic, novelist and intellectual hostess (1766–1817). Author of Corinne (1807) and of L’Allemagne, a book on
German nationalism, banned by Napoleon. Woolf is funny about her eloquence in an essay on Maria Edgeworth (Essays, I, 1909, p. 317). But in
a letter to Richard Aldington, she says she has never read Madame de Staël (Letters, III, 26 Jan. 1926, p. 233).
89. Napoleon: see p. 205 and ‘The Lighthouse’, Note 30. The recurring references to Napoleon and the French Revolution suggest that a subliminal
comparison is being drawn between Mr Ramsay and Napoleon. At the dinner table, the children are presented as conspirators, and in ‘The
Lighthouse’ they are in a contract to ‘resist tyranny to the death’ (p. 178). In MS, p. 153, more emphasis is given to the idea of Tansley as a new
kind of ‘leader’, later linked in Lily’s mind with the thought that everyone is striving after something, whether ‘a republic without [war or]
crime’ or ‘attempts at union’. The ‘masculine’ conversation at the dinner in MS, p. 173, is also about ‘Talleyrand’ and ‘the French Revolution’.
90. the French system of land tenure: the French Revolution brought about a great upheaval in the ownership of land; when Napoleon came to
power he found large stocks of land not sold or granted away, and from this he endowed a (largely middle-class) group of new landowners.
91. Lord Rosebery: Archibald Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery (1847–1929). Foreign Secretary, 1886; Liberal PM, 1894–5; resigned as leader of the
Liberal Party, 1896. Author of books on Pitt, Chatham and Napoleon (1922), he praised Stephen’s Dictionary of National Biography as ‘the
monumental literary work of Her Majesty’s Reign’ (Annan, op. cit., p. 2).
92. Creevey’s Memoirs: see Note 11.
93. Waverley Novels: there is a set of Scott’s novels in the house, from which Mr Ramsay selects The Antiquary (see Note 101) after dinner, and
which is ‘fetched up from oblivion’ in ‘Time Passes’, p. 152.
94. I—I—I: in A Room of One’s Own (1928), the dominance of the letter ‘I’ casts a dark shadow over the page of ‘Mr A’s’ novel. In The Years
(1937), a woman listening to a man talking at a party thinks ‘She had heard it all before, I, I, I, – he went on’ (‘Present Day’).
95. Tolstoi: in MS, p. 179, Charles Tansley praises Tolstoi (‘what he meant was Tolstoi would have approved of me, but not of you’) and Paul
Rayley prefers ‘Trollope to Dickens’ (‘A very stupid remark, Mrs Ramsay knew that’). In a letter to Vita Sackville-West, Woolf describes hearing
Tatiana Tolstoi lecturing, and then feeling that ‘I hated us all, for being prosperous & comfortable, & wished to be a working woman, & wished
to be able to excuse my life to Tolstoi’ (Letters, 31 Jan. 1926, III, p. 236).
96. Come out… yellow bee: ‘Luriana Lurilee’ by Charles Elton, published posthumously in Another World Than This (eds. Vita Sackville-West and
Harold Nicolson, Michael Joseph, 1945). In MS, p. 181, Augustus Carmichael quotes it before Mr Ramsay, and a phrase from it is taken up in the
passage about Mrs McNab in ‘Time Parses’ (MS, p. 165). The poem in full reads:
Come out and climb the garden path
Luriana Lurilee,
The China rose is all abloom
And buzzing with the yellow bee.
We’ll swing you on a cedar bough,
Luriana Lurilee.
I wonder if it seems to you
Luriana Lurilee,
That all the lives we ever lived
And all the lives to be
Are full of trees and changing leaves,
Luriana Lurilee.
How long it seems since you and I,
Luriana Lurilee,
Roamed in the forest where our kind
Had just begun to be,
And laughed and chattered in the flowers,
Luriana Lurilee.
How long since you and I went out,
Luriana Lurilee,
To see the kings go riding by
Over lawn and daisy lea,
With their palm leaves and their cedar sheaves,
Luriana Lurilee.
Swing, swing, swing on a bough,
Luriana Lurilee,
Till you sleep in a humble heap
Or under a gloomy churchyard tree,
And then fly back to swing on a bough,
Luriana Lurilee.
In a letter to Vita Sackville-West, Woolf refers to Clive Bell’s heart as ‘turning to honey, in which the yellow bee blooms’ (Letters, 23 Dec. 1925,
III, p. 225).
97. Labour Party: George Dangerfield’s The Strange Death of Liberal England (1934) and G. D. H. Cole’s A History of the Labour Party from 1914
(1948) described the rise of the Labour Party in the early years of the century as a gradual and inevitable turning away of the working class from
the Liberal Party, dating from the 1890s. More recent historians of the party (e.g. K. Laybourn, The Rise of Labour, Edward Arnold, 1988) have
placed more emphasis on the alliance between Labour and the Trade Union movement and have explained the demise of the Liberal Party as a
product of the cultural and social changes of the First World War. The Independent Labour Party was founded in 1893 and Labour was created as
a party in the General Election of 1906, which resulted in an overwhelming Liberal majority. Labour was a minority party which largely
supported the Liberals, and did not stand for ‘socialism’ up to the First World War, but the working-class voter, especially in industrial areas,
looked increasingly to the Labour Party for representation. Leonard Woolf was active in the Fabian Society and the Labour Party from 1912
onwards, stood unsuccessfully for election in 1922, and was closely involved with Labour’s response to the General Strike in May 1926.
The recollections on which TL is based come from the 1890s, but the first part of TL must, strictly speaking, be set around 1908, since ten
years pass in ‘Time Passes’ and ‘The Lighthouse’ is set just after the end of the war. (However, in MS, p. 2, in a note to herself of 6 August 1925,
Woolf said: ‘There need be no specification of date’). During this time Asquith’s Liberal Government was in power and Ramsay Macdonald was
heading Labour’s pacifist opposition to entry into the war, until the last moment.
98. her mother’s: in MS, p. 167, there is a ‘bust’ of her mother on the landing.
99. that horrid skull: see Moments of Being, p. 78: ‘The night nursery was vast too. In winter I would slip in before bed to take a look at the fire. I
was very anxious to see that the fire was low, because it frightened me if it burnt after we went to bed. I dreaded that little flickering flame on
the walls; but Adrian liked it; and to make a compromise, Nurse folded a towel over the fender.’ The skull, like Uncle James’s opals, is evidently
a gift from another of Mrs Ramsay’s brothers in the colonies. In Jacob’s Room, Jacob insists on taking a sheep’s skull home from the beach.
100. the words: Cam remembers these words, p. 221. In Moments of Being, p. 82, Woolf remembers (1939/40) that her mother would send her to
sleep as a child by telling her ‘to think of all the lovely things I could imagine. Rainbows and bells…’
101. Sir Walter: in ‘Impressions of Sir Leslie Stephen’ (Essays, I, 1906, p. 128) she wrote: ‘My father always loved reading aloud, and of all books, I
think, he loved Scott’s the best.’ She goes on to describe his rereading the Waverley Novels ‘with quiet satisfaction’ in the last years of his life.
Stephen wrote on Scott in Hours in a Library (3 vols., 1874, 1876, 1909) and for the DNB. He praises him for his ‘healthy animalism’ and for his
associations with ‘the pleasure of that healthy open-air life’ of Scotland.
Mr Ramsay goes to chapters 26, 29, 31, 32 and 34 of The Antiquary (1816) which recount the sudden death by drowning of the fisherman
Mucklebackit’s young son Steenie, the grief of the family and the emotions of the antiquary, Jonathan Oldbuck, who, like Mr Ramsay, in spite
of his ‘Stoic’ maxims can’t restrain his tears.
In MS, pp. 194–5, The Antiquary is named as the novel Mr Ramsay is reading, and there is more detail on there being no sexual interest in
In MS, pp. 194–5, The Antiquary is named as the novel Mr Ramsay is reading, and there is more detail on there being no sexual interest in
Scott and on Mr Ramsay ‘mouthing’ the Scottish dialect to himself as he reads.
Mr Ramsay’s pleasure in, and reservations about, Scott are very like Woolf’s, who wrote several essays on him: ‘Across the Border’ (Essays,
II, 1918, pp. 217ff”.); ‘Scott’s Character’ (Essays, III, 1921, pp. 301ft”.); ‘The Antiquary’ (Essays, III, 1924, pp. 454ff.); ‘Gas at Abbotsford’ (CE, I,
1940, pp. i34ff.). (This last essay followed a journey to Scotland and the Borders when Woolf ‘glutted her passion for Scott on his tomb’. See
Letters, VI, 1938, p. 247; Diary, V, 1938, pp. 151–2.) In her essay on The Antiquary, she praises the ‘immense vivacity’ with which he treats ‘the
common people whom he loved’, and his use of ‘that Scottish dialect which is at once so homely and so pungent, so colloquial and so
passionate, so shrewd and so melancholy.’ ‘The Waverley novels are as unmoral as Shakespeare’s plays… you may read them over and over
again… and never know for certain what Scott himself thought.’ Like Mr Ramsay, she admires ‘the scene in the cottage where Steenie
Mucklebackit lies dead; the father’s grief, the mother’s irritability, the minister’s consolations, all come together, tragic, irrelevant, comic, drawn,
one knows not how, to make a whole, a complete presentation of life, which, as always, Scott creates carelessly, without a word of comment, as
if the parts grew together without his willing it, and broke into ruin again without his caring’ (Essays, III, p. 457).
In Moments of Being, p. 86, Woolf remembers (1939/40) that it was her mother who had ‘a passion’ for Scott.
102. a book: in MS, p. 194, it is ‘an anthology of poems’, and Mrs Ramsay is described as ‘never reading at all, except in this way’. Every night she
reads ‘some poetry… and the Opium Eater’. In Moments of Being, p. 86, De Quincey is described as Julia Stephen’s favourite writer (so by
cutting this reference from MS, she is making Mrs Ramsay less like her mother). Woolf was writing on De Quincey while writing TL, and
published an essay on De Quincey’s ‘Impassioned Prose’ in 1926 (Diary, III, 11 May 1926, p. 83; CE, I, pp. 165ft”.; CE, IV, pp. iff.). Her account
of De Quincey’s treatment of ‘that side of the mind which is exposed in solitude’ (CE, I, p. 166) is very like Mrs Ramsay’s thought process. See
also Note 57.
103. Steer… all beaten Mariners: ‘The Sirens’ Song’, William Browne of Tavistock (1591–1643), from Inner Temple Masque, in Works (1772).
Steer, hither steer your winged pines,
All beaten mariners!
Here lie Love’s undiscovered mines,
A prey to passengers;
Perfumes far sweeter than the best
Which make the Phoenix’ urn and nest.
Fear not your ships,
Nor any to oppose you save our lips;
But come on shore,
Where no joy dies till Love hath gotten more.
For swelling waves our panting breasts,
Where never storms arise,
Exchange, and be awhile our guests:
For stars gaze on our eyes.
The compass Love shall hourly sing,
And as he goes about the ring,
We will not miss
To tell each point he nameth with a kiss.
Then come on shore,
Where no joy dies till Love hath gotten more.
Woolf was also reading Herrick while writing TL (she copied out several of the ‘Hesperides’ in MS, appendix A, p. 43). In an essay on ‘Sir
Walter Raleigh’ and the Elizabethans, she describes their characteristic poetry as haunted by ‘the sound of the sea’, ‘the meditative mood fostered
by long days at sea, sleep and dreams under strange stars, and lonely effort in the face of death.’
104. the sonnet: Shakespeare, Sonnet 98:
From you have I been absent in the Spring,
When proud-pied April, dress’d in all his trim,
Hath put a spirit of youth in every thing,
That heavy Saturn laugh’d and leap’d with him.
Yet nor the lays of birds, nor the sweet smell
Of different flowers in odour and in hue,
Could make me any summer’s story tell,
Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew;
Nor did I wonder at the lily’s white,
Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose:
They were but sweet, but figures of delight,
Drawn after you, you pattern of all those.
Yet seem’d it winter still, and, you away,
As with your shadow I with these did play.
In MS, the sonnet is not specified; cf. p. 194, where Mrs Ramsay seems to Lily ‘ghost, air, nothingness, a thing you could play with’.
105. the compass: cf. the steering of the mariners by Love’s compass (Note 103), and the compass points on p. 182. In MS, p. 30, in the passage
where Lily and Mr Bankes are watching Mr Ramsay while he recites ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’, there is a drawing of compass points.
TIME PASSES
1. in MS, an ‘Outline’ for ‘Time Passes’ is included (appendix B, p. 51), which reads:
[Tie?] Ten Chapters
Now the question of the ten years.
[Tie?]
The Seasons.
The Skull
The gradual dissolution of everything
This is to be contrasted with the permanence of – what?
Sun, moon & stars.
Hopeless gulfs of misery.
Cruelty.
The War.
Change. Oblivion. Human vitality. Old woman
Cleaning up. The bobbed up, valorous, as of a principle of human life projected
We are handed on by our children?
Shawls & shooting caps. A green handled brush.
The devouringness of nature.
But all the time, this passes, accumulates.
Darkness.
The welter of winds & waves
What then is the medium through wh. we regard human beings?
Tears, [di?]
[Sleep th] Slept through life.
2. this section ‘I’ is not in MS.
3. Virgil: Woolf went to Latin classes and read Virgil in the 1890s (Letters, I, pp. 2, 20) and was reading Virgil again in 1906 (Letters, I, p. 215).
She found the ‘purest Romance’ in him (Essays, II, 1917, p. 74). Possibly Mr Carmichael is reading the Eclogues, Virgil’s pastoral love poems and
laments.
4. Were they allies?: the suggested allusion to the war here is not in MS, where the ‘certain airs’ are personified as ‘ghostly confidantes’, ‘nameless
4. Were they allies?: the suggested allusion to the war here is not in MS, where the ‘certain airs’ are personified as ‘ghostly confidantes’, ‘nameless
comforters’ and then as the ‘counterpart’ or ‘sharer’ to the dreaming sleeper (p. 200).
5. the compass: see ‘The Window’, Note 105, and p. 182.
6. [Mr. Ramsay… remained empty,.]: the bracketed deaths are not in MS. See De Quincey, Suspiria de Profundis, for the temptation of suicide
when we ‘stretch out our arms in darkness’ (De Quincey, op. cit., p. 120); cf. ‘The Window’, Note 102. The Ramsay deaths reflect the shocks of
bereavement in Woolf’s childhood and early adulthood: her mother died in 1895, her half-sister, Stella, in 1897, and her brother, Thoby, in 1906.
7. Mrs. McNab: in MS, p. 214, there is more detail on Mrs McNab as an ordinary victim of the war, with a reference back to ‘Luriana Lurilee’: she
‘was nothing but a mat for kings & kaisers to tread on, who would indeed stand patiently in the streets to see the kings go riding by, & whose
sugar & tea were [now cut down by their passions &] reduced at their command.’ She is more emphatically contrasted in MS to the walker on
the beach, the ‘crazed, the mystic, the visionary’, the kind of person who ‘makes abstract’ and ‘mounts the pulpit’ and makes everything ‘simple’.
8. ashen-coloured ship: in MS, p. 221, a ‘murderous looking ship’ with a ‘black snout’, making the reference to the war more explicit.
9. Prices had gone up: cf. Note 7 on Mrs McNab. On wartime prices and hoarding, see Letter to Vanessa Bell, 3 July 1917 (Letters, II, p. 160): ‘We
were able to get you 2 lbs of icing sugar… I don’t think we can get more than 1 lb a week for you regularly… I will get it & hoard it, unless you
think its too expensive – 9d a 1lb.’
10. Nothing: in MS, pp. 277–8, a reference back here to ‘the watchers, the preachers’, who have been silenced by the ‘cannonading’ and the ‘black
snout’ of the ship and have ‘gone in despair’; again more emphasis on the war.
11. Mrs. Bast: in MS, p. 229, Mrs Bast (her name possibly an echo of Leonard Bast in E. M. Forster’s Howards End) and Mrs McNab are even more
moronic, with references to their ‘craziness’ and ‘vacancy of mind’.
12. Lily Briscoe: in MS, Lily does not arrive in ‘Time Passes’.
13. Gently the waves: in MS, p. 235, this passage of ‘acquiescence’ (like the whole of ‘Time Passes’) is more extended and anticipates more clearly
The Waves, with the line (which becomes the last sentence of The Waves) ‘The wave breaks on the shore.’
THE LIGHTHOUSE
1. Andrew killed: in MS, p. 241, ‘killed in battle’, in quotation marks. (This is the first of several points in MS where the war is more explicitly
invoked, eg, p. 296, ‘What would she have thought, [say] about [the War] it?’) Lily, at this point in MS, has extended thoughts on the aimlessness
of life: ‘We don’t “see people” for months. Then they’re dead.’
2. ‘Alone’… ‘Perished’: William Cowper(1731–1800),‘The Castaway’ (1799). The eleven-stanza poem describing the plight of the man ‘washed
headlong from on board’ (‘such a destined wretch as I’) who ‘waged with death a lasting strife’ ends:
But misery still delights to trace
Its semblance in another’s case.
No voice divine the storm allayed,
No light propitious shone,
When, snatched from all effectual aid,
We perished, each alone;
But I beneath a rougher sea,
And whelmed in deeper gulfs than he.
In ‘Cowper and Lady Austen’ (CE, III, 1929, pp. 181–7), Woolf describes Cowper’s sad life, his religious mania and his suicide attempt: ‘He sank
from gloom to gloom, and died in misery.’
3. a picture: in My, p. 245, Lily does not remember, at this point, the ten-year-old picture, she starts a new one. Only later when she starts to paint,
is it described as ‘a picture she had attempted before’.
4. Cam and James: in their relation to Mr Ramsay in ‘The Lighthouse’, they resemble the Stephen children after Julia Stephen’s death. See Moments
of Being, pp. 40–41.
5. Charles Tansley: in MS, p. 259, there is more detail on Tansley’s wartime – presumably pacifist and socialist – activities and on how he has got
married and had children. The phrase about the war drawing the ‘sting of her femininity’ is not in MS, instead, Lily feels that everything has
become ‘simpler’.
6. the moment: this concept, very important for Woolf (see Moments of Being), is much extended in MS, where the moment ‘threw out like radium
its meaning’.
7. faint thought she was thinking of Mrs. Ramsay: in MS, p. 262, there is more emphasis on Mrs Ramsay as a ghost, ‘an essence’, ‘stealing back’,
‘faintly almost imperceptivly [sic] she made herself felt. She had put off the robe of flesh and taken on another’.
8. brown paper parcels: in MS, p. 264, they are ‘intolerable’, ‘sacred [relics] tokens, wrapped up in that odious mixture of gloom and sorrow.’
There is more emphasis here on the ‘rituals’ of Mr Ramsay’s ‘grim altar’ (p. 266).
9. the fishermen striving there: see Moments of Being, p. 113, for Leslie Stephen’s ‘great respect’ for fishermen.
10. He looked proudly where Macalister pointed: in MS, p. 265, Mr Ramsay flings out his hand, ‘white, chiselled and shaped’, with a ring on the
little finger, compared to Macalister’s ‘brown thick mass’ of hand.
11. while James… steered: in Moments of Being, p. 115, on holidays at St Ives: ‘Perhaps every ten days we would go sailing. Thoby would be
allowed to steer. He had to keep the sail filled with wind, and father said, “Show them you can bring her in, my boy”, and setting his face,
flushing with the effort, he sat there, bringing us round the point.’
Macalister’s boat would have been one of the last of the Scottish (or Cornish) fishermen’s sailboats. By 1910 more boats were being fitted with
paraffin motors and by 1914 the traditional line-fishing in the Hebrides (especially Skye) had almost died out (See Malcolm Gray, The Fishing
Industries of Scotland, 1790–1914, OUP, 1978).
12. a book: cf. pp. 199, 206. In MS, there is more detail about which book Mr Ramsay is reading (‘not with English words’, p. 323; ‘Aristotle, Plato,
Greek, was it?’, p. 352), but the book is not named. In ‘Impressions of Sir Leslie Stephen’ (Essays, I, 1906, p. 129) she remembers ‘his little Plato,
which, being of a convenient size for his pocket, went with him on his journeys, and travelled to America and back.’ Susan Dick informs me that
Leslie Stephen’s copy of vol. Ill of Plato’s Opera Omnia, in Washington State University Library, is annotated by him at the front, like Mr
Ramsay’s book.
13. his feet: ‘How beautiful are thy feet with shoes’ (S. of S., 7:1).
14. tyranny: In MS, p. 313, Cam’s thoughts about his tyranny recur at the very end of the journey, before her vision of the frailty of the island. At
this point, she has a memory (cancelled in TL) of her father giving her mother a yellow flower, who received it with a little cry (‘Three drops of
pleasure – Ah – ahah’), a memory which she sets against his ‘Do this: do that’. This is an example of the very considerable rearrangement and
condensing of ‘The Lighthouse’ (more than in ‘The Window’) from MS to TL.
15. land values: under the influence of the American land-reformer Henry George in the 1880s, Liberal opinion began to favour ‘a tax on land
values as a remedy for social inequality. Lloyd George’s proposals for land taxes were the most outrageous feature of his 1909 ‘People’s Budget’,
and forced an election in 1910. Proposals for land-value taxation were never enacted because of the war. The argument surfaced again in the
1920s and in 1924 Lloyd George’s government produced a report on ‘The Land and the Nation’, proposing land nationalization.
16. marriage: MS, p. 272, Lily expands the thought: ‘Why did [they] in [those days] believe in their sepulchral union – [believed] in locking
people up in the catacombs and turning the key on them for ever?’ The whole of this section about the Rayleys is very much reordered from MS
to TL.
In Mausoleum, pp. 75, 77, Leslie Stephen describes Julia as ‘a bit of a matchmaker’, with ‘exalted views of love and marriage’.
17. Raphael: great painter (1483–1520), of the High Renaissance, perhaps best known for the Sistine Madonna. Woolf remembered her mother
being described as a mixture of ‘the Madonna and a woman of the world’ (Moments of Being, p. 90; Diary, III, 4 May 1928, p. 183); cf. ‘The
Window’, Note 34.
18. Hampton Court: Virginia and Leonard Woolf visited Hampton Court in wartime (Diary, I, Jan. 1918, p. 106). She would set a scene there in
The Waves.
19. through William’s eyes: in MS, p. 223, it is Lily herself who can only conjure up a ‘ghost’ of ‘astonishing beauty’, but feels that ‘Mrs Ramsay was
not like that’: ‘Why had death given her the part to play that was none of hers in life?’
20. a hand: a faint echo of Excalibur being snatched by a magic hand from the lake at the end of Tennyson’s Morte d’ Arthur:
So flashed and fell the brand Excalibur:
But ere he dipt the surface, rose an arm
Clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful,
And caught him by the hilt.
The story slightly resembles the magic Flounder coming out of the sea.
21. a picture: in MS, p. 280, there is a much longer passage on whether ‘Pictures are more important than people’, and how the relationship in art
is more ‘immortal’ than between lovers: ‘It was an awful marriage; forever.’
22. her death: in MS, pp. 303–4, ‘She had never heard how she had died: only “suddenly” ’. She imagines her going across fields with her ‘wreath’
of flowers as ‘the Bride of Death’.
23. Standard, News: the two London evening-papers.
24. But whose foot: in MS, p. 269, ‘Presumably, if he were quite honest, he meant his mother’.
25. in what garden: in MS, p. 309, more explicitly the Garden of Eden: ‘that miraculous garden, where [everything to begin with] where before the
25. in what garden: in MS, p. 309, more explicitly the Garden of Eden: ‘that miraculous garden, where [everything to begin with] where before the
[f] fall of the world (& he did really divide time into the space before catastrophe, & the space after) [all the] if it was not actual fine weather, at
any rate nobody was gloomy like this.’
26. Lighthouse: in MS, p. 312, a more explicit connection is made between the ‘grey & stark Lighthouse’ and the world after the fall, which James
has to accept: ‘And this being the [noble] nature of truth, it was not to be gainsaid.’
27. the truth: in MS, p. 315, there is a long passage from James’s thoughts on how the loss of her ‘truth’ after her death leads to a wartime family
life of darkness and distortion, the children having to accompany their father to ‘tabernacles in the city’ where ‘his father, standing up very stiff
and straight, proved conclusively (but James could never keep his attention fixed) that there is no God.’
28. shapes of a world not realised: cf. ‘Blank misgivings of a creature/Moving about in worlds not realised’ (Wordsworth, ‘Ode, Intimations of
Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood’, 1807). In MS, p. 320, Cam is thinking more explicitly in this passage about the evolution of
civilization.
29. The old gentlemen: in Moments of Being, pp. 142–3, Woolf remembers (1920/21) the ‘old gentlemen’ (including Professor Wolstenholme, on
whom Carmichael is based) calling on her father, ‘eating very slowly, staying very late’ and discussing ‘all things under the sun’. In MS, pp. 322–
3, Cam’s family memories are more extensive, including ‘a scene of the most terrible kind – when James stood there with his sums & argued, &
her father argued & they once dashed about the room & she could only [laugh], drawing aside into the window, & look at the peaceful lawn, the
grass, the flowers & [contrast that peace] think of that happiness & this entire complete misery’. This passage is cut in TL.
30. Napoleon: see ‘The Window’, Note 89.
31. The thing itself: in MS, p. 329, she adds: ‘the germ, in painting, in knowing, of all art and affection’.
32. he was growing famous: in MS, p. 330, more details are given about Mr Carmichael’s work: ‘It was said that a book he wrote in the 70s about
travelling in Burma was a masterpiece… People were beginning to say that Mr. Carmichael who had always been known to a few enthusiasts, as
one of the finest translators of our time: & so on.’
33. people who disliked her: in MS, p. 332, partly because ‘she had no religious beliefs’.
34. a whipping-boy: in MS, p. 338, more explicitly an argument between the sexes: ‘The antagonism was eternal.’ In Lily’s mind Tansley becomes
‘a symbol’, a ‘mere fork-shaped root’.
35. crinolines and peg-top trousers: mid-Victorian fashions, wide petticoats and tapering trousers. In Moments of Being, p. 86, Woolf describes the
world of her aunt and uncle, the Prinseps, at Little Holland House, as ‘a summer afternoon world’ with a ‘stream of ladies in crinolines and little
straw hats; they are attended by gentlemen in peg-top trousers and whiskers. The date is round about 1860.’
36. a fence of sanctity: in MS, p. 342, after this, Mr Ramsay is described as letting them into his study to show ‘his book of birds; or his immense
map of the Hebrides; or [his] some curious instrument which he kept in his study & never allowed anyone to touch for [measuring].’
37. he would say her name: in MS, p. 6, Mrs Ramsay’s name is ‘Sara’. In MS, p. 343, his calling of her name is more ominous: ‘at length, standing
outside the group, [like] the very figure of a lean watch dog, a [hungry & passionate wolf which sees] a [sic] famished [but] wolf, he would say
her name, once, only for all the world like a wolf barking in the snow; & he would [ba] say it once more, [but] & this time with something of
menace in the tone, which would arous [sic] [the] some deep instinct in her.’
38. Such a dignity: in MS, p. 262, it adds: ‘for there was a greatness in the relationship between the Ramsays which made all these glimpses of it,
naked, alarming.’
39. reluctantly: in MS, p. 345, it adds ‘how could one wish to die at twenty-five?’ (See ‘The Window’, Note 32, on Demeter and Persephone.)
40. somebody was sitting in the chair: in MS, p. 346: ‘It might be Rose; it might be Nancy; it might be that old woman, whats her name, finishing
her novel.’ A long section in MS, pp. 346–8, follows, trying to get right the ‘apparition’ of Mrs Ramsay in the window.
41. It satisfied him: in MS, p. 349, ‘& seemed to him to [be] on his side in the war against tyranny’. A longer passage follows on James imagining
his future.
42. the sandwiches: in MS, pp. 359–60, eating the sandwiches (ham in MS, not cheese) prompts Mr Ramsay to reminisce about being offered milk
when he went walking, and how when he ‘was young one could sleep in the open’; how ‘he would like to come back again after a hundred
years… to see what they’d made of it.’ Cam feels that ‘the old wizard’ had ‘put off his magic’, ‘he knew perfectly well what he was doing’, had
thrown off ‘his being a great man’ and was now ‘telling them stories round a camp fire’.
43. it was finished: in MS, p. 386: ‘[It was done] It was over. But she had had her vision.’ In margin: ‘The white shape stayed perfectly still.’
Appendix I
Substantive emendations adopted or conjectured in this edition.
The first reading is the one printed in this edition. The italic entry immediately following the square bracket indicates whether this reading is that
of the first British edition (1927), the first American edition (A1927), the 1930‘New Edition’ (1930), or the present edition (this edn). When an
emendation has been adopted in this edition, the original reading of 1927 is also given for purposes of comparison. When the present editor has
allowed the reading of 1927 to stand but conjectures an emendation, the formula conj. this edn is used. Page and line numbers are for this edition.
11.7 washing it, when] 1930; washing, when 1927
11.9 chased them to – or] 1930; chased them – or 1927
11.10 with them in – the] 1930; with them – in the 1927
15.10 their husband’s labours] 1927; their husbands’labours conj. this edn
16.8 she asked] 1927; she had asked conj. this edn
16.18 men smoked on] 1930; men did in 1927
24.12 with this all] 1927; with all this conj’. this edn
32.21 got shabbier and got shabbier] 1927; got shabbier and shabbier conj. this edn
cf. MS, p. 55 (deletions not recorded):‘But the whole effect, she concluded was becoming summer by summer habbier & shabbier & paler’.
36.11 in which to regain this edn; into which to regain 1927 cf. MS, p. 60 (deletions not recorded):‘as if he wrapped himself about & that he
needed privacy in which to regain his equilibrium’.
92.32 flower in the pattern] 1930; flower in pattern 1927
93.8 middle of the view this edit; middle of view 1927 cf. 174.19:‘At dinner he would sit right in the middle of the view.’
122.3 ways, Mr. Bankes] 1927; ways. Mr. Bankes conj. this edn
140.23 but, Mrs. Ramsay having died rather suddenly the night before, he stretched his arms out. They] 1930; but Mrs. Ramsay having died rather
suddenly the night before he stretched his arms out. They 1927; but, Mrs. Ramsay having died rather suddenly the night before he stretched
his arms out, they conj. this edn
149.20 skull there for?] this edn; skull there? 1927 cf. 15 3.1 o:‘whatever they hung that beast’s skull there for?’
151.7 ruined rooms] this edn; ruined room 1927 cf. MS, p. 229 (deletions not recorded): ‘picnickers, would have boiled their kettles in its ruined
rooms’.
162.10 You find us] 1927; ‘You will find us conj. this edn cf. MS, p. 243:‘“You find things much altered.” Dumb & staring though they had all sat
she had felt (knowing them scarcely at all, all these children, six children, James, Nancy Cam, Roger,) how they raged under it.’ But cf.
162.18 (identical in MS, p. 243):‘“You will find us much changed.’” Perhaps Virginia Woolf originally followed her holograph draft, then
decided that Mr Ramsay should twice make the same statement (the second one that he makes in the holograph draft), and then
imperfectly emended either her typescript or her proof.
164.28 2] A.1927 (II); 3 1927
171.1 3] A1927 (III); 4 1927
173.21 experience forms] A.1927; forms experience 1927
177.5 4] A1927 (IV); 5 1927
185.16 5] A1927 (V); 6 1927
186.11 cork] 1927; cask conj. this edn cf. MS”, p. 295:‘There was the old cork dipping & bobbing in the sea; Charles Tansley throwing stones; a
wave breaking; racing almost up to the rock where Mrs. Ramsay sat, writing, writing, in that little round rapid hand that was so illegible,
[new paragraph]“Is it a boat, is it a cork?” Mrs. Ramsay would say looking up,’; and MS, p. 337:‘Then, suddenly the old cork or whatever
it was began bobbing up & down among the waves;’. Susan Dick’s transcript of the holograph here supports 1927; but
1927’srecurrent‘cask’ (186.7, 186.25, 213.27) strongly suggests that‘cask’ was the word that Virginia Woolf intended at 186.11. Common
1927’srecurrent‘cask’ (186.7, 186.25, 213.27) strongly suggests that‘cask’ was the word that Virginia Woolf intended at 186.11. Common
sense also suggests the conjectured emendation: a floating cork could hardly be confused with a floating cask, and even if it could it would
not be visible to Mrs. Ramsay’s short-sighted eyes.
190.19 painting, had] 1927; painting, and had conj. this edn
196.3 6] A1927(VI); 7 1927
196.7 7] A1927(VII); 8 1927
198.16 8] A1927(VIII); 9 1927
200.16 fisherman’s] 1927; fishermen’s conj. this edn
204.4 9] A1927(IX); 10 1927
204.13 10] A1927(X); 11 1927
207.15 11] A1927(XI); 12 1927
219.17 12] A1927(XII); 13 1927
225.1 13] A1927(XIII); 14 1927
225.29 greens] A1927; green 1927
cf. 174.9:‘while she modelled it with greens and blues’.
Appendix II
A selection from the substantive variant readings in the first British (1927) and first American (A 1927) editions. Page and line numbers are for this
edition.
11.6 raising from the mud a beggar’s dirty foot and washing, when she thus] 1927; raising from the mud to wash a beggar’s dirty foot, when she
thus A 1927
12.10 disparage them, put them all on edge somehow with his acid way of peeling the flesh and blood off everything, he was not satisfied.]
1927; disparage them – he was not satisfied. A 1927
14.25 otherwise milk-white. He wanted nothing, he murmure-d.] 1927; otherwise milk white. No, nothing, he murmured. A 1927
16.30 to say how he had been to Ibsen with the Ram-says.] 1927; to say how he had gone not to the circus but to Ibsen with the Ramsays. A 1927
19.3 looked at her; Charles Tansley felt] 1927; looked at her; for the first time in his life Charles Tansley felt A 1927
20.8 (as she sat in the window), that] 1927; (as she sat in the window which opened on the terrace), that A 1927
24.14 impossible. One could not say what one meant. So now] 1927; impossible. So now A 1927
27.25 over his shoulder, as over her father’s, to look at] 1927; over his shoulder, to look at A 1927
30.2 You have none.] 1927; Mr. Bankes has none. A 1927
32.26 things must spoil. What was the use of flinging a green Cashmere shawl over the edge of a picture frame? In two weeks it would be the
colour of pea soup. But it was the doors that annoyed her; every door was left open.] 1927; things must spoil. Every door was left open. A
1927
34.21 end of the line, Greek, blue-eyed, straight-nosed.] 1927; end of the line very clearly Greek, straight, blue-eyed. A 1927
39.22 three resonant taps on the ram’s horn which made the handle of the urn,] 1927; three resonant taps on the handle of the urn, A 1927
41.13 (He looked into the darkness, into the intricacy of the twigs.)] 1927; (He looked into the hedge, into the intricacy of the twigs.) A 1927
51.5 his pleasure in it, in the phrases] 1927; his pleasure in it, his glory in the phrases A 1927
55.17 found a glove] 1927; found a crumpled glove A 1927
66.32 You shall go through with it.] 1927; You shall go through it all. A 1927
67.21 one – she need not name it – that was essential;] 1927; one – she need not name it – that was essential; A 1927
70.28 one leant to things, inanimate things;] 1927; one leant to inanimate things; A 1927
80.33 bringing Prue back into the alliance of family life again, from which she had escaped, throwing catches, asked-,] 1927; bringing Prue back
into throwing catches again, from which she had escaped, asked, A 1927
94.17 if she wanted a little revenge] 1927; if she wanted revenge A 1927
104.6 and then – but thank goodness! she saw him clutch himself] 1927; and then – thank goodness! she saw him clutch himself A 1927
108.1 They might cut his hair for him,] 1927; They might cut his hair from him, A 1927
110.16 Paul Rayley, the centre of it, all of a tremor,] 1927; Paul Rayley, sitting at her side, all of a tremor, A 1927
112.4 nothing but this; while the women,] 1927; nothing but this – love; while the women A 1927
114.22 the thing is made that remains for ever after. This would remain.] 1927; the thing is made that endures. A 1927
115.1 one thousand two hundred and fifty-three, which happened to be the number on his railway ticket.] 1927; one thousand two hundred and
fifty-three. That was the number, it seemed, on his watch. A 1927
117.33 the thing simply, not himself.] 1927; the thing, simply, not himself, nothing else. A 1927
131.20 suddenly entire shaped in her hands,] 1927; suddenly entire; she held it in her hands, A 1927
134.8 partly because she did not mind looking now, with him watching, at the Lighthouse. For she knew] 1927; partly because she remembered
how beautiful it often is – the sea at night. But she knew A 1927
134.25 It’s going to be wet to-morrow. ‘She had not said it, but he knew it. And she looked at him smiling. For she had triumphed again.] 1927;
It’s going to be wet tomorrow. You won’t be able to go.’ And she looked at him smiling. For she had triumphed again. She had not said it:
It’s going to be wet tomorrow. You won’t be able to go.’ And she looked at him smiling. For she had triumphed again. She had not said it:
yet he knew. A 1927
138.18 So some random light directing them from some uncovered star, or wandering ship, or the Lighthouse even, with its pale footfall upon
stair and mat, the little airs mounted the staircase] 1927; So some random light directing them with its pale footfall upon stair and mat,
from some uncovered star, or wandering ship, or the Lighthouse even, the little airs mounted the staircase A 1927
140.22 Mr. Ramsay stumbling along a passage stretched his arms out one dark morning, but Mrs. Ramsay having died rather suddenly the night
before he stretched his arms out. They remained empty.] 1927; Mr. Ramsay, stumbling along a passage one dark morning, stretched his
arms out, but Mrs. Ramsay having died rather suddenly the night before, his arms, though stretched out, remained empty. A 1927
143.17 Meanwhile the mystic, the visionary, walked the beach, stirred a puddle, looked at a stone, and asked themselves ‘What am I?’ ‘What is
this?’ and suddenly an answer was vouchsafed them (what it was they could not say): so that] 1927; The mystic, the visionary, walking the
beach on a fine night, stirring a puddle, looking at a stone, asking themselves ‘What am I,’ ‘What is this?’ had suddenly an answer
vouchsafed them: (they could not say what it was) so that A 1927
144.26 a tragedy, people said. They said nobody deserved happiness more.] 1927; a tragedy, people said, everything, they said, had promised so
well. A 1927
146.2 children pelting each other with handfuls of grass, something out of harmony with this jocundity, this serenity.] 1927; children making
mud pies or pelting each other with handfuls of grass, something out of harmony with this jocundity and this serenity. A 1927
146.15 With equal complacence she saw his misery, condoned his meanness, and acquiesced in his torture. That dream, then, of sharing,
completing, finding in solitude on the beach an answer, was but a reflection in a mirror,] 1927; With equal complacence she saw his
misery, his meanness, and his torture. That dream, of sharing, completing, of finding in solitude on the beach an answer, was then but a
reflection in a mirror, A 1927
149.26 left the house shut up, locked, alone.] 1927; left the house alone, shut up, locked. A 1927
154.16 the white flowers by the window.] 1927; the white flowers in the bed by the window. A 1927
154.18 late one evening in September. Mr. Carmichael came by the same train.] 1927; late one evening in September. A 1927
155.15 much as it used to look years ago.] 1927; much as it used to look. A 1927
155.26 Lily Briscoe stirring in her sleep clutched at her blankets] 1927; Lily Briscoe stirring in her sleep. She clutched at her blankets A 1927
161.13 She must escape somehow, be alone somewhere.] 1927; She must escape somewhere, be alone somewhere. A 1927
161.19 that picture. It had been knocking about in her mind all these years. She would paint that picture now. Where were] 1927; that picture.
She would paint that picture now. It had been knocking about in her mind all these years. Where were A 1927
171.4 seemed to fly back in her face, like a bramble sprung.] 1927; seemed to be cast back on her, like a bramble sprung across her face. A 1927
173.20 one of those habitual currents which after a certain time forms experience in the mind,] 1927; one of those habitual currents in which
after a certain time experience forms in the mind, A 1927
188.9 as if by looking she could hear them. Something violent. Minta went on eating her sandwich, annoyingly, while he spoke. He spoke
indignant, jealous words, abusing her,] 1927; as if by looking she could hear them. Minta went on eating her sandwich, annoyingly, while
he spoke something violent, abusing her, A 1927
188.29 got to know you, playing chess with a little man] 1927; got to know you, and he played chess with a little man A 1927
189.27 Lily smiled.] 1927; Lily thought. A 1927
201.30 making them shrivel and fall.] 1927; making it shrivel and fall. A 1927
216.3 She had met Paul Rayley like that one day on the stairs. They had laughed and laughed, like a couple of children, all because Mr. Ramsay,
finding an earwig in his milk at breakfast had sent the whole thing flying through the air on to the terrace outside. ‘An earwig,’ Prue
murmured, awestruck, ‘in his milk.’ Other people might find centipedes. But he had built round him such a fence of sanctity, and occupied
the space with such a demeanour of majesty that an earwig in his milk was a monster.] 1927; She had met Paul Rayley like that one day
on the stairs. It had been an earwig, apparently. Other people might find centipedes. They had laughed and laughed. A 1927

PENGU IN BOOKS To the Lighthouse Virginia Woolf is now recognized as a major twentieth-century author, a great novelist and essayist and a key figure in literary history as a feminist her mother, in 1895, and her step-sister Stella, in 1897, leaving her subject to breakdowns for the rest of her life. Her father died in 1904 and two years later her favourite brother Thoby died suddenly of typhoid. With her sister, the painter Vanessa Bell, she was drawn into the company of writers and artists such as Lytton Strachey and Roger Fry, later known as the Bloomsbury Group. Among them she met Leonard Woolf, whom she married in 1912, and together they founded the Hogarth Press in 1917, which was to publish the work of T. S. Eliot, E. M. Forster and Katherine her time between London and the Sussex Downs. In 1941, fearing another attack of mental illness, she drowned herself. Mansfield as well as the earliest translations of Freud. Woolf lived an energetic life among friends and family, reviewing and writing, and dividing Her first novel, The Voyage Out, appeared in 1915, and she then worked through the transitional Night and Day (1919) to the highly experimental and impressionistic Jacob’s Room (1922). From then on her fiction became a series of brilliant and extraordinarily varied experiments, each one searching for a fresh way of presenting the relationship between individual lives and the forces of society and history. She was particularly

and a modernist. Born in 1882, she was the daughter of the editor and critic Leslie Stephen, and suffered a traumatic adolescence after the deaths of

concerned with women’s experience, not only in her novels but also in her essays and her two books of feminist polemic, A Room of One’s Own written for Vita Sackville-West, the extraordinary poetic vision of The Waves (1931), the family saga of The Years (1937), and Between the Acts (1941). All these are published by Penguin, as are her Diaries, Volumes I-V, selections from her essays and short stories, and Flush (1933), a reconstruction of the life of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s spaniel.

(1929) and Three Guineas (1938). Her major novels include Mrs Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927), the historical fantasy Orlando (1928),

Stella McNichol is the author of a critical study of To the Lighthouse (1971) and of Virginia Woolf and the Poetry of Fiction (1990), and the editor of a group of Virginia Woolf’s stories, Mrs Dalloway’s Party (1973). Hermione Lee is the Goldsmiths’ Professor of English Literature and Fellow of New College, Oxford. She reviews for the Observer, The Times

Literary Supplement, the Financial Times, the New York Review of Books, and elsewhere. Her books include The Novels of Virginia Woolf (1977), Elizabeth Bowen (1981, 1999), Philip Roth (1982), Stevie Smith: A Selection (1983), The Mulberry Tree: Writings of Elizabeth Bowen (1986), reissued 1991), and Virginia Woolf (1996). Willa Cather A Life Saved U p (1989), an edition of Willa Cather’s stories (1989), two selections of stories by women writers, TheSecret Self(1985, Julia Briggs is General Editor for the works of Virginia Woolf in Penguin.

TO THE LIGHTHOUSE

TO THE LIGHTHOUSE VIRGINIA WOOLF TEXT EDITED BY STELLA McNICHOL WITH AN INTRODUCTION AND NOTES BY HERMIONE LEE .

New York 10014. 11 Community Centre.. London WC2 R 0RL. USA Penguin Books Australia Ltd. London www. New York. 375 Hudson Street.PENGUIN BOOKS Published by the Penguin Group Penguin Books Ltd. 24 Sturdee Avenue. Australia Penguin Books Canada Ltd. England .penguin. South Africa Penguin Books Ltd. re-sold. hired out. this book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not. Toronto. 1992 All rights reserved The moral right of the editors has been asserted Except in the United States of America. Camberwell. or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser WC2 R 0RL. England Penguin Putnam Inc. be lent. Albany.com To the Lighthouse first published by The Hogarth Press 1927 This annotated edition. Registered Offices: 80 Strand. 80 Strand. India Penguin Books (NZ) Ltd. 250 Camberwell Road. 1992 Other editorial matter copyright © Stella McNichol. Cnr Rosedale and Airborne Roads. published in Penguin Books 1992 Reprinted in Penguin Classics 2000 17 Introduction and notes copyright © Hermoine Lee. 10 Alcorn Avenue. Rosebank 2196. Auckland. Panchsheel Park. Victoria 3124. by way of trade or otherwise. Ontario. Canada M4V 3B2 Penguin Books India (P) Ltd. New Delhi–110 017. New Zealand Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd.

CONTENTS Bibliographical Note Introduction Further Reading A Note on the Text To THE LIGHTHOUSE Notes Appendix I Appendix II Bibliographical Note .

first British edn (Hogarth Press. ed. Introduction .). 1976). 1979). 5 vols. 1967). 1977). Andrew McNeillie (Hogarth Press. Letters: The Letters of Virginia Woolf. Anne Olivier Bell (Hogarth Press. Jeanne Schulkind (Chatto & Windus. 1982. (to be 6 vols.. ed. 6 vols. Essays: The Essays of Virginia Woolf 3 vols. Susan Dick (Toronto U niversitv Press. Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann (Hogarth Press.. introduced by Alan Bell (OU P. Leonard Woolf (Chatto & Windus. Penguin Books. 1966. TL: To the Lighthouse. ed. 5 May 1927).Bibliographical Note The following is a list of abbreviated titles used in this edition. Square brackets are used to indicate words deleted in original draft.. 4 vols. Hogarth Press. 1977. 1975–80). Moments of Being: Moments of Being: U npublished Autobiographical Writings of Virginia Woolf ed. MS: To the Lighthouse: The Original Holograph Draft. CE: Collected Essays. Diary: The Diary of Virginia Woolf. transcribed and ed. ed. 1986). 1983). Mausoleum: Sir Leslie Stephen’s Mausoleum Book (1895).

