Montana Wolf

Monday, July 7, 2014

Destroying the Angel in the House

I was searching old computer files for a copy of a novel I wrote in the 1990's on the Ludlow Massacre. Old? Downright floppy disk-ancient! I haven't found that manuscript, but I did find this letter Virginia Woolf wrote in 1931, as she prepared to address a group of women who sought to enter professions barred to them. Her words are as powerful then as now. Perhaps more so, for Woolf's "angel in the house" still exists. In our heads, in the House, the Senate and the Supreme Court. There is no hierarchy of freedoms.  Christina

Her words:
While I was writing this review I discovered that if I were going to review
books I should need to do battle with a certain phantom.  And the phantom
was a woman, and when I came to know her better I called her after the
heroine of the famous poem, "The Angel in the House."  It was she who used
to come between me and my paper when I was writing reviews.  It was she who
bothered me and wasted my time and so tormented me that at last I killed

You who come of a younger and happier generation may not have heard of her-
--you may not know what I mean by the Angel in the House.  I will describe
her as shortly as I can.  She was intensely sympathetic.  She was immensely
charming...she sacrificed herself daily...she never had a mind or wish of
her own. 

In those days, the last of Queen Victoria---every house had its Angel.  And
when I came to write I encountered her with the very first words.  The
shadow of her wings fell on my page; I heard the rustling of her skirts in
the room.  Directly, that is to say, I took my pen in my hand to review
that novel by a famous man, she slipped behind me and whispered, "My dear,
you are a young woman.  You are writing about a book that has been written
by a man.  Be sympathetic; be tender; flatter; deceive; use all the arts
and wiles of our sex.  Never let anybody guess that you have a mind of your
own.  Above all, be pure."  And she made as if to guide my pen. 

I turned on her and caught her by the throat.  I did my best to kill
her.  My excuse, if I were to be had up on a court of law, would be that I
acted in self-defense.  Had I not killed her she would have killed me.  She
would have plucked the heart out of my writing...Thus, whenever I felt the
shadow of her wing or the radiance of her halo upon my page, I took up the
inkpot and flung it at her.  She died hard.  Her fictitious nature was of
great assistance to her.  IT IS FAR HARDER TO KILL A PHANTOM THAN A
REALITY.  She was always creeping back when I thought I had dispatched her. 
Though I flatter myself that I killed her in the end, the struggle was
severe; it took much time that had better have been spent upon learning

Greek grammar or roaming the world in search of adventures.  


  1. And the blogsite let me post!!!

    1. Fantastic! There are so many who were in your boat and they gave up. Thanks for your perseverance.

  2. Excellent...amen. I know that angel and I'm not proud of that.
    I am learning to dispatch her, but it does not come easily...yet I am learning.

    1. It's not an easy road, Linda, especially when it comes to writing. That voice to BE NICE is a muse-killer.

  3. Needed to be reminded of this deadly Angel. I live with her daily; she comes between me and every poem I begin and struggle to finish.