Skip to content

Mrs Dalloway. Episode two.

by Virginia Woolf.

Dramatised for Radio 4, Classic Serial, in two episodes

Episode one.

by Michelene Wandor.



Satie. (Over it RICHARD walking in the street.)

RICHARD (over)       Here I am. Richard Dalloway. A man in the prime of my life, walking to my house in Westminster. I am lucky to live in a great age. There is continuity. I like continuity. There is tradition. I like tradition. I like the sense of handing on the customs of the past.

(Big Ben begins striking three, and then mixes into Satie.)

This afternoon, I shall tell Clarissa that I love her. I don’t tell her often enough. I don’t know why. Partly one’s lazy. Partly one’s just shy, I suppose.

(Footsteps fade. Satie mixes into CLARISSA’s bedroom.)


(CLARISSA’s bedroom. She turns over, waking gradually.)

CLARISSA (over)                  Here I am. Clarissa Dalloway. Resting in the middle of the afternoon. Cloistered. Wrapped in robes of sunny sound from the street. The breeze’s hot breath whispers, blowing out the blinds. (She yawns.) How lovely, how peaceful.

(Gentle knock on the door, and the handle turns softly.)

RICHARD                  Clarissa?

(Door opens slowly.)

Are you awake, my dear?

CLARISSA                Richard, darling. What a lovely surprise! I’ve just been resting after lunch. I must have fallen asleep.

RICHARD                  I brought you some flowers. Roses. I hope you like them.

CLARISSA                 Red and white. My favourite colours. (Smells the roses.) Heavenly.

(He sits on the bed. A gentle kiss.)

RICHARD                  I wanted to say – you know, I walked here through Green Park. It’s full of families, sitting on the grass, having picnics. They all looked so happy.

CLARISSA                 How was lunch? Did Millicent ask after me?

RICHARD                  Yes, she did, as a matter of fact.

CLARISSA                 Indeed. Who else was there?

RICHARD                  Oh, only Hugh Whitbread. Millicent wants us to compose a letter to The Times for her.

CLARISSA                 I ran into Hugh this morning. In Bond Street. Evelyn is out of sorts again.

RICHARD                  I gather.

CLARISSA                 I don’t expect she will come tonight. Shall we have tea? I can ring for Lucy.

RICHARD                  It is tempting, Clarissa. But I have to get back to the House of Commons in a few minutes.

CLARISSA                 Lie down with me, then?

(They get comfortable.)

So Millicent asked after me.

RICHARD                  She is very interested in you, Clarissa.

CLARISSA                She is not. She has no time for women who have to go to the seaside to recover from influenza. And I am sure she thinks I have prevented you from accepting a post abroad.

RICHARD                  She asked after you, my dear, and I think it shows she has a sense of feminine comradeship.

CLARISSA                 You don’t understand, Richard. Some women do not like other women. It is very simple. (Beat.) By the way, I saw Peter Walsh today. He called on me. Quite out of the blue. He is in love with some woman out in India. The wife of a Major. Imagine.

RICHARD                  Good Lord. Another of Walsh’s messes.

CLARISSA                 Exactly. He has come over to get a divorce.

(Big Ben strikes the quarter hour.)

RICHARD                  I’m afraid I must go.

CLARISSA                 Richard, if you want to go back to the House of Commons, you will have to let go of my hand.

RICHARD                  Yes, of course. By the way – I bought this for you as well.

CLARISSA                 Oh, Richard. (Opening jewel box.) How exquisite.

RICHARD                  I’m told it’s a ruby.

CLARISSA                 It’s beautiful. Thank you. (Kiss.)

RICHARD                  I really must go.

CLARISSA                 Look into the drawing room on your way out. See what you think of the arrangements for tonight. I want everything to be perfect.

RICHARD                  I am sure it will be.

CLARISSA                 I love my parties. I do it for life. It was so thoughtful of you to bring the roses and the brooch. Richard? Is something the matter?

RICHARD                  No, no. Nothing is the matter. I just –

CLARISSA                 What is it?

RICHARD                  Nothing. Really. I mustn’t be late for my committee.

CLARISSA                 Hurry, then.

(Kiss and door closes.)


RICHARD (over running downstairs)          I wanted to say I love you. I wanted to say ‘Do you wish you had married Peter instead of me?’ I wanted to say, ‘Are you really happy with me, Clarissa?’

(Front door opens. Satie.)

Damn, damn, damn.


(Satie mixes back into CLARISSA’s room.)

CLARISSA (over)      One day follows another. One wakes up in the morning. One sees the sky. One walks in the park. One meets Hugh Whitbread. Then, suddenly, in comes Peter. And then, almost as suddenly, in comes Richard, bringing me these lovely roses, and this brooch.

It should be enough. But then, can anything be enough? After all, it must end one day.

No-one in the whole world can know how I love it all – how I love every instant of this life.

 (Satie, mixes into the street.)


(Two sets of footsteps.)

REZIA                        When we get home, I shall put these sweet peas in water. It was kind of the lady to give them to us, wasn’t it? We must cross the road. Take my arm, Septimus.

SEPTIMUS                Look right, look left and then look right again.

REZIA                        Together, now.

(Traffic sound up as they cross the road.)

REZIA (over)             Encourage your husband to take an interest in ordinary, everyday things. That’s what Dr Holmes said.  A woman, giving me a bunch of sweet peas. Lunch in the Lyons Corner House. Scrambled eggs on toast. .

(Loud.)                                    Septimus, do you see that tall lady?

SEPTIMUS                Yes. Why?

REZIA                                   That hat she’s wearing is not right for the coat and dress and the way she holds herself. What do you think, Septimus? I don’t think she is smart enough to be French. She looks serious enough to be English.

SEPTIMUS                Her beauty is behind glass.

REZIA                        I wouldn’t say she is beautiful.

SEPTIMUS                I shall read some Dante when we get home.

REZIA                                    I’m not sure Dante is the most cheerful thing to read. But I am so pleased you want to. It means your mind is working perfectly well.

SEPTIMUS                Except that I can’t feel anything.

REZIA                        Did I ever tell you, Septimus. I had an aunt who married and lived somewhere in Soho. Will you take me to Soho one day?

SEPTIMUS                Perhaps the world itself is without feeling. One cannot bring children into a world like this.

REZIA                                    One day, I hope we will be able to afford smart lodgings off the Tottenham Court Road.

(Footsteps mix into hotel lobby.)


(Hotel lobby.)

RECEPTIONIST        Mr Walsh. There’s letter for you. Just arrived, sir.

PETER                        Thank you. Could you bring some hot water to my room, please?

RECEPTIONIST        Certainly, Mr Walsh.

(Clang of lift doors. Envelope opens.)

CLARISSA (over)      My dear Peter. How heavenly it was to see you this morning. Such a surprise.

(Lift stops, door clangs open. Footsteps continue. Key in room door.)

CLARISSA (over)      At first, your visit upset me. But then, when I kissed your hand – I felt – oh, I felt so much. I remembered. I regretted – so much.

(PETER’S room door closes.)

