A Room of One`s Own:
I told you in the course of this paper that Shakespeare had a sister; but do not look for her in Sir Sidney Lee`s life of the poet. She died young–alas, she never wrote a word. She lies buried where the omnibuses now stop opposite the Elephant and Castle. Now my belief is that this poet who never wrote a word and was buried at the cross-roads still lives. She lives in you and me, and in many other women who are not here to-night, for they are washing up the dishes and putting the children to bed. But she lives; for great poets do not die; they are continuing presences; they need only the opportunity to walk among us in the flesh. This opportunity, as I think, it is now coming within your power to give her. For my belief is that if we live another century or so–I am talking of the common life which is the real life and not of the little separate lives which we live as individuals–and have five hundred a year each of us and have rooms of our own; if we have the habit of freedom and the courage to write exactly what we think; if we escape a little from the common sitting-room and see human beings not always in their relation to each other but in relation to reality; and the sky too, and the trees or whatever it may be in themselves; if we look past Milton`s bogey, for no human being should shut out the view; if we face the fact; for it is a fact, that there is no arm to cling to, but that we go alone and that our relation is to the world of reality and not only to the world of men and women, then the opportunity will come and the dead poet who was Shakespeare`s sister will put on the body which she has so often laid down. Drawing her life from the lives of the unknown who were her forerunners, as her brother did before her, she will be born. As for her coming without that preparation, without that effort on our part, without that determination that when she is born again she shall find it possible to live and write her poetry, that we cannot expect, for that would be impossible. But I maintain she would come if we worked for her, and that so to work, even in poverty and obscurity, is worth while.
Oh my, what a genius with words Virginia Woolf was; they stream direct from her mind onto the page in an irresistible conscious tidal flow of poetry; for it is pure, unadulterated poetry of the highest order. Poetry is not in shape, form or meter, but direct from the soul; a field of sun dappled sun flowers or blood red poppies can be a visual poetic masterpiece because it strikes straight to the heart; it is all about the emotion of the moment. A Room of One`s Own is an extraordinarily beautiful and poetic book of the free ranging thoughts of a towering intellect concerned with freedom of expression for women and their rightful place at the top table with men.
“Intellectual freedom depends on material things,” writes Virginia. “Poetry depends upon intellectual freedom. And women have always been poor, not for 200 years merely, but from the beginning of time. Women have had less intellectual freedom than the sons of Athenian slaves. Women, then, have not had a dog`s chance of writing poetry.”
One of the hard fought freedoms for a woman is to write what one thinks, without recourse to the opinion of others, feel fear, or find favour; to simply think, then put thought to paper; throughout time, this has been denied to women–and still is in many parts of the modern world because of perverted religious and cultural morality. Virginia said, that for a woman to write fiction she “must have money and a room of her own.” Between the right to vote and the £500 a dead aunt bequeathed her, the money simply felt more important. “No force in the world can take from me my five hundred pounds. Food, house, and clothing are mine forever. Therefore not merely do labour and effort cease, but also hatred and bitterness. I need not hate any man; he cannot hurt me. I need not flatter any man; he has nothing to give me.”
While she is uncompromising in her attitude that women must stand beside men as equals, she can, and does veer off at tangents at the slightest excuse, and this is the joy of Virginia; her mind is bubbling with thoughts; it`s an intellectual cauldron permanently on full throttle as it spits out ideas like a scatter gun on steroids. Because of her life long battle with depression, she was happiest when occupied with a writing project; when over, and at a loose end, the black dog would seize it`s chance and slink back to claim it`s place at her feet. I make no bones about the fact that she is my goddess, and because of how she valiantly fought against her demons as a fellow sufferer; she is my inspiration in life.
“There is no gate, no bolt, that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.”