Virginia Woolf Memoir: A Sketch of the Past

Bookmark and Share

Lately I’ve been focusing on making my life a work of art, which is obviously a big concept to wrap one’s mind and life around. But I like a good challenge. Then serendipitously, I found this quote from the Virginia Woolf memoir ‘A Sketch of the Past’, begun in 1939 and left unfinished. Darn. Virginia Woolf memoir

Perhaps this is the strongest pleasure known to me. It is the rapture I get when in writing I seem to be discovering what belongs to what; making a scene come right; making a character come together. From this I reach what I might call a philosophy; at any rate it is a constant idea of mine; that behind the cotton wool [of daily life] is hidden a pattern; that we–I mean all human beings–are connected with this; that the whole world is a work of art; that we are parts of the work of art. Hamlet or a Beethoven quartet is the truth about this vast mess that we call the world. But there is no Shakespeare, there is no Beethoven . . .  we are the words; we are the music; we are the thing itself.


Virginia Woolf memoir

Virginia Woolf memoir

Does any of it resonate with you? Do you think that it’s possible that we could all be parts of a work of art? I’d love to hear from you.

 P.S. I’m an ex-shrink who writes award-winning novels. Check out my books here.


  1. Great comment from an email subscriber:

    “Hi Susan,
    Oh yes, I definitely believe that every molecule and atom therein are individual parts of the whole, and that were that whole missing a single neuron, it wouldn’t quite be the same somehow. Every time I breathe in the fragrance of night jasmine, for example, I feel, somehow that I must have been part of the essence that became night jasmine. It speaks to something much deeper in my existence than the mere sense of smell. I believe that soul energies fill the ether within the universe and cause it to expand into a multiverse. I believe that each existence, in whatever form it takes, is an interwoven network of “siblings”, for lack of a better term. This is why we must seek to abide in togetherness and harmony with one another. To do so, I believe, will raise the consciousness of all to a higher vibration. These thoughts have been with me in one form or another for the last fifty years, since I was seventeen.
    Yes, I’ve been called wacky, (but I don’t care)

  2. Oh God, DOES it. It’s why I get out of bed in the morning!

    Glad to see Ginny was acquainted with the Beethoven quartets, the summit of Western music as far as I’m concerned. They are whole universes, and yes when listening to them one feels one is hearing the whole universe interconnected. Shakespeare, Beethoven, Leonardo, miracles like that happen once every few hundred years–was just thinking about that on my daily walk yesterday. Following up on that thought I very much recommend this small but brilliant book:

    Really goes into detail on the things Virginia Woolf is talking about. And you don’t have to be either a Beethoven geek or a musicologist to understand the book. You’ll come away from it with a deeper appreciation of what made Beethoven truly great, and by extension what makes art truly great (as opposed to merely “good” or satisfying) and by extension with greatest as a part of the human condition really is–things we’ve gotten away from in art in the last egalitarian and relativistic half century.

    If I don’t feel connected to something larger after experiencing any of what is offered up as art, I feel cheated. I feel like I could have spent my limited time better with something else. So yes, the Woolf quote really resonates in me. I wish I’d have known her. I think we’d have gotten along very well. 😉

  3. > Oh yes, I definitely believe that every molecule
    > and atom therein are individual parts of the
    > whole, and that were that whole missing a single
    > neuron, it wouldn’t quite be the same somehow.

    Hmm, that doesn’t make sense. Neurons die all the time.

  4. No. At the best of times, my life is a series of moments as they occur and I am able to experience my life as it is. At the worst of times, I try to hold on to moments that have already gone by or live in moments that will never come.

  5. Thought-provoking comments by all. Thanks, folks!

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Pin It on Pinterest


Share This

Share this post with your friends!