CLARISSA (over)      Perhaps it is just middle age. Perhaps it is just my mediocrity. I force myself to put it aside, to find in me a thread of life which has toughness, endurance. Power to overcome all obstacles. Our marriage would not have been a success, you know.

PETER                        How can she be so sure?

CLARISSA (over)      The other thing – our friendship, came more naturally. But friendship was never enough for you, dear Peter.

PETER                        Of course not.

CLARISSA (over)      I had to break with you, or we would have destroyed each other.

PETER                        She’s wrong.

CLARISSA (over)      I bore the grief, the anguish, with me for years.

PETER                       I don’t believe her. She was heartless. Cold.

CLARISSA (over)      And yet, when I think of you – of us – we are lying in the sun. You and me. And Sally, of course. Always laughing. At nothing. At everything. Perhaps I have never belonged in London. Perhaps I only really belonged at Bourton.

(Knock on the door.)

PETER                        Come in.

(Door opens.)

MAID                                     Your hot water, sir.

PETER                        Thank you.

(Big jug of hot water put down. Door closes.)

CLARISSA (over)      You have always been a gentleman. I could hardly believe it when someone told me – at a concert, can you imagine – that you had married a woman you met on the boat going out to India. How could you? Nevertheless. It was utter heaven to see you again, Peter, my dear.

PETER                        Utter heaven, eh. You don’t need to waste your pity, Clarissa. I am quite happy.

(Letter scrunched up.)

            (Over water poured into bowl, washing and shaving.) I am certainly not in love with her any more. But then, what do I feel? I suppose – after seeing her this morning, among her scissors and silks – it’s true. I can’t really get away from the thought of her. She keeps coming back, like a sleeper jolting against me in a railway carriage. That isn’t being in love, though. That is thinking of her, criticising her, starting again, after thirty years, trying to explain her to myself.

(Vigorous water splash mixes into Harley Street consulting room.)


(Harley Street consulting room.)

SEPTIMUS                These doctors. They all have their little games. Must we stay, Rezia?

REZIA                        Remember that Mr Holmes said there was nothing really wrong with you. You are just – out of sorts. Sir William will say the same. A second opinion is a good thing.

(Door opens.)

SIR W                         So sorry to keep you waiting, Mr and Mrs Warren Smith. (He sits. Papers rustling.)

Now then. I have a letter here. From a – a Dr Holmes. How long have you been seeing him?

REZIA                        About six weeks. That’s right, isn’t it, Septimus?

SIR W                         Has he prescribed anything?

REZIA                        Some bromide.

SIR W                         Has that improved matters?

REZIA                        Not really, Sir William.

SIR W                         These general practitioners. I’m afraid it takes half my time to undo their blunders. I gather you served with some distinction in the war, Mr Smith.

SEPTIMUS                The European War – that little shindy of schoolboys with gunpowder? I have forgotten.

REZIA                        He served with the greatest distinction. He was promoted.

SIR W                        And I see they have the very highest opinion of you at your office.

REZIA                        Oh, yes. They think very highly of him there. Don’t they, Septimus? The office is like a family.

SIR W                         So you have nothing to worry you, no financial anxiety, nothing like that?

REZIA                        Not at the moment, no.

SEPTIMUS                I have committed an appalling crime and been condemned to death by human nature.

REZIA                        He has done nothing wrong whatsoever, Sir William. Really.

SIR W                         Mr Smith – if you would wait here – I would like to speak to your wife in the next room.

REZIA                        Will you be alright, Septimus?

SEPTIMUS                Of course I will. It’s peaceful here.

(Door closes.)

SIR W                         I am afraid, Mrs Smith that your husband is very seriously ill. I could tell directly I saw him. It is a case of complete nervous and physical breakdown. Every symptom is in an advanced stage.

REZIA                        Are you saying that my husband is mad?

SIR W                         I never speak of ‘madness’. I call it not having a sense of proportion. Has he threatened to kill himself?

REZIA                        I am afraid he has. But he doesn’t really mean it. He is very unhappy.

SIR W                         That is a symptom of his illness.

REZIA                        Is there a cure for it?

SIR W                         It is difficult to tell. For now, it must be a question of complete rest. There is a delightful home down in the country where your husband will be perfectly well looked after.

REZIA                        I shall come too.

SIR W                         I’m afraid that will not be possible. Sometimes the people we care for most are not good for us when we are ill.

REZIA                        My husband will refuse to go to any home or hospital.

SIR W                         Your husband has threatened to kill himself. He is in danger. There is no alternative, Mrs Smith. I am sure he will like being in a beautiful house in the country. The nurses are admirable.

REZIA                        Are you sure, Sir William?

SIR W                         Quite sure. I will make all the arrangements. Have you any more questions?

REZIA                        No.

SIR W                         Then let us return to your husband.

(Footsteps, and door closes.)

Well, Mr Warren Smith, we have had our little talk.

SEPTIMUS                You have returned to Septimus Warren Smith, who sits in an armchair under the skylight. You have returned to face the criminal who faces his judges. The victim exposed on the heights. The fugitive. The drowned sailor.

REZIA                        Sir William says you are very, very ill.

SIR W                         I am arranging for you to go into one of my convalescent homes, Mr Warren Smith, where we will teach you to rest.

SEPTIMUS               And all the rest.

SIR W                         We all have our moments of depression. But you have talked of killing yourself, and you must not frighten your wife.

SEPTIMUS                Once you fall, human nature is on you. The rack and the thumbscrew are applied. What I say is my own affair.

SIR W                         Nobody lives for himself alone.

SEPTIMUS                And if I confess? Will you let me off then?

SIR W                         Try to think about yourself as little as possible. That is my advice. I’ll be in touch soon. My receptionist will see you out.

REZIA                        Thank you, Sir William.

(Over front door closing and street in background.)



SEPTIMUS                I don’t like that man, Rezia.

REZIA                        No. Sir William Bradshaw is not a nice man. Though I think he was trying to help.

SEPTIMUS                Some people will break down and sob. Others, inspired by Heaven knows what intemperate madness, will call Sir William Bradshaw a damnable humbug. That is what he is. A damnable humbug. Let’s go home, Rezia.


(Street mixes into Army and Navy Stores. Tea room.)

KILMAN                   So sorry to keep you waiting, Elizabeth.

ELIZABETH              Don’t worry, Miss Kilman. I’ve ordered tea.

KILMAN                   I’ve bought a striped petticoat. (Rustle of bag.) Do you think it is too frivolous?

ELIZABETH              Not in the least. It’s very bright and cheerful.

KILMAN                   Good. (Tea pouring, etc.) I’ve been thinking. We must talk seriously.

ELIZABETH              We always talk seriously, Miss Kilman.

KILMAN                   I want to talk to you about the future. Have you thought about what you would like to do? You have so many talents.

ELIZABETH              I suppose – I like – I am interested in people who are ill. People who need help.

KILMAN                   You might be a doctor. These days every profession is open to women of your generation.

ELIZABETH               Animals are ill too.

