I feel certain that 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. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don’t think two people could have been happier ’til this terrible disease came. I can’t fight any longer. I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could work. And you will I know. You see I can’t even write this properly. I can’t read. What I want to say is I owe all the happiness of my life to you. You have been entirely patient with me and incredibly good. I want to say that — everybody knows it. If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can’t go on spoiling your life any longer.
I don’t think two people could have been happier than we have been.
This note is hauntingly beautiful. Virginia Woolf evoked intense emotions from her audience through her fiction; however her suicide note to her husband, Leonard Woolf, was a sentimentally private and poignant piece of writing that screams out with agony, truth and unconditional love. The fact that we have an inside look at their relationship is intrusive, yet it can reaffirm the commitment and love one has for their own spouse. So while I find analysing this suicide note tortuous, not just critically but spiritually, but I believe there can be substantial benefit from doing so.
The first detail I would like to comment on is the structure of the note. We live in a society that is consumed by social media, and I find my generation lives their relationships through memes – incoherently superficial ideas of love. Yet there is no substance you can ascertain from these memes. When love becomes trivialised it distorts the uniqueness of the emotion for everyone. We are too occupied with showing everybody how much we love our spouse, yet we aren’t committed to the emotion, and the responsibilities which it imposes.
Conversely Woolf in the suicide note keeps it short and simple. Why? Because she lived her life experiencing love with her husband. Some might say that the simplistic nature of her note was down to her deteriorating mental health which she alludes to. However when you experience true love with someone who mutually reciprocates that emotion, it’s unnecessary to expand on it with words. You experience it. You feel its warmth. You immersed yourself in it. Words will not justify, in its entirety, the feeling of love. That is why I believe Woolf never expands on it, thus explaining why the structure of the note is only 9 lines long.
However it is a special feeling when someone takes the time to tell you how much they care about you.
Personally, I believe this note is the personification of unconditional love, and I say that as someone who has only experienced unrequited love. Love is a penetrating sentiment at the worst of times. It has the power to make anyone abandon logic and pragmatism. In the wrong hands, it can give someone the power to hurt you constantly. But even with these nuances we seek to garner love at all costs. My life has been fruitless in the pursuit of love, something I seek with the utmost serenity. I have been in love before, yet I have always been reminded of how unloveable I am.
So when I see the pure, unadulterated love that Virginia Woolf had for her husband, it makes my heart yearn. Woolf declares, “Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness.” This suggested how intrinsically connected they are. That his goodness has infected her, and it stays with her even has the disease erodes everything else beautiful about her. As her soul dissipates, the part of his soul which galvanised her remains.
We all understand that there are many intangible elements attached to a successful, loving relationship. Timing, character and past fragilities are all factors just as much as love, friendship and loyalty. Love is needlessly convoluted – it should be simple. But it never is.
Woolf states that, “I don’t think two people could have been happier… I can’t go on spoiling your life any longer.” Here we see the dichotomy between love and pain. It’s such a thin, arbitrary line. She understands the past was amazing. That he “was all anyone could be”, but now there is a crossroad in their life together. The disease has taken everything beautiful about her, or so she claims. This leads us to the last segment of this article: sacrifice.
Sacrifice maybe be the most noble and unappreciated aspect of love. Compromise is a fundamental part of any relationship, but sacrifice implies surrendering something important for another person. About 7 months ago my soulmate broke a few promises to me and destroyed my heart. She asked to remain friends because “you’re literally one of my best friends”. What she did to me did not warrant that type of settlement. What she did, and has done in the past, was extremely cruel and evil (no more details I promise). I stopped talking to her for 2 weeks to think. I decided that I loved and cared about her so much that I would forge any notion of a relationship. I would bury my love for her, to be her friend, because that’s what she needed. She did not appreciate my gesture, and continued to treat me with callousness.
Woolf sacrificed her life for her husband’s happiness, and sanity. Can you imagine the agony she thought she was causing him? She states, “If anybody could have saved me, it would have been you.” I interpret this as her saying that the reason she killed herself in secret was because he was her reason for living. That just the sight of her soulmate would have changed her mind, but her sacrifice was for the best (in her mind). You may say that killing herself was selfish, because it left Leonard with the heartache of losing his soulmate. But as George Bernard Shaw once wrote, “there are two great tragedies in life: one is losing your heart’s greatest desire, and the other is gaining it.”
Love is a beautiful ideal, never run away from it. Never give up on it, even if sorrow and anguish may engulf you one day. We will all perish sooner or later. Even when I thought I was loved, as counterfeit as those emotions were, it inspired and motivated me. It ignited my soul, and made me burn in a good way. Imagine how you’d feel if that feeling was real? Don’t give up on love. Your soul will never forgive you. Good night and good luck.
Artwork created by Mary Zins. All credit goes to her. Thank for your creativity.
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