The Voyage Out.
With Night and Day, To the Lighthouse, The Waves, and Roger Fry already in print, these two latest additions to the Shakespeare Head Press edition of Virginia Woolf mark a project half-completed. 'The purpose of . . . the Edition', it is stated in the preface to each volume, 'is to present reliable texts, complete with alternate readings and explanatory notes, of all the books [Woolf] herself published or intended to publish, not just her novels' (p. iii). Such an enterprise is both timely and valuable, but on the evidence of the two volumes under review, editorial standards will need to be raised in the forthcoming volumes if the Shakespeare Head edition is to become the standard edition of Woolf.
Textually, these editions of Mrs Dalloway and The Voyage Out are the most immaculate available. The copy-text for Mrs Dalloway is the marked, corrected proofs of the first American edition (1925), while the copy-text for The Voyage Out is the first English edition (1915). Both volumes contain useful appendices citing variants and emendations, and while some Woolf scholars may take issue with the choice of copy-texts, both Morris Beja and the Millers make a strong case for their textual preferences.
But it is in their explanatory notes that the real strengths and weaknesses of these volumes are exposed. As one would hope with editions costing around ten times more than their nearest rivals (the Penguin and Oxford World's Classics editions), the Shakespeare Head Mrs Dalloway and The Voyage Out are more fully annotated than any other editions of the novels currently available. In Mrs Dalloway, for instance, the statue of 'the black' (p. 40) which Peter Walsh encounters on his way through central London is identified as a black member of Nelson's crew depicted on a bronze relief on the pedestal of Nelson's Column, while 'an absurd statue with an inscription somewhere or other' (p. 43) is pinpointed as 'the statue called Matilda, by Joseph Durham' in Regent's Park (p. 153). Likewise, Woolf's hitherto obscure allusion to 'the house with the china cockatoo' (p. 9) is now illuminated, and her reference to 'the Indian and his cross' (p. 20) in Regent's Park is no longer opaque - though as Michael Wentworth has shown in a recent and much fuller note in the Virginia Woolf Miscellany (no. 49, Spring 1997), there are further important connections to be drawn between the sculpted Indian head to which Woolf refers and the theme of imperialism in Mrs Dalloway. It is disappointing, however, that important allusions and phrases such as Mrs Dalloway's transfiguring 'influenza' (p. 6), 'whispering gallery' (p. 16), '"those poor girls in Piccadilly"' (p. 56), 'Elizabeth was "out"' (p. 60), and 'Extension lecturing' (p. 93) remain unglossed. There are, and there will continue to be, many readers of this novel who are stumped by these references.
More damagingly, Beja's annotations are at times unreliable. While the statement that Hampton Court Palace was begun by 'Cardinal Woolsey' (p. 153) is probably a typographical error, Beja's key claim that Woolf sets the novel on a specific day in 1923 is not convincing. 'The date of the events of Mrs Dalloway is 20 June 1923', he asserts; '. . . The results of cricket matches noted by both Septimus and Peter are those they would have seen in a newspaper for 20 June 1923 (e.g., the London Times, p. 7 . . .' (p. 147). Apart from the obvious fact that Septimus and Peter appear to note the state of play ('Surrey was all out', p. 108; 'Surrey was all out once more', p. 121) in the same match (rather than 'results' in different 'matches'), they are clearly reading about the cricket in London's evening newspapers, not in dailies such as The Times. Drawing on a report in The Times for 20 June 1923 headlined 'Surrey Beaten [emphasis added]: A Dramatic Collapse at Sheffield', Beja quotes '"after a tremendously keen struggle, Yorkshire beat Surrey, at Sheffield, yesterday by 25 runs"' (p. 157). However, Surrey were 'all out' against Yorkshire on Monday 18 June 1923 (for 224 runs) and 'all out once more' on Tuesday 19 June (for 158 runs), but not on Wednesday 20 June (when Surrey spent most of the day fielding, not batting, against Somerset, their next opponents, at the Oval). A further reason for questioning Beja's attachment to 20 June is that the weather doesn't fit. On the day of the novel London is in the grip of 'a heat wave' (p. 108), whereas temperatures in south-east England on 20 June 1923, as Beja concedes in a note in which he quotes from The Times for 21 June, were 'still below normal' (p. 108).
That there is contradictory evidence in Mrs Dalloway as to when in June 1923 the action takes place is probably intentional on Woolf's part. On the second page we learn that 'it was the middle of June' (p. 6), but later on Clarissa Dalloway rejoices that although she has 'just broken into her fifty-second year. Months and months of it were still untouched. June, July August!' (p. 29). Surrey had been 'all out' on a number of occasions in June 1923 prior to their game with Yorkshire, but the important point is that what we read is free indirect discourse and that it is Clarissa herself who is uncertain about whether the month is half over or still 'untouched'. In choosing as the mediator of this discrepant information a character whose hold on reality is at times only slightly more secure than Septimus Warren Smith's, Woolf strengthens the affinity between her principal characters and underscores the novel's theme of psychological and emotional arrest; both Septimus and Clarissa are held in suspension by the past.
