Woolf's 1915 Diary
I’ve started reading Virginia Woolf’s Diary. I am struck by and thankful for her ordinary-ness. She records all the necessary boring bits about life. That is rather refreshing. Of course, she does wind her way to lovely reflections like this:
I know that with the first chink of light in the hall and chatter of voices I should become intoxicated and determine that life held nothing comparable to a party. I should see beautiful people and get a sensation of being on the highest crest of the biggest wave – right in the centre and swim of things.
There is a foreign look about a town which stands up against the sunset, and is approached by a much trodden footpath across a field.
The first quote reminds me of her writing, the energy of it. And I suspect as she wrote the sentence, she was no longer writing in her diary. It just has a different feel than her other jottings. And the second is simple, but it strikes me as a fine example of her skill for unique observation.
I tried to read Sylvia Plath’s diary once, (at least I think it was Sylvia Plath…I may be wrong, but this was over ten years ago) and was instantly put off because it read like a novel. It was so perfectly shaped and “written”, with long passages of dialogue and actual scenes. It didn’t feel like a diary at all.
But Woolf’s diary is exactly that. A record for each day of what she did, who she saw, her thoughts and little snippets of conversations. It isn’t at all intimidating. It’s wonderful such a record of her life exists.
I’ve just come across the only mention (in her 1915 diary) of her first novel The Voyage Out. She writes:
We talked about my novel (which everyone, so I predict, will assure me is the most brilliant thing they’ve ever read, and privately condemn, as indeed it deserves to be condemned.
I am very curious if she ever mentions this novel again in any of her later diaries. Why so severe on herself? A considerable amount of time had passed since the novel was accepted for publication and then actually saw publication…is that what made her think it was bad? Or was she always this severe with all of her writing? And did she really mean it?