Orlando’s elaborate life includes a depressing barrage of lawsuits as conflicting as they are outrageous.  While the law trundles through its processes, she is allowed to retire to her estates and live incognito and in limbo between being male or female on the one hand, and dead or alive on the other.  I am sure a management consultant could draw up a nice four-box matrix to map out which lawsuits belong in which quartile.

But all’s well that ends well, the lawsuits are settled in her favour within only one or two centuries and before all her wealth has been burned up paying for them.  And, to top it all, she receives an invitation to dinner with the queen within days of being cleared of all charges, a sure signal that she is to be welcomed back into Society.

‘The chief charges against her were (1) that she was dead, and therefore could not hold any property whatsoever; (2) that she was a woman, which amounts to much the same thing; (3) that she was an English Duke who had married one Rosina Pepita, a dancer; and had had by her three sons, which sons now declaring that their father was deceased, claimed that all his property descended to them.  …. Thus it was in a highly ambiguous condition, uncertain whether she was alive or dead, man or woman, Duke or nonentity, that she posted down to her country seat, where, pending the legal judgement, she had the Law’s permission to reside in a state of incognito or incognita, as the case might turn out to be.’

 

Source: Virginia Woolf, Orlando: A Biography, ed. with an introduction by Rachel Bowlby (Oxford: World’s Classics, 1992), p. 161

Photo credit: Bru-nO at pixabay.com

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