KILMAN                   You might become a farmer.

ELIZABETH               I do love the country. I share that with my father.

KILMAN                   You might own a thousand acres and have people under you.

ELIZABETH              Then sometimes I think it would be good to help the poor. That is what my father does some of the time. Miss Kilman – did you always want to be a teacher?

KILMAN                   Yes. I was happy at my school, until the war came. The headmistress, said she thought I would be happier with people who shared my views about the Germans.

ELIZABETH             What did she mean?

KILMAN                   My family is of German origin, and I couldn’t pretend that all Germans are villains. For that, I lost my job. Then I worked for the Friends – the Quakers, you know – and that’s where I met Mr Dalloway.

ELIZABETH              I thought my mother found you.

KILMAN                   No. Mr Dalloway is a rich person who likes to be kind. Mrs Dalloway – I’m sorry to say it, Elizabeth, because she is your mother, but she has been merely condescending. Your mother doesn’t approve of me. She thinks me ugly.

ELIZABETH              That’s nonsense. You’re not ugly.

KILMAN                   I can’t afford to buy pretty clothes. I have to accept the truth. I shall never come first with anyone.

ELIZABETH             You come first with me.

KILMAN                   Thank you, my dear. That is some consolation.

ELIZABETH              There must be other consolations.

KILMAN                   Oh, yes. Dinner. Tea, here with you. My hot water bottle at night. And the church, of course. One must have faith in God. I do wonder sometimes why I have to suffer when other women – such as your mother – escape suffering?

ELIZABETH             I don’t think my mother does escape suffering. She isn’t always happy.

KILMAN                   They say that true knowledge comes through suffering. I shall always be grateful that Our Lord came to me and I saw the light.

ELIZABETH              How did it happen?

KILMAN                   Two years and three months ago precisely, I went into a church. I heard the boys sing. I saw the solemn lights and my feelings were assuaged. The Reverend Edward Whittaker told me it was the hand of God.

ELIZABETH              Miss Kilman, you are quite different from anyone I know. You make one feel so small.  You are special. You know so much.

KILMAN                   Thank you, Elizabeth dear. You are kind. Would you come with me to Westminster Abbey?

ELIZABETH              Another time, perhaps, Miss Kilman. I’m afraid I must go home now. I’ll pay the bill

(Tea rooms mix into street and Satie.)


ELIZABETH (over)               It is so nice to be out in the air. If I stand quite still, I can be a poplar tree in early dawn. Hyacinths, fawns. Running water and garden lilies. London is so dreary, compared with being in the country with my father and the dogs. (Bus idles.) I am a pirate, reckless, unscrupulous, riding on the omnibus up Whitehall, all sails spread. I am free. (Bus starts again.) I would like a profession. A doctor. A farmer. I shall go into Parliament. I could do anything. Miss Kilman said so.

(Money and chink of machine stamping the ticket. Bus mixes into Westminster Abbey.)


KILMAN (over)        This is the habitation of God. The light in the Abbey is bodiless, above vanities and desires. Here worshippers are divested of social rank and sex as they raise their hands before their faces. I raise my hands in a tent before my face, and pray. I must rid myself of both hatred and love. To others, God is accessible and the path to him is smooth. If only Elizabeth were here, praying with me.

(Mix into quiet tea rooms. Palm Court strings in background.)


(Clatter of silver tray and crockery.)

SALLY                        I am surprised you recognised me, Peter.

PETER                        I would know you anywhere, Sally Seton.

SALLY                        Stuff and nonsense. I was the only woman standing by the red pillar box, outside the British Museum. I have five enormous boys now, you know.

PETER                        How wonderful.

SALLY                        Would you pass the jam? I can never resist a scone.  I suppose your palate will have changed in India?

PETER                        I am not the best judge of cooking in India. Not like Major Simmons.

SALLY                        Major Simmons?

PETER                        I am in love, Sally.

SALLY                        With Major Simmons? Peter!

PETER                        No, no. I am in love with Daisy. Major Simmons is her husband.

SALLY                        Oh, dear.

PETER                        Daisy is twenty-four. She has two children. She is adorable. So pretty.

SALLY                        A secret affair.

PETER                        Not really. Daisy doesn’t care a straw what people say. I have come to talk to lawyers about the divorce. I went for a walk in Regent’s Park this morning. I saw two lovers on a bench. They looked so desperate. So unhappy. It reminded me of Clarissa and me all over again.

SALLY                        Will you tell Clarissa about Daisy?

PETER                        Clarissa knows. I called on her this morning. You know,  Clarissa never says anything especially clever. But there she is.

SALLY                        Indeed. She is not at all beautiful, but there she is. It is always Clarissa one remembers. Are you still in love with her, Peter?

PETER                        Of course not. But since this morning, I have been trying to explain her to myself, all over again, just as I always did.

SALLY                        The worst thing about her, I suppose, is that she is ambitious. She has always cared too much for getting on in the world.

PETER                        Look who she married. My name is Richard Dalloway. I don’t think I shall ever suffer again as Clarissa made me suffer at Bourton.

SALLY                        I think you’re still jealous of Richard, Peter. Face it.

PETER                        I suppose jealousy does survive every other passion. When I saw Clarissa so calm, so cold, so intent on her life, I was reduced to a whimpering idiot. I burst into tears. She must have thought me a fool. You women don’t know what passion is.

SALLY                        What utter rot.

PETER                        You don’t know how much passion means to men. You can never know how much I suffered at Bourton.

(Satie mixes into Bourton.)


(Lake sounds up.)

RICHARD (calling)   Clarissa – come and look at this.

CLARISSA                 What is it, Richard?

RICHARD                  A nest. Some eggs. A pheasant, I think. Do come and see.

SALLY (close)            Peter, my dear. Why so sad?

PETER                        Just look at them. Dalloway is falling in love with Clarissa, And she is falling in love with him. Clarissa and I go in and out of each other’s minds without any effort, without any effect at all. She will marry that man. I suppose he deserves to have her. I’m so unhappy, Sally.

SALLY                        You’ve got nothing to worry about, my dear. My name is Dalloway is just pompous. Clarissa can’t possibly like him more than she likes you.

PETER                        He’s got his career lined up. He’s going to be a respectable member of society. I’ve made up my mind. It’s got to be finished one way or another. I have to know where I stand.

CLARISSA (returning at a run) Sally – do come and see.

SALLY (over)             Now’s your chance. Talk to her.

CLARISSA                 Richard has found the sweetest little nest.

SALLY                        I’d love to see. (Calling.) Richard. Where is it?

RICHARD                  Over here.

SALLY                        Coming.

CLARISSA                  Peter? It’s awfully sweet.

PETER                        I don’t want to see any stupid bird’s nest.

CLARISSA                 What is the matter with you? Why can’t you just enjoy yourself, like Sally? She is so enthusiastic about everything.

PETER                        Sally is not – not –

CLARISSA                 Sally is not what, Peter?

PETER                        Sally is not – normal, Clarissa.

CLARISSA                 Oh, Lord. Peter, I do believe you are jealous of Sally as well.

