This touches on the big question of how one retains one’s independence while being a product of, or at least affiliated to, one age over another.  And how far you can step into the spirit of another age in your writing.

Orlando at this point is ‘bien dans sa peau’ in terms of the spirit of the age, but later, among the Victorians, she finds herself crushed in crinoline-like constraints, feeling out of kilter and oppressed.

Of course there is the bigger question of how far the ‘spirit of the age’ exists and how you define it.  Sometimes it seems but a figment, at other times palpable, whether liberating and thrilling, or suffocating and grim, or something in between.

‘… for the transaction between a writer and the spirit of the age is one of infinite delicacy …  Orlando had so ordered it that she was in an extremely happy position; she need neither fight her age, nor submit to it; she was of it, yet remained herself.  Now, therefore, she could write, and write she did.  She wrote.  She wrote.  She wrote.’

Source: Virginia Woolf, Orlando: A Biography, ed. with an introduction by Rachel Bowlby (Oxford: World’s Classics, 1992), p. 254

Photo credit: Josh Adamski at


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