Mrs Dalloway
Virginia Woolf
Contributed by Harvey Landy
Chapter 10

Peter Walsh was walking toward his hotel when an ambulance (carrying Septimus’s corpse) sped by. Peter thought it a "triumph of civilization" that ambulances speed sick people to hospitals and that traffic parts so as to let them through. He thought of sickness and death, then of loneliness, and was overcome once again with an urge to weep. He blamed this on his "susceptibility" to impressions, a susceptibility that "had been his undoing in Anglo-Indian society." He considered how he felt too intensely, thought too much, was too easily moved, and so he had never quite fit in anywhere. His thoughts naturally turned to Clarissa, to their painful encounter that morning. He had a theory about their friendship: Their actual meetings were brief, broken, and painful, but they were always meaningful, and the meanings always "flowered out" later, enriching his life.

Deep in reverie about the way Clarissa had enchanted him long ago at Bourton, he arrived at his hotel. There was a note from her. It said, "How heavenly it was to see you. I must tell you that." This upset and annoyed him. He believed she had written it out of pity for him, for having ruined his life. But he also admired her "indomitable vitality," the toughness of her will. His thoughts turned to himself, to the oddities of his character, and to the way his oddities attracted women. He realized that he was not entirely in love with Daisy. He would grow tired of her. He liked solitude, yet at the same time, he needed people. He liked bustle and activity, liked smoking-rooms, colonels, golf, women¾in short, everything. He liked being in the thick of things. He went down to dinner and met a middle-class family who, though dull in every way, fascinated him nonetheless, just by the fact of their being alive, going about their business, "liking what they like," and "not caring a hang for the upper classes." "It is superb, absolutely superb," he thought.

He decided to go to Clarissa’s party. He needed contact, gossip, talk. He wanted to ask Richard, who was in the House of Commons, what the government meant to do about India. He left the hotel and walked toward Clarissa’s house, observing how, despite the heat wave, all of London was out. Rich people got into and out of taxis, on their way to restaurants, theaters, parties; poor people thronged the streets, sat on stoops, laughed and talked. Breasting the stream of impressions, Peter grew excited, felt the richness and beauty of life. But at Clarissa’s door, he began fiddling with his pocket-knife. 

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