Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Night And Day By Virginia Woolf

This is essentially an analytical novel; seekers for thrills and exciting adventures will search its 308 pages in vain. The setting is in London, most of the action taking place in the luxurious home of the Hilberrys. Mrs. Hilberry was the only child of Richard Alardyce, deceased, a poet eminent among the poets of England. “In times gone by Mrs. Hilberry had known all the poets, all the beautiful women and distinguished men of the time. They being now either dead or secluded in their infirm glory, she had made her own relatives, to whom she would lament the passing of the great days of the nineteenth century, where every department of letters and art was represented by two or three illustrious names.” In short, the Hilberrys were trying to live up to their ancestors; furthermore, she was engaged upon a life of a poet. This literary effort had its inception years before the story opens, but for reasons which the author fully develops as she humorously portrays Mrs. Hilberry’s p! eculiarities, the work has made no progress at the end. The love affairs of five young people furnish the chief themes of the book; and it cannot be denied that, with one exception, they are a pretty poor lot. The exception is Mary Datchet, a daughter of a country parson. “She was 25, but looked older because she earned, or intended to earn, her living, and had already lost the look of the irresponsible spectator, and had taken on that of a private in the army of workers.”

To this resolute girl the others come to pour out their woes; oblivious of the fact that she, too, may be capable of loving, she is sacrificed between the millstones of their egoism and selfishness. In her case virtue does not have its own reward. Decidedly, Mary Datchet gets the worst of it in her association with Katharine Hilberry, the latter’s cousin Cassandra, Ralph Denham, the young lawyer who spoils every situation with his conceit, and William Rodney, an embryonic poet.

The portrait of Mr. Hilberry, Katharine’s father, is clever; his habit of shunning every responsibility and taking himself off when domestic or social affairs become complicated will be appreciated. All of the characters are drawn with art; their thoughts and actions are minutely observed and dissected. In point of literary style the book is distinctive. | By THE NEW YORK TIMES

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