PETER                        Why should I be jealous?

CLARISSA                 Sally just likes shocking people.

PETER                        Clarissa, you must tell me the truth.

CLARISSA                 The truth? About what?

PETER                        About – you. You and me. You are – like iron. Like flint. Just tell me.

CLARISSA                 For heaven’s sake, tell you what?

PETER                        Are you just amusing yourself with me? Have you got an understanding with Richard Dalloway?

CLARISSA                 What on earth gave you that idea?

PETER                        You thought it. I can hear you thinking it.

CLARISSA                 Your demands on me are absurd, Peter. You want to talk everything to its death. To the death of the soul.

PETER                        Does that mean it’s the end?

CLARISSA                 There you are. You’re doing it again.

PETER                        Well? I must know.

CLARISSA                 I – I suppose so. Yes. It is the end.

PETER                        So it’s over.

CLARISSA                 You exaggerate everything, Peter. But it is – yes, it is over.

PETER                        I’ll never see you again.

CLARISSA                 Don’t be so melodramatic. Of course you’ll see me again. You’ll see me at supper.

RICHARD (calling)   Clarissa.

CLARISSA                 Coming, Richard.

(Bourton fades. Tea rooms come up.)


PETER                       It was awful, Sally. Clarissa refused me. She was cruel. Heartless.

SALLY                        Was it my fault?

PETER                        No, no. I disapproved of you. But Clarissa and me – no. That certainly wasn’t your fault.

SALLY                        I’m glad to hear it.

PETER                        Clarissa influenced me more than any person I have ever known.

SALLY                        Even more than I did?

PETER                        Oh, no. Never more than you. But differently. Cool, ladylike. Impatient.

SALLY                        Not at all like me, then. Not ravishing, romantic.

PETER                        Exactly. What happened to wild, daring Sally Seton? The last person one would have expected to marry a rich man and live in a large house near Manchester.

SALLY                        Lady Rosseter, if you please.

PETER                        You used to say such outrageous things.

SALLY                        Did I really?

PETER                        Yes. Such as – did it really matter that before she’d married, so and so had had a baby? In those days, in mixed company, that was a very bold thing to say.

SALLY                        You gave me cigars. That was just as outrageous. I smoked them in my bedroom.

PETER                        Weren’t you engaged to somebody?

SALLY                        Darling, I was engaged to everybody.

PETER                        Sally.

SALLY                        Yes?

PETER                        I always wondered. About Hugh.

SALLY                        Ah. Hugh Whitbread.

(Tearoom fades into Bourton.)


(Bourton dining room. SALLY bangs the dining room table.)

SALLY                        I say. Hugh.

HUGH                        Yes, young Sally?

SALLY                        What do you think about women’s rights?

HUGH                        Women already have all the rights they need.

SALLY                        It’s about time you gave women’s rights some serious attention.

HUGH                        Oh, do drop that antediluvian topic! Talk about something else, Sally, before you bore us all to tears.

SALLY                        You, Hugh Whitbread, represent all that is most detestable in British middle-class life. You think of nothing but your own appearance.

HUGH                        And what’s wrong with that?

SALLY                        You have read nothing, thought nothing, felt nothing. You are a perfect public school product. No country but England could have produced you.

HUGH                        And you, Sally Seton, are a pompous little girl.

(Laughter round table.)


(Mix back into tea room.)

SALLY                        The Whitbread man.  The man everyone adored.  And yet, when all is said and done, the Whitbreads were no more than coal merchants. Respectable tradespeople.

PETER                        Did you have some other grudge against Hugh? Did he insult you? Oh, of course. Did he kiss you? I could understand him kissing some Honourable Edith or Lady Violet, but not you.

SALLY                        And why not me?

PETER                        Ragamuffin Sally? Without a penny to her name? A father and mother who gambled at Monte Carlo?

SALLY                        Wasn’t I good enough to be kissed by pompous Hugh Whitbread?

PETER                        Hugh Whitbread was the biggest snob at Bourton. He had the greatest respect of anyone I know for the aristocracy. You saw through him.

SALLY                        It was so easy. Do you think he will be at Clarissa’s party tonight?

PETER                        I imagine so.

SALLY                        Peter. Supposing you and Daisy marry. Will you come back to live in England?

PETER                        Oh, yes. I could ask Clarissa to find us lodgings and be nice to Daisy. Introduce her to people.

SALLY                        There you go again. Always dependent on others. Always dependent on women.

PETER                        I like women’s society. I love the fineness of your companionship, your faithfulness, your audacity in loving. It is so admirable. Yet I never feel I can can come up to scratch. I think Clarissa sapped something in me. I tire easily of mute devotion. But it would make me furious if Daisy loved anybody else.

SALLY                        Of course you would be furious.

PETER                        Talking about the past is so tiring. Perhaps I won’t go to Clarissa’s tonight.

SALLY                        What could you do instead?

PETER                        I might go to a Music Hall. Or I might stay in my hotel and read a book.

SALLY                        Oh, you must come, Peter. I need you to be there.


(Drawing room. Two sets of footsteps on wooden floor.)

CLARISSA                 Lucy. The room looks marvellous. The new chair covers go wonderfully with the yellow chintz curtains.

LUCY                                     And the silver, Madam? Mrs Walker is so proud of the silver.

CLARISSA                 Clean and bright.

LUCY                                     Mrs Walker wonders whether the Prime Minister is coming.

CLARISSA                 We hope so, certainly.

LUCY                                     Shall I light the fire before the guests arrive?

CLARISSA                 Thank you, Lucy.

(Door bursts open.)

ELIZABETH              Mother. I must talk to you.

CLARISSA                 What on earth is the matter, Elizabeth?

LUCY                                     Excuse me.

(Door closes.)

CLARISSA                 Have you been running?

ELIZABETH              What? Yes.

CLARISSA                 Sit down and get your breath back. What is it you must talk to me about this very moment? Can’t it wait?

ELIZABETH              No. Miss Kilman and I –

CLARISSA                 Ah. The ubiquitous Miss Kilman.

ELIZABETH              She says you don’t like her. She thinks you laugh at her, that  you think her ugly.

CLARISSA                 Elizabeth. She stays on after her lesson, standing by the fireplace with her bag of books. She will not leave you alone. What is it she wants?

ELIZABETH              She wants me to think. She teaches me about history. She talks about the war. She talks about different points of view.

CLARISSA                 You do think, my dear. You are a very thoughtful girl. The trouble with Miss Kilman – apart from her poverty, which we do our very best to ameliorate – the trouble with Miss Kilman is that she has no small talk. What interests her bores me. Miss Kilman – you will forgive me – while not exactly ugly, is certainly very plain.

ELIZABETH               Miss Kilman is clever. Why can’t you see that?

CLARISSA                 I daresay.

ELIZABETH              Mother, you should think more about the world. We live here with everything we want. You have breakfast in bed every day. Miss Kilman will never have that.

CLARISSA                 Why should she want to have that?

ELIZABETH              Because – oh, that isn’t exactly what I mean.

