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This article is taken from PN Review 52, Volume 13 Number 2, November - December 1986.

Virginia Woolf William Empson

Shakespeare was like Nature; we have been saying it for three centuries. There were more echoes in his work than he knew; he wrote from his Preconsciousness; any work in hand formed a world he was living in, so that he could find his way about in it as if by habit; any of his stones may have been made bread, and repay turning. Novelists have seldom been called Nature in this sense; at any rate they have not been commented on in such detail; and by way of showing that the same claim might be made for Mrs Woolf I shall try to pick up, turn in my hand for the moment, two quite small stones from the road to the lighthouse, till they catch the light, and are seen to be, if not bread, at least jewels.

Mrs Ramsey feels tired at the beginning of her dinner party.

. . . the whole of the effort of merging and flowing and creating rested on her. Again she felt, as a fact without hostility, the sterility of men, for if she did not do it nobody would do it; and so, giving herself the little shake that one gives a watch that has stopped, the old familiar pulse began beating, as the watch begins ticking - one, two, three, one, two, three. And so on and so on, she repeated, listening to it, sheltering and fostering the still feeble pulse as one ...

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