I’m reading “Jacob’s Room” by Virginia Woolf (an excerpt about writing letters…)

Last week I received a hand-written note via snail-mail from a close friend of mine who was holidaying in Spain – and actually it didn’t take very long to get to PEI (only 9 days!). She wrote (using all available space!) inside and on the back of a magnificent sparkly and very red heart card (and the card was hand-made by a friend of hers from the UK). I’ve scanned the front of the card. Here it is:

I’m half way through Virginia Woolf’s Jacob’s Room which was first published on 27 Oct 1922. The two paragraphs in the excerpt below  stopped me in my tracks last night – because what Woolf says reminds me of how important these things are to me (and why) – the telephone, e-mails, Facebook, Skype…and yes…even still…the occasional precious hand-written letter. (p.s. I don’t text because I don’t have a mobile phone!)

From Chapter 8 –

Let us consider letters--how they come at breakfast, and at night, with
their yellow stamps and their green stamps, immortalized by the
postmark--for to see one's own envelope on another's table is to realize
how soon deeds sever and become alien. Then at last the power of the
mind to quit the body is manifest, and perhaps we fear or hate or wish
annihilated this phantom of ourselves, lying on the table. Still, there
are letters that merely say how dinner's at seven; others ordering coal;
making appointments. The hand in them is scarcely perceptible, let alone
the voice or the scowl. Ah, but when the post knocks and the letter
comes always the miracle seems repeated--speech attempted. Venerable are
letters, infinitely brave, forlorn, and lost.

Life would split asunder without them. "Come to tea, come to dinner,
what's the truth of the story? have you heard the news? life in the
capital is gay; the Russian dancers...." These are our stays and props.
These lace our days together and make of life a perfect globe. And yet,
and yet ... when we go to dinner, when pressing finger-tips we hope to
meet somewhere soon, a doubt insinuates itself; is this the way to spend
our days? the rare, the limited, so soon dealt out to us--drinking tea?
dining out? And the notes accumulate. And the telephones ring. And
everywhere we go wires and tubes surround us to carry the voices that
try to penetrate before the last card is dealt and the days are over.
"Try to penetrate," for as we lift the cup, shake the hand, express the
hope, something whispers, Is this all? Can I never know, share, be
certain? Am I doomed all my days to write letters, send voices, which
fall upon the tea-table, fade upon the passage, making appointments,
while life dwindles, to come and dine? Yet letters are venerable; and
the telephone valiant, for the journey is a lonely one, and if bound
together by notes and telephones we went in company, perhaps--who
knows?--we might talk by the way.

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