Voyaging Out: The Woolfs and Internationalism

Article excerpt

In her final novel, Between the Acts (1941), Virginia Woolf used the occasion of a "pageant" given at a country house to present, in compressed form, the long march of history. As Mr. Page, a reporter, watches the final tableau, "The Present Time," he makes notes for himself: "Miss La Trobe conveyed to the audience Civilization (the wall) in ruins; rebuilt (witness man with hod) by human effort; witness also woman handling bricks. [...] Now issued black man in fuzzy wig; coffee-coloured ditto in silver turban; they signify presumably the League of...." (1) The word that Mr. Page does not write down is--presumably--"Nations," the League of Nations being the international organization founded in 1919 after World War One, which, at the time Woolf was writing Between the Acts, was conspicuously failing to stop the war it was designed to prevent.

Woolf's connection to the League was not only as an interested observer of international politics, but also at a more personal level; her husband, Leonard, had long championed the League, and his 1916 book, International Government, was instrumental in drafting the very charter for the League. (2) The fact that Mr. Page is only able to get "League of ..." down in his notes suggests that Virginia saw the incompleteness of the international project that the League represented. When a member of the audience, Mr. Streatfield, offers his thoughts on the meaning of Miss La Trobe's historical pageant, he says, "To me at least it was indicated that we are members one of another. Each is part of the whole. [...] We act different parts; but are the same." He concludes, "Scraps, orts and fragments! Surely, we should unite?" (3) But moments later, the appearance of warplanes in the sky over Pointz Hall destroys any hope for unity. It was through this devastating and despairing juxtaposition at the end of Between the Acts that Woolf concluded a writing career that, in ways subtle and overt, fully engaged the political questions of the time. In particular, I argue that the internationalist convictions that were held by Leonard Woolf were also held and indeed shaped the modernist style of Virginia.

In the aftermath of the first World War, one of the most pressing questions was how to prevent another such conflagration from ever happening again. At the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, talk of extracting reparations from Germany stood in contrast to equally earnest negotiations regarding an international organization that would, in some way or another, keep the peace. Woodrow Wilson often receives the credit for the founding of the League of Nations, and no doubt it was through his advocacy that the Conference linked the question of the immediate post-war settlement to the larger, if more nebulous, question of international law. But the idea for an organization that would collectively ensure peace and facilitate political and economic relations did not originate with Wilson or any other single person. Immediately after the outbreak of war in 1914, the League of Nations Society had been founded in Britain, and, along with its American counterpart, the League to Enforce Peace, it began to argue for a more permanent form of relations between states. (4) After the war, such arguments were taken up with renewed force, but there was considerable confusion and hesitation among even the victorious powers; questions arose without definitive answers. How should the decisions of the League be enforced? Should there be an international court with binding power? When would economic sanctions be used, and when would military force be applied? Would the defeated states be allowed into the League? Would the colonies of imperial powers be given representation? Although the desire for a League was strong enough to make it a top priority at the Conference, and strong enough, indeed, to bring it into being, there were doubts at its inception as to its precise nature, and those doubts, in the nearly two-decade history of the League, were never entirely put to rest.

The picture of the Woolf household as one in which a strict division of intellectual labor held sway, with art on one side (Virginia) and politics on the other (Leonard), has not survived critical scrutiny. The collection of essays Virginia Woolf and War, for example, offers a sustained portrait of an intellectual exchange between Leonard and Virginia that makes any kind of neat partition between the two impossible. (5) Perhaps one of the more emblematic records of Virginia's involvement with Leonard's political writing is the manuscript of an article entitled "In'l Re'ns" ("International Relations") that Leonard dictated to Virginia in 1916. (6) The manuscript became the basis for a paper delivered at an October 1916 conference; in the paper, entitled "The Enforcement of International Law," Leonard--three years before the founding of the League of Nations--took up the vexed question of enforcement at the international level, the very question that would plague the League during its entire existence. During the first World War, Leonard never completely threw in his lot with the strict pacifists, such as Bertrand Russell; rather, he maintained that he was a pacifist "with a difference." (7) Only a fragment of "The Enforcement of International Law" ever made it into print. The excerpt from Leonard's paper became, in a 1917 edition of the periodical War and Peace, a short introduction to the publication of the papers from the October 1916 conference. But even the fragment that remains is clear in arguing that an international organization designed to keep the peace should have the right to use force--as a last resort. Leonard wrote, "it would be absurd for us to allow it [a league] to be swamped or overshadowed by this riddle of force." (8)