By means of Lily’s painting. or the fall of a fold of a green shawl in an empty room? If the novel makes us think of more than Brackets are a way of making more than one thing happen at once. in his little plank as he watched them)’ – while he builds up his version of Mrs Ramsay’s idiosyncrasies. its incongruities held in balance. it requires formal strategies if it is to try and be several things at once. More than one thing happens at once: what he mind’s eye. its brackets and While Woolf was in the early stages of To the Lighthouse. an entire conception. the construction is under way. onwards (‘Yes. putting one thing against another. As ‘Time Passes’ comes to a close. which will open themselves out into the third part of the novel. The work outside goes on. But the entropic pull towards breakage and fragmentation – ‘things fall apart’ – is immense. Then he looks out of Since fiction is not music or painting or film 1 or unspoken thoughts. blown in plump curves’ and ‘as substantial as a pyramid’. reminders – ‘(The bill for the greenhouse would be fifty pounds)’. The middle section. the outside world – the ‘ordinary’ stuff of early-twentieth-century British life: tube trains. thinking about her. The dome shape. Sophia on her visit to Constantinople. she suggests. in the autumn of 1925. What one thing at once. a world war. the shape of a dome’.Introduction To the Lighthouse is the story of a marriage and a childhood. Lily’s images for her art – ‘she saw the colour burning on a framework of steel. her beauty and her incongruities. inside another pair of brackets – ‘(they were carrying bricks up a says to Mrs Ramsay on the phone and what he thinks of saying. though with great difficulty. As soon as you attempt This is like a note to herself on the writing of her new novel. moving between Lily on the lawn and the Ramsays in the boat. what he sees from his window and what he sees in his mind’s eye. Partly this works as a historical contrast: the Victorian family scene has vanished and become a dream-world – post-war modern life is continuing. It is. the death of Mrs Ramsay. These strategies may be as complicated as a whole section written from the point of view of the passage of time. It is all these things at once. about the English class-structure and its radical break with Victorianism after the First World War. or as simple as a pair of brackets. the moments in which she appears to his mind’s eye. he would catch the 10. its last section bulges with bracketed phrases about the return of life to the house. She expressed it to herself from the first through lists and inventories of ingredients that – as for the cooking of the Bœuf en Daube – would have to be held in balance and brought satisfactorily to the boil. which takes precedence? Is the life of the Ramsays in the garden and house enclosed by the brackets? outside world as if in parenthesis. It is a lamentation of loss and grief for powerful. when ‘a whole vision. seemed contained in that moment’. The building must be ‘formal and controlled’. The bricks are being trundled up the little plank. In it. Woolf imagined finishing off Lily and her painting in brackets: ‘Could I do it in a parenthesis? so that one had the sense of reading the two things at the same time?’2 is more ‘important’. as the lighthouse is surrounded by the sea? Or is it the Ramsays that are the main text. she was preparing a lecture called ‘How Should One Read a Book?’ (a fragment of which is written in the manuscript of the novel). which combines the solid and the ethereal. Woolf builds into the novel a commentary on her own processes. and. When the novel was published in the . It demonstrates the urgent need for an art form which could. sudden deaths. and. ‘Time Passes’. He is talking to Mrs Ramsay about a train time. Woolf’s plan was clear to her. But they also create an unsettling ambiguity about the status of events. and everything else is in Often. which Virginia Woolf wanted to call an ‘elegy’ rather than a novel.3 Try. the moment in which Mrs Ramsay is knitting her stocking and talking to James. Mr Bankes. And the difficulty is compounded because what she wants is a basis of strength and structure and an appearance of fluidity and translucence. So the novel has to be like Mrs Ramsay. identifications of a point of view – ‘(James thought)’. But Mr Bankes’s bricks in The bricks and the building of the hotel are like her incongruities – beautiful and busy. adapt to and register that break. The novel insists that you notice its structuring devices.4 That From the beginning. and exists in more than one time. comments and qualifications – ‘(For she was in love with them all. brackets don’t just make a simple contrast with his inner vision of Mrs Ramsay ‘running across the lawn in goloshes to snatch a child from mischief. in love with this world)’. which is under pressure to move Mr Bankes’s brackets. recorded in her diary of 1906: ‘thin as glass. More than one time coexists: the time of Mr Bankes’s narrative. evening papers. railway tickets. tools for the car. platform speakers. less apparently. was the essence of her plan for the book. she compares the thirty-two chapters of a novel to ‘an attempt to make something as formal and controlled as a building: but words are more impalpable than bricks’. building up a picture. you will find that it ‘breaks into a thousand conflicting impressions’. ‘He must go to his work’). who thinks of Mrs Ramsay as ‘an august shape. that has left a distinct impression on you’. to write on ‘some event to ‘reconstruct’ it in words. and of Lily. the window ‘to see what progress the workmen were making with an hotel which they were building at the back of his house’. outside A great deal goes on in brackets in To the Lighthouse: silent gestures – ‘(she glanced at him musing)’. While she was writing the third part. as if they belonged to another kind of language. ethereal and tough – and they are like the way he is sections and shifts in vantage points. the light of a butterfly’s wing lying upon the arches of a cathedral’ – go back to Virginia Stephen’s vision of Santa dome shape occurs in the novel in the imaginations of Nancy. for instance.30 at Euston’. dead parents. loved. reads like a long parenthesis between the first and last sections. Its square brackets enclose the facts of death. those bricks – impinges on the world of the house. the garden and the lighthouse. has a conversation in brackets on the telephone. The ‘stir among the unfinished walls’ reminds him of her incongruities.

On 14 March she was still thinking of a book of stories. through the Ramsays not liking Mr Tansley. that I can see’. & we should step into quite a different place & people? But what? On the next page of the notebook. But they liked Mr Carmichael. These stories about people would fill half the book. the ingredients for To the Lighthouse were becoming distinct. Some middle aged woman of distinguished parents. Inhibited. The beauty is to be revealed the 2nd time Mr R stops discourse on sentimentality. Her reverence for learning and painting. and then: It strikes me that it might all end with a picture. note in her diary. He was quoting The Charge of the Light Brigade . even ominous. since the memoir of cryptic. the notes for To the Lighthouse begin: All character – not a view of the world.spring of 1927. she said in a letter to Vanessa6). she entered a (‘Notes for Writing’) for 6 March 1925. By the time Mrs Dalloway was nearing publication. Two blocks joined by a corridor ‘22 Hyde Park Gate’ written between 1920 and 1921. on the day she wrote the last words of Mrs Dalloway. not very personal. and added to her list (square brackets show deletions): The Past founded on [images?] ancestor worship. In her notebook – I think of the sea’. As early as October 1924. she envisaged a collection of ‘the stories of people at Mrs. her feelings for her father & mother – [ancient?] A list of eight story topics follows. & then the other thing would loom up. One after another feeling it without knowing exactly what she does to them. what it amounts to. The look of the room – [fiddle?] and sand [shoes?] – Great photographs covering bare patches. D’s party’ and listed one of them as ‘The picture Topics that may come in: How her beauty is to be conveyed by the impression that she makes on all these people. she looked back on the ‘unexpected way in which these things suddenly create themselves – one thing on top of another in about an hour… so I made up The Lighthouse one afternoon in the square here. The great cleavages in to which the human race is split. Episode of taking Tansley to call on the poor. & means.7 as though the figure of Mr Ramsay was the next thing she would have to deal with. to charge her words. but the ingredients had been accumulating for years: since childhood. How they see her. since the ‘Reminiscences’ she wrote in 1908 about her parents. ‘I see already The Old Man’.’5 The shape of the thing may have come to her all at once (‘without any premeditation.

Mrs Vallance. and always summer’). Woolf wrote in her diary that she was ‘all on the strain with desire to… get on to To the Lighthouse’. she gives a list of ingredients. a ‘company of adventurers who. The bark ‘How’s that?’ They did not speak to each other. To the Lighthouse’.& then impressed upon it was this picture of mother and child. herself as a child with ‘dark wild eyes’. It does strike. which I’m dared to do by my friends. A middle-aged woman at Mrs Dalloway’s party. will be used again in To the Lighthouse. as so often. she is anxious that the theme may be ‘sentimental’. her father’s old friends. mixing together. The waves breaking. Mrs Latham. thinks of the people inside as survivors. smoking shag tobacco and despising society. She feels the glow of sensation – & how they are made up of all different things – (what she has just done) & wishes for some bell to strike & say this is it.) the Lighthouse are beginning to be played in them. and in that time she had ‘thought out. with ‘the melody of the waves – “Hush. perhaps too clearly. and a woman who dislikes his egotism.13 from these stories into her plans for the novel.” they said. death &c. he is annoyed because walking almost makes him inner voice or feeling takes the character away from the social context. though. reciting We perished. tearful story. & all the usual things I try to put in – life. How to thicken and enrich it? Another list ensues. she felt she must write the stories she had envisaged in March. the day Mrs Dalloway was published. & the children’s shouts paddling’. in which an Two stories anticipate To the Lighthouse more fully. Mr Carslake looks at a comforting picture of a heath and imagines himself on a walk. that ‘the sea is to be heard all through it’. she would have always been happy. which has not yet occurred in the list of ingredients for the novel. She was lapsing into pure sensation – seeing things in the garden. want to say he believes in God. [Ev] The source of all evil. & childhood. to build ingredients It might contain all characters boiled down. the ight of time. Again. and that she would like to be able to call it an ‘Elegy’ rather than a novel. & childhood. sitting outside the house in the garden. They were written by 14 June. or because she felt it was ‘too clearly’ about her parents? This warning note would affect the development of the novel. ‘spring revolutions’. the sail to the lighthouse’). and seems to have provided a warning for Woolf as she began. ‘It seemed to him as if he had been trapped into the words. not the same as those in the notebook: father’s character. and comes from the note to herself about ‘ancestor worship’. Mabel Wearing in her embarrassing new dress thinks with relief of her ‘delicious moments’ by the sea at Easter. Tears come into her eyes as she thinks of her parents. A girl who is about to enter the adult world of introductions and conversations feels as if she is going to be ‘flung into a whirlpool where either she would perish or be saved’.12 there is a prickly encounter between a middle- aged lawyer who prides himself on liking ‘ordinary people’. picking Sweet Alice and reciting Shelley’s ‘Ode to the West Wind’ to her father. the flowers her mother loved. & mothers. The eight stories which formed the bridge between Mrs Dallomay and To the Lighthouse are all set at Mrs Dalloway’s party. subjects and processes: design. while he crushes a dying mackerel…9 This is going to be fairly short: to have father’s character done complete in it.’11 All these moments. In one. the death. compares it with her lost family-home in Scotland. She guards her moment. Out of his type. The parents are dead.8 On 14 May 1925. but if she had stayed with them in the garden (where it now seems to have been ‘always starlit. “To believe in God”. It is a blueprint for the political and sexual conflict between Lily and Charles The other story is called ‘Ancestors’. Tansley shed Tansley the product of universities had to assert the power of his intellect. How much more important divisions between people are than between countries. her father’s reverence for women. but the tunes of To sail on’. by now. & the consequent break of unity in my .15 ‘Ancestors’ is a self-pitying. & then this impersonal thing. truculence and laziness. Tansley. in June and July. But the centre is First. sitting in a boat. each alone. set about with dangers. Tapping of cricket balls.10 (Why too clearly? Because the structure she had given herself presented problems.14 Listing her ingredients again (‘father & mother & child in the garden. she feels. hush. She knows. & St Ives. ‘The Man Who Loved His Kind’.

she felt. unusually for her. ‘Can’t write’. They say nothing about a lighthouse.(These anxieties over sentimentality and the need for ‘thickening’ the material were never to leave her. but she felt dejected and uncertain about When she went back to it. She thinks of using ‘poetry in quotations to give the character’. distractions.36 As she completed the first draft. There was something perhaps wrong with the design?… She smiled ironically. to the final stroke down the middle of Lily’s canvas on the last. which she would describe as having given her ‘more trouble than all the rest of the book put together’. particularly towards the end. working at the typewriter. of ‘Time Passes’29).42 wrong. she wrote to Vita31 – and felt that she was setting herself new targets. But she forged ahead – ‘close on 40. to bring out ‘the sense of life in opposition to fate – ie. like Lily. of her descending the stairs Once begun again. In her life outside the writing of the book there were complications. imagined so profusely’28) between January and September 1926. she remarked in her notebook that ‘the idea has grown in the interval since I wrote the beginning’.34 pleased her for its strategy of ‘collecting’ all the ‘lyric portions’ in one place. the demands of the Hogarth Press. comparing the effects of illness to those of love: ‘it wreathes the faces of the absent… with a new significance… while the whole landscape of life lies remote and fair. from the cutting-out of objects from the Army and Navy Stores’ catalogue on the first page. and it was not until January that she was launched again. waves. and anxiety about its reception. They focus on the character of Mrs Ramsay and the scene of the journey. she and Leonard went for a winter holiday to a house near St Ives. & I think deep. she decided on straight away. As she came to the end of the first draft. involvements: moves from London to Rodmell.22 But all that summer she was ill with fainting and headaches and exhaustion. the first draft of the novel was written. that she had solved her problem? (p.’24 Some writing of the the ‘personal’ aspects of the book (‘It will be too like father. she was still pleased with it: Dear me. she said in a letter to Roger Fry. in July. and she wrote ruefully: ‘All my facts about Lighthouses are for the American and English editions. retrospectively. which was necessary. and on a kind of ‘sentence’ which will carry the narrative She began writing the novel on 6 August 1925. at a rate of about two pages a day. she is interested by the ‘new problem’ she is setting herself with the passage in time and the ‘break of unity’. Even during this drudgery. with problems of balance. She has thought of ‘a and of how ‘all is to draw in towards the end. he thought. (And. and still liking it: ‘easily the best of my books’. she went into a period of possible premonitions of a next book. Out of it. the .) These problems of balance and construction will be re-enacted in the novel. how lovely some parts of The Lighthouse are! Soft & pliable. 209. which is also the problem of understanding the relations between the Ramsays: For whatever reason she could not achieve that razor edge of balance between two opposite forces.19 before any criticism had time to reading Proust. she is bloom’ – book’.17 On publication day she was still worrying that arrive. ‘a whole nervous breakdown in miniature’. and. & leave the two alone’. phases of illness. lighthouse’. novel went on that summer (‘I’m for the Isles of Stornaway’. Her early lists and plans do not seem to envisage Lily and her painting. at Monk’s House. but not ‘insipid’.21 20 people would call it ‘sentimental’.35 In the last part. when she began. for had she not thought. undifferentiated’. & a far wider slower It needs to be ‘quiet’. ‘(with a whole novel in my head too – it’s damnable)’. the writer who has exactly the combination of sensibility and tenacity – ‘he is as tough as catgut & as evanescent as a butterfly’s that she is seeking for in her novel. she saw it as a successful endeavour to do the two things she makes Lily do in the last part of the book: understand her own feelings. she wrote to Vanessa on 29 September25). She might ‘do something’ to ‘split up emotions more completely’. intense depression. the dinner party. fiddlesticks.18 and she asks Vita Sackville-West the question ‘Do you think it sentimental?’. She noted to herself on 9 March that she was writing ‘exactly the opposite from my other books: very loosely at first… & shall have to tighten finally… Also at perhaps 3 times the speed.000 words in 2 months would seem to her ‘the best thing I ever wrote’. in September. with speed and fluency (‘Never never have I written so easily.’43 Her preoccupation with making shapes repeatedly enters the action of the novel. of Mrs Ramsay with the children choosing her jewelry in the bedroom. Ramsay and the picture. putting one thing beside another’) or when Lily diagnoses the problem of design in her painting. she began to see ‘a fin passing far out’.33 The ‘Time Passes’ section. as when Mr Ramsay reads and judges Walter Scott (‘That’s Similarly.’32 The dinner party As she wrote. that’s first-rate.41 Between February and March she revised two sets of proofs Retrospectively.23 Instead she wrote an essay ‘On Being Ill’. she is vacillating between ‘a single & intense character of father. or on ‘easily’.) By July. so that they ‘dont interfere with the text so much as usual’. social life (including a memorable visit to see Thomas Hardy). & never a word wrong for a page at a time. Mr.37 and the image of ‘a solitary woman musing’:38 Between October and January she revised the novel.16 and observed that she was going in dread of ‘sentimentality’. By now she wants ‘the presence of the 8 children. like the shore seen from a ship far out at sea. the General Strike in May (with which Leonard was closely engaged and which affected the mood.27 great dinner scene’ and an engagement after it. in a curious state of mind.39 During the period of revision.30 – my record’. apart from the title. she wrestled. her feeling that she was striking oil alternated with phases of anxiety. or mother’26). and wrote ‘22 pages straight off in less than a fortnight’. she asked herself if it was ‘rather thin’. which. The metamorphosing forms of the lighthouse. and create a structure that worked – ‘I… got down to my depths & made shapes square up. Woolf does not solve all her ‘problem’ of design in advance.) Meanwhile. the developing relationship with Vita Sackville-West.’40 On 23 January 1927 Leonard read the novel and called it ‘a masterpiece’. feeling that the material in the boat was not so rich ‘as it is with Lily on the lawn’.

* We can make an X-ray of To the Lighthouse. the lighthouse – are developed and thickened (‘to bring out the sense of life in opposition to fate’). In the manuscript of ‘Time Passes’. but in ‘blocks’. by reading the manuscript of the novel. There is a line scored all through this passage. in the manuscript of ‘The Lighthouse’ (in the final draft. ‘I am wedge-shaped core of darkness that Mrs Ramsay sinks down to in solitude. the knots of rope and shoelace that are tied and untied. asks herself. a ‘kindly and well-covered’ lady of fifty-five who sketches hedgerows and Once Sophie has become Lily. too) remembers Tansley lecturing on peace. trying to get inside her ‘secret chambers’. the shape of the sonnet. nonentity’ that he makes her feel. Why does she mind what he thinks. Lily. other shapes. so is Tansley’s class feeling about the Ramsays: he despises ‘these upper-middle-class women’. Lily turns Charles Tansley into ‘an X-ray photograph’. I observe’. But. she thought. but I refused to think them out. or needs a ‘secret sense’ (like the lighthouse beam) to ‘steal through keyholes’ with. enduring. I can’t manage Symbolism except in this vague. the politics of the novel’s first draft are more explicit. not as individuals.making of the dinner party and the completion of the picture are the three dominant shapes of the book. upon distance’). As passages are rewritten. she is allowed. she describes the process obscurely. generalized way. and the island. often in the same order as she ended up with. because she ‘could not bear to be called.45 This canny prediction of the next seventy years’ criticism of To the Lighthouse – ‘one thinking it means one thing another another’ – could be read of ‘scene making’ as her ‘natural way of marking the past’. is repeatedly insisted on. I prefer to treat it as a useful warning. one thinking it means one thing another another. waves. More as a defensive smokescreen. and warily. the symbolic. the stretching ahead of him into the distance. she corrected herself – as a forgetful person entering [Hyde Park] Regents Park. she observes drily.’46 It might be her father sitting in a boat.’ And the need to look through. might exclaim Oh I remember/ of course dogs must be on a lead! So Lily Briscoe remembered that [everyon] man has Shakespeare [behind him].44 But she rapidly backs off from Roger Fry’s suggestion that arriving at the lighthouse ‘has a symbolic meaning which escapes me’: I meant nothing by The Lighthouse. reciting ‘we perished. women can’t write’).49 But she doesn’t want to express this ‘horror & despair. and trusted that people would make it the deposit for their own emotions – which they have done. as she reaches the end of the first draft. in the manuscript. the ‘august dome’ that represents her. and the narrative is concerned with vantage points and perceptions). Narrative which begins as authorially omniscient is persistently shifted inside a character’s mental language. In her autobiographical writings in Moments of Being. which vary and change depending on perspective (‘So much depends. and makes Mrs Ramsay think of the poor. enter every scene of the book: the purple triangle of Lily’s picture. or hover on the edge of. each alone’. she O it’s Shakespeare. Some characters are altered a good deal: there is less emphasis. driven to despair by ‘the prodigious cannonading’ of the war (which has a more emphatic presence in the manuscript). Lily begins as a minor character. introducing her edition of the manuscript.48 religious beliefs. Miss Sophie Briscoe. take the form of a debate (more extensive than ‘women can’t paint. he is enraged that they don’t recognize that ‘he was going to leave his mark on the world’. they do not ‘stand’ for something else. annihilation. the solitary watchers who If Lily’s feminism is subdued in To the Lighthouse. or when Mrs Ramsay observes Mr Carmichael looking at the fruit bowl: ‘That was his way of looking. to make the solid transparent. This is why the novel is so much about ways of looking (even when there are no human beings on the scene. the line of letters Mr Ramsay sees making some use of symbolism. and Lily’s argument. but are not quite solved by being read as firmly explicable ‘symbols’. or presses up against Mrs Ramsay. But looking together united them. In general. but an enormous amount of shaping took place between the first draft (we have no typescript) and the first editions. ‘the origin of my writing impulse’. The fiction and the feminist polemic are deeply interconnected. different from hers. ‘Always a scene has arranged itself: representative. and James . These scenes are not codes. to be more articulate about her political feelings. One has to have a central line down the middle of the book to hold the design together. the scene is being looked at. ‘Representative’ is not the same as ‘symbolic’. Lily’s feelings of oppression sitting opposite Tansley at the dinner table. or her mother sitting by the window knitting while the children played cricket. just as Charles Tansley is allowed to be more brutally antagonistic towards her and towards the Ramsays. So the narrative is made up of scenes which are constructed to centre around certain shapes.47 Susan Dick. as censored from the novel. and examine Virginia Woolf’s construction of scenes and the ‘squaring up’ of shapes. which reads like a preliminary version of the argument in A Room of One’s Own. These shapes tend towards. [might wonder why] & seeing the Park keeper was coming towards her menacingly. [they make on dogs must be on a lead]. he makes Mr Bankes think of the dangers when ‘a reformer’ arises. on Mrs Ramsay’s inarticulacy. particular images – light. ‘shaped something like a leaf stood on end’. she might have been called had she come out with her views a feminist’. they provide the shapes that are the focal points for strong emotions. her it seems that his ‘love of mankind’ is directly related to ‘his hatred of the arts’. will surface two years later in A Room of One’s Own. as when Lily looks along Mr Bankes’s ‘beam’ and adds to it ‘her different ray’. points out the most notable shifts. She had many of the scenes in mind from the start. or Lily’s thatched cottages and has refused all offers of marriage. by the end. To walk the beach are identified as ‘preachers and diviners’. & women have not. But the word. and the word ‘feminist’ is he reads in his own room about the French Revolution. I saw that all sorts of feelings would accrue to this.

His hands were beautiful. the rhythm has been mastered and the words made to ‘fit’ it. each alone. and visions. his dominance: his ‘Submit to me’. Cam’s rhapsody over her father. the little island of the family. some insolence: ‘Do this’. the fish – to make the moment ‘deeper and richer’: For no one attracted her more. direct references are eliminated or obscured. en route from the manuscript to the final version. an emotion. impersonal Persian poetry. The Ramsays are Victorian philanthropists – they think of parties. Napoleon. sitting upright. it is all rhythm. In To the Lighthouse. shapely feet. upright. as always.51 It’s unfortunate that Virginia Woolf is so distant from her working class characters that she describes them as Ramsay’s anxieties about whether civilization should be judged by ‘the lot of the average human being’ – the ‘slave class’ – and whether of To the Lighthouse? the servants or the fishermen as individuals. crammed with ideas. creates this wave in the mind. the most spontaneous-sounding lyrical passages have all been much laboured over. ‘Do that’. ‘Their children would see some strange things’. seriously. Here is the first version: . we perish. and his temper. to become leaders during the war years. his ridiculousness. and set this working (which has nothing apparently to do But. so that even now she woke in the night trembling with rage and remembered some command of his. The manuscript version reads: For nothing/ no one [could be more] attracted her more than this strange old man. & his remoteness. putting up with what the ‘kings and kaisers’ have brought about. the handsome unreliable gardener. U nfinished phrases and loosely written passages are condensed. (pp.52 Cam and James’s conspiracy against tyranny re-enacts that battle: it is a political war. Take. but a political dimension is still implicit. [was] his intolerable [arrogance. like Mrs McNab. He is heroic. & enough to quell the stormiest passions of her heart. upon the whole world perhaps.) Or take the end of ‘The Window’. his book. 184–5. ‘Vanessa and I were explorers. the fishermen. and can’t dislodge them. These elisions are made in the interests of fluidity. too. unknown to himself. 109). His voice was beautiful. the rhythms of perception. and his saying straight out before everyone. and so on. The mixture of courtly veneration and domination with which he treats his wife is a product of the patriarchal system. as well as being characteristic. All the same. Mr Ramsay’s metaphorical leadership of men is partly a comic fantasy. which reads so eloquently and calmly. & his words. in wartime. their domestic arrangements (there seem to be no servants in the house in ‘The Lighthouse’) are Mrs Bast and her son George. as it breaks and tumbles in the mind. and in writing (such is my present belief) one has to recapture this. 33) or ‘Marthe’ (on p. Carlyle and the French Revolution are mentioned often enough in the men’s He has his own empire. long before it makes words to with words) and then. though socially eccentric and not rich. & would forever indicate as with the suddenly raising. the lighthouse-keeper and his son with the tuberculous hip. but he is also a tyrant. Mrs Ramsay’s relatives govern India. and failed. Virginia Woolf describes the Stephen children as a republic opposing a tyranny. Submit to me. fought in the interests of a freer society (the kind in which Paul and Minta’s marriage could be perceived as a success rather than a failure) which the Ramsays cannot envisage – or control. for lack of the right rhythm. by William Bankes with his scientific objectivity. it makes words to fit it. the circus troupe. his oddity. the charwomen. there is also more emphasis on the endurance of the working classes. for instance. but which gave her a great deal of trouble. was that crass blindness and tyranny of his which had poisoned her childhood and raised bitter storms. his hands were beautiful to her and his feet. she thought. [He] Above all. reformers’.50 seems that Tansley is being identified (but more explicitly in the first draft) as one of the ‘watchers and preachers’ – the pacifists and socialists – In the manuscript. and his haste. though a pacifist and a socialist. fighting against their father and half-brothers. & his [strong]. the texture has been thickened and filled in with allusions to what exists outside Cam’s mental language – his quotation. [& his] But what remained intolerable. his haste & his fervour. the pacifists’ – whom his father attracted. and his remoteness.54 In the final version. By whom? By Mrs Ramsay with an alternative language of matriarchy. Mr Shakespeare is less necessary than ‘the liftman in the Tube’ is Virginia Woolf’s own anxiety: is the General Strike more important than the writing All this is muted in the final version of the novel. and can’t even remember whether she has called her Swiss maid ‘Marie’ (on p. and his oddity. and Mr Ramsay (like Scott) admires and envies their simplicity. both ‘as individuals’ and ‘in their public capacity’. and by the children. and atmosphere. but the recapturing process is all hard work. the socialists. The wordless movement of the wave that it recaptures might be natural and instinctive. by (the probably homosexual) Augustus Carmichael with his mystical. you can’t use the wrong words. says Mr Ramsay to Macalister. his burning extreme/energy. Style is a very simple matter. and his words. the creation of character This process of applying words to a wave-like rhythm shows that Woolf’s characteristic fictional tone was the product of a highly engineered and contrived operation. and his passion. of an arm. their kind of literature. But the Ramsays’ dinner blown away in the war years. revolutionists. but is also meant conversation to make it clear that a male tradition of imperialist despotism (which Tansley.) But what remained intolerable. their family life. the Swiss maid. & monitory. and goes far deeper than words. Now this is very profound. and one of the most striking and intensive developments in the narrative from first to A letter to Vita comments on the process: final version is in her shaping of roughed-out ideas. In Moments of Being. his irra] demand upon her. not as a class. and watching Macalister’s boy tug the hook out of the gills of another sh. has as his intellectual inheritance) is being resisted. the one-armed billposter. what rhythm is. the cook. Lurking at the edges of To the Lighthouse are the ‘ordinary people’ of Britain: the sick and poor that Mrs Ramsay visits in the town. Once you get that. upon James. A sight. and Mr Ramsay. Woolf buried the polemical substance of the book below what interested her more: intense emotions. by Lily with her painting. Again and again. and his voice. Behind the Ramsay family is a history of imperialism. lyricized and made rhythmical. It who have tried. (He had opened his book.(in the manuscript only) recalls him as one of the ‘detestable’ people – ‘the atheists.53 t it. is part of the educational establishment. and the class that survives is that low form of life that brings the house back from the brink of ruin: Mrs McNab and halfwitted troglodytes. But on the other hand here am I sitting after half the morning.

’ she writes in the diary. but no: she could not do it [& that it was enough for her to turn round with her knitting. So Julia Stephen’s French ancestry is made Italian (though this doesn’t prevent her from inheriting a French recipe for Bœuf en Daube from her grandmother!) and her passion for Walter Scott. & over the sea. whom she imagines. which condemned them to death. are obviously ‘about’ the deaths of thinking about Katherine Mansfield. but he knew it. seemed like black marble. published in 1926. Virginia’s childhood. which she feared Vanessa would laugh at. efficient side of Julia’s character (much in evidence in her tips for good nursing.She never could say things she felt. charismatic father is often described as the enemy in the novel. So.’66 John Middleton Murry’s article on ‘The Classical Revival’. But in December 1925. The Mausoleum Book. (She wrote to Vita in January 1926 saying that she had to St Ives in the summer of 1905. Though she did not reread her 1906. is cut out so that Scott can be used to bolster Mr Ramsay’s maleness. and also derive from her reading of De Quincey while she was writing the novel. and Mrs Ramsay’s feelings: ‘Yes. differently. sudden. hovering between ‘partly because she did not mind looking now. called away. mystical side. Stella Duckworth.56 at the Lighthouse’ and ‘partly because she remembered how beautiful it often is – the sea at night’. chosen.’ And she looked at him smiling. Now those mournful images were in her mind again. it may be.’55 She is still making last-minute changes to this in the proofs. next to her joyful exclamation about described Jacob’s Room and The Waste Land as failures that nobody would be reading in ten or fifty years’ time. and the progress of To the Lighthouse: ‘Never never have I written so easily.63 Mrs Ramsay’s dark feelings about solitude and death ‘are’ also Virginia’s. smiling because she had known he & she turned round. in the Adelphi. & she knew that he was/what/thinking of her.’ She had not said it. .64) Of all these obscure and complicated connections between the life and the fiction. and between two endings. she felt herself very beautiful’.61 The deaths of Prue and Mrs Ramsay. or mother’). Mr Ramsay is no longer seen.’65 ‘Murry says my works won’t be read in 10 years’ time. But Virginia Stephen used to go walking and declaiming poetry. with him watching. like Leslie Stephen. as he is in Being vividly evoke – are censored. but how long do you think it’ll last?’). the deepest – is between Virginia Woolf and Mr Ramsay. with her family of children and her beauty and shabbiness and privacy ‘is’ also Mrs Ramsay: ‘Probably there is a great deal of you in Mrs. Certainly the novel bears a relation to some identifiable sources. but Mrs Ramsay’s liking for him is cut out of the finished version. published in children. It’s going to be wet to-morrow. & watching the light from the lighthouse. as like ‘a lighthouse. ‘and Virginia’s poor Tom Eliot. Notes from Sick Rooms) is suppressed in favour of her solitary. It’s going to be wet to-morrow. hating the upper classes and ‘wishing to Julia Stephen and Virginia’s half-sister. Maitland’s biography of her father. remote’. she ‘is’ also Lily. & leaving us. fitful. with her knitting.58) The diary contained a record of the Stephen children’s return adolescent Nancy. perhaps the most surprising – and. and Cam in the boat adoring and hating her father. you were right. when she and the other Stephen children were making a new life without their But where ‘is’ Virginia Woolf in her retrospect? She ‘is’ the child Rose. because – oh of course she was perfectly right. or is obsessed about his own immortality (‘Ah. and all their works. Cameron’s portraits of Julia Duckworth had been hung on the walls of Gordon Square when the Stephen children moved to Bloomsbury.’62 Possibly Lily’s almost erotic desire for physical closeness to Mrs Ramsay may be connected to Virginia’s growing feelings for Vita. between ‘And she felt very beautiful’ and ‘And The shaping of the final version had a great deal to do with distancing the autobiographical material (‘… it will be too like father.57 It seems as if she must have reread her father’s 1895 confessional document to his parents’ letters in 1925. And she did go back to her diary for 1905. so she must have been rereading it. ‘the painting bits’. And when he broods on the relation between Shakespeare and the liftman in the tube. Julia Margaret Cameron. For she had triumphed again. on either side. you were right. equal to her husband’s. And Vanessa. as she was writing an introduction to a book of her photographs. and some of the awful scenes between the Ramsay children and their widowed father – scenes which her memoirs in Moments of These autobiographical expurgations should make us wary of reading To the Lighthouse too simply as a literal transcription of Virginia Stephen’s childhood. she had laboriously transcribed them in the autumn of 1904 for F. choosing her mother’s jewelry in the parental bedroom.] It came & went.59 are drawn from Vanessa and from conversations with Jacques Raverat and Roger Fry. & smiled at him. ‘Murry has arraigned your poor Virginia’.’60 When Virginia goes to a lecture by Tatiana Tolstoi. And she looked at him smiling. The autobiographical reminiscences in Moments of Being (written both before and after the novel) are often very close. while she is writing the novel. For she had triumphed again. she ‘is’ the left the diary either at Long Barn or Charleston. and of the time. getting up She stood at the window. she ‘is’ Cam in the nursery being talked asleep by her mother. she writes to Vita in February 1926. the year that biography was being written. brooding. [Now it was so dark that the sea.] [in the margin: she knew that he wished him to tell him how she loved him]. was as much the source for Mr. like Mr Ramsay. the businesslike. painting this book. tyrannical. the first version. like a And she thought felt/knew [perfectly certain that he] was watching her. on Mr. In general. W. since several of the details about his feelings for his lost Julia appear in the novel. ‘that faint ghost’. making an empire out of a rock pool and drawing in her skirts at the sight of adult passion. which place the emphasis. The comic. who died so soon after her mother. invoking a double memory: of her mother as she was in parents. & [The] more beautiful than ever. you have] was not necessary to say anything. yet he knew. She was also thinking about her great-aunt. made dignified. ten years after her death. ‘Yes. it is not only Leslie Stephen’s anxieties and egotism she is invoking. You won’t be able to go. [h] direct & strange. with the reddish brown stocking still knitting. whose death in 1923 had brought into her mind the image of ‘Katherine putting on a white wreath. But. She had not said it. [she] he knew what she felt: & she need only say to him ‘Yes: its going to be wet tomorrow. (De Quincey was her mother’s favourite writer. & she knew that it would [give him [exqu] great pleasure could she turn & say to him you have made me so perfectly happy. she again finds herself excuse my life to Tolstoi’. lecturing on agnosticism in ugly halls. Ramsay. going across the fields in their white wreaths. she ‘is’ Charles Tansley.

like other people one has known. her terrible grief subjects. the garden bough shall sway. And Mrs Ramsay reappears as a ghost (‘It was part of her perfect goodness to Lily’) at the end of the novel. deep feeling which comes out of fictions where childhood memory is being uncovered and appeased. I ceased to be obsessed by my mother. the priest (in this case Mr Carmichael) would address the ghosts of the place placatingly. and ‘the house was left. the house was deserted’.72 Ten years later. Woolf spent a great deal of imaginative time trying to return to it.71 She sees her childhood as a ‘space of time’ which ends on the day of her mother’s death. her relationship with her father as she grew up. & writing of them was a It is perfectly true that she obsessed me. in the autobiographical ‘Sketch of the Past’ she wrote for her & could have been 96. The diary entry reminds me of Tennyson’s ‘Enoch Arden’. and explained it twice. ‘to reach a state where I seem to be watching things happen as if I ever’. ‘Time Passes’ dwells on the deserted house like the verses of ‘In Memoriam’ which lament the lost rectory at Somersby: U nwatched. unhealthily. to undergoing psychoanalysis. ‘A Haunted House’. for her mother and her feelings of edgy solidarity with her siblings. To the Lighthouse is about her childhood. at the end of the meal. in a great. I expressed some very long felt and deeply felt emotion. she invented her own therapy – the narrative – and exorcised her obsession with both her parents. the Stephen children went back to Cornwall. we could go no further. . Willa Cather’s My Antonia or James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. and looked at it again: ‘It was a ghostly thing to do. ‘St Ives vanished for There was the house… there were the stone urns. And necessary act. Virginia Woolf’s childhood.74 These unhoused ghosts returning to the lost home have a strong Victorian feeling to them. and when it was written. that beech will gather brown. she says. in which ghosts break into the modern world – Leopold Bloom’s son Rudi and Stephen Dedalus’s mother in Joyce’s house’.68 I suppose that I did for myself what psychoanalysts do for their patients. and in The Years) and her dead brother (in Jacob’s Room and The Waves). And in expressing it I explained it and then laid it ‘Laid them in my mind’. perturbed spirit!’. all.’73 were there’. Then one day walking round Tavistock Square I made up. as I sometimes make up my books. but mercifully was not. It has that peculiarly intimate. apparently involuntary rush… I wrote the book very quickly. walked up to Talland House on the evening they arrived at St Ives. I no longer hear her voice. What would have happened? No writing. they are exorcised so that they will cause no more trouble to others. at which. I do not see her. and creeping away ‘like a thief’. ‘Laying’ is what is done to ghosts. Katherine Mansfield’s Prelude. ‘laid it to rest’. family and young adulthood were her essential But the simple reading is also right. U lysses. in spite of the fact that she died when I was thirteen. like George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss. that she felt the writing of the novel to be a way of pacifying their To the Lighthouse is a ghost story.69 The disembodied voices at the start of ‘Time Passes’ are the prologue to a more extended version of her early sketch. also seems. here. the ghost of Tiresias in The Waste Land and the ‘familiar compound ghost’ at the end of the Four Quartets – this fiction is itself a ‘haunted The mother died.Ramsay’s wanting to reach ‘R’ as Leslie Stephen’s lamentations in The Mausoleum Book. if we advanced the spell was broken. so far as we could see was as though we had but left it in the morning. looking in the window to see another man at his hearth with his wife and family. with its shipwrecked sailor returning years later to his old home. rest. as we knew well. and bid them depart.)67 now he comes back sometimes. Mrs Ramsay’s feast derives its magical quality from its mythical resemblance to the Dionysian feast for the souls of the dead. until I was forty-four. – inconceivable. To The Lighthouse. about a year and a half after finishing the book. but writing The Lighthouse laid them in my mind. (I believe this to be true – that I was obsessed by them both. Like other great modernist works of the time. immediately after that. His life would have entirely ended mine. The lights were not our lights. The writing of To the Lighthouse was the closest that Virginia Woolf came. but one is about her father and the other about her mother: for 1928. The tender blossom flutter down. She knew very well what she was doing for herself in writing To the Lighthouse. but also so that they can be ‘at rest’ themselves. many years later. against the bank of tall owers. once in the diary friends. The house in St Ives where the Stephen children had spent all their summers since they were born. and once. She repeatedly wrote about her dead parents (in The Voyage Out. But it ghosts. the voices were the voices of strangers. But yet. from her repeated choice of words when she describes this process. Both explanations refer to the writing of the novel in therapeutic terms. to rest. ‘Rest. U nloved. Night and Day. but differently. and with which Virginia Woolf identified her earliest memories of ‘the purest ecstasy I can conceive’.70 was given up after Julia’s death. no books. I used to think of him & mother daily.

Mr Ramsay ‘doing homage to the beauty of the world’ in the person of his wife and child sounds like Pater’s rhapsody over the Mona Lisa (even more so in the manuscript.83 In James’s Oedipal narrative.’ Mrs Ramsay thinks of her husband. ‘If she had said half what he said.76 One of Mr Ramsay’s bursts of quotation. Mr Ramsay’s enthusiasm for the ‘strength and sanity’ of Scott. And year by year the landscape grow Familiar to the stranger’s child. and has to justify to Mr Bankes the possibility that a purple triangle might Mrs Ramsay’s for the shape of the Shakespeare sonnet. (To the Lighthouse has a Victorian nonsense comedy in it.81) middle of the book. Mr Ramsay’s ‘little book’ (there are more clues to this in the manuscript78) is probably his Plato. the little book he finishes as his journey to the lighthouse ends (‘Mr Ramsay had almost done reading’ – and so have we when we read that). . there is a painful desire. ‘alone spoke the truth’. as a new kind of language and shape for fiction is invented. and Mr Ramsay bursting out of the bushes at Miss Giddings like the White Rabbit or Lear’s ‘Old Person of Buda. he thought as he finished the chapter’). The lost safe-house and garden are the traditions of writing from which the new writer has to travel. ‘modern’ novel. a language which has become a foreign tongue in the adult world but which can be recapitulated in dream or solitude. is a break with literary tradition as much as with childhood. but her deep sense of the cruelty and sadness of being alive are at the bottom of the whole novel. but the wish for death. remembers her mother speaking a rhythmical and nonsensical nursery language of mountains and birds and gardens to send her to sleep. Mrs Ramsay and Prue stepping with their wreaths and flowers across the fields are Demeter and Proserpine as imagined by Swinburne or the Pre-Raphaelites or Julia Margaret Cameron. out into formidable space. to rediscover the true language of the garden. and the ‘undifferentiated voices’79 of the Greek chorus are imitated in the ‘stray airs’ of ‘Time Passes’. neo-classical pastoral has passed: this is a twentieth-century. & apparently free to do exactly what I like?8 2 But the time of Victorian. is it brilliance? Why am I so flown with words. or Arcadia. In this Greek lament translated to the fields of Oxfordshire. heart-wearying roar’. She goes into action at the dinner party like a sailor who sets off again wearily. it alarmed and liberated her: I cannot make it out – here is the most di cult abstract piece of writing – I have to give an empty house.’ To the Lighthouse has the emotions of a Victorian pastoral elegy. The savage break of narrative down the This drastic break marks an intensified struggle for form in ‘Time Passes’ and ‘The Lighthouse’ (notice how much harder it is to remember the order things take in these parts). before the wheel went over a foot. but would almost rather have ‘found rest on the floor of the sea’. ‘had never heard how she had died: only “Suddenly” ’85). In the last part of the book. To the Lighthouse has so much to do with endings To the Lighthouse is about something ending. Eden. The novel is explicit about this process of invention: constant comparisons are made between the form this narrative is taking. ‘Time Passes’ was her most adventurous departure from traditional representation. So Lily is well aware that ‘she could have done it differently of course’. where the world of his mother’s language is described as ‘that miraculous garden… before the fall of the world (& he did really divide time into the space before the catastrophe. ‘that miraculous garden’ which precedes the law of the father. which they associate with Mrs Ramsay. lost scholar and poet. the poet looks back on his Arcadia from ‘the great town’s harsh. images and shapes – that first. in the manuscript. Whose conduct grew ruder and ruder’. This is even more explicit in the manuscript. where she looks like ‘the profound spirit brooding over the waters of life’80). is Matthew Arnold’s ‘Thyrsis’. full of classical decorations and allusions – Helen. It is. too. with Augustus Carmichael as the Dormouse at the Mad Hatter’s tea party. of course. in the manuscript. But the new represent the Madonna and Child just as well as a painting by Raphael or Titian. the voices were the voices of strangers. Cam. no people’s characters. Bacchus and Neptune. and it contains a number of endings: Mrs Ramsay’s story to James (‘And that’s the end’). vanished language.This maple burn itself away… Till from the garden and the wild A fresh association blow. Is it nonsense. and Lily’s ‘vision’. and the previous. I rush at it. But the Greekness of To the Lighthouse is filtered through the The family setting in To the Lighthouse is also a lost garden. On the first page. James and Cam. often remembered (by Lily or Mr Bankes) from the limbo of the ‘great town’. crushing it. let them improve upon that.75 ‘The lights were not our lights. & at once scatter out two pages. the feast for the dead and the journey to the underworld. well. felt in different ways by Lily. In the boat he tries to get back to the sound of the garden. all eyeless & featureless with nothing to cling to. There is a Tennysonian mood to it. so that there is an odd tension in the book between the experimental and the nostalgic. I don’t suppose Mrs Ramsay kills herself (though Lily. is a place where ‘people spoke in an ordinary tone of voice’ and where his mother volume of Middlemarch left on the train by Minta Doyle. not just people dying and being mourned. and writing keeps trying to find its way back into the past. and longs for the language in which the Greek elegiac poets could invoke Proserpine or Orpheus. Demeter and Persephone. and his father’s world of rain and greyness took over. too. build in a challenge to this poetic fiction (as Lily is challenged by the ‘formidable’ space of her untried canvas) to equal its literary predecessors. the passage of time. ‘she would have blown her brains out by now’. nineteenth century.84 The novel’s task is to make its new language re-embody – through rhythm. & the space after)’. the last because its subject is death. established forms against which it has to measure itself. James has the colours and sounds of that garden as his ‘secret language’. like Lily’s line down the middle of her painting. the end of Scott’s story about poor Steenie drowning that Mr Ramsay reads after dinner (‘Well.77 the elegy for Arthur Clough.

The ending of the novel is poised between arriving and returning. like the novel. getting somewhere (‘he must have reached it’) and being finished. but liable always to shapelessness – keeps having to be reaffirmed. And Mrs Ramsay returns at the end as the model for Lily’s painting. the one Mrs Ramsay has in journeys to the lighthouse. There are two lighthouses. yes. The ‘yes’ of narrative – something shaped. the one Lily starts in ‘The Window’ and the one she starts again in ‘The Lighthouse’. and an immediately vanished past (‘I have had my vision’). there are recurrences. too. give off ‘constantly a sense of repetition’. in the same position she took up in This dark book of loss and grief begins and ends with sentences starting ‘Yes’: yes. The Ramsays’ lives. There are two paintings. Hermione Lee 1991 ‘The Window’. . A number of things happen twice. the promised and the actual. as seen by James: ‘For nothing was simply one thing’.mind in ‘The Window’ (from which her sons and daughters disappear ‘directly the meal was over’) and the one we see in full. There are two dinner parties. though. There are two As well as endings. and a tentative conditional future (‘if it’s fine to-morrow’).

21. 110. 18. Letter to Ottoline Morrell. p. P. 8. 5 Sept. Letters. III.. p. III. p. p. 106. 378. 13. 7 Dec. Virginia Woolf. II.. 26. 1924. p. 16 March 1926.. 5 Sept. 30 July 1925. 13 May 1927. Note 67. Letter to Vita Sackville-West. pp. 1925. III. CE. III. p. 7. Letter to Vanessa Bell. 15 May 1927. III. 22. 1985. Letter to Vita Sackville-West. 20. 58. 47–50. appendix A. 271). p. Letter to Vanessa Bell. Letters. 14 May 1925. Letters. 14. 2.. p. 19. 374. 9. The Complete Shorter Fiction. ibid. ibid. Diary. ibid. ed. ibid. 2. ibid. 5. in which she imagined a cinema of the future that would use its ‘picture making power’ to make thoughts visible. 3. 4. 14 March 1927. 15. 169.. 16 Sept. 370. 106. III. p. p. 131–2.. 24. MS. 249. 374. pp. p. pp. 17. Woolf wrote an essay called ‘Cinema’ in April 1926. Letter to Vita Sackville-West. who makes this connection between the form of TL and her vision of Santa Sophia. 1925. 134. 112). Susan Dick (Hogarth Press. 10. 1926. II. 33.NOTES 1. 11. like smoke pouring from Vesuvius (CE. 34. Quoted by Lyndall Gordon in Virginia Woolf: A Writer’s Life (OU P. 13 Sept. 5 May 1927. III. 3. pp. III. 103. 1925. ibid. II. 30. 175–7. III. 23. ibid. p. 13 May 1927. 28. 6. p. 189–94. 16. P. ibid. Letter to Vita Sackville-West. IV. pp.. p. p. Letters. 317. 194–5. 179. 208. 31. 203. III. 27. 49. 8 May 1927. p. p. 34. p. 7. Diary. 39.. 18–19. 217. See ‘The Window’. III. III. p. 37. Letter to Roger Fry. Letters. 44–5. 32. 17 Oct. p. 3. 13 May 1927. Letters. 27 June 1925. 29. 1926. Diary. 20 July 1925. pp. pp. III. p. ibid. 14 June 1925. CE. 12. Letters. . 1984. p. 29 Sept. MS. p. ibid. p. 1926. 197). p. 1926. while in the early stages of writing TL. 36. 8 Feb. Diary. 25. III. MS. 1925. III. 29. 373. Diary. Diary.. Diary. 8 April 1925. Diary. 31 July 1926. Diary. 5 Sept..

56. 132. 49. 39. p. 25 May 1927. p. 62. p. III. Moments of Being. On p. p. and the Ramsays’ abandoned house. 372. III. 5 Sept. p. 1926.. ibid. Letter to Vanessa Bell. 216. There were two first editions. Letters. p. Letter to Vita Sackville-West. p.. Letter to Vita Sackville-West. p. III. II. 236. 1926. 67.. 137. 109. American and English. 66. 27 May 1927. 227. . ibid. III. which contain considerable variations. pp. p. 61. 37. ibid. ibid. 152. 36. 1927. 1926. 13 Sept. p. p. Letter to Vanessa Bell. p. 46. Letter to Angus Davidson. first American edn (Harcourt. 1928. ibid.. Diary. Diary. 51. As the name Bast suggests. Diary. 310. 197. Letter to Vita Sackville-West. Letters. 55. 1926.. 290. 43.. ibid. p. Diary. 21 March 1927. MS. 16 March 1926. ‘The Window’. Letters. 1923. p. 81. 50. 28 Nov. 58. 109. 52. 114. 13 Sept. 60. 105. ibid. p. 29. 54. 31 Jan. 117. Letter to Roger Fry.. See Appendix II for the main differences between the two texts. 136. 316. Diary. 148. ibid. 1925. p. 23 Nov. Brace & Co. p. p. ibid. 5 May 1927). 44. 203. 113.. ibid. 7 Dec. 58. 48. III. 41. Moments of Being. 208. 122. 23 Jan. 247. Letter to Vita Sackville-West. 42. MS. 1926. 126–7. she describes the Stephen children as a ‘republic’. Even at the proof-reading stage she was making changes.. p. pp. Letters. p. 1928. See ‘The Window’.. 68. Mrs Ramsay slightly resembles Mrs Wilcox. 1926. p. 226. 1926. p. ‘Howards End’. 1926. 383. p. 1926. MS. section 19. 23 Sept. 1926. 53. Note 102.35. 65. 8 May 1927. 63. 215. 45. 8 Feb. Letters. 3 Feb. 50. p. 30 Oct. and to Forster’s feeling that the middle classes might be redeemed by an injection of life from below. 1925. 47. 107. 40. 30 Sept. To the Lighthouse. Moments of Being. 64. Letter to Vita Sackville-West. 7 Nov. 38. 1926. 16 Jan. p. there is a resemblance to Howards End. p. Letters. See note references to Moments of Being. III. p. 385. MS. 59. III. 57. ibid. 238. 7 Jan.. MS. III. III.. 25 Dec. 123. III. p.

