Dec 26, 2009

Vintage Woolf: Selected Letters

“I mean life has to be sloughed: has to be faced: to be rejected; then accepted on new terms with rapture.” ~Virginia Woolf

Letters to C. B.

Why do you torment me with half uttered and ambiguous sentences? My presence is ‘vivid and strange and bewildering’… I shrank to my narrowest limits, and you found me more than usually complex, and contained. Chivalrous as you are, however, you took infinite pains with me, and I am very grateful.

I expect your praise is immensely exaggerated: you (I guess) have so much more of the dramatic instinct than I have that you see it into my scenes. But I take praise very gratefully; long for some assurance that all my words aren’t varpour. They accumulate behind one in such masses- dreadful, if they are nothing but muddy water… I have a blind faith in my power of making sentences presentable, so that I leave bald patches gaily, to furbish up next winter… I want to bring out a stir of live men and women, against a background. I think I am quite right to attempt it, but it is immensely difficult TO DO… you have no notion how pale and transparent it reads to me sometimes – though I write with heat enough.

Letters to H. W.

Aren’t you singularly vain, for a man of your reputation? I should have thought, selling ten million copies in a month, you would have long ago disregarded Virginia – perhaps you have – Perhaps it is only your sublime urbanity, and the quality which I most adore and that is man-of-the-worldliness, that lets her think that you care what she says.

In fact I sometimes think only autobiography is literature – novels are what we peel off, and come at last to the core, which is only you or me. And I think this little book (The Apple Tree) – why so small? – peels off all the things I don’t like in fiction and leaves the thing I do like – you.

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