Leonard Woolf's participation in that October 1916 Devonshire peace conference arose out of a book that he had published that year, International Government, a book that would later become instrumental in the drafting of the charter for the League of Nations. The book was commissioned on behalf of the Fabian Society by its influential founders, Beatrice and Sidney Webb, who had taken an interest in Leonard in 1913; the first of two sections of the book (a third and final section from the Fabian Research Department distilled Leonard's argument into a series of articles for a potential international treaty) was first published in the Fabian periodical The New Statesman in 1915. Leonard's involvement with the Webbs proved to be a crucial aspect of his career; when Sidney Webb had the opportunity to create Labour Party advisory committees on international and colonial matters, he turned to the 37 year-old Leonard, who then chaired those committees for the next 27 years. (9)

International Government is a comprehensive survey of the practical and theoretical aspects of relations between states, and it is no surprise that in 1918 Lord Robert Cecil, then head of the League of Nations Section of the Foreign Office, seized on the volume as a resource for the drafting of the League's charter. (10) Woolf presents his argument in that painstakingly logical and lucid style that he learned as one of the Cambridge "Apostles" under the influence of the philosopher G. E. Moore. The fact that the various nations have been unable to prevent the outbreak of war is no proof of the inevitable failure of international policy, Woolf argues; he writes, "As a matter of fact, the whole history of the nineteenth century and of this war shows that International Law does exist, and is of supreme importance. The cry that it does not exist is merely the cry of shallow despair at finding that it does not exist precisely in the form that we desire." (11) Woolf claims that the long history of trade agreements, alliances, treaties, congresses, and conferences shows the numerous ways in which each nation is connected to many others. But when it comes to the all-important question of the prevention of war, Woolf is less optimistic. The only absolutely sure way of preventing war among a league's members would be for them to surrender their right to use force to some central authority, just as citizens do in civil society--the state "monopolizes violence." But the problems in creating and sustaining that central authority are too far beyond the range of reasonable expectation. Woolf states, "For however attractive a world-State may be to our imaginations, a little reflection [...] will show that in the world of actual facts there is no ground prepared for the reception of so strange a plant." (12)

In the end, Woolf's strongest argument is that a League of Nations is in the interest of the citizens of all states, if not the states themselves: "The most vital interests of human beings are hardly ever national, almost always international." (13) International Government goes as far as possible in arguing for a League without offending what could be termed the egotism of nations; his League would have a certain degree of power to impose sanctions and to organize military force collectively against an aggressor attacking a member state. Unfortunately, to read the helpless reactions of the League to the Russian invasion of Finland and Nazi Germany's invasion of Poland in 1938-39 is to confront the fact that even Woolf's practical internationalism could not meet the demands of its time.

For Henry James, the "international theme" was essentially that of the New world confronting the Old. The generation of writers after James extended that theme in various directions, and not only through the obvious means of adding other cultures to the picture. By emphasizing the contingency of events, ambiguities of meaning, and vulnerabilities of characters, authors could draw the reader's attention to the implicit presence of a larger, more complex world. Especially given the spreading knowledge in Britain that the empire was not perpetual and that powers would eventually devolve to the colonies, such a message of ambiguity and complexity had a ready audience. The aesthetic use of the fragment, a frequently noted characteristic of modernism, also makes sense in the context of internationalism, as the fragment could be used not only as a trope of incompleteness, but also as a metonym suggesting some larger, more comprehensive picture. Internationalism, therefore, not only emerges when characters representing different nations or cultures interact, it also arises through the representation that a given nation is not all, part of a larger system, whether cultural, political, or economic.

In sketching a picture of a larger system, internationalist discourse can often elicit a sensation of vastness that may be properly called a sublime feeling. The sublime experience, as Immanuel Kant described it, is one in which the subject perceives something on such a large scale that it can be represented only through the negative; the sublime is a materialization of an incapacity to represent some transcendental idea (freedom, for example). It is no accident that Kant also wrote one of the first modern essays on international government, "Perpetual Peace," as his theory of the sublime instructively echoes that far-reaching political theory. The key difference, of course, is that Kant's aesthetic sublime is, by definition, a mode that points toward a transcendental object that cannot be accommodated in the representative order, whereas internationalism in "Perpetual Peace" begins as a negative (the graveyard after a decimating war) but ends with the possibility that it could become a concrete reality at some time in the future.

