This marvelously stark encounter with a dark stranger proves to be Orlando’s first meeting with the man she will marry.  Her energetic statement is a reflection of having been pursued for a century or so with a sackload of court cases, many of which revolve around the issue as to whether, being a woman, she may be considered dead (technically).  To confuse matters, there are other lawsuits which clearly consider her as being both male and dead.

Hubby-to-be takes it all in his stride, and helps her up off the ground, concluding that she is unquestionably a woman and that being such does not equate in legal or other terms to being dead.

‘Towering dark against the yellow-slashed sky of dawn, with the plovers rising and falling about him, she saw a man on horseback.  He started. The horse stopped.

‘Madam,’ the man cried, leaping to the ground, ‘you’re hurt!’

‘I’m dead, sir!’ she replied.’


Source: Virginia Woolf, Orlando: A Biography, ed. with an introduction by Rachel Bowlby (Oxford: World’s Classics, 1992), p. 239

Photo credit: Dave Lord at


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