Memorable Lines: Virginia Woolf

How beautiful a London street is then, with its islands of light, and its long groves of darkness, and on one side of it perhaps some tree-sprinkled, grass-grown space where night is folding herself to sleep naturally, and, as one passes the iron railing, one hears those little cracklings and stirrings of leaf and twig which seem to suppose the silence of fields all round them, an owl hooting, and far away the rattle of a train in the valley. But this is London, we are reminded; high among the bare trees are hung oblong frames of reddish yellow light—windows; there are points of brilliance burning steadily like low stars—lamps; this empty ground, which holds the country in it and its peace, is only a London square, set about by offices and houses where at this hour fierce lights burn over maps, over documents, over desks where clerks sit turning with wetted forefinger the files of endless correspondences; or more suffusedly the firelight wavers and the lamplight falls upon the privacy of some drawing-room, its easy chairs, its papers, its china, its inlaid table, and the figure of a woman, accurately measuring out the precise number of spoons of tea which—She looks at the door as if she heard a ring downstairs and somebody asking, is she in?

—from “Street Haunting”

Comments (1)

  1. theresa k May 25, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    Beautiful passage. I remember living in Wimbledon many years ago and having that sense of the city — little glimpses of life going on in golden windows while I walked towards the Common after my shift at the rehabilitation centre for people released from mental institutions finished around midnight. I remember a very late dinner party, people at the table with wine glasses and the leavings of the meal strewn around them. Thanks for such a rich reminder.

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