by Virginia Woolf
Orlando Memory and the Past Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
Orlando's fathers had ridden in fields of asphodel, and stony fields, and fields watered by strange rivers, and they had struck many heads of many colours off many shoulders, and brought them back to hang from the rafters. So too would Orlando, he vowed. But since he was sixteen only, and too young to ride with them in Africa or France, he would steal away from his mother and the peacocks in the garden and go to his attic room and there lunge and plunge and slice the air with his blade. […]His fathers had been noble since they had been at all. They came out of the northern mists wearing coronets on their heads. (1.2)
When we first meet Orlando, his past charts out the course for his future.
She kept him with her. At the height of her triumph when the guns were booming at the Tower and the air was thick enough with gunpowder to make one sneeze and the huzzas of the people rang beneath the windows, she pulled him down among the cushions where her women had laid her (she was so worn and old) and made him bury his face in that astonishing composition--she had not changed her dress for a month--which smelt for all the world, he thought, recalling his boyish memory, like some old cabinet at home where his mother's furs were stored. He rose, half suffocated from the embrace. 'This', she breathed, 'is my victory!'--even as a rocket roared up and dyed her cheeks scarlet. (1.14)
Notice that the biographer is still very involved in chronicling action. Orlando’s memory is jogged by his present situation, but it’s discussed in a very different style here than later in the novel. Later in the novel, we might be three pages into a discussion of the old cabinet at home before we get back to the action on the bed.
Memory is the seamstress, and a capricious one at that. Memory runs her needle in and out, up and down, hither and thither. We know not what comes next, or what follows after. Thus, the most ordinary movement in the world, such as sitting down at a table and pulling the inkstand towards one, may agitate a thousand odd, disconnected fragments, now bright, now dim, hanging and bobbing and dipping and flaunting, like the underlinen of a family of fourteen on a line in a gale of wind. (2.12)
The fake biographer is explaining what’s going on in Orlando’s head – as Orlando commits to an ordinary gesture, it jogs his mind and floods it with various memories. The passage is also remarkable for its personification of Memory.