To love makes one solitary, she thought. She could tell nobody, not even Septimus now, and looking back, she saw him sitting in his shabby overcoat alone, on the seat, hunched up, staring. And it was cowardly for a man to say he would kill himself, but Septimus had fought; he was brave; he was not Septimus now (Woolf 33).
Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc. 1925. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015013962207&view=1up&seq=1&skin=2021
Suffering from the aftermath of the Great War, Septimus has sought refuge from the horrors he has dealt with by retreating into his own mind. Despite coming back a victor, he has been reduced to nothing more than a shell of the man he once was. How does Woolf use Septimus’ POV to relate how the other characters interact with everyday happenings versus how he sees them? Why the criticism and hopelessness? How does his character add onto the experience of others?
“He uttered a low moan as he breathed the chill of this dark void, so desperately it seemed to represent the completion of a sinister process. The tears filled his mild eyes; something precious had passed away.”
James, Henry. “The Middle Years”. Henry James: Complete Stories: 1829-1898, ed. John Hollander and David Bromwich, The Library of America, 1996, 337
I find the sense of tragic acceptance of this passage particularly interesting because of the way Dencombe’s grieving actions correlate with the closure he is so desperately seeking and the way that the process is described by the narrator as “sinister.” The syntax of the passage reveals his emotions by initially stating how he “uttered a low moan,” almost a sorrowful sigh, and that this represents the acceptance of this loss, more so how desperate he is to have closure. It then escalates to tears when further realization reaches him. Observing Dencombe, we too, experience this deep whirlpool and rush of emotions and in a sense, grieve with him. We are able to also observe this inner battle he is experiencing. This passage is multifaceted in a sense that emotions such as desperation and acceptance are co-existing but are almost at battle with one another.
It was not true, what he had tried for renunciation’s sake to believe, that all the combinations were exhausted. They were not, they were not—they were infinite: the exhaustion was in the miserable artist.
Henry James, “The Middle Years.” Henry James: Complete Stories 1892-1898, ed. John Hollander and David Bromwich (New York: The Library of America, 1996), 342.
Dencombe’s mind wandered from the idle chatter he was having with Doctor Hugh to a more introspective quaint thought on the slight absurdity of the interaction. To take the words of a doctor seriously on health is subverted by the fact that the doctor is taking Dencombe’s own written words seriously. How is it odd for such a combination to exist? Does Dencombe slightly sound contrarian? What does he mean by :the exhaustion was in the miserable artist” in relation to the “infinite combinations” he previously spoke of?
“He thought of the fairy-tales of science and charmed himself into forgetting that he looked for a magic that was not of this world.”
Henry James, “The Middle Years.” Henry James: Complete Stories 1892-1898, ed. John Hollander and David Bromwich (New York: The Library of America, 1996), 348-349.
Dencombe expresses a strong desire for a cure of the illness that has affected him; for Doctor Hugh to find one with the new knowledge of the younger generation. Dencombe observes that such a cure would be a miracle. Is this him starting to come to terms with the fact that the life he has lived has been his one, and only, chance?
“That identity was ineffaceable now, and all the more that he was disappointed, disgusted. He had been rash, been stupid, had gone out too soon, stayed out too long.”
Henry James, “The Middle Years.” Henry James: Complete Stories 1892-1898, ed. John Hollander and David Bromwich (New York: The Library of America, 1996), pg 345
Why is the “identity” something that he’s so worried about being memorized/not forgotten? What caused this to happen? Why is it a problem that he stayed out too long?
“The art had come, but it had come after everything else. At such a rate a first existence was too short–long enough only to collect material; so that to fructify, to use the material, one must have a second age, an extension.”
James, Henry. “The Middle Years.” Henry James: Complete Stories 1892-1898, ed. John Hollander and David Bromwich, The Library of America, 1996, p. 338.
Unclear what “everything else” is referring to. What has happened to delay Dencombe’s artistic success? Why does he not observe this to be a success, as it is clear that even after being setback he was still able to create art in the first place? Why does only one successful artwork not make him a successful artist?
The baffled celebrity wondered then who in the world would guess it: he was amused once more at the fine, full way with which an intention could be missed.
Henry James, “The Middle Years.” Henry James: Complete Stories 1892-1898, ed. John Hollander and David Bromwich (New York: The Library of America, 1996), 349.
“Infinite” observation makes it difficult to convey meaning. Observation and amusement by the “celebrity” at the process of observation/analysis itself.