74. See ‘The Window’. 78. 72. 81. A Passionate Apprentice. p. 1922). MS. 303.. Aug. ibid. 5). 1969 P. Note 32. I. 65. 75. 1905. ‘On Not Knowing Greek’ (CE. Diary. p. See ‘The Lighthouse’. p. 14). 79. 85. The Complete Nonsense of Edward Lear (Faber. 1903. 80. 76. 83. p. Note 20. 69. MS. p. See ‘The Window’. ed. p. Woolf would have read about this in her friend Jane Harrison’s Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion (CU P. 1908. MS. Note 77. 204. 18 April 1926. See ‘The Window’. 309. ‘The Lighthouse’. Note 12.69. closely resembles Lacan’s account of the child’s entry into the symbolic order. 76. 77. Lyndall Gordon notes that Woolf again returned to Talland House in 1936. Ricks (Longman. C. III. Letter to Violet Dickinson. rhythmic language with the law of the father. ibid. Moments of Being. Further Reading . 84. 71. p. Note 40. Letters. 282. 73. The replacement of the maternal. 67. 117. I. The Poems of Alfred Tennyson. 82. 70. 1947.. p. 954). p. p. ‘Diary 1905’. the summer she was writing The Waves and close to a breakdown. p.

to which I would add Noel Annan’s Leslie Stephen: The Godless Victorian (Weidenfeld & 1978). Lyndall Gordon’s Virginia Woolf: A Writer’s life (OU P. Scott in TL. For the mythology of the novel. 1972. W. 2. and Maria di Battista. 1984). ch. ‘The Brown Stocking’ in Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature (1946) (trans. in addition to 90 general critical books and 257 general critical articles. ‘The First editions of Virginia Woolf s To the Lighthouse’ in Proof (No. see J. Macmillan. ‘Mothers and Daughters in Virginia Woolf’s Victorian Novel’ in Bearing the Word: Language and Female Experience in Nineteenth-Century Morris Beja. ‘Some Female Versions of Pastoral: The Voyage Out and Matriarchal Mythologies’ in New Feminist Essays on Virginia Woolf (ed. 7. spring 1979. 1972). 547 ff. For interesting feminist readings of TL. see S. Madeline Moore. Virginia Woolf: Feminist Destinations. Rice’s Virginia Woolf: A Guide to Research (Garland. pp. For the NO. and there has been a great deal more written since then. 1986). Jane Marcus. 1984) and Phyllis Rose’s Woman of Letters: A Life of Virginia Woolf (OU P. For illuminating discussions of the narrative methods of TL. 1956. Princeton U niversity Press. transcribed and edited by Susan Dick (Toronto U niversity Press. For Walter evolution of the text of TL. Virginia Woolf s Major Novels: The Fables of Anon (Yale U niversity Press. 1983). J. 1953) and chapter fourteen of Allen McClaurin’s Virginia Woolf. essential biographical reading is still Quentin Bell’s two volume biography Virginia Woolf (Hogarth Press. Nicolson. 1982. La vin. 1988) and Margaret Homans. A Note on the Text . pp. vol. see Joseph Blotner. see Erich Auerbach. 82–104). pp. 2. see Rachel Bowlby. A. Out of all this. Trask. Women’s Writing (Chicago U niversity Press. 4. 1984). I list my essential primary sources in the Bibliographical Note. 14–24). 71. 185–211) and To the Lighthouse: The Original Holograph Draft. 1970). (Blackwell. Macmillan. Hogarth Press. Cohan. The Echoes Enslaved (CUP. 1980). lists 107 articles on TL. pp.). ‘Mythic Patterns in To the Lighthouse’ (PMLA. ‘Why Mr Ramsay reads The Antiquary’ in Women and Literature (No.Further Reading T. 1981. There is a useful collection of essays in Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse: A Casebook (ed. 1973).

the form which it takes on its two closely following occurrences. Smith. in the main. the printing of the secondary quotation marks when Mrs Ramsay is speaking aloud the dialogue in the story she is reading to James) have not been listed. 1982. contain a large number of substantive and accidental variant readings. The Hogarth Press. the insertion of are few in number it would be unprofitable to draw readers’ attention to them. two years after the author’s death. and others may have been (Oxford.A Note on the Text The text of this edition of To the Lighthouse is based on the original British edition published by Leonard and Virginia Woolf at The Hogarth Press on 5 May 1927. neither the list in the Concordance to To the Lighthouse edited by James M. which is housed in the New York Public Library (Henry W. M. The original holograph draft. ‘dower’ for ‘power’ on p. was not corrected in a Hogarth Press edition until 1943. Haule and Philip H. did not alter the two sets of proofs consistently. and also one new substantive error. & R. 47. Clark. The half-dozen substantive emendations introduced into the 1930 ‘New Edition’ are independent of the American edition. though it represents an earlier stage in composition than the typescript and the revised proofs. Brace Jovanovich Harvest edition. and the Harcourt The two first editions. again by a copy editor. Berg Collection) and which has been edited by Susan Dick (Toronto U niversity Press. though corrected in the American edition (undoubtedly by a copy editor).21. and Albert A. Nor. with brief textual notes where these are appropriate. 119 (this edition. which was perpetuated in subsequent British editions from The Hogarth Press (1932–77). 1983) nor that in the Definitive Collected Edition of the Novels of Virginia Woolf (The Hogarth Press. 62. When Virginia Woolf’s diction is idiosyncratic (for instance. been interfered with. Such non-substantive emendations as have been made (for instance. of which a second impression appeared in June 1927 and a third impression in May 1928. is of some evidential value. It has. The first American edition was published by Harcourt.17. What is certain is that Virginia Woolf never emended the British first edition by collating the American one. In 1930 a ‘New Edition’ was published. where ‘flown’ is intended to be the past participle of the verb ‘flow’. British and American. Some of these substantive variants are no doubt the result of printers’ errors. the ‘d’ is in fact an inverted ‘p’. number of substantive emendations have been either adopted or conjectured. follow it without variation. p. 1983). not that of the verb ‘fly’) it has not. been carefully scrutinized.83. Dent & Sons (1938) and Granada Publishing (1977). 25. 1990) includes all of them. but the majority must be due to the fact that Virginia Woolf. p. the substantive ones alone total 174. evidently the first letter of the line had worked loose and been wrongly replaced). A small introduced by an American copy editor. it included a few substantive emendations. has her inconsistent and idiosyncratic punctuation. p. Jr selection is given in Appendix II. Later impressions of this edition. Stella McNichol 1991 with a comma and neglecting to end it with one). a list of these is given in Appendix I. ‘Tears had flown in her presence’. irritating though many readers will find it (particularly her frequently beginning a subordinate clause first British edition’s ‘sand hills’ as ‘sandhills’. or. by dividing the first subsection into two. of course. Brace & Company on 5 May 1927. however. (In Dent’s 1938 edition it had been guessingly rectified. and a . and marking one set of proofs for return to her Edinburgh printers (R.) There is nothing to show that Virginia Woolf so much as saw a copy of the American first edition. Limited) and another set for forwarding to her American publishers. though they For these reasons the first British edition has been taken as the basis of this Penguin edition. published on the same day.25. revising her novel while it was in proof. p. J. and the mis-numbering of subsections 2 to 14 of ‘The Lighthouse’.

.Facsimile of the title page of the first edition.

TO THE LIGHTHOUSE .

52 TAVISTOCK SQUARE. W. LONDON.C. 1927 .TO THE LIGHTHOUSE VIRGINIA WOOLF PUBLISHED BY LEONARD & VIRGINIA WOOLF AT THE HOGARTH PRESS.

Contents I The Window II Time Passes III The LightHouse I .

standing. never tampered with a fact. even old Badger without a tooth in his head had bit him.’ said Mrs. ruled India. Heaven it was none of her daughters! – who did not feel the worth of it. it was to be given to the Lighthouse keeper for his little boy. to chase them all the way up to the Hebrides7 when it was ever so much nicer to be alone. and all that it implied. one must take them whatever comforts one can. cloud what is actually at hand. Prue mocked him. who was threatened with a tuberculous hip. up and down the terrace. and had to lodge some in the town. for their chivalry and valour. to give those poor fellows who must be bored to death sitting all day with nothing to do but polish the lamp and trim the wick and rake about on their scrap of garden. rooks cawing. something trustful. Since he belonged. never altered a disagreeable childhood that life is difficult. if it’s fine to-morrow. addressing herself particularly to her daughters. something to amuse them. Jasper. since to such people even in earliest childhood any turn in the wheel of sensation has the power to crystallise and transfix the moment upon which its gloom or radiance rests. grinning sarcastically.’ said his father. for being (as Nancy put it) the hundred and tenth young man ‘Nonsense. for reasons she could not explain. his great admirers. with their joys and sorrows. word to suit the pleasure or convenience of any mortal being. Had there been an axe handy. she could not bear incivility to her guests. frowning slightly at the sight of human a stern and momentous enterprise in some crisis of public affairs. lean as a knife. ‘exceptionally able’. facts uncompromising. – if they were ill. Roger mocked him.3 endowed the picture of a refrigerator as his mother spoke with heavenly bliss. Yes. indeed whatever she could find lying about. It was always true. the sound of poplar trees. making some little twist of the reddish-brown stocking she was knitting. To her son these words conveyed an extraordinary joy. if they had fallen down and broken their legs or arms. What he said was true. but must let future prospects. after a night’s darkness and a day’s sail. but at the same time. there and then. brooms knocking. narrow as the blade of one. to that great clan which cannot keep this feeling separate from that. Ramsay excited in his children’s breasts by his mere presence.6 holding his bony fingers spread so that the wind blew through them. and some tobacco. not to know how your children were. impatiently. for he was sharing Mr. and possibly more in stormy weather. our frail all. imagined him all red and ermine on the Bench or directing ‘But.’ James would have seized it. and then a dreadful storm coming. ‘It’s due west. rather differently. Apart from the habit of exaggeration which they had from her. he had looked forward. ‘But you’ll have to be up with the lark.I THE WINDOW1 1 ‘Yes. ‘The atheist’. of course. Ramsay would straighten his back and narrow his little blue eyes upon the horizon). not to see your wife. Ramsay. Ramsay admitted. It was fringed with joy. and to see nobody. Ramsay. watching him guide his scissors neatly round the refrigerator. she would not let them laugh at him. and make James still more disappointed. Ramsay’s evening walk up and down. and the passage to that fabled land where our brightest hopes are extinguished. to the marrow of her bones. truth. Rose mocked him. James Ramsay.’ said Mrs. her husband said. but also with some secret conceit at his own accuracy of judgement. Indeed. as if it were settled the expedition2 were bound to take place. and come there for a holiday. though he appeared the image of stark and lawn-mower. if they did go to the Lighthouse after all. courage. So she added.’ said the atheist Tansley. Andrew. and the power to endure. who was ten thousand times better in every way than he was (James thought). with great severity. Ramsay.5 together with a pile of old magazines. dresses rustling – all these were so coloured uncompromising severity. so that his mother. Mrs. least of all of his own children. above ‘But it may be fine – I expect it will be fine. to see the same dreary waves breaking week after week. reverential. leaves whitening before rain. within touch. childlike. and the wonder to which frailty. not really wanted. they called him. and from the implication (which was true) that she asked too many people to stay. if you were married. who were poor as church mice. should be aware from barks4 founder in darkness (here Mr. for years and years it seemed. one that needs. for the fact that they men in particular. or any weapon that would have gashed a hole in his father’s breast and killed him. For how would you like to be shut up for a whole month at a time. the wind blew from the worst possible direction for landing at the Lighthouse.8 controlled finance. which an old woman could take from a young man without loss of dignity. and to have no letters or newspapers. he did say disagreeable things. a poker. was. not only with the pleasure of disillusioning his son and casting ridicule upon his wife. sprung from his loins. He was incapable of untruth. and birds dashed against the lamp. finally for an attitude towards herself which no woman could fail to feel or to find agreeable. The wheelbarrow. the and distinguished in his mind that he had already his private code. sitting on the floor cutting out pictures from the illustrated catalogue of the Army and Navy Stores.’ she added. stopping in front of the drawing-room window. ‘it won’t be fine. upon a rock the size of a tennis lawn? she would ask. and the windows covered with spray. even at the age of six. and not be able to put your nose out of doors for fear of being swept into the sea? How would you like that? she asked. it was odious of him to rub this in. who. ‘the little atheist’. negotiated treaties. as now. his secret language.’ said Mrs. impeccably candid and pure. If she finished it tonight. Such were the extremes of emotion that Mr. and woe betide the girl – pray . but only littering the room. and the whole place rocking. with his high forehead and his fierce blue eyes. That is to say. to young she had the whole of the other sex under her protection.

money. and Mrs. are enough. he was not satisfied. some less laborious way. in the hope that thus she would cease to be a she greatly admired. He couldn’t play cricket. fidgeting with something. some respect. a wilder life. paint-pots. They were so critical. that young man they laughed at. for had she not in her veins the blood of that very noble. ‘Damp. difference of opinion. There might be some simpler way. and not from the sluggish English. of the Bank of England and the Indian girlish hearts. It was not his face. That was what they talked about. She went from the dining-room. Nancy. an investigator. heaven knows. here or in London. people. her extreme courtesy. looking up from their plates. to some branch of mathematics or philosophy saw the light of She could not help laughing herself sometimes. if slightly mythical. been invited to stay with them in – the Isle of Skye. pinching his sleeve. standing by the drawing-room window. ‘Would it bore you to come with me. people. and it was only in silence. she said. their fastnesses in a house where there was no other privacy to debate anything. ten minutes later. and made them. and saying who had won this. speaking accurately. Minta Doyle and Paul Rayley. which was in the towels too. about something interesting. flannels. She wished they would both leave her and James alone and go on talking. of rich and poor. the passing of the Reform Bill. her cheek sunk. like a Queen’s chased them to – or. he shuffled. When they talked complained of about Charles Tansley was that until he had turned the whole thing round and made it somehow reflect himself and disparage picture galleries. half a relief to her own curiosity. perhaps. the children said. one did not. and the things she saw with her own eyes. his books. who was ‘brilliant but I think fundamentally unsound’. but more profoundly she ruminated the other problem. Tansley’s tie. as they sat at table beneath their mother’s eyes. at fifty. who had won that. with Mr. who was undoubtedly the ‘ablest fellow in Balliol’. feeling himself out of things. But for her own part she would never for a single second regret her decision. so that She had a dull errand in the town. clapping his hands together as he stood at the window with her husband. or slur over duties. ink-pots. her children. not always taking Empire. however. Ramsay would like to see them. giving out a sense of being ready. He had been asked. who was basking with his yellow cat’s eyes ajar. of being equipped for a jaunt. the eight sons and daughters of Mr. Andrew said. anything. Ramsay sought their bedrooms.’ said Mr. He was a sarcastic brute. when she visited this widow.13 whose daughters. He had not chased them. not wet through. Ramsay. when she thus admonished them so very severely about that wretched atheist who had ‘There’ll be no landing at the Lighthouse to-morrow. as she knew without looking round. they said. And. she had a letter or two to write. Ramsay deplored. oh that they should begin so early. she thought. daily. in Paris. even said it was a fine evening so why not sit out of doors. said Rose. which called out the manliness in their raising from the mud a beggar’s dirty foot and washing it. but was bound to be heard of later when his Prolegomena. them. half grudging. And he would go to Disappearing as stealthily as stags from the dinner-table directly the meal was over. Surely. Carmichael. Augustus Carmichael. music. quite enough.12 and lit up bats. He had followed her into the drawing-room. had lisped so charmingly. her husband – they had all gone. for there was in all their minds a mute questioning of deference and chivalry. and become. When she looked in the glass9 and could sport with infidel ideas which they had brewed for themselves of a life different from hers. and the skulls of small birds. with her . said Charles Tansley. it was not his manners. were different enough without that. he had said enough. Rose – care of some man or other.She turned with severity upon Nancy. that her daughters – Prue. She had in mind at the moment. divisions. she would be ten minutes perhaps. elucidating the social problem. the other day. awkwardly. beetles. then what they But it was not that they minded.10 of which Mr. it seemed to her. he was standing by the table. holding James by the hand. up and down. The real differences. though to them all there was something in this of the essence of beauty. put them all on edge somehow with his acid way of peeling the flesh and blood off everything. did one like his tie? God knows. he poked. or the cold Scotch. possibly she might have managed things better – her husband. and all her wit and her bearing and her temper came from them. She said. They knew what he liked best – to be for ever walking up and down. They had all gone – the children. So she turned with a sigh and said. or that struggling wife in person with a bag on her arm. who had buried his light temporarily at Bristol or Bedford. after she had spoken so severely about Charles Tansley. They talked such nonsense. standing there. while the sun poured into those attics. It seemed to her such nonsense – inventing differences. while it drew from the long frilled strips of seaweed pinned to the Strife. she would put on her hat. She looked at him. She was now formidable to behold. holding James by the hand. to ask Mr. straw hats. and he would ask one. when people. employment and unemployment. Tansley?’ basket and her parasol. It was him – his point of view. rich and poor. He was such a miserable specimen. weekly.’ said Charles Tansley. Italian house. feeling his socks. wall a smell of salt and weeds. there she was again. honour her strange severity. since he would not go with the others. scattered about English drawing-rooms in the nineteenth century. private woman whose charity was half a sop to her own indignation. had stormed so wildly. They must find a way out of it all. of ringed fingers and lace. she must interrupt for a moment. and a note-book and pencil with which she wrote down in columns carefully ruled for the purpose wages and spendings. she sighed. what with her untrained mind Insoluble questions they were. day. all humps and hollows. which. who was a ‘first-rate man’ at Latin verses. the children said. saw her hair grey. ‘Aren’t you drenched to the skin?’ she had said. Mr. the great in birth receiving from her. high and low. it was a little rough. as they passed the tennis lawn. everything. Mrs. prejudices twisted into the very fibre of being. Tansley. which a plank alone separated from each other so that every footstep could be plainly heard and the Swiss girl sobbing for her father who was dying of cancer in a valley of the Grisons. gritty with sand from bathing. history. evade difficulties.11 sea-birds and butterflies. Tansley had the first pages in proof with him if Mr. Yes. something about ‘waves mountains high’. she thought.

first they mixed their own colours. for all that he was watched by ten little boys. Since Mr. even in its decay. imbuing the tip of his brush in some soft mound of green or pink. He wanted nothing. would have been to say how he had been to Ibsen16 with the Ramsays. Paunceforte18 had been there. she said. she said. ‘Let us go to the Circus. moment. still he went on talking. uninhabited of men. Holding her black parasol very erect. fading and falling. He was an awful prig – oh yes. as if she were going to meet someone round the corner. how beautiful!’ For the great plateful of blue water was before her. walking in a procession. repeating her words. she said. clicking them out. though they had reached the town now and were in the main street. she asked. as if he would have liked to reply kindly to these blandishments (she was seductive but a little nervous) but could not. instantly. if he wanted anything. stood one of them. stopping. it. that rattled itself off so glibly. translating a little poetry ‘very him. The vast flapping sheet flattened itself out. but to give no inkling of any inner thoughts or emotion whatsoever. had been longing all these days to say. which always seemed to be running away into some moon country. when he had gazed. she read out how it… ‘will visit this town. might he not carry that? No.’ he said. – he felt capable of enough. in a vast and benevolent lethargy of well-wishing. something in particular that excited him and disturbed him for reasons which he anything and saw himself – but what was she looking at? At a man pasting a bill. Ramsay. being willing to teach the boys Persian or Hindustanee. till she gathered that he had got back entire self-confidence. He keeps a shop. for example. glistening reds and blues. Ramsay could not help the right. too. But now. For they were making the great expedition. she said. beautifully smooth. and she would see to it that they didn’t laugh at him any more. lions. beautifully. as they went down the road to the fishing village. to have paid the fare. Ramsay did not quite catch the meaning. and he would have liked. it soothed him that Mrs. she always carried that could not give. Had they not been taken. going to India. with an air of profound contentment on his round red face. she told the story. His hands clasped themselves over his capacious paunch. tigers… Craning forwards. But no. A fellowship. with lemon-coloured sailing-boats. gowned and hooded. and was about (and now again she liked him warmly) to tell her – but here. ‘Let us all go!’ she cried. poor little man. they ground them. and working men. an affair at Oxford with some girl. and the whole bay spread before them and Mrs.’ No. she supposed. As for her little bag. herself. the houses falling away on both sides. and the marriage had been happy had they taken a cab. It was a large family. and teaching. which accounted. but said to herself that she saw now why going to the circus had knocked him off his perch. a hundred horsemen. took the greatest pains. and lectures. he smoked the cheapest tobacco. laughing. writing-paper.’ It was terribly dangerous work for a one-armed man. Charles Tansley revived. He would like her to see him. all the people in in moustache and beard that were otherwise milk-white. the same the old men smoked on the quays. only a few paces off. an insufferable bore. absorbedly.14 but what really was the use of that? – and then lying. softly. Ramsay should tell him this. all the world. until half the wall was covered with the advertisement of a circus. I believe’. she would tell Prue about it. the children thought. said Mrs. They were going to the town. But why not? she wondered. in soft low pleats.19 But her grandmother’s friends. sunk as he was in a grey-green somnolence which embraced them all. as she did the greatness of man’s intellect. growing greyer-eyed. they came out on the quay. artists had come here. nine brothers and sisters. for the vivid streak of canary-yellow He should have been a great philosopher. and then She paused a moment. and then. with carts grinding past on the cobbles. hoops. on the lawn. dipping. without need of words. Insinuating. he wanted nothing. she exclaimed. yellow boots. and helping our own class. how they did not go to circuses. gazing. three years before. Mrs. twenty performing seals. horses. for she was shortsighted. at the ‘Let’s go. in Panama hat and exclaiming. and moving with an indescribable air of expectation. For. in the midst. he answered. austere. tobacco?’ she suggested. the hoary17 Lighthouse. He could never ‘return hospitality’ (those were his parched stiff words) at college. but he had made an unfortunate marriage. She did too. about settlements. all the pictures were like that she said.like a cat’s they seemed to reflect the branches moving or the clouds passing. to circuses when they were children? Never. snubbed as he had been. he felt that in her. with a self-consciousness that made her wince. and on . to stand on top of a ladder like that – his left arm had been cut off in a reaping machine two years ago. all the house. He felt many things.15 ‘My father is a chemist. for he had slipped into his glass at lunch a few drops of something. He worked hard – seven hours a reply to. moving on. no. and his father was a without a greatcoat in winter. What was wrong with him then? She liked him warmly. the subjection of all wives – not that she blamed the girl. She could not follow the ugly academic jargon. his eyes blinked. glancing discreetly as they passed. seriously. distant. ‘Stamps. poverty. as if she asked the very thing he wanted to working man. shag. What he would have liked. stopping by his side. a professorship. his subject was now the influence of something upon somebody – they were walking on and Mrs. He had to make things last twice day. and pink women on the beach. Ramsay. ‘Oh. That was the view. Yes. and why he came out. she made him feel better pleased with himself than he had done yet. as if all those riders and horses had filled her with child-like exultation and made her forget her pity. and each shove of the brush revealed fresh legs. Often he went the time other people did. however. here and there… dissertation… fellowship… readership… lectureship. There indeed. and then they put damp cloths on them to keep them moist. He could not feel it right. she said. the green sand dunes with the wild flowing grasses on them. only the words. he murmured. as far as the eye could see. as they saw It flattered him. with all that about his father and mother and brothers and sisters. that her husband loved. had recovered from the circus.’ He himself had paid his own way since he was thirteen. an early marriage. He could not say it right. green and grey. she believed – to their husband’s labours.

There he stood in the parlour of the poky little house where she had taken him. while for the first time in his life Charles Tansley felt an extraordinary pride. tea-caddies. Stepping through fields of flowers and taking to her breast buds that had broken and lambs that had fallen. a man digging in a drain stopped digging and looked at walking with a beautiful woman for the first time in his life.what one said? U nder the influence of that extraordinary emotion which had been growing all the walk. when. determined to carry her bag. felt the wind and the cyclamen and the violets for he was 2 . glass shades. stood for a moment silent (as if she had been pretending up there. with cyclamen and wild violets – what nonsense was he thinking? She was fifty at least. It was awfully strange. Elsie. had begun in the garden when he had wanted to take her bag. ‘Good-bye. and for a moment let herself be now). heard her voice cheerful. her. shut a door. Charles Tansley felt an extraordinary pride. suddenly. then low. ask at the house for anything they wanted (she must be talking to a child). then heard her come out. she had the corner. had increased in the town when he had wanted to tell her everything about himself. He heard her quick step above. waiting for her. say they must keep the windows open and the doors shut. while she went upstairs a moment to see a So Mr.’ she said. looked forward eagerly to the walk home. and they walked up the street. Tansley supposed she meant him to see that that man’s picture was skimpy. with the stars in her eyes and the wind in her hair – He took her bag. in she came. she holding her parasol erect and walking as if she expected to meet someone round With stars in her eyes and veils in her hair. He had hold of her bag.20 and all at once he realised that it was this: it was this: – she was the most beautiful person he had ever seen. let his arm fall down and looked at her. eight children. stood quite motionless for a moment against a picture of Queen Victoria wearing the blue ribbon of the Garter. looked at the mats. waited quite impatiently. was that what one said? The colours weren’t solid? Was that woman. he was coming to see himself and everything he had ever known gone crooked a little.

why go on saying that? 3 .’ he said. thought Mrs. Ramsay. as he stood by the window. Odious little man. speaking awkwardly. James. Ramsay to soften his voice into some semblance of geniality at least. but trying in deference to Mrs.2 ‘No going to the Lighthouse.

If her husband requited sacrifices (and indeed he did) she cheerfully offered up to him Charles Tansley. with his caustic saying that it would not be fine to-morrow. she reflected. The gruff murmur. but like a ghostly roll of drums remorselessly beat the measure of life. this sound.’ she said compassionately. and turn the pages of the Stores list in the hope that she might come upon something like a irregularly broken by the taking out of pipes and the putting in of pipes which had kept on assuring her. but she was an independent little creature. she saw. That was of little account to her. for her husband. she listened. All these young men parodied her husband. This going to the Lighthouse was a passion of his. she concluded that poor Charles Tansley had been shed. Lily’s picture! Mrs. which had lasted now half an hour and had taken its place soothingly in if to recoup her for her unnecessary expense of emotion. and that did not matter. smoothing his hair. with her head raised. though she could not hear what was said the scale of sounds pressing on top of her. suddenly her search for the picture of a rake or a mowing-machine was interrupted. something between a croak and a song. some regular mechanical sound. they said it would be a positive tornado. sudden bark now and then. half roused.22 (as she sat in the window). as much in the same position as possible for Lily’s picture. amused. made her turn apprehensively to see if any one heard him. who had snubbed her little boy. as if her husband had not said enough. smoothing the little boy’s hair. half chanted. was cool. made one think of the destruction of the island and its engulfment in the sea. she was glad to find. and even faintly malicious. had dashed his spirits she could see. she was soothed once more. Ramsay smiled. especially when her mind raised itself slightly from the task actually in hand. half said. as her husband beat up and down the terrace.3 ‘Perhaps you will wake up and find the sun shining and the birds singing. as if she waited for some habitual sound. Ramsay liked her for 4 . and then. which for the most part beat a measured and soothing tattoo to her thoughts and seemed consolingly to repeat over and over again as she sat with the children the words of some old cradle song. Mrs. such as the tap of balls21 upon bats. and then. Falling in one second from the tension which had gripped her to the other extreme which. assured again that all was well. she was supposed to be keeping her head face she would never marry. murmured by nature. as she turned the page. With her little Chinese eyes and her puckered-up it. and rubbed it in all over again. so that the monotonous fall of the waves on the beach. she bent her head. something about Stormed at with shot and shell23 sung out with the utmost intensity in her ear. but at other times suddenly and unexpectedly. Suddenly a loud cry. as of a sleep-walker. with its prongs and its handles. which. that the men were happily talking. ‘How’s that? How’s that?’ of the children playing cricket. this odious little man went ‘Perhaps it will be fine to-morrow. Only Lily Briscoe. They had ceased to talk. had ceased. would need the greatest skill and care in cutting out. rake. the sharp. had no such kindly meaning. beginning in the garden. as hearing something rhythmical. he said it would rain. and warned her whose day had slipped past in one quick doing after another that it was all ephemeral as a rainbow – this sound which had been obscured and concealed under the other sounds suddenly thundered hollow in her ears and made her look up with an impulse of terror. All she could do now was to admire the refrigerator. that was the explanation. and so remembering her promise. But the sight of the girl standing on the edge of the lawn painting reminded her. ‘I am guarding you – I am your support’. one could not take her painting very seriously. and looking down at the book on her knee found the picture of a pocket knife with six blades which could only be cut out if James was very careful. or a mowing-machine. with his caustic saying that it would not be fine. One moment more. But here.’ she said.

standing there. with all her senses quickened as they were. he almost knocked her easel over. Together they had seen a thing they had not been meant to see. a botanist. shouting. straining. walking in. which. a fountain boat. at the side. certainly. but let They had rooms in the village. waving. but somehow divined. so commandingly. Then that the whole thing changed. Tansley. at the line. the pulse of colour flooded the bay with blue. between which the blue waters of the bay looked bluer than ever. behind the great black rock. So. so that one had to watch for it and it was a delight when it came. turned a silver wing in the air. and then. he had noticed too. alone: poor. and so to clasp some miserable remnant The jacmanna was bright violet. They both felt a common hilarity. he turned sharp. on the pale semicircular beach. And that was what Lily kept a feeler on her surroundings lest someone should creep up. They had encroached upon a privacy. mercifully. which a thousand forces did their best to pluck from her. to that break in the thick hedge. yes. and the heart expanded with it and the body swam. Paul Rayley. and rooks dropping cool cries from the high blue. the usual direction. Now. looking. she was safe. She would not have considered it honest to tamper with the bright violet and the staring beneath the colour there was the shape. he believed. Even while she looked at the mass. the middle of September. and partly because distant views seem to outlast by a million years (Lily thought) the gazer and to be communing already with a sky which beholds an earth entirely at rest. white. gesticulating. He glared at them without seeming to see them. about one thing and another which made them allies. It was as if the water floated off and set sailing thoughts which had grown stagnant on dry land. and had much ado to control her impulse to fling herself (thank Heaven she had always resisted so far) at Mrs. only the next instant to be checked and chilled by the prickly blackness on the ruffled waves. presumably. shivered. Her shoes were excellent. flashed. And it was then too. It was September after all. It was in that moment’s flight between the picture and her canvas that the demons set on her who often brought her – struggling against terrific odds to maintain her courage. since she saw them like that. at Mrs. as she would have done had it been Mr. Ramsay’s knee and say to her – but what could one say to her? ‘I’m in love with you?’ No. this is what I see’. for it was bright enough. when she looked: it was when she took her brush in hand to the verge of tears and made this passage from conception to work as dreadful as any down a dark passage for a child. that was not true. That did make them both vaguely uncomfortable. had said little things about the soup. Never was anybody at once so ridiculous and so alarming. excited by the moving waves. guarded by red-hot pokers like brasiers of clear They came there regularly every evening drawn by some need. she was aware of someone Briscoe could not have endured. past the tennis lawn. having sliced a curve in the bay. a widower. when Ramsay bore down on them. and so. side by ‘It suddenly gets cold. he felt certain. Such she often felt herself of her vision to her breast. One could not say what one meant. She would come. it was probably an excuse of his for moving. So off they strolled down the garden in burning coal. and past six in the evening. ‘I’m in love with this all’. but. up of white water. but with a good sense which made her in his eyes superior to that young lady.’ she said. The sun seems to give less heat. in that chill and windy way. so that when he stood beside her now in his judicial way (he was old enough to be her father too. fashionable though it was. waving her hand at the hedge. Paunceforte’s visit. for instance. keeping house for her father off the Brompton house starred in its greenery with purple passion flowers. looking about her. Bankes almost immediately say something about its being chilly and suggest taking a stroll. turn her canvas upon the grass. He just stood there. parting late on door-mats. past the pampas grass. and then by the swift cutting race of a sailing after this swift movement. Minta Doyle. Ramsay sitting in the window with James. and without the complexion or the allurement of Miss Doyle shouting. So now she laid her brushes neatly in the box. from the footfall. up before breakfast and off to paint. to die gloriously she supposed upon the heights of Balaclava. to see everything pale. one watched. that there forced themselves upon her other things. stopped. semi-transparent. and then. Lodging in the same house with her. at the children? It was absurd. First. and instead of merriment felt come over them some sadness – because the . Miss Briscoe.4 Indeed. Ramsay glared at them. to say: ‘But this is what I see. smelling of soap. let its sail drop down. coming towards her. very scrupulous and clean) she just stood there. walking out. coming down upon her with his hands waving. But something moved. she did it stand. her own inadequacy. Lily thought. or practically anybody else. shouting out ‘Boldly we rode and well’. about the children. Someone had blundered. and gave to their bodies even some sort of physical relief. the to paint. Then. the wall staring white. wave after wave shedding again and again smoothly a film of mother-of-pearl. it was impossible. she coming out of the house. Mr. both of them looked at the dunes far away. She could see it all so clearly. not. while one waited for that. But so long as he kept like that. that made Mr. understood. for getting out of earshot. the grass still a soft deep green. and rode off. as she began Road. with a natural instinct to complete the picture. They allowed the toes their natural expansion. and suddenly she should find her picture looked at. he would not stand still and look at her picture. elegant. since Mr. at the colour. But it was with difficulty that she took her eyes off her picture. almost every evening spurted irregularly. William Bankes. But now. so that though her brush quivered. thing was completed partly. her insignificance. he observed. till the colour of the wall and the jacmanna24 beyond burnt into her eyes. and said to William Bankes: house. how orderly she was. They both smiled. William Bankes stood beside her.

pausing by the pear tree. And with a painful effort of concentration. bitterly. some tendency. Mrs. or upon its fishshaped leaves. Bankes felt aged The Ramsays were not rich. There was education now to be considered (true. stopping. it was his severity. ‘Subject and object and the nature of reality’. That was another. after which Ramsay had married. He must have dried and shrunk. weaknesses perhaps? It was astonishing that a man of his intellect could stoop so low as he did – but that was too harsh a phrase – reached the orchard. Ramsay had married. ‘think of his work!’ father’s books were about. naturally one could not be judged like an ordinary person. repetition. she had no notion what that meant. the pulp had gone out of their friendship. to repeat. he said. Ramsay had ruthless youngsters. No! no! no! she would not! She clenched her fist. William Bankes remembered (and this must refer to some actual incident). Bankes was alive to things Here was another of them. Then up rose in a fume the essence of his being. he thought. That was one sensation. She was wild and fierce. ‘give a flower to the gendeman’ as the nursemaid told her. That was it. whereas Bankes was childless and a widower – he was anxious that Lily Briscoe should not petered out on a Westmorland road. upon which Ramsay. She would not and saddened and somehow put into the wrong by her about his friendship. She was picking Sweet Alice on the bank. straddling her wings out in protection of a covey of little chicks. and it was a wonder how they managed to contrive it all. with the red fresh on his lips. one of those scrubbed board tables. Whose fault it was he could not say. after a time. Times without number. James the Ruthless. she longed to cherish that loneliness). how could she help it? – and Andrew brains. After that. She stamped. As for being sure which was which. Cam. ‘when you’re not there’. grained and knotted. envied him. But this was suddenly interrupted. often and often. Andrew the Just. how she was a favourite. destroyed something. where the hen spread her wings before her chicks. in its acuteness and reality laid up across the bay among the sandhills. strolling past. on that stretch of road. Prue the Fair – for Prue would have beauty. only. which caused Mr. Ramsay’s work. ‘Oh but. Ramsay’s youngest daughter. He called them privately after the Kings and Queens of England. Jasper this time. when she thought of Mr. Mr. his sympathy Looking at the far sandhills. ‘Think of a kitchen table then’. what came after was more or less amplification. scrupulously exact. was his He was anxious for the sake of this friendship and perhaps too in order to clear himself in his own mind from the imputation of having dried and shrunk – for Ramsay lived in a welter of children. He finished. but they had also. bare by years of muscular integrity. commiserated him. praise would be . And Mr. as if the Mr. well brushed. its four legs in air. his goodness. and their paths lying different ways. But the number of men who make a definite contribution to anything whatsoever is very small. you have neither wife nor child (without any sexual feeling. you are finer than Mr. all well grown. disparage Ramsay (a great man in his own way) yet should understand how things stood between them. not upon the silver-bossed bark of the tree. their friendship had which would not have struck him had not those sandhills revealed to him the body of his friendship lying with the red on its lips laid up in peat – for instance. up the drive. must require. as over her father’s. for they had Whenever she ‘thought of his work’ she always saw clearly before her a large kitchen table.’ said Lily. It lodged now in the fork of a pear tree. there had been. Bankes liked her for bidding him ‘think of his work’. He had thought of it. While he walked up the drive and Lily Briscoe said yes and no and capped his comments (for she was in love with them all. you are entirely impersonal. exquisitely judicial. to look at a picture of Vesuvius in eruption. Bankes to say.’ an odd illumination into his heart. She felt herself transfixed by the intensity of her perception. turning to walk back the other way. he had said. pointed his stick and said ‘Pretty – pretty.25 Andrew had said. and down poured in a ponderous avalanche all she felt about him. it would have been pleasant if Cam had stuck a flower in his coat or clambered over his shoulder. you are the finest human being that I know. whose virtue seems to have been laid reducing of lovely evenings. you live for science (involuntarily. William Bankes thought of Ramsay: thought of a road in Westmorland. sections of potatoes rose before her eyes). but upon a phantom kitchen table. by a hen. or in what order they came. Eight children! To feed eight children on philosophy! Yes. And. So she always saw. if one’s days were passed in this seeing of angular essences. when they met. angular. swinging Lily’s hand like a pump-handle something of her own perhaps) let alone the daily wear and tear of shoes and stockings which those ‘great fellows’. It was Andrew’s doing. she focused her mind. which stuck there. the little girl. in love with this world) he weighed Ramsay’s case. After that. ‘Ramsay is movement of his hand had released it. like the body of a young man laid up in peat for a century. what with one thing and another. with all their flamingo clouds and blue and silver to a white deal four-legged table (and it was a mark of the finest minds so to do). He had made a definite contribution to philosophy in one little book when he was only five and twenty. But in this dumb colloquy with the sand dunes he maintained that his affection for friendship. Bankes had thought it. I respect you (she addressed him silently) in every atom. that was beyond him. a scrubbed kitchen table. he told her. this one of those men who do their best work before they are forty’. They gave him something – William Bankes acknowledged that. you are not vain. repetition had taken the place of newness. his old friends could not but feel. What would a stranger think now? What did this Lily Briscoe think? Could one help noticing that habits grew on him? could depend so much as he did upon people’s praise. And when she said Heavens. Suddenly. She asked him what his eccentricities. which showed his simplicity. certainly for no one’s fault. Naturally. Begun long years ago. thought of Ramsay striding along a road by with humble things. Ramsay had in no way diminished. he said. Ramsay. It was to repeat that they met. but it seemed to him as if their friendship had ceased. Cam the Wicked. as if he had seen him divest himself of all those glories of isolation and austerity which crowned him in youth to cumber himself definitely with fluttering wings and clucking domesticities. there. as he passed. to have a shot at a bird. He turned from the view.himself hung round with that solitude which seemed to be his natural air. but there. the load of her accumulated impressions of him tilted up. nonchalantly.

raising his hand half-way to his face as if to avert. their normal gaze. pure-hearted. in and about the branches of the pear quicker and quicker exploded of its own intensity. until her thought which had spun stepped through the gap in the high hedge straight into Mr. Bankes) have two coats the other night and let Mrs. but in which he revelled – he turned abruptly. He is petty. like a company of gnats. flying from its fragments. he loves dogs and his children. Bankes. Ramsay’s mind. yet even in the moment of discovery was not to be routed utterly. was ashamed. he knows nothing about trifles. she remembered how he had brought a valet26 all the way up here. defiant with tragic intensity.an insult to you. They turned the way the starlings flew. and Lily Briscoe and Mr. cooks. symbol of her profound respect for Mr. over the terrace. You have greatness. egotistical. impressions pencil. generous. not. heroic man! But simultaneously. and there came. after all? Standing now. observed that the flock of starlings which Jasper had routed with his gun had settled on the tops of the elm trees. Did he not come down in tree. Following the scatter of swift-flying birds in the sky they His eyes. contradictory things. but Mr. so that even the fissures and poured in upon her of those two men. she continued. to brush off. by the pear tree. met theirs for a second. Bankes. glazed with emotion. as if he begged them to withhold for a moment what he knew to be inevitable. Ramsay to death. You have none. and the voice was her own voice saying without prompting undeniable. as if he impressed upon them his own child-like resentment of interruption. looking uneasily 5 . a shot went off close at hand. would prose for hours (until Mr. or disliking? And to those words. a fiery unworldliness. slammed his private door on them. Ramsay slammed out of the room) about salt in vegetables and the iniquity of English How then did it work out. Ramsay has none of it. what meaning attached. who boomed tragically at them. in an agony of peevish shame. Ramsay trim his hair into a pudding basin? All of this danced up and down. he is spoilt. each separate. vain. and trembled on the verge of recognition. but all marvellously controlled in an invisible elastic net – danced up and down in Lily’s mind. frightened. but then. selfish. Ramsay. objected to dogs on chairs. all this? How did one judge people. but was determined to hold fast to something of this delicious emotion. she felt released. apparently transfixed. but he has what you (she addressed Mr. He has eight. effusive. think of them? How did one add up this and that and conclude that it was liking one felt. tumultuous. ‘Someone had blundered!’ ‘Jasper!’ said Mr. he is a tyrant. and to follow her thought was like following a voice which speaks too quickly to be taken down by one’s humps on the bark of the pear tree were irrevocably fixed there for eternity. this impure rhapsody of which he up into the sky. he wears Mrs. everlasting. a flock of starlings. where still hung in effigy the scrubbed kitchen table.

‘My dear. That windows should be open. but then at home. ‘and now stand up. the hall door was open. and let me measure your leg. a tear fell. and inscribed by the hand of the poet himself: ‘For her whose wishes must be obeyed’… ‘The happier Helen28 of our days’… disgraceful to say. gave her. Their entrails.’ for they might go to the Lighthouse after all. she never spoke. She was silent always. for in his jealousy. her cherished? – and saw the room. but all in quite different with them – that would be something. He had cancer of the throat. ‘It’s too short. if Andrew really wished to dissect them. she thought. singleness of mind made her drop plumb like a stone. aslant in her white. Greek. she sighed. it sounded as if and doors shut – simple as it was. and there was room for visitors. and a photograph or two.30 the Swiss girl. mountains are so beautiful. die waters swayed this way and that. with hands that shut and spread like a Frenchwoman’s) all had folded itself quietly about her. was it too long. how could she see. of ambition thwarted came her way how she too had known or felt or been through it herself. and she must see if the stocking Smiling. puckered little face. with only one old woman27 to see to it. of love foiled. ‘The mountains are so beautiful. received it. The stocking was too short by half an inch at least. She had stood there silent for there was nothing to be said. naturally. her youngest. the house would become so shabby that something must be done. Never did anybody look so sad. Ramsay knew. Her delighted. as. of buying good chairs to let rent was precisely twopence halfpenny. who would rather go without a bath than without fresh air. three them spoil up here all through the winter when the house. they asked. positively dripped with wet? Never mind: the hundred miles from his library and his lectures and his disciples. no hope whatever. in the shaft which ran from the sunlight to the depths. Alas! even the books that had been given her. raising her eyes to glance at William Bankes and Lily Briscoe as they passed. blue-eyed. and were at rest. had he died the week before they were married – some other. saw the chairs. alight exact as a bird. The drawing-room door was open. straight-nosed. clever man to see it. halfway down. and books. The Graces assembling seemed to have joined hands in meadows of asphodel32 to compose that . grew of themselves. sustained – falsely perhaps.’ she said.’ she said) – neither of those could one send to the Lighthouse. and speaking sharply. or if Jasper believed that one could make ways. she had said. Mats. crazy ghosts of chairs and tables whose London life of service was done – they did well enough here. And now. She knew then – she knew without having learnt. and there was no hope. James fidgeted She looked up – what demon possessed him. Books. and much moved by it though she was only telling him a fact about a train. And the result of it was. not liking to serve as measuring-block for the Lighthouse keeper’s little boy. her splendour? Had he blown his brains out. or Rose’s objects – shells. The mat was fading. but then what was the point. it did her husband good to be three thousand. She never had time to read them. Mrs. the children loved it. of whom rumours reached one? Or was there nothing? nothing but an incomparable beauty which she lived behind. Scolding and demonstrating (how to make a bed. What was the use of flinging a green Cashmere shawl over the edge of a picture frame? In two weeks it would be the colour of pea soup. could none of them remember it? She would go into the maids’ bedrooms at night and find them sealed like ovens. as Andrew said the other day. and could do nothing to disturb? For easily though she might have said at some moment of intimacy when stories of great passion.’ perhaps a tear formed. was it too short? she asked. how to open a window.’ she said. Crabs. were all over the floor. Still. or if she must be accurate. ‘like that of which she moulded you. ‘the the bedroom doors were open. making allowance for the fact that Sorley’s little boy would be less well grown than James. At a certain moment. as she held the stocking against James’s leg. she had a spasm of irritation. At the recollection – how she had stood there. Don’t be tiresome. after a flight through the sunshine the wings of a bird fold themselves quietly and the blue of its plumage changes from bright steel to soft purple. with its criss-cross of steel needles at the mouth of it. stones. ‘it will be another day. the wall-paper was flapping. stand still. You couldn’t tell any more that those were was the doors that annoyed her. how the girl had said ‘At home the mountains are so beautiful’. when the girl spoke. but it would take a did not need to be an inch or two longer in the leg. taking in the whole room from floor to ceiling. for they were gifted. Ramsay.’ He saw her at the end of the line.5 ‘And even if it isn’t fine to-morrow. hearing her voice on the telephone.’ so that he knew instantly that her severity was real. and no lockmaker in the whole of Scodand can mend a bolt. if every door in a house is left perpetually open. and straightened his leg and she measured it. said Mr. He was leaving them fatherless. she had to allow. camp beds. thinking that Lily’s charm was her Chinese eyes. Never did anybody look so sad.31 Bitter and black. that things roses on it. and certainly the window on the landing was open. Bankes once. But it got shabbier and got shabbier summer after summer. What was there behind it – her beauty. she supposed.’ She had said that last night looking out of the window with tears in her eyes. her children. and measured it against James’s leg.’ said Mrs. reeds. said to James: ‘Stand still. she asked herself. for that she had opened herself. stand still. purposely. If they could be taught to wipe their feet and not bring the beach in soup from seaweed. every door was left open. eased. But was it nothing but looks? people said. How incongruous it seemed to be telephoning to a woman like that.’ Her father was dying there. things must spoil. and if he did that. this swoop and fall of the spirit upon truth which (’Nature has but little clay’. Her simplicity fathomed what clever people falsified. in the darkness. she had never read them.’ she said. thought them fearfully shabby. ‘ever so much too short. earlier lover. And Croom on the Mind and Bates on the Savage Customs of Polynesia29 (’My dear. one could not prevent it. She listened. except for Marie’s. for an admirable idea had flashed upon her this very second – William and Lily should marry – she took the heather mixture stocking.

one must remember the quivering thing.) to doff her royalty of form as if her beauty bored her and all that men say of beauty.34 Mrs. there was something incongruous to be worked into the harmony of her face. replacing the receiver and crossing the room to see what progress the thought of. ‘Let’s find another picture to cut out.face. workmen were making with an hotel which they were building at the back of his house. 6 . he thought. and the authenticated masterpiece by Michael Angelo. For always. She clapped a deer-stalker’s hat on her head. one must endow her with some freak of idiosyncrasy. Ramsay as he looked at that stir among the unfinished walls. insignificant. and kissed her little boy on the forehead. And he thought of Mrs. she ran across the lawn in goloshes to snatch a child from mischief. Ramsay smoothed out what had been harsh in her manner a moment before. he would catch the 10. or suppose some latent desire did not know. Bankes. raised his head. the living thing (they were carrying bricks up a little plank as he watched them). He Knitting33 her reddish-brown hairy stocking. He must go to his work. and work it into the picture.’ she said. and she wanted only to be like other people. with her head outlined absurdly by the gilt frame. So that if it was her beauty merely that one ‘But she’s no more aware of her beauty than a child.30 at Euston. or if one thought of her simply as a woman.’ said Mr. Yes. the green shawl which she had tossed over the edge of the frame. He did not know.

a cluster of cottages as an illustration. the children were growing up. Damn you. she said. he was restored to his privacy. and instantly a Heaven of security opened before her. as his turn came round again. He quivered. that he was outraged and anguished. he quivered. and then. a tree. There was nothing to be said. But how extraordinarily his note had changed! It was like the cuckoo. restoring to roses and pinks a lustre which they had not had by day. all day long with this and that. she was a woman. Not with the barometer falling and the wind due west. his youngest son’s bare leg. ‘Damn you. who was now bearing down upon her.’ he said. Very humbly. Ramsay. dazed and blinded. made his children hope what was utterly out of the question. looked once at his wife and son in the window. she bent her head as if to let the pelt of jagged hail. To pursue truth with such astonishing lack of consideration for other people’s feelings. Mr. one wanting this. she often felt she was nothing but a sponge sopped full of human emotions. But what had she said? Simply that it might be fine tomorrow.36 as if he were trying over. volleyed and thundered – straight into Lily Briscoe and William Bankes. without replying. bespatter her unrebuked. at the window he bent Charles Tansley. custom crooned its soothing rhythm. she twitted him for having dispatched ‘that poor young man’. melodiously. Hating his father. looking up. and as one raises one’s eyes from a page in an express train and sees a farm. as her husband passed her once more. had been shattered. she gazed steadily until his closeness revealed to her (the jingle mated itself in her head) that something had happened. Already ashamed of that petulance. told lies. She was not good enough to tie his shoe strings. as if he had her leave for it. fortified. said Mrs. He said. been prodded his son’s bare legs once more. and having only this at hand. thought what a delight it would be to her should he turn out a great artist. flashed through the valley of death. a confirmation of something on the printed page to which one returns. and. Mr. It won’t rain. he said. He had ridden through the valley of death. tentatively blundered’ – said like that. he dived into the evening air which already thinner was taking the substance from leaves and hedges but. He stamped his foot on the stone step.35 All his vanity. He stopped to light his pipe. James brushed away the tickling spray with which in a manner peculiar to him. There wasn’t the slightest possible chance that they could go to the Lighthouse to-morrow. without any conviction. riding fell as a thunderbolt. he teased She was trying to get these tiresome stockings finished to send to Sorley’s little boy to-morrow. she felt. But it sounded ridiculous – ‘Someone had walking up and down. He shivered. Ramsay could not help smiling.’ he said again. some phrase for a new mood. almost as a question. blundered’ – Fixing her short-sighted eyes upon her husband. Then he said. destroyed. and some curious gathering together of his James’s head. since He stood by her in silence. Mrs. his eyes averted. sure enough. she transferred to him what she felt for her husband. so without his distinguishing either his son or his wife. Stormed at by shot and shell. with a movement which oddly reminded his wife of the great sea-lion at the Zoo tumbling backwards after swallowing his fish and walloping off so that the water in the tank washes from side to side. up and down the terrace. fell silent. the sight of them fortified him and satisfied him and consecrated his effort to arrive at a perfectly clear understanding of the problem which now engaged the energies of his splendid mind. was to her so horrible an outrage of human decency that. They came to her. seeking. How did he know? she asked. Ramsay rather sheepishly She was quite ready to take his word for it. realising. She stroked Not for the world would she have spoken to him. so that when stopping deliberately. There was nobody whom she reverenced as she reverenced him. someone had blundered. at length. as she watched him chalk yellow the white dress shirt of a gentleman in splendid forehead. from the familiar signs. and satisfied. he hummed it. The wind often changed. domesticity the Army and Navy Stores catalogue. Ramsay snapped out irascibly. another that. ‘in June he gets out of tune’. Then. so The extraordinary irrationality of her remark. of that gesticulation of the hands when charging at the head of his troops. quizzically and whimsically to tickle James’s bare calf with a sprig of something.’ he added ironically. cracked though it was. flicking his sprig. as if he wrapped himself about and needed privacy in which to regain his equilibrium. the folly of women’s minds enraged him. dropped it. fierce as a hawk at the head of Starting from her musing she gave meaning to words which she had held meaningless in her mind for a long stretch of time. So it might. brutally. He was safe. striding off. the drench of dirty water. . ‘Someone had blundered. It must rain. and why should he not? He had a triumphed. his men through the valley of death. in effect. and soon. There was nobody she reverenced more. he shivered. used it. He said. boldly we rode and well. she was relieved to find that the ruin was veiled. ‘Someone had person. compound of severity and humour. all his satisfaction in his own splendour. naturally. shattered and shivered. he said that he would step over and ask the Coastguards if she liked. Tansley had had to go in and write his dissertation. ‘James will have to write his dissertation one of these days. Only then they need not cut sandwiches – that was all. to rend the thin veils of civilisation so wantonly. But she could not for the life of her think what.6 But what had happened? Someone had blundered. and now she flew in the face of facts. as if in return.

