When she was much older, [Virginia Woolf] would create her heroine Mrs. Dalloway (who 'dallies along the way' ...) who is, perhaps, the greatest flaneuse of twentieth-century literature. These are the very first words Mrs. Dalloway speaks in the novel: 'I love walking in London,' said Mrs. Dalloway. 'Really, it's better than walking in the country.' For Woolf to be able to walk in the city by herself was a hitherto unimaginable kind of freedom, and while the move [to Bloomsbury] helped her become a professional writer, it was her walks that gave her something to write about. ... As she walked through the city, she would rewrite scenes in her mind; the life she saw around her seemed 'an immense opaque block of material to be conveyed by me into its equivalent of language.' Wondering about the people she saw pushed her forward in her literary project -- how to represent 'life itself' on the page. And to do this, she turned again and again to the city that was 'the passion of [her] life.' The noise of the streets was a kind of language, she thought, one that she would stop occasionally and listen to, and try to capture. ... The jungle and shuffle of London is the heartbeat of life itself.
Venice and London, by Lauren Elkin
Flaneuse: women walk the city in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice and London,
by Lauren Elkin
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017
Borrowed from the Boston Public Library