Tuesday, 7 April 2009

The Mysterious Case of Miss V. 1906

The Mysterious Case of Miss V. is a very short story, indeed running to only two and a bit pages, it is really a short character study. Miss V. is in fact the Misses V, two sisters who are always at the social functions that the narrator attends, but who blend into the background, “melt into some armchair or chest of drawers” (p31) When the sisters stop attending these functions the narrator is aware that something is not quite right but is not able to put her finger on it. The ending of the piece has a supernatural quality to it, so I wont spoil it. I love Virginia Woolf’s style of writing, she is not afraid to use long sentences, with lots of punctuation which gives a very distinct rhythm to the words and dictates how you read it.

The opening line

“It is a commonplace that there is no loneliness like that of one who finds himself along in a crowd; novelists repeat it; the pathos is undeniable; and now, since the case of Miss V. I at least have come to believe it.” (p30)

Semi-colons seem to have been a favourite of Virginia’s. Matt from A Guy’s Moleskine has been reading Mrs Dalloway and comments here on her frequent use of semi-colons.

At first this use of punctuation can make her work difficult to read, but I have found that as you get used to it being forced to slow down and read everything more carefully actually makes reading the piece more interesting and you get more out of it.


  1. Ms. Woolf used a plethora of semi-colons in her delineation of the street scenes. These semi-colons not only elongate her complex sentences, they also buttress a rhythm in the prose itself that dictates reader's speed.

  2. I think your concept for this blog is quite intriguing, and I look forward to checking in with you to see your progress. Just last weekend I presented a paper on "Virginia Woolf in the Cyber City" at the 19th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf in New York City. My listeners perked up when I mentioned your blog. I have posted a link to it at my blog, Blogging Woolf.

  3. Thank you very much for the link and also for mentioning me at the conference, as I said, I would have loved to come.

    I am having a bit of a breather while I read The Voyage Out but I will be posting soon about a walk that I did this weekend "The Footsteps of Virginia Woolf, from Monks House to Charleston"

  4. I am hard pressed to explain my interest in Virginia Woolf and her life, but I am, and feel I will never know her through her various journals and letters and books.

    The actual events in her life really help more to place her in the everyday world similar to our own.

    Her work as a writer must stand as an intellectual and creative accomplishment. The better biographers understand this and include biographicial material only to place the writing in a time line and event context.

    It does suggest that our inner lives are truly private even when we attempt to write in journals or use facts in fiction. The inner life must be seen though a veil of privacy.

  5. The very short story about the shadow sisters Miss V. was strangely quirky in that she gave two characters one name; I read that as a symbol of their nondescript character, that you might as well give them the same name because you couldn't tell one from the other. And further as a veiled warning to women that if you want to have your own name, be your own person. Don't fade into the background or you will be forgotten, noticed only by the most sensitive of rare individuals.