Wednesday 4 May 2011

The secret on page 28

It was this letter, so flatly pressed that it adhered to the page.
For nearly sixty four years the pale blue watermarked Basildon Bond, 
marked Sybil's place in Mrs Dalloway.
4th August '47

My dearest Sybil,
                    This is to wish 
you many happy returns of to . day.
I hope you're not tired of having 
Mrs Woolf for a birthday present.
At any rate, you've nearly got the 
lot now, so I shall have to find 
someone else to collect.
                         I send you all my 
love and a tremendous number 
of kisses.


I wonder which ones were missing from her collection.
If he was giving her the novels she should have had
The Voyage Out, Night and Day, Jacob's Room, To the Lighthouse,
Orlando, The Waves, The Years and Between the Acts, 
but I hope he thought to give her A Room of One's Own one year.

In any case, she might well have been hoping for a change.
Did she open Mackenzie's parcel with a heavy heart?
Even he suspects his go-to gift might be getting a little monotonous. 
By page 28, where she abandoned the book forever,
 Septimus is sitting with Rezia in Regent's Park
listening to a message in Greek words from sparrows
perched on the railing.
Poor Sybil. What's he going to start her on next?
I'd like to give her
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winfred Watson,
just as a little light relief.
There's a very nice First ed. on Abebooks.
Worth every penny at £209.


  1. Now I see why your copy is so much nicer than mine. And I really got the wrong end of the stick about p28.
    I thought you meant the bit about the dwindling of life and 'absorbing, as in the youthful years, the colours, salts, tones of existence.' Thought you'd been getting philosphical as you were podding beans!
    (I have been reading too much Philip Larkin recently - always obsessing about the dwindling of life - and he is not cheerful company!)

  2. Oh, those clipped tones and very precise vowels! No one speaks like that any more, do they!

    'Miss Pettigrew' was a splendid read - I'll share in your recommendation of it.

  3. What an intriguing insight into a stranger's life - and her required reading.
    Someone with literary skills could develop that letter into a great novel. Are you busy Lucille?

  4. Oh you old charmer you. But actually the names Sybil and Mackenzie do seem to cry out for the big screen don't they? I'm thinking ahead here.

  5. Oh I love Miss Pettigrew!
    You all are so far ahead with your spring and we are quite far behind! I hope to catch up before long...we had a sunny warm day and the weeds just shot up. It was zero to dandelions in one weekend!

  6. I've never found VW very gripping, I have to admit. What an accent! The way she says "prop-leh"!

    I'm sure you don't look 60. But at least you got a cheap ticket. Silver lining and all that.