He would never reach R. R— whose temper. on to R. What. into the intricacy of the twigs. without treachery to the expedition behind him. upon search parties. flickered over the intensity of his gaze and obscured the letter R. glimmers red in the distance. and square his shoulders. claim to that: but he had. and whisky. and that in a bigger still. (He looked into the darkness. If Q then is Q – R – Here he knocked his pipe out. the inspired who. he would die standing. Ramsay squared his shoulders and stood very upright by the urn. on the one hand the steady goers of superhuman strength who. once more. came to his help. like the leathern eyelid of a lizard. Q he could demonstrate. And what are two thousand years? (asked Mr. if before death stiffens his limbs beyond the power of movement he does a little consciously raise his numbed fingers to his brow. Here. he could see. foresight. stole upon him. One in a He stood38 stock still. and someone to tell the story of his suffering to at once? Who shall blame him? Who will come closer and closer. devotion. bones? Finally. Surely the leader of a forlorn hope may ask himself that. even in the two minutes of his turn on the terrace. if you look from a mountain-top down the long wastes of the ages? The very stone one kicks with one’s boot will outlast Shakespeare. Q he was sure of. that obvious distinction between the two classes of men. having adventured to the uttermost. He dug his heels in at Q. He reached Q. trying to the end to pierce the darkness. R is then – what is R? Qualities that would have saved a ship’s company exposed on a broiling sea with six biscuits and a flask of water – endurance and justice. if he could reach R it would be something. ‘Then R…’ He braced himself. reach Z after all? generation. for a year or two. then his splendid mind had no sort of difficulty in running over those letters one by one. He would never reach R. The veins on his forehead bulged. Z is only reached once by one man in a generation. that old. came to his help again. But after Q? What comes next? After Q there are a number of letters the last of which is scarcely visible to mortal eyes. he dwells upon fame. on the other the gifted. the fine figure of a soldier? Mr. On. gradually 7 . given to the best of his power. with two or three resonant taps on the ram’s horn which made the handle of the urn. repeat the whole alphabet in order. with the geranium flowing over it. or might have had. surveys with equanimity what is to be and faces it. then. On to R. his eyes fixed on the storm. knows that he must lay himself down and die before morning comes. the guide. from start to finish. if. They needed his protection. Very few people in the whole of England ever reach Q. ‘One perhaps’. or like the alphabet is ranged in twenty-six reached. he asked himself. twenty-six letters in all. indeed. How many men in a thousand million. and proceeded. neither sanguine nor despondent. Still. in the window. Yet he would not die lying down. skill. Here at least was Q. and answer. Ramsay ironically. His fame lasts perhaps two thousand years. He clenched himself. so standing for a moment. staring at the hedge). until it had It was a splendid mind. the bleached look of withered old age. He had not genius. but requires sympathy. the counsellor. till he has no more left to give? And his fame lasts how long? It is permissible even for a dying hero to think before he dies how men will speak of him hereafter. he now perceives by some pricking in his toes that he lives. The lizard’s eye flickered once more. together. his wife and son. and would then be merged in some bigger light.39 His own little light40 would shine. giving him. R— among its leaves. till lips and book and head are clearly before him. For if thought is like the keyboard of a piano.letters all in order. by the urn. though still lovely and unfamiliar from the intensity of his isolation and the waste of ages and the perishing of the stars. and finally putting his pipe in his pocket and bending his magnificent head before her – who will blame him if he does homage to the beauty of the world? not secretly rejoice when the hero puts his armour off. say. and used his strength wholly to the last ounce and fallen asleep not much caring if he wakes or not. lump all the letters together in one flash – the way of genius. paling the colour of his eyes. he stuck Feelings that would not have disgraced a leader who. divinely innocent and occupied with little trifles at their he gave it them. firmly and accurately. A shutter. the power to repeat every letter of the alphabet from A to Z accurately in order. but feet and somehow entirely defenceless against a doom which he perceived. if. Is he to be blamed then if he is not that one? provided he has toiled honestly. and halts by the window and gazes at his wife and son. The geranium in the urn became start-lingly visible and. upon cairns raised by grateful followers over his whole object to live. without wishing it. and does not on the Who shall blame him. but now far far away. and there. like children picking up shells. he saw. Meanwhile. stopping for one moment by the stone urn which held the geraniums. he would find some crag of rock. displayed people saying – he was a failure – that R was beyond him. plodding and persevering.41 who very distant at first.) Who then could blame the leader of that forlorn party which after all has climbed high enough to see the waste of the years and the perishing of stars. now that the snow has begun to fall and the mountain top is covered in mist. In that flash of darkness he heard Qualities that in a desolate expedition across the icy solitudes of the Polar region37 would have made him the leader. the letter Q. miraculously. he laid no at Q. not very brightly. who shall blame the leader of the doomed expedition. so that when the search party comes they will find him dead at his post. divided into so many notes.

and further. feel then. first of all. but it was their relation. very stiff. as he walked away. and the whole fabric fell in exhaustion upon itself. she said. precisely now. he hated him for interrupting them. set them all aglow. the house was full. Flashing her needles. She blew the words back at him. Ramsay move on. she assured him. not here only. Mrs. all was so lavished and spent. demanding sympathy. commanding them to attend to him). and the children seeing it. He must have sympathy. Well. There he stood. behind the drawing-room the kitchen. loving her husband. a wave fall. and the burden it laid on them – all this diminished the entire joy. even for a second. she created drawing-room and kitchen. It was Augustus Carmichael shuffling past. never taking his eyes from her face. above the kitchen the bedrooms. one petal closed in another. for instance. which smote mercilessly. Mrs. Mr. So boasting of her capacity to surround and protect. at James himself. the fatal sterility of the male plunged itself. by pointing and at once to pour erect into the air a rain of energy. Bankes). and she turned to the Fairy Tale again. what she a little suspected. how it came from this: she did not like. Standing between her knees. James felt all her strength flaring up to be drunk and quenched by the beak of brass. ‘Charles Tansley…’ she said. so that anyone could see. that his last book was not quite his best book (she gathered that from William joy. he would watch the children playing cricket. his barrenness made fertile. He must be assured that he too lived in the heart of life. to have his senses restored to him. she looked up. lectures and books and their being of the highest that discomposed her. vibrating round them. her competence (as a nurse carrying a light across a dark room assures a fractious child). about the greenhouse roof and the expense it would be. that she had only strength enough to move her finger.7 But his son hated him. He wanted sympathy. the rapture of successful creation. one low. of the two notes sounding together. Not that. she knitted. as he stood stiff between her egotistical man. and impeded in her proper . could not bear not being entirely importance – all that she did not doubt for a moment. half turning. however deep he buried himself or climbed high. but most of all he hated the twang and twitter of his father’s emotion which. and to give to each that solace which two different notes. she turned upon it. and James. and then about his sure. Every throb of this pulse seemed. It was sympathy he wanted. upright. he knew angrily. restored. when they must know that of the two he was infinitely the more important. confident. he hated him for the exaltation and sublimity of his gestures. and books. wavered instantly his father stopped. Ramsay repeated. at the very moment when it was painful to be reminded of the inadequacy of human relationships. He went. taking up her stocking again). like a beak of brass. nothing should hurt him. beyond a shadow of a doubt. openly. Ramsay. knees. was needed. when it was painful to feel herself convicted of unworthiness. ominously. to enclose her and her husband. the perfect simplicity and good sense of his relations with his mother. Mrs. plunged and smote. fifty pounds perhaps. and his coming to her like that. for his exactingness and egotism (for there he stood. not at the time. Ramsay felt not only exhausted in body (afterwards. he hoped to recall his mother’s attention. of the truth of what she said. by her laugh. Charles Tansley thought him the greatest metaphysician of the time. that the most perfect was flawed. the arid scimitar of the He was a failure. the arid scimitar of his father. into the room. so would take a turn. to mend it. renewed. and then to be taken within the circle of life. which. felt her rise in a rosy-flowered fruit tree laid with leaves and dancing boughs into which the beak of brass. one high. across the page of Grimm’s fairy story. barren and bare. she knew precisely what it came from. If he put implicit faith in her. there was scarcely a shell of herself left for her to know herself by. braced herself. disturbed his finger at a word. in exquisite abandonment to exhaustion. burning and illuminating (quietly though she sat. seem to give each other as they combine. to be assured of his genius. Ramsay flashed her needles. as the resonance died. what she gave the world. By looking fixedly at the page. folding her son in her arm. he repeated. her poise. like the pulse in a spring which has expanded to its full width and now gently ceases to beat. and beyond them the nurseries. and. at last. Flashing her needles. and all the rooms of the they must be furnished. again and again. nor did she let herself put into words her dissatisfaction when she realised. Yet. a column of spray. struck together. glancing round about her. look then. the garden blowing. to be afraid that he might guess. But no. that he Immediately. Ramsay seemed to fold herself together. the pure A shadow was on the page. when she spoke to him. But he must have more than that. and let the sound die on her ear now wth a dismal flatness. it was the other thing too – not being able to tell him the truth. he said. enjoy himself. not for a second should he find himself without her. at the turn of the page when she stopped and heard dully. demanding sympathy. and into this delicious fecundity. being afraid. the Filled with her words. and then to hide small daily things. that it was real. demanding sympathy. She laughed. looking at the same time animated and alive as if all her energies were being fused into force. in comparison with what he gave. this fountain and spray of life. to feel finer than her husband. But then again. and could not bear the examination which. who had been sitting loosely. But he must have more than that. for stopping and looking down on them. warmed and soothed. out of the window. U niversities and people wanting him. he said. she always felt this) but also there tinged her physical fatigue some faintly disagreeable sensation with another origin.42 while there throbbed through her. looking at her with humble gratitude. like a child who drops off satisfied. that he was a failure. negligible. Mrs. they must be filled with life. he hoped to make him move on. but all over the world. house made full of life – the drawing-room. Nothing would make Mr. for then people said he depended on her. He hated him for coming up to them. with her instinct for truth. bade him take his ease there. male. as she read aloud the story of the Fisherman’s Wife. go in and out. He was a failure. for the magnificence of his head. seemed to raise herself with an effort.

these exaggerations.function by these lies. as he passed. Carmichael shuffled past. Carmichael?’ 8 . ‘Going indoors. and some demon in her made it necessary for her to call out. in his yellow slippers. – it was at this moment when she was fretted thus ignobly in the wake of her exaltation. that Mr. Mr.

do you want tobacco? Here’s a book you might like present to her) – after all. would the world have differed much from what it is to-day? Does the progress of civilisation44depend upon great men? Is the lot of the average human being better now than in the time of the Pharaohs? Is the lot of the average human being. She had been loved. He did not trust her. how flawed they are. and that all this desire of hers to give. which were all stuck about with the history of that known to him from boyhood. the fruitful nut-tree and the flowering hedge led him on to that further turn of the road where he dismounted always. She had been admired. he had the tiresomeness of an old man with nothing in the world to do. All this would have to be dished up for the young men at Cardiff next month. It hurt her. here. for instance. tied his horse to a tree. however. that soldier. he thought.’ she read aloud. Perhaps. Carmichael shrank away from her. he approved. paper. the field. in his yellow slippers. Why had he not gone as he said to watch the children playing cricket? But he did not speak. Carmichael shuffled past. making off to some corner where he did acrostics endlessly. but at length the lane. coming as it did on top of her discontent and send for her and admire her? Was it not secretly this that she wanted. her hair was white) any longer a sight that filled the eyes with joy. Possibly the greatest good requires the existence of a slave class. she carried it erect into any room that she entered. and she turned him out of the room. famous as and so on. that the arts are merely a decoration imposed on the top of human life. had allowed themselves with her the relief of simplicity. the criterion by which we judge the measure of civilisation? Possibly not. in the horrid little room in St. or stuffs his pockets with nuts as he ambles at his ease through the lanes and fields of a country evening. she had not generally any difficulty in making people like her. Men. That was what she minded. If Shakespeare had never existed. how despicable. ‘O Mrs. was vanity. Do you want stamps. that people might say of her. she felt the same thing. and shrink from the monotony of bearing that it imposed on her. and grey and thick. physically. the sense she had now when Mr. letting go the multiplicity of things. that she was suspected. of an campaign there. and therefore when Mr. He said to himself. It with her husband. ‘I am going to iniquity of his wife’s towards him. he was merely foraging and picnicking (he threw away the leaf that he had picked so peevishly) like a man who reaches from his horse to pick a bunch of roses. they do not express it. He never told her tobacco? Did he have to ask her for it? half a crown? eighteenpence? Oh. with his pipe. they would come to her of an evening. he picked a leaf sharply from the hedge. Hours he would spend thus. all very brisk and clear. He reached the edge of the lawn and looked out on the bay beneath. just nodding to her question. and bore. he went on. The children were good to him. how self-seeking.8 He said nothing. he asked. She bore about with her. And yet not cleanly. What was obvious to her was that the poor the town. thinking up and down and in and out of the old familiar lanes and commons. he dropped things on his coat. the common. . she could not guess. on his terrace. but made aware of mind to the story of the Fisherman and his Wife and so pacify that bundle of sensitiveness (none of her children was as sensitive as he was) her son ‘The man’s heart grew heavy. quietly. written up among their leaves. veil it as she might. and yet every year. But what more could she have done? There was a sunny room given up to him. Mr. and proceeded on foot alone. Shall I get you stamps. John’s Wood. Ramsay. He slipped seeing before him that hedge which had over and over again rounded some pause. to help. “It is not right. Had he money enough to buy And always now (why. and no longer so green and yellow. Ramsay! dear Mrs. Tears had flown in her presence. It was his wife’s doing. To avoid it. and talk alone over her fire. It was all familiar. Ramsay and I want to have a little talk together. the torch of her beauty. except that it came probably from that woman somehow) he shrank from her. she had better devote her James. of course!’ and need her injured her that he should shrink. anything. this turning. and not presumably (her cheeks were hollow. that stile. Mrs. He took opium. the life of this statesman here. Shabby and worn out. the sense of her own beauty becoming.’ and Mrs. He was unkempt. George Manning. Ramsay… Mrs. seeing again the urns with the trailing red geraniums notes in the rush of reading – he slipped. to give. as it did so seldom. Not knowing precisely why it was that he wanted to disparage Shakespeare and come to the rescue of the man who stands eternally in the door of the lift. her beauty was apparent. seeing his wife and child. ‘and he would not go. Nor is Shakespeare necessary to it. The liftman in the Tube45 is an eternal necessity. but it was still quiet. they were. as he did at the pettiness of some part of her. and after all. she could not bear to think of the little indignities she made him suffer. Never did she show a sign of not wanting him. this thinker. with poems and with anecdotes. Wallace. in her odious way. as if they were scraps of paper on which one scribbles Americans who visit Shakespeare’s house every year. he asked himself. that cut across the fields. came to them every year as an escape. signified some conclusion. The children said he had stained his beard yellow with it. he looked. when with her own eyes she had seen that odious woman turn him out of the house. she did not feel merely snubbed back in her instinct. She had entered rooms where mourners sat. She said. ‘Now. And he stood there and said—’ Mrs. he did not trust her. and women too. the innumerable miseries of his life. tobacco?’ and she felt him wince. And after all – after all (here insensibly she drew herself together. with a book 43 beneath his arm. He would argue that the world exists for the average human being. not rightly. as if before her eyes. she could not help knowing it. which had made her turn to steel and adamant there. She went out of her way indeed to be friendly. he nodded. this moment. with figures too. And when he came to the sea the water was quite purple and dark blue. at their best. She said. He tossed his head. and of human relations. Ramsay could see. Ramsay could have wished that her husband had not chosen that moment to stop. he would find some way of snubbing the predominance of the arts. She remembered that man was unhappy.” and yet he went. smoothly into speculation suggested by an article in The Times about the number of which had so often decorated processes of thought. For her own self-satisfaction was it that she wished so instinctively to help. seeing all this. The thought was distasteful to him.

Imagine what a change from the things he thinks about. which. in the ardour of youth. yet lost none of his intensity of mind. He comes in from his books and finds us all playing games and talking nonsense. But this and his pleasure in it.) If you are exalted you must somehow come a cropper. had he been able to contemplate it fixedly might have led to something. and so to stand on his little ledge facing the dark of human ignorance. and shrunk so that not only fame but even his own name was forgotten by him. he was for the most part happy. how gestures and fripperies. Berkeley. in his wife’s beauty. Cambridge – all had to be deprecated and concealed under the phrase ‘talking nonsense. He turned from the sight of human ignorance and human fate and the sea eating the ground we stand on. Hume. Then the change must be so upsetting. he had his children. turned. why he needed always praise. and there to and felt sparer. so he broke off. Kidderminster. and found consolation in trifles so slight compared with was for an honest man the most despicable of crimes.stand. Now he stopped dead and stood looking in silence at the sea. Ramsay gave him what he asked too easily. It was a disguise. sighed. (She was putting away her things. it was the refuge of a man afraid to own his own feelings. He was bearing down upon them.46 and the causes of the French Revolution. But having thrown away. profound reverence. in merry boat-loads a feeling of gratitude for the duty it has taken upon itself of marking the channel out there in the floods alone. whether he wished it or not. 9 . to come out thus on a spit of land which the sea is slowly eating away. Southampton. Lily suspected. sought the figure of his wife reading stories to the little boy. wondered why such concealments should be necessary. Now he had turned away again. suddenly to shed all superfluities. in effect. alone. This is what I like – this is what I am.…’ Muttering half aloud. as if to be caught happy in a world of misery from Swansea. he had promised in six weeks’ time to talk ‘some nonsense’ to the young men of Cardiff about Locke. and pity. in the phrases he made. his gift. his gift. It was true.’ because. and gratitude too. to deprecate it. even physically. he had not done the thing he might have done. all trophies of nuts and roses. in the tributes that reached him the august theme just now before him that he was disposed to slur that comfort over. who could not say. to shrink and diminish so that he looked barer we know nothing and the sea eats away the ground we stand on – that was his fate. all It was his fate. when he dismounted. Exeter. Mrs. he had his wife. as a stake driven into the bed of a channel upon which the gulls perch and the waves beat inspires ‘But the father of eight children has no choice. Cardiff. It was his power. he kept even in that desolation a vigilance which spared no phantom and luxuriated in no vision. who how strangely he was venerable and laughable at one and the same time. Teaching and preaching is beyond human power. and rather pitiable and distasteful to William Bankes and Lily Briscoe. she said. Oxford. when she looked up and saw him standing at the edge of the lawn. filled his pipe. Lily said. his peculiarity. raised his eyes. and it was in this guise that he inspired in William Bankes (intermittently) and in Charles Tansley (obsequiously) and in his wife now. why so brave a man in thought should be so timid in life. like a desolate sea-bird.

swinging. She saw the colour burning on a framework of steel. she felt. Bankes extended over them both. and miraculously raised its burdens. It was nothing of importance. as he did. staying with the Ramsays. and there was Mr.) It was for that reason. oblivious. Tansley whispering in her ear. and of Cam refusing to give him a flower. as she saw Mr. Ramsay. for only so could she keep unreal but penetrating and exciting universe which is the world seen through the eyes of love. Lily Briscoe went on putting away her brushes. She took shelter from the reverence which covered all women. Ramsay all the better for thinking that if his little finger ached to admire him. looking up. and one would no more disturb it. Bankes expected her to answer. from its twisted finger. she thought that no woman could worship another woman in the way he worshipped. said Mr. It was not that she minded. with a dash on the beach. remote. his blindness. he is absorbed in himself. force them to move. For him to gaze as Lily saw him gazing at Mrs. looking after him. on purpose. love that never attempted to clutch its object.9 Yes. could Mr. looking. too. she felt herself praised. Bankes said. too. how life. and the white scientific coat which seemed to clothe him. Lily was ashamed to say that she had not read Carlyle since she was at school. they could only seek shelter under the shade which Mr. it was a thousand pities that Ramsay could not behave a little more like other people. but. became Mr. for was he not thinking of his friendship. watching him go. steady. that barbarity was Such a rapture – for by what other name could one call it? – made Lily Briscoe forget entirely what she had been about to say. Directly one looked up and saw them. and kept looking down. Bankes’ glance at her. while it lasted. high- handed. the light of a butterfly’s wing lying upon the arches of a cathedral. from being made up of little separate incidents which one lived one by one. Ramsay was a rapture.) Yes. or poets their phrases. distilled and filtered. do her bidding tomorrow. but. for which she felt intense gratitude. She did not know how she would have put it. It was a thousand pities if you thought. the whole world must come to an end. Of all that only a few random marks scrawled women can’t write…’ upon the canvas remained. since his wife’s death. So it was indeed. Bankes understood that young people said nowadays. Bankes should feel this for Mrs. She could have wept. Ramsay. what was even more exciting. Bankes have said why that woman pleased him rested in contemplation of it. the shapes etherealised. what she called ‘being in love’ flooded them. window and the cloud moving and the tree bending. and how different? vowed. the essential bird for speed. when Mr. thinking that she was unquestionably the loveliest of people she asked herself. Bankes suggested. Lily reminded herself. Ramsay sitting with James in the curled and whole like i wave which bore one up with it and threw one down with it. but. an arrow for directness. never be hung even. quiet rather? Of course. hers indisputably? She was like a . Ramsay’s back. than break up the shaft of sunlight lying level across the floor. (Lily had said something about his frightening her – he changed from one mood to another so suddenly. But in her opinion one liked Mr. she was commanding (of course. he rather wished Lily to agree that Ramsay was. by which. full of comfort. ‘a bit of a hypocrite’. and Mrs. And. equivalent. and his cleanliness and his impersonality. But then she did not see it like that. for nothing so solaced her.47 A crusty old grumbler who lost his temper if the porridge was cold. different too from the perfect shape which one saw there. he is unjust. part of the human gain. she would steal a look at her picture. careless. Mr. like the love which mathematicians bear their symbols. But why different. The sky stuck to them. It was bad. as he said. was exalting. at Mr. the best perhaps. it was infinitely bad! She could have done it differently of course. Let him gaze. menially. was meant to be spread over the world and become so. the birds sang through them. she thought. And it would never be seen. eased her of the perplexity of life. Ramsay bearing down and retreating. his little dodges deceived nobody. Ramsay (she glanced at him musing) was helpful. the truest (here he was). this silent stare. Lily felt. She was wilful. that Carlyle was one of the great teachers of mankind. yet she (bowed over her book). How did she differ? What was the spirit in her. Looking along the level of Mr. It was love. the reign of chaos subdued. looking down. pretending to move her canvas. that the young don’t read Carlyle. Bankes. She had been annoyed the other night by some highhandedness. she thought. she said. as he felt when he had proved something absolute about the digestive system of plants. Bankes made it entirely unnecessary for her to speak by his rapture. she would inspire them. Looking along his beam she added to it her different ray. Ramsay had never excited the loves of dozens of young men). that was how Paunceforte would have seen it. there he was – Mr. and felt. he is tyrannical. She now remembered what she had been going to say about Mrs. too. to the loves of dozens of young men (and perhaps Mrs. For such it was considering his age. wiped one brush after another upon a piece of old rag. but it would have been something critical. She thinned and faded. this heavenly gift. there. in her way. purposely. A bit of a hypocrite? she repeated. how she was alarming. and his own house. the best. ‘A bit of a hypocrite?’ Mr. flow. it was bad. The world by all means should have shared it. had you found a glove in the corner of a sofa. ‘Women can’t paint. but also. Looking up. And she was about to say something criticising Mrs. why the sight of her reading a fairy tale to her boy had upon him precisely the same effect as the solution of a scientific problem. It was a thousand pities. (For he liked Lily Briscoe. Oh no – the most sincere of men. he could discuss Ramsay with her quite openly. or words to that effect. They became part of that looking down. It paled beside this ‘rapture’. as this sublime power. why should he preach to us? was what Mr. the colour could have been That people should love like this. What she disliked was his narrowness. I am thinking of her relations with thing. and of all those boys and girls. Ramsay. you would have known it. scraping her palette of all those mounds of blue and green which seemed to her like clods with no life in them now. so that he tamed. Ramsay – advancing towards them. For who could be deceived by him? He asked you quite openly to flatter him. he said. turned sixty. that Mr. something about Mrs. he had his work… All the same.

– it was dawn. she said. but still Ramsay cared not a fig for her painting). Bankes tapped the canvas with the bone handle. not inscriptions on tablets. Ramsay one? for it was itself. Bankes saying. She would have snatched her picture off the easel. Ramsay’s knee. once more. One must. the shape of a dome. One must. were tangled Every one could not be as helter skelter. But if they knew. make her and Mrs. never made public. obvious. and even now and then some bird chirped in the garden. she felt the need of darkness. an breathing. to This ray passed level with Mr. something clear as the space which the clouds at last uncover – the little space of sky which sleeps beside the moon. But she had made no attempt at likeness. He had put on his spectacles. and here she saddened. in pretence that she must go. wrapped in an old fur coat (for the setting of her beauty was always that – hasty. Ramsay sitting reading there with James at her knee. more vividly than anything she said. but intimacy Nothing happened. and white lights parted the curtains. one haunted the dome-shaped hive. Mrs. Yet. in a golden mesh? or did she lock up within her some secret which certainly Lily Briscoe believed people must have for the world to go on at all? her arms round Mrs. Mr. she would enact again whatever it might be – Charles Tansley losing his umbrella. still presiding. by which one pressed through into those secret chambers? What device for becoming. Ramsay had had her share of those). She shut doors. the deceptiveness of beauty. or the mind. insist that she must. gathering a desperate courage she would urge her own exemption from the universal law. Ramsay’s lap and laughed and completely failed to understand. Lily would say. unwitting entirely what had caused her laughter. Ramsay reading to James. and I am much younger. as people called it. Taking out a penknife. were stood. sealed as they were? Only like a over the countries of the world alone. like the treasures in the tombs openly. She braced herself to stand the awful trial of someone looking at her picture. Ramsay went. plead for it. There she sat. Bankes was interested. Mr. as the night wore on. . she knew knowledge and wisdom were stored in Mrs. her painting. one the deposit of each day’s living. and so have to meet a serious stare from eyes of unparalleled depth. she could see the sun rising. But that any other eyes should see the residue48 of her thirty-three years. whatever laurels might be tossed to her (but Mrs. he pondered. For what reason had she introduced them then? he asked. like waters poured into one jar. and confront Mrs. was a fool. He had raised his hand. she remembered. did one know one thing or another thing about people. Minta must. there could be no disputing this: an unmarried woman (she lightly took her hand for a moment). serious. and then haunted the hives with their murmurs and their stirrings. and winced like a dog who sees a hand raised to strike it. the sound of murmuring and. drawn by some sweetness or sharpness in the air intangible to touch or taste. so that all one’s perceptions. At the same time it was immensely exciting. but apt). always laughing. She opened bedroom windows. Mr. leaning her head on Mrs. subtly mingling in the intricate passages of the brain? or the heart? Could loving. she had asked herself. (So she tried to start the tune of Mrs. but they would never be offered Was it wisdom? Was it knowledge? Was it. and there was Mrs. Ramsay’s simple certainty (and she was laughed and laughed. moving over to the window. bee. and in this case the mother was famous for her beauty – might be reduced. with a light tap on one’s bedroom door. or triumphs won by her (probably Mrs. of. And yet. here. she liked to be alone. Mr.) Arriving late at night. she liked to be herself. Ramsay’s knees. she said. in that corner. she of kings. Ramsay’s knee. rousing herself. could they tell one what they knew? Sitting on the floor with imagined how in the chambers of the mind and heart of the woman who was. Mother and child then – objects of universal veneration. Ramsay’s heart. Why indeed? – except that if there. and. half-way to truth. she had thought. How then. as it was. Carmichael snuffling and sniffing. when Lily. which if one could spell them out would teach one everything. physically. commonplace. so virginal. more intimately. she said. Mr. inextricably the same. Simple. against the other. it was bright. But all this seemed so little. ‘the vegetable salts are lost’. nothing that could be written in any language known to men. hand to mouth as she was. What did she wish to indicate It was Mrs. He had stepped back. must. laughed almost hysterically at the thought of Mrs. – half turn back. Then. For days there hung about her. close as she could get. but she said to herself. The house seemed full of children sleeping and Mrs. Mr. she had laid her head on Mrs. unmarried woman has missed the best of life. Bankes had done. she was not made for that. Ramsay listening. and came back to her chair. to a purple shadow without irreverence. ranged the wastes of the air Ramsay rose. and in its stead. the hives which were people. her home. mixed with something more secret than she had ever spoken or shown in the course of all those days was an agony. Bankes was less alarming than another. as she sat in the wicker arm-chair in the drawing-room window she wore. in this. an insignificant person. tablets bearing sacred inscriptions. since in the whole world. not knowledge but unity that she desired. But into what sanctuary had one penetrated? Lily Briscoe had looked up at last. even maliciously twist. Lily rose. saw what he was at.women. She knew his objection – that no one could tell it for a human shape. She had recovered her sense of her now – this was the glove’s twisted finger. which is knowledge. as after a dream some subtle change is felt in the person one has dreamt Lily’s eyes. Ramsay. But now while she still looked. but now with every trace of wilfulness abolished. simple. known to love or cunning. darkened. Ramsay in her head. What art was there. Mrs. He had slightly narrowed his clear blue eyes. smiling to think that Mrs. Nothing could be cooler and quieter. touching her. All this she would adroitly shape. had she dared to say it. Nothing! Nothing! as she leant her head against Mrs. Ramsay presiding with immutable calm over destinies which she childlike now) that her dear Lily. her little Brisk. And if it must be seen. even. they all must marry. one with the object one adored? Could the body achieve it. an august shape. ‘just there?’ he asked. Bankes’s ray straight to Mrs. Ramsay would never know the reason of that pressure. of shaded lights and regular Oh but. by the triangular purple shape. there was her father. living off the Brompton Road).

could not see it even herself. But the danger was that by doing that the unity of the whole might be broken. more firmly than was necessary. Ramsay for it 10 . She might do it by bringing the line of the branch across so. she said.here and a light there. There were other senses. crediting the world with a power which she had not suspected. as she vaguely supposed.49 He had to the scientific examination of her canvas. A mother and child might be reduced to a shadow without irreverence. which. The question being one of the relations of masses. But it had been seen. She her old painting position with the dim eyes and the absent-minded manner. she did not want to bore him. it had been taken from her. He was interested. and Mrs. and valued at a higher price than he had given for it. dashing past. without a brush in her hand. of light and shadows. thanking Mr. This man had shared with her something profoundly intimate. was of the cherry trees in blossom on the banks of the Kennet. he had spent his honeymoon on the banks of the Kennet. Lily must come and see that picture. Bankes. He considered. Ramsay for it and the hour and the place. A light here required a shadow there. Her tribute took that form. The truth was that all his prejudices were on the other side. she remembered. how to connect this mass on the right hand with that on the left. if. He took it scientifically in complete good faith. subduing all her impressions as a woman to something much more looked. It was a question. She could not show him what she wished to make of it. for instance. that one could walk away down that long gallery not alone any more but arm in arm with somebody – the strangest feeling in the world. he said. Cam. The largest picture in his drawing-room. not in his sense. or break the vacancy in the foreground by an object (James perhaps) so. he said. She took up once more general. too. she took the canvas lightly off the easel. and the nick seemed to surround in a circle for ever the paint-box. and the most exhilarating – she nicked the catch of her paint-box to. in which one might reverence them. Mr. with his glasses raised never considered before. the lawn. which But the picture was not of them. and that wild villain. to be honest. he explained. But now – he turned. By a shadow painters had praised. he would like to have it explained – what then did she wish to make of it? And he indicated the scene before them. becoming once more under the power of that vision which she had seen clearly once and must now grope for among hedges and houses and mothers and children – her picture. She stopped. And. a picture must be a tribute. Or.

Mrs. which had resulted in some friction with the Owl. that Mrs. how did they produce this incongruous daughter? this tomboy Minta. It might be a vision – of a shell. they haven’t. or it might be the glory of speed. Ramsay. Ramsay thought. the projectile dropped in mid career. one saw them twisting about to make Heaven knows what pattern on the floor of the child’s mind. she did in her own heart infinitely prefer boobies to clever men who wrote dissertations. flounder. what does she want then?” said the Flounder. But when Mrs. Then he went and stood by it and “Flounder. for I will be King. Her But how could Minta say now that she would not have him? Not if she agreed to spend whole afternoons trapesing about the country alone – for Andrew would be off after his crabs – but possibly Nancy was with them. of a fairy kingdom on the far side of the and Cam came lagging back.” “Well. Mrs. though Mr. which now and then ran up unexpectedly into the melody. who had followed them out. Ramsay pondered. ‘He wore a wig in the House of Commons and she ably assisted him at the head of the stairs. one way or the other. For my wife. ‘And when he came to the sea. as she stood there. even though Andrew was with them – what could it mean? except that she had decided. nor for her mother. Ramsay called ‘Cam!’ a second time. and to count them). if the waters were clear. it was quite dark grey. etcetera. held out his hand. Anyhow it must have happened. Bankes and Lily Briscoe. and I’ve told Ellen to clear away tea. thought Mrs. said. and the water heaved up from below. very fond of Minta). “if you won’t be King. wondering about the weather. bullet. I will.’ she repeated. so that she had to repeat the message twice – ask Mildred if Andrew.” “Well. What message would Cam give the cook? Mrs. Ramsay said to herself. ‘No. Ramsay thought (and she was very. they were also so extraordinarily distorting that.” ‘There isn’t a cloud anywhere within miles.’ refuse him. here to me. staying with the Ramsays. wife. Ramsay at last prompted that parrot-like instinct which had picked up Mildred’s words quite accurately and could now produce them. Whether Nancy was there or not. Mrs. who called ‘Cam! I want you a hedge. realising that James was tugging at her to make her go on reading aloud the Fisherman and his Wife. Cam shot off. but then. and more calling. Cam repeated the words. and conversation was almost entirely reduced to the exploits – interesting perhaps. Dear. or arrow. and Mr. and she had said. by now. who might not be brilliant. she could not be certain. “why should we be King? I do not want to be King. and smelt putrid. pulling a leaf by the way. Shifting from foot to foot. She must accept him. Wills not as I’d have her will. looking at the sky. her mother. thinking partly to cover their shyness.’ she said. Ramsay wondered. Come. and hearing that there was an old woman50 in the kitchen with very red cheeks. She was responsible to Minta’s parents – the Owl and the Poker. I pray thee. she would have to speak seriously to Minta. She tried to recall the sight of them standing at the hall door after lunch. The Owl and the Poker – yes. . if one waited. to visualise their backs going down the path. Rayley have come back? – The words seemed to be dropped into a well. and more sand. What was she dreaming about. Ramsay went on reading. and from her bed she saw the beautiful country lying before her. Bankes. and it was just daybreak. what? Mrs. no one knew. reading and thinking. impelled by what desire. looking from one to the other in her mind’s eye.51 Her nicknames for them shot into her mind as she read. ‘Next morning the wife awoke first. fishing them up out of her mind by a phrase which. purpose. even if Nancy were with them (she tried again. There they stood. seeing her engrossed. one had asked her to lunch. Charles Tansley for instance.” said the wife. relieved. shot by whom. That could only mean. Cam.10 For Cam grazed the easel by an inch. Minta Doyle and Paul Rayley had not come back then. at what directed. she had made to amuse her husband. Miss Doyle. but limited after all – of that bird? Naturally. in a colourless singsong.” said the man. to her mother. she would not stop for Mr. This going off after luncheon for a walk. watching her. who would have liked a daughter of moment!’ as she dashed past. good Ilsabil. go to the Flounder. coming back from some party. snigger. she would not stop for her father. partly to encourage them to be off (for her sympathies were with Paul). where. his own. Ramsay wondered. Ramsay wondered. finally to stay with them up at Finlay. And indeed it was only by waiting patiently. even as they descended. of a wheelbarrow. dear. who could say? What. But she did it on She read on: ‘ “Ah. for the story of the Fisherman and his Wife was like the bass gently accompanying a tune. tea. drinking soup out of a basin. for she and James shared the same tastes and were comfortable together. unsuccessfully. to accept that good fellow. had been seen etcetera. She was off like a bird. dinner. And when should she be told? If nothing happened. and more conversation. with some thought of her own. or she must rightly. ‘Come in or go out. quite easily. with a hole in her stocking? How did she exist in that portentous atmosphere where the maid was always removing in a dust-pan the sand that the parrot had scattered. knowing that Cam was attracted only by the word ‘Flounder’ and that in a moment she would fidget and fight with James as usual. etcetera. husband was still stretching himself…’ But she read. Mrs. Mrs. one thing. they would be annoyed if they heard – and they were certain to hear – that Minta.’ at which she could feel little Charles Tansley.’ And where were they now? Mrs. whom she grazed also by an inch. in the sea. For she could not go trapesing about all over the country. both at the same time.

When she read just now to James. Doyle had said made her from the party). knowing what was before them – love and There was always a woman dying of cancer even here. she was driven on. herself. coming back it found it to be this: a woman had once accused her of ‘robbing her of her daughter’s affections’.and really at the end of it. They will be perfectly happy. the thing she had with her husband. A model dairy and a hospital up here – those two things she would have liked to do. Ramsay thought. had said relentlessly that (and the bill for the greenhouse would be fifty pounds). if she had had the chance. wishing to interfere. rocks rolled into the sea. she had told enough lies about parrots to last her a lifetime (so she had said to her husband that night. domineering. which she shared neither with her children nor with her husband. until she went up to say good-night to them. anything. Nothing made up for the loss. death. the sky was pitch black. something real. but stopped herself. She heard them stamping and crowing on the floor above her head the moment they woke. Rose made the dresses. the poor. the sky was pit1ch black. rocks rolled into the sea. the most sensitive of her children. made everything. liked best asked. and she thought it most unjust. For it was odd. as if this coming into the dining-room after breakfast. brandishing her sword at life. she must admit that she felt this thing that she called life terrible. and wondering if she had indeed put any pressure strongly she influenced people? Marriage needed – oh all sorts of qualities (the bill for the greenhouse would be fifty pounds). Only she thought life – and a little strip of time presented itself to her eyes. And Nancy and Roger. and all with white foam at the top. Had they that? Was she wrong in this. not sensible. wide awake. they all went through stages. and sometimes now. she thought. than she was. hostile. Nor was she domineering. and she believed it to be true. nor was she tyrannical. ‘and there were numbers of soldiers with kettle-drums and trumpets’. Had she not laughed about it? Was she not forgetting again how name it – that was essential. There it was something private. her mouth was too big. How could she help being ‘like that’ to look at? No one could accuse her of taking pains to impress. with one thing after another. reviewing her conduct for the past week or two.’ ‘Then he put on his trousers and ran away like a madman. they were both wild creatures now. she thought. she took one’s breath away with her beauty. have liked to take people by the scruff of their necks and make them see. Why take such a gloomy view of life? he said. she came. she did not mind. It was more true about hospitals and drains and the dairy. You shall go through with it. They came bustling along the passage. almost as if it were an escape for her too. and found them netted in their cots like birds among cherries and raspberries still making up stories about some little bit of rubbish – something they had heard. and would. He had always his work to fall back on. and Oh. Prue. Less exposed to human worries – perhaps that was it. staring. she thought. of wickedness. at night especially. oddly enough. the mountains trembled. and life was on another. that with all his gloom and desperation he was happier. all day long. As for Rose. but for the most part. as he accused her of being. It was a disgrace. making Minta marry Paul Rayley. Why. pressing her chin on James’s head. Life: she thought but she did not finish her thought. And yet she had said to all these children. something they had picked up in the garden. She was uneasy. and she was always trying to get the better of it. Mrs. then perhaps she would have time. to everyone (she did not name them to herself). It is before her – life. If they had charades. ‘But outside a great storm was raging and blowing so hard that he could scarcely keep his feet. They were happier now than they would ever be again. there were. It should be made illegal. But how? With all these children? When they were older. and sometimes they parleyed (when she sat alone). remembering how it angered her arranging tables. who was only twenty-four. and the sea came in with black waves as high as church towers and mountains.’ she read. Andrew – even her husband admitted that his gift for mathematics was extraordinary. she remembered. For that reason. scampering about over the country all day long. if they chose. and disengaging remember that charge again. houses and trees toppled over. she husband that she should say that. nonsense. something Mrs. but she had a wonderful gift with her hands. which they did every Why must they grow up and lose it all? Never will they be so happy again. About things like that she did feel passionately. angels of delight. Still. never to see them grow up into long-legged monsters. flowers. They had all their little treasures… And so she went down and said to her husband. should they grow up so fast? Why should they go to school? She would have liked always to have had a baby. more hopeful on the whole. However. as it was of her. She did not like it that Jasper should shoot birds. She was often ashamed of her own shabbiness. suspecting some thorn in the tangle of this thought. it was true. and his eyes darkened. he will never be so happy again. she reflected. Minta came… Yes. but it was only a stage. And here she was. because whatever she might feel about her own transaction and she had had experiences which need not happen upon Minta. Wishing to dominate. and it thundered . Milk 52 delivered at your door in London positively brown with dirt. fresh as roses. And he was angry. Why must they grow up and lose it all? And then she said to herself. why should they grow up.54 Not that she herself was ‘pessimistic’. one – she need not ‘Then he put on his trousers and ran away like a madman. the mountains trembled. were full of promise. for she had a clear sense of it there. great reconciliation scenes. her fifty years. demons lose all that? He was the most gifted.53 But all. to say that people must marry. to make up her mind. and so on. a perfect angel with the others. but she never wanted James to grow a day older or Cam either. These two she would have liked to keep for ever just as they were. in which she door sprang open and in they came. houses and trees toppled over.’ she read. was on one side. when they were all at school. and it thundered and lightened. masterful. And. Then the day of their lives was a positive event to them. and quick to pounce on you if you gave it a chance. people must have children. There were the eternal problems: suffering. A sort of transaction went on between them. Then people might say she was tyrannical. No hospital on the whole island. feeling life rather sinister again. making people do what she wished – that was the charge against her. She took a look at life. A tenpenny tea set made Cam happy for days. ‘But outside a great storm was raging and blowing so hard that he could scarcely keep his feet. she asked herself. touching his hair with her lips. To eight people she ambition and being wretched alone in dreary places – she had often the feeling. too quickly she knew. She was happiest carrying one in her arms.

he would be cut off.’ Happily. he will remember that all his life. was the light of the Lighthouse. and she thought. 11 . and the whitening of the flowers and something grey in the leaves conspired together to rouse in her a feeling of anxiety. But he kept looking back over his shoulder as Mildred carried him out. Or coming back single file on one But she did not let her voice change in the least as she finished the story. as the interest of the story died away in them. What it was about she could not think at first. He would roll and then crash. She summoned before her again the little group on the terrace in front of the hall door. Mildred came in to fetch them. It was growing quite dark. so that she would finish the story. ‘No: not tomorrow. we are not going to the Lighthouse to-morrow. she looked across the bay. something wondering. It had been lit. Then she remembered. which at once made him gaze and marvel. made them up herself. ‘Are we going to the Lighthouse?’ And she would have to say. shutting the book. The meant he was going to catch crabs and things. and she saw in his eyes. Paul and Minta and Andrew had not come back. and there.’55 she said.and lightened. looking into James’s eyes: ‘And there they are living still at this very time. That of those little paths above the cliff one of them might slip. and the bustle distracted them. your father says not. coming regularly across the waves first two quick strokes and then one long steady stroke. and all with white foam at the top. and added. In a moment he would ask her. like the reflection of a light. something else take its place. and the sea came in with black waves as high as church towers and mountains. That meant he would climb out on to a rock. Turning. Andrew had his net and basket. and speaking the last words as if she had ‘And that’s the end. standing looking up into the sky. It was getting late. there were only a few lines more. sure enough.’ light in the garden told her that. though it was past bedtime. and she was certain that he was thinking. pale.’ She turned the page.

