Virginia Woolf (1882 – 1941) was born in London, the daughter of Leslie Stephens, a critic, biographer, and philosopher. She was largely self-educated, having access to her father’s extensive library. After her father’s death in 1904, Virginia, her sister, and two brothers moved to the Bloomsbury district of London. There they associated with a group of writers, scientists, and artists, which later became known as the “Bloomsbury group.” This group included Lytton Strachey, J. M. Keynes, Roger Fry, and E. M. Forster. Woolf’s first completely successful novel was Mrs. Dalloway, published in 1925. She also wrote a great many reviews and critical essays; A Room of One’s Own is one her best-known works.
The following excerpt is from “The Mark on the Wall.” Part 1
Perhaps it was the middle of January in the present year that I first looked up and saw the mark on the wall. In order to fix a date it is necessary to remember what one saw. So now I think of the fire; the steady film of yellow light upon the page of my book; the three chrysanthemums in the round glass bowl on the mantelpiece.
Yes, it must have been the winter time, and we had just finished our tea, for I remember that I was smoking a cigarette when I looked up and saw the mark on the wall for the first time. I looked up through the smoke of my cigarette and my eye lodged for a moment upon the burning coals, and that old fancy of the crimson flag flapping from the castle tower came into my mind, and I thought of the cavalcade of red knights riding up the side of the black rock. Rather to my relief the sight of the mark interrupted the fancy, for it is an old fancy, an automatic fancy, made as a child perhaps. The mark was a small round mark, black upon the white wall, about six or seven inches above the mantelpiece.
How readily our thoughts swarm upon a new object, lifting it a little way, as ants carry a blade of straw so feverishly, and then leave it… If that mark was made by a nail, it can’t have been for a picture, it must have been for a miniature–the miniature of a lady with white powdered curls, powder-dusted cheeks, and lips like red carnations. A fraud of course, for the people who had this house before us would have chosen pictures in that way–an old picture for an old room. That is the sort of people they were–very interesting people, and I think of them so often, in such queer places, because one will never see them again, never know what happened next.
They wanted to leave this house because they wanted to change their style of furniture, so he said, and he was in process of saying that in his opinion art should have ideas behind it when we were torn asunder, as one is torn from the old lady about to pour out tea and the young man was about to hit the tennis ball in the back garden of the suburban villa as one rushes past in the train.
But for that mark, I’m not sure about it.