segunda-feira, setembro 04, 2017

Sowing - an autobiography of the years 1880 to 1904, by Leonard Woolf

So, after reading the beautiful collection of Virginia Woolf's memoirs, Moments of Being, I ordered the first volume of Leonard Woolf's autobiography, and am mighty glad I did. It's very well written, in a style totally different from his wife's or Strachey's, very controlled and matter-of-factly, but pleasant to read, especially for the content. Leonard Woolf comes up as an extremely sensible and intelligent man - and he must have been also extremely patient, because I'm sure Virginia was not an easy person to live with - and one can understand how he fit so well in the Bloomsbury group, not being an artist himself, and was able to form such a stable and long partnership with the genius Virginia was.

I particularly liked his account of his Cambridge days, of the group of friends under the influence of G.E. Moore that were the roots of the Bloomsbury group - the blooming would come later, once the Stephen sisters were added to the group. They still represent for me the fascinating transition from 19th to 20th century civilization, the beginning of the Modern Age I so admired.

Looking forward to read the other volumes.

The facade tends with most people, I suppose, as the years go by, to grow inward so that what began as a protection and screen of the naked soul becomes itself the soul. This is part of that gradual loss of individuality which happens to nearly everyone and the hardening of the arteries of the mind which is even more common and more deadly than of those of the body. [...] I suspect that the male carapace is usually grown to conceal cowardice. [...] It was the fear of ridicule or disapproval if one revealed one's real thoughts or feelings, and sometimes the fear of revealing one's fears, that prompted one to invent that kind of second-hand version of oneself which might provide for one's original self the safety of a permanent alibi.

But when I was a young man, Karl Marx and the Russian communists had not yet invented the international political lunatic asylum of twentieth century communism in which intelligent people can, in the name of humanity, satisfy animosities and salve their consciences.

It is true that in a sense "we had no respect for traditional wisdom" and that, as Ludwig Wittgenstein complained, "we lacked reverence for everything and everyone." If "to revere" means, as the dictionary says, "to regard as sacred or exalted, to hold in religious respect", then we did not revere, we had no reverence for anything or anyone, and, so far as I am concerned, I think we were completely right; I remain of the same opinion still - I think it to be, not merely my right, but my duty to question the truth of everything and the authority of everyone, to regard nothing as sacred and to hold nothing in religious respect. That attitude was encouraged by the climate of scepticism and revolt into which we were born and by Moore's ingenuous passion for truth. The dictionary, however, gives an alternative meaning for the word "revere"; it may mean "to regard with deep respect and warm approbation." It is not true that we lacked reverence for everything and everyone in that sense of the word. After questioning the truth and utility of everything and after refusing to accept or swallow anything or anyone on the mere "authority" of anyone, in fact after exercising our own judgement, there were many things and persons regarded by us with "deep respect and warm approbation": truth, beauty, works of art, some customs, friendship, love, many living men and women and many of the dead.

One loves and hates one's family just as - one knows and they know - one is loved and hated by them. Most people are both proud and ashamed of their families [...] There is therefore a bitterness and ambivalence in these loyalties.

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