10-second review: A woman needs access to life, some money to live on and a room of her own in which to write and she will write great fiction.
“…reminds her how unnatural it is to think of the sexes as separate, how natural to think of them as cooperating with one another. And it leads her to speculate that, just as there are two sexes in the natural world, there must be two sexes in the mind, and that it is their union that is responsible for creation.” Mary Gordon. Foreword. p. xi. ………. xii “Thus, unless men and women can be androgynous in mind, literature itself will be permanently flawed.” Mary Gordon. Foreword. p. xii. ………. “In fact, one goes back to Shakespeare’s mind as the type of the androgynous, of the man-womanly mind….” p. 96. ………. “Some collaboration has to take place in the mind between the woman and the man before the act of creation can be accomplished. Some marriage of opposites has to be consummated.” p. 104.
“What conditions are necessary for the creation of works of art?” p. 25. ………. Charlotte Bronte in Jane Eyre: Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel: they need exercise for their faculties and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do….” p. 69. ………. “…when a subject is highly controversial—and any question about sex is that—one cannot hope to tell the truth. One can only show how one came to hold whatever opinion one does hold.” p. 4.
“…to write a work of genius is almost always a feat of prodigious difficulty. Everything is against the likelihood that it will come from the writer’s mind whole and entire. Generally, material circumstances are against it. Dogs will bark; people will interrupt; money must be made; health will break down. Further, accentuating all these difficulties and making them harder to bear is the world’s notorious indifference. It does not ask people to write poems and novels and histories; it does not need them…. It does not pay for what it does not want.” p. 51.
Samuel Butler: “Wise men never say what they think of women.” p. 29. ………. “If one shuts one’s eyed and thinks of the novel as a whole, it would seem to be a creation owning a certain looking-glass likeness to life, though of course with simplifications and distortions innumerable.” p. 71. ………. “The reason perhaps why we know so little of Shakespeare—compared with Donne or Ben Jonson or Milton—is that his grudges and spites and antipathies are hidden from us. We are not held up by some ‘revelation’ which reminds of the writer. All desire to protest, to preach, to proclaim an injury, to pay off a score, to make the world the witness of some hardship or grievance was fired out of him and consumed. Therefore his poetry flows from him free and unimpeded.” p. 56. ………. If Shakespeare had had a sister: “Meanwhile his [Shakespeare’s imagined…] extraordinarily gifted sister, let us suppose, remained at home. She was as adventurous, as imaginative, as agog to see the world as he was. But she was not sent to school. She had no chance of learning grammar and logic, let alone of reading Horace and Virgil. She picked up a book now and then, one of her brother’s perhaps, and read a few pages. But then her parents came in and told her to mend the stockings or mind the stew and not moon about with books and papers.” p. 47.
Mr. Greg: “…the essentials of a woman’s being…are that they are supported by and they minister to men.” p. 54. ………. “…women have burnt like beacons in all the works of all the poets from the beginning of time—Clytemnestra, Antigone, Cleopatra, Lady Macbeth, Phedre, Cressida, Rosalind, Desdemona, the Duchess of Malfi, among the dramatists; then among the prose writers: Millamant, Clarissa, Becky Sharp, Anna Karenina, Emma Bovary, Madame deGuermantes…. But this is woman in fiction. In fact, as Professor Trevelyan points out, she was locked up, beaten and flung abut the room.” p. 54. ………. “Some of the most inspired words, some of the most profound thoughts in literature fall from her lips; in real life she could hardly read, could scarcely spell, and was the property of her husband.” p. 44.
“…a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” p. 4.
Comment: It all makes so much sense to me—women’s access to life is now a part of 20th- and 21st-century life. And we have Jane Austen to illustrate the cloistered 18th-century life of women to contrast with the present. But she, like Shakespeare, to whom Woolf compares her, was not angry, bitter or resentful and did not express those feelings, as did the Brontës, in her works. I’m still not very clear, though, about what is meant by the “androgynous mind.” RayS.