Wednesday, February 16, 2005

February 16, 1930

Sunday 16 February [1930]
To lie on the sofa for a week. I am sitting up today, in the usual state of unequal animation. Below normal, with spasmodic desire to write, then to doze. … I doubt that I can write to any purpose. A cloud swims in my head. One is too conscious of the body & jolted out of the rut of life to get back to fiction. … I believe these illnesses are in my case—how shall I express it?—partly mystical. … Two nights ago, Vita was here; & …. Well, as I was saying, between these long pauses (for I am swimmy in the head, & write rather to stabilise myself than to make a correct statement), I felt the spring beginning, & Vita’s life so full & flush; & all the doors opening; & this is I believe the moth shaking its wings in me. I then begin to make up my story whatever it is; ideas rush in me; often though this is before I can control my mind or pen. It is no use trying to write at this stage. And I doubt if I can fill this white monster. I would like to lie down & sleep, but feel ashamed. Leonard brushed off his influenza in one day & went about his business feeling ill. … But as I was saying my mind works in idleness. To do nothing is often my most profitable way.

This, then, is the uncanny way that the Pepys’ Diary blog works. Reading this entry from Woolf’s diary seventy-five years ago today, resonances jump out that would not were I to read this in July (or even if today weren’t also, unseasonably warm, occasionally sunny). It’s tempting to concur, to conclude that February 16th is not a writing day, but one in which to lie back and let the soul compose itself.

I have been thinking about this diary entry lately. When I read it two weeks ago, I startled myself with a little flash of anger at the opening sentences: I thought with some indignation “I don’t have time to keep such careful track of a moment of convalescence!” True enough, but the weather report fragment (“Below normal, with spasmodic desire to write, then to doze”) is wonderful—a buried metaphor of the self as its own complex climate. I love the contrast between the teeming mind and the sense that she could never fill the “white monster,” the page before her. And then, too, I’m struck by the paradox of idleness here—a very Victorian one—idleness is justified because it is ultimately, the way of most profit.

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