Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Shakespeare's sister

Given that today might -- or might not -- be Shakespeare's birthday, it seems as good a day as any to remember Virginia Woolf's summoning up of his unknown sister in "A Room of One's Own". I love this passage -- yet another of Woolf's wonderfully imaginative reinventions -- which never fails to inspire me, however tired or despondent or disconsolate I might be.

"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 in me, and in many other women who are not here tonight, 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."

6 comments:

Kirsty said...

*sigh* I love A Room of One's Own so much, and that is a wonderful passage.

Justine Picardie said...

It's brilliant, isn't it? I love the way it joins us all together in a community -- the living and the dead, readers and writers. And the reference to the Elephant and Castle is a stroke of genius.

BrontëBlog Adm. said...

A Room of One's Own was my first Virginia Woolf and I loved it so much that to this day I still unconsciously associate September with it (it was the month I read it). It's amazing, although I don't think she was completely fair to Charlotte Brontë.

Cristina.

Justine Picardie said...

She was very disapproving of Charlotte Bronte -- but I think she picked up on something important, when she identified the anger within Jane Eyre, that emerges between the lines of the narrative, and takes hold if it in places...

Table Talk said...

'A Room of One's Own' has to be my favourite Woolf. Every time I read it I want to stand up and shout "yes!" The sentiments just never grow stale or irrelevant.

Justine Picardie said...

Couldn't agree more. Hurrah for VW!