Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Mr. Bentley

One of the effects of working on this edition of Mrs. Dalloway has been the discovery of wondrous little details in the text, such as this gem, the appearance of Mr. Bentley, and his thoughts about science and the soul as he watches an airplane fly overhead:
Away and away the aeroplane shot, till it was nothing but a bright spark; an aspiration; a concentration; a symbol (so it seemed to Mr. Bentley, vigorously rolling his strip of turf at Greenwich) of man's soul; of his determination, thought Mr. Bentley, sweeping round the cedar tree, to get outside his body, beyond his house, by means of thought, Einstein, speculation, mathematics, the Mendelian theory--away the aeroplane shot.
The airplane as aspiration is lovely--and it makes me nostalgic for 1925 when a plane could seem so. (Though to most of the central Londoners in the novel, the plane [which is a skywriter, advertising toffee or soap] recalls WWI.)

Mr. Bentley, whose cameo ends with this quotation, is a classic Englishman. He’s obsessed with his lawn. Following in the footsteps of Darwin, he sensibly thinks out how “man” thinks through problems of the soul through science, and, in doing so, he hits upon little bits of poetry (“a bright spark,” “sweeping round the cedar tree”). Lovely.

1 comment:

bhadd said...

Man is sexual, meaning masculine, there I think, and the sweeping around the cedar is surely Woolf?

The Hood Company