To oneself. in her sadness. so stiffened and composed the lines of her face in a habit of sternness that when her husband passed. How could any Lord have made this world? she asked. and one shrunk. putting together some of the pictures he had cut out – a refrigerator. one lost the fret. yet so little her. and there rose to her lips always some exclamation of triumph over life when things came together in this peace. without vanity. We are in the But instantly she was annoyed with herself for saying that. And that was what now she often felt the need of – to think. the long steady stroke. she held the long reddish-brown stocking dangling in her hands a moment. but it was all very still. Lily. And again he would have passed her without a word had she not. She saw the light again. a mowing machine. a bride to meet her lover. Augustus herself. Although she continued to knit. He looked into the hedge. he could not help noting. without being aware of it. He turned and saw her. and he passed her without a word. there was. the hurry. Who had said it? not she. he could do nothing to help her. Not as oneself did one find rest ever. She was aloof from him now in her beauty. But he could not speak to her. a mist. and what one did. she felt herself pushing aside the thick leather curtain of a church in Rome. The insincerity slipping in among the truths roused her. and he could not reach her. He could not interrupt her. the sternness at the heart of her beauty. he made things worse for her. He must stand by and watch her. It will end. to be alone. she had been trapped into saying something she did not mean. she looked at the steady light. he would not interrupt her. our apparitions. death. this rest. had stuck in a bog. as he passed. He was irritable – he Always. the last of the three. cricket was over. she knew that. They could not stop it. for when one her at its beck and call (she woke in the night and saw it bent across their bed. the poor. in her experience (she accomplished here something that stroke of the Lighthouse. it is all spreading. children don’t forget’– hands of the Lord. and it was a relief when they went to bed. When life sank down for a moment. Indeed. which was her stroke. felt an irrational tenderness floor of the mind. It was odd. and he felt. It will end. No happiness lasted. Her horizon seemed to her limitless. there was only the sound of the sea. some sight. as if it were stroking with its silver fingers some sealed vessel in her brain whose bursting would flood her with delight. which had fascination. felt they became one. something invisible to others. a gentleman in evening dress – children never forget. glittering. intense happiness. She stopped knitting. Ramsay felt. slightly pursing her lips and. she was beautiful like that light. he was sad. and pausing there she looked out to meet summoning together. she supposed. must feel. justice: but suffering. at that very moment. rose from the lake of one’s being. searching as she alone could search into her mind and her heart. well not even to think. annoyed her. it was so important what one said. the things you know us by. there was peace. one helped oneself out of solitude reluctantly by laying hold of some little odd or end. All the being and the doing. are simply childish.11 No. For now she need be silent. how if one was alone. she thought. She could be herself. grown enormously fat.56 This core of darkness could go anywhere. it will come. and it silvered the rough waves a little more brightly. and she looked and looked with her needles suspended. For this reason. for she was stern. she was searching. exquisite happiness. lovelier now than ever he thought. streams. She knitted with firm composure. It saddened him. felt they knew one. into its intricacy. the stir. the remorseless. the children were in their baths. any lie. which she would repeat and begin adding to it. And to everybody there was always this sense of unlimited resources. could do nothing to help her. There were all the places she had not seen. But he resolved. but as a wedge of darkness. order. though it hurt him that she should look so distant.57 found herself sitting and looking. Often she And it would lift up on it some little phrase or other which had been lying in her mind like that– ‘Children don’t forget. there curled up off the What brought her to say that: ‘We are in the hands of the Lord’? she wondered. she thought. she. With her mind she had always seized the fact that there is no reason. There was no treachery too base for the world to commit. watching it with woke at all. She listened. this eternity. when he reached the hedge. the Indian plains. He . trees. Beneath it is all dark. She praised herself in praising the light. Losing personality. There rose. It is enough! It is enough! she had known happiness. it is unfathomably deep. a dexterous with her needles). and this self having shed its attachments was free for the strangest adventures. He would let her be. most welcome of all. expansive. Mrs. sitting and looking. flowers. she thought. and sat upright. one leant to things. and. with her work in her hands until she became the thing she looked at – that light for example. she knew that. given him of her own free will what she knew he would never ask. one’s relations changed. when suddenly she added. by herself. for no one saw it. evaporated. the long steady stroke. a wedge-shaped core of darkness. and this thing. as he passed. There was freedom. purifying out of existence that lie. as daylight faded. exulting. Ah! She was lovely. stroking the floor). in a sense were one. felt they expressed one. and the wanted urgently to speak to her now that James was gone and she was alone at last. and called to him and taken the green shawl off the picture frame. that he could not protect her. It will come. was her stroke. the philosopher. He had lost his temper over the Lighthouse. but now and again we rise to the surface and that is what you see us by. vocal. the infernal truth was. With some irony in her interrogation. the range of experience Carmichael. a resting on a platform of stability. and her remoteness pained him. She returned to her knitting again. She looked up over her knitting and met the third stroke and it seemed to her like her own eyes meeting her own eyes. inanimate thus (she looked at that long steady light) as for oneself. no. things. He was touchy. but for all that she thought. which was so much her. it was thus that she felt seemed limitless. some sound. its darkness. to being not think about anybody. blue went out of the sea and it rolled in waves of pure lemon which curved and swelled and broke upon the beach and the ecstasy burst in her eyes and waves of pure delight raced over the floor of her mind and she felt. with a sense of solemnity. she said. though he was chuckling at the thought that Hume. one after another. for watching them in this mood always at this hour one could not help attaching oneself to one thing especially of the things one saw. hypnotised. the pitiless.

For he wished. to protect her.and gone to him. 12 . she knew.

They would stem the flood a bit. She worried about the boys. Andrew would be a better . said Mrs. remarked. Ramsay thought. she said. There were little sandy beaches where no one had been since the beginning of time. He did not like to see her look so sad. thinking. not a single village for miles on end. There was no harm in him. Ramsay. thinking wool-gathering. It sometimes seemed to him that in a little house out there. One could walk all day without meeting a soul. There was a ladder against the greenhouse. To begin with. as they stood between the clumps of red-hot pokers. but it did not matter. They hadn’t come home yet. and he trusted he would find better ways of amusing himself before long. that aloofness. he was so awfully handsome. over The seals sat up and looked at you.’ said Mr. Mr. He had no right. that remoteness of hers… But she pressed him. about didn’t. he had walked all day. she would not have let herself sit there. These flowers seemed creditable. He had there. He did not look at the flowers. Ramsay thought her foolish for saying that. They both felt uncomfortable. if he could not share her drops of silver water held firm in a wind. So she looked over her shoulder. he would be off. That was a good bit of work on the whole– his father of eight children – he reminded himself. He had had about enough of Bankes and of Carmichael. all children go through stages. she asked. The lights were rippling and running as if they were of the harbour and of the boats seemed like a phantom net floating there to mark something which had sunk. Yes. alone – he broke off. he wanted to tell her that when he was walking on the terrace just now – here he became uncomfortable. at the town.’ said Mrs. He held his watch open for a moment.’ said Mr. at once. Prue was going to be far more beautiful than she was. said Mr. which his wife was considering. she answered. it’s all he has to count on. something brown. looking across the bay. Ramsay. then. as if they did not know whether to go on or go back. But no. He’d disinherit her if she married him. Ramsay. did they about the influence of somebody upon something. an old woman just popped her head in now and again and saw to the fire. It annoyed him that she did not protest. Her husband was so sensible. He had made a meal off bread and cheese in a public house. Ramsay. There was not a house scarcely. Ramsay said. she protested. Yes. Ramsay. harder. he did sometimes do a stroke of work. telling himself the story how Hume was stuck in a bog. And he would have been a beast and a cur to wish a single thing altered. Mrs. her mother said. those sandhills dwindling away into darkness. deciding that he would tell her what he had felt on the terrace. he has his dissertation to write. she said. look to-night. towards the red-hot pokers.12 She folded the green shawl about her shoulders. did Kennedy plant them? It was his incurable laziness. ‘Well. ‘She was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. He would not bother her again about his books. He was too old now to walk all day long with a biscuit in his pocket. Ramsay. she thought. ‘Yes. lowering his gaze and noticing something red. plant them? ‘Oh. and wondering what about next year’s flowers. ‘Well. Ramsay stood over him all day long with a spade in her hand. she talked about Jasper shooting birds. he said. on his own. If she ‘You’re teaching your daughters to exaggerate. the little atheist. When he was Andrew’s age he used to walk about the aloud he thought he would be off for a day’s walk if the weather held. She had it on the tip of her tongue to say. were breaking into that solitude. said Mr.’ said Mr. She had been They had reached the gap between the two clumps of red-hot pokers. Well. he added. before he had married. and there was the Lighthouse again.’ said Mrs.’ said Mr. Ramsay. He talked of nothing else. worked ten hours at a stretch. The man than he had been. and had he heard the children’s nickname for Charles Tansley. said Mrs. she added. as they strolled. He should be very proud of Andrew if he got a scholarship. flushing a little. but not about him. and that he was sorry he had said ‘Damn you’. and he liked her to be proud Wasn’t it late? she asked. That was the country he liked best. They paused. but then these she had put in with her own hands. The question was. he wanted to laugh. for they were beginning to mend the green-house roof. Mrs. She liked him to believe in scholarships.’ said Mrs. Andrew could look after himself.’ said Mr. soothing her instantly. ‘Far from it. They disagreed always about this. What had he wanted to tell her. She would be just as proud of him if he of Andrew whatever he did. Ramsay. ‘Somebody else was that. ‘Nobody ever held up your Aunt Camilla as a model of virtue that I’m aware of. He said little solitude. and was just about to say that anyhow he was the only young man in England who admired his – when he choked it back. that it was natural in a boy. Mrs. with nothing but a biscuit in his pocket and nobody bothered about him. sighing. Yes. It was She supposed it was all right leaving him to his own devices. like a scholarship. what happened if she sent bulbs down. it was not reasonable to be so nervous. reproving her. And so she said. He would lose every chance of a scholarship 59 if he didn’t. Ramsay. Ramsay. But it was only just past seven. ‘He’s not a polished specimen. And all the poverty. they called him. The lights of the town and thoughts. Mr. she said. moving on. Then. he said. Ramsay said to himself. and little lumps of putty stuck about. but at a spot about a foot or so above them. beginning to speak of Kennedy the gardener at once. they could not say that. He would like a country60 all day long. Prue would be a beauty. She knew that he would never do it. Mr. Years ago. he thought. She knew all about that. they could not share that. Had she known that he was looking at her. Her Aunt Camilla58 was far worse than she was. Only reading fairy tales to James. Ramsay. or thought that he had fallen over a cliff. He wished Andrew could be induced to work a serious thing. Suddenly she remembered those little paths on the edge of the cliffs. Ramsay. for her heart failed her about money. Ramsay. He flicked his watch carelessly open. as if he it was about going to the Lighthouse. One could worry things out alone. Ramsay said. she felt that that particular source of worry had been placed. but as she strolled along with her husband. His beauty was so great. that she couldn’t dismiss him. then. He saw no trace of it. So they strolled along. ‘Pray Heaven he won’t fall in love with Prue. Ramsay. The atheist. He wanted to go on thinking. and he said. she asked. But first it was nonsense to be anxious about Andrew. She disliked anything that reminded her that she had been seen sitting thinking.’ said Mr. She took his arm.’ said Mrs. so just. wondering whether it was any use sending down bulbs. all the suffering had turned to that. ‘Oh scholarships!’ she said. but she would not let herself look at it. No. said Mrs.’ and began considering the dahlias in the big bed. but instead. ‘It’ll cost fifty pounds’. Ramsay.

indeed it was. she saw above the thin trees the first pulse of the full-throbbing star. how was one to keep them down? she wondered. she would have blown her brains out by now. or whether there was pudding on his plate or roast beef? He would sit at table with them like a person in a dream. half swallowed up in the sea. he said. looking at the land dwindling away. And what was he groaning about. of all sorts of horrors. for on an evening like this. ‘Poor little place. and she must stop for a moment to see whether those were fresh mole-hills on the bank. he said. It was only to please her… Ah.eight children. or even realise that they were there. a great mind like his must be different in every way from ours. born blind. this phrase-making. It annoyed her. but was that not Lily Briscoe strolling along with William Bankes? She What an admirable idea! They must marry! focussed her short-sighted eyes upon the backs of a retreating couple. and wanted to make her husband look at it. she was afraid. She knew that he had nothing whatever to complain of. But did he notice the cheer him. with one of his sighs. But she knew quite well that he did not admire them. Some creature anyhow was ruining her evening primroses. His understanding often astonished her. Was it not odd. simply to look at him. with an eye like an eagle’s. Ramsay. stooping down to look. that it was a perfectly lovely evening. as he was. Mrs. She knew that he did not complain. They showed he did not damn the poor little universe entirely.61 She heard him. Mrs.63 And looking up. and it was good for young men (though the atmosphere of lecture-rooms was stuffy and depressing to her beyond endurance almost) simply to hear him. Did he notice the view? No. But then. Poor little world. but to the ordinary things. was growing on him. the little island seemed pathetically small. were like that. All the great men she had ever known. He said the most melancholy things. intimating by a little pressure on his arm that he walked up hill too fast for her. deaf. He was not complaining. but she noticed that directly he had said them he always seemed more cheerful than usual. and how untamed and optimistic. and how strange it was that being convinced. for the sight gave her such keen pleasure. Yes. arm in arm. it must! 13 . Did he even notice his own daughter’s beauty. for sometimes it was awkward – Best and brightest. If he did. And his habit of talking aloud. it might be a mole. then. though he was over sixty. come away!62 poor Miss Giddings. though instantly taking his side against all the silly Giddingses in the world. he thought. It might be a rabbit. for she guessed what he was thinking – he would have written better books if he had not married. seemed not to depress him. half complaining. and dumb. to please her. He never looked at things. when he shouted that at her. His arm was almost hand and raised it to his lips and kissed it with an intensity that brought the tears to her eyes. Ramsay thought. for if she had said half what he said. but to the extraordinary things. and she said to him. almost jumped out of her skin.’ he murmured with a sigh. to flowers? No. she thought. in a matter-of-fact way. like a young man’s arm. and quickly he dropped it. and pretended to admire the flowers. and she thought with delight how strong he still was. she thought. thin and hard. And he seized her They turned away from the view and began to walk up the path where the silver-green spear-like plants grew. she reflected? Indeed he seemed to her sometimes made differently from other people. But she stopped herself. At that moment. half laughing. then. she thought. she thought. All this phrase-making was a game. But without shooting rabbits. deciding that a rabbit must have got in. ‘Very fine’. or saying poetry aloud. Did that not mean that they would marry? Yes. she asked. all he would say would be.

and they were standing close together ringing a doorbell. he was sure she would. He had been to Rome. Mr. But he did not want compliments (most men do. tossing off her little insincerity. a man and a woman looking at a girl throwing a ball. to himself he strolled off to his study. and made them in the dusk watching Prue and Jasper throwing catches. the symbolical outline which transcended the real figures sank down again. Mr. for no reason at all. Ramsay watching the children throwing catches. Bankes.64 Mr.65 he said. Michael Angelo. Lily would have liked to pay him a compliment. she had been to Paris. the symbols of marriage. She had been to Dresden. at the same time he doubted whether you could have your Darwin and your Titian if it weren’t for humble people like ourselves. She had been to Brussels. there was a sense of things having been blown apart. she thought). as perhaps they are stepping out of the Tube or standing. looking. of space. she should— masses of pictures she had not seen. she would always go on painting. came upon them. making them symbolical. He had seen the Rembrandts. And suddenly the meaning which. there were Madrid. and lost it and saw the one star and the draped branches. But still for a moment. He had been to It would be a wonderful experience for her – the Sistine Chapel. Had Miss Briscoe never been to Rome? Oh. and as they reached the end of the lawn he was asking her whether she had difficulty in finding was saying did not apply to pictures. Then. so that their sight-seeing had been on a modest scale. His wife had been in bad health for many years. U nfortunately. and Mrs. Bankes thought one could carry that point of view too far. bringing Prue back into the alliance of family life again. That is what Mrs. Anyhow. and they became. Lily Briscoe reflected. she thought. she would have liked to have said. descends on people. Mr. Ramsay felt free now to laugh out loud at Hume. husband and wife. however. said Lily.66 making them representative. it was Good Friday and the Prado was shut.’ meaning that for once Mr. of irresponsibility as the ball soared high. who had stuck in a bog and an old woman rescued him on condition he said the Lord’s Prayer. subjects in London when they turned and saw the Ramsays. and Padua. Prue ran full tilt into them and caught the ball brilliantly high up in her left hand. Then. Mrs. after an instant. Lily thought) and said. and chuckling catches. as they met them. Bankes had agreed to dine with them and not run off to his own lodging where his man cooked vegetables properly. ‘I have triumphed to-night. Bankes was saying as he strolled across the lawn with Lily Briscoe. because it interested her. For she was wearing a green shawl. darting backwards over the vast space (for it seemed as if solidity had vanished altogether). ‘Haven’t they come back yet?’ whereupon the spell was broken. from which she had escaped. perhaps it was better not to see pictures: they only made one hopelessly discontented with one’s own work. but only for a flying visit to see an aunt who was ill. you’re not humble. Ramsay. with its Giottos. Mr. Lily thought. she’s thinking we’re going to get married. In the failing light they all looked sharp-edged and ethereal and divided by great still.13 He had been to Amsterdam. for one moment. and they followed it distances. Ramsay tried to tell me the other night. Ramsay greeted them with her usual smile (oh. though Mrs. and she was a little ashamed of her impulse and said nothing while he remarked that perhaps what he Yes. Bankes. So that is marriage. and her mother said. We can’t all be Titians and we can’t all be Darwins. asked. throwing ‘Did Nancy go with them?’ 14 . said Mr.

and slipped into the vast fissures of the mountain side. She thought she must have been tossed in her perambulator when she was a baby. Nancy had gone with them. crouched over the pool. They kept their heads very low. they both felt. She did not want to be drawn into it all. to her attic. and shout out together: Damn your eyes. but it would be fatal to let the tide come in and cover up all the good hunting-grounds before they got on to the beach. to escape the horror of family life. She might have called him when she saw the crayfish or whatever it was. Andrew grumbled. She didn’t seem to mind what she said or did. Nancy waded out to her own rocks and searched her own pools and let that side of the rock. She and Andrew put on their shoes and stockings in dead silence without saying a thing about it. she wanted? Nancy asked herself. for their park-like prospects and the extent and variety of their marine curiosities’. and then. had lost it. one must admit that. which was the very thing to enrage a bull of course. and Nancy that Andrew should be a man and they tied their shoes very neatly and drew the bows rather tight. was carried by her own impetuosity and her desire for rapid movement right behind a rock and there oh heavens! in each other’s arms were Paul and Minta! kissing probably. without names. sank down into it and disappeared. They all had to join in and sing the chorus. Once on the beach they separated. springing up. At the mere sight of a bull in a field she would throw up her arms and fly screaming. and cast vast clouds over this tiny world by holding her hand against the sun. and the two senses of that vastness and this tininess (the pool had diminished again) flowering within it made her feel that she was bound hand and foot and unable to move by the intensity of feelings which reduced her own body. She seemed to be afraid of nothing – except bulls. He liked her rashness. to nothingness. All the same it irritated Andrew that Nancy should be a woman. However. letting her eyes slide imperceptibly above the pool and rest on that wavering line of sea and sky. Then she would take it again. It was the worst of taking women on walks. the pinnacle. Then she would let it go. this clapping him on the back. as Paul told him to make a ‘thorough search between this point . Out on the pale criss-crossed sand. prominent things. after lunch. She wore very short skirts and black knickerbockers. and the lives of all the people in the world. fringed. hypnotised. the sole ornament she possessed – a weeping willow. And then. her own life. as she did when they ran down the hillside. Minta. she changed the pool into the sea.68 taking his shoes off. She would rather have lost anything than that! She would go back and look for it. and as they went slithering down. she said. Indeed they were rather sharp with each other. high-stepping. however heavy-eyed one might be. for ever. for when Minta took her hand and held it. but he saw that it would not do – she would kill herself in some idiotic way one of these days. who were stuck like lumps of jelly to the gauntletted. and then took her hand away suddenly and let the sun stream down. She supposed she must go then. ‘What is it that she wants? Is it that?’ And what was that? Here and there emerged from the mist (as Nancy looked down upon life spread beneath her) a pinnacle. when Minta took her hand. of course. Andrew felt. the brooch which her grandmother had fastened her cap with till the last day of her life. She crouched low down and touched the smooth rubber-like sea anemones. couple look after themselves. as Nancy made off. it would not altogether do. like God himself. picking his way down the cliff. They had not wanted this horrid nuisance to happen. holding out her hand. indignant. She wore more sensible clothes than most women. it was (they must remember it) set in pearls. he kept quoting the guide-book about ‘these islands being justly celebrated rolling his socks in them and letting that couple look after themselves. that people wanted. She knew she was an awful coward about bulls. she brooded. For as they walked along the road to the cliff Minta kept on taking her hand. all that. and so brought darkness and desolation. They all went back. as if it were Constantinople67 seen through a mist. stalked some fantastic leviathan (she was still enlarging the pool). Andrew observed. Brooding. Suddenly now she pitched down on the edge of the cliff and began to sing some song about Damn your eyes. whatever it was that had protruded through the mist. Paul Rayley searched like a madman all about the rock where they had been sitting. All this pother about a brooch really didn’t do at all. this shouting and damning your eyes. ‘Is that Santa Sofia?’ ‘Is that the Golden Horn?’ So Nancy asked. What was it reluctantly. damn your eyes. she became with all that power sweeping savagely in and inevitably withdrawing. and made the minnows into sharks and whales. saw the whole world spread out beneath her. since Minta Doyle had asked it with her dumb look. a dome. And Andrew shouted that the sea was coming in. on the tree trunks which the smoke of steamers made waver upon the horizon.’ Paul agreed. to millions of ignorant and innocent creatures. he going out on to the Pope’s Nose. They must have seen it. the dome. But when Minta dropped her hand. one must needs ask. and ‘Fatal. it’s not our fault. Now she looked. and calling him ‘old fellow’ and all that. So listening to the waves. damn your eyes. But it would not do altogether. They poked and peered and It was not until they had climbed right up on to the top of the cliff again that Minta cried out that she had lost her grandmother’s brooch70 – her she said. There was something. and said things shortly and gruffly. was rather a good walker. so she leapt splashing through the shallow waves on to the shore and ran up the beach and grandmother’s brooch. She did not want to go. But she did not mind owning up to it in the least. Nancy. with the tears running down her cheeks. Andrew thought. She would jump straight into a stream and flounder across.69 She was outraged.14 (Certainly.

and repeated in a dazed way. But she made him believe that he could do whatever he wanted. they assured her. his house. and somehow it would be rather dangerous. But. childishly. and he must tell some one – Mrs. Ramsay. suddenly terrified. Andrew thought. which was shaded with high came out on the hill and saw the lights of the town beneath them. It was her grandmother’s brooch. and different from usual) took counsel briefly and decided that they would plant Rayley’s stick where they had sat and come back at low tide again. It seemed to him that it would be almost dark. It had been far and away the worst moment of his life when he asked Minta to marry him. staring about him with his face quite stiff. as they came into the house. Ramsay of course. as he walked up the drive. putting his hand to his 15 . all the way up to the top of the cliff. and walk on and on. He would get up at daybreak and he was positive he would find it. but Minta still sobbed. and again he thought. ‘I’ve done it. Paul and Minta. The sea would cover the place where they had sat in a minute. just like it but more beautiful. I must not make a fool of myself. and she said that she would not hear of his getting up at dawn: it was lost: she knew that: she had had a presentiment when she put it on that afternoon. and he would be alone on the beach. I believe in you.72 and the lights after the darkness lights. for it took his breath away to think what he had been and done. he had found a gold watch. and yet Nancy felt. As if there were any danger of that! It was the same as the bulls all over again – she had no control over her emotions. she would rather have lost anything but that. good heavens. the lights coming out suddenly one by one seemed like things that were going to bushes. however. Women hadn’t.’ And so turning into the lane that led to the house he could see lights moving about in the made his eyes feel full. thanks to you. And as they happen to him – his marriage. She had made him think he could do anything. that he would certainly find it. and directly they got back (he looked for the lights of the house above the bay) he would go to her and say. He began telling her. He had felt her eyes on him all day to-day. and he comforted her. it would still be there in the morning.) upper windows. They must be awfully late then. There was nothing more that could be done now. But she did not know what for. Mrs. The men (Andrew and Paul at once became manly. He would go straight to Mrs. Ramsay. as they came out on to the high road. she wasn’t crying only for that. There was not a ghost of a chance of their finding it now. Once when he was a little boy could not find it he would go to Edinburgh71. his children. The tide was coming in fast. The wretched Paul had to pacify her. ‘We shall be cut off!’ Minta shrieked. He would prove what he could do. how they would retreat into solitude together. and buy her another. because he felt somehow that she was the person who had made him do it. We might all sit down and cry. she felt. he said to himself. She was crying for something else. lights. tie. Lights. ‘Yes. Lights. As they turned by the cross roads he thought what an appalling experience he had been through. lights. following him about (though she never said a word) as if she were saying. and he said to himself. If the brooch was there.and that’. lights. and said how famous he was for finding things. and she pressing close to his side (as she did now). he always leading her. The house was all lit up. though it might be true that she minded losing her brooch. you can do it. I expect it of you. Nobody else took him seriously. People were getting ready for dinner. And secretly he resolved that he would not tell her.’ She had made him feel all that. but he would slip out of the house at dawn when they were all asleep and if he They drew ahead together.

15 ‘Yes. in her considering way.’ 16 . ‘I think Nancy did go with them. answering her mother’s question.’ said Prue.

James had brought her from India. for he shared his mother’s vice: he. was a bird shoved aside by their black wings and cut into exquisite scimitar shapes. and things had to be sent out. it might be cold: a shawl. as she was the lady. What was the reason. She would go down and they would tell her – but no. Ramsay felt. she went down. Look at that. Every time. laughing at Jasper. she thought. she knew. The movement of the wings beating out. finding her people gathered in the hall. It was so inadequate. sitting down to dinner. dearests. hoping that they would make haste. this little ceremony of choosing jewels. while the children rummaged among her things. because he was the gentleman. whether the fact that Nancy was with them made it less likely or more likely that anything would happen. They could not all be drowned. old Joseph was her name for him. through her own past. the old rook. He was a disreputable old bird. which was Italian. Which looked best against her black dress? Which did indeed? said Mrs. was what Rose liked best. like all grown-up people. she said to Rose. and Rose would suffer. particularly. and what Rose felt was quite out of proportion to anything she actually was. They were actually fighting.’ she said. Ramsay thought. ‘There. out – she could never more clearly than she could. To keep it waiting was out of the question. There was a smell of burning. and at once she felt much more annoyed with them than relieved. looking at her neck and shoulders (but avoiding her face). stopping by the window on the landing. or should she wear her amethysts? ‘Look!’ she said. as she put down a brush. hoping that Rose would see it But which was it to be? They had all the trays of her jewel-case open. she said. and what else? oh. For one’s children so often gave one’s own perceptions a little thrust forwards. The beef. some deep. it made it less likely. and acknowledges their tributes silently. of all nights. yes. and it annoyed her on top of her anxiety about them. which was gone through every night. or the opal necklace. before him as she passed). Like all feelings felt for oneself. and Rose. the father rook. Ramsay emphatically. life. in fact. The gold necklace. divining. it was she wished the dinner to be particularly nice. and Jasper. took up a comb. inconsiderate of them.’ she added. while Jasper took the message. But how did she know that those were Mary and Joseph? Did she think the same birds came to the same trees every night? he asked. out.73 When there are fifteen people Jasper and Rose said that Mildred wanted to know whether she should wait dinner. And again she felt alone in the presence of her old antagonist. and descends among them. Then she wondered. they seemed to of a very trying and difficult disposition. Could they have let the Bœuf en Daube overboil. she looked out of the window at a sight which always amused her – the rooks trying to decide which tree to settle on. with these deep feelings. and hold her jewels against the black dress. And then. for her own for attaching great importance to this choosing what her mother was to wear. which U ncle ‘Choose. that they did not feel. out they went. laughing.75 Everything depended upon things being served up the precise moment they were ready. Mrs. for she did not understand the fun of shooting birds. came in late. too. She was listening to a clatter in the hall. choose. Choose me a shawl. She was now beginning to feel annoyed with them for being so late. things had to be kept hot.’ she said. except that after all holocaust on such a scale was not probable. because. had it happened? begin dinner and wait.74 one cannot keep things waiting for ever. ‘there they are again. it made one sad. Mrs. for that would please Rose. Mrs. and being his mother she lived away in another division of the world. suddenly. and crossed the hall and bowed her head very slightly. take up this and then that. Ramsay supposed. some quite speechless feeling that one had return. the Bœuf en Daube would be entirely spoilt. ‘Don’t you think they mind’. Anyhow they all went up again. ‘having their wings broken?’ Why did he want to shoot poor old Joseph and Mary? He shuffled a little on the stairs. and they were having Mildred’s And if Rose liked. and they Jasper offered her an opal necklace. standing still for one’s mother at Rose’s age. And. ‘Not for the Empress of Mexico. she wondered? pray heaven not! when the . she ceased to pay him the least attention.16 Well then. and they would go down. she said. should carry her handkerchief (she gave her the handkerchief). Ramsay absent-mindedly. ‘Not for the Queen of England. She had some hidden reason of to let her clasp the necklace she had chosen. and she said she was ready now. Nancy had gone with them. like some queen who. what one could give in supposed. Yet of course to-night. some buried. and accepts their devotion and their prostration before her (Paul did not move a muscle but looked straight tribute to her beauty. Rose a gold necklace. the bayleaf. in the glass. should give her his arm. master-piece – Bœuf en Daube. looks down upon them. She made him laugh. who was bound to suffer so. And Rose would grow up. exaggerated. she said to Jasper. as if she accepted what they could not say: their But she stopped. with half his wing feathers missing. but not seriously. with all these people about. she But she let them take their time to choose: she let Rose.’ said Mrs. but he rather liked her stories about Mary and Joseph. Ramsay wondered. very irrationally. Mrs. They could not tell her anything. change their minds and rose up into the air again. she might choose which jewels she was to wear. and said ‘Come in’ to a tap at the door (Jasper and Rose came in). since William Bankes had at last consented to dine with them. But here. and felt rebuked. and the air was describe it accurately enough to please herself – was one of the loveliest of all to her. and the wine – all must be done to a turn. Joseph and Mary76 were fighting. He was like some seedy old gentleman in a top hat she had seen playing the horn in front of a public house. wondering. that they should choose this very night to be out late. when.’ Joseph had settled on another tree-top. So she must go down and ‘They’ve come back!’ she exclaimed. somehow.

in bedrooms. or fastening dresses. that all those scattered about. putting the last smooth to their hair. in attics. 17 . and the little odds and ends on their washing-tables and dressing-tables. on little perches of their own. and the diaries which were so private. reading. must leave all that. and assemble in the dining-room for dinner. and the novels on the bed-tables. writing.great clangour of the gong announced solemnly. authoritatively.

outside that eddy. It was the women’s fault. drain-pipe looking up at her. He has his work. two. Ramsay. Tansley. He had not got any dress clothes. as if there was an eddy – there– and one could be in it. He always saying. it was as if the ship Lily Briscoe watched her drifting into that strange noman’s land where to follow people is impossible and yet their going inflicts such a chill on had turned and the sun had struck its sails again. passively. ‘over there. or as if a shade had fallen. since clearly it was not true to him but for some reason helpful to him. while they came in one after another. Then when she turned to William Bankes. two. superficial. he thought. flimsy. and dined alone in lodgings except for to-night. all in a heap. the fact remained. eat. all of a sudden as if she had found a treasure. Yes. He is work. and Lily thought with some amusement because she was relieved. it was pretty well true. please. sit by me. thought Charles Tansley. That’s what remind herself to move the tree. Tansley?’ asked Mrs. infinitely long table and plates and knives. the old familiar pulse began beating. when she told him that his letters were in the hall. listening to it. Lily thought. and looking at all the plates making white circles on it. meals. Again she felt. eat. smiling. Why did they dress? He had come down in his ordinary clothes. deep set. They did nothing but talk. frowning. giving herself the little shake that one gives a watch that has stopped. three. ‘No going to the Lighthouse to-morrow. Poor William Bankes. What at? She did not know. for if she did not do it watch begins ticking– one. Ramsay – she pitied men always as if they lacked something – women never. and erect itself again from this abasement only .’ she said. He was not going to be condescended to by these silly women. Lily thought. ‘Did you find your letters? I told them to put them in the hall for you. that bare unloveliness. he would have whirled round and round and found rest on the floor of the sea. But nevertheless. and now he came down and it all seemed to him silly. Lily thought (he sat opposite to her with his back to the window precisely in the middle of the view). Lily supposed. talk. for something to happen. and that was why he said it? Why did her whole being bow. not in the least pitiable. but he felt it necessary to assert himself. that she too had her it was one of those misjudgments of hers that seemed to be instinctive and to arise from some need of her own rather than of other people’s. all their silliness. as the of the effort of merging and flowing and creating rested on her. At the far end. And so then. Ramsay. she repeated. she thought.’ she said – thing. Bankes. and Augustus Carmichael – and sat down. And so on and so on. Charles Tansley – ‘Sit there. life being now strong enough to bear her on again. Everything about him had that meagre fixity. It’s all come to an end. the most uncharming human being she had ever met. so as to ‘It’s odd that one scarcely gets anything worth having by post. Women made civilisation impossible with all their ‘charm’. otherwise he did not suppose he wrote one letter a month. out of everything. as she helped the soup. He liked her. and so. I shall put the tree further in the middle. She had a sense of being past everything. frightening. She took up the salt cellar and put it down again on a flower in the pattern in the table-cloth. Ramsay. he admired her. and in pity for him. He wrote to his mother. for someone to answer her. sitting down. Mr.17 But what have I done with my life? thought Mrs. Then why did she mind what he said? Women can’t write. But this is not a Raising her eyebrows at the discrepancy– that was what she was thinking. the sterility of men. her resolve to live again. Why does she pity him? For that was the impression she gave. ladling out soup. pitying him too. Lily Briscoe thought. she concluded. She liked his eyes. and the life in her. They all sat separate. ‘William. and thought.’ They had that – Paul Rayley and Minta Doyle – she. three. The room (she looked round it) was very shabby.’ said Mr. sheltering and fostering the still feeble pulse as one might guard a weak flame with a newspaper. as if her own weariness had been partly pitying people. as if. she was out of it. They never got anything worth having from one year’s end to another. then I shall avoid that awkward space. she began all this business. as a fact without hostility. She forebore to look at Mr. had been stirred by pity. as a sailor not without weariness sees the wind fill his sail and yet hardly wants to be off again and thinks how. or one could be out of it. she thought. those who watch them that they always try at least to follow them with their eyes as one follows a fading ship until the sails have sunk beneath the horizon. said Mr. There was no beauty anywhere. like corn under a wind. And the whole nobody would do it. yet one always wants one’s letters. Yes. addressing herself by bending silently in his direction to William Bankes – poor man! who had no wife and no children. I shall do. In a flash she saw her picture. how worn she looks. wearily. for that was true of Mrs. Nothing seemed to have merged. had been reading in his room. They made men say that sort of thing. they were blue. ‘One never gets anything worth having by post’– that was the sort of thing they were For he was not going to talk the sort of rot these people wanted him to talk. talk. robbed of colour. as if they had something. he were determined to make sure of his anyone if one looked at them. And it was not true. She through everything. and how remote. one. that one says. it was almost impossible to dislike ‘Do you write many letters. That’s what has been puzzling me. and. in spite of his eyes. more and more strongly. had the ship sunk. women can’t paint78 – what did that matter coming from him. Lily said to herself.’ she said. She could not understand how she had ever felt any emotion or any affection for him. she seemed to be saying. she saw things truly. ‘Lily. only this – an did not mind. shortly. What damned rot they talk.77 How old she looks. was her husband.’ he said asserting himself. this was what she was doing– ladling out soup – she felt. And meanwhile she waited. Tansley. eat. Mrs. taking her place at the head of the table.’ she said to William Bankes. laying down his spoon precisely in the middle of his plate. She remembered. which he had swept clean. he still thought of the man in the He was really.

She would be sick. ‘Oh. He had friends in all circles… Mrs. ‘No. ‘It must have been fifteen – no. He felt uncomfortable. Cam. in this. What does one live for? Why. time it all was to be sure! Yet. he thought. Ramsay had to break off here to tell the maid something about keeping food hot.’ she said briefly. how boring it all is.’ she was saying. How eventful her own life had been. but now she went there. If only he could be alone in his room working. for she was absorbed by what they were saying. to Mr. So he had actually heard from her this evening! And was Carrie still living at Marlow. preserving a demeanour of exquisite courtesy and merely spreading the fingers of his left hand on the table-cloth as a mechanic examines a tool beautifully polished and ready for use in an interval of leisure. one asked oneself. No! No! That was out of the question! Building a billiard room! It seemed to her Mr. very cold twenty years ago.’ she added. very rudely. feeling. ‘People soon drift apart. It was in this sort of state that one asked oneself. with Mrs. He turned to her. that they should be going on there still. she She was telling lies he could see. Tansley. was talking about people he had never heard of to William Bankes. are frail things. while she had changed. It annoyed him that she should have made him speak like that. impossible. take it away.’ said Mr. looking occupied. for some reason. One drifts apart. He felt very rough and isolated and lonely. His favourite. it would be too rough for her tomorrow. Ramsay was saying. Ramsay with a little start. he supposed. Could she not hold fast to that. he wished it had not come out all in a jerk like that. turning to him at last. as if. she asked herself. and also because it had struck him. thinking how surprised Mrs. He was sitting beside Mrs. that particular day. She was saying what she did not mean to annoy him. The truth was that he did not enjoy family life.’ Mrs. he thought. however. and it fascinated her. had remained ‘Yes. Bankes. That was where he felt at his ease. he felt treacherous. ‘I’m so sorry. Ramsay mused. and was everything still the same? Oh she could remember it as if it were yesterday – going on the river.with a great and rather painful effort? She must make it once more. some satisfaction when he thought that after all he knew both the Mannings and the Ramsays. He was in his didn’t want to go to the Lighthouse with him. because still exist. something which would show her that he was not just a dry prig. such are the sacrifices one’s friends ask of one. Ramsay was giving orders to servants. among his books. laying down his spoon and wiping his clean-shaven lips punctiliously.’ He wished he could think of something to say to Mrs. Ramsay was that Carrie Manning should . ‘I wish one of you would Here he sat drumming his fingers on the table-cloth when he might have been – he took a flashing bird’s-eye view of his work. But he was not going to be made a fool of by women. vain questions. Mrs. he would have been free to work. Ramsay. she is one of my oldest friends. all these years. and not argue. She was laughing at him. twenty years ago – that I last saw her. he thought. What a waste of presence meant absolutely nothing to him: her beauty meant nothing to him.’ said Mrs. among them like a ghost. For it was extraordinary to think that they had been during those same years. He had not drifted apart. She says they’re building a new billiard room. Never should she forget Herbert killing a wasp with a teaspoon on the bank! And it was still going on. that friendships. Should he give her love to Carrie? strange. Had Carrie written to him herself? she asked. He wished only to be alone and to take up that book. Ramsay listening. But Mrs. The thought was strange and distasteful. he thought. and if she wanted a little revenge take it by laughing at him? ‘Oh. ‘You’d be sick. ‘do take me to the Lighthouse with you. Bankes could not see that there was anything very odd about it. gliding like a ghost among the chairs and tables of that drawing-room on the banks of the Thames where she had been so very. so did they all. he had never cost his father a penny since he was fifteen. He had no others. Looking at his hand he thought that if he had been alone dinner would have been almost over run up to Roger’s room. All these interruptions annoyed him. But it was not worth it for him.’ said Mrs. he thought. He reproached himself again. was in bed. I must move the tree to the middle. But how capable of going on living all these years when she had not thought of them more than once all that time. that he could sit by her side and feel nothing for her. But here he was asking himself that sort of question. thought William Bankes. I should so love it. she despised him: so did Prue Ramsay. even the best of them. reflecting that she did not know this Carrie who built a new billiard room. But perhaps he was rather unusual. that matters – nothing else. now become very still and beautiful. But if the Mannings made a plan they stuck to it.’ he said.’ she said. That was what they all thought him. Is human life this? Is human life that? One never had time to think about it. interrupting what she was saying to Mr. there’s my painting. he had helped them at home out of his savings. That was why he preferred dining alone. questions one never asked if one was does one take all these pains for the human race to go on? Is it so very desirable? Are we attractive as a species? Not so very. He felt rigid and barren. he was educating his sister. Yes. Yet perhaps Carrie Manning had not thought about her either. he never let himself get into a groove. her sitting with her little boy at the window– nothing. And he had never run a penny into debt. turning back to him again as if she could not lose a moment of their talk. she repeated. It would have hurt her if he had refused to come. he wished he had known how to answer Miss Briscoe properly. Ramsay and he had nothing in the world to say to her. Ramsay ‘Yes. They were very well off now. I am by way of being devoted to her. Still. compared with the other thing – work. Yet now. Foolish questions. How trifling it all is. it is a terrible waste of time. at those rather untidy boys. like a pair of boots that has been soaked and gone dry so that Mrs. all in a jerk. He knew that she was trying to tease him for some reason. There’s the sprig on the table-cloth. nothing. Mr. Well. at this moment her now. he thought. and not lose her temper. so he turned deliberately in his chair and looked out of the window and said. Bankes to speak to the maid. he thought. The children were dropping in still. Bankes’s amusement. feeling very cold.’ old flannel trousers. Ramsay.

she thought. uncomfortable. Another touch and they will snap’ – when what happens if one is not nice to that young man there – and be nice. even spoken thus in words of one syllable. They did talk nonsense. Then. Tansley to get me out. of his urgent desire to assert himself. as it descended. the ribs and thigh bones of the young man’s desire conversation? But. Lily?’ said Mrs. and her spirits rose so high at the thought of painting to-morrow that she laughed out loud at what Mr. the chairman. one of these days. in seas of fire. she thought. whose seventh article (it may be) says that on occasions of this sort it behoves the woman. he thought. that he did not care a straw for her. nevertheless speaking French imposes some order. that he could not smite that butterfly with such an instrument fisherman. like gunpowder. one of these days by the gunpowder that was in ‘Will you take me. of course for the hundred and fiftieth time Lily Briscoe had to renounce the experiment – Judging the turn in her mood correctly – that she was friendly to him now – he was relieved of his egotism. some uniformity. ah. He was amazingly well informed. suppose the Tube were to burst these things? So she sat there smiling. Ramsay said all this. The shape itself something like that. but now. that his grandfather was a Mr. Ramsay said to her. He had been there with him in a storm. But in that one sentence lay compact. thought Lily Briscoe. He wanted it so urgently that he fidgeted in his chair. Sitting opposite him could she not see. tried to break into their talk. And as he was grateful. which she had placed there to remind her. he would say. as she did when she was distracted. took this auspicious turn. of her social manner. where one moved about without haste or anxiety. for. as indeed it is their duty. But how would it be. he would read aloud. she could return to that dream land. as this. ‘No. Langley. that he was proud of it. like bales of wool and barrels of apples. Ramsay. Human relations were all like that. opened his mouth and shut it again. I should certainly expect Mr. the ribs. and she felt Mrs. she thought. Tansley?’ she asked. he had been round the world dozens of times. making a note which. Inevitably these were extremely insincere. Are you a good sailor. French may not contain the words that express the speaker’s thoughts. U nless he were very careful. my dear.’ and Mr. My nerves are taut as fiddle strings. who had no knowledge of this language. He felt extremely. Tansley?’ said Lily. Why did no one ask him his opinion? What did they know about the fishing industry? to impress himself lying dark in the mist of his flesh – that thin mist which convention had laid over his burning desire to break into the help him to relieve himself? Lily Briscoe knew all that. This was said loudly in a pause. and told her how he had been thrown out of a boat when he was a baby. Perhaps it is bad French. Tansley raised a hammer: swung it high in air. Yet he must force his feet into them. that he was Charles Tansley – a fact that nobody there seemed to realise. suggests that every one shall speak in French.’ she said. that he had worked his way up entirely himself. but one of these days every single person would know it. he said. It would sarcastically describe ‘staying with the Ramsays’ and what nonsense they talked. but realising. as the conversation what haven’t I paid to get it for you? She had not been sincere. as the glance in her eyes said it. and as he place. They were talking about the fishing industry. looked at this person. Ramsay thought. Then her eye caught the salt cellar. One of his They had to listen to him when he said that he had been with his uncle in a lighthouse in a storm. find out this treachery of his. and remembering how he sneered at women. Ah. Replying to her in the same language. Tansley. and that would not be at all pleasant. ‘Remember poor Mr. as in an X-ray photograph. that was how he had learnt to swim. Bankes) were between men and women. So. uncles kept the light on some rock or other off the Scottish coast. Mr. ‘can’t paint. why should I There is a code of behaviour she knew. she would in her direction. of course. said only that he had never been sick in his life. and she remembered that next morning she would move the tree further towards the middle. into flames. the Ramsays. but not again. and he pounced on this fresh instance with joy. if Mrs. to go to the help of the young man opposite so that he may expose and relieve the thigh bones. Bankes said. in her old-maidenly fairness. the Mannings’ drawing-room at Marlow twenty years ago. whatever her own occupation may be. to obtain unity. at once suspected its insincerity. so now.you can hardly force your feet into them. not at all. sitting stuck there with an empty seat beside him nothing had shaped itself at all. kindly. Mr. Let him talk all night if he liked it. his father a chemist. He told her. when there is a strife of tongues at some meeting. U nless you apply some balm to the anguish of this hour and say something nice to that young man there. It was worth while doing it once. He wanted somebody to give him a chance of asserting himself. ‘I am drowning. Mr. liked her. of his vanity. He must make himself talk. as in effect she did. but he told me he never suffered as he did when my husband took him there. So he bent his head courteously ‘How you must detest dining in this bear garden. how his father used to fish him out with a boat-hook. He would never know her. he would say. are you. and as he was beginning to enjoy himself. Mrs. life will run upon the rocks– indeed I hear the grating and the growling at this minute. for there was no future to worry . she thought. screwing up her Chinese eyes. at this moment. He could almost pity these him. she thought. quickly. mild cultivated people. that unreal but fascinating ‘But how long do they leave men on a lighthouse?’ she asked. Of course Ramsay had dished himself by marrying a beautiful woman and having eight children. who would be blown sky high. Mrs. to one or two friends. in a society where one could say what one liked he would women bored one so. It was all in scraps and fragments. Tansley was saying. He scowled ahead of him. but She had done the usual trick – been nice. he thought. making use. if neither of us did either of ‘You’re not planning to go to the Lighthouse. even physically. Ramsay was free now to talk for a moment herself). to help us. can’t write’. she reflected. and the worst (if it had not been for Mr. Ramsay’s gratitude (for Mrs. then at that person. There. She would never know him.

Probably. erect in his spine. Ramsay demanded. Then. thinking what a relief it was to catch on to something of this sort when private life was disagreeable. sighing. He cared about fishermen and their wages. in politics as in anything else. Poor old fogies. They are outraged and indignant with the government about the fishermen. thinking what an old maid William was becoming. leaving the argument table. Perhaps the others were saying something interesting? What were they saying? That the fishing season was bad. Whether people laughed at him or were angry with him he was the same.’ and then Mr. Mr. but partly for that very reason she respected him. But he had controlled himself. Mr. there was Roger gazing at his father. She knew what had happened to them. she wondered Why could he never conceal his feelings? Mrs. Ramsay wondered. And why not? Mrs. Bankes thought. Let her give him the credit for that! But why after all should poor disgusting though the sight was. He did not like her. he was extremely well up in the facts. thought Mr. He had said nothing. But no – for some reason he was no longer in the mood. Bankes. as he looked at Mr. She could not force him. Ramsay demanded (they looked at each other down the long table sending these questions and answers across. But already bored. as Tansley abused the government. Probably he will be extremely disagreeable to us old fogies. Bankes felt that something was lacking. Mr. and so she said promptly (indeed it was time): ‘Light the candles.79 William Bankes. and his manners were bad. that he would say something. Lily felt that something was lacking. and Lily looked at the leaf on the table-cloth. that the men were emigrating. please. and therefore he entirely in the hands of the two men. For if he said a thing.’ Lily was listening. that he was jealous. he had ability. She could not help respecting the composure with which he sat there. doing his best to make allowances. All of them bending themselves to listen thought. Conscious of his treachery. Ramsay. Whereas. and the whole of his body seemed to emit sparks but not Augustus not ask for another plate of soup? He had merely touched Ellen’s arm and said: ‘Ellen.’ and they jumped up instantly and went and fumbled at the sideboard. like a lake. she knew. realising that it was because she admired him so much that she was waiting for him to speak. Everybody could see. It was like reading a good book again. they were all listening. Pulling her shawl round her. One was always waiting for the man. He could not sleep for thinking of them. Ramsay frowned at her. If he wanted soup. What could be the matter? Only that poor old Augustus had asked for another plate of soup – that was all. He hated everything dragging on for hours like this. looking at her husband at the other end of the ‘Tell me now…’ he said. she said to herself. He went to the heart of feel then. and she wondered if Augustus Carmichael had noticed. She tried. his brow. But Mr. and wished. waiting. At any moment the leader might arise. He loathed people eating when he had then – but thank goodness! she saw him clutch himself and clap a brake on the wheel. I feel nothing at all.about. Mr. Ramsay thought. placidly between its banks. thought Mr. wondered why she was so bored by this talk. They were talking about wages and unemployment. because one did care. she knew that. Mrs. there is a good deal in what he says. both would be off in spasms of laughter in another second. which shot down even from this dining-room table in cascades. Ramsay scowled like that.’ she said. here is the man. There was always a chance. this young man. Mrs. you’re hopelessly behind the times. for Mr. was sealed up there. yet out of mood for it at present. So they argued about politics.’ said Mrs. he would have her observe. Tansley seemed to be saying. as of nerves was not entirely open-minded or altogether fair. He hated people wallowing in food. and Mrs. what to her. it was detestable (so he signalled to her across the table) that Augustus should be beginning his soup over again. another plate of soup. sitting there. He said they had built a billiard room – was it possible? Would William go on talking about the her wish to talk about something more intimate. He said something about punctuality being one of the minor virtues which we do not acquire ‘If at all. Mannings? She wanted him to. One word. She looked at him thinking to find this shown in his face. very large and calm in the failing light. Surely they could let Augustus have his soup if he wanted it. for his science. and flushing with anger. since it had happened twenty years ago. the man of genius. she felt as if somebody had been praising her husband to her and their marriage. conscious of and lay. Mrs. He seemed to be rather cocksure. There was Rose80 gazing at her father. She saw his anger fly like a pack of hounds into his eyes.’ But perhaps. he asked for soup. for he knew by some curious physical sensation. You have wasted your lives. heard him say something about ‘one of the most scandalous acts of the present government. each knowing exactly what the other felt). one did not realising that it was she herself who had praised him. ‘Pray heaven that the inside of my mind may not be exposed. he was scowling and frowning. for she knew the end of that story. The young man was abusing the government. and monumental. and would call him into his . ‘The children are disgraceful. Bankes. for his point of view. finished. What on earth was it about? she things. he would be looking magnificent… wondered. it would make all the difference. and she thought how devoted he was to Andrew. until later in life. and why he was always content and dignified. and contemplative. Ramsay felt that something was lacking. perhaps he had not. Ramsay merely to fill up space. Tansley. Ramsay was listening. what he did feel then. and she glowed all over without But not in the least! He was screwing his face up. drinking soup. Ramsay would have her observe. pray heaven you don’t see how little I care. and words. Mrs. for himself partly. and she knew that in a moment something violent would explode. You are all of you wrong. heaven knows where. and life. drinking his soup. partly more probably for his work. ‘The others are feeling this. he felt come over him the disagreeableness of life. He sat there scowling. and looking at him. Bankes bade himself observe. She was disappointed. But why show it so plainly. It was altogether different when he spoke. Perhaps he had. he had courage.’ for each thought. He did not respond. It was unthinkable.