Virginia Woolf's very first novel, The Voyage Out (1915), sets the stage for a career in fiction devoted to finding the political in the personal. Ostensibly, Woolf's novel is an intensely personal account of a woman's initiation into a society completely controlled by men; Rachel Vinrace, like the young protagonist in any bildungsroman, encounters various figures with whom she can identify herself or against whom she can define herself. The novel brings Rachel forward as an example of a new, independent woman, one who does not see marriage as an imperative, but who nevertheless feels the gravitational pull of the patriarchal order. Rachel seems to know enough to realize the unfairness, the asymmetry in the society that views her intellectual talents as an obstacle to marriage and children and not as assets for a successful career, but she is at the same time unsure what to do with the freedom that she has acquired in her mind. When Terence Hewet appears later in the novel, it is only with an ambivalent mix of curiosity and reluctance that Rachel enters into a romantic relationship with him; however, this connection is soon cut short. Woolf's decision to end the novel with Rachel's abrupt death from fever bespeaks the difficulty Woolf had in imagining an ending in which Rachel could be married and still intact as a unique individual. Killing off Rachel, therefore, allowed Woolf to sidestep the issue altogether; Rachel never has to confront the possibility that even the artistically minded Terence, who mistrusts marriage himself, still represents the system that denies her full equality, and that marrying him would not be a way out of tradition but simply a variation on it.

The feminism that emerges in The Voyage Out is the most conspicuous way in which the novel addresses a political concern; moreover, as she would later do even more decisively in Three Guineas, Woolf connected the subordination of women to the question of war, which, she argued, was a direct consequence of a system that sanctioned and even encouraged masculine aggressivity. But it is not only through feminism that The Voyage Out offers a political point of view. A more subtle theme emerges in the novel, one that consistently places events in a larger context, one that looks over the horizon and imagines a larger whole. The Voyage Out is unusual among Woolf's novels in being set far from England, in a fictional South American port city called Santa Marina. The very title of the novel announces not only Rachel's own self-discovery, her coming out into society, but also the transatlantic journey itself, one that is complemented by moments of narrative expansion--a pulling back of the camera eye that frames a more comprehensive reality. These moments in The Voyage Out and other, later novels by Woolf, when taken cumulatively, reveal a new dimension in her fiction and offer a fuller picture of her intellectual partnership with Leonard. I argue that these moments are compatible with an internationalist Weltanschauung.

After the crowded scenes on the Embankment at the beginning of the novel, the noise and bustle of the metropolis gives way to the sudden, vertiginous experience of being on the high seas. The "world" comes to be, but only through negation:

   Finally, when the ship was out of sight of land, it became plain
   that the people of England were completely mute. The disease
   attacked other parts of the earth; Europe shrank, Asia shrank,
   Africa and America shrank, until it seemed doubtful whether the
   ship would ever run against any of those wrinkled little rocks
   again. But, on the other hand, an immense dignity had descended
   upon her; she was an inhabitant of the great world, which has so
   few inhabitants, travelling all day across an empty universe, with
   veils drawn before her and behind. (14)

The appearance of the "great world" here-as elsewhere in Woolf's writing--is the result of a shift into the lyrical voice; the title of the ship itself, the Euphrosyne, was taken from a youthful book of poetry written by Leonard and other members of the Cambridge "Apostles." The solitary ship's "immense dignity" seems to arise directly through the negation of particular places on land--"wrinkled little rocks." Although The Voyage Out has been compared to Conrad's Heart of Darkness, (15) it is the image of the solitary ship from Conrad's earlier novel, The Nigger of the "Narcissus," that emerges here. Like Conrad, Woolf conjures up the negative power of the sea, its ability to make all lands and nations equally distant, equally insignificant, in order to create a lyrical vision of a world as a whole. Such moments of rhapsody contain nothing so overt as specific program of politics, but their underlying orientation continually forces the reader to step beyond parochial limitations, to envision a wider world. When the characters in Santa Marina go to sleep, the narrator again zooms out dramatically: "All over the shadowed half of the world people lay prone." (16) Perhaps the most dramatic moment of lyrical expansion occurs when Rachel and Terence stand on the edge of a cliff:

   Looking the other way, the vast expanse of land gave them a
   sensation which is given by no view, however extended, in England
   [...] here the view was one of infinite sun-dried earth, earth
   pointed in pinnacles, heaped in vast barriers, earth widening and
   spreading away and away like the immense floor of the sea, earth
   chequered by day and by night, and partitioned into different
   lands, where famous cities were founded, and the races of men
   changed from dark savages to white civilized men, and back to dark
   savages again. [...] It was this sea that flowed up to the mouth of
   the Thames; and the Thames washed the roots of the city of London.