CLARISSA                 Elizabeth, you shouldn’t worry about the future. You have lovely eyes. You have nice shoulders and you hold yourself straight. You should not worry about your looks. You are always charming to look at. When you are interested in something, you are almost beautiful. Men are bound to fall in love with you.

ELIZABETH              Actually, I’m awfully bored in London. I want to have some purpose. Some kind of occupation.

CLARISSA                 Well, now. There we have it. You should not be at all bored in London. I put that down to your friendship with Miss Kilman. The one trouble with you, Elizabeth, if you don’t mind my saying so, is that you are rather lazy. You are too easily led. You must understand that in some ways, you are still a little immature.

ELIZABETH             You simply don’t understand.

CLARISSA                 No, wait. Perhaps there is something in what you say. There is, in the Dalloway family, a tradition of public service. Abbesses. Principals. Head mistresses. Perhaps there might something here for you. We shall have to see what we can find. Meanwhile, there is still Miss Kilman. With her creeds and prayers and mackintoshes. (ELIZABETH about to sigh.) I suppose I will just have to put up with her. Do you think Miss Kilman might like some flowers? After the party?

ELIZABETH              I’m sure she would. Thank you, Mother.

CLARISSA                 Good. Come here. (Kiss.) There now. You really have nothing to worry about, Elizabeth.

(Door closes softly. Satie.)

CLARISSA (over)      Love and religion. How detestable they both are. Miss Kilman and Peter Walsh. Clumsy, hot, domineering, hypocritical, jealous, infinitely cruel and both equally unscrupulous. Love and religion.

(Window opened. Satie.)

I simply wish everybody to be themselves. (Beat.) There is the old lady in the house opposite. She climbs upstairs. She goes into her bedroom, parts her curtains and disappears again. She looks out of the window, quite unconscious of being watched. I respect that.

She has peace and solemnity. Love and religion could destroy that. Her peace and solemnity make me sad.

Love destroys. Everything that is fine, everything that is true, goes. Peter Walsh. There is a man, charming, clever. Peter, you helped me. You lent me books. But look at the women you have loved: vulgar, trivial, commonplace. You call on me after all these years, and what do you talk about? Yourself. Horrible passion. Degrading passion.

(Satie mixes into Bloomsbury bedsit.)


SEPTIMUS               Have you noticed how the light changes in the afternoon?

REZIA                                   Yes, Septimus. It is very beautiful.

SEPTIMUS                It comes through the window. A watery glow on the wallpaper.  The roses look as if they are sprouting on the walls. Can you hear water?

REZIA                        No, my dear. I don’t think so.

SEPTIMUS                It sounds like birds singing in the roses.

REZIA                        Come and sit down. On the sofa. Next to me. (He does.) Are you comfortable?

SEPTIMUS                My hand floats on top of the waves.

REZIA                        Your hand is on the back of the sofa. It’s quite safe.

SEPTIMUS                Fear no more, says the heart in the body. Fear no more.

REZIA                        Exactly. There’s nothing to fear.

SEPTIMUS                I’m not afraid, Rezia. Look at the sun. A gold spot, laughing on the wall. Can you see it?

REZIA                                   Yes. It’s lovely.

SEPTIMUS (gets up and walks round the room) The sun shakes her plumes, flings her mantle this way and that, beautifully, always beautifully, and stands up to breathe Shakespeare’s words through her hands.

REZIA                        Look. I’ve nearly finished another hat.

SEPTIMUS                Making hats. Scissors and silk and needles. Turning and sewing. A hat. Who is it for? The landlady. What’s her name? I’ve forgotten the landlady’s name.

REZIA                        Mrs Peters. I’m making the hat for Mrs Peters.

SEPTIMUS                Are you writing all this down?

REZIA                        Not while I’m sewing. I’ll write it down later.

SEPTIMUS                Put it in the drawer, with the other papers. They’re full of words about Shakespeare and about war and death. But I know there is no death.  I know the truth.

REZIA                        Could you pass me the red cotton? There, on the table.

SEPTIMUS                This reel?

REZIA                        Yes. Thank you. Stop pacing, Septimus. Sir William Bradshaw said you must rest.

SEPTIMUS                Oh, that man. He annoys me. He wasn’t kind. He makes me think of Evans. Did you know he was killed?

REZIA                        Yes. I did know.

SEPTIMUS                Evans still comes to visit me. He sings to me. Listen. Can you hear him?

REZIA                                   I don’t hear anything. It’s windy outside. Perhaps it’s the wind you can hear. Shall we close the window a little?

SEPTIMUS                Your breath is like the wind outside a wood in the evening Some people are very cruel. What about Holmes? He said he eats porridge. Was he laughing at me? At us? Perhaps he is human nature.

(Barrel organ in the street.)

SEPTIMUS                Now the gulls are screaming above me.

REZIA                        It’s music. A barrel organ, outside, in the street. I’ve trimmed the hat with flowers. Isn’t it pretty?

SEPTIMUS                It’s an organ grinder’s monkey’s hat.

REZIA                                    Septimus, sometimes you are so funny. I think I’ll sew another rose on the brim.

(Rummaging, buttons, etc)

SEPTIMUS                Buttons. Beads. Can you put these on the hat?

REZIA                                    Perfect. (She hums as she sews.)

SEPTIMUS                Busy, strong pointed fingers pinching and poking. Flashing needles. The sun goes in and out of a pocket of still air, like the wings of a bird.

REZIA                                   There. Finished.

SEPTIMUS                Try it on.

REZIA                                   Very well.

SEPTIMUS                Now look in the mirror. You are lovely, Rezia. I do love you.

REZIA                        I am so happy, Septimus. I can say anything to you. That was almost the first thing I felt about you.

SEPTIMUS                But why me?


REZIA                        I noticed you straight away. The café was quiet. You came in with your friends, and suddenly there was a burst of English in the middle of Milan. You sat a little apart from the others, hunched, like a bird. You were shy.

SEPTIMUS                Did you talk to me first?

REZIA                                    No. You came over to my table and we played dominoes. You were so gentle. Never wild or drunk. Just suffering in this terrible war. When we met, you put all that suffering away and you helped me so much. Wanting me to read Shakespeare before I could even read a child’s story in English.

(Satie fades.)

SEPTIMUS                Now you can read Shakespeare perfectly well. If I nearly close my eyes, you look all blurred. Why is that?

REZIA                        I’m not at all blurred.

SEPTIMUS                The floor looks like the sea. It makes me want to cry.

REZIA                        There’s no need to cry, Septimus, darling. You were so happy a moment ago. What happened? Look at something ordinary. The sideboard.

SEPTIMUS                Yes.  A plate of bananas. An engraving of Queen Victoria and the Prince Consort. The mantelpiece. A jar of roses. They are all still. They are all real.

I am very tired. I am very happy.

REZIA                        Then lie down and rest. I’ll go and make some tea.

SEPTIMUS                Your mind is like a bird, falling from branch to branch. Whatever I say, you smile, like a bird alighting with its claws firm upon the bough. Don’t be long, Lucrezia.