She had kept a place for him. trying to analyse the cause of the sudden exhilaration. only. Ramsay told her not to be a fool. plait him watch-chains. by her own fault. she thought. Yes. looking at the door. rippled it so strangely that here. Paul must sit by her. into a party round a table. Some weight was taken off them. ‘skimpy’. and then he clapped his paws together when he had found the word. she thought. and returned. these golden-reddish girls. to settle to things. to-night she had it. among the leopard skins and the torches Now eight candles were stood down the table. they are engaged. led him to make favourites of girls like Minta. And there he would lie all day long on the lawn brooding presumably over his poetry. smoked to-day. and made herself out even more ignorant than she was. and the bright thought. felt it too – Minta’s glow. of the horny pink-lined shell. had their common cause against that fluidity out there. and a suffusion in her large brown eyes. as to scramble about the rocks in jewels? Eliot. He was so considerate. and a maid carrying a great dish in her hands came in together. They might cut his hair for him. and they were all conscious of making a party together in a hollow. as they had not take one’s staff and climb up hills. was like a world in which one could saw that Augustus too feasted his eyes on the same plate of fruit. seemed to be order and dry land. which was high praise from her husband. she knew that by the way Mr. That was his way of looking. and he looked astonishingly young. for she had left the third volume of Middle-march84 in the train and she never knew what happened in the She was by way of being terrified of him – he was so fearfully clever. after all. of the bananas. sometimes not. to his hive. For now they must come. She sat beside him. Ramsay. ‘We’ – that was enough. and. after feasting. and composed.’ said Minta with a sound of lamentation in her voice. She never knew why it came or why it went. For herself – ‘Put it down there. these very clever men! How dried up they did become. waiting for Paul and Minta to come in. her husband. jealousy. a reflection in which things wavered and vanished. inside the room.room. waterily.81 entire. Ramsay. How could she be such a goose. of Neptune’s82 lolloping red and gold… Thus brought up suddenly into the light it seemed possessed of great size and depth. She knew from the effort. for the night was now shut off by panes of glass. Mrs. Ramsay. For he. and go down into valleys. ‘Come along. or interrupt him at his work. there. when solidity suddenly vanished. now felt her uneasiness changed to expectation. Ramsay?’ and so on). till he seemed a young man. she wore her golden haze. of the bunch that hangs with vine leaves over the shoulder of Bacchus83 (in some picture). compared it with that moment on the tennis lawn. and now the same effect was got by the many candles in the sparely furnished room. a tassel here. and Lily Briscoe. But looking together united them. and in the middle a yellow and purple dish of fruit. broke off a bloom there. smiling. with delightful ways. she had been really frightened. as if this had really happened. helping the Swiss girl to place gently before her the huge brown pot in which was the Bœuf en Daube – for her own part she liked her boobies. Mr. Now all the candles were lit. outside. teasing Minta). for Rose’s arrangement of the banquet. Really. Mrs. directly she came into the room. that the miracle had happened. but afterwards she got on perfectly. sitting down by her. and to her pleasure (for it brought them into sympathy momentarily) she been in the twilight. weren’t. and such vast spaces lay between them. some richness. ‘Poor old Augustus – he’s a true poet’. ‘We’ did this. far from giving any accurate view of the outside world. not burdened. she knew. to be his bright blue eyes. gaunt but gallant. tremendously. she felt.’ she said. looking down. as she sat by Mr. They did not bother one with their dissertations. he asked. There was something. she remembered. And for a moment she felt what she had never expected to feel again – wild and harum-scarum about them. Mr. it’s our turn to beat them now. and the faces on both sides of the table were brought nearer by the candle-light. anything might happen. and the uncurtained windows.’ and out he came to play tennis. because he liked telling her she was a fool. Ramsay. There was some quality which she herself had not. mask-like look of faces seen by candlelight. different from hers. and the first night when she had sat by him. with something flying. Mrs. they were horribly late. she thought as he sat down. who had been uneasy. as he said about poor Lily Briscoe. ‘we’ did that. They’ll say that all their lives. which roused his chivalry so that he bantered her. the rise in his voice to surmount a difficult word that it was the first time he had said ‘we’. (The bill for the greenhouse and all the rest of it. and his sharp-cut nose and ‘We went back to look for Minta’s brooch. Andrew said. a man very attractive to women. something a little It must have happened then. Some change at once went through them all. and after the first stoop the flames stood upright and drew with them into visibility the long table grapes and pears. What had she done with it. hailing him (she heard them). And so to-night. Paul Rayley. helping her out of a boat. Sometimes she had it. Minta Doyle. and her husband said. How much they missed. she felt. like that (she looked at him. Minta said. when she made herself look in her glass a little resentful that she had grown old. very charming about Paul. ‘show him things’. and at that instant. till he reminded one of a cat watching birds.’ he said. made her think of a trophy fetched from the bottom of the sea. amused him. thought Mrs. and unable. but again as she had first known him. and he talked about George ‘I lost my brooch – my grandmother’s brooch. as they found their way to different ends of the table. Ramsay wondered. some lustre. They must come now. or if she had it until she came into the room and then she knew instantly by the way some man looked at her.) She was grateful to them for laughing at him (‘How many pipes have you But indeed she was not jealous. he liked these girls. directly he laughed at her she was not frightened. not weighed down with the greatness of his labours and the sorrows of the world and his fame or his failure. looking up. and . now and then. His manners were delightful to her. Would he tell her – now that they were all talking again – what had happened? sure. which. They were awfully late. perhaps. Ramsay end. Besides. plunged in. on an island. she sometimes thought she liked the boobies best. who didn’t ‘scrape their hair off. which attracted him.

it was tender. the centre of it. This is not what we want. Ramsay at the other end of the table. How childlike. and yet. this terrifying thing. she said to herself. Mrs. She was irresistible. he. well then? she asked. how absurd she was. and Lily. Ramsay. and Lily contrasted that abundance with her own poverty of spirit. also it is the stupidest. in his disaster. quite out of my own habit. She was saved from that dilution. she said shyly: ‘When did Minta lose her brooch?’ He smiled the most exquisite smile. Lily Ramsay. and if you asked nine people out of ten they would say they wanted nothing but this. ‘It is a French recipe85 of my grandmother’s. by wishing. for she had gone into the matter. ‘Let me come with you’. and turns a nice young man with a profile like a gem (Paul’s was exquisite) into a bully with a crowbar (he was swaggering. that’s what you feel. It is cutting off the delicious skins of vegetables. sitting up there with all her beauty opened again in her. and its bay leaves and its wine. she looked radiant) in this strange. ‘It is a triumph. to the altar. took the cover off. which made Paul Rayley. at the same time these lovers. She put a spell on them all. that’s what I feel was the other.’ said Mr. its horror. judging yet it is also beautiful and necessary. Bankes was dining here. It was perfectly emotions were called up in her. more cooked. Mrs. She would move the tree rather more to the middle. were engaged. veiled by memory. How inconspicuous she felt herself by Paul’s side! He. Bankes. its unscrupulosity. left out – and. envisaging how in the dawn on the beach she would be the one to held her hands over it to warm them. worshipped that.’ said Mr. puerile. Such was the complexity of things. yet abstract. and talked very emphatically) of from her own experience. It scorched her. Throw yourself over the cliff if you like. Ramsay. absorbed. said Mrs. But it was much rather a question (she was thoroughly roused. Bankes.’ he said. glowing. burning. to look for a brooch on a beach. laughing. He meant yes or no – either perhaps. He shook his head. and turned his eyes to where she sat. diving into the soft mass. having brought it all about. and offer. and that her suspense was over.’ he said. A whole French family could live on what an English cook throws away. this love. with its shiny walls and its confusion of savoury brown and yellow meats. of celebrating a festival. so simply. So she listened again to what they .’ real butter and clean milk. she solitary. the vibration of love. Ramsay thought. one profound – for what could be more serious than the love of man for woman. aloof. But it was not his meaning – it was the odd chuckle he gave.’ And the waste. catching sight of the salt cellar on the pattern. so directly. ready to implore a share. Always she got her own way in the end. these people entering into illusion glittering-eyed. Well then. at once freakish and tender.86 Yet she said to herself. from the dawn of time odes have been sung to love. with a little flourish. and then they fought together in her mind. ‘In which’. one might suppose. bearing in its bosom the seeds of death. all of a tremor. Now she had brought this off – Paul and Minta. exalted that. I don’t care. ‘I’m going to find it. to her. decorated with garlands.an exquisite scent of olives and oil and juice rose from the great brown dish as Marthe. How did she manage these things in the depths of the country? he asked her. beside Mr. Lily felt. all his reverence had returned. if it were pounce on the brooch half-hidden by some stone. What passes for cookery in England is an abomination (they agreed). It is putting cabbages in water. and was about to prove her charges. bound for adventure. It was rich. that I tremble on the verge of it. she about the skins of vegetables. there is nothing more tedious. came over her too now – the emotion. This will celebrate the occasion – a curious sense rising in her. and he laughed. as she talked about the skins of vegetables. somehow laughed. what more commanding. he. argument like this one threw one’s own little bolt which fell short obviously and left the others to carry it on. till Lily thought. Bankes. she gesticulated. and was thankful. ‘On the beach. But what did he reply to her offer? She actually said with an emotion that she seldom let appear. he lowered his voice. and that everything was all right again. she. And she must take great care. Lily could see. And she peered into the dish. when all round the table. speaking with a ring of great pleasure in her voice. Ramsay. It is roasting meat till it is like leather. somehow expecting the others to go on with the argument. incautious. he was insolent) in the Mile End Road. beginning with Andrew in ‘Oh coffee!’ said Mrs. For at any rate. led her victims. He turned on her cheek the heat of love. Of course it was French. as now. as if in an were saying in case they should throw any light upon the question of love. so exciting. Ramsay. its cruelty. ‘all the virtue of the vegetable is contained. wreaths heaped and roses. Spurred on by her sense that William’s affection had come back laughed. especially staying with the Ramsays. ‘Then. was one. It satirical. and thought. as if he had said. She was a wonderful woman. Lily wanted to protest violently and outrageously her desire to help him. Speaking with warmth and eloquence she described the iniquity of the English dairy system. tinged by dreams. and she knew it. to choose a specially tender piece for William Bankes. For what happened to her. The cook had spent three days over that dish. must be danced round with mockery. and inhumane than love.’ said Mrs. launched. There was something frightening about her. moored to the shore. He had eaten attentively. to protect it.’This being kept secret from Minta. disaster. looking at Minta being charming to Mr. she. flinched for her exposed to those fangs. and thus herself be included among the sailors and adventurers. the most barbaric of human passions. she need not marry. All his love. ‘I’m getting up early. as if two impressive. talking thought. thank Heaven: she need not undergo that degradation. silent. said Mr. while the women. It is so beautiful. was to be made to feel violently two opposite things at the same time. Mr. laying his knife down for a moment. and in what state milk was delivered at the door. ‘there is that liquid the English call coffee. and that now she was free both to triumph and to mock. and supposed that it was partly that belief (for her face was all lit up – without looking young. would all the time be feeling. Lily felt.

Success would be good for him. or flicker them for a moment. her children laughed. observing him rather than listening to what he said. like a fume rising upwards. With Lily it was different. it was clear. she thought. she felt. solemnly rather. the fleeting. a flare of something.91 on Creevey’s Memoirs:92 she let it uphold her and sustain her. she was laughed at. the spectral. and their thoughts and their feelings. of eternity. they said had also this quality. Mrs.88 on the character of Napoleon. So she saw them. a stability. but no man would. a little startled. It was still being fabricated. that was what they were talking about now. is immune from change. ‘I—I—I.’ down. Yet. Ramsay. he said. of rest. now she said . He was not ‘in love’ of course. and forced to vail her crest. became more inconspicuous than ever. Ramsay had been thinking. all of which rising in this profound stillness (she was helping William Bankes to one very small piece more and peered into the depths of the earthenware pot) seemed now for no special reason to stay there like a smoke. Bankes to a specially flowing. she had set them opposite each other. Everything about her was so small. This would remain. (For she was thinking about love. well.90 on Lord Rosebery. dismount her batteries. without effort like a light stealing under water so that its ripples and the reeds in it and the minnows balancing themselves. There was in Lily a thread of Ramsay. which ran up and down. she felt. it was one of those unclassified affections of which there are so many. holding them safe tender piece.) They were both out utterly in the cold. like iron girders spanning the swaying fabric. and only retaliate by displaying the raillery and ridicule of the table to Mr. since his wife’s death. and his emphasis and his uneasiness. nothing could be said. she feared. where one could move or rest. of the two Lily at forty will be the better. from husband and children and friends. thought Mrs. It partook. there is a coherence in things. ‘I—I—I. for she had it on her mind that Lily. Obviously. so that again to-night she had the feeling she had had once to-day already. William Bankes was praising the Waverley novels. even shut her eyes. as she had already felt about something different once before that afternoon. crossed this way and that. she heard them. nothing about it whatsoever. he had his dissertation.’ she said. And why should that make Charles Tansley angry? He rushed in (all. she thought. which happened to be the number on What did it all mean? To this day she had no notion. William must marry Lily. and so need not be always saying.’ she assured William Bankes. She faded. ‘Yes. perhaps for her. was out of things. comparing her with Minta. Mrs. Lily is so fond of flowers. felt himself somebody upon something: he could take care of himself. Foolishly. Everything seemed right. Tansley. Of such then. both Lily and Charles Tansley. A square root? What was that? Her sons knew. something of her own which Mrs. she exempted her from the of things. Both suffered from the glow of the other two. end of the table her husband was saying about the square root of one thousand two hundred and fifty-three. If it were fine. on cubes and square roots. she hovered like a hawk suspended. like a hawk which lapses suddenly from its high station. At any rate they were off again. because Prue will not be nice to him) and denounced the Waverley novels when he knew nothing about it. she would be urging herself forward. thing from another. but at the moment her eyes were so clear that they seemed to go round the table unveiling so it would always be with him till he got his Professorship or married his wife. something. She could see how it was from his manner – he wanted to assert himself. as she claimed her help (for Lily should bear her out she talked no more about her dairies than her husband something. Bankes as an example of what one suffered if one attacked the prejudices of the British Public. did about his boots – he would talk by the hour about his boots).’ He was thinking of himself and the impression he was making.89 on the French system of land tenure. of peace. this admirable fabric of the masculine intelligence. But then he cared. a little fluttered. Ramsay thought. looking at them all eating there. the thing is made that remains for ever after. however. amounted to. There it was.) Here. Nothing need be said. she thought. no woman would look at him with Paul Rayley in the room. They are both cold and aloof and rather selfsufficing. flaunt and sink on laughter easily. as if what they said was like the movement of a trout when. so that she the leaves of a tree. That could be remedied to-morrow. and the whole is held together. It could not last she knew. not. ‘there is plenty for everybody. who had helped her with Mr. Now she need not listen. and the sudden silent trout are all lit up hanging. She leant on them. like a fire leaping from tuft to tuft of furze. and shines out (she glanced at the window with its ripple of reflected lights) in the face of the moments. resting her whole weight upon what at the other his railway ticket.’ (The Boeuf en Daube was a perfect triumph. one can see the ripple and the gravel. She must arrange for them to take a long walk together. the influence of Purposely. in her little grey dress with her little puckered face and her little Chinese eyes. for it arose. all round them. could wait now (they were all helped) listening. her husband laughed. said ‘Lily anyhow agrees with me. on Voltaire87 and Madame de Staël. she meant. was the still space that lies about the heart of things. she would be saying she liked the Waverley novels or had not read them.the middle. upholding the world. for whereas in active life she would be netting and separating one nothing. or I shall spill it. like a flag floated in an element of joy which filled every nerve of her body fully and sweetly. Then she woke up. and criticism of poor Sir Walter. He. unless it were a much older man. fire-encircled. not noisily. thought Mrs. trembling. Oh but nonsense.’ and so drew her in. as a child staring up from its pillow winks at the myriad layers of He read one of them every six months. carefully helping Mr. Ramsay sometimes thought that he cared. Just now (but this cannot last. dissociating herself from the moment while they were all talking about boots) just now she had reached security. putting the spoon together. Poor fellow! Still. they should go for a picnic. at the same time. something to the left. rest.’94 For that was what his each of these people. she thought. Everything seemed possible. Ramsay liked very much indeed.93 could trust herself to it utterly. but whatever something to the right. Mrs. under Minta’s glow. ‘hold your plate lower. or perhaps it was Jane Austen. as she could tell by the sound of his voice. like William Bankes. like a ruby. could ‘Andrew. They have so many things in common. For the moment she hung suspended.

she did not want a pear. as if they alone. sadly rather. to something being said which reminded him of his own failure. You will be as happy as she is one of these days. Everybody. Ramsay. He remembered that because he always thought it such a good name for a villain. whether she felt a draught. she felt more and more serene. Who could tell what was going to ‘Let us enjoy what we do enjoy. were they done now? No. said bluffly. whereas what Paul said was about the thing simply. She scented danger for her husband.’ but that did not take them very far. Ramsay said grimly (but his mind was turned away again) that very few people liked it as much as they said they did. without knowing why. She was just beginning. for she did not listen to the words. she was free now to listen to what Paul Rayley was trying to say about books one had read as a boy. her own daughter must be happier than other people’s daughters. There was all that hoarded behind those rather set. It was something quite apart from everything else. they were like watchers. Andrew. had drawn him in – they were telling stories about some one they had both known at college.sentences. speaking to Prue in her own mind. almost silent. some excitement. He showed his uneasiness quite clearly now by saying. Prue. some anticipation of happiness was reflected in her. and Mrs. Then Minta Doyle. which the candle flames burnt brighter now that the panes were black. Ramsay looked from one to the other and said. with some irritation. he had a kind of modesty too. for it seemed to her that they would laugh when she was not there. It was not about their father. Anna Karenina. Oh. She waited. but with some joke of their own going on. she added. forced them upon her attention. But when she looked at Prue to-night. Ramsay saw that it would be all right for the moment anyhow. that. This was one of them. in her own way. But how does this affect me? But then if you had the other temperament. There was a lot in that young man after all. she thought. She looked at Rose sitting between Jasper and Prue. without knowing why she did it. But she wished it was not necessary: perhaps it was her fault that it was necessary. then over the horny ridge of the shell. She tucked her napkin under the edge of her plate. but whether she was cold. once in a way at she would like a pear. Ramsay quite admirable. to want somebody to say. Am I saying the right thing? Am I making a good impression? that. but he had forgotten the name. realising his extreme anxiety about himself. whether No. there is considerable merit in some of the plays nevertheless. somehow or other. His integrity seemed to Mrs. putting a yellow against a purple. she wondered. Anyhow. something they were hoarding up to laugh over in their own room. she hoped. said Mrs. Her eyes had been going in and out among the curves and shadows of the fruit. How odd that one’s child should do that! she guessed. as if the sun of the love of men and women rose over the rim of the table-cloth. Scott (or was it Shakespeare?) would last him his lifetime. and said he attached no importance to changes in fashion. Jasper. A question like that would lead. Ramsay. He never seemed for a moment to think. Mr. so that Mrs. a little raised or set apart from the grown-up people. hoping that nobody would touch it.’ he said. How long would he be read – he would think at once. or why. which must have encouragement. books were not in their line. in a row. not about himself or about Tolstoi. but it was all so mixed up with. and wishing. that she did not believe that any one really enjoyed reading Shakespeare. But dinner awkwardness.’ said Paul. just moving. and she. Her husband spoke. Charles Tansley would put them both right in a second about books. from the twitching at their lips. mask-like faces. he added. because you are my daughter. and she knew it was poetry from the rhythm and the ring of exaltation and melancholy in his voice: Come out and climb the garden path. In sympathy she looked at Rose. she meant. The sudden bursts of laughter and then one voice (Minta’s) speaking He was repeating something. would. . No. Mrs. but how long do you think it’ll last?’ said somebody. see that he was taken care of. Rose. opposite. It was as if she had antennae trembling out from her. ‘Vron-sky. Ramsay.’ said Mrs. she thought. She liked him for being so angry with Paul and Minta. They were only playing with things on their plates. She looked at the window in were voices at a service in a cathedral. No. That story had led to another story. as if the glow of Minta How odd to see them sitting there. One need never bother about Lily. not himself. a curved shape against a round shape. she thought. after all. just descending. almost ‘Ah. He said it irritably. Now he was thinking. whose instinct was fine. took a pear. ‘O. she said. one knew more about him than about Tolstoi.Like all stupid people. absurdly. Ramsay was beginning) to be uneasy. putting her napkin beside her plate. naturally you began (and she knew that Mr. Her husband was in great spirits to-night. It was time to go. She would wait until they had done laughing at some story her husband was telling. she always has some joke of her own. among the rich purples of the lowland grapes. or something like that. and spoilt the whole thing. Then she would get up. until. They lasted. The faintest light was on her face. suddenly. which. to make it all right with old Augustus after that scene about the soup. And Lily. He had read some of Tolstoi95 at school. She liked Charles Tansley. she supposed. Well. She waited. she saw that this was not now quite true of her. and praise him. intercepting certain certainly. Ramsay saw. yet curiously. He was having a joke with Minta about a bet. What was it. every time she did it. William Bankes last – in literature or indeed in anything else? (who was entirely free from all such vanity) laughed. reminded her of men and boys crying out the Latin words of a service in some Roman Catholic cathedral. oh. There was one he always remembered. Russian names were impossible. still. but your work will last. But. and looking at that outside the voices came to her very strangely. anyhow. her children. shyly. a consideration for what you were feeling. which must have praise. what a pity that they should do it – a hand reached out. You will be was over. surveyors. he would laugh at Minta. and without knowing what it was she bent towards it and greeted it. he said. felt a little uncomfortable. She kept looking at Minta. Indeed she had been keeping guard over the dish of fruit (without realising it) jealously. which. ‘Vronsky. for they did not join in easily. she liked his laugh. Mr. she found attractive. least. She liked his much happier. she thought not.

the words seemed to be spoken by her own voice. The China rose is all abloom and buzzing with the yellow bee. at last. it changed. the natural thing to say. holding his table napkin so that it and bowed to her as if he did her homage. as if this were. but. Augustus Carmichael had risen and. outside her self. looked like a long white robe he stood chanting: To see the Kings go riding by Over lawn and daisy lea Luriana. With their palm leaves and cedar sheaves. it had become. cut off from them all. but they had come into existence of themselves. saying quite easily and The words (she was looking at the window) sounded as if they were floating like flowers on water out there.96 had said them. already the past. She made herself get up. as she moved and took Minta’s arm and left the room. With her foot on the threshold she waited a moment longer in a scene which was vanishing even as she looked. and with a feeling of relief and gratitude she returned his bow and passed through the door which he held open for her. like music. Lurilee with the same sort of relief and pleasure that she had. She did not know what they meant. 18 . She looked round. Without knowing why. that every one at the table was listening to the voice saying: I wonder if it seems to you Luriana.Luriana Lurilee. Lurilee. It was necessary now to carry everything a step further. She knew. as if no one naturally what had been in her mind the whole evening while she said different things. she felt that he liked her better than he had ever done before. But the voice stopped. this were their own voice speaking. Lurilee. she knew. it shaped itself differently. giving one last look at it over her shoulder. And all the lives we ever lived and all the lives to be Are full of trees and changing leaves. without looking round. and as she passed him he turned slightly towards her repeating the last words: Luriana. and then.

while the others stood looking at Mrs. all over the room. clean it of all the emotions and odds and ends of things. and it was almost eleven and they were all talking. and this. Cam. it seemed always to have been. round and round and round. the trees’ stillness. it was there quite unhurt. had forgotten. It was most annoying. she whispered.97 they had gone up on to the bridge of the ship and were taking their bearings. she said. the boar’s skull was still there. she thought. Where. into the drawing-room. crossing over to his bed. making the weight fall in a different direction. Lily thought. and everything lovely. sat the judges she had set up to decide these things. She turned the handle. it is time for that now. Is it good. and open the little drawers quickly one fairies would love it. it. she thought. and there were little antelopes. She had told Mildred to move it. Would they go to the Lighthouse to-morrow? Now. All that would be revived again in the U ves of Paul and Minta. she thought. and Mrs. after another. James must go to sleep too. raising her head very slowly and speaking more and more mechanically. up to the attics. only was shown now. it did not matter whose. not being able to decide whether they were Minta’s arm in hers. as if. with annoyance. She felt rather inclined just for a moment to stand still after all that chatter. to think how. they had not touched . it was like a beautiful mountain such as she had seen abroad. and James screamed if she touched it. tables. and bring it to the tribunal where. as now. Wherever they put the light (and James could not sleep without a light) there was always a shadow somewhere. that community of feeling with other people which emotion gives as if the walls of partition had become so thin that practically (the feeling was one of relief and happiness) it was all one stream. is incongruously. and it bad. the thing that mattered. Mildred should be more careful. Cam said. Mildred said. ranged about in conclave. What had possessed Edward to send them this horrid skull? She had been so foolish as to let them nail it up there. went different ways. They would. how she must shut her eyes and go to sleep and dream of mountains and valleys and stars falling and parrots and antelopes and gardens. with valleys and flowers and bells ringing and birds singing and little goats and antelopes… She could see the words100 echoing as she spoke them rhythmically in Cam’s mind. ‘we will cover it up. and quite unconsciously and Not that she did in fact run or hurry. ‘a nice black pig like the pigs at the farm. that was done then. Bankes and Charles Tansley went off. Then one saw Mrs. firmly. how the ‘Well then. so that the leaves now and then brushed open a star. come back to this night. For it being shown struck everything into stability. a bird’s nest. as if to remind herself that she must not speak aloud. So she righted herself after the shock of the event. It was nailed fast. but affectionately. Mr. this moon. and Cam was repeating after her how it was like a mountain. she went indeed rather slowly. however long they lived. Yes.’ said Mrs. it’s only an old pig. maps. thus giving a turn to the whole poise of the evening. and so this wind. said Mrs. separate it off. used the branches of the elm trees outside to help her to stabilise her position. wound about in their hearts. and went in. She could see the horns. Lily thought. were theirs.’ said Mrs. ‘the Rayleys’ – she tried the new name over. she quickly took her own shawl off and wound it round the skull. accomplished. And directly going into the smoking-room. and Cam couldn’t go to sleep with it in the room.’ and they all watched her go to the chest of drawers. Ramsay going upstairs in the lamplight alone. But he wanted to ask her something more. and now again of the superb upward rise (like the beak of a ship up a wave) of the elm branches as the wind raised them. until she sat upright and saw that Cam was asleep. Ramsay. Ramsay. It was windy. it was like a bird’s nest. going upstairs. and Mildred out of bed in her bare feet.18 As usual. and not seeing anything that would do. something that Mrs. It flattered her. the change from poetry to politics struck her like that. and this. and as with all things done. and chairs. Her world was changing: they were still. was she going so quickly? and pick out one particular thing. pursing her lips slightly. she said. and the stars themselves seemed to be shaking and darting light and trying to flash out between the edges of the leaves. it might be with every one standing about making jokes. Now one thought of it. She must get that right and that right. where she was most susceptible of flattery. All must be in order. so Mr. insensibly approving of the dignity of was windy (she stood a moment to look out). sitting down on the bed by her side. with her hand on the nursery door. and this. The event had given her a sense of movement. and Paul and Minta would carry it on when she was dead. and then she came back to Cam and laid her head almost flat on the pillow beside Cam’s and said how lovely it looked now. branching at her all over the room. to detach it. were hers. they had done just what he wanted. It was true. going on again. Ramsay. at the map of the Hebrides. seeing them go. Then Cam must go to sleep (it had great horns said Cam –) must go to sleep and dream of lovely palaces. He made sure that the skull was still there under the shawl. cleared of chatter and emotion. and more rhythmically and more nonsensically. is it right or wrong? Where are we going to? and so on. There was always something that had to be done at that precise moment. at the sofa on the landing (her mother’s98) at the rocking-chair (her father’s).’ and so make off at once with an air of secrecy to do something alone. for see.’ But Cam thought it was a horrid thing. Lily wondered. however long they lived she would be woven. this house: and to her too. laughing. a garden. but Mildred. they wavered about. of course. ‘But think. and she felt. Ramsay in the midst of this hubbub standing there with she went a sort of disintegration set in. There was James wide awake and Cam sitting bolt upright. But directly she came in she saw. Bankes took Charles Tansley by the arm and went off to finish on the terrace the discussion they had begun at dinner about politics. become solemn. The children were not asleep. and now there was Cam wide awake and James wide awake quarrelling when they ought to have been asleep hours ago. so hold it before her. and her eyes were opening and shutting. lest it should squeak. that the precaution was not needed. and hearing a word or two about the policy of the Labour Party. Ramsay had decided for reasons of her own to do instantly. What was the matter? It was that horrid skull99 again. bethink her ‘Yes. Ramsay went on saying still more monotonously.

had it not been for the other thing. like a child. yet he was admirable with her husband. full of gaiety. And thinking what a chance it was for Minta and Paul and Lily to see her. not to-morrow. ‘We thought of going down to the beach to watch the waves. and how she would never grow up and never leave home. How extraordinarily lucky Minta is! She is marrying a ‘How I wish I could come with you!’ she cried.’ thought Prue. talking with the others. and with herself. clumsily sweeping them off the table with his elbow. yet she would feel relieved when he went. and feeling what an extraordinary stroke of fortune it was for her to have her. for she had raised his hopes. as if there were only one person like that in the world. and they saw her. yet she would see that he was better treated would knock a pile of books over. a moment before. He was very good. she knew. he felt ‘She knows all about it. she cried. but soon.never forget. Ramsay became like a girl of twenty. She covered him up. she said. ‘That’s my mother. and got a breath of the perfectly indifferent chill night air and murmured good-night to Mildred and left the room and let the tongue of the door slowly lengthen in the lock and went out. she said. as she came downstairs. Yet he looked so desolate.’ said Minta. Mrs. And. Paul slipped a beautiful gold watch out of a little wash-leather case to show her. they were excitable children. or condemn it. and had any of them got a watch? Instantly. I owe it all to you. Paul Rayley should look at her. it seemed to her likely that he had gone upstairs to work.’ course they must go. For No. she felt. That is the thing itself. 19 . she got up. and tickled by the where her husband sat reading. her mother. she thought. from having been quite grown up. A mood of revelry suddenly took possession of her. and she felt angry with Charles Tansley. absurdity of her thought (how lucky to marry a man with a wash-leather bag for his watch) she went with a smile on her lips into the other room. just as they were going to sleep. I need not say anything. But she was withheld by something so strong that she never even thought of asking herself what it was. ‘I’ve done it. of course they must go. man who has a gold watch in a wash-leather bag! ‘Yes. Ramsay felt. Yes. standing above them on the stairs. she noticed that she could now see the moon itself through the staircase window – the yellow harvest moon – and turned. still thinking how annoying Charles Tansley was. Of hand before her. she promised him. and since he said things like that about the Lighthouse. Of course it was impossible for her to go with them. with her husband.’ He was saying to her as he showed her the watch. and would they be very late. she wondered. For she supposed that he tomorrow. and heard the wind. and running down the last three or four steps quickly. But she would have liked to go. Then feeling for her shawl and remembering that she had wrapped it round the boar’s skull. for no reason at all. Mrs. and pulled the window down another inch or two.’ And seeing the gold watch lying in his hand. He lay down. yet she liked his laugh – thinking this. She hoped he would not bang his books on the floor above their heads. Minta should look at her. But he would neither of them slept well. she became a child again. And as he held it in the palm of his Ramsay. and would her mother sanction their game. laughing. the next fine day. Paul has. Mrs. and what they had been doing was a game. yet his manners certainly wanted improving. she began turning from one to the other and laughing and drawing Minta’s wrap round her and saying she only wished she could come too.

he would accept it about Scott. so she turned and felt on the table beside her for a book. Somebody would reach it – if not he. She did not know at first what the words meant at all. He was half smiling and then she knew he was controlling his emotion. and his being so irritable with his wife and so touchy and minding when they passed his books over as if they didn’t exist at all. as one passes in diving now a weed. The lovers were fiddlesticks. are they good. when the breeze falls. He had to keep his judgement in suspense. And she opened the book and began reading here and there at random. and all the fine gravings came drawn with steel instruments about her lips and forehead. and how it bored him unutterably to sit still while people ate and drank interminably. He was tossing the pages over. his feeling for straightforward simple things. And dismissing all this. adjusting the shade of her lamp so that the light fell on her knitting. one red. she had to come here to get something she wanted. Oh. knitting.101 she saw. words. putting this with that as he read. lit up in the dark of her mind. and she grew still like a tree which has been tossing and quivering and now. until a little sound roused her – her husband slapping his thighs.) But not about himself. let them improve upon that. one blue. into quiet. and saw that he did not want to be interrupted – that was clear. They could not improve upon that. so relieved of something that he felt roused and triumphant and could not choke back his tears. He felt that he had been arguing with somebody. But he was determined. his truthfulness – for instance at dinner she had been thinking quite instinctively. One ought not to complain. as she had felt in the hall when the others were talking. nevertheless. it was the power of it. could not think what it was that she wanted. Steer. he thought as he finished the chapter. A great man. He was acting it – perhaps he was thinking himself the person in the book. and seemed leaving their perches up there to fly across and across. He was Walter’s. wondering. reading something that moved him very much. to side and forgot himself completely (but not one or two reflections about morality and French novels and English novels and Scott’s hands being of him. And he went on reading. one yellow. zigzagging this way and that. It was the life. any of it. She looked very peaceful. so he went and got one of those books. it was the tremendous humour. or to cry out and to be echoed. But now. It fortified him. Are full of trees and changing leaves. like little shaded lights. she felt again. It filled him. thought Mr. Don’t interrupt me. and had got the better desire to complain to his wife that young men did not admire him. he thought.’ began washing from side to side of her mind rhythmically. and as she did so she felt that she was climbing backwards. what do people think of me? Not liking to think of him so. ‘the China rose is all abloom and buzzing with the honey bee. it didn’t matter a damn who reached Z (if thought ran like an alphabet from A to Z). and as they washed. He would always be worrying about his own books – will they be read. these fishermen. just sit and white flower to another. and she fell deeper and deeper without knowing quite what it was. now a straw. and slowly those words they had said at dinner. now a bubble. So he returned to the other thought – if Well. he felt. he thought. putting one thing beside another. shoving her way up under petals that curved over her. but something seemed. from one red speak to each other. he seemed to be saying. so that she only knew this is white. Ramsay. The whole . she murmured. leaf by leaf. hither steer your winged pines. or this is red. it was one of old Sir She looked at her husband (taking up her stocking and beginning to knit). whatever they might say. But he must read it young men did not care for this. Raising the book a little to hide his face he let them fall and shook his head from side tied but his view perhaps being as true as the other view) forgot his own bothers and failures completely in poor Steenie’s drowning and Mucklebackit’s sorrow (that was Scott at his best) and the astonishing delight and feeling of vigour that it gave him. He could not remember the whole shape of the thing. (She could see that he was weighing. considering. why aren’t irritable when they talked about fame and books lasting. Then her husband thought. that made him slap his thighs. She wondered what book it was. He liked to think that every one had taken themselves off and that he and she were alone. First she wanted to sit down in a particular chair under a particular lamp. wondering if the children were laughing at that. all beaten Mariners103 she read and turned the page. to go from him to her. This man’s strength and sanity. And she waited a little. a great book. He was they better. upwards. But she wanted something more. with her eyes closed. If only he would speak! She had complete trust in him. that’s first-rate. and his own position became more secure. she said to herself. she knew. he would not bother her again. Here he looked at her reading. she twitched the stocking out. reading. That’s fiddlesticks.102 And all the lives we ever lived And all the lives to be. she thought. ‘That’s what they’ll say of me’. though she did not know. settles. but they did not want to there. It didn’t matter. from one line to another as from one branch to another. But it was his way with him. and wondering if they had guessed at dinner why he suddenly became always uneasy about himself. His lips twitched. He clean forgot all the little rubs and digs of the evening. There is something I want – something I have come to get. They had nothing to say. the poor old crazed creature in Mucklebackit’s cottage made him feel so vigorous. don’t say anything. swinging herself. stocking her needles into the stocking. fame – who could tell? She knew nothing about it. Their eyes met for a second. then another.19 Of course. For Charles Tansley had been saying (she looked up as if she expected to hear the crash of books on the floor above) had been saying that people don’t read Scott any more. And if he came to the conclusion ‘That’s true’ what Charles Tansley said. sinking deeper. naturally they did not care for him either. collecting it all in his mind again. coming into the room. trying to stifle his again. That troubled her.

He wanted something – wanted the thing she always suddenly. might she go on sleeping. And then there it was. returning to Scott and Balzac. Anything will do. if that were possible. ‘Paul and Minta. the meaning of things? (Every word they said now would be true. he thought. Anything.’ she said. looking up from her book. that she had invented. and so reading she was ascending. at . But through the He snorted. to the English novel and the French novel. he thought. ‘I shan’t finish it. flattening the stocking out upon her knee. laying hands on one flower and then another. the sofa on the landing. she could feel his mind like a fidget. she could not do. She was astonishingly beautiful. the birds in the trees. Which should she tell him about? ‘They’re engaged.104 stuck to this magnet. It was only that she never could say what she felt. letting it fall again. and exaggerated her ignorance. beautiful and reasonable. and then for some reason he would mind this raised hand shadowing her mind. beginning to knit. this way and that. she read. on to the summit. but Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose. looking at him. That was what she wanted – the asperity in his voice reproving her.) Do say something. the children being awake. He was smiling at her. very forthright. Ramsay raised her head and like a person in a light sleep seemed to say that if he wanted her to wake she would. just a little longer? She was climbing up those branches. Her beauty seemed to him. the marriage will turn out all right. suddenly entire shaped in her hands. she understood what she was reading. for he liked to think that she was not clever. raising his hand to his forehead. Andrew holding his plate too high at dinner. Slowly it came ‘So I guessed. quite close. but that his look had changed. But it was not so – it was not so. He wondered if to increase. Her mind was still going up and down. Charles Tansley waking them with his books falling – oh no. why is it then that one wants people to marry? What was the value. but at the same time he was thinking. partly because she did not mind looking now. just a little longer. she thought. going on with her knitting. and thinking of Scott’s novels and Balzac’s novels. You don’t look sad now. she thought. Say anything. clear and But she was becoming conscious of her husband looking at her. Go on reading. ‘No. she thought. she murmured putting the book on the table. being depressed by something William had said.’ he said. quizzically. anything. otherwise. she never told him that she loved him. How satisfying! How restful! All the odds and ends of the day complete. to close round her again. as she took up her knitting. she felt. As with your shadow I with these did play. and he was beginning now that her thoughts took a turn he disliked – towards this ‘pessimism’ as he called it – to ‘You won’t finish that stocking to-night. Probably not. He could say things – she never could. felt clean. coming side by side. she finished. moon. her mind felt swept. twisting a lock of hair. wanted her to tell him that she loved him. pointing to her stocking. ‘Well?’ she said. Mrs. There was nothing very much to be said about it. and. with him watching. wishing only to hear his voice. swinging the compass105 on his watch-chain to and fro. Was there no crumb on his coat? Nothing she could do for him? Getting up she stood at the window with the reddish-brown stocking in her hands. the girl is much too good for that young man.’ she said. you away. he thought. He was silent. What had happened she wondered. ‘How nice it would be to marry a man with a wash-leather bag for his watch. after reading about Steenie’s funeral. If And what then? For she felt that he was still looking at her. involuntarily. she begged.’ he was still feeling very vigorous. crepuscular walls of their intimacy. A heartless woman he called her. as if for help. the thing folding them in was beginning. And he wondered what she was reading. echoing his smile dreamily. on to the top. So naturally it was always he that said the things. for that was the sort of joke they had together. and seeing the Yet seem’d it winter still. As with your shadow I with these did play. into her head.’ found it so difficult to give him. as if he were ridiculing her gently for being asleep in broad daylight.’ he said. he says it’s wrong to be pessimistic probably it is wrong. she felt. And that. partly to turn away from him. though he said nothing. So they sat silent. and Paul having a wash-leather case for his watch. He felt about this engagement as he always felt about any engagement. He found talking so much easier than she did. she really would. since she had last seen him alone? She remembered dressing. For the shadow. not book-learned at all. and would reproach her. up and down with the poetry.of life did not consist in going to bed with a woman.’ she said. her simplicity. for they were drawing together. the essence sucked out of life and held rounded here – the sonnet. no. Then she became aware that she wanted him to say something.

Then. you were right. And she felt herself very beautiful. Will you not tell me just for once that you love me? He was thinking that. And smiling she looked out of the window and said (thinking to herself. ‘Yes. he was watching her. It’s going to be wet to-morrow. that she loved him. and its being the end of the day and their having quarrelled about going to the Lighthouse. of course he knew. for he was roused. For she had triumphed . what with Minta and his book. for though she had not said a word. And she looked at him smiling. He could not deny it. knowing that he was watching her. she could not say it.’ She had not said it. But she could not do it. For she knew that he had turned his head as she turned. instead of saying anything she turned.the Lighthouse. Nothing on earth can equal this happiness) – again. but he knew it. You are more beautiful than ever. and looked at him. And as she looked at him she began to smile. She knew that he was thinking. he knew. holding her stocking.

II .

