Tuesday, March 15, 2005

'The Letters of Lytton Strachey' by Paul Levy

Here's an excerpt from Lytton Strachey's letters, a new version recently published. It sheds light on several aspects of Woolf's relationship to both of these men--and is worth thinking about in terms of women and power and genius and in the final analysis, management... Clearly Virginia Woolf was luckier than Dora Carrington.

To Leonard Woolf, February 19, 1909

"The day before yesterday I proposed to Virginia. As I did it, I saw that it would be death if she accepted me, and I managed, of course, to get out of it before the end of the conversation. The worst of it was that as the conversations went on, it became more and more obvious that the whole thing was impossible. The lack of understanding was so terrific! And how can a virgin be expected to understand? You see she is her name. If I were either greater or less I could have done it and I could either have dominated and soared and at last made her completely mine, or I could have been contented to go without everything that makes life important. VoilĂ ! It was, as you may imagine, an amazing conversation. Her sense was absolute, and at times her supremacy was so great that I quavered.

I think there's no doubt whatever that you ought to marry her. You would be great enough, and you'd have too the immense advantage of physical desire. I was in terror lest she should kiss me. If you came and proposed she'd accept. She really really would. "

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