Responding, in 1931, to an article on fiction by Bloomsberrian Desmond MacCarthy, Virginia Woolf wrote, ‘Oh I was annoyed with Desmond’s usual sneer at Mrs. Dalloway—woolgathering’ (D IV, 42).1 In To the Lighthouse, Woolf herself used the offensive word with similarly deprecating connotations, but here Mrs. Ramsay employs it defensively to deflect her husband’s intrusive criticism of her thoughts: ‘He did not like to see her look so sad, he said. Only wool-gathering, she protested, flushing a little’ (TL, 57). In Orlando, the word crops up humorously, to describe the indescribable process of writing: ‘this mere wool-gathering; this thinking; this sitting in a chair day in, day out, with a cigarette and a sheet of paper and a pen and an ink pot’.2 And in her diaries, Woolf self-identifies as a wool gatherer, describing her mind as ‘woolgathering away about Women & Fiction’ (the early title for A Room of One’s Own), ‘racing up & down the whole field of [her] lecture’ (D III, 175).
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