‘there is freedom and space between them’
Hermione Lee’s writing in her biography of Woolf is just so beautiful:
The first memory of this relationship, for both (Virginia and Vanessa), was of meeting in the dark secret space underneath the nursery table at Hyde Park Gate. “‘Have black cats got tails?’ she asked, and I said ‘NO,’ and was proud because she had asked me a question. Then we roamed off again into that vast space.” In the earlier version of this, Virginia adds: “In future I suppose there was some consciousness between us that the other held possibilities.” And this first memory is suggestive. The sisters confirmed each other’s view of life in a secret space below and inside the life of the family. Virginia is characteristically proud of making an impression. There is freedom and space between them as they wander off again.
Virginia Woolf’s curriculum vitae is, in public terms, full of gaps. She did not go to school. She did not work in an office. She did not belong to any institution. With rare exceptions, she did not give public lectures or join committees or give interviews. And in private terms her life-story is sensational only for her breakdowns and suicide attempts. She did not have children. Her sexual life, though unusual, was not dramatic or notorious. She was not the subject of any public scandals or law cases. She did not engage in hazardous sports or bizarre hobbies. She never flew in an aeroplane, or travelled outside Europe. Her exploits and adventures are in her mind and on the page.
Sunlight strikes in upon shaving-glasses; and gleaming brass cans; upon all the jolly trappings of the day; the bright, inquisitive, armored, resplendent, summer’s day, which has long since vanquished chaos; which has dried the melancholy mediaeval mists; drained the swamp and stood glass and stone upon it; and equipped our brains and bodies with such an armoury of weapons that merely to see the flash and thrust of limbs engaged in the conduct of daily life is better than the old pageant of armies drawn out in battle array upon the plain.
Virginia Woolf, Jacob’s Room
I have nothing left of my past but what I carry in my head. I regard memory not as a phenomenon preserving one thing and losing another by chance, but as a power that deliberately places events in order or wisely omits them. Everything we forget about our lives was condemned to oblivion by instinct long ago. So I ask my memory to speak to me and choose for me and to recollect my life before it sinks into the dark.
Pibble hated bodies; it wasn’t squeamishness, but a sense of intrusion into a particularly bleak intimacy, and the facial changes always added to this feeling. With the disappearance of the shifting minute-by-minute animation of the moving blood, you saw the real, enduring character emerge in coarse lines like a caricature. The mouths harshened; the bones of the nose declared their nature; the intricate patterning of wrinkles resolved into a bold, interpretable ideogram.
Peter Dickinson, The Old English Peep Show
“You have been a very foolish boy, wasting your time dreaming of impossible things when you speak of Mr. Pontellier setting me free! I am no longer one of Mr. Pontelliere’s possessions to dispose of or not. I give myself where I choose. If he were to say, ‘Here Robert, take her and be happy; she is yours,’ I should laugh at you both.”
― Kate Chopin, The Awakening
If I could fit myself into this mail slot, I’d follow my letter all the way to Hollywood, all the way to Scott, right up to the door….If only people could travel as easily as words. Wouldn’t that be something? If only we could be so easily revised.
opening of Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, by Therese Anne Fowler
In the meantime she continued to dictate, sometimes supine on the floor. The necessity to speak her prose was tremendously discouraging, but as she would tell Marianne Moore a few years later, “It also taught me a lesson. When you have a great and difficult task, something perhaps almost impossible, if you only work a little at a time, every day a little, without faith and without hope….suddenly the work will find itself.
Isak Dinesen: Life of a Storyteller, Judith Thurman
Many years passed, the old lord died and Lady Helena became old and deaf, but she still sailed. Then it happened, after the plunder of the summer palace of the Emperor of China, that a merchant brought her a very old blue jar. The moment she set eyes on it she gave a terrible shriek. “There it is!” she cried. “I have found it at last. This is the true blue. Oh, how light it makes one. Oh, it is as fresh as a breeze, as deep as a deep secret, as full as I say not what.” With trembling hands she held the jar to her bosom, and sat for six hours sunk in contemplation of it. Then she said to her doctor and her lady-companion: “Now I can die. And when I am dead you will cut out my heart and lay it in the blue jar. For then everything will be as it was then. All shall be blue round me, and in the midst of the blue world my heart will be innocent and free, and will beat gently, like a wake that sings, like the drops that fall from an oar blade.” A little later she asked them: “Is it not a sweet thing to think that, if only you have patience, all that has ever been, will come back to you?” Shortly afterwards the old lady died
Isak Dinesen, inset story in “The Young Man with the Carnation”