(Door opens and closes.)

(Over)                         Like a bird hopping, flitting in the grass. I daren’t move a finger. Human beings have neither kindness nor charity. The sun has a watery dazzle.

Peering at me through the window.

(Casement opened. Sounds of street below.)

I can taste the wind. I can taste the window. Holmes will not get me. Bradshaw will not get me. I can sit on the windowsill and balance, if I want to. Life is good. The sun is hot.


(Street mixes into CLARISSA’s bedroom.) 

CLARISSA (over)      The old lady and I have been neighbours for so many years, and yet we don’t know each other’s names. I have never once waved to her from my window. There is a mystery. There is a miracle. Can Kilman solve this mystery? Would Peter have the ghost of an idea? Here is one room. Here is another. Does religion solve that? Does love solve that?

(Crash and clatter from downstairs.)

Oh, heavens.

(Bedroom door opens and footsteps run downstairs.)


(Footsteps into noisy, clattering kitchen.)

CLARISSA                 Mrs Walker. Is everything alright?

MRS WALKER         Yes, Mrs Dalloway, everything is under control down here. Quiet, everyone.

(Clatter dies down.)

CLARISSA                 I heard something – break, perhaps?

MRS WALKER         Oh, only one plate, and not the best Royal Doulton. Mrs Dalloway, is it true that the Prime Minister is coming?

LUCY                                     Sorry, Mrs Walker. I forgot to tell you.

CLARISSA                 We hope so, yes. Are you sure everything’s alright?

MRS WALKER         Yes, yes. Plates, saucepans, colanders. Frying pans. The chicken in aspic is ready. The ice cream is safe and waiting. Crusts of bread for the soup. Pudding basins lined up. The fire is a bit hot, but we’re used to it. We do appreciate the electric light. It makes everything so much easier.

CLARISSA                 Good.

MRS WALKER         There is something –

CLARISSA                 Oh, dear.

MRS WALKER         Nothing serious. I’m a little worried about the salmon. Last time it turned out a bit overdone.

CLARISSA                 I’m sure it will be perfect, Mrs Walker.

MRS WALKER         The Imperial Tokay arrived safely. Not a bottle broken.

CLARISSA                 Well, thank you, everyone. Lucy. Would you bring up some hot water, for Mr Dalloway?

LUCY                                     Yes, Madam.

CLARISSA                 Thank you, Lucy. Thank you, everyone.


(Kitchen fades into bedroom door closing. Socked feet padding on floor.)

CLARISSA                 Well, that’s a relief. Mrs Walker fusses terribly, but she knows what she’s doing.

RICHARD                  The house looks wonderful. (Drops kiss on her head.)

CLARISSA                 I thought you didn’t notice such things, Richard?

RICHARD                  Oh, well. You know. Shall I take the combs out of your hair?

CLARISSA                 Thank you. (Combs, rings, etc, on dressing table top.) You know, as I was crossing the hall on my way upstairs, I thought, ‘If I were now to die, ’twere now to be most happy.’

RICHARD                  Is that Shakespeare?

CLARISSA                 I don’t know, actually. It could be.

RICHARD                  It’s a little morbid, don’t you think?

CLARISSA                 Well, you know what I mean. It’s just a way of saying I’m happy.

(Knock on door. Door opens.)

LUCY                                     Your hot water, Mr Dalloway.

RICHARD                  Thank you, Lucy.

(Door closes. Sound of water poured into bowl.)

RICHARD                  Which cufflinks shall I wear, Clarissa? Will you choose for me?

CLARISSA                 Of course. What do you think of my dress?

RICHARD                  You look wonderfully elegant, as usual.

CLARISSA                 I shall wear my ruby brooch with it. There. It goes perfectly with my dress. Thank you, my dear. So thoughtful. (A kiss.)

(Bedroom mixes into bedsit.)


(Bedsit. Distant street through the open window.)

SEPTIMUS                Rezia? Rezia, where are you.

REZIA                        I am here, Septimus. You must have fallen asleep. Would you like some tea? It’s still hot.

SEPTIMUS                No. Where are my papers? Where are the things I have written?

(Drawer opens.)

REZIA                                   Here you are, Septimus. Shall we look at them together?

(Papers feverishly rustled.)

SEPTIMUS                I must find it.

REZIA                        What are you looking for, my dear?

SEPTIMUS                I must find Evans. What are these? Men and women, with sticks for arms and with wings. Circles traced round shillings and sixpences. Suns and stars.

REZIA                        Those are the drawings you made. They’re very good.

SEPTIMUS                Burn them. Burn them all. Conversations with Shakespeare. Evans is the only one who has messages from the dead.

REZIA                                    I’ll put them in order, and tie them together with a piece of silk. Would you like that?

SEPTIMUS                You are sitting with all your petals around you. Holmes and Bradshaw make ten thousand a year and then they talk to me about proportion. They differ in their verdicts. Yet they sit in judgement on me. They mix the vision and the sideboard. They see nothing clearly, yet they rule and they inflict. You triumph over them, Rezia.

REZIA                        You need to rest, my dear.

SEPTIMUS                Once you stumble, human nature is on you. Our only hope is to escape. To Italy. Anywhere, as long as it is away from those doctors

REZIA                        Dr Holmes is a kind man.

SEPTIMUS                He has won. They have won.

REZIA                        Lie down again, Septimus. I’ll be back in a minute.


(Bedsit mixes into Satie.)

CLARISSA (over)      There she is. The delicate pink face of the woman giving a party. Clarissa Dalloway. I must have seen my face a million times. Why do I always purse my lips when I look in the mirror? To give my face more definition. That is me. Pointed, Dart-like. Definite.

It is impossible to gather the world into just one point, The me-point.

One centre, one diamond, one woman, a meeting point for my guests, gracious, hospitable, always helpful, never showing a sign of all the other sides of me – jealousies, vanities, suspicions.

(Front doorbell rings below.)

They are here. My guests are arriving.


(Satie mixes into footsteps in the street.)

PETER (over)                         The moon is up, the sky open.

SALLY (over)             The wind blows softly round the corner of the street, lifting my cloak gently in the air, then letting it sink and droop.

PETER (over)             The street is almost empty. The houses have yellow and pink windows.

SALLY (over)             A door stands open. People, one, two three, stand in the light, like moths on a lantern pane. One might fancy the London day is just beginning. Like a woman who has slipped off her white apron, to array herself in blue and pearls.

PETER (over)             The day has shed heat and colour. The traffic thins. An intense light hangs among the foliage. The great revolution of summer time has taken place since my last visit to England. This prolonged evening is rather inspiring.

(Car stops and idles.)

PETER (over)             A gentleman in black and white evening dress pays the driver. (Loud.) Oh, Lord, Sally. I shouldn’t have come.

SALLY (loud)             Don’t be silly. This will be an adventure for us. Mr Peter Walsh and Lady Rosseter are attending a party given by Mrs Clarissa Dalloway.

PETER                        Don’t abandon me.

