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3.28.1941: Woolf Walks into the Water

On this day in 1941, Virginia Woolf killed herself. She filled her coat pockets with stones and walked into the River Ouse, after leaving a note to her husband explaining that she was being overwhelmed by mental illness for the last time. Such a shame! A super-fine mind came undone. She left some tremendous works behind, however. My favorite is the book-length essay A Room of One’s Own, which I read in Freshman Preceptorial at Knox College. Good stuff. Anyway, here are some excellent quotes from V. Woolf.

“I can only note that the past is beautiful because one never realises an emotion at the time. It expands later, and thus we don’t have complete emotions about the present, only about the past.”

“The eyes of others our prisons; their thoughts our cages.”

“Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.”

“No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself.”

“When the Day of Judgment dawns and people, great and small, come marching in to receive their heavenly rewards, the Almighty will gaze upon the mere bookworms and say to Peter, “Look, these need no reward. We have nothing to give them. They have loved reading.”

“Second hand books are wild books, homeless books; they have come together in vast flocks of variegated feather, and have a charm which the domesticated volumes of the library lack.”

“The flower bloomed and faded. The sun rose and sank. The lover loved and went. And what the poets said in rhyme, the young translated into practice.”

“One might fancy that day, the London day, was just beginning. Like a woman who had slipped off her print dress and white apron to array herself in blue and pearls, the day changed, put off stuff, took gauze, changed to evening, and with the same sigh of exhilaration that a woman breathes, tumbling petticoats on the floor, it too shed dust, heat, colour; the traffic thinned; motor cars, tinkling, darting, succeeded the lumber of vans; and here and there among the thick foliage of the squares an intense light hung. I resign, the evening seemed to say, as it paled and faded above the battlements and prominences, moulded, pointed, of hotel, flat, and block of shops, I fade, she was beginning. I disappear, but London would have none of it, and rushed her bayonets into the sky, pinioned her, constrained her to partnership in her revelry.”

“You cannot find peace by avoiding life.”

“If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.”

“Writing is like sex. First you do it for love, then you do it for your friends, and then you do it for money.”

“After that, how unbelievable death was! – that is must end; and no one in the whole world would know how she had loved it all.”

 

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