Again, it is difficult not to think of Heart of Darkness when the Thames is used as a way to link England with the rest of the world, even if this passage, unlike its counterparts in Conrad's novel, does not attempt to disturb the distinction between "white civilized men" and "dark savages." The presence of a colonial frame of mind is unmistakable in this passage, but even though that imperial paradigm remains unchallenged, the picture of the world that emerges is distinctively international. Terence's response to all of this space is to blurt out, "I'd like to be in England!" Conversely, Rachel seems much more at ease in the imposing vista that surrounds them: she replies, "What d'you want with England?" (18)

By offering the reader these images of worlds, globes, spaces, and distant lands, Woolf uses her descriptive flair--which is still quite Jamesian in this her first novel--to convey ideas that are not political in themselves, but which resonate politically. In Woolf, it is the provocative question that carries the most force, and the imagery in The Voyage Out leads the reader to ask such questions. What does it mean to be a part of a world? What is a nation? Why is there Empire? What relation should one have with one's neighbor as well as with someone across the sea? Woolf approaches politics through poetics. For example, water can operate as a symbol of universality and internationalism, and in Mr. Bax's sermon the connectedness of all phenomena is argued through a metaphor of water. He begins with a tiny monad, a "drop of water, detached, alone," and describes how this drop is one of the "myriad drops which together compose the great universe of waters." Falling into the ocean, the drop in a small but palpable way "alters the configuration of the globe." (19) Likewise, the words of people--and presumably the words in novels--accomplish their small but definite activity in making the world; Mr. Bax, in his sermon's peroration, refers to "each one of us, who dropping a little word or a little deed into the great universe alters it, for good or for evil [...] not for one instant, or in one vicinity, but throughout the entire race, and for all eternity." (20) It is, of course, not the case in The Voyage Out or in any other Woolf novel that politics is only at the level of metaphor, or merely a hum in the background; rather, Woolf approaches politics at several different levels in her work--sometimes it emerges subtly, in the lyrical vision of a world, and sometimes it is revealed in the conflict between characters. (21)

The Voyage Out contains several voyages, each placed in a discrete geographical context; there is the initial voyage across the Atlantic, the trip up Monte Rosa, and the excursion up the river. Each journey leads the narrator to reframe the company in a larger picture. The trek up the mountain elicits a commentary that recalls the earlier vision aboard the Euphrosyne: "Higher and higher they went, becoming separated from the world. The world, when they turned to look back, flattened itself out, and was marked with squares of thin green and grey." (22) Just as the continents shrank from the perspective of the ship, from the mountaintop the view is also through the reverse end of the telescope. Above the landscape, the group is almost no longer part of the landscape. Woolf writes, "Before them they beheld an immense space [...] the infinite distances of South America. [...] They felt themselves very small, and for some time no one said anything." (23) Only after a beat or two does the company return to its touristy chatter; Miss Allan then gestures and pronounces, "North-South-East-West," (24) placing a meaningful grid on the scenery. There is a tone of proprietorship in Miss Allan's gesture, and it follows quickly after the description of a "low ruined wall, the stump of an Elizabethan watch-tower," (25) a reminder of the long colonial history of South America.

The evocative contrasts that emerge on the top of Monte Rosa echo an important scene from earlier in the novel, a scene that is also placed in a locale that cuts off the interlocutors from familiar territory. In this case, the location-or non-location-is the Atlantic Ocean, and the two interlocutors are Rachel and Richard Dalloway. The portrayal of the Dalloways in their brief appearance in The Voyage Out is much less sympathetic than it would be in the novel that Woolf devoted to them ten years later, but not so unfavorable as to make them easily dismissable. Richard's pomposity and clumsy advances towards Rachel attach a degree of falsity to his character, but in his political discussions with her he introduces themes that harmonize to some degree with that lyrical, poetically international, voice that breaks out intermittently in the novel's narration.

