We forget, mostly, that we live in a time of unprecedented mass luxury and ease. Yes, we are messing up ecosystems and climate systems, but access to communications, clean water, electricity and a myriad other miracles is growing and with more ingenuity and some wisdom their increase could be uncoupled from eco-damage.

Think how many things are available to you which would not have been on offer at any price even to the big shots of history (decent dentistry comes to mind pretty quickly, but also hot and cold water adjustable as you desire at the turn of a tap).

Here such a reflection occurs to Orlando, entering her fourth or fifth century and so able to make an informed comparison of life in the 18th versus the 20th centuries.

Orlando is a glorious, eloquent, light-hearted gallop through English landscapes by a century-straddling individual in quest of love and fulfilment.  See our quote-encrusted review here.

‘The very fabric of life now, she thought, as she rose, is magic. In the eighteenth century, we knew how everything was done; but here I rise through the air; I listen to voices in America; I see men flying – but how it’s done, I can’t ever begin to wonder.  So my belief in magic returns.’  


Source: Virginia Woolf, Orlando: A Biography, ed. with an introduction by Rachel Bowlby (Oxford: World’s Classics, 1992), p. 286

Photo credit: Simon Fitall at unsplash


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