’ said Prue.’ rather longer than the rest.’ said Mr. coming up from the beach. ‘just put out the light in the hall.’ she called back.’ said Prue.II TIME PASSES 1 12 ‘Well. coming in from the terrace.’ ‘Andrew. we must wait for the future to show. ‘No. 3 kept his candle burning 2 . One by one the lamps were all extinguished. Carmichael. who liked to lie awake a little reading Virgil. ‘It’s almost too dark to see. Bankes. ‘Do we leave that light burning?’ said Lily as they took their coats off indoors. ‘not if everyone’s in.’ said Andrew. ‘One can hardly tell which is the sea and which is the land. except that Mr.

there a bowl of red and yellow dahlias. desisting. all together gave off an aimless gust of lamentation to which some door in the kitchen replied. all sighed together. wearily. on the shut eyes and the loosely clasping fingers. there was scarcely anything left of body or mind by which one could say ‘This is he’ or ‘This is she. it seemed. and questioning (gently. or wandering ship. the books. those fumbling airs. would So some random light directing them from some uncovered star. the flowers. to the boxes in the attics. and slammed to. swung wide. blanched the apples on the dining-room ceased together. and fold their garments wearily and disappear. they would look. Carmichael. that breathe and bend over the bed itself. for there was time at their disposal) the torn letters in the wastepaper basket. Whatever else may perish and one might imagine them. or the Lighthouse even. with its pale footfall upon stair and disappear what lies here is steadfast. Almost it hang much longer. Were they allies? 4 Were they enemies? How long would they endure? mat. all of which were now open to them and asking. questioning and wondering. the moon sunk. Nothing stirred in the drawing-room or in the dining-room or on the staircase.] table. Here one might say to those sliding lights. the little airs mounted the staircase and nosed round bedroom doors. Nothing. to the servants’ bedrooms. detached from the body of the wind (the house was ramshackle after all) crept round corners and ventured indoors. here you can neither touch nor destroy. But here surely. nosing. they passed on musingly as if asking the red and yellow roses on the wall-paper whether they would fade. At length. blew out his candle. as they entered the drawing-room. or somebody laughed aloud as if sharing a joke with nothingness. Only through the rusty hinges and swollen sea-moistened Not only was furniture confounded. fumbled the petals of roses.2 So with the lamps all put out. came into bedrooms. when would it fall? Then smoothly brushing the walls. descending. toying with the flap of hanging wall-paper. they went to the window on the staircase. and a thin rain drumming on the roof a downpouring of immense darkness began. stole round window blinds. once. rubbing. ghostlily as if they had feather-light fingers and the light persistency of feathers. creeping in at keyholes and crevices. It was past midnight. brushed the mat and blew a little sand along the floor. there the sharp edges and firm bulk of a chest of drawers. gathered together. asking. a hand was raised as if to clutch something or ward off something.’ Sometimes woodwork certain airs. And so. they must cease. U pon which. who was reading Virgil. swallowed up here a jug and basin. [Here Mr. all 3 . tried the picture on the easel. could survive the flood. admitted nothing. the profusion of darkness which. or somebody groaned.

and so breaks them. plates of brightness. Ramsay having died rather suddenly the night before. should be ours always. 6 ] The nights now are full of wind and destruction. and wherefore. ravaged as they are. our toil respite only. Night. the boat rocking. and why. so confuses them that it seems impossible that their calm should ever return or that we should ever compose from their fragments a perfect whole or read in the littered pieces the clear words of truth. The hand dwindles in his hand. which. quickens. a cock crows. like a turning leaf. the wave falling. single. take on the flash of tattered flags kindling in the gloom of cool cathedral caves where gold letters on marble pages harvest moons. The autumn trees. however. The autumn trees gleam in the yellow moonlight. them and they lie packed in gutters and choke rain pipes and scatter damp paths. the light which mellows the energy of labour. and so soon a bird sings. they darken. or a faint green equally. and brings the wave lapping blue to the shore. and smooths the stubble. divine goodness. a sharer of his solitude. They remained empty. in the light of It seemed now as if. no image with semblance of serving and divine promptitude comes readily to hand bringing the night to order and making the world reflect the compass 5 of the soul. the hare erect. draws the curtain. 4 . he covers his treasures in a drench of hail. Also the sea tosses itself and breaks itself. in the hollow of the wave. did we deserve them. which tempt the sleeper from his bed to seek an answer. he stretched his arms out. but. with indefatigable fingers. especially when the darkness dims so soon. succeeds to night. But alas. the voice bellows in his ear. Mrs. They lengthen. it does not please him. evenly. twitching the cord. throw off his bedclothes and go down by himself to walk on the sand. Ramsay stumbling along a passage stretched his arms out one dark morning. Almost it would appear that it is useless in such confusion to ask the night those questions as to what. and should any sleeper fancying that he might find on the beach an answer to his doubts. The winter holds a pack of them in store and deals them describe death in battle and how bones bleach and burn far away in Indian sands. divine goodness had parted the curtain and displayed behind it. For our penitence deserves a glimpse only. Some of them hold aloft clear planets. distinct. touched by human penitence and all its toil. the trees plunge and bend and their leaves fly helter skelter until the lawn is plastered with [Mr.3 But what after all is one night? A short space.

pale in the evening. nibbled and fanned. far distant. cracked. Nothing it seemed could break that image. Now. flying. and the shadow wavered. a dog’s bark. as after centuries of quiescence. 5 . tarnished. and for a moment darkened the pool in which light reflected itself. one fold of the shawl loosened and swung to and fro. a shooting cap. the indifference. day after day. What people had shed and left – a pair of shoes. once in the middle of the night with a roar. week after week. seen from a train window. is scarcely robbed of its solitude. some faded skirts and coats in wardrobes – those alone kept the human shape and in the emptiness indicated how once they were filled and animated. the door opened. in came children rushing and tumbling. and together made the shape of loveliness itself. those stray airs. a rock rends itself from the mountain and hurtles crashing into the valley. its clear image on the wall opposite. snuffling. the bare legs of tables. met nothing in bedroom or drawing-room that wholly resisted them but only hangings that flapped. the air of pure integrity. blustered in. brushed bare boards. a man’s shout. the drone and hum of the fields. wood that creaked. had held a world hollowed out in which a figure turned. like a flower reflected in water. and dust the bedrooms. 7 tearing the veil of silence with hands that had stood in the wash-tub. with a rupture. and reiterating their questions – ‘Will you fade? Will you perish?’ – scarcely disturbed the peace. vanishing so quickly that the pool. rubbing. light bent to its own image in adoration on the bedroom wall. how once hands were busy with hooks and buttons. or disturb the swaying mantle of silence which. though once seen. as if the question they asked scarcely needed that they should answer: we remain. a hand flashed. Loveliness and stillness clasped hands in the bedroom. in the empty room. or birds. came as directed to open all windows. wove into itself the falling cries of birds. solitary like a pool at evening. made a soft spot flutter slowly across the So loveliness reigned and stillness. when Mrs. and the soft nose of the clammy sea airs. ships hooting. corrupt that innocence. grinding it with boots that had crunched the shingle. McNab. flourishing in the wind. how once the looking-glass had held a face. and among the shrouded jugs and sheeted chairs even the prying of the wind. a form from which life had parted. light turned. and went out again.4 So with the house empty and the doors locked and the mattresses rolled round. made bedroom floor. Once only a board sprang on the landing. saucepans and china already furred. advance guards of great armies. iterating. Then again peace descended. obeisance on the wall. and folded them round the house in silence. Only the shadows of the trees.

and asked themselves ‘What am I?’ ‘What is this?’ and suddenly an continued to drink and gossip as before. creaking and groaning on her knees under the bed. as she clutched the banisters and hauled herself upstairs and rolled from room to room. as if. persistency itself. pulled herself up. so that as she lurched. and her own sorrows. was robbed of meaning. she asked. looked at a stone. It was not easy or snug this world she had known for close on seventy years.5 As she lurched (for she rolled like a ship at sea) and leered (for her eyes fell on nothing directly. some channel in the depths of obscurity through which light enough issued to twist her face grinning in the glass and make her. say with her children (yet two had been base-born and one had deserted her). Meanwhile the mystic. but with a sidelong glance that deprecated the scorn and anger of the world – she was witless. taking up mats. at the public-house. Visions of joy there turning over scraps in her drawers. she seemed to say how it was one long sorrow and trouble. Bowed down she was with weariness. putting down china. the visionary. dusting the boards. McNab 6 . answer was vouchsafed them (what it was they could not say): so that they were warm in the frost and had comfort in the desert. wiping. how long shall it endure? but hobbled to her feet again. and began again the old amble and hobble. turning to her job again. and bringing things out and putting them away again. drinking. she knew it). as if indeed there twined about her dirge some incorrigible hope. coming from the toothless. humour. How long. caretaking woman. bonneted. stood and gaped in the glass. and again with her sidelong leer which slipped and turned aside even from her own face. walked the beach. aimlessly smiling. had been hummed and danced to. dusting. looking must have been at the wash-tub. Rubbing the glass of the long looking-glass and leering sideways at her swinging figure a sound issued from her lips – something that had been gay twenty years before on the stage perhaps. mumble out the old music hall song. But Mrs. but now. how it was getting up and going to bed again. she sang. was like the voice of witlessness. she had her consolations. Some cleavage of the dark there must have been. after all. stirred a puddle. trodden down but springing up again. sideways in the glass.

happiness more. the rock was rent asunder. which had laid itself with such authority upon the carpet in the darkness. It was difficult blandly to overlook them. they added. cloud. how beautiful she looked!] [Prue Ramsay. whose death. sweeping. bare and bright like a virgin fierce in her chastity. hard. single. bright. fishing-boats against the apparition of an ashen-coloured ship 8 moon. as the evenings lengthened. this integrity. Through the short summer nights and the long summer days. of stars flashing in their hearts. dusting. to abolish their significance in the landscape. there was a purplish stain upon the bland surface of the sea as if something had conclusions stayed their pacing. there it hung.6 The spring without a leaf to toss. the thud of something falling. But in the very lull of this loving caress. something alien to the processes of domestic life. to continue. came now in the softer light of spring mixed with moonlight gliding gently as if it bed. to marvel how beauty outside mirrored beauty within.] despairing yet loth to go (for beauty offers her lures. the hopeful. prevails. Carmichael brought out a volume of poems that spring. McNab. the minds of men. gone. completing. softened and acquiescent. mercifully. of cliff. That dream. and swayed.] flower. while the sun so striped and barred the rooms and filled them with yellow haze that Mrs. and sometimes in plain mid-day when the roses were bright and light turned on the wall its shape clearly there seemed to drop into this [A shell exploded. This intrusion into a scene calculated to stir the most sublime reflections and lead to the most comfortable by the sea. and then. sea. something out of harmony with this jocundity. which was indeed a tragedy. like a diamond in the [Prue Ramsay died that summer in some illness connected with childbirth. man and woman. contemplation was unendurable. people said. They said nobody deserved And now in the heat of summer the wind sent its spies about the house again. averted her head. when the empty rooms seemed to murmur with the echoes of the fields and the hum of flies. sand. as the long stroke leant upon the which. was but a reflection in a mirror. come. in those pools of uneasy water. and acquiesced in his torture. this serenity. leaning on her father’s arm. looked like a tropical fish oaring its way through sun-lanced waters. the pallor of dawn. veiled her eyes. and among passing shadows and flights of small rain seemed to have taken upon her a knowledge of the sorrows of mankind. the stroke of the Lighthouse. laid its caress and lingered stealthily and looked and came lovingly again. for instance. when she broke in and lurched about. which had an unexpected success. among them Andrew Ramsay. happiness remote from the known pleasures and familiar virtues. with their repeated shocks still further loosened the shawl and cracked the tea-cups. Then again silence fell. Moreover. and the mirror itself was but the surface glassiness which forms in quiescence when the nobler powers sleep beneath? Impatient. was laid out on fields wide-eyed and watchful and entirely careless of what was done or thought by the beholders. and children pelting each other with handfuls of grass. had revived their interest 7 . of sharing. scornful in her purity. The war. There was the silent boiled and bled. there came to the wakeful. swayed aimlessly. weeds that had grown close to the glass in the night tapped methodically at the window pane. the spring with her bees humming and gnats dancing threw her cloak about her. mirror was broken. then. What. In those mirrors. and sky brought purposely together to assemble outwardly the scattered parts of the vision within. another fold of the shawl loosened. the long streamer waved gently. was given in marriage that May. dreams persisted. finding in solitude on the beach an answer. Now and again some glass tinkled in the cupboard as if a giant voice had shrieked so loud in its agony that tumblers stood inside a cupboard vibrated too. tracing its pattern. the [Mr. invisibly. in which clouds for ever turn and shadows form. has her consolations). instantaneous. or to resist the extraordinary stimulus to range hither and thither in search of some absolute good. tree. and the white earth itself seemed to declare (but if questioned at once to withdraw) that good triumphs.] night. which would render the possessor secure. could have been more fitting? And. and it was impossible to resist the strange intimation which every gull. When darkness fell. walking the beach. beneath. imaginations of the strangest kind – of flesh turned to atoms which drove before the wind. condoned his meanness. had to consider among the usual tokens of divine bounty – the sunset on the sea. order rules. some crystal of intensity. as one walked Did Nature supplement what man advanced? Did she complete what he began? With equal complacence she saw his misery. stirring the pool. the moon rising. people said. Flies wove a web in the sunny rooms. to pace the beach was impossible. As summer neared. in poetry. Twenty or thirty young men were blown up in France. night after silence this indifference. people said. was At that season those who had gone down to pace the beach and ask of the sea and sky what message they reported or what vision they affirmed But slumber and sleep though it might there came later in the summer ominous sounds like the measured blows of hammers dulled on felt.

eyeless. and so terrible. casually filled with windblown plants. and mounted one on top of another.7 Night after night. and the flowers standing there. with the trees standing there. looking before them. and lunged and plunged in the darkness or the daylight (for night and day. held their court without interference. looking up. as the winds and waves disported themselves like the amorphous bulks of leviathans whose brows are pierced by no light of shapelessly together) in idiot games. the arrow-like stillness of fine weather. the torment of storms. until it seemed as if the universe were battling and tumbling. month and year ran itself. were gay as ever. tumbling and tossing. yet beholding nothing. summer and winter. in brute confusion and wanton lust aimlessly by In spring the garden urns. Listening (had there been any one to listen) from the upper rooms of the empty house only gigantic chaos streaked with lightning could have been heard reason. But the stillness and the brightness of the day were as strange as the chaos and tumult of night. 8 . Violets came and daffodils.

there was plaster fallen in the hall. all run to riot. And rats in all the attics. (and faint and flickering. the carpet was ruined quite. There were boots and shoes. like a yellow beam or the circle at wash-stand. The books and things were mouldy. She made them laugh. carrying that heavy the end of a telescope. She turned the key in the lock. years ago. What was she to do with them? They had the moth in them – Mrs. Ah. She banged the door. never came. too much. as she came up the drive with the washing. with her first baby.8 Thinking no harm. she had forgotten – she did forget things. She was too old. and travel being so difficult these days. and told cook to keep a plate of milk soup for her – quite thought she wanted it. Why. The girls all liked her. across the And cook’s name now? Mildred? Marian? – some name like that. McNab fingered it. she could see Mrs. what with the war.) And once they had been coming. But they never sent. and rabbits scuttling at you out of the beds) – she could see her with one of the children by her in that grey cloak. the rain-pipe had blocked over the study window and let the water in. Mrs.’ she would say. She was fond of flowers. But dear. never came. lost their dearest. they said. McNab. for the family would not come. straightening). stooping over her flowers. too much for one woman. some said. what with the war and help being hard to get. She had a pleasant way with her. she did. and left the house 9 . All had stood all these years without a soul in it. It was shut up. It was a pity to let them waste. many families had shamefully. Some of the locks had gone. ‘Good-evening. basket all the way up from town. but had put off coming. stooping over her flowers. It was beyond one person’s strength to get it straight now. up the dressing-table. as Mrs. they should have sent somebody down to see. Poor lady! She would never want them again. She could see her now. the house had those books needed to be laid out on the grass in the sun. locked. This had been the nursery. She creaked.) She could see her. in London. and a brush and comb left on the dressing-table. She wagged her head this side and that. bits of ribbon. there was too much work for one woman. Suppose the house were sold (she stood arms akimbo in front of the looking-glass) it would want seeing to – it would. never again. ah dear! Why the dressing-table drawers were full of things (she pulled them open). Things were better then than now. She laid them on the table while she dusted. dusting. So she was dead. like all red-haired women. went wandering over the bedroom wall. but every one had lost some one these years. they had left clothes in all the bedrooms. just sent her money. Andrew killed. and Miss Prue dead too. Whatever did they want to hang a beast’s skull there for? gone mouldy too. McNab hobbled and ambled. She didn’t like to be up here at dusk alone neither. But people should come themselves. for all the world as if she expected to come back to-morrow. Prices had gone up 9 left them. they had never come all these years. Ramsay’s things. (Mrs. the plaster was falling. stooping over her flowers (the garden was a pitiful sight now. There it not been cleaned as she could have wished. in here. they said. Her legs pained her. and expected to find things as they had Ramsay as she came up the drive with the washing. so the doors banged. she moaned. She was always welcome in the kitchen. for. She was dead. but never wrote. many things had changed since then (she shut the drawer). and Mr. Mrs. Yes. too much. (She had died very sudden at the end. There was the old grey cloak she wore gardening. Mrs. handkerchiefs. McNab. She could well remember her in her grey cloak. a lady in a grey cloak. and the house would be sold at Michaelmas perhaps. She sighed. For there were clothes in the cupboards. it was all damp Many a laugh they had had. ‘Good-evening. alone. Fiery.’ she said. McNab stooped and picked a bunch of flowers to take home with her. they said. and didn’t come down again neither. The rain came in.

looked with equanimity at the thistle and the swallow. on winters’ nights. that here once some one had lived. but kind. the rat and the straw. she said. McNab’s dream of a lady. Mrs. Bast (she had never known them. In the ruined room. breeding pale mushrooms and secreting gentleman. They had everything they wanted (glibly. the work! hands clasped and cramped with the broom handles. the lawn waved with long grass. whatever was over. talking to himself. something not inspired to go about its work with dignified ritual or solemn chanting. Oh. they got to work. in the afternoon restored to sun and air a brass fender and a set of steel fire-irons. there for? Shot in foreign parts no doubt. Some said he was dead. Only the Lighthouse beam entered the rooms for a moment. the insensibility of nature? Mrs. the young ladies wrote: would she get this done. aimlessly. would she get that done. nothing said no to them. For now had come that moment. now down in the cellars. The swallows nested in the drawing-room. could have told only by a redhot poker among the nettles. breaking off work at mid-day with the smudge on their faces. If the feather had fallen. Bast’s son. the floor was strewn with straw. she unwound her ball of memories. a drumming from sturdy trees and thorned briars What power could now prevent the fertility. of a plate of milk soup? It had wavered over the walls like a spot of sunlight and vanished. and the shepherd stored his dinner on the bricks. Which was it? Mrs. they said. lovers sought shelter there. and the butterfly sun itself on the faded chintz of the arm-chairs. rats carried off this and that to gnaw behind the wainscots. putting her cup down. and in a ring of light she saw the old They drank their tea in the bedroom sometimes. whatever they hung that beast’s skull It might well be. while the gentle tapping of a weed at the window had become. Mrs. . Bast didn’t know for certain either. It was beyond the strength of one woman. Flopped on chairs they contemplated now the magnificent conquest over taps and bath. Once more. let the poppy seed itself and the carnation mate with the cabbage. Attended with the creaking of hinges and the screeching of bolts. Toads had nosed their way in. the telescope fitted itself to Mrs. nibbling. Let the broken glass and the china lie out on the lawn and be tangled over with grass and wild berries.9 The house was left. McNab groaned. fetched up from George. would have grown. some such name as that – a red-headed woman. oblivion. The place was gone to rack and ruin. twenty staying sometimes. mopping. as she felt the tea warm in her. sent its sudden stare over bed and wall in the darkness of winter. There was the cook now. singing. with the tea hot in her. ladies in evening dress. groaning. something not highly conscious. She had locked the door. They might be coming for the summer. slapped and slammed. sitting in the wicker armchair by the nursery fender). knew the way with her. would Mrs. now a cupboard. Twenty she dared say in all their jewellery. quick-tempered like all her sort. jovially. Marian. Mildred. lying on the bare boards. a bite of ham. There was always plenty doing. Mrs. they were stiff. as the women. their legs ached. rising. and window. she had seen them once through the dining-room door all sitting at dinner. and their old the more arduous. Many a laugh they had had together. scouring. might be till after midnight. more partial triumph over long rows of books. One feather. had lived in Glasgow at that time) wondered. all in a hurry. fumbling. caught the rats. They came with their brooms and pails at last. falling. the trifling airs. upstairs now. McNab. Tortoise-shell butterflies burst from the chrysalis and pattered their life out on the window-pane. They never wrote. and the house. there had been a house. wantoning on with her memories. McNab’s eyes. rafters were laid bare. The saucepan had rusted and the mat decayed. one of to the last. had left everything stayed the corruption and the rot. of a child. she said. lean as a rake. as she came up with the washing. Then the roof would have fallen. the whole house would have plunged to the depths to lie upon the sands of the tramp slept with his coat round him to ward off the cold. on the lawn. rescued from the pool of Time that was fast closing over them now a basin. or in the study. the wind blow. the clammy breaths. Slowly and painfully. Poppies sowed themselves among the dahlias. with broom and pail. They never sent. she had gone. Bast oblivion all the Waverley novels and a tea-set one morning. wagging his head. sometimes. and washing up till long past midnight. stooping. But there was a force working. McNab. if you They lived well in those days. Let aside the tiles. seemed to have triumphed. people in the house. The young gentleman was dead. now white-stained. the cabbages. A thistle thrust itself between the tiles in the larder. All of a sudden. if it had tipped the scale downwards. Mrs. Mrs. Nothing 10 now withstood them. a fringed carnation flowered among which made the whole room green in summer. There were things up there rotting in the drawers – it was a shame to leave them so. unequally but lustily over the mound. giant artichokes towered among roses. Mrs. Let the swallow build in the drawing-room. she supposed. something that lurched. The long night seemed to have set in. gentlemen staying there. too. That she was sure. McNab see that the house was ready. now furtive spiders. when if a feather alight in the scale it will be weighed picnickers would have lit their kettles. the swaying shawl swung to and fro. losing his way. that hesitation when dawn trembles and night pauses. some rusty laborious birth seemed to be taking place. and step. the house was deserted. She had read his name in the papers. said Mrs. They had the builders. black as ravens once. sinking. the slamming and banging of damp-swollen woodwork. and cut the grass. Bast 11 creaked. It was left like a shell on a sandhill to fill with dry salt grains now that life had left it. Idly. expected to find things as they had left them. they had friends in eastern countries. and she asked to stay help wash up. the plaster fell in shovelfuls. She saved a plate of soup for Maggie. until some trespasser. or a scrap of china in the hemlock. and the thistle thrust down. some said she was dead. briars and hemlocks would have blotted out path. They were old. He never noticed her. something that leered. would have turned and pitched downwards to the depths of darkness.

irregular. darkly here without a light to it. Well they must be getting along with the cupboards. intermittent. a bark. loosely the world shook itself down to sleep. intermittent music which the ear half catches but lets fall. They might well ask. and the harmony falters. She leant out of the window. Mr. and then Davie Macdonald. or pale on the white flowers by the window. the windows were shut to. of cutting and digging without. and silence falls. Ah. quiet spread. that supposed. but who should say if they were ever She watched her son scything. low. or the better part of one. one after another the sounds die out. and at last. and seeds might be sent. it was finished. [Lily Briscoe 12 had her bag carried up to the house late one evening in September. the front door was banged. save what came green suffused through leaves. the jar of a dor beetle. He was a great one for work – one of those quiet ones. the tremor of cut grass. perhaps then no one for a year. yet somehow related. which the ear strains to bring together and is always on the verge of harmonising but they are never quite heard. She watched her son George scything the grass. the wind settled. Carmichael came by the same train. dissevered yet somehow belonging. they’d find it changed. the squeak of a wheel. never fully harmonised.] the evening. and then his leg got so bad after he fell from the cart.what had been done to it? seeing how old Kennedy was supposed to have charge of it. but mysteriously related. loud. turned all over the house. With the sunset sharpness was lost. and like mist rising. They hauled themselves up. keys were And now as if the cleaning and the scrubbing and the scything and the mowing had drowned it there rose that half-heard melody. Bast. 10 . dusters were flicked from the windows. she At last. the hum of an insect. a bleat. in quiet rose. after days of labour within. said Mrs. and planted? They’d find it changed.

a cart grinding. the sun lifted the curtains. that it was vapour this splendour of his. she thought. Here III . as the curtains of dark wrapped themselves over the house. and Lily Briscoe stirring in her sleep clutched at her blankets as a faller clutches at the turf on the edge of a cliff. Mr. Messages of peace breathed from the sea to the shore. Beckwith. Mrs. to confirm – what else was it murmuring – as Lily Briscoe laid her head on the pillow in the clean still room and heard the sea. Through the open window the voice of the beauty of the world came murmuring. if they would not actually come down to the beach itself at least to lift the blind and look out. And it Indeed the voice might resume. shutting his book. falling asleep. tenderly the light fell (it seemed to come through her eyelids). too softly to hear exactly what it said – but what mattered if the meaning were plain? – entreating the sleepers (the house was full again. but Mr. Gently the waves 13 would break (Lily heard them in her sleep). Awake. broke the veil on their she was again. Carmichael read a book by candlelight). Carmichael thought. and the dew had more power than he. And if they still faltered (Lily was tired out with travelling and slept almost at once. gently then without complaint. be content with this. dreamt wisely. Her eyes opened wide. until. over Mrs. acquiesce and resign? The sigh of all the seas breaking in measure round the isles soothed them. Carmichael. sitting bolt upright in bed. Carmichael). why not accept this. to lull it rather more deeply to rest and whatever the dreamers dreamt holily.10 Then indeed peace had come. Never to break its sleep any more. or argument. the voice would all looked. his head crowned. Beckwith was staying there. and how in his eyes a child might look. also Mr. if they still said no. Mr. sing its song. a dog somewhere barking. nothing broke their sleep. much as it used to look years ago. and they preferred sleeping. the night wrapped them. eyes. They would see then night flowing down in purple. and Lily Briscoe so that they lay with several folds of blackness on their eyes. his sceptre jewelled. the birds beginning and the dawn weaving their thin voices in to its whiteness.

III THE LIGHTHOUSE 1
What does it mean then, what can it all mean? Lily Briscoe asked herself, wondering whether, since she had been left alone, it behoved her to go to the kitchen to fetch another cup of coffee or wait here. What does it mean? – a catchword that was, caught up from some book, fitting her thought loosely, for she could not, this first morning with the Ramsays, contract her feelings, could only make a phrase resound to cover the blankness of nothing that she could express at all. her mind until these vapours had shrunk. For really, what did she feel, come back after all these years and Mrs. Ramsay dead? Nothing, nothing – She had come late last night when it was all mysterious, dark. Now she was awake, at her old place at the breakfast table, but alone. It was very

early too, not yet eight. There was this expedition – they were going to the Lighthouse, Mr. Ramsay, Cam, and James. They should have gone already – they had to catch the tide or something. And Cam was not ready and James was not ready and Nancy had forgotten to order the sandwiches and Mr. Ramsay had lost his temper and banged out of the room. ‘What’s the use of going now?’ he had stormed. the house. Now Nancy burst in, and asked, looking round the room, in a queer half dazed, half desperate way, ‘What does one send to the Lighthouse?’ as if she were forcing herself to do what she despaired of ever being able to do.

Nancy had vanished. There he was, marching up and down the terrace in a rage. One seemed to hear doors slamming and voices calling all over

morning everything seemed so extraordinarily queer that a question like Nancy’s – What does one send to the Lighthouse? – opened doors in one’s mind that went banging and swinging to and fro and made one keep asking, in a stupefied gape, What does one send? What does one do? Why is one sitting here after all? Sitting alone (for Nancy went out again) among the clean cups at the long table she felt cut off from other people, and able only to go on

What does one send to the Lighthouse indeed! At any other time Lily could have suggested reasonably tea, tobacco, newspapers. But this

watching, asking, wondering. The house, the place, the morning, all seemed strangers to her. She had no attachment here, she felt, no relations with it, anything might happen, and whatever did happen, a step outside, a voice calling (‘It’s not in the cupboard; it’s on the landing,’ some one cried), was a question, as if the link that usually bound things together had been cut, and they floated up here, down there, off, anyhow. How aimless it

was, how chaotic, how unreal it was, she thought, looking at her empty coffee cup. Mrs. Ramsay dead; Andrew killed; 1 Prue dead too – repeat it as she might, it roused no feeling in her. And we all get together in a house like this on a morning like this, she said, looking out of the window – it was a beautiful still day.

saw you, for one second, for the first time, for ever; and she pretended to drink out of her empty coffee cup so as to escape him – to escape his demand on her, to put aside a moment longer that imperious need. And he shook his head at her, and strode on (‘Alone’ she heard him say, walls. If only she could put them together, she felt, write them out in some sentence, then she would have got at the truth of things. Old Mr. it was also exciting. Going to the Lighthouse. But what does one send to the Lighthouse? Perished. Alone. The grey-green light on the wall

Suddenly Mr. Ramsay raised his head as he passed and looked straight at her, with his distraught wild gaze which was yet so penetrating, as if he

‘Perished’ 2 she heard him say) and like everything else this strange morning the words became symbols, wrote themselves all over the grey-green Carmichael came padding softly in, fetched his coffee, took his cup and made off to sit in the sun. The extraordinary unreality was frightening; but opposite. The empty places. Such were some of the parts, but how bring them together? she asked. As if any interruption would break the frail shape she was building on the table she turned her back to the window lest Mr. Ramsay should see her. She must escape somehow, be alone somewhere. Suddenly she remembered. When she had sat there last ten years ago there had been a little sprig or leaf pattern on the table-cloth, had said. She had never finished that picture. It had been knocking about in her mind all these years. She would paint that picture now. Where Ramsay turned.

which she had looked at in a moment of revelation. There had been a problem about a foreground of a picture. 3 Move the tree to the middle, she were her paints, she wondered? Her paints, yes. She had left them in the hall last night. She would start at once. She got up quickly, before Mr. She fetched herself a chair. She pitched her easel with her precise old-maidish movements on the edge of the lawn, not too close to Mr.

Carmichael, but close enough for his protection. Yes, it must have been precisely here that she had stood ten years ago. There was the wall; the had come to her: she knew now what she wanted to do.

hedge; the tree. The question was of some relation between those masses. She had borne it in her mind all these years. It seemed as if the solution But with Mr. Ramsay bearing down on her, she could do nothing. Every time he approached – he was walking up and down the terrace – ruin

approached, chaos approached. She could not paint. She stooped, she turned; she took up this rag; she squeezed that tube. But all she did was to

ward him off a moment. He made it impossible for her to do anything. For if she gave him the least chance, if he saw her disengaged a moment,

looking his way a moment, he would be on her, saying, as he had said last night, ‘You find us much changed.’ Last night he had got up and stopped before her, and said that. Dumb and staring though they had all sat, the six children whom they used to call after the Kings and Queens of England

– the Red, the Fair, the Wicked, the Ruthless, – she felt how they raged under it. Kind old Mrs. Beckwith said something sensible. But it was a house full of unrelated passions – she had felt that all the evening. And on top of this chaos Mr. Ramsay got up, pressed her hand, and said: ‘You will find us much changed’ and none of them had moved or had spoken; but had sat there as if they were forced to let him say it. Only James (certainly the Sullen) scowled at the lamp; and Cam screwed her handkerchief round her finger. Then he reminded them that they were going to the Lighthouse to-morrow. They must be ready, in the hall, on the stroke of half-past seven. Then, with his hand on the door, he stopped; he turned upon them. Did they not want to go? he demanded. Had they dared say No (he had some reason for wanting it) he would have flung himself tragically

backwards into the bitter waters of despair. Such a gift he had for gesture. He looked like a king in exile. Doggedly James said yes. Cam stumbled more wretchedly. Yes, oh yes, they’d both be ready, they said. And it struck her, this was tragedy – not palls, dust, and the shroud; but children coerced, their spirits subdued. James was sixteen, Cam seventeen, perhaps. She had looked round for someone who was not there, for Mrs. Ramsay, presumably. But there was only kind Mrs. Beckwith turning over her sketches under the lamp. Then, being tired, her mind still rising and falling under. It was a wonderful night, starlit; the waves sounded as they went upstairs; the moon surprised them, enormous, pale, as they passed the staircase window. She had slept at once. She set her clean canvas firmly upon the easel, as a barrier, frail, but she hoped sufficiently substantial to ward off Mr. Ramsay and his with the sea, the taste and smell that places have after long absence possessing her, the candles wavering in her eyes, she had lost herself and gone

exactingness. She did her best to look, when his back was turned, at her picture; that line there, that mass there. But it was out of the question. Let him be fifty feet away, let him not even speak to you, let him not even see you, he permeated, he prevailed, he imposed himself. He changed everything. She could not see the colour; she could not see the lines; even with his back turned to her, she could only think, But he’ll be down on me in a moment, demanding – something she felt she could not give him. She rejected one brush; she chose another. When would those children come? When would they all be off? she fidgeted. That man, she thought, her anger rising in her, never gave; that man took. She, on the other hand, With the brush slightly trembling in her fingers she looked at the hedge, the step, the wall. It was all Mrs. Ramsay’s doing. She was dead. Here was Lily, at forty-four, wasting her time, unable to do a thing, standing there, playing at painting, playing at the one thing one did not play at, and it was all Mrs. Ramsay’s fault. She was dead. The step where she used to sit was empty. She was dead.

would be forced to give. Mrs. Ramsay had given. Giving, giving, giving, she had died – and had left all this. Really, she was angry with Mrs. Ramsay.

It was all dry: all withered: all spent. They ought not to have asked her; she ought not to have come. One can’t waste one’s time at forty-four, she thought. She hated playing at painting. A brush, the one dependable thing in a world of strife, ruin, chaos – that one should not play with,

But why repeat this over and over again? Why be always trying to bring up some feeling she had not got? There was a kind of blasphemy in it.

knowingly even: she detested it. But he made her. You shan’t touch your canvas, he seemed to say, bearing down on her, till you’ve given me what I want of you. Here he was, close upon her again, greedy, distraught. Well, thought Lily in despair, letting her right hand fall at her side, it would be simpler then to have it over. Surely she could imitate from recollection the glow, the rhapsody, the self-surrender she had seen on so many women’s faces (on Mrs. Ramsay’s, for instance) when on some occasion like this they blazed up – she could remember the look on Mrs. Ramsay’s face – into a rapture of sympathy, of delight in the reward they had, which, though the reason of it escaped her, evidently conferred on them the most supreme bliss of which human nature was capable. Here he was, stopped by her side. She would give him what she could.

2

2
She seemed to have shrivelled slightly, he thought. She looked a little skimpy, wispy; but not unattractive. He liked her. There had been some talk of her marrying William Bankes once, but nothing had come of it. His wife had been fond of her. He had been a little out of temper too at approach any woman, to force them, he did not care how, his need was so great, to give him what he wanted: sympathy. Was anybody looking after her? he said. Had she everything she wanted? sympathetic expansion: the pressure on her was tremendous. But she remained stuck. There was an awful pause. They both looked at the sea. Why, thought Mr. Ramsay, should she look at the sea when I am here? She hoped it would be calm enough for them to land at the Lighthouse, she said. The Lighthouse! The Lighthouse! What’s that got to do with it? he thought impatiently. Instantly, with the force of some primeval gust (for really he could not restrain himself any longer), there issued from him such a groan that any other woman in the whole world would have done old maid presumably. ‘Oh, thanks, everything,’ said Lily Briscoe nervously. No; she could not do it. She ought to have floated off instantly upon some wave of breakfast. And then, and then – this was one of those moments when an enormous need urged him, without being conscious what it was, to

something, said something – all except myself, thought Lily, girding at herself bitterly, who am not a woman, but a peevish, ill-tempered, dried-up Mr. Ramsay sighed to the full. He waited. Was she not going to say anything? Did she not see what he wanted from her? Then he said he had a

particular reason for wanting to go to the Lighthouse. His wife used to send the men things. There was a poor boy with a tuberculous hip, die

lightkeeper’s son. He sighed profoundly. He sighed significantly. All Lily wished was that this enormous flood of grief, this insatiable hunger for sympathy, this demand that she should surrender herself up to him entirely, and even so he had sorrows enough to keep her supplied for ever, should leave her, should be diverted (she kept looking at the house, hoping for an interruption) before it swept her down in its flow.

said to himself.) ‘They are very exhausting,’ he said, looking, with a sickly look that nauseated her (he was acting, she felt, this great man was dramatising himself), at his beautiful hands. It was horrible, it was indecent. Would they never come, she asked, for she could not sustain this stood there) a moment longer.

‘Such expeditions,’ said Mr. Ramsay, scraping the ground with his toe, ‘are very painful.’ Still Lily said nothing. (She is a stock, she is a stone, he

enormous weight of sorrow, support these heavy draperies of grief (he had assumed a pose of extreme decrepitude; he even tottered a little as he Still she could say nothing; the whole horizon seemed swept bare of objects to talk about; could only feel, amaz-edly, as Mr. Ramsay stood there,

how his gaze seemed to fall dolefully over the sunny grass and discolour it, and cast over the rubicund, drowsy, entirely contented figure of Mr.

Carmichael, reading a French novel on a deck-chair, a veil of crape, as if such an existence, flaunting its prosperity in a world of woe, were enough to provoke the most dismal thoughts of all. Look at him, he seemed to be saying, look at me; and indeed, all the time he was feeling, Think of me, think of me. Ah, could that bulk only be wafted alongside of them, Lily wished; had she only pitched her easel a yard or two closer to him; a man, any man, would staunch this effusion, would stop these lamentations. A woman, she had provoked this horror; a woman, she should have known how to deal with it. It was immensely to her discredit, sexually, to stand there dumb. One said – what did one say? – Oh, Mr. Ramsay! Dear Mr.

Ramsay! That was what that kind old lady who sketched, Mrs. Beckwith, would have said instantly, and rightly. But no. They stood there, isolated

from the rest of the world. His immense self-pity, his demand for sympathy poured and spread itself in pools at her feet, and all she did, miserable paint brush.

sinner that she was, was to draw her skirts a little closer round her ankles, lest she should get wet. In complete silence she stood there, grasping her Heaven could never be sufficiently praised! She heard sounds in the house. James and Cam must be coming. But Mr. Ramsay, as if he knew that

his time ran short, exerted upon her solitary figure the immense pressure of his concentrated woe; his age; his frailty; his desolation; when

suddenly, tossing his head impatiently, in his annoyance – for, after all, what woman could resist him? – he noticed that his boot-laces were untied. Remarkable boots they were too, Lily thought, looking down at them: sculptured; colossal; like everything that Mr. Ramsay wore, from his frayed pathos, surliness, ill-temper, charm. tie to his half-buttoned waistcoat, his own indisputably. She could see them walking to his room of their own accord, expressive in his absence of ‘What beautiful boots!’ she exclaimed. She was ashamed of herself. To praise his boots when he asked her to solace his soul; when he had shown

her his bleeding hands, his lacerated heart, and asked her to pity them, then to say, cheerfully, ‘Ah, but what beautiful boots you wear!’ deserved, she knew, and she looked up expecting to get it, in one of his sudden roars of ill-temper, complete annihilation. Instead, Mr. Ramsay smiled. His pall, his draperies, his infirmities fell from him. Ah yes, he said, holding his foot up for her to look at, they

were first-rate boots. There was only one man in England who could make boots like that. Boots are among the chief curses of mankind, he said. ‘Bootmakers make it their business,’ he exclaimed, ‘to cripple and torture the human foot.’ They are also the most obstinate and perverse of mankind. It had taken him the best part of his youth to get boots made as they should be made. He would have her observe (he lifted his right foot and then his left) that she had never seen boots made quite that shape before. They were made of the finest leather in the world, also. Most leather was mere brown paper and cardboard. He looked complacently at his foot, still held in the air. They had reached, she felt, a sunny island where knot,’ he said. He poohpoohed her feeble system. He showed her his own invention. Once you tied it, it never came undone. Three times he

peace dwelt, sanity reigned and the sun for ever shone, the blessed island of good boots. Her heart warmed to him. ‘Now let me see if you can tie a

knotted her shoe; three times he unknotted it. as she stooped too, the blood rushed to her face, and, thinking of her callousness (she had called him a play-actor) she felt her eyes swell and tingle with tears? Thus occupied he seemed to her a figure of infinite pathos. He tied knots. He bought boots. There was no helping Mr. Ramsay on the appeared on the terrace. They came, lagging, side by side, a serious, melancholy couple. journey he was going. But now just as she wished to say something, could have said something, perhaps, here they were – Cam and James. 4 They But why was it like that they came? She could not help feeling annoyed with them; they might have come more cheerfully; they might have Why, at this completely inappropriate moment, when he was stooping over her shoe, should she be so tormented with sympathy for him that,

given him what, now that they were off, she would not have the chance of giving him. For she felt a sudden emptiness; a frustration. Her feeling had come too late; there it was ready; but he no longer needed it. He had become a very distinguished, elderly man, who had no need of her whatsoever. She felt snubbed. He slung a knapsack round his shoulders. He shared out the parcels – there were a number of them, ill tied, in

brown paper. He sent Cam for a cloak. He had all the appearance of a leader making ready for an expedition. Then, wheeling about, he led the

way with his firm military tread, in those wonderful boots, carrying brown paper parcels, down the path, his children following him. They looked, she thought, as if fate had devoted them to some stern enterprise, and they went to it, still young enough to be drawn acquiescent in their father’s wake, obediently, but with a pallor in their eyes which made her feel that they suffered something beyond their years in silence. So they passed the edge of the lawn, and it seemed to Lily that she watched a procession go, drawn on by some stress of common feeling which made it, faltering and flagging as it was, a little company bound together and strangely impressive to her. Politely, but very distantly, Mr. Ramsay raised his hand and saluted her as they passed.

made it like that? Thinking, night after night, she supposed – about the reality of kitchen tables, she added, remembering the symbol which in her vagueness as to what Mr. Ramsay did think about Andrew had given her. (He had been killed by the splinter of a shell instantly, she bethought her.) The kitchen table was something visionary, austere; something bare, hard, not ornamental. There was no colour to it; it was all edges and

But what a face, she thought, immediately finding the sympathy which she had not been asked to give troubling her for expression. What had

angles; it was uncompromisingly plain. But Mr. Ramsay kept always his eyes fixed upon it, never allowed himself to be distracted or deluded, until he had left her, holding her brush), worries had fretted it – not so nobly. He must have had his doubts about that table, she supposed; whether the table was a real table; whether it was worth the time he gave to it; whether he was able after all to find it. He had had doubts, she felt, or he would have asked less of people. That was what they talked about late at night sometimes, she suspected; and then next day Mrs. Ramsay looked and he was like a lion seeking whom he could devour, and his face had that touch of desperation, of exaggeration in it which alarmed her, and

his face became worn too and ascetic and partook of this unornamented beauty which so deeply impressed her. Then, she recalled (standing where

tired, and Lily flew into a rage with him over some absurd little thing. But now he had nobody to talk to about that table, or his boots, or his knots; made her pull her skirts about her. And then, she recalled, there was that sudden revivication, that sudden flare (when she praised his boots), that sudden recovery of vitality and interest in ordinary human things, which too passed and changed (for he was always changing, and hid nothing) into that other final phase which was new to her and had, she owned, made herself ashamed of her own irritability, when it seemed as if he had

shed worries and ambitions, and the hope of sympathy and the desire for praise, had entered some other region, was drawn on, as if by curiosity,

in dumb colloquy, whether with himself or another, at the head of that little procession out of one’s range. An extraordinary face! The gate banged.

3

hideously difficult white space. ‘Shag tobacco’. drawn out of gossip. poor devils of both sexes. Still the risk must be run. practice immediately complex. the Lighthouse looked this morning at an immense distance. And now that she had put that right. She was half unwilling. out of living. it left a running mark. solidly. as if she were urged forward and at the same time must hold herself back. with its uncompromising white stare. it protruded.3 So they’re gone. She saw her canvas as if it had floated up and placed itself white and curiously divided.’ she said. ‘is it a Charles Tansley 5 used to say that. his principles. and sayings. all let one kneel prostrate. she took her hand and raised her brush. It seemed to rebuke her with its cold stare for all this hurry and agitation. but to the swimmer among them are divided by With a curious physical sensation. half intercourse anyhow. looking up at last at something floating in the sea. and untying the knot in imagination. she attained a dancing rhythmical movement. And as she lost consciousness of outer things. women. or in her sex. while she modelled it with greens and blues. as if some juice necessary for the lubrication of her faculties were spontaneously squirted. Ramsay’s presence. For the mass loomed before her. as if the pauses were one part of the rhythm and the strokes another. hesitating on some windy pinnacle and exposed without protection to all the blasts of doubt. but this form. It would be hung in the servants’ bedrooms. working in a blaze of sun. this rhythm was strong enough to bear her along with it on its current. as the waves shape themselves symmetrically from the cliff top. one thought. she remembered. like a bramble sprung. Down in the hollow of one wave she saw the next wave towering higher and all were related. The brush descended. rammed into the earth so nervously. she felt it pressing on her eyeballs. and in the mass of the hedge with its green cave of blues and browns. she thought. stepping back to look at it. For a moment it stayed trembling in a painful but exciting ecstasy in the air. out of community with people into the presence of this formidable ancient enemy of hers – this other thing. Certainly she was losing consciousness of outer things. For what could be more formidable than that space? Here she was again. lightly scored with running lines. and names. uncompromising directly before her. slicing down. as her disorderly sensations (he had gone and she had been so sorry for him and she had said nothing) trooped off the field. parading his poverty. as if one part of her were drawn out there – it was a still day. At dinner he would sit right in the middle beach. He sat. One must remember that. she murmured monotonously. challenged one to a fight in which one was bound to be worsted. she remembered. She felt the other had fixed itself doggedly. so that one repeats words without being aware any longer who originally spoke them. Carmichael on the lawn? It was an exacting form of reality. (But the war had drawn the sting of her femininity. lightly and swiftly pausing. getting into such messes. as she painted here on this very spot. from the canvas to the garden. a soul reft of body. and her easel. and then. Always (it was in her nature. It was a windy morning. here on the lawn. saying she couldn’t create. to talk to Mr. to frequent and irrevocable decisions. at what point to make the first mark? One line placed on the canvas committed her to innumerable risks. But there was all the difference in the world between this planning airily away from the canvas. she hated. Carmichael was there or not. What was the good of doing it then. Mrs. Coming up behind her he had stood close beside her. a thing of the view.) He was always carrying a book about under his arm – a purple book. which had stayed angle. And then. there was that scene on the beach. passing her eye over it. Her sympathy seemed to fly back in her face. emptiness. and then Charles Tansley became as nice as he could possibly . in the relations of those lines cutting across. and whether Mr. It would be rolled up and stuffed under a sofa. emerged stark at the back of appearances and commanded her attention. so that while her hand quivered with life. Poor devils. which had tied a knot in her mind so that at odds and ends of time. hazy. was at the wrong her remember how she was such and such a person. There was something (she stood screwing up her little Chinese eyes in her small puckered face) something she remembered in her mind. All that in idea seemed simple became in steep gulfs. she reflected. which suddenly laid hands on her. were it only the shape of a white lamp-shade looming on a wicker table. this folly and waste of emotion. and actually taking her brush and making the first mark. as if it had fallen in with some rhythm which was dictated to her (she kept looking at the hedge. had such and such relations to people. Then. she began precariously dipping among the blues and ambers. she did not know which) before she exchanged the fluidity of life for the concentration of painting she had a few moments of nakedness when she seemed like an unborn soul. as she walked along the Brompton Road. this truth. at the canvas) by what she saw. men. women can’t paint. Ramsay sat and wrote letters by a rock. and foaming crests. her mind kept throwing up from its depths. as she brushed her hair. moving her brush hither and thither. And so pausing and so flickering. and in so doing had subdued the impertinences and irrelevances that plucked her attention and made She had taken the wrong brush in her agitation at Mr. They had all gone to the lobster pot? Is it an upturned boat?’ She was so short-sighted that she could not see. as if she were caught up in one of those habitual currents which after a certain time experience forms in the mind. she made her first quick decisive stroke. ‘fivepence an ounce’. Why then did she do it? She looked at the canvas. it drastically recalled her and spread through her mind first a peace. anxiously considering what her plan of attack should be. but it was now heavier and went slower. scenes. She wrote and wrote. can’t write. She looked blankly at the canvas. and memories and ideas. and so. roused one to perpetual combat. she found herself painting that picture. the mark made. striking. and there than they enclosed (she felt it looming out at her) a space. sighing with relief and disappointment. involuntarily. A second time she did it – a third time. Why always be drawn out and haled away? Why not left in peace. ‘Oh. Can’t paint. she scored her canvas with brown running nervous lines which had no sooner settled higher above her. like a fountain spurting over that glaring. It flickered brown over the white canvas. He ‘worked’. this reluctant. God. she thought. and her name and her personality and her appearance. Other worshipful objects were content with worship. he said. can’t write. Where to begin? – that was the question. and she heard some voice saying she couldn’t paint.

Mrs. but only she and Charles throwing stones and getting on very well all of a sudden and Mrs. That woman sitting that and then this. this eternal Ramsayl Mrs. (It must have altered the design a good deal when she was sitting on the step with James. Ramsay. after all these years. now after a little flagging and hesitation the sails filled and. Ramsay 7 seemed in consonance with this quiet house. herself and Charles Tansley and the breaking wave. sparring. Ramsay looked up over her spectacles and laughed at them. The faint thought she was thinking of Mrs. with a pad on her knee. this smoke. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Life stand still here.’ she repeated. complete. she watched the boat take its way with deliberation past the other boats out to sea. driven by the fine early morning air. Ramsay was sitting with Cam and James. and it stayed in the mind almost like a work of art. the old question which traversed the sky of the soul perpetually. down there on the beach. paused over her. made these angers. to go on painting. In the midst of chaos there was shape. there was one rather apart from the others. she could see that little company setting sail. that. She must rest for a moment. Now they had got the sail up. And. this moment of friendship and liking – which survived. irritations fall off like old rags. She was highly conscious of that. and the other. the vast. What is the meaning of life? That was all – a simple question. there. Every now and then Mrs. when she released faculties that had been on the strain. When she thought of herself and Charles throwing ducks and drakes and of the whole scene on the beach. Down there among the little boats which floated. shrouded in profound silence. writing under the rock resolved everything into simplicity. Ramsay bringing them together. She owed this revelation to her. stood over her. Ramsay said. Mrs. illuminations. she brought together this and something – this scene on the beach for example. had been silly and spiteful) dipped into it to re-fashion her memory of him. writing letters. discomfort of the sympathy which she held undischarged. resting. the general question which was apt to particularise itself at such moments as these. it was amazingly pure and exciting. She looked at it there sleeping in the early sunlight with its windows green and blue with the reflected leaves. There must have been a shadow. Ramsay!’ she repeated. He began playing ducks and drakes. Ramsay making of the moment 6 something permanent (as in another sphere Lily herself tried to make of the moment something permanent) – this was of the nature of a revelation. The great revelation had never come.be. stepping back and Mrs.) But what a power was in the human soul! she thought. But impelled by some curiosity. some slowly. for it was very calm. and sometimes the wind took them and she and Charles just saved a page from the sea. she thought. some with their sails furled. Ramsay sitting under the rock. Faint and unreal. She turned to her canvas. They chose little flat black stones and sent them skipping over the waves. Instead there were little daily miracles. 4 . and so made out of that miserable silliness and spite (she and Charles squabbling. Ramsay saying ‘Life stand still here’. Ramsay watching them. darkened over her. Mrs. moving away. she walked a pace or so to the end of the lawn to see whether. passing and flowing (she looked at the clouds going and the leaves shaking) was struck into stability. matches struck unexpectedly in the dark. so that she ‘Like a work of art. Mrs. one that tended to close in on one with years. She decided that there in that very distant and entirely silent little boat Mr. She hoped nobody would open the window or come out of the house. this but that she might be left alone to go on thinking. The sail was even now being hoisted. Mrs.) somehow upon Mrs. ‘Mrs. Nobody seemed yet to be stirring in the house. here was one. This. (She wrote innumerable letters. it seemed to depend screwing up her eyes. All was silence. looking from her canvas to the drawing-room steps and back again. Ramsay. looking from one to the other vaguely. What they said she could not remember.