Clarissa and Richard have been travelling with the object of "broadening Mr. Dalloway's mind," (26) and meet up with the Euphrosyne in Lisbon. Richard eventually finds himself in a tete-a-tete with Rachel, in which he somewhat condescendingly explains his political philosophy. When Rachel asks him about his "ideal," he responds, "In one word--Unity. Unity of aim, of dominion, of progress. The dispersion of the best ideas over the greatest area." (27) Although he quickly qualifies his statement by stating that he is well aware of "horrors-unmentionable things done in our very midst," (28) it seems that Richard is endorsing the ideal of Empire. Richard himself confirms this suspicion, as he lectures Rachel:

"Imagination, Miss Vinrace; use your imagination; that's where you young Liberals fail. Conceive the world as a whole. Now for your second point; when you assert that in trying to set the house in order for the benefit of the young generation I am wasting my higher capabilities, I totally disagree with you. I can conceive no more exalted aim--to be the citizen of the Empire." (29)

For Richard, the idea of the "world as a whole" is inextricably bound up with the ability of an imperial power to create and maintain that wholeness. Richard thinks of the state (or empire) as a "complicated machine" (30) in which every cog and screw has to function together. But when Rachel attempts to put Richard's blend of imperialism and utility into her own words, the result has an altogether different tone; she says, "Under the streets, in the sewers, in the wires, in the telephones, there is something alive; is that what you mean? In things like dust-carts, and men mending roads? You feel that all the time when you walk about London, and when you turn on a tap and the water comes?" (31) Richard responds to Rachel's concrete, personal imagery with another abstraction: "the whole of modern society is based on co-operative effort." (32)

Despite Richard's admonition, Rachel shows a good deal more "imagination" in this exchange than Richard, even if she does not express her thoughts in the dry, diplomatic language of an MP. Her thoughts start to race, and she becomes "haunted by absurd jumbled ideas-how, if one went back far enough, everything perhaps was intelligible; everything was in common; for the mammoths who pastured in the fields of Richmond High Street had turned into paving stones and boxes full of ribbon, and her aunts." (33) The closed, mechanical world-view of Richard stands in marked contrast to Rachel's less hierarchical, more open-ended approach to political questions; her prehistorical vision of mammoths in Richmond High Street underlines not only the contingency and transience of any society, but it also enlists an idealized past, when "everything was in common," as a critique of the present. Woolf brings the conversation, which starts to become less political and more intimate, to a close with an intrusion from the outside world. Just as the warplanes of World War Two appear at the end of Between the Acts as a savagely ironic culmination of the historical pageant, the warships that would soon be engaged in World War I pass by at the end of Richard's and Rachel's conversation. The ships are "two sinister grey vessels" that prompt Clarissa to exclaim, "Aren't you glad to be English!" (34)

When Richard claims that modern society is based on "co-operative" effort, he uses a word that had a significant meaning for both Virginia and Leonard Woolf. The co-operative movement had been founded in 1834 with an aim of serving consumers directly without the costs imposed by the profit-taking of middlemen; by the turn of the twentieth century, co-operative societies had become widespread, with a vast membership. One of the offshoots of the co-operative movement was the Women's Co-operative Guild, which in 1912 had a membership of approximately 30,000. (35) Virginia belonged to the W. C. G. and it was she who introduced Leonard to the co-operative movement. Leonard responded with enthusiasm, writing articles for the society's weekly periodical, the Co-operative News. (36) Leonard became interested in the political possibilities of the co-operative movement, and strove to integrate its goals with those of the Labour Party.

In 1928, Leonard made his strongest statement on the co-operative movement in an essay entitled "The Way of Peace." The article argues that the economic emphasis on production and profit overlooks the role of the consumer, and that a system organized around the consumer instead of profit would avoid the ills of capitalism-overproduction, depression, tariffs and trade barriers, imperialism, uneven development, and so on. Leonard states bluntly, "The consumer is your only real internationalist and true citizen of the world." (37) He goes on to explain, "For the consumer international trade is not a conflict or a struggle for profits, but a vast and intricate co-operative enterprise, the sole object of which is to supply the world's needs." (38) Leonard saw the co-operative movement as a non-revolutionary path toward socialism; the elimination of profit would allow co-operative members to "control industry democratically." (39) He goes on to claim that "the psychology of the consumer is internationally pacific" as opposed to the "economic nationalism" that characterized capitalist production-at least in his time. (40)

