City of Sound is about cities, design, architecture, music, media, politics and more. Written by Dan Hill since 2001.

"For having lived in Westminster – how many years now? over twenty, – one feels even in the midst of the traffic, or waking at night, Clarissa was positive, a particular hush, or solemnity; an indescribable pause; a suspense (but that might be her heart, affected, that said, by influenza) before Big Ben strikes. There! Out it boomed. First a warning, musical; the the hour, irrevocable. The leaden circles dissolved in the air. Such fools we are, she thought, crossing Victoria Street. For Heaven only knows why one lives it so, how one sees it so, making it up, building it round one, tumbling it, creating it every moment afresh; but the veriest frumps, the most dejected of miseries sitting on doorsteps (drink their downfall) do the same; can’t be dealt with, she felt positive, by Acts of Parliament for that very reason: they love life. In people’s eyes, in the swing, tramp, and trudge; in the bellow and the uproar; the carriages, motor cars, omnibuses, vans, sandwich men shuffling and swinging; brass bands; barrel organs; in the triumph and the jingle and the strange high singing of some aeroplane overhead was what she loved; life; London; this moment of June."

Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf


3 responses to “Extract from ‘Mrs. Dalloway’ by Virginia Woolf, 1925”

  1. Caro Avatar

    Well, that gave pleasure. Thank you.


  2. Mu Avatar

    I’m fortunate enough to live right in the middle of Westminster for over ten years now and that sums the place up beautifully. There’s nothing better than having a cheeky nighttime smoke on my parents rooftop overlooking Big Ben and Westminster Abbey hearing only the rumble of traffic along Victoria Street and round Parliament Square. Walking down Whitehall and then Abingdon Street at 3 in the morning after a night out in town gives you such a great feeling of being home and in a town that is always mine, and always will be (apols. Woody Allen)


  3. Jarrett Avatar

    Yes, I needed a bit of Woolf today. Thank you.
    Is that “particular hush, or solemnity” a European sensation? A high-latitude one? I know I’ve felt it in Paris, or Boston, and sometimes there’s a hint of it in Melbourne. But Sydney and Brisbane seem quite incapable of it.


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