A Mod C about Mrs Dalloway

In the 2018 sample paper which was published to give people an idea of what this mysterious new ‘Craft of Writing’ Module might be about, one question suggested that students could be asked to draw on the OTHER modules – i.e. not Module C. So if you had done Mrs Dalloway and The Hours for Module A, you could write an imaginative that took up Mrs Dalloway like this

Richard watched Clarissa go into the study and shut the door behind her. He had not seen her all day, since she had called out to Mrs Walker that she would buy the flowers herself. He had written this up to another of Clarissa’s fancies, this business of doing things which could just as easily be delegated to the people retained for that very purpose. But now Bradshaw’s wife had told her about some poor wretch’s suicide, and the same wayward streak in her – he loved Clarissa and always had, naturally, but love did not preclude honesty and he was sure she was just as honest about his failings – the same fanciful self-indulgence, had caused her to shut herself in the study when she was needed to receive the Prime Minister.

It was a silly word, fancy, he thought. It suddenly occurred to him that he hadn’t heard it in a very long time, perhaps not since his youth. He stared at the flowers Clarissa had bought and struggled to remember something, something to do with his nurse, Nanny Watkins, and a fancy. Men, on Wimbledon Common. Rough men and dogs. He remembered now – a man in a cloth cap, with a pack of lure hounds on long leashes, who sat on the benches with Nanny Watkins while he was sent off to play. One of the dogs in particular, a velvety grey, keen-eyed dog with a long muzzle was the man’s fancy. He remembered the man’s name – Hargreaves – and that he had introduced the dog, whose name had been Diamantina, as his particular fancy. The fancy who had been faster than any of Stan Biss’s dogs.

Obviously, this fancy was not Clarissa’s fancy, Richard thought, but there were some similarities. This was the point of homophones, which alerted you to the hidden links between things. He supposed that was what these psychiatrists like Bradshaw did, with their parlour trick treatments and insistence that you betrayed your own anxieties through your words, your dreams. He had considered asking Bradshaw to see Clarissa privately, to see if it wouldn’t help with these moments of absence since her illness, and the fancies she had about death, and aging, and poor choices made long ago, and her hankering after other entanglements that had never been.

He supposed Bradshaw would connect it to something Greek. He remembered a summer at Cambridge, the last summer he had taken Green under Trelawney, with golden Henry Chalk, who had been good at everything and rowed like a god, and who had explained in one dusty afternoon tutorial that fancy came from phantasia, the images made in that portion of the brain which took from the sense-organs and handed the image on to some other facult. The appetitive? The evaluative? Who knew – it was so long ago now, although he could still remember Henry’s red, red mouth, so red against his cricketing whites, as he explained the passage Trelawney had set. He had sat in his own chair and watched Henry’s mouth and wished, in a mad moment, to kiss that mouth, to bite against it like an apple and force declarations from it about him, Richard Dalloway.

Now he was lost in a fancy, he thought crossly. He and Clarissa, both locked in their own fancies, occassionally bumping into each other with the gentlest of social collisions. That was a perfect description of marriage. He would have to pull himself together and try harder. That had been Nanny Watkin’s dictum – try harder, Master Richard. While he would never say it to Clarissa, he felt that he should, but at that moment she came out of the study and saw him in the corner with the flowers and smiled at him. Instantly he forgave her the brief absence, and felt Nanny Watkins, and Diamantina, and Trelawney, and even golden Henry, become insubstantial compared to Clarissa’s demure, decorous, slightly wistful presence. Fancies were just that: momentary, private, and baseless. Wives, flowers, Prime Ministers, were lasting and reassuringly public. Clarissa was perfect.

If he could just do something about the mournfull-looking woman with the long nose who kept following Clarissa about with a notebook, everything would be fine.

(c) www.divingbelleducation.com

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