In one of Leonard's more whimsical political texts, "Fear and Politics: A Debate at the Zoo," (1925) a pamphlet written in the wake of the ascendancy of Stanley Baldwin's conservative government in late 1924, the contending points of view are represented by various animals-mainly by the conservative Rhinoceros and the communist revolutionary Mandril (usually spelled "mandrill"; a type of baboon). The Mandril asserts to an assembly of the zoo's animals, "I belong to the intelligentsia. But I have thrown my lot in with the proletariate." (41) The interesting sidenote here is that Virginia, who was very fond of imagining herself and others as different types of animals, referred to herself as a mandril; a love letter to Leonard from 1913 reads, "I want you Mongoose, and I do love you, little beast, if only I weren't so appallingly stupid a mandril." (42) While avoiding the extreme language of the revolutionary Mandril, the Owl offers a qualified support for the then-new Russian revolution, saying that they are responsible for offering an alternative to destructive nationalism: "In fact one of the gravest charges against the Socialists and Bolsheviks has been that they started a doctrine called internationalism, maintaining that it was unnecessary for any nation or race to be afraid of any other," which, if adopted, would mean that ordinary people would "cease to be patriotic." (43) The Owl, who represents the perspective of history, asserts that "The people who made the French Revolution were pacifists and internationalists just like the Russians who made their revolution." (44)

But the Owl's long-winded historical comparisons are cut short by the old Elephant, who is given the last word in the debate. The Elephant somewhat pessimistically points out that as long as nations have the freedom to do so, war and its attendant fear will always be present. This debate takes place in a zoo, the Elephant observes, where each animal has lost the freedom it had in the wild; but this freedom only seems golden in nostalgic retrospect. The Elephant states, "Yes, it was sometimes very pleasant to be free in the jungle. But only for a moment, because the jungle was a place of perpetual fear." (45) The civil society among the animals in the zoo only became possible after they were forcibly removed from the "state of nature." The point Woolf has the Elephant make is remarkably similar to Kant's assertion in his landmark 1795 essay "Perpetual Peace" that just as civilization is predicated on the renunciation of the freedoms of the state of nature, war can only be prevented by the various nations renouncing the state of nature (might making right) that exists between them. Kant argues,

   There is only one rational way in which states coexisting with
   other states can emerge from the lawless condition of pure warfare.
   Just like individual men, they must renounce their savage and
   lawless freedom, adapt themselves to public coercive laws, and thus
   form an international state (civitas gentium), which would
   necessarily continue to grow until it embraced all the peoples of
   the earth. (46)

But, much in the same way Kant recognizes that such a rational outcome is unlikely, if not impossible, the Elephant concludes his summary with the idea-greatly applauded by the assembled animals-that "the world will never be safe for democracy or for any other animal, until each human animal is confined in a separate cage." (47)

One of the principal instigations to the development of internationalist theory has always been the problem of war. In the years during and following World War I, the subject of war and its preventability became a persistent feature in literary and critical activity. The grim resignation sounded at the end of "Fear and Politics" finds an analogue in Virginia Woolf's later novels Jacob's Room (1922) and Mrs. Dalloway (1925), which continue the immanent politics that inform The Voyage Out. In Mrs. Dalloway, we meet Clarissa again, who is now ensconced in her privileged world in Westminster, while, unbeknownst to her, Septimus Smith and his Italian wife suffer the drawn-out consequences of the war. The underlying thesis of Mrs. Dalloway is that the seemingly "private" world is always--if unconsciously--connected to larger social structures. The novel asserts a parallel between Clarissa and Septimus and, in the very design of the plot, through its coincidences and repetitions, tries to bridge the gap between two classes and two spheres of experience. Just as James Joyce used the technique of parallelism to link Bloom to Odysseus, so Woolf uses that same strategy to suggest that Clarissa's experiences are not separate and isolated. Moreover, the appearance of the Prime Minister at her party places Clarissa squarely in between the public world of state politics and the larger, less visible world represented by Septimus and Lucrezia. Peter Walsh recalls a "transcendental theory" of Clarissa, according to which she stated that "she felt herself everywhere; not 'here, here, here'; and she tapped the back of the seat; but everywhere. [...] She was all that. So that to know her, or any one, one must seek out the people who completed them; even the places." (48) The lyrical voice from The Voyage Out here returns to lend that enlarged sympathy to Clarissa that she seemingly lacked in the earlier novel.

