Academic journal article Woolf Studies Annual

68 Typed; Signed: November 27, 1931

Academic journal article Woolf Studies Annual

68 Typed; Signed: November 27, 1931

Article excerpt




Nov. 27, 1931

Dear Mrs. Woolf:

I have just finished The Waves. I feel so grateful to you for it and so full of the wonder of it that I must share it with someone. But I know no one to whom I can speak with any hope of being understood so do you mind if I tell you. It is a tragic, lovely, penetrating, poignantly moving, stimulating, true book--but what am I saying? Nothing really. All these adjectives give such an inadequate idea of what the book means to me. I took a long time reading it, limiting myself to ten, fifteen, at most twenty pages a day, so as to make it last longer. It is one of the four or five books I have ever read which I honestly hated to come to the end of. I continually found myself stopping to read over a sentence, a page, to read them aloud, rolling the words over my tongue and into every corner of my mouth, like wine, in an attempt to squeeze every last bit of beauty from them. But I know I must have missed a good deal even so. Like great music, it is impossible to absorb it all at one hearing, or reading. So in a day or two I shall start to read it over again.

I have read several reviews of The Waves but to my surprise not one of the reviewers seemed to be aware of what I began to suspect when about half through it and of which now that I have finished it I am all but convinced. All of them spoke of it as being the life story of six or seven, counting Percival, persons. But to me those seven characters, along with the old hairy fellow, not to mention innumerable others, minor characters scattered through the book, are the different selves of one person, the narrator, let us say, Bernard, whose soliloquy at the end is one of the finest things I have ever read. When Jinny kisses Louis, that is the end of childhood and the beginning of adolescence. Percival is the youthful ideal which during school days one longs and hopes to be, but of course he dies when one comes into contact with the world as it is. And Rhoda, the romantic dreamer, dies too when one reaches a certain age and desire is dead. …

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