Aristotle defined comedy as an imitation of men worse than the average where tragedy was an imitation of men better than the average. However, the characters portrayed in comedies were not worse than average in every way, only insofar as they are Ridiculous, which is a species of the Ugly. The Ridiculous may be defined as a mistake or deformity not productive of pain or harm to others; the mask, for instance, that excites laughter is something ugly and distorted without causing pain. It is in this sense that Dante used the term in the title of his poem, La Commedia.
At the time of her death she was already engaged in getting together essays for a further volume, which she proposed to publish in the autumn of or the spring Of She also intended to publish a new book of short stories, including in it some or all of Monday or Tuesday, which has been long out of print.
She left behind her a considerable number of essays, sketches, and short stories, some unpublished and some previously published in newspapers; there are, indeed, enough to fill three or four volumes.
For this book I have made a selection from these. If she had lived, there is no Essay comedy meredith that she would have made large alterations and revisions in nearly all these essays before allowing them to appear in volume form. Knowing this, one naturally hesitates to publish them as they were left.
I have decided to do so, first because they seem to me worth republishing, and second because at any rate those which have already appeared in journals have in fact been written and revised with immense care.
I do not think that Virginia Woolf ever contributed any article to any paper which she did not write and rewrite several times. The following facts will, perhaps, show how seriously she took the art of writing even for the newspaper.
Shortly before her death she wrote an article reviewing a book. The author of the book subsequently wrote to the editor saying that the article was so good that he would greatly like to have the typescript of it if the editor would give it to him.
The editor forwarded the letter to me, saying that he had not got the typescript and suggesting that if I could find it, I might send it to the author. I found among my wife's papers the original draft of the article in her handwriting and no fewer than eight or nine complete revisions of it which she had herself typed out.
Nearly all the longer critical essays included in this volume have been subjected by her to this kind of revision before they were originally published. This is, however, not true of the others, particularly of the first four essays.
These were written by her, as usual, in handwriting and were then typed out in rather a rough state. I have printed them as they stand, except that I have punctuated them and corrected obvious verbal mistakes.
I have not hesitated to do this, since I always revised the mss.
The Death of the Moth Moths that fly by day are not properly to be called moths; they do not excite that pleasant sense of dark autumn nights and ivy-blossom which the commonest yellow-underwing asleep in the shadow of the curtain never fails to rouse in us.
They are hybrid creatures, neither gay like butterflies nor sombre like their own species. Nevertheless the present specimen, with his narrow hay-coloured wings, fringed with a tassel of the same colour, seemed to be content with life.
It was a pleasant morning, mid-September, mild, benignant, yet with a keener breath than that of the summer months. The plough was already scoring the field opposite the window, and where the share had been, the earth was pressed flat and gleamed with moisture.
Such vigour came rolling in from the fields and the down beyond that it was difficult to keep the eyes strictly turned upon the book. The rooks too were keeping one of their annual festivities; soaring round the tree tops until it looked as if a vast net with thousands of black knots in it had been cast up into the air; which, after a few moments sank slowly down upon the trees until every twig seemed to have a knot at the end of it.
Then, suddenly, the net would be thrown into the air again in a wider circle this time, with the utmost clamour and vociferation, as though to be thrown into the air and settle slowly down upon the tree tops were a tremendously exciting experience.
The same energy which inspired the rooks, the ploughmen, the horses, and even, it seemed, the lean bare-backed downs, sent the moth fluttering from side to side of his square of the window-pane.
One could not help watching him. One was, indeed, conscious of a queer feeling of pity for him. The possibilities of pleasure seemed that morning so enormous and so various that to have only a moth's part in life, and a day moth's at that, appeared a hard fate, and his zest in enjoying his meagre opportunities to the full, pathetic.
He flew vigorously to one corner of his compartment, and, after waiting there a second, flew across to the other. What remained for him but to fly to a third corner and then to a fourth?
That was all he could do, in spite of the size of the downs, the width of the sky, the far-off smoke of houses, and the romantic voice, now and then, of a steamer out at sea. What he could do he did. Watching him, it seemed as if a fibre, very thin but pure, of the enormous energy of the world had been thrust into his frail and diminutive body.
As often as he crossed the pane, I could fancy that a thread of vital light became visible. He was little or nothing but life. Yet, because he was so small, and so simple a form of the energy that was rolling in at the open window and driving its way through so many narrow and intricate corridors in my own brain and in those of other human beings, there was something marvellous as well as pathetic about him.
It was as if someone had taken a tiny bead of pure life and decking it as lightly as possible with down and feathers, had set it dancing and zig-zagging to show us the true nature of life. Thus displayed one could not get over the strangeness of it.
One is apt to forget all about life, seeing it humped and bossed and garnished and cumbered so that it has to move with the greatest circumspection and dignity. Again, the thought of all that life might have been had he been born in any other shape caused one to view his simple activities with a kind of pity.
After a time, tired by his dancing apparently, he settled on the window ledge in the sun, and, the queer spectacle being at an end, I forgot about him.
Then, looking up, my eye was caught by him.College and high school serve as the backdrop for two stories about dysfunction and personal turmoil.
Meredith Sue Willis's Books for Readers # May 1, When possible, read this newsletter online in its permanent location. For Back Issues, click here. MSW Home.
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