Mrs. Dalloway revisited

by cheri

After visiting the Westminster, St. James’ Park, and the Piccadilly areas of London in June, I felt that I simply must reread Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway.  

And so I am rereading.

What a brilliant work of literature!

I find myself thinking some of the same things that Mrs. Dalloway was thinking.

For example.

About a woman that Clarissa Dalloway wishes she might have been,  Lady Bexborough–“…with skin of crumpled leather and beautiful eyes…she had the oddest sense of being herself invisible, unseen; unknown; there being no more marrying, no more having of children now, but only this astonishing and rather solemn progress with the rest of them, up Bond Street, this being Mrs. Dalloway; not even Clarissa any more; this being Mrs. Richard Dalloway.”

Clarissa “…felt very  young; at the same time unspeakably aged.”

And yet.

Clarissa’s “…only gift was knowing people almost by instinct…”

I believe myself to know people by my instinct.

I also feel, on occasion, invisible.

I am a romantic.

No question.

Where does this leave me?

Perhaps, as I continue on Clarissa Dalloway’s walk around London as she prepared for her party, I will gather insight.




About Cheri

Writer, artist, cable television host, grandmother to four!
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12 Responses to Mrs. Dalloway revisited

  1. Richard says:

    The novel is as much a commentary on the social divisions of the time as a ruminating introspection, a mood commonly engendered when walking London’s streets alone.

    Both Clarissa and Peter speak from a world of privilege. London presents other worlds too: the Royal who draws the blind in the limousine against passers-by in Bond Street, the loyal wife who unsuccessfully seeks relief for her suicidal husband, wrecked psychologically by the Great War, the wizen old woman at the gate of Regent’s Park.

    London is a hazardous mix of all possible lives, but survives. How come Virginia Woolf, in seeking a separate idyll, should end her own amid the beauties of the Sussex Downs?

    Shortly before his death in 1986, my father recorded some of his memories of London. I played them over again the other day and noticed something I never realised when I lived with him. He had a distinct cockney accent. Quiet, refined and reflective, maybe – distinct, neverthless. Nowadays you never hear a true cockney accent, more often an Eastender. He recalled the bombings of the Great War, the early travelling cinema, the persecuted shopkeeper and the London Music Hall acts. He loved his London. He did not turn his back on it. Not for him the luxurious limousine with the blinds or the indulgence of self-pity. I never knew him melancholy or dissatisfied with the life handed out to him.

    It is a year or two since you drew me to Mrs Dalloway. It made a deep impact. My observations here disclose only a fraction of what it tells, and from only one angle. Thank you for your further insights and for having me read the novel in the first place. British education sadly neglects so much of our native literature.

    Your new header reminds me happily of the day I spent with you, Ron and Glenys in London’s streets.

    • Cheri says:

      What a all-encompassing comment, Richard. Each paragraph of Mrs. Dalloway is a gem but oh so hard to fully grasp if you do not concentrate on each image and word. And why do those authors–Plath, Hemingway, Woolf, Capote–the list is long, those authors whose emotional strings seem ready to snap at the slightest ruffle–why do they end their lives?

      Relentless, suffocating, unmitigating depression…

      I’m going to reread To the Lighthouse again, too.

      And yes, my smile is mirroring yours! A happy day indeed of walking London with you and Glenys.

  2. I loved Mrs. Dalloway too. Now that Kate is living in London she is discovering and loving every part of it’s potpourri.
    Great new header with your lovely smile. AK

  3. Christopher says:

    “…..Clarissa Dalloway……..had the oddest sense of being herself invisible, unseen…….”

    Many are the women who’ve told me they remember almost the very day they became invisible to the gaze of passing men.

    As a man who, as such, has well-night always been invisible to the gaze of passing women, I nonetheless, as a septuagenarian, am more and more aware that I’m now totally invisible to everyone, even when in a crowded room………

  4. Cheri says:

    Well, thank you for getting right to the point of this post. I do not remember the very day that I became invisible to “the gaze of passing men,” but it is inevitable. Inevitable as it is, and I suppose one in her sixties ought to just “give it up,” I still think about (as my trainer says) the degradation that the body goes through as it ages.

    I cannot believe that you are totally invisible to everyone, even in a crowded room. Really?

  5. shoreacres says:

    Here’s a passing thought — a question I’ve only just now asked, not answered: if we’re visible to ourselves, does it matter if we’re invisible to others?

    I’ve not read Mrs. Dalloway, but To The Lighthouse is a wonder. it’s probably time for a re-read of that, and time to meet Mrs. Dalloway, too.

  6. Cheri says:

    I do not interpret your intriguing comment as “passing.”
    In fact, your comment is right to the point– that as long as our essence of ourselves is as visible as it is vital–then that is what is important.
    Now, I must get to the gym…😀

  7. I guess I have again become visible. A small, old, handicapped woman presents opportunities for people to grab them before they fall down. I don’t remember being aware that anyone was paying particular attention to me as long as I knew I looked “fabulous”. (grin)

    • Cheri says:

      I agree! When we are young and sexy, when our body is firm as a semi-ripe pear, do we notice? No!
      It’s only when the time goes by and the bag boys at Safeway don’t notice us anymore that we notice that aging has set in…

  8. Ah! But is the bag boys and checkers who hug me now. One sweet African American man calls me “Ma”. Do you see what you have to look forward to when you ripen?

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