Mrs. Dalloway - Virginia Woolf


A stream-of-consciousness day in London between world wars. One of those books where nothing happens but it feels like all of life is considered.

indicative quotes

It was an extraordinary summer--all letters, scenes, telegrams [63]

Every woman, even the most respectable, had roses blooming under glass; lips cut with a knife; curls of Indian ink; there was design, art, everywhere; a change of some sort had undobutedly taken place. What did the young people thing about? [71]

Close to his ear, deeply, softly, like a mellow organ, but with a roughness in her voice like a grasshopper's, which rasped his spine deliciously and sent running up into his brain waves of sound which, concussing, broke [22]

why bother?

Not her best, but really good and an important work in the history of narrative voice re: Woolf's use of free indirect address.


the sheer pleasure of existence, even in the face of its potential meaninglessness

What a lark! What a plunge! [3]

What she loved was this, here, now, in front of her...Did it matter then, she asked herself, walking towards Bond Street, did it matter that she must inevitably cease completely...on the ebb and flow of things, here, there, she survived [9]

the sun spotting now this leaf, now that, in mockery, dazzling it with soft gold in pure good temper...all of this, calm and reasonable as it was, made out of ordinary things as it was [69]

As we are a doomed race, chained to a sinking ship... as the whole thing is a bad joke, let us, at any rate, do our part; mitigate the sufferings of our fellow prisoners...decorate the dungeon with flowers [77]

Life itself, every moment of it, every drop of it, here, this instant, now, in the sun, in Regent's Park, was enough. [79]

It might be possible, Septimus thought, looking at England from the train window, as they left Newhaven; it might be possible that the world itself is without meaning. [88]

The necklace hung stretched between Hugh's admirable fingers. Let him give it to a girl, if he must buy jewels--any girl, any girl in the street. For the worthlessness of this life did strike Richard pretty forcibly [114]

Absorbing, mysterious, of infinite richness, this life. [163]


when London is a grass-grown path and all those hurrying along the pavement this Wednesday morning are but bones with a few wedding rings mixed up in their dust and the gold stoppings of innumerable decayed teeth [16]

as perhaps at midnight, when all boundaries are lost, the country reverts to its ancient shape, as the Romans saw it, lying cloudy, when they landed, and the hills had no names and river wound they knew not where [24]

the yellow-blue evening light; and on the leaves in the square shone lurid, livid--they looked as if dipped in sea watter--the foliage of a submerged city [162]

Virginia Woolf as stylist

closing paragraph with semi-colon delimited lists

brass bands; barrel organs; in the triumph and the jingle and the strange high singing of some aeroplane ovehead was what she loved; life; London; this moment of June. [4]

seeing the delicate pink face of the woman who was that very night to give a party; of Clarissa Dalloway; of herself. [37]

She looked at Peter Waslh; her look, passing through all that time and that emotion, reached him doubtfully; settled on him tearfully; and rose and fluttered away, as a bird touches a branch and rises and flutters away. Quite simply she wiped her eyes. [43]

Plotwise, nothing much happens (Clarissa plans her party, Peter returns walks around, Richard has lunch, etc.) and yet Woolf caputures life as a whole, Everything.

and the weight of the day, which beginning with that visit to Clarissa had exhausted him with its heat, its intensity, and the drip, drip, of one impression after another down into that cellar where they stood, deep, dark, and no one would ever know [152]

success, perils of conventional middle class life

Rezia and Septimus

She put on a new hat and he never noticed; and he was happy without was she who suffered--but she had nobody to tell. [23]

Sally Seton on Hugh Whitbread

"He's read nothing, thought nothing, felt nothing" [73]

Peter Walsh

so that he was, on the whole, a border case, neither one thing nor the other, might end with a house at Purley and a motor car, or continue renting apartments in back streets all his life [84]

It is the privilege of loneliness; in privacy one may do as one choose. One might weep if no one saw. [151]