Academic journal article Woolf Studies Annual

96 Handwritten: [1935]

Academic journal article Woolf Studies Annual

96 Handwritten: [1935]

Article excerpt

5 Hereford Square

S.W.7.

Dear Virginia,

Did you really seriously mean me to think about your position as a writer, & about writing generally? I feel it is a gross presumption on my part to do so--but at the same time I can't avoid short thinks in buses & trains on the subject. Nobody, having attained one sort of excellence, can forbear hankering after another. Kings turn monks, airmen turn poets & people like myself turn socialists. {This sounds conceited: what I mean is this: that when the ladylike qualities are attained fairly easily, one of the normal reactions is So What.} I wonder whether your sort of excellence bores you. Your books are so pleasant to read. They are about the pleasantest subject on earth--love & his disguises. They must be pleasant to write. But I must suppose that the quails fall into your mouth too easily. Or else why would you be worrying about becoming a bogus classic, being labeled, & given Alphas by the reviews? I suppose there is always a friction between a writer & his work--quite apart from the ordinary tension between ideas & material. I mean [corner of letter torn off here, so words left out] easiest & most plumb-successful way to write is two or three years behind one's new theories. And that while one is making up the lee-way, there is an irritating discrepancy between the new raw ideas & the old sweet fluency. (When I was at school I could write nice Yeatsian verse--but though I could do it now, I'd feel smothered in mud & treacle). And it is by brooding over this discrepancy, I imagine, that one invents new forms & styles, finds literary ways of sublimating literary desires. And this doesn't involve throwing over the old way, but broadening it by really grasping what one's increased knowledge involves, & realizing where & what the old falsifications were.

I'll try & put this more concretely. X can write delightful erotic poetry--& goes on writing it--it is called 'the modern Catullus' by the Sunday Times etc. Thousands of adolescents like myself buy his books. …

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