Virginia Woolf’s London

Another good article on the British Library website in their Discovering 20th century literature series, this one by David Bradshaw who is editor of the Oxford University Press edition of Mrs Dalloway.

virginia-woolfs-travel-and-add_61837_f59

The article also includes links to many more digitised images of Virginia Woolf manuscript pages, including the travel notebook (a page from which above, © The Society of Authors) that she kept in her twenties in which she writes of her ‘longing’ for the city and the beauty of ‘a wet London street, with lamplight twisted on the pavement’.

Bradshaw quotes entries from VW’s diaries in 1916 (as above) and 1940 both expressing her abiding love for London and its noisy, busy streets thronged with people:

‘What shall I think of that[s] liberating & refreshing?’ Woolf wrote in her diary on 29 March 1940. ‘… The river. Say the Thames at London bridge; & buying a notebook; & then walking along the Strand & letting each face give me a buffet’

Just as Elizabeth Dalloway is uplifted by her excursion from Dalloway territory (of Westminster and Mayfair) into the City –

people busy about their activities, hands putting stone to stone, minds eternally occupied not with trivial chatterings … but with thoughts of ships, of business, of law, of administration and with it all so stately (she was in the Temple), gay (there was the river), pious (there was the Church) (p. 116).

Bradshaw writes well on the ambiguity of Clarissa Dalloway’s London, at once a source of elation (the ‘divine vitality’ of London life) but also a ‘gilded confinement’ – not even Clarissa any more … but Mrs Richard Dalloway.

Read the full article at the British Library website here.

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Author: westrow

Author of 'Walking with Mrs Dalloway'; tech writer working in London and Dorset

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