Another problem concerns Septimus Warren Smith's 'devouring . . . The History of Civilisation' (p. 65). In his note Beja speculates: 'Perhaps Francois Pierre Guillaume Guizot, The History of Civilization: From the Fall of the Roman Empire to the French Revolution. Trans. William Hazlitt . . .' (p. 155). Perhaps. But is it not far more likely that Woolf has in mind Henry Thomas Buckle's two-volume History of Civilisation in England (1857-61)? According to Holleyman and Treacher's Catalogue of Books in the Library of Leonard and Virginia Woolf(1975) there were two copies of Buckle's influential work in the Woolfs' library. One had belonged to Leslie Stephen and one had been Herbert Duckworth's. Buckle's History, like Mrs Dalloway, challenges notions of civilization and social purpose. Furthermore, Buckle, like Septimus, suffered from 'shattered nerves' (to borrow Leslie Stephen's phrase from his DNB article on Buckle) while preparing his second volume for the press, and he died before his project was completed.
In his introduction Beja quotes Woolf's well-known comment abut wishing 'to criticise the social system' (p. xiv) in Mrs Dalloway. In order to throw as much light on this statement as possible, editors of the novel know that they must seek to immerse themselves in the social, political, cultural, and commercial environments of Woolf's London. Thus, for example, Beja points out that Atkinson's (p. 13) and Dent's (p. 41) were then actual shops. But if these businesses warrant short notes why not Rumpelmayer's and Durtnall's, the two firms mentioned on the first page of the novel? Rumpelmayer's, according to the Post Office London Directory for 1923, was a firm of 'refreshment contractors' based at 72-3 St James Street, Westminster, while Durtnall and Co. is described in the same directory as a city firm of 'removal & road transport contractors & furniture warehousemen, railway carriers & general cartage agents'. Not all the businesses mentioned in the novel are listed in the directory - there is no mention of a florist called Mulberry's in Bond Street (p. 13), for instance - but the fact that on her first page WooIf chose to name firms which some of her friends and readers might possibly have hired themselves is of real significance in a novel which will be centrally concerned with the contrasts of work and leisure, wealth and poverty, the vulnerability of the poor and the material security of the rich. One such friend and reader was Mary Hutchinson, an accomplished hostess, who, interestingly, published an article about the pleasures of shopping in Bond Street in the Nation and Athenaeum while Woolf was writing Mrs Dalloway.
The notes to The Voyage Out also contain the odd careless slip - for example, 'The North Downs and South Downs . . . enclose the large area of southwest England . . . known as the Weald' (p. 371) - and there are some strange omissions. For instance, when Clarissa Dalloway asks Helen Ambrose if she knows 'Henry Philips, the painter' (p. 41), the editors record in their note that 'No contemporary painter of this name can be traced' (p. 360). True. But when we read two lines further on that 'To look at, one might think [Philips] was a successful stockbroker, and not one of the greatest painters of the age', a number of possible prototypes spring to mind, not least Wilson Steer, who was famous for his 'formal clothes - dark suit, stand-up collar, and black bow-tie - which never varied' (DNB). Similarly, in the second volume of his life of Gladstone, H. C. G. Matthew writes that, as he neared his death, 'a mythic Gladstone gained a firm place in the public mind, lasting well into the twentieth century. Children learned . . . to emulate the great statesman by chewing each mouthful 32 times' (Gladstone: 1875-1898, 304). Such emulation, surely, is what Rachel Vinrace has in mind when, silently, she addresses Pepper thus: 'And now you've chewed something thirty-seven times, I suppose?' (p. 21). 'Pepper may practise the nutritional system pioneered by Horace Fletcher (1849-1919), American nutritionist and sociologist . . . [which] stressed prolonged mastication', as the Millers surmise in a note (p. 356), but it is much more likely, in view of the novel's Stracheyan vein of anti-Victorianism, that Rachel is thinking of Gladstone's chewing habits. Like Beja's focus on 20 June 1923, Miller and Miller seek to tie down the meaning of The Voyage Out too tightly when insisting in their introduction that although 'Woolf would later depart from some of the methods of The Voyage Out, she remained preoccupied with its subject - the implications of death' (p. xvi). This is undoubtedly one of the novel's subjects, but, like all Woolf's fiction, her first novel is richly polysemous. It breeds meanings rather than excludes them.
Two last quibbles. The tooling on The Voyage Out is gold, whereas the tooling on the other volumes in the edition, including Mrs Dalloway, is silver. Why? Similarly, the editor of Mrs Dalloway uses a 'copy-text' (p. xxvii), while the editors of The Voyage Out make use of a 'copy text' (p. xxiv). Such variations as these, while relatively trivial, are not in keeping with a project which aspires, one assumes, to become the standard edition of Woolf's works.
DAVID BRADSHAW Worcester College Oxford
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|Publication:||The Review of English Studies|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Nov 1, 1998|
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