Saturday, February 15, 2014

Virginia Woolf and Octavia Wilberforce

Octavia Wilberforce was a healer, who became one despite great discouragement from her family.  Her father apparently wrote her out of his will because she decided to get medical training.  In 1939, she was Virginia Woolf's doctor.  Despite Wilberforce's effort, Virginia Woolfe wrote a letter to her husband which began, "I feel certain I am going mad again.  I feel we can't go through another of those terrible times.  And I shan't recover this time.  I begin to hear voices, and I can't concentrate."  Her nephew, Quentin Bell, described what happened next:: "She put this on the sitting-room mantelpiece and, at about 11:30, slipped out, taking her walking-stick with her and making her way across the water-meadows to the river.  Leonard believed that she might already have made one attempt to drown herself; if so she had learnt by her failure and was determined to make sure of it now.  Leaving her stick on the bank she forced a large stone into the pocket of her coat.  Then she went to her death, "the one experience," as she had said to Vita, "I shall never describe."  A decade, or so, earlier she had described the treatment of her fictional figure, Orlando, who had (it seems) been catatonic for a week this way.  "But the doctors were hardly wiser then than they are now, and after prescribing rest and exercise, starvation and nourishment, society and solitude, that he should lie in bed all day and ride forty miles between lunch and dinner, together with the usual sedatives and irritants, diversified, as the fancy took them, with possets of newt's slobber on rising, and draughts of peacock's gall on going to bed, they left him to himself, and gave it as their opinion that he had been asleep for a week."