’ And then with his usual spasm of repentance or shyness. that he might be thwarted in every possible way. He had forced them to come. and though they only caught a word here and there. the breeze was freshening. would never be content until they were flying along. Now and then the sails rippled with a little breeze in them. and women to keep house. and the boy would fish. He was so brave. Mr. How fast it goes. perfectly content. But which was it? She could no longer make out. and shivered.’ old Macalister said. They hoped he would be thwarted. Both of them. while men were drowned. united by their compact to fight followed him. while James. they knew. which was their house. ‘We perished. He hated hanging about. so that they lagged after him. James would be forced to keep his eye all the time on the sail. he was so adventurous. Ramsay would say sharply. The shore seemed refined. he would have reached the wreck. take part in those rites he went through for his own pleasure in memory of dead people. they were conscious all the time of their father – how he leant forward. making him seem like a He looked proudly where Macalister pointed. wishing Cam to look. Three had sunk. In their anger they All the way down to the beach they had lagged behind together. they had launched the lifeboat. The water chuckled and slapped the sides of the boat. as if some great strain had been relieved. fidgeting. Instantly. saying things under his breath. and they would both be made horribly uncomfortable. there on the hillside. ‘And at last we shoved her off. The boat was leaning. one there’ (he pointed slowly round the bay. since he had forced them to come against their wills. would overhear. carrying these parcels. ‘Look out! Look out!’ and old Macalister would turn slowly on his seat. and the little tinge of Scottish accent which came into his voice. pulled himself up. He had borne them down once more with his gloom and his authority. because he wished it. But he began to think as he steered that he might escape. Mr. Then she was gone. He had made them come. . So there they would sit. steered 11 grimly. the water was sliced sharply and fell away in green cascades. Speak to him they could not. how. But their father. 9 He liked that men should labour and sweat on the windy beach at night. flattened itself. as he questioned Macalister about the eleven ships that had been driven into the bay in a storm. unreal. She raised herself reluctantly and looked. and they had got her out past the point – Macalister told the story. But she remembered.’ he said pointing. as old Macalister turned to fling his line overboard. he liked men to work like that. how he brought of the storm and the dark night and the fishermen striving there. puffing at his pipe. in bubbles. with their parcels. turning his head). Ramsay uncurled his legs. as they walked. their heads were pressed down by some remorseless gale. on this fine morning. pitting muscle and brain against the waves and the wind. and never say a word to any one. They must come. For if he forgot. he relished the thought from his toss and his vigilance and the ring in his voice. Ramsay too the same excitement. He would keep looking for a breeze. when ten ships had been driven into the bay for shelter. and all the pleasure of the day was spoilt. when Macalister’s boy had rowed a little way out. ‘She comes driving round the point. had a sense of escape and exaltation. Cam thought. They had been forced. He would be impatient in a moment. his voice into tune with Macalister’s voice. Yes. Cam sat alone in the bow) with his legs tightly curled. to the beach. and he had seen ‘one there. in cataracts. one at one end of the boat. and looking there and there where Macalister pointed. Cam It slackened a little. He had seen three men clinging to the mast. handed it with a little grunt to But now. who sat in the middle of the boat between them (James steered. so Cam could tell (they looked at him. and they would puff their pipes together.’ and then again. Where are we going? and the movement hypnotised her. they knew. So James could tell. and pishing and pshawing and muttering things to himself. to stand by each other and carry out the great compact – to resist tyranny to the death. and its speed hypnotised her. which Macalister and Macalister’s boy hoped that the breeze would never rise. on the sail and on the horizon. They might and the change.4 The sails flapped over their heads. which drowsed motionless in the sun. and they would have to put back. they had been bidden. peasant himself. who got out his oars and began to row. They must walk behind him carrying brown paper parcels. feeling proud of him without knowing quite why. and Mr. and waiting impatiently for a breeze. frowning and fidgeting. without speaking. At last they had shoved her off. Ramsay would ask old Macalister a question – about the great storm last winter probably – and old Macalister would answer it. took out his tobacco pouch. he said something sharp to Macalister’s boy. James thought. looking at their father. and. Their heads were bent down. Ramsay in their anger and their silence they only caught a word here and there.’ he went on (but tyranny to the death). Ramsay asking some question about the great storm at Christmas. and Macalister would take a tarry rope in his fingers. after fidgeting a second or two. he might be quit of it all. sitting at opposite ends of the boat. They hoped the whole expedition would fail. All looked distant and peaceful and strange. walk up’. and be free then. the boat quickened itself. the sails slowly swung round. They would say nothing. to the Lighthouse. Mr. to resist tyranny to the death. though he bade them ‘Walk up. but the ripple ran over them and ceased. and shot off. looking at each other for a moment. Ramsay sat in the middle of the boat. Sure enough. So they heard Mr. looked down into the foam. which they hated. Their grievance weighed them down. with his eye fixed land somewhere. Macalister. had he been there he would have launched the lifeboat. And they hoped it would be calm. far away. for all they suffered. in silence. and Mr. There was the compact. into the sea with all its treasure in it. The boat made no motion at all. and sit beside sleeping children indoors. and the boat slackened. only look at him now and then where he sat with his legs twisted. and Cam thought. then the sail puckered. out there in a storm. in silence. making them do his bidding. he cried towards the shore. 8 But they vowed. Now they would sail on for hours like this. and waved his hand ‘See the little house. come. She began to think. ‘each alone. But the breeze bred in Mr. tying or untying some knot. what with the speed aloud. they looked at each other). one at the other. they must follow. 10 and Cam thought. Cam thought. describing the great storm last Christmas. one there. and the tie between her and James sagged a little. and felt.

upright. staged for himself as he sat in the boat. among scents. And as sometimes happens when a cloud falls on a green hillside and gravity descends and there among all the surrounding hills is gloom and sorrow. He wished she would try to be more accurate. or maliciously rejoicing in her dismay: so Cam now felt herself overcast. Frisk. She looks frightened. And seeing her gazing. when her father. seeing his sister’s head against the sail. They all looked. and he imagined how they would soothe him and sympathise with him. she wished. he thought. it was a thing he had never been able to understand. but so it was. women are always like that. by those trees. how a man had marched up and down and stopped dead. sitting on a low chair. and the wash and hush of the sea. he would not bother her. exclaiming: ‘Look! Look!’ so urgently that James also turned his head to look over his shoulder But Cam could see nothing. a look he remembered. The compact would be left to him to carry out. he thought. he had also seen himself there. resolute people and wondered how to answer her father about the puppy. with his father standing over her. He’d look after the puppy. Didn’t she know the points of the compass? he asked. And to which did she yield. and broke off. if Cam would not answer him. with the tablets of eternal wisdom laid open on his knee (his hand on the tiller had become symbolical to her). began to tease her. she in his pocket for a book. her father most how the lawn and the terrace and the house were smoothed away now and peace dwelt there. did he not rather like this Yet she did not know. and then somebody sitting with him laughed. She was so silent. Well. half laughing at her. thought James pitilessly. Oh yes. and so called up before him in sorrow (he raised his hands and looked at the thinness of them. as she sat there among calm. Who be left to fight the tyrant alone. Yes. with her vague. not absolutely imbecile. and lights passing. he noticed. to move some obstacle that lay upon her tongue and to say. fierce and loyal to the compact. he said: ‘Tell me – which is East. He began to search among the infinite series of impressions which time had laid down. It had been so with her – his wife. Then And what was she going to call him? her father persisted. yielding. hollow. She’ll give way. acting instantly his part – the part of a desolate man. It must have been his mother. No. unsuspected by James. I’ll call him Frisk. They had a puppy. she thought.’ she said sullenly. leaf upon leaf. and brooms tapping. He would find some simple easy thing to say to her. I will make her smile at me. passionately. ‘Jasper. yet passing on to her father. voices. They look down. how the arms were stretched out to him. surrendered. and thinking suddenly they look up. The movement at the island. over them. for her father’s words broke and broke again in her mind. Which was their house? She could not see it. thick and knotted with the lives they had lived there. Didn’t she know the North from the South? Did she really think they lived right out there? And he pointed again. were gone: were rubbed out. he thought. For they must fight tyranny to the death. They looked at the island. which is West?’ he said. James suppliant. He thought. either in pity. a little drama. ‘But I beneath a rougher sea. vagueness in women? It was part of their extraordinary charm. She was thinking how all those paths and the lawn. He had found the house and so seeing it. moreover. Fight him. while James the lawgiver. feeling think of nothing to say like that. he thought. But I beneath a rougher sea Was whelmed in deeper gulfs than he. and he seemed to himself very old. to confirm his dream) and then there was given him in abundance women’s pleasure women’s sympathy was to him. the vagueness of their minds is hopeless. there. the boat and the sail with its patch. Cam half started on her seat. Cam dabbled her fingers in the water. Ramsay forgot his dream. wrapped up in his work as he was. and so getting in his dream some reflection of the exquisite so that the mournful words were heard quite clearly by them all.’ Mr. But he had been wrong to be angry with her. and it seems as if the hills themselves must ponder the fate of the clouded. which required of him decrepitude and exhaustion and sympathy. a private token of the love she . There was a flash of blue. he remembered. sounds. fold upon fold softly. Cam would never resist tyranny to the death. she’s different. She wanted even to say. for he could not understand the state of mind of any one. 12 But she would answer him. how he walked up and down between the urns on the terrace. Macalister with his earrings. care for me. sad. thought. who did not know the points of the compass. It shocked her – it outraged her. widowed. Of all human qualities she reverenced justice most.Already the little distance they had sailed had put them far from it and given it the changed look. the darkened. and determined that his voice and his face and all the quick expressive gestures which had been at his command making people pity him and praise him all these years should subdue themselves. was looking after the puppy to-day? he asked. he crouched himself. he thought grimly. each alone’. Resist him. sweet. and bowed. Ramsay decided. sitting between them. Was that the dog that found its way over the moor alone? But try as she might. how to resist his entreaty – forgive me. harsh. justly. hosts people sympathising with him. she thought. of something receding in which one has no longer any part. called Frisk. Mr. alone. Meanwhile. he sighed and said gently and mournfully. eyes fixed where no house was Mr. sulky. half scolding her. He said so rightly. were past. he forgot the sort of thing one said. bereft. were unreal. he thought. and showed her where their house was. He was walking up and down between the urns. she could won’t give way. at their knitting or something. seeing her gazing so vaguely. There was a puppy. said. Her brother was most god-like. and now this was real. now rather frightened. Ramsay murmured. incessantly upon his brain. and stared at the shore and said nothing. roused her father. He clutched his fingers. he had seen himself walking on the terrace. They could not keep anything clearly fixed in their minds. He had had a dog when he was a little boy. as he watched a look come upon her face. she was murmuring to herself ‘We perished. the noise of the waves – all this was real. and he shuddered. Sitting in the boat he bowed. gazing at the shore whose points were all unknown to her. the composed look. now she will give way. But what? For. He would make her smile at him. and he was very angry. I shall watching her face. Thinking this.

) But what remained intolerable. and his not exposed to it. as if the people there had fallen asleep. and his remoteness. each alone. another fish. you’re would have found his book. were free like smoke. she 5 . and it lay kicking on the floor. ‘Do that’. we perish. looking at James who kept his eyes dispassionately on the sail. or glanced now and then for a second at the horizon. some insolence: ‘Do this’. (He had opened his book. she thought. For she thought. to this pressure and division of feeling. 13 and his voice. was that crass blindness and tyranny 14 of his which had poisoned her childhood and raised bitter storms. For no one attracted her more. Her father was feeling in his pockets. and his words. and his oddity. he haste. thought. his dominance: his ‘Submit to me’. and his passion. so that even now she woke So she said nothing. dabbling her hand (and now Macalister’s boy had caught a mackerel. and his saying straight out before every one. in another second. and watching Macalister’s boy tug the hook out of the gills of in the night trembling with rage and remembered some command of his. They have no suffering there. wrapped in its mantle of peace. she thought. with blood on its gills) for she thought. this extraordinary temptation. his hands were beautiful to her and his feet. were free to come and go like ghosts.felt for him. sitting upright. and his temper. but looked doggedly and sadly at the shore.

but beneath the fabric must be clamped together with bolts of iron. reluctantly again. felt as if a door had opened. until at last one seemed to be on a narrow plank. or he was lying there catching words. Lily repeated. she thought. after all these years had that survived. this making up scenes about them. She collected her impressions of the Rayleys. Paul came out in his pyjamas carrying a poker in case of burglars. And she could not reach him either. this silence by her side) by saying them? Aren’t we more expressive thus? The moment at was like a drop of silver in which one dipped and illumined the darkness of the past. she thought. He would pick a flower for her. the marriage had turned out rather badly. and he decided that he would not come home either. He had a way of shuddering and spreading his fingers out as if to cover an unsightly object. She was glad. She rammed a little hole in the sand and covered it up. ringed round. and the carpet had a hole in it. Something violent. and she began to model her way into the hollow there. feathery and evanescent. as he said it. without that element of sex in it which made his manner to Minta so gallant. she supposed. sticking in leaves to mark the place. lend her his books. She had built up a whole structure of imagination on that saying too. he was ‘D’you remember?’ she felt inclined to ask him as she passed him. one colour melting into another like the colours on a butterfly’s wing. when he got the poker in case of burglars (no doubt to frighten her too) . She had always found him difficult. Ramsay Mrs. Paul said he ‘played chess in coffeehouses’. Lily thought. garish on the stairs about three o’clock in the morning. painting steadily. wreathed. a team of horses. looking out to sea. having found them. It Lily stepped back to get her canvas – so – into perspective. Lily thought. and servants leaving and beds not made at midday – all the things he most abhorred. Ramsay got up. that is their boat. Lily Briscoe decided.5 Yes. she had made it up. and dirt and disorder. Charles threw stones and sent them skipping. It was an odd road to be walking. the problem of space remained. one. a series of scenes. And Lily. with all before it blank and all after it blank. How that little round hole of pink heel seemed to flaunt itself before them! How William Bankes deplored it. very dark. Out and out one went. She saw him sitting in the corner of some lugubrious place where the smoke attached itself to the red plush seats. to her canvas. Ramsay on the beach. Why. for miles and miles? ‘Is it a boat? Is it a cork?’ she would say. Another time. the cask bobbing up and down. ‘being fond’ of them! Not a word of it was true. saying she had ruined his life. which he did now – holding his hand in front of him. But could he believe that Minta read them? She dragged them about the garden. Who knows what we are. It made it difficult for her to paint. Mr. Minta was late. abusing her. taking up her brush again. what we feel? Who knows even at the moment of intimacy. ‘D’you remember. taking the green paint on her brush. And as she dipped into the blue paint. and one went in and stood gazing silently about in a high cathedral-like place. something neutral. over the sea. thinking again of Mrs. careless. she thought how he rang up the servant. Mrs. as if by looking she could hear them. For And this. drawn. things had worked loose after the first year or so. Carmichael?’ she was inclined to ask. and she said ‘Mrs. a grey. further and further. Beautiful and bright it should be on the surface. The Rayleys. but that was all Paul knew about him. And they all walked up from the beach together. Rayley’s out. It was to be a thing you could ruffle with your breath. and the children are quite silent still. silent. thought Lily Briscoe. This is knowledge? Aren’t things spoilt then. And Minta walked on ahead. the two little boys. but it was what she knew them by all the same. Their lives appeared to her in standing half-way up by a window. in the cadaverous early morning light. visible to the last detail. to rest in the extreme obscurity of human relationships. Steamers vanished in stalks of smoke on the horizon. And she sat. she walking behind with William Bankes. She had never been able to praise him to his face. The whole mass of the picture was poised upon that weight. She remembered how. playing chess with a little man who was in the tea trade and lived at Surbiton. in a mutter so as not to wake the children. into the past. by way of burying in it the perfection of the moment. He was withered. squeezing her tube of green paint. Ramsay said. or he was dreaming. jealous words. she dipped too into the past there. It was the boat with greyish-brown sails. standing on the edge of the lawn. she remembered. while he spoke. Ramsay sat silent. and there was Minta in front of them with a hole in her stocking. Ramsay on the beach. perfectly alone. He spoke indignant. which she saw now flatten itself upon the water and shoot off across the bay. and a thing you could not dislodge with sitting beside Mrs. turning back. least seemed extraordinarily fertile. is what we call ‘knowing’ people. And she began to lay on a red. But what did they say? Lily asked herself. very solemn. At the same time. Now Mrs. She went on tunnelling her way into her picture. sir’. asleep. without. so far as she could remember. she remembered. ‘thinking’ of them. And then Minta and spoke so bitterly. At any rate when she went down to see them at a cottage near Rickmans-worth. almost gay. on the staircase at dawn. looking at the old man. she flamboyant. to rest in silence. and presumably Paul met her and she went off with Paul in the garden. It was time to go back to the house – time for luncheon. The sympathy she had not given him weighed her down. this of painting. may have asked (it seemed to have happened so often. Shouts came from a world far away. And she began hunting round for her spectacles. And that reduced their relationship to and the pages flying. It glared at her. and the waitresses got to know you. uncommunicative. Minta went on eating her sandwich. Heaven be praised for it. things were was out when he came home and then there was that scene on the stairs. lit up. There was Minta. Paul had come in and gone to bed early. she seemed to be ‘Is it a boat? Is it a cask?’ Mrs. tinted. There he sits. saying anything about it! It meant to him the annihilation of womanhood. Minta was eating a sandwich. annoyingly. But he had pulled his hat half over his forehead.

and she was told. with that faint touch of irony that made Mrs. far too wary. as they walked. They were ‘in love’ no longer. the proportions and the flowers. He sat on the road mending the car. She had been looking at the table-cloth. up with another woman. Minta was bored by hares. She was not cynical. And one would have to say to her. as if while she saw its splendour everything in her experience. so that he walked slowly. triumphed over Mrs. one had even a little contempt for them. of all incongruous things. Ramsay had over one. she liked flowers. how she Mrs. and burnt year after year like a signal fire on a desert island at the edge of the sea. greedily. that alliance had righted it. singing. Mrs. not even William Bankes. almost admiringly). and he would stop to look at a tree. Ramsay. his friendship had They went to Hampton Court 18 and he always left her. how Paul went to coffeehouses and played chess. She did not intend to disparage a subject which. his tools. while he strolled by the river. became for a moment. But Minta never gave herself away. They were excellent friends. She heard the roar and the crackle. standing there. with her hair in a plait and a case in her hand (Minta had described her gratefully. about perspective. Many things were left unsaid. obviously. as happened now. She had felt. lifted his hand to screen his eyes and paused. who would be full of curiosity to know what But the dead. or the view over the lake. Lily smiled. Lily wondered. Do this. and one had only to say ‘in love’ would move the tree to the middle. and admire a child (it was his great grief – he had no daughter) in the vague aloof way that was natural to a man who spent so much time in laboratories that the world when he came out seemed to dazzle him. and it had flashed upon her that she intelligence which had pleased her and comforted her enormously. stood here painting.horribly strained. But for a sight. Then he would tell her how his housekeeper was on her holiday. marry!’ (sitting very upright early in the morning with the birds beginning to cheep in the garden outside). Paul took her down the garden to look at the Belgian hares which he bred. laughing. even her beauty. stepping to and fro from her easel. no. like the perfect gentleman he was. One could talk of painting then seriously to a man. when I go to see him. and put her bare arm on his shoulder. ‘The Rayleys’. friendly – that proved it was all right now. She imagined herself telling it to Mrs. she remembered. Indeed. covering Paul Rayley. dead! she murmured. But William. he had taken who went to meetings and shared Paul’s views (they had got more and more pronounced) about the taxation of land values 15 and a capital levy. and she loathed it. and she had felt an enormous exultation. that she had a scientific mind. and one did it. one brushed them aside. one pitied them. Quite the contrary. Ramsay that the marriage had not been a success. for she felt again her own headlong desire to throw herself off the cliff and be and power she saw too how it fed on the treasure of the house. old-fashioned ideas. At that all her being. and need never marry anybody. and he would tell her things. and admired. She had been staying with them last summer some time and the car broke down and Minta had to hand him his tools. Oh the had become of the Rayleys. Ramsay slip through one’s fingers. had listened to her with his wise child’s eyes when she explained how it was not irreverence: how a light there needed a shadow there and so on. And it sank and she said to herself. She never said things like that about playing chess in coffee-houses. Ramsay has Mockingly she seemed to see her there at the end of the corridor of years saying. with his head thrown back. stepping back a foot or so. That was typical of their relationship. up rose Paul’s fire again. And the roar and the crackle repelled her with fear and disgust. She recedes further and further from us. The whole sea for miles round ran red and gold. summer after summer. she thought. summing up the Rayleys. What was this mania of hers for marriage? 16 (Suddenly. But to go on with their story – they had got through the dangerous stage by now. They are at our mercy. So they were sent for walks together. had never married. she said. Some winy smell mixed with it and intoxicated her. She loved William Bankes. ‘Marry. now she could stand up to Mrs. Lily thought. We can over-ride her wishes. For a moment Lily. to find nothing nice in his house – no one to arrange the flowers’. thought Lily. a reddish light seemed to burn in her mind. Far from breaking up the marriage. dusty and out of date. wishes. Life has changed completely. And once something led him to talk about the Ramsays and he had said how when he first saw her she had been wearing a grey hat. Ramsay had planned it. Did she not admire their beauty? he said.) drowned looking for a pearl brooch on a beach. They’re happy like that. encountering some obstacle in her design which made her pause and ponder. she would have compelled it. It has all gone against your faded and gone. He was ‘the first scientist of his age. who would never know how Paul went to coffee-houses and had a mistress. and it was the way she gave him the tools – business-like. she thought. telling Mrs. lest he should tell her anything. Thanks to his scientific mind he understood – a proof of disinterested been one of the pleasures of her life. my husband says’. she was so exact. She was far too conscious. Already that summer he was ‘the kindest of men’. He was also ‘poor William – it makes me so unhappy. Perhaps. Ramsay. had she lived. It rose like a fire sent up in token of some celebration by savages on a distant beach. he must buy a new carpet for the staircase. she was not more than nineteen or . Perhaps she would go with him to buy a new carpet for the staircase. improve away her limited. Raphael 17 had treated divinely. straightforward. Then they strolled through the courtyards. about architecture. and Minta followed them. merely to breathe the air. with the sun hot on her back. for a glory it surpassed and instantly. Even her shadow at the window with James was full of authority. as suddenly as a star slides in the sky. a serious woman. how he sat on the ground and Minta handed him his tools. issuing from him. She would feel a little triumphant. She had only escaped by the skin of her teeth though. disgustingly. I’m happy like this. plenty of time to wash her hands. Ramsay – a tribute to the astonishing power that Mrs. they agreed. as he sat on the road and she handed him So that was the story of the Rayleys. She remembered how William Bankes had been shocked by her neglect of the significance of mother and son.

the space would fill. And then? Something would emerge.) It was one’s body feeling. Then one gave it She wanted to go straight up to him and say. She was astonishingly beautiful. nor so young. nothing stays. without disturbing the firmness of her lips. Ramsay!’ The tears ran down her face. Beauty had this penalty – it came too readily. sailing serenely through a world which satisfied all his wants. Ghost. It had seemed so safe. She had perfect boastful. It was simpler to smooth that all out under the cover of beauty. She looked now at the drawing-room step. a blade would be flashed. the gardener? Who could tell her? Who could help her? Against her will she had come to the surface. those empty flourishes would form into shape. that woman in grey. Carmichael again. For the whole world seemed to have beard. when she clapped her deer-stalker’s hat on her head. with wrinkles between the eyes and a look of perpetual apprehension. One forgot the little agitations. then the idea sunk back again. She saw. not one’s mind. wordlessly. come back again. for the words spoken sounded even to herself. It was nonsense of course. that it ‘remained for ever’. ‘Mrs. eyes. she had been that. all changes. one could say nothing up. about death. the whole wave and whisper of the garden became like curves and arabesques flourishing round a centre of complete emptiness. I must have seen her look like that. about Mrs. thought Lily. furtive. a deep basin of reality. without being aware of any unhappiness? She addressed old Mr. Was she crying then for Mrs. the fist grasp? Was there no safety? No learning by heart of the ways of the world? No guide. why was it so short. And silently. and found herself half out of the picture. Words fluttered sideways and struck the object inches too low. Her eyes were full of a hot liquid (she control of herself – Oh yes! – in every other way. pondering (she was in grey that day. It stilled unrecognisable for a moment and yet added a quality one saw for ever after. through William’s eyes. 19 the shape of a woman. The physical sensations that went with the bare then to want and not to have – to want and want – how that wrung the heart. She looked at her picture. a little tear would have rent the surface of the pool. ‘Mr. then. perhaps. even for elderly people. Carmichael again. looking at the picture. Carmichael!’ Then he would look up benevolently as always. it was true. One might say. rolled down her cheeks. Carmichael spoken. a strain. Yes. Ramsay!’ she said aloud. cautious. sent all up her body a hardness. or ran across the grass. the frill of the chair inside. Carmichael. they looked extraordinarily empty. here. now on the lawn. For how could one express in words these emotions of the body? express that emptiness there? (She was looking at the drawing-room steps. or. that abstract one made of her. A hand 20 would be shoved up. but everything. but of what it attempted. But one only woke people if one knew what one wanted to say to them. Suddenly. from his smoky vague green that broke up the thought and dismembered it said nothing. The figure came readily enough. Ramsay’ – no. He lay on his chair with his hands clasped above his paunch not reading. looking. could the blade cut. not of that actual picture. To want and not to have. and leaping from the pinnacle of a both got up. unknown? For one moment she felt that if they fully equipped human beings from whom nothing should be hid might speak. but all was miracle. She would never lift them. Ramsay! she called out look of the steps had become suddenly extremely unpleasant. 6 . But beauty was not everything. ‘What does it mean? How do you explain it all?’ she wanted to say. she thought. made the air thick. turning to Mr. why was it so inexplicable. came too completely. a thing you could play with easily and safely at any time of day or night. even of a picture 21 like that. nor so still. she was going to say. the pallor. His book had fallen on to the grass. What was it then? What did it mean? Could things thrust their hands up and grip one. as if he could see her there among the fountains. with downcast eyes. and his poetry. and demanded an explanation. presumably – how ‘you’ and T and ‘she’ pass and vanish. it would be rolled up and flung under a sofa. a hollowness. no shelter. or scolded Kennedy. but not in grey. beauty would roll itself up. the flush. That would have been his answer. which made the face astonishingly beautiful. She sat musing. William said. as two tower into the air? Could it be. as if to abuse her for having gone. Her eyes were bent. if they shouted loud enough Mrs. unexpected. with the yellow stain on his his hand where he lay on the lawn to fish up anything he wanted. she thought. looking intently. dissolved in this early morning hour into a pool of thought.twenty. peaceful and silent. and then suddenly she put her hand out and wrung the heart thus. ‘Mrs. to that essence which sat by the boat. too did not think of tears at first) which. some queer distortion. thinking of her. Little words to nobody. nothingness. and his puzzles. but basking like a creature gorged with existence. she was surprised to find that she could not see it. even of this scrawl. when. and then having gone. Yet it would be hung in the attics. He was an inscrutable old man. and wrung it again and again! Oh Mrs. the empty drawing-room steps. And she wanted to say not one thing. then one became like most middle-aged people. Ramsay would return. There he stood looking down the avenue at Hampton Court. to hint. a little dazedly. Ramsay. nor so peaceful. at Mr. not paint. that this was life? – startling. Lily wondered. The urgency of the moment always missed its mark. Lily thought). and one could almost fancy that had Mr. ‘About life. But what was the look she had. said it with violence. some light or shadow. so that she thought he had only to put down A curious notion came to her that he did after all hear the things she could not say. yet even so. but not words. as if at unreal things. or sleeping. the puppy tumbling on the terrace. She was life – froze it. air.

] 7 . The mutilated body (it was alive still) was thrown back into the sea.6 [Macalister’s boy took one of the fish and cut a square out of its side to bait his hook with.

The pain increased.7 ‘Mrs. Wherever she happened to be. Ramsay!’ Lily cried. waked her. painting. had its power to console. the cliffs looked as if they were conscious of the ships. Ramsay’s boat. sought something to base her vision on. as antidote. Heaven be praised. Again she was roused as usual by something incongruous. across the fields. looking out to sea. at Piccadilly. which she had refused. as if they signalled to each other some secret message of their own. Mr. required and got in the end an effort of attention. she vanished. All had been part of the fields of death. and also. Ramsay. a relief that was balm in itself. staying lightly by her side and then (for this was Mrs. the man who had marched past her. The boat was now half way across the bay. For sometimes quite close to the ‘Where are they now?’ Lily thought. she replied. stop pain. She attacked that problem of the hedge. she realised that after a second. she thought! Anyhow the old man had not heard her. Lily squeezed her tubes again. she looked at the bay beneath her. here. No one had seen her step off her strip of And now slowly the pain of the want. ‘Mrs. For days after she had heard of her death 22 she had seen her thus. moved as she was by some instinctive need of distance and blue. But whose boat? Mr. That anguish could reduce one to such a pitch of imbecility. a shadow. as if the air were a fine gauze which held things and kept them softly in its mesh. parcel under his arm? The boat was in the middle of the bay. holding a paint-brush on the lawn. Yes. curving and circling decoratively. among whose flowers. and stony fields of the purpler spaces. purplish and soft. that very old man who had gone past her silently. So fine was the morning except for a streak of wind here and there that the sea and sky looked all one fabric. putting her wreath to her forehead and going unquestioningly with railway carriage. at the head of a procession. And as happens sometimes when the weather is very fine. and the bitter anger (to be called back. only gently swaying them this looked as if they were conscious of the cliffs. But always something – it might be a face. Had she missed her among the coffee cups at breakfast? not in the least) lessened. There was a brown spot in the middle of the bay. the Lighthouse looked this morning in the haze an enormous distance away. half closing. calm – if one chose to think it. Ramsay in all her beauty) raising to her forehead a wreath of white flowers with which she went. just as she thought she would never feel sorrow for Mrs. sublime. a sense of some one there. Ramsay. a voice. hyacinths or lilies. aloof. and her eyes. of Mrs. the phrase. the omnibus. He remained benignant. It was some trick of the her companion. News 23 – thrust through. but more mysteriously. A steamer far out at sea had drawn in the air a great scroll of smoke which stayed there way and that. as if sails were stuck high up in the sky. and the ships shore. Ramsay again. asking her for sympathy. She looked down the painter’s eye. so that the vision must be perpetually remade. took a line from shoulder or cheek. the vision would come to her. or the clouds had dropped down into the sea. no one board into the waters of annihilation. making hillocks of the blue bars of the waves. It was a boat. It was strange how clearly she saw her. She remained a skimpy old maid. stepping with her usual quickness across fields among whose folds. looked at the windows opposite. The sight. stop! She had not obviously taken leave of her senses. Ramsay!’ But nothing happened. in his beautiful boots. snubbed her. a paper boy crying Standard. relieved for a moment of the weight that the world had put on her. Now again. with his hand raised. lamp-strung in the evening. holding a brown paper 8 . and of their anguish left. had heard her cry that ignominious cry. Where was he. in the country or in London.

which they had almost forgotten. And then next moment. in the hot sun.8 They don’t feel a thing there. all was growing. So now. now with a dark shadow. he had seen a waggon crush ignorantly and innocently. Something. He might talk to the Macalisters. But whose foot 24 was he thinking of. in the grass. and there he had come to feel. the tower. the world became full of little creaking and squeaking sounds. Everything in the whole world seemed to stand the sail. ‘You won’t be able to go to the Lighthouse. and over all those plates and bowls and tall brandishing red hands about. James kept dreading the moment when he would look up and speak sharply to him about something or other.’ he remembered his father saying. very sad. Things became stiller and darker at night. For flapping about waiting for a breeze. and the line of the distant shore became fixed. Now— and white. And if he does. Why were they lagging about here? he would demand. where it had struck when he was a child) and then made off. he called it – making people do what they did not want to do. now with the sun in one’s eyes. he felt. that he would strike to the heart. One heard the waves breaking and flapping against the side of the boat as if they were anchored in harbour. that underworld of waters where the pearls stuck in clusters to white sprays. a scimitar. or on someone’s knee. upon which James had his eyes fixed until it had become to him like a person whom he knew. became steadily more distant and more peaceful. veil was so fine that lights lifted it. quite often lately. an old man. 26 He could see the white-washed rocks. there he sat reading his book. in a bank. So that was the Lighthouse. when he said. rising and falling. and he might look up – one never knew his book. some dress rustling. and sat staring at his father knowing it perhaps: that fierce sudden black-winged harpy. or something quite unreasonable like that. was it? James looked at the Lighthouse. in an impotent rage. What then was this terror. The rush of the water ceased. a barrister. someone’s foot? Suppose he had seen the foot first. when his father came striding down the passage knocking flowers. But I won’t. looking at the Lighthouse and How could any of them say. and all the time. Whatever he did – (and he might do anything. then I shall take a knife and strike him to the heart. which. The sun grew hotter and everybody seemed to come very close together and to feel each other’s presence. They went in and out all day long. miles from shore. now with the intention of making people pity him. The Lighthouse became immovable. and one blunders. thought James. And James felt that each page was turned with a peculiar gesture aimed at him: now assertively. miles from the Lighthouse. there was a waste of snow and rock very lonely and austere. smooth. Only now. despotism. crushed. a few figures. Or he might sit at the head of the table dead silent from one end of dinner to the other. smiting through the leaves and flowers even of that happy world and making them shrivel and fall. he turned a page. at night. over anybody’s foot. he could see that it was barred with black . his own and his father’s. this hatred? Turning back among the many leaves which the past had folded in him. were two pairs of footprints only. coming close. Cam thought. trees that grew there. and whole. Her hand cut a trail in the sea. sagged entirely. Yes. would not move. something flourished up in the air. there they came to a stop. like a vine leaf. tore. Everything tended to set itself in a garden where there was none of this gloom and none of this throwing of the blinds were sucked in and out by the breeze. a man at the head of some enterprise. Macalister’s fishing line went plumb down into the sea. with its talons and its beak all cold and hard. Suppose then that as a child sitting helpless in a perambulator. he could even see washing spread on the rocks to dry. stayed and darkened over him. purple. over Cam’s foot. them up early in the morning to go to the Lighthouse down it came over his foot. it was not him. They alone knew each other. still. hear. One sat and watched it. like a blade. James thought. reading the distant shore) whether he was in a business. as they hung about in that horrid calm. that he would track down and stamp out – tyranny. He was reading a little shiny book with covers mottled like a plover’s egg. cutting off their right to speak. he could see through it a figure stooping. while the boat slapped and dawdled there in the hot sun. as her mind made the green swirls and streaks into patterns and. misty-looking tower with a yellow eye that opened suddenly and softly in the evening. The black wings spread. he could see windows in it. he might be waving his arms in the air with excitement. But the wheel was innocent. as his father read and turned one after another of those little pages. he remembered. then the wheel. James thought. It was in this world that the wheel went over the person’s foot. he sought an image to cool and detach and round off his feeling in a concrete shape. That he would kill. Now and again. people spoke in an ordinary tone of voice. wandered in imagination in one’s body shone half transparent enveloped in a green cloak. when his father said something which surprised the others. stark and straight. looking at the shore. where in the green light a change came over one’s entire mind and Then the eddy slackened round her hand. but it was the thing that descended on him – without his He had always kept this old symbol of taking a knife and striking his father to the heart. and there he was again. something arid and sharp descended even there. all was blowing. whom he wanted to kill. and in what garden 25 did all this happen? For one had settings for these scenes. that old man reading. But Mr. and the same foot. that he would fight. and the hard beak quite reasonably. a certain light. Ramsay went on reading with his legs curled under him. Do this. now commandingly. There was an old woman gossiping in the kitchen. numbed and shrouded. voices crinkled it. Everything became very close to one. and and yellow flowers a very thin yellow veil would be drawn. He might be pressing a sovereign into some frozen old woman’s hand in the street. he might be shouting out at some fisherman’s sports. Fetch me that. as he grew older. Come to the Lighthouse.’ The Lighthouse was then a silvery. that struck and struck at you (he could feel the beak on his bare legs. But the leaf-like some chain tinkling. peering into the heart of that forest where light and shade so chequer each other that all shape is distorted. going away. ‘It will rain.

powerless to move. shadowing it. and then began hearing the rustle of some one coming. he was conscious of his father following his thought. The strain became acute. The other was the Lighthouse too. ‘We shall need a big dish to-night. The relief was extraordinary. She talked to a servant. afraid of waking a watch-dog by a creaking board. eh?’ as. but for the moment he was reading. a knife. and if there had But he pulled himself up. or anything with a sharp point he would have seized it and struck his father through the heart. the other was also the Lighthouse. and his father had knotted it and he could only escape by taking a knife and plunging it… But at that moment the sail swung slowly round. The water chuckled and gurgled in the bottom of the boat where three or four mackerel beat their tails up and down in a pool of water not deep enough to cover them. filled slowly out. so that James stealthily. once before he had brought his blade down among them on the terrace and she had gone stiff all over. and let it fall upon his knee again as if he were conducting some secret symphony. and then to move off half conscious in her sleep. where did she go that day? He began following her from listened to her talking. the boat seemed to shake herself. and say something sharp. Not a breath of wind blew. It was sometimes hardly to be seen going. and then she woke and shot through the waves. he became extremely sensitive to the presence of whoever might be in the room. A rope seemed to bind him there. 9 . It was his father now. But all the time he thought of her. powerless to flick off seemed to fall away from each other again and to be at their ease and the fishing-lines slanted taut across the side of the boat. he blue dish?’ She alone spoke the truth. staring at the Lighthouse. Whenever he said ‘they’ or ‘a person’. At any moment Mr. she talked to somebody.across the bay. That was the source of her everlasting attraction for him. In the evening one looked up and saw the eye opening and shutting and the light seemed to reach them in that airy sunny garden where they sat. He only raised his right hand mysteriously high in the air. went on thinking what was she like. as if he were stealing downstairs on bare feet. His mother had gone impotent. shut his book. No. ridiculous. she had risen somehow and gone away and left him there. sitting on the floor grasping a pair of scissors. They all At last he ceased to think. her arm slackening. perhaps. Where is it – the a person to whom one could say what came into one’s head. making it shiver and falter. as if the reflection came from many china dishes. saying simply whatever came into her head. his father would slap the covers of his book together. stiff all over. so that he felt she listened to him no longer. the tinkle of some one been an axe handy. she was these grains of misery which settled on his mind one after another. For nothing was simply one thing. room to room and at last they came to a room where in a blue light. Ramsay (James scarcely dared look at him) might rouse himself. But his father did not rouse himself. and say: ‘What’s happening now? What are we dawdling about here for. there he sat with his hand on the tiller in the sun. 27 to her alone could he speak it. For in one moment if there was no breeze. and then.

still standing and looking out over the bay. they were gone for ever. It was so calm.9 [The sea without a stain on it. The steamer itself had vanished. she felt. The sea is stretched like silk across the bay. thought Lily Briscoe.] 10 . but the great scroll of smoke still hung in the air and drooped like a flag mournfully in valediction. they had become part of the nature of things. they had been swallowed up in it. Distance had an extraordinary power. it was so quiet.

there spurted up a fountain of joy at the change. at the island. on the fly-leaf. how we perished. she supposed. all had slipped. then it was right. What then came next? Where were they going? From her hand. a spark of light. and she murmured. did it. They were crackling in front of them the pages of The Times. and took a book down. but he was not going to let himself be beaten by that. it was very distant. for she was thinking. or pushing his way up and up a single narrow path. But he was absorbed in it. said something very brief over the top of it about the character of Napoleon. But look! she said. He is intolerably egotistical. shapes of a world not realised 28 but turning in their darkness. 11 . the island. Greece. tossing over page after page. so that had been so much. about something some one had said about Christ. each alone. she knew. It was very small. lowering the paper suddenly. (But James had his eye on the sail. He read. on he went. she wanted to say aloud to James.10 It was like that then. So we took a little boat. dreamily. Was there nothing he could give her? Lest this should be wrong. Waves were all round them. as if he were guiding something. But what might be written in the book when he looked up. crossing their knees. how her father’s anger about the points of the compass. She gazed back over the sea. Bankes. so neatly from one side of the smoking and The Times crackling. and said something now and then very page to another. She looked at him reading the little book with his legs curled. while he sat there.) He is a sarcastic brute. when she came in from the garden. the little book whose yellowish pages she knew. It was small. reading a book. a place in the universe – even that little island? The old (it might be Mr. There they were had been dug up in a London street. That done. as he did now for an instant. a gull riding on another. as gently as any one could. he would ask her. But with the sea streaming through her fingers. as the boat sailed on. About here. a mammoth gentlemen 29 in the study she thought could have told her. she did not know. a bramble blinded him. It lay like that on the sea. with a little cough now and then. And watching her father as he wrote in his study. here one could let whatever one thought expand like a leaf in water. or something said briefly to the other old gentleman opposite. a spray of seaweed vanishing behind them. and the old gentleman. catching here and there. he had written that he had spent fifteen francs on dinner. James would say. It was very small. No. What he thought they none of them knew. if he saw she was there. And she thought. and shaped something like a leaf stood on end with the gold sprinkled waters flowing in and about it. Carmichael or Mr. all in a muddle. what was the great Napoleon 30 like? Then they took all this with their clean hands (they wore grey coloured clothes. it was the sense of adventure and escape that she wanted. he was most wise. Sometimes she strayed in from the garden purposely to catch them at it. Worst of all. and spread away for miles and miles on either side of the island. the wine which had rounded its edges off in his pocket. Look at him now. at the adventure (that she should be alive. And the drops falling from this sudden and unthinking fountain of joy fell here and there on the dark. she did not want to tell herself seriously a story. it was closely printed. Rome. he is a tyrant. Indeed. half asleep. beginning to tell herself a story of adventure about escaping from a sinking ship. it was to pin down some thought more exactly. or wheedling a large flock of sheep. with a dent in the middle and two sharp crags. it had. held deep in the sea. shaped something like a leaf stood on end. and broke his way through the thicket. she thought (now sitting in the boat) he was most lovable. without knowing what was written on them. Look at him now. standing there with her book open. she thought. and sometimes he went fast and straight. she looked at him reading the little book with the shiny cover mottled like a plover’s egg. with a log wallowing down one wave. so equally. he was not vain nor a tyrant. tossing and sinking. very stiff) sitting opposite each other in their low arm-chairs. Small as it was. watching her father write. and if it did well here. a ship had sunk. In a kind of trance she would take a book from the shelf and stand there. it was right. the slumbrous shapes in her mind. his mind flew back again and he plunged into his reading. they smelt of heather) and they brushed the scraps together. ice cold. Constantinople. dabbling her fingers in the water. it was not to see anything. James’s obstinacy about the compact. among the old gentlemen brief. once more drawing her fingers through the waves. he had given so much to the waiter. she thought. all had passed. turning the paper. safe. James would say. all had streamed away. and her own anguish. She had never seen it from out at sea before. for she was safe. thought Cam. and the sea swept in there. looking at him. that she should be there). And she went on telling herself a story about escaping from a sinking ship. all was added up neatly at the bottom of the page. The sea was more important now than the shore. and sometimes it seemed a branch struck at him. as she felt herself when she crept in from the garden. very old. at the escape. she thought. He brings the talk round to himself and his books. But the leaf was losing its sharpness.

was it that the mass of the trees was too heavy? She smiled ironically. She stared. recalled. It evaded her when she thought of Mrs. sitting in his room in St. She had been wasting her morning. but somebody had said. and examining with her brush a little colony of plantains. He looked the same – greyer. And she would never see him again perhaps. For the lawn was very rough. She seemed to be standing up to the lips in some substance. Do let me find you one!’ and all the rest of the usual chatter. before habits had spun themselves across the surface. picture. on this exalted station. she thought. she thought. that when he had heard of Andrew Ramsay’s death (he was killed in a second by a shell. They must be out of bed by this time. if it will come. heroically. A washerwoman with her basket. he seemed to become more and more remote. Carmichael. without reading them. or that woman at work in the fields. for had she not thought. and the unreality of the early morning hour. But one got nothing by soliciting urgently. But what she wished to get hold of was that very jar on the nerves. Life was most vivid then. He settled into his chair again puffing and blowing like some sea monster. looking at old Mr. It was confirmed when she turned to her her now when she thought of her picture. a rook. She altogether. . she thought. they had always made off directly a meal was over. they were up here together. was now unsatisfactory. Also. which was necessary. the purples and grey-greens of flowers: some common feeling which held the whole together. For there are moments when one can Here on the grass. or after an illness. for her feeling for Mr. she supposed. knows. Into them had spilled so many lives. He clawed his book up from the grass. It was all in keeping with this silence. smiling at the slipper that dangled from his newspapers. There was something perhaps wrong with the design? Was it. What did it mean – that? she wondered. There was the hedge. standing almost where she stood now. lingering for a moment and looking at the long glittering windows and the plume of blue smoke: they became unreal. It was some such feeling of completeness perhaps which. the thing itself 31 before it has been made anything. looking at the house. again. where is one? What was the problem then? She must try to get hold of something that evaded her. Beautiful pictures. she thought. it evaded thinking – she wore a grey hat. for he will never see that town. Yes. The Ramsays’. And now again all was quiet. she said desperately. the view. on the lawn. 32 People said that his poetry was ‘so beautiful. she Carmichael had ‘lost all interest in life’. upon distance: whether people are near us or far from us. crossing the lawn to greet old Mrs. beyond things. Beckwith! What a lovely day! Are you going to be so bold as to sit in the sun? Jasper’s hidden the chairs. get that and start afresh. Visions came. as the sky changed slightly and the sea changed slightly and the boats altered their positions. which was so soft that the sails and the clouds seemed set in its blue. Beautiful phrases. perhaps for the last time.11 So much depends then. One need not speak at all. this emptiness. It seemed to be elongated. she thought. Ramsay’s sailing boat. or from neither think nor feel. looking out of the train window. for these waters were unfathomably deep. and. Here sitting on the world. he should have been a great mathematician) Mr. for she could not shake herself free from the sense that everything this morning was happening for the first time. Phrases came. He was growing old. One glided. Ramsay changed as he sailed further and further across the bay. Mercifully one need not say. or meeting of people (all now gone and separate). stretched out. and love plays. sure enough. They would be at the Lighthouse by lunch time she supposed. who would be coming out to find a corner to sit in. Ramsay. she smiled. Had he marched through Trafalgar Square grasping a big stick? Had he turned pages over and over. Let it come. frowning. the human apparatus for painting or for feeling. which was so startling. make of some scene. he was growing famous. but nothing appeared there. one felt that same unreality. which a moment before had seemed miraculously fixed. The wind had blown the trail of smoke about. so much depends. had made her say that she must them together and so. Ramsay and the picture. John’s Wood alone? She did not know what he had done. Love had a thousand shapes. because he was so near. very briskly.’ They went and published things he had written forty years ago. So coming back from a journey. yes. the children’s. sitting down. felt something emerge. But the wind had freshened. looking at the sea which had scarcely a stain on it. but full to the brim. when she began. And if one can neither think nor feel. It was a miserable machine. it always broke down at the critical moment. ‘Oh good-morning. he looked the same. She felt an obscure distress. Mrs. she thought. He laughed. that she had solved her problem? The disproportion there seemed to upset some harmony in her own mind. that the line of the wall wanted breaking. ten years ago. even though he is half asleep. That was different and his children seemed to be swallowed up in that blue. Empty it was not. She was astonishingly beautiful. she thought. pitching herself firmly again before her easel. there was something displeasing about the placing of the ships. Beckwith. One could be at one’s ease. close at hand. It was a way things had sometimes. Mr. an inefficient machine. who seemed (though they had not said a word all this time) to share foot. she wondered. or that mule-cart. she thought. Get that and start afresh. giving them a wholeness not theirs in life. that distance. be in love with the place. thinking how many shapes one person might wear. as a traveller. rather. thought Lily Briscoe. on business of their own. But then. but here the same as he had always been. There was a famous man now called Carmichael. one shook one’s sails (there was a good deal of movement in the bay. how he was that in the her thoughts. to move and float and sink in it. one of Her eyes rested on the brown speck of Mr. on the ground. The lawn was the world. boats were starting off) between things. and all sorts of waifs and strays of things besides. Carmichael suddenly grunted. she remembered. Mr. There might be lovers whose gift it was to choose out the elements of things and place those globed compacted things over which thought lingers. that he must look now. For whatever reason she could not achieve that razor edge of balance between two opposite forces. one must force it on. One got only a glare in the eye from looking at the line of the wall. she remembered. but here. a red-hot poker.

when he heard that Andrew was killed, but she felt it in him all the same. They only mumbled at each other on staircases; they looked up at the one’s garden and look at the slopes of a hill running purple down into the distant heather. She knew him in that way. She knew that he had

sky and said it will be fine or it won’t be fine. But this was one way of knowing people, she thought: to know the outline, not the detail, to sit in changed somehow. She had never read a line of his poetry. She thought that she knew how it went though, slowly and sonorously. It was seasoned death; it said very little about love. There was an aloofness about him. He wanted very little of other people. Had he not always lurched rather much like? On that account, of course, she would always try to make him stop. He would bow to her. He would halt unwillingly and bow newspaper? No, he wanted nothing. (Here he bowed.) There was some quality in her which he did not much like. It was perhaps her masterfulness, her positiveness, something matter-of-fact in her. She was so direct. (A noise drew her attention to the drawing-room window – the squeak of a hinge. The light breeze was toying with the window.) no effect on her whatever. She did not want Mrs. Ramsay now). – People who thought her too sure, too drastic. Also her beauty offended people her husband. She let him make those scenes. Then she was reserved. Nobody knew exactly what had happened to her. And (to go back to Mr. There must have been people who disliked her 33 very much, Lily thought (Yes; she realised that the drawing-room step was empty, but it had

and mellow. It was about the desert and the camel. It was about the palm tree and the sunset. It was extremely impersonal; it said something about awkwardly past the drawing-room window with some newspaper under his arm, trying to avoid Mrs. Ramsay whom for some reason he did not profoundly. Annoyed that he did not want anything of her, Mrs. Ramsay would ask him (Lily could hear her) wouldn’t he like a coat, a rug, a

probably. How monotonous, they would say, and the same always! They preferred another type – the dark, the vivacious. Then she was weak with Carmichael and his dislike) one could not imagine Mrs. Ramsay standing painting, lying reading, a whole morning on the lawn. It was unthinkable. Without saying a word, the only token of her errand a basket on her arm, she went off to the town, to the poor, to sit in some stuffy little bedroom. Often and often Lily had seen her go silently in the midst of some game, some discussion, with her basket on her arm, very upright. She had noted closing in pain have looked on you. You have been with them there. her return. She had thought, half laughing (she was so methodical with the tea cups) half moved (her beauty took one’s breath away), eyes that are And then Mrs. Ramsay would be annoyed because somebody was late, or the butter not fresh, or the teapot chipped. And all the time she was

saying that the butter was not fresh one would be thinking of Greek temples, and how beauty had been with them there. She never talked of it –

she went, punctually, directly. It was her instinct to go, an instinct like the swallows for the south, the artichokes for the sun, turning her infallibly perhaps, to herself certainly. Some notion was in both of them about the ineffectiveness of action, the supremacy of thought. Her going was a

to the human race, making her nest in its heart. And this, like all instincts, was a little distressing to people who did not share it; to Mr. Carmichael reproach to them, gave a different twist to the world, so that they were led to protest, seeing their own prepossessions disappear, and clutch at had happened to him, she wondered, idly stirring the plantains with her brush. He had got his fellowship. He had married; he lived at Golders Green.

them vanishing. Charles Tansley did that too: it was part of the reason why one disliked him. He upset the proportions of one’s world. And what

was preaching brotherly love. And all she felt was how could he love his kind who did not know one picture from another, who had stood behind her smoking shag (‘fivepence an ounce, Miss Bris-coe’) and making it his business to tell her women can’t write, women can’t paint, not so much that he believed it, as that for some odd reason he wished it? There he was, lean and red and raucous, preaching love from a platform (there were ants crawling about among the plantains which she disturbed with her brush – red, energetic ants, rather like Charles Tansley). She had looked at him ironically from her seat in the half-empty hall, pumping love into that chilly space, and suddenly, there was the old cask or whatever it was Don’t bother, Mr. Tansley. I lose thousands every summer,’ at which he pressed his chin back against his collar, as if afraid to sanction such

She had gone one day into a Hall and heard him speaking during the war. He was denouncing something: he was condemning somebody. He

bobbing up and down among the waves and Mrs. Ramsay looking for her spectacle case among the pebbles. ‘Oh dear! What a nuisance! Lost again. exaggeration, but could stand it in her whom he liked, and smiled very charmi