SALLY                        I won’t. I’m sure I shan’t know anyone except Clarissa. And Richard. And – of course, Hugh.

(Footseps stop.)

SALLY                        Come on, Peter. Let’s go in.

(Party sounds up. Over.) On every chair, pale wisps of gauze curl on bright silks. Candles burn pear shaped flames. Stars shine.

PETER (over)                         The room is full. Roses shine like fireflies in Florence.

(Crowded party sounds mix into bedsit.)


(Door closes.)

SEPTIMUS                Where have you been, Rezia? You’ve been gone for years.

REZIA                        I have been on the telephone, Septimus.

SEPTIMUS                Talking? To whom? First there was the sea, then the mountains, and now there are just screens. Where is Evans?

REZIA                        Listen to me, Septimus. This is the screen in front of our bed.

The sideboard is over there, and this is the coal scuttle. I’ve been talking to Dr Holmes.

SEPTIMUS                The dead hunt in packs. They scour the desert and vanish screaming into the wilderness. They desert the fallen. Why were you talking to Holmes?

REZIA                        I asked Dr Holmes to come and see you. To talk to you for a little while.

SEPTIMUS                I don’t want to see that damn fool again. Bradshaw said I must learn to rest. I am resting. Why did he say I must rest in a house in the country?

REZIA                        It is because you talked about killing yourself. Dr Holmes will be here soon.


(Party sounds full up.)

CLARISSA                 Peter. Lovely to see you again.

SALLY                        Clarissa. My darling. (Kiss.)

CLARISSA                 Sally. How wonderful. Sally Seton.

PETER                        This, my dear, is Lady Rosseter.

CLARISSA (over)      A soft kiss. Full on the lips. Oh, Sally.

 (loud)                                     Richard, darling. Look who is here.

(over)                          The most exquisite moment of my whole life. The whole world might have turned upside down.

RICHARD                  Old Peter Walsh. How delightful to see you again. And – bless my soul. If it isn’t Lady Rosseter.

CLARISSA (over)      I have been given a present. Not something to look at it, like a diamond. Something infinitely more precious.

PETER                        Good to see you, Richard. You look well.

RICHARD                  Oh, you know. You haven’t changed a bit, Sally.

SALLY                        Oh, yes, I have. I am older. Happier.  I have five very grown up boys.

CLARISSA                 You must tell me all about them. Aren’t the roses lovely? Richard brought them for me. Richard. Lady Bruton has just arrived. Go and talk to her.

RICHARD                  Do excuse me.

CLARISSA                 And here is my Elizabeth. (Going.) Elizabeth, come and talk to my friends.

PETER                        How are you, Elizabeth?

ELIZABETH              Much as I was this morning.

PETER                        Are you still playing hockey?

ELIZABETH              Good Lord, no. You don’t need to make conversation with me, Mr Walsh.

PETER                        That’s a relief.

ELIZABETH              Excuse me.

SALLY                        Of course.

PETER                        She’s not exactly pretty. Handsome, perhaps. Nothing of her mother in her.

SALLY                        Now, now. No more sentimentality, Peter. Never forget that there was always something cold in Clarissa. I say. Is that the Prime Minister?

PETER                       It is, indeed, the Prime Minister.

SALLY                        He looks so ordinary. You might have stood him behind a counter and bought biscuits from him. Poor chap. All rigged up in gold lace.

(Laughter mixes back into bedsit.)


(Knock on door.)

REZIA                        Come in.

( Door opens.)

Dr Holmes. I’m glad you could come.

SEPTIMUS                I don’t want to see anyone.

HOLMES                   Come along, old chap. Let’s have a good look at you. (Sits down on bed. Springs.) Now, then, what’s all this about.

REZIA                        I am so worried, Dr Holmes.

HOLMES                   She’s quite a girl, your wife. Speaks excellent English. This business must give her a very odd idea of English husbands. One owes a duty to one’s wife, you know. Mr Warren Smith, there really is nothing whatever the matter with you. Next time I come to visit you, I hope to find you cheerful and not making that charming little lady, your wife, anxious about you.

SEPTIMUS                I suppose you think you are human nature. The whole world is clamouring: kill yourself, kill yourself, for our sakes. But why should I kill myself for their sakes? Food is pleasant. The sun is hot.

DR HOLMES             That’s the spirit. Communication is health. Communication is happiness. (Stands up.)I’ll give you something to help you relax and sleep. Would you come with me, dear lady? I’d like a word.

SEPTIMUS                Don’t go, Rezia.

REZIA                        I’ll be back soon.

(Door closes softly. Murmurs of voices behind it. Satie.)

SEPTIMUS (over)     Holmes will not get me. Bradshaw will not get me. Now even Rezia has gone. Perhaps she is outside the window. I must look for her.

(Traffic louder.)

(Over.)                        How tiresome. How troublesome. Opening the window and throwing myself out. How melodramatic. It’s their idea of tragedy.  It’s not mine. I shall sit up here and look out. This is very comfortable.  I don’t want to die. Life is good. The sun is hot. We are only human beings, after all.

(Satie up. Screams from the street. Door opens.)

HOLMES                   Oh, my God. Mr Warren-Smith –

REZIA                                    Dr Holmes? What’s happened?

HOLMES                   You must be brave, Mrs Smith.

REZIA                                   It was an accident. I’m sure it must have been an accident. I must go to him.

HOLMES                   No, my dear lady. Wait till the ambulance arrives.

REZIA                        It’s my fault. I shouldn’t have left him on his own. He must have looked out of the window, and fallen by accident. A terrible accident.

HOLMES                   You mustn’t blame yourself, my dear.

REZIA                        Of course I must blame myself. I shouldn’t have left him on his own.

(Ambulance siren approaches and stops.)

REZIA (over)             Death is like opening the window. Death is like stepping into a garden. Septimus will not recover consciousness. One day I shall put on my hat and run through cornfields. One day I shall stand on a hill, somewhere near the sea. I will see gulls. Butterflies. I will hear the sea. I have been strewn, like flowers over the ground. Septimus is dead.

(Ambulance mixes into Big Ben. Distant. The room is quiet.)

HOLMES                   Your pulse is a little fast, Mrs Smith. You must rest.

REZIA                        I can’t rest. Married people ought to be together.

(Big Ben mixes into party.)


CLARISSA                 Well, my dears. Finally a moment to catch up properly. How long is it since we were all together?

SALLY                        Ten years?

PETER                        Twenty years?

CLARISSA                 You’re teasing me. At least thirty years.

PETER                        Thirty years of friendship. We met practically every day,

SALLY                        Then not for six months at a time, and then not for years.

CLARISSA                 I have a theory.

PETER                        You always had a theory, Clarissa.

SALLY                        We had heaps of theories. Young people need to have theories, to explain our feelings of dissatisfaction, of not knowing people, of not being known.

CLARISSA                You are so down to earth, Sally. Well, I still have my theory. It’s a transcendental theory. I have a horror of death. It allows me to believe that the part of us which appears, is momentary, compared with the unseen part of us. Perhaps the unseen part is what survives, and – somehow – haunts this person or that, this place or that, after death.

