By S. Rosenbaum
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Extra resources for Aspects of Bloomsbury: Studies in Modern English Literary and Intellectual History
When the candles are lit at the party, the characters become aware of the contrast of 'order and dry land' inside, and 'outside, a reflection in which things wavered and vanished, waterily'. They were all 'conscious of making a party together in a hollow, on an island; had their common cause against that fluidity out there' (pp. 151-2). Later in the party Mrs Ramsay feels 'there is a coherence in things, a stability; something, she meant, is immune from change, and shines out... in the face of the flowing, the fleeting, the spectral..
Yeats has a footnote at this point dting Moore's 'The Refutation of Idealism' as a source of this philosophy. Without going into Yeats's extraordinary reading of Moore and Russell or being put off by Yeats's finding realism under the beds of Joyce, Pound, Proust and Virginia Woolf (he may have been only responding to the fact that none of them was a romantic idealist or mechanical empiricist), we can recognise that Yeats was right about the philosophical presuppositions of The Waves. vn In her last two novels Virginia Woolf is less preoccupied with consdousness and perception than in her four preceding ones.
In the midst of chaos there was shape; this eternal passing and flowing... was struck into stability. Life stand still here, Mrs. Ramsay said. 'Mrs. Ramsay! Mrs. ' she repeated. She owed this revelation to her (pp. 249-50). In addition to the connections between art and ethics that it suggests, this revelation is very significant in To the Lighthouse not so much because of its novelty - something quite like it had been said in Night and Day and Mrs. Dalloway - as because of its incompleteness. Moments of illumination are no longer enough.
Aspects of Bloomsbury: Studies in Modern English Literary and Intellectual History by S. Rosenbaum