Is it not the task of the novelist to convey this varying, this unknown and uncircumscribed spirit, whatever aberration or complexity it may display, with as little mixture of the alien and external as possible? She writes of how literature has changed, with much firmness: And now I will hazard a second assertion, which is more disputable perhaps, to the effect that on or about December 1910, human character changed. In life one can see the change, if I may use a homely illustration, in the character of one’s cook.
The Victorian cook lived like a leviathan in the lower depths, formidable, silent, obscure, inscrutable; the Georgian cook is a creature of sunshine and fresh air; in and out of the drawing room, now to borrow the It of course bothers me that she is clearly writing for those who have cooks, not those who are cooks (coming from a family of at least one cook, I’m glad to see life was finally looking up for them), but I have more thoughts on the class issues in another post.
(33, ‘Mr Bennett and Mrs Brown’) she includes in this change the plays of George Bernard Shaw.
Could it be that they have recognised their own privilege, the limitations of their own experiences and perspectives?
It is the character of an age we experience through them, and through contemporary fiction and poetry. She has some quite wonderful digs at Joyce: seems to me the conscious and calculated indecency of a desperate man who feels that in order to breathe he must break the windows. And those nineteenth-century novels, remarkable as they were, were profoundly influenced by the fact that the women who wrote them were excluded by their sex from certain kinds of experience (134, ‘Women and Fiction’).
At moments, when the window is broken, he is magnificent. And, after all, how dull indecency is, when it is not the overflowing of a superabundant energy or savagery, but the determined and public-spririted act of a man who needs fresh air! This, her vision for the future: So, if we may prophecy, women in time to come will write fewer novels, but better novels; and not novels only, but poetry and cirticism and history.
Examine for a moment an ordinary mind on an ordinary day.
The mind receives a myriad impressions–trivial, fantastic, evanescent, or engraved with the sharpness of steel.
Back to her descriptions on this change in 1910 (and surely this must be written before the war, my only fault with this book is that there is no short introduction for each essay giving the time and place published nor is that in the contents — perhaps it is buried in the extensive timeline of Woolf’s life).
She writes that Samuel Butler is characteristic of it (and oh the tone of this comment!