I’ve been teaching Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs Dalloway” at A level recently. Prepping it was the first time I’d read it since 2nd year Modernism.
The bits with Septimus – the traumatised, broken veteran who’s one of the two main voices of the novel – cut like a knife, in a way I hadn’t remembered them doing. You really feel Woolf’s own voice in his psychosis, the grandiose delusions, the suicidal ideation, the lost little-boyness peeking out between the hallucinations and the madness.
I read them Woolf’s suicide letter to her husband. It made me cry. It’s so heartbreaking, not least in its wrongness: she’s a burden, she says. It will never be good again, she says. Thank you for making me so happy, but I have to go, she says. None of that was true, and yet her illness made her believe that it was.
We’re such beautiful sad creatures. This jet engine of a brain bolted to our Ford Fiesta of a brain stem. The things we do to ourselves. How our brains torture us.
I hope you’re all doing ok out there in Afterword-land, is the long and the short of it. As much as I know my argument-as-fun style rubs some of you wrong, you’re all pretty great, and I wouldn’t be without you all.
If it hurts for any of you right now, there are people who love you and probably don’t know you’re struggling. Get in touch with them.
Or, to put it more succinctly: “Don’t throw your hand. When you feel like you’re alone – no. No. No. You’re not alone.”