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On the importance of an independent income and a room of your own

A Room of One’s Own – Virginia Woolf

30/03/2005 

Virginia Woolf’s ‘A Room of One’s Own.’

Why in order to write fiction in 1920s a woman required £500 per annum and a room of their own.

‘A Room of One’s Own’ became interesting once it got going. It read too much like a very long ‘Thought for the day’ on BBC Radio 4. It couldn’t have been recorded, yet it reads like a circumlocuous talk, an ‘inner conversation.’ Read ‘A Room of One’s Own’in one sitting, as I did today in less than four hours.

I’m too lazy to do more than cut out quotes for now. I’m certain to use and develop these ideas somewhere though.

‘Women have served all these centuries as looking-glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size.’

I liken Woolf to a fine antique box, carefully padded with foam and felt, in which there are a few gems, the value of which I do no appreciate. As for Hitler, I’m beginning to find account of his politicking as boring as the record of Bill Clinton’s rise to power.

I find start to get to the kernel of her argument, hidden two-thirds of the way through ‘A Room of One’s Own.’

‘That serves to explain in part the necessity that woman so often are to men. And it serves to explain how restless they are under her criticism; how impossible it is for her to say to them this book is bad, this picture is feeble, or whatever it may be, without giving far more pain and rousing far more anger tan a man would do who gave the same criticism. For if she begins to tell the truth, the figure in the looking-glass shrinks; his fitness for life is diminished. How is he to go on giving judgment, civilising natives, making laws, writing books, dressing up and speechifying at banquets unless he can see himself at breakfast and at dinner at least twice the size he really is?’

This was written in the 1920s. I can hear the clack-clack of a typewriter, is it that? OR did she write it long-hand while looking out on her garden down the road from here at Rodmel?

Women were only just beginning to shake off the shackles they had worn for centuries. The process is not yet complete, though the role of the ‘Alpha Female’ who has a career and babies while her HUSBAND looks after the children at home is becoming more prevalent.

‘The looking-glass vision is of supreme importance because it charges the vitality; it stimulates the nervous system. Take it away and man may die, like the drug fiend deprived of his cocaine.’

I like this image. How dependent men are on woman for their success and confidence. My father was like this. He needed his girlfriend/wife/mistress to adore him – to put him on a pedestal. As soon as he shamed himself (had an affair, got caught with a prostitute. was blackmailed by his Philipino maid) he ditched his wife to start afresh.

There’s more. I’ll keep these quotes together here for ease of reference; there uses are many.

‘Anything may happen when womanhood has ceased to be a protected occupation.’

In 25 years time I hope audiences look back on what Virginia Wool had to say here. Perhaps there’s an excuse to look back at the last 75 years?

On writing fiction

This applies to anyone trying to write fiction. I will use this when, having had a novel or too published I start to lecture on the subject.

‘Fiction, imaginative work that is, is not dropped like a pebble on the ground, as science may be; fiction is like a spider’s web, attached ever so lightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners.’

On mankind and their dominance of the arts. Why must men be superior? Would the world be a more peaceful and less competitive place if men stayed at home and raised the kids instead of waging war (corporate and international)?

‘For here again we come within range of that very interesting and obscure masculine complex which has had so much influence upon the woman’s movement; that deep-seated desire, not so much that she shall be inferior as that he shall be superior, which plants him wherever one looks, not only in front of the arts, but barring the way to politics too, even when the risk to himself seem infinitesimal and the suppliant humble and devoted.’

Why it doesn’t count unless you’re paid to do it:

‘Money dignifies what is frivolous if unpaid for.’

I like this.

I’ve written from a woman’s point of view before and should do so again.

‘A great mind is androgynous.’ Coleridge. ‘It is when this fusion takes place that the mind is fully fertilised and uses all its faculties.’

On writing. I apply this thinking to what I look for in a diary.

‘The whole of the mind must lie wide open if we are to get the sense that the writer is communicating his experience with perfect fullness.’

I go along this for ALL writing I admire. It is a criteria I try to apply to picking my ‘favorite diaries’ to read here.

‘So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only a few hours, nobody can say. But to sacrifice a hair of the head of your vision, a shade of its colour, in defence to some Headmaster with a measuring-rod up his sleeve, is the most abject treachery, and the sacrifice of wealth and chastity which used to be said to be the greatest of human disasters, a mere flea-bite in comparison.’

I’ll find a use for this too.

‘Intellectual freedom depends upon material things.’

If only I could earn enough to do this:

‘By hook or by crook, I hope that you will possess yourselves of money enough to travel and to idle, to contemplate the future or the past of the world, to dream over books and loiter at street corners and let the line of thought dip deep into the stream.’

Be oneself .. think of things.

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