would almost expect to find antimacassars on the chair-backs and 
daguerreotype albums on the tables. For these people—these 
Clarissa Dalloways and Mrs Ramsays and Lily Briscoes—are all 
vibrantly and saturatedly conscious of background. And they all 
have the curious innocence that accompanies that sort of awareness. 
They are the creatures of seclusion, the creatures of shelter; they 
are exquisite beings, so perfectly and elaborately adapted to their 
environment that they have taken on something of the roundness 
and perfection of works of art. Their life, in a sense, is a sea-pool 
life: unruffled and secret: almost, if we can share the cool illusion 
of the sea-pool’s occupants, inviolable. They hear rumours of the 
sea itself, that vast and terrifying force that lies somewhere beyond 
them, or around them, but they cherish a sublime faith that it will 
not disturb them; and if it does, at last, break in upon them with 
cataclysmic force, a chaos of disorder and undisciplined violence, 
they can find no language for the disaster: they are simply 

But if, choosing such people, and such a mise en scène, for her
material, Mrs Woolf inevitably makes her readers think of Pride
and Prejudice and Mansfield Park, she compels us just as sharply,
by her method of evoking them, to think of Pilgrimage and Ulysses
and The Death of a Nobody. Mrs Woolf is an excellent critic, an
extremely conscious and brilliant craftsman in prose; she is intensely 
interested in the technique of fiction; and one has at times
wondered, so vividly from her prose has arisen a kind of self-
consciousness of adroitness, whether she might not lose her way and
understand why Katherine Mansfield distrusted “Mr Bennett and 
Mrs Brown.” She felt a kind of sterility in this dexterous holding 
of the raw stuff of life at arm’s length, this playing with it as if
it were a toy. Why not be more immediate—why not surrender
to it? And one did indeed feel a rather baffling aloofness in this
attitude: it was as if Mrs Woolf were a little afraid to come to
grips with anything so coarse, preferred to see it through a safe
thickness of plate-glass. It was as if she could not be quite at ease
with life until she had stilled it, reduced it to the mobile immobility
of art—reduced it, even, to such comfortable proportions and
orderliness as would not disturb the drawing-room. In Jacob’s