Why One Writes Novels...
"You write novels?" she asked.
For the moment he could not think what he was saying. He was
overcome with the desire to hold her in his arms.
"Oh yes," he said. "That is, I want to write
She would not take her large grey eyes off his face.
"Novels," she repeated. "Why do you write novels?
You ought to write music. Music, you see"-she shifted her
eyes, and became less desirable as her brain began to work,
inflicting a certain change upon her face-"music goes straight
for things. It says all there is to say at once. With writing
it seems to me there's so much"-she paused for an expression,
and rubbed her fingers in the earth-"scratching on the
matchbox. Most of the time when I was reading Gibbon this afternoon
I was horribly, oh infernally, damnably bored!" She gave
a shake of laughter, looking at Hewet, who laughed too.
"I shan't lend you books," he remarked.
"Why is it," Rachel continued, "that I can laugh
at Mr. Hirst to you, but not to his face? At tea I was completely
overwhelmed, not by his ugliness-by his mind." She enclosed
a circle in the air with her hands. She realised with a great
sense of comfort who easily she could talk to Hewet, those thorns
or ragged corners which tear the surface of some relationships
being smoothed away.
"So I observed," said Hewet. "That's a thing
that never ceases to amaze me." He had recovered his composure
to such an extent that he could light and smoke a cigarette,
and feeling her ease, became happy and easy himself.
"The respect that women, even well-educated, very able
women, have for men," he went on. "I believe we must
have the sort of power over you that we're said to have over
horses. They see us three times as big as we are or they'd never
obey us. For that very reason, I'm inclined to doubt that you'll
ever do anything even when you have the vote." He looked
at her reflectively. She appeared very smooth and sensitive
and young. "It'll take at least six generations before
you're sufficiently thick-skinned to go into law courts and
business offices. Consider what a bully the ordinary man is,"
he continued, "the ordinary hard-working, rather ambitious
solicitor or man of business with a family to bring up and a
certain position to maintain. And then, of course, the daughters
have to give way to the sons; the sons have to be educated;
they have to bully and shove for their wives and families, and
so it all comes over again. And meanwhile there are the women
in the background. . . . Do you really think that the vote will
do you any good?"
"The vote?" Rachel repeated. She had to visualise
it as a little bit of paper which she dropped into a box before
she understood his question, and looking at each other they
smiled at something absurd in the question.
"Not to me," she said. "But I play the piano.
. . . Are men really like that?" she asked, returning to
the question that interested her. "I'm not afraid of you."
She looked at him easily.
"Oh, I'm different," Hewet replied. "I've got
between six and seven hundred a year of my own. And then no
one takes a novelist seriously, thank heavens. There's no doubt
it helps to make up for the drudgery of a profession if a man's
taken very, very seriously by every one-if he gets appointments,
and has offices and a title, and lots of letters after his name,
and bits of ribbon and degrees. I don't grudge it 'em, though
sometimes it comes over me-what an amazing concoction! What
a miracle the masculine conception of life is-judges, civil
servants, army, navy, Houses of Parliament, lord mayors-what
a world we've made of it! Look at Hirst now. I assure you,"
he said, "not a day's passed since we came here without
a discussion as to whether he's to stay on at Cambridge or to
go to the Bar. It's his career-his sacred career. And if I've
heard it twenty times, I'm sure his mother and sister have heard
it five hundred times. Can't you imagine the family conclaves,
and the sister told to run out and feed the rabbits because
St. John must have the school-room to himself-'St. John's working,'
'St. John wants his tea brought to him.' Don't you know the
kind of thing? No wonder that St. John thinks it a matter of
considerable importance. It is too. He has to earn his living.
But St. John's sister-" Hewet puffed in silence. "No
one takes her seriously, poor dear. She feeds the rabbits."
"Yes," said Rachel. "I've fed rabbits for twenty-four
years; it seems odd now." She looked meditative, and Hewet,
who had been talking much at random and instinctively adopting
the feminine point of view, saw that she would now talk about
herself, which was what he wanted, for so they might come to
know each other.
She looked back meditatively upon her past life.
"How do you spend your day?" he asked.
She meditated still. When she thought of their day it seemed
to her it was cut into four pieces by their meals. These divisions
were absolutely rigid, the contents of the day having to accommodate
themselves within the four rigid bars. Looking back at her life,
that was what she saw.
"Breakfast nine; luncheon one; tea five; dinner eight,"
"Well," said Hewet, "what d'you do in the morning?"
"I need to play the piano for hours and hours."
From The Voyage Out (1915)