Sunday, February 17, 2013

"Now that the fields are dank, and ways are mire"

It is a good day to post a few instances of "the squelch complete" -- these are from Frank Kermode's grumpy review of some books about Woolf --
1. His attention to detail is exemplified by the way in which, as he transcribes, he puts in a lot of sic’s, some after apparently innocent words like ‘omelette’; more puzzlingly, he awards one to ‘Bosphorus’, himself spelling it ‘Bosporus’, though when the versatile Miss Stephen spells it that way a few pages on, she gets another sic
2. It is a relief to learn that everything Woolf wrote seems now to be in print, and that we shall probably have no more volumes of this sort. Testimony that we have reached the end of the line is here provided in an Appendix setting forth exercises performed by the youthful Virginia, when trying to improve her hand-writing: 
As for the book – still 
the glory grows and we
[upside down]
The church is within two yards of our gate
The church is within two
The church
The church is within two yards of our gate, –
I am not sure that
Passing away saith the Lord
This was not what she, etc. 
If this had been found among the juvenilia of T.S. Eliot one might have thought it really something, but its value in the present context seems dubious. 
3. Vanessa’s great love, Duncan Grant, didn’t really like women, which made her unhappy, though about this and other disappointments she was usually pretty stoical, perhaps even, as Jane Dunn calls her, ‘lapidary’ – she uses this strange epithet twice, once of Vanessa, once of Virginia, though I suspect from the context that in the second case Vanessa is again meant. It is impossible to apply the term to Virginia: in fact, it is difficult to attach it to anyone who is not a jeweller or possibly the Commendatore in Don Giovanni. But such small snags in the prose are easily lost in the gush.
(I missed the storm last week -- I was away in California giving a talk. The excellent snowman that someone had previously erected on the law school quad outside my window has been buried in gray-brown sludge.)

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