Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2018  Vol. 17 No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Virginia Woolf at Seventeen: The Warboys Journal Two

In a St. Ives secondhand bookstore I purchased LOGIC: OR, THE Right Use of REASON WITH A Variety of Rules To Guard Against ERROR in the AFFAIRS of RELIGION and HUMAN LIFE as well as in the Sciences, by the Late Reverend & Learned Isaac Watts, DD. I care nothing for its LOGIC but bought it for its binding & now am pasting over every REASON & RULE my own journal pages. Resplendent, tooled calf imparts such dignity.


I remain stunned by the flatness of the Fens. Today, from the slight elevation of my bicycle seat I could see the broad ditch that crosses the land for miles, straight as a yard measure. The water it holds is brown & perhaps in winter it slices the Fens like a dark scar. But today that inevitable disfigurement was softened by reeds and a haze of white moths. Pale reeds, white moths—a seam line dissolving quite beautifully as it stretched away from me.


My pen is rather unwell at present. I practice my penmanship to rouse it.

Long ago there was some question which I do not now remember . . .

Long ago there . . .

This curiously sensual love of all that is . . .

Long . . .

Long went the days . . .


I am happy to say that my pages describing a dismal, endless, rain-spattered picnic have covered entirely Watts’ chapter on “The Origin or Causes of Equivocal Words.”

write wright right rite

rein reign rain


Autumn has come to Warboys. There is that mellow clearness in the air, which softens & matures the land & the men’s faces who till it.

The woods decay, the woods decay &
fall; the vapours weep their burden to the ground
Man only comes & tills the earth & lies beneath
& after many a summer dies the swan.
This I . . .
This I write in the year of
a . . .


I met a Fen funeral coming back from Warboys, 5 bakers’ carts & a corn cart, all filled with people dressed in deep mourning. For at least a mile, down a straight, white road, their small procession crawled toward me & then passed me in absolute silence to disappear into the heart of the Fens. I dreamt of those people last night & the vast sky above the flatness & the wind blowing blue spaces around the clouds. Today is the 4th of September. This landscape contains such bleakness. Nevertheless I own it is a joy to me to be set for a time upon it.


“In all your distributions,” Dr. Watts tells me, “observe the nature of things with great exactness . . . to gain a clear and distinct idea of passion . . .”

Over his words I am now pasting six carts, one long, white road, blue spaces within a cloud-crowded sky, a bit of joy, & a single day in time. How long will it be, I wonder, until the fabric that divides us crumbles & my sentences end what his began?

The nature of things . . . crawled toward me

The Right Use of Reason . . . stretched away from me

Logic . . . was softened by reeds and a haze of white moths

A variety of Rules . . . passed me in absolute silence  

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