Excerpts from A Room of One's Own
Fiction here is likely to contain more truth than fact.
This was the turf; there was the path. Only the Fellow and Scholars are allowed here; the gravel is the place for me.
And thus by degrees was lit, halfway down the spine, which is the seat of the soul, not that hard little electric light which we call brilliance, as it pops in and out upon our lips, but the more profound, subtle and subterranean glow, which is the rich yellow flame of rational intercourse. No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself.
Fiction must stick to facts, and the truer the facts the better the fiction—so we are told.
The human frame being what it is, heart, body and brain all mixed together, and not contained in separate compartments as they will be no doubt in another million years, a good dinner is of great importance to good talk. One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.
We were able to draw up to the fire and repair some of the damages of the day's living.
I thought how unpleasant it is to be locked out; and I thought how it is worse perhaps to be locked in.
One must strain off what was personal and accidental in all these impressions and so reach the pure fluid, the essential oil of truth.
Truth had run through my fingers. Every drop had escaped.
It is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top.
Life for both sexes—and I looked at them, shouldering their way along the pavement—is arduous, difficult, a perpetual struggle. It calls for gigantic courage and strength. More than anything, perhaps, creatures of illusion as we are, it calls for confidence in oneself. Without self-confidence we are babes in the cradle (pp. 34-35).
Women have served all these centuries as looking-glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size.
They start the day confident, braced, believing themselves desired at Miss Smith's tea party; they say to themselves as they go into the room, I am the superior of half the people here, and it is thus that they speak with that self-confidence, that self-assurance, which have had such profound consequences in public life and lead to such curious notes in the margin of the private mind.
I need not hate any man; he cannot hurt me. I need not flatter any man; he has nothing to give me.
Fiction is like a spider's web, attached ever so lightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners.
The history of men's opposition to women's emancipation is more interesting perhaps than the story of that emancipation itself.
Literature is strewn with the wreckage of men who have minded beyond reason the opinions of others.
Masterpieces are not single and solitary births; they are the outcome of many years of thinking in common, of thinking by the body of the people, so that the experience of the mass is behind a single voice.
Her books will be deformed and twisted. She will write in a rage where she should write calmly. She will write foolishly where she should write wisely. She will write of herself where she should write of her characters. She is at war with her lot. How could she help but die young, cramped and thwarted?
What one means by integrity, in the case of the novelist, is the conviction that he gives one that this is the truth.
Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.
Even so it remains obvious, even in the writing of Proust, that a man is terribly hampered and partial in his knowledge of women, as a woman in her knowledge of men.
It would be a thousand pities if women wrote like men, or lived like men, or looked like men, for if two sexes are quite inadequate, considering the vastness and variety of the world, how should we manage with one only? Ought not education to bring out and fortify the differences rather than the similarities?
There is a spot the size of a shilling at the back of the head which one can never see for oneself.
If you stop to curse you are lost, I said to her; equally if you stop to laugh. Hesitate or fumble and you are done for. Think only of the jump, I implored her, as if I had put this whole of my money on her back; and she went over it like a bird.
There may be some state of mind in which one could continue without effort because nothing is required to be held back.
Perhaps a mind that is purely masculine cannot create, any more than a mind that is purely feminine.
It was delightful to read a man's writing again. It was so direct, so straightforward after the writing of women. It indicated such freedom of mind, such liberty of person, such confidence in himself.
The whole of the mind must lie open if we are to get the sense that the writer is communicating his experience with perfect fullness. There must be freedom and there must be peace. Not a wheel must grate, not a light glimmer. The curtains must be drawn.
I do not believe that gifts, whether of mind or character, can be weighed like sugar and butter.
Delightful as the pastime of measuring may be, it is the most futile of all occupations, and to submit to the decrees of the measurers the most servile of attitudes. So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say. But to sacrifice a hair of the head of your vision, a shade of its colour, in deference to some Headmaster with a silver pot in his hand or to some professor with a measuring-rod up his sleeve, is the most abject treachery, and the sacrifice of wealth and chastity which used to be said to be the greatest of human disasters, a mere flea-bite in comparison.
I hope that you will possess yourselves of money enough to travel and to idle, to contemplate the future or the past of the world, to dream over books and loiter at street corners and let the line of thought dip deep into the stream.