Virginia Woolf on ageing - 'I am I, and must follow that furrow'

"I rasp.  I'm tart." Virginia in 1939 [Giselle Freund]
I disagree with Virginia Woolf so often, feel patronised by her sometimes, but also inspired by her. Mostly I feel empathy for the vulnerable woman, brought up on the fringes of the aristocracy, struggling to escape her origins and write ground breaking prose against the background of a class-ridden society that was also misogynistic to the core. A society where intelligent people still believed that women were scientifically inferior and that poverty and misfortune were somehow self-inflicted. She's a writer I return to often, particularly her diaries - opinionated, snobbish, selfish, barbed, but also mesmerising - such beautiful prose, such wonderful insights.  Today I read this, written in 1940, and it found an echo in me - feeling my age, the sense of racing time to some invisible Finish line just over the horizon.

"I detest the hardness of old age - I feel it.  I rasp.  I'm tart.

   The fool less prompt to meet the morning dew,
   The heart less bounding at emotion new,
   And hope, once crush'd, less quick to spring again.

I actually opened Matthew Arnold and copied these lines.  While doing so, the idea came to me that why I dislike, and like, so many things idiosyncratically now, is because of my growing detachment from the hierarchy, the patriarchy . . . I walk over the marsh saying 'I am I' and must follow that furrow, not copy another.

That is the only justification for my writing, living."

Virginia Woolf  'A Writer's Diary', Sunday 29th December, 1940

There's a wonderful collection of excerpts from Virginia Woolf's essays, 'Essays on the Self', published by Notting Hill Editions.  You can discover it at 


  1. Thanks for posting this today. I have a similar reaction to Woolf. This entry really touched me deeply. I hope you are doing well in your own furrow-following! And I hope one day we meet in person!

    1. Hi Kathy - lovely to hear from you! I hope to meet you one day too - let me know if you're ever in England.


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