Oh, Virginia. I tried to love you, back in my younger days. I read something of yours that someone suggested and I didn’t get it and I moved away, like you were some strange spicy curry that my thoughts weren’t ready to taste and enjoy. But today, today you have filled my whole soul up with thoughts to think, and I believe I may love you for the rest of my life.
When I read “The Mark on the Wall” I felt like I was sitting on the floor beside your comfortable chair, wrapped in a blanket, listening to you jabber. Because JABBERING IS BETWEEN FRIENDS, and I think we could be friends. You would find me provincial and charming, and I would be happy to get up off the floor and look at any manner of spots on the wall. But not until you finished thinking about them, talking about their possibilities, examining the ideas behind the spots.
You end paragraphs with phrases such as this: “–proving I really don’t know what.” And I grin, and my heart beats in time with the dripping of the ink from your pen. And then you say things like this: “And what is knowledge? What are our learned men save the descendants of witches and hermits who crouched in caves and in woods brewing herbs, interrogating shrew-mice and writing down the language of the stars?” And you talk about the tree, the tree that feels that “close dry sensation of being wood” and “the delicious ooze of sap;” and June and winter and then, even after it falls, “life isn’t done with; there are a million patient, watchful lives still for a tree, all over the world, in bedrooms, in ships, on the pavement, living rooms, where men and women sit after tea.”
And then. “Professions for Women,” delivered to the Women’s Service League in 1942. I think I may have never marked up a textbook like I did when I read this today. Blue ink everywhere. Stars. Margin notes. Virginia, you said (in more numerous and more poetic words) that our hobby of writing is acceptable and inoffensive to our society and our men because IT IS CHEAP. It doesn’t cost anybody much of anything. Virginia, can you see me? Do you know me? You are so, so right. Whether this is a horrible travesty or a shrug-worthy fact of our lives, it is a fact that we share, you and I.
I love that you bought a cat with your first royalty check. I mean, in theory. I’m not really into cats as facts or as statements, but as IDEALS, as rebellions against butter and stockings, I am in favor. (But then, I have no shortage of either butter or stockings, because I am not living in England in the forties.)
My first royalty check bought us some leather furniture. Every time I sit in that red leather chair, I remember that I AM A WRITER. Just like every time you pick Persian cat hair out of your tea things, you remember the same.
And you strangled The Angel in the House. You throttled her, and you said what you wanted to say, heedless of propriety, of offense, of possible Gasps. You murdered her so she couldn’t “pluck the heart out of [your] writing.” The Angel told you to flatter, to be sweet, to be tender and sympathetic. “Never,” your Angel told you, “let anybody guess that you have a mind of your own.” Thank you for ignoring (over and over, again and again) the Angel in your House and letting us see the workings of your mind. It was a pleasure to spend the day with you, Virginia. Let’s do it again, and soon.
[If you click on the links, and if you read, and if you have thoughts to think, holler. Because I am taking this lit class all by myself online, and there’s not all that much stimulating back-and-forth conversation about it INSIDE MY HEAD. So, comments welcome, as always. Or email me. Or, you know, send a telepathic message and stuff. Because CONVERSATION.]