Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Slay the Angel in the House

Not only did Ms. Woolf want women to have rooms of their own, she advised them to "slay the angel in the house" if someone wanted to write. She urged women to make time for their work even if it meant being bad wives and mothers.

I think it's good advice. Most people -- both men and women -- spend far too much time making nice. That time really could better be spent writing.

However, I know and know of a lot of women who not only don't slay the angel, they fix breakfast for it and make sure it's warm enough and has clean socks. Lucille Clifton, who just passed away, said that one of the reasons her poems were so short is because she had so many children! But she wrote the poems anyway. Clearly, the angel in the house spread its astonishing wings over everything and every now and then gave her ten minutes to herself.

Between poetry and prose, I turn out a lot of work, but I should. It's all that I do besides indulging my low-voltage vices. The writers who deserve the credit are the ones with wives and husbands and children and parents and health problems and dingy colors and less than sparkling whites who also get the work done.

My hat, the one with the feather, is off to them.



  1. As Alison Light's book Mrs. Woolf and the Servants shows, V. Woolf wrote the bit about the angel while her cook Nellie was downstairs making her breakfast. But of course Woolf had to slay the crazy in the house. Or at least keep it sedated. For a while.

  2. Thanks, Ron! Now, to get my husband to buy into this...