That lyrical voice is also prominently featured in Woolf's 1931 novel, The Waves. This novel, with its meditative tone, uses a style of description that recalls the narrative voice in The Voyage Out. The imagery of the novel conveys a feeling of vastness, of a world in which rigid boundaries have melted away. One of the novel's characters, Neville, says, "It seems as though the whole world were flowing and curving--on the earth the trees, in the sky the clouds." (49) Later in the novel, Rhoda describes another scene with a similar tone: "Behind you is a white crescent of foam, and fishermen on the verge of the world are drawing in nets and casting them." (50) By positioning itself at the water's edge, The Waves is able to bring into view the sea as the sublime metaphor par excellence. The novel can look out to the horizon and contemplate the fluid, boundary-free world that stands in contrast to the endless troubles of terra firma. The sea is in a sense the very domain of the international-part of no particular nation, it is the place where all nations meet and where they all blend together.

Three Guineas (1938) continues Woolf's critique of the catastrophic consequences of patriarchal society, but in this case not through fiction. In part a response to a request from a society founded to "prevent war," Three Guineas forcefully argues that until the structural causes of war are addressed, no hope of preventing it can be maintained; furthermore, Woolf argues, if the societies whose aim is to prevent war are animated by the principles of "Justice and Equality and Liberty," then they should be willing to accept all logical consequences that flow from those principles. (51) They should therefore condemn any system that relegates women to second-class citizenship. To the letter-writer, Woolf says of women's rights activists, "They were fighting the tyranny of the patriarchal state as you are fighting the tyranny of the Fascist state." (52)

In addition to its incisive commentary on the status of women and how that status relates to the problem of war, Three Guineas also takes up the theme of nationalism and internationalism. Like Leonard, Virginia recognizes the role of nationalism in the problem of war, and she is similarly realistic about the prospects of neutralizing its malignant effects. She asks, "is there not something in the conglomeration of people into societies that releases what is most selfish and violent, least rational and humane in the individuals themselves?" (53) In using the word "society" here, Woolf describes the unequal treatment of any given brother and sister, but the remark could easily be extrapolated to that other social formation, the nation. Woolf remarks, "as a woman, I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As a woman my country is the whole world." (54) Woolf then quite deftly and delicately takes up the question of how patriotic sentiment could be turned to serve this international ideal:

   And if, when reason has had its say, still some obstinate emotion
   remains, some love of England dropped into a child's ears by the
   cawing of rooks in an elm tree, by the splash of waves on a beach,
   or by English voices murmuring nursery rhymes, this drop of pure,
   if irrational, emotion she will make serve her to give to England
   first what she desires of peace and freedom for the whole world.

In addition, this "outsider" (as Woolf designates the woman embodying her values) will refrain from participating in "all such ceremonies as encourage the desire to impose 'our' civilization or 'our' dominion upon other people." (56) The anti-imperialism here is markedly stronger than it was back in The Voyage Out, a novel in which there was always an ambivalence towards colonial expansion.

Woolf's commitment to democratic principles and an international outlook impinged on her novels in both subject matter and form. Her interest in the fragment bespeaks a concern that could only emerge in the post-war political landscape, a landscape scarred by the clash of nationalisms on a large scale. Even at her most "personal," Woolf is able, as a truly immanent novelist, to demonstrate how isolated experience is inextricably connected to a community riven by conflict as it continues the messy trudge of history. By introducing the "international theme" in her work, not so much through the variety of characters but through the tissue of their thoughts, Woolf transformed the personal life into one that never ceases to resonate politically. When Woolf wrote in "Modern Fiction" that "everything is the proper stuff of fiction," (57) she was perhaps being all too literal.

(1) Virginia Woolf, Between the Acts (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1941), pp. 181-82.

(2) George Spater and Ian Parsons, A Marriage of True Minds: An Intimate Portrait of Leonard and Virginia Woolf (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1977), p. 83.

(3) Woolf, Between the Acts, p. 192.

(4) George Scott, The Rise and Fall of the League of Nations (New York: Macmillan, 1973), 5p. 17.

(5) Virginia Woolf and War, ed. Mark Hussey (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1991).

(6) Wayne K. Chapman and Janet M. Mason, "Carte and Tierce: Leonard, Virginia Woolf, and War for Peace," in Virginia Woolf and War, p. 63.

