April 3, 2016

Only connect: Henry James and Virginia Woolf



She kept in touch by letter writing. ... She might write three long letters to correspondents in an evening without  repeating a single phrase from one into another. They vary in depth and speed, like a stream now running fast over pebbles, now deep into pools. ... Take. for example, her description of her meeting with Henry James in Rye:
      He fixed me with his staring blank eye — it is like a child's marble — and said,  'My dear Virginia, they tell me — they tell me — they tell me — that you — indeed being your father's daughter nay, your grandfather's grandchild — the descendant I may say of a century — of a century — of quill pens and ink — ink — ink pots, yes, yes, yes, they tell me — ahm m m — that is, that you write, in short.' This went on in the public street, while we all waited, as farmers wait for a hen to lay an egg — do they? — nervous, polite, and now on this foot now on that. I felt like a condemned person, who sees the knife drop and stick and drop again.
      Virginia was not then the alarming person that she became, unintentionally but inevitably, when she was famous.

from Virginia Woolf, by Nigel Nicholson




1 comment:

Vintage Reading said...

I do like that extract. It reads almost like a character from a novel!