This brilliant novel explores the hidden springs of thought and action in one day of a womans life. Direct and vivid in her account of the details of Clarissa Dalloways preparations for a party she is to give that evening, Woolf ultimately managed to reveal much more. For it is the feeling behind these daily events that gives Mrs. Dalloway its texture and richness and makes it so memorable. Foreword by Maureen Howard."Mrs. Dalloway was the first novel to split the atom. If the novel before Mrs. Dalloway aspired to immensities of scope and scale, to heroic journeys across vast landscapes, with Mrs. Dalloway Virginia Woolf insisted that it could also locate the enormous within the everyday; that a life of errands and party-giving was every bit as viable a subject as any life lived anywhere; and that should any human act in any novel seem unimportant, it has merely been inadequately observed. The novel as an art form has not been the same since. "Mrs. Dalloway also contains some of the most beautiful, complex, incisive and idiosyncratic sentences ever written in English, and that alone would be reason enough to read it. It is one of the most moving, revolutionary artworks of the twentieth century." --Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours
Born in 1882, the daughter of Julia Jackson Duckworth and Victorian scholar Sir Leslie Stephen, Virginia Stephen settled in 46 Gordon Square, Bloomsbury, in 1904. This house would become the first meeting place of the now-famous Bloomsbury Group-writers, artists, and intellectuals such as E. M. Forster, John Maynard Keynes, and Lytton Strachey who, along with Virginia and her sister Vanessa, shared an intense belief in the importance of the arts and a skepticism regarding their society's conventions and restraints. It was after Virginia's 1912 marriage to Leonard Woolf-a remarkable and supportive twenty-nine-year-union-that she began to publish her major work. Her first novel, The Voyage Out, appeared in 1915 and was followed by Night and Day (1919), Jacob's Room (1922), Mrs. Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927), Orlando (1928), The Waves (1931), and The Years (1937).
Woolf is also admired for her contributions to literary criticism in general and to feminist criticism in particular, with A Room of One's Own (1929) and Three Guineas (1937) reflecting the full range of her intellectual vigor, insight, and compassion for the role cast for female artists in the modern world. Additionally, Woolf s diary and correspondence, published posthumously, provide an invaluable window into her world offer-flung relationships and interests, imaginative depth, and creative method.
The victim of a lifetime of mental illness, Woolf com-mitted suicide in 1941. She left behind her a literary legacy, including The Hogarth Press, established with Leonard in 1917, which published not only Woolf s own work but that of an increasingly influential group of innovative writers-including T. S. Eliot, James Joyce, and Katherine Mansfield.
MRS. DALLOWAY said she would buy the flowers herself.For Lucy had her work cut out for her. The doors would be taken off their hinges; Rumpelmayer's men were coming. And then, thought Clarissa Dalloway, what a morning-fresh as if issued to children on a beach.What a lark! What a plunge! For so it had always seemed to her, when, with a little squeak of the hinges, which she could hear now, she had burst open the French windows and plunged at Bourton into the open air. How fresh, how calm, stiller than this of course, the air was in the early morning; like the flap of a wave; the kiss of a wave; chill and sharp and yet (for a girl of eighteen as she then was) solemn, feeling as she did, standing there at the open window, that something awful was about to happen; looking at the flowers, at the trees with the smoke winding off them and the rooks rising, falling; standing and looking until Peter Walsh said, "Musing among the vegetables?"-was that it?-"I prefer men to cauliflowers"-was that it? He must have said it at breakfast one morning when she had gone out on to the terrace-Peter Walsh. He would be back from India one o these days, June or July, she forgot which, for his letters were awfully dull; it was his sayings one remembered; his eyes, his pocket-knife, his smile, his grumpiness and, when millions of things had utterly vanished-how strange it was!-a few sayings like this about cabbages.She stiffened a little on the kerb, waiting for Durtnall's van to pass. A charming woman, Scrope Purvis thought her (knowing her as one does know people who live next door to one in Westminster); a touch of the bird about her, of the jay, blue-green, light, vivacious, though she was over fifty, and grown very white since her illness. There she perched, never seeing him, waiting to cross, very upright.For having lived in Westminster-how many years now? over twenty,-one feels even in the midst of the traffic, or waking at night, Clarissa was positive, a par-ticular hush, or solemnity; an indescribable pause; a suspense (but that might be her heart, affected, they said, by influenza) before Big Ben strikes. There! Out it boomed. First a warning, musical; then the hour, ir-revocable. The leaden circles dissolved in the air. Such fools we are, she thought, crossing Victoria Street. For Heaven only knows why one loves it so, how one sees it so, making it up, building it round one, tumbling it, creating it every moment afresh; but the veriest frumps, the most dejected of miseries sitting on doorsteps (drink their downfall) do the same; can't be dealt with, she felt positive, by Acts of Parliament for that very reason: they love life. In people's eyes, in the swing, tramp, and trudge; in the bellow and the up-roar; the carriages, motor cars, omnibuses, vans, sand-wich men shuffling and swinging; brass bands; barrel organs; in the triumph and the jingle and the strange high singing of some aeroplane overhead was what she loved; life; London; this moment of June
Excerpted from Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
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