Having a love of ink, the variety of its hues and the names people give them, and the chunky inventive shapes of ink bottles, I was enchanted by this notion of making your own ink from berries and wine. I imagine blueberries, blackcurrants or elderberries would be ideal, particularly mixed with a hefty claret.
Later, Orlando finds herself back in civilised surroundings where both ink and paper are plentiful, and enjoys the luxury and expansiveness this brings.
I was also struck by the ‘odd conceit’ that words written are shared – I had never thought about this consciously, but it resonates. Even when one writes ostensibly for oneself (a journal), there is the vague awareness that someone, in about 200 years time, might find your journal stashed between the back of the drawer out of which it has fallen, and the back of the chest containing that drawer.
Which of course presupposes that you furniture is of a quality and beauty to survive a century or two. Ikea probably won’t cut it.
”Oh! if only I could write!’ she cried (for she had the odd conceit of those who write that words written are shared). She had no ink; and but little paper. But she made ink from berries and wine; and finding a few margins and blank spaces in the manuscript of ‘The Oak Tree’, managed, by writing a kind of shorthand, to describe the scenery in a long, blank version poem, and to carry on a dialogue with herself about this Beauty and Truth concisely enough.’ (p. 140)
‘Next morning, in pursuance of these thoughts, she had out her pen and paper, and started afresh upon ‘The Oak Tree’, for to have ink and paper in plenty when one has made do with berries and margins is a delight not to be conceived.’
Source: Virginia Woolf, Orlando: A Biography, ed. with an introduction by Rachel Bowlby (Oxford: World’s Classics, 1992), p. 140 and 169
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