I found a list of things Virginia Woolf wrote this morning that I must have collected decades ago. It’s thirty years since I devoured every word she wrote, but for no reason at all, she’s been on my mind over the past few weeks.

Even before I read one of her books I loved her because she was beautiful and famous for being mad. I’ve always had a penchant for mad people. Or at least, for people who don’t join herds or clubs or, I suppose, sanghas—another of those English foibles I’ve already owned up to.

The kind of Englishness I recognize doesn’t seem to live anywhere but in my imagination these days. Perhaps it’s only ever existed there? But weren’t the English famous, at one point, for producing brilliant eccentrics and original thinkers? Now those squashed onto that tiny island seem merely to worship at the shrine of global banalities. At least, that’s how the English look from an ex-pat’s perspective. I sincerely hope I’m wrong.

Anyway, back to my list of quotations from books by Virginia Woolf. Sadly, I didn’t note down the books they came from, so cock-sure was I of my ability to recall at will virtually every syllable I read (those were the days…). Still, why not try this trio on for size and see if they fit.

“The older one grows, the more one likes indecency.”

“Rigid, the skeleton of habit alone upholds the human frame.”

“Really I don’t like human nature unless all candied over with art.”

2 thoughts on “Englishness

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