Reading Woolf: “. . . inky and bitter and old.”

Here, as The Years (1937) approaches completion, Woolf speaks concretely. What have I been doing all my life?

From a letter to Ethel Smyth (10 March 1936):

I don’t really get quit of my script till dinner: work from 10 to one: then 5 to 7. if work it can be said to be: anything more dreary cant be conceived. And the book itself disappears; I suspect its bad; but what do I care, once I can write End: and never look at it again. Forgive this egotism. Still more, forgive this dulness. I’ve been seeing no one. My friends die or fall ill. Sybil Colefax is now a widow—poor woman—still wants to come and dine—I read only solid history or Dickens to ease my mind of commas. Love seems a thing I’ve never felt or hope or faith either. Why, I ask does one do this sort of task? and who sets it? Whats the point? A 3 month sitting in a cellar. When the sun sinks I go owling round to Nessa. There we tell old tales by the light of a candle. Harold asks me to meet Lindbergh—no I cant. [Lady] Oxford asks me to meet [Mrs Wallis] Simpson—the new Royal harlot—cant again. I meet Max Beerbohm in the dusk—cant face him . . . so how shall I ever pluck up my feathers and ruffle them in the old tiger cats [Ethel’s] rosy and lovely phiz [face]? But I should like to read you. I often have a sip of you when I’m feeling faint. Oh and politics go on all day, every day. L. is entirely submerged. I might be the charwoman of a Prime Minister. But we will come out of the tunnel one of these days, in the sun, on the grass—can I believe it?

Yes inky and bitter and old


Ink you know dries bitter like gall.
(The Letters [Vol. 6], pp. 17-18)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s