September 28, 2014

'The lighthouse'




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...

From To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf

I'm glad I did this, giving myself the time this morning, to read the last section of  To The Lighthouse. {Not that I wanted it to be finished.} The third part, like the first, takes place in one day, one morning really, back again, ten years later, at the Ramsays' house by the sea. It is early morning [as it was when I started reading}; Lily is on the terrace overlooking the sea again, painting again; old Mr. Carmichael is reading and dozing in his chair again, and Mr. Ramsay is scolding James and Cam, because they are not ready on time for their trip to the lighthouse.

But this time, the children are forced into going, and have made a compact with each other to 'resist tyranny'; they will not speak to Mr. Ramsay, or enjoy themselves. But Cam finds herself admiring her father ('This is right, this is it ... Now she felt as she did in the study when the old men were reading The Times. Now I can go 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.'), and even James, who holds out longest, when his father and the old boatman praise his sailing ('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 anyone share a grain of his pleasure.') 

There is a wonderful scene where Mr. Ramsay interrupts her, asking (as he always does) for sympathy, and Lily wants just to give it and isn't able to; they only connect when Lily admires his boots.  As they sail, Lily paints, and thinks -- 'She was not inventing; she was only trying to smooth out something she had been given years ago folded up... ' -- about the Ramsays' complicated marriage ('she with her impulses and quicknesses; he with his shudders and glooms'), and dismisses Mrs. Ramsay, and longs for her, and remembers what was really there.

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.
 
{The image is from The Green Sea, Lamorna, by Laura Knight, found here.}

2 comments:

JoAnn said...

What a lovely way to spend Sunday morning!

Cosy Books said...

I was thinking of you on Saturday morning...were your ears burning, Audrey?!

One of my neighbours was having a garage sale and what should I find on a table but a copy of To the Lighthouse! Ready to dig into my pocket I noticed several pages had notes in the margin...it was from her university English class. That simply would not do!