(7) Ibid., p. 70.

(8) Qtd. in Chapman and Mason, "Carte and Tierce," p. 65.

(9) Spater and Parsons, A Marriage of True Minds, pp. 82-83.

(10) Ibid., p. 83.

(11) Leonard Woolf, International Government (New York: Brentano's, 1916), p. 11.

(12) Ibid., p. 105.

(13) Ibid., p. 354.

(14) Virginia Woolf, The Voyage Out, ed. Lorna Sage (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), p. 29.

(15) It is, of course, the chapter about the excursion upriver that most strongly recalls Heart of Darkness; indeed, a passing reference to Conrad's novella can be found in the description of the journey: "They seemed to be travelling into the heart of the night, for the trees closed in front of them, and they could hear all round them the rustling of leaves. The great darkness had the usual effect of taking away all desire for communication ..." (The Voyage Out, p. 309). However, as Lorna Sage points out in her introduction to Woolf's novel, Heart of Darkness and The Voyage Out "have little in common, since for Woolf it's not the primitive that awakens horrors. The horror that lurks in Rachel's nightmares is at the heart of civilization" (xxiii). Although this formulation misses the crucial point of Conrad's novel that "horror" is not clearly and exclusively attributable to the "primitive," it is fair enough in capturing a difference in presentation between the two novels.

(16) Woolf, The Voyage Out, p. 122.

(17) Ibid., p. 237.

(18) Ibid., pp. 237 and 238.

(19) Ibid., p. 268.

(20) Ibid., p. 269.

(21) As William R. Handley has written in an article about Jacob's Room, "The question of Woolf's art and her politics is hardly so programmatic; to politicize one's art is not necessarily to impose an agenda. Woolf will disappoint those readers searching for an overt politics. This lack of determination is itself, however, a positive political gesture, not political simply by default [...]. An active reading of a Woolfian text does not give the reader a directive or program to follow but is still political if it effectively confuses the rigidity of conventional, purposive relationships" ("War and the Politics of Narration in Jacob's Room," in Virginia Woolf and War, pp. 112-13). Mr. Dalloway is, in a sense, correct in recommending "Imagination" to Rachel as a political virtue.

(22) Woolf, The Voyage Out, p. 144.

(23) Ibid., p. 146.

(24) Ibid., p. 146.

(25) Ibid., p. 146.

(26) Ibid., p. 37.

(27) Ibid., p. 67.

(28) Ibid., p. 67.

(29) Ibid., p. 69.

(30) Ibid., p. 69.

(31) Ibid., p. 70.

(32) Ibid., p. 70.

(33) Ibid., p. 70.

(34) Ibid., p. 72.

(35) Duncan Wilson, Leonard Woolf: A Political Biography (London: Hogarth, 1978), p. 49.

(36) Ibid., p. 50.

(37) Leonard Woolf, "The Way of Peace," in In Savage Times: Leonard Woolf on Peace and War (New York: Garland, 1973), p. 14.

(38) Woolf, "The Way of Peace," p. 14.

(39) Ibid., p. 17.

(40) Ibid., pp. 18 and 28.

(41) Leonard Woolf, "Fear and Politics: A Debate at the Zoo," in In Savage Times: Leonard Woolf on Peace and War (New York: Garland, 1973), p. 17.

(42) Spater and Parsons, A Marriage of True Minds, p. 67.

(43) Woolf, "Fear and Politics," p. 19.

(44) Ibid., p. 21.

(45) Ibid., p. 23.

(46) Immanuel Kant, "Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch," in Kant's Political Writings, trans. H. B. Nisbet, ed. Hans Reiss (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), p. 105.

(47) Woolf, "Fear and Politics," p. 24.

(48) Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (San Diego: Harcourt Brace, 1925), pp. 152-53.

(49) Virginia Woolf, The Waves (San Diego: Harcourt Brace, 1931), p. 38.

(50) Ibid., p. 223.

(51) Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas (San Diego: Harcourt Brace, 1938), p. 102.

(52) Ibid., p. 102.

(53) Ibid., p. 105.

(54) Ibid., p. 109.

(55) Ibid., p. 109.

(56) Ibid., p. 109.

(57) Virginia Woolf, "Modern Fiction," in The Common Reader: First Series (San Diego: Harcourt Brace, 1984), p. 154.


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