Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Slow Read: Mrs. Dalloway: 3/4 through

Mrs. Dalloway Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

When I reached my arbitrary stopping point (no chapters!) I was wondering if Sir William was as good a doctor as his fame warranted, and if he was the connection of Septimus to Clarissa.

Not so sure I like Sir William as a doctor, but I imagine he would have been popular for the way he took problems away. Out of sight, out of mind, and euthanization.

Proportion, divine proportion, Sir William's goddess, was acquired by Sir William walking hospitals, catching salmon, begetting one son in Harley Street by Lady Bradshaw, who caught salmon herself and took photographs scarcely to be distinguished from the work of professionals. Worshipping proportion, Sir William not only prospered himself but made England prosper, secluded her lunatics, forbade childbirth, penalised despair, made it impossible for the unfit to propagate their views until they, too, shared his sense of proportion--his, if they were men, Lady Bradshaw's if they were women
Poor Rezia. She is a good woman who still cares for her husband, and intuitively doesn't trust Sir William.
He swooped; he devoured. He shut people up. It was this combination of decision and humanity that endeared Sir William so greatly to the relations of his victims. But Rezia Warren Smith cried, walking down Harley Street, that she did not like that man.
Richard Dalloway has lunch with Lady Bruton and Hugh Whitbread on the same day as Clarissa's party. My, there's a lot that fits into this day. Lady B doesn't like Clarissa. How astute of Richard to be the one to remind/ask Lady B to the party. Milly Brush, her assistant:
"D'you know who's in town?" said Lady Bruton suddenly bethinking her. "Our old friend, Peter Walsh." They all smiled. Peter Walsh! And Mr. Dalloway was genuinely glad, Milly Brush thought; and Mr. Whitbread thought only of his chicken. Peter Walsh! All three, Lady Bruton, Hugh Whitbread, and Richard Dalloway, remembered the same thing--how passionately Peter had been in love; been rejected; gone to India; come a cropper; made a mess of things; and Richard Dalloway had a very great liking for the dear old fellow too. Milly Brush saw that...
Richard must be quite the politician. He can't truly be glad to hear about his old rival being in town? They apparently agree that if Peter's looking for a position, they won't really be able to help him. ""In trouble with some woman," said Lady Bruton. They had all guessed that that was at the bottom of it."

After they leave, Lady B dozes and dreams, and this seems significant to me, like this is how all the people are connected, underneath the conscious world, and would explain the way the story is told, as though the omniscient narrator is passed from person to person, familiar character to stranger, and back.
And they went further and further from her, being attached to her by a thin thread (since they had lunched with her) which would stretch and stretch, get thinner and thinner as they walked across London; as if one's friends were attached to one's body, after lunching with them, by a thin thread, which (as she dozed there) became hazy with the sound of bells, striking the hour or ringing to service, as a single spider's thread is blotted with rain-drops, and, burdened, sags down.
Richard fills out as a character:
Why these people stood that damned insolence he could not conceive. Hugh was becoming an intolerable ass. Richard Dalloway could not stand more than an hour of his society.

...She had failed him, once at Constantinople; and Lady Bruton, whose lunch parties were said to be extraordinarily amusing, had not asked her. He was holding out flowers--roses, red and white roses. (But he could not bring himself to say he loved her; not in so many words.) But how lovely, she said, taking his flowers. She understood; she understood without his speaking; his Clarissa.
I am so impressed with Woolf's ability to show us know how, from the outside, Clarissa seems to be a social butterfly, but from the inside she is thoughtful, and finds deeper meaning in her daily life and her talents.
An offering for the sake of offering, perhaps. Anyhow, it was her gift. Nothing else had she of the slightest importance; could not think, write, even play the piano. She muddled Armenians and Turks; loved success; hated discomfort; must be liked; talked oceans of nonsense: and to this day, ask her what the Equator was, and she did not know. All the same, that one day should follow another; Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday; that one should wake up in the morning; see the sky; walk in the park; meet Hugh Whitbread; then suddenly in came Peter; then these roses; it was enough.
Miss Kilman: what a pill. "But Miss Kilman did not hate Mrs. Dalloway. "Turning her large gooseberry-coloured eyes upon Clarissa, observing her small pink face, her delicate body, her air of freshness and fashion, Miss Kilman felt, Fool! Simpleton!""

Elizabeth learns from Miss Kilman. Is it good for her?
But then Miss Kilman was frightfully clever. Elizabeth had never thought about the poor. They lived with everything they wanted,--her mother had breakfast in bed every day; Lucy carried it up; and she liked old women because they were Duchesses, and being descended from some Lord. But Miss Kilman said (one of those Tuesday mornings when the lesson was over), "My grandfather kept an oil and colour shop in Kensington." Miss Kilman made one feel so small.
It seems perhaps Elizabeth will learn the good from Miss Kilman, without buying into the bad. Perhaps the appeal is simply that Elizabeth identifies more with dad than mom, and his simpler needs. Elizabeth leaves Miss Kilman for a walkabout.
And Elizabeth waited in Victoria Street for an omnibus. It was so nice to be out of doors. She thought perhaps she need not go home just yet. It was so nice to be out in the air. So she would get on to an omnibus. And already, even as she stood there, in her very well cut clothes, it was beginning. . . . People were beginning to compare her to poplar trees, early dawn, hyacinths, fawns, running water, and garden lilies; and it made her life a burden to her, for she so much preferred being left alone to do what she liked in the country, but they would compare her to lilies, and she had to go to parties, and London was so dreary compared with being alone in the country with her father and the dogs.
A sweet time between Rezia and Septimus. I wonder if his apparent lucidity, and their sweet connection, foreshadows something bad.
It was wonderful. Never had he done anything which made him feel so proud. It was so real, it was so substantial, Mrs. Peters' hat. "Just look at it," he said. Yes, it would always make her happy to see that hat. He had become himself then, he had laughed then. They had been alone together. Always she would like that hat. He told her to try it on. "But I must look so queer!" she cried, running over to the glass and looking first this side then that.

...But this hat now. And then (it was getting late) Sir William Bradshaw. She held her hands to her head, waiting for him to say did he like the hat or not, and as she sat there, waiting, looking down, he could feel her mind, like a bird, falling from branch to branch, and always alighting, quite rightly; he could follow her mind, as she sat there in one of those loose lax poses that came to her naturally and, if he should say anything, at once she smiled, like a bird alighting with all its claws firm upon the bough.
Uh-oh. This definitely can't be good.
She brought him his papers, the things he had written, things she had written for him. She tumbled them out on to the sofa. They looked at them together. Diagrams, designs, little men and women brandishing sticks for arms, with wings--were they?--on their backs; circles traced round shillings and sixpences--the suns and stars; zigzagging precipices with mountaineers ascending roped together, exactly like knives and forks; sea pieces with little faces laughing out of what might perhaps be waves: the map of the world. Burn them! he cried. Now for his writings; how the dead sing behind rhododendron bushes; odes to Time; conversations with Shakespeare; Evans, Evans, Evans--his messages from the dead; do not cut down trees; tell the Prime Minister. Universal love: the meaning of the world. Burn them! he cried.
I would like to get a glimpse of those papers. Crazy brilliant, I bet. His wish to burn them does not bode well.

The beginning
The 2nd quarter

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