by Virginia Woolf
Orlando Life, Creation, and Existence Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
'Bonthrop,' she would say, 'I'm off,' and when she called him by his second name, 'Bonthrop', it should signify to the reader that she was in a solitary mood, felt them both as specks on a desert, was desirous only of meeting death by herself, for people die daily, die at dinner tables, or like this, out of doors in the autumn woods; and with the bonfires blazing and Lady Palmerston or Lady Derby asking her out every night to dinner, the desire for death would overcome her, and so saying 'Bonthrop', she said in effect, 'I'm dead', and pushed her way as a spirit might through the spectre-pale beech trees, and so oared herself deep into solitude. (5.59)
This passage shows one of Orlando’s many selves. This particular self demonstrates the connections between nature, solitude, and death that are recurring motifs throughout the novel.
Life, it has been agreed by everyone whose opinion is worth consulting, is the only fit subject for novelist or biographer; life, the same authorities have decided, has nothing whatever to do with sitting still in a chair and thinking. Thought and life are as the poles asunder. Therefore--since sitting in a chair and thinking is precisely what Orlando is doing now--there is nothing for it but to recite the calendar, tell one's beads, blow one's nose, stir the fire, look out of the window, until she has done. (6.13)
The fake biographer is actually mocking those authorities that look down on lives of thought. We can tell because by the end of Orlando, we’ve heard quite a lot of what Orlando is thinking.
But Orlando was a woman--Lord Palmerston had just proved it. And when we are writing the life of a woman, we may, it is agreed, waive our demand for action, and substitute love instead. Love, the poet has said, is woman's whole existence. (6.14)
The fake biographer cites poets as claiming that love is a woman’s whole existence. For those poets, our very existence is gendered. Men exist for action and women exist for love.