PETER                        Well. That deserves consideration.

SALLY                        What have we all done for the past thirty years?

PETER                        Well, I have done just about respectably. I have filled the usual posts adequately. I am liked. I am sometimes thought a little cranky.

CLARISSA                No wonder that your hair is grey.

SALLY                        Peter, somehow you have always had an air of contentment. That’s why you are so attractive to women. We like the fact that there is something unusual about you. We like the sense that you are not altogether manly.

PETER                        Oh, come now. Perhaps Clarissa’s theory works for our long friendship.  Brief, often painful meetings, interrupted by gaps and absences. And yet, we have always been able to communicate without words.

CLARISSA                 Oh, yes. I know as soon as you disapprove of me.

PETER                        I don’t disapprove of you.

CLARISSA                 Yes, you do. You do at this very moment. You don’t say anything, of course. But I can tell.

SALLY                        Come on, then, Peter. Speak up. You are among friends.

PETER                        Why not. Two glasses of champagne make it easy. You, Clarissa, have always frittered your time away. Lunching. Dining. Giving incessant parties and talking nonsense. Saying things you don’t mean.

CLARISSA                 I see. Well, I hate frumps, fogies and failures.

PETER                        Like me.

CLARISSA                 People have no right to slouch around all the time with their hands in their pockets. People must do something. Be something.

PETER                        So these great swells, these Duchesses, these Countesses, these Prime Ministers, even, in your drawing room, unspeakably remote from anything that matters a straw – these people are real to you?

CLARISSA                 Yes. Of course. They are respectable.

SALLY                        So are you, Clarissa darling. You could never be said to slouch, in any sense of the word.

PETER                        Straight as a dart.

CLARISSA                 You two are impossible. What I mean is that these people have a kind of courage.

SALLY                        What nonsense.

CLARISSA                 Not nonsense at all. The older I grow, the more I respect them and their courage.

PETER                        Now you sound exactly like Richard. That’s the kind of thing he might say.

CLARISSA                They are very like Richard. They – and he – have a great deal of the public spirited, British Empire, tariff reform, governing class spirit. I was suspicious of it at first, but it has grown on me over the years.

SALLY                        You have twice his intelligence.

PETER                        I don’t understand why you have to see things through his eyes. You have a mind of your own. These damn parties, for example. They’re all for him, or your idea of him. He would be far happier farming in Norfolk.

SALLY                        And yet, Peter, you must admit that Clarissa makes her drawing room a meeting place for people. She has a genius for it.

CLARISSA                 Someone must do it.

SALLY                        There is no need at all for you to do it. There are plenty of other people who really do believe in it. I think that underneath it all, Clarissa, you are completely sceptical.

CLARISSA                 We are a doomed race. We are chained to a sinking ship. If it is all really a bad joke, we must each do our part and mitigate the suffering of our fellow prisoners.

SALLY                        Bravo. We must decorate the dungeon with flowers and cushions. Those ruffians, the Gods, shan’t have it all their own way.

CLARISSA                 Indeed. The Gods are seriously put out if one behaves like a lady. Don’t you think these sweet peas are rather lovely?

PETER                        You have great reserves, Clarissa.

SALLY                        Clarissa needs people.

PETER                        It’s a terrible confession, but now, at the age of fifty three, one scarcely needs people any more. I don’t, at any rate.

CLARISSA                 Well, you and Richard do have something in common.

PETER                        And what is that?

CLARISSA                 Both of you laugh at me and my parties. My parties are – an offering.

PETER                        That sounds horribly mystical.

CLARISSA                Who are you, Peter, to make out that life is all plain sailing? You. Peter Walsh. Always in love – with the wrong woman.

PETER                        Love is the most important thing in the world and no woman can possibly understand it.

CLARISSA                 Can any man understand what I’m talking about? I can’t imagine either of you – Peter or Richard – taking the trouble to give a party.

PETER                        That’s not good enough, Clarissa. You must go deeper, beneath what you say.

(Light, high bell of ambulance outside the open French windows.)

CLARISSA                 What’s that?

PETER                        One of the triumphs of civilisation. An ambulance, carrying some poor devil to hospital. It might happen to anyone. It strikes me, coming back from India, how great the spirit of London is. How every cart or carriage draws aside to let the ambulance pass.

CLARISSA                How sad.

RICHARD (from distance)    Clarissa, my dear.

CLARISSA                 You’ll have to excuse me again. Sir William Bradshaw has arrived.

SALLY                        Of course. Peter and I still have a great deal to talk about. It feels as if everything in the past happened only yesterday.

CLARISSA                 I share that past with you both. Even more than with Richard. I must go.


SALLY                        Age has brushed her. Peter.

PETER                        Age has brushed us all.

(Satie fades a little, behind a noisier group.)

SIR W                         We are shockingly late, dear Mrs Dalloway. Do forgive us.

CLARISSA                 Sir William. How good to see you. I am so pleased you could come.

SIR W                         Just as we were starting, I received a telephone call. A very sad case. A young man.

CLARISSA                 Oh?

SIR W                         Unfortunately, he killed himself. Threw himself out of a window. Onto railings. Didn’t stand a chance.

CLARISSA (over)      In the middle of my party, here’s death. What business has he to talk of death at my party? (Loud.) I am so sorry to hear it, Sir William. But why did he do it?

SIR W                         All to do with the deferred effects of shell shock. Tragic. I am planning to write to the newspapers about it.

CLARISSA (over)      Death is defiance. Death is an attempt to communicate. People are alone. There is an embrace in death. (Satie up.) All day I have been thinking of Bourton. Of Peter. Of Sally. I have never been so happy.

(Satie back.)

SALLY                        I have a confession to make, Peter.

PETER                        Go ahead, my dear. I shall give you absolution.

SALLY                        One night, at Bourton, I stole a chicken from the larder because I was hungry.

PETER                        Everybody adored you. Your warmth. Your vitality. Even Hugh Whitbread adored you. You are forgiven, my child.

SALLY                        Well, then I must make another confession. Hugh Whitbread kissed me in the smoking room to punish me for saying that women should have votes. Even vulgar men already had the vote.

PETER                        Another shocking confession.

SALLY                        That’s the last one. Now I am very respectable. I married, quite unexpectedly, a bald man with a large buttonhole who owns cotton mills in Manchester. He wore two camellias on our wedding day. You must meet my husband. You would like him. Will you come and stay with us? As long as you like.

PETER                        I would love to stay with you. How often does Clarissa visit you?

SALLY                        Oh, the Dalloways have never been. Clarissa will not come. She thinks I have married beneath me. My husband was a miner’s son. He has earned every penny we have.      I garden like mad. Rare hibiscus lilies that never grow north of the Suez Canal. In my suburban garden I have beds of them. Look, Peter. We are in an enchanted garden here. Lights and trees and a wonderful gleaming sky.

PETER                        It’s just a few fairy lights.

SALLY                       Clarissa is a magician.

PETER                        I think it’s time to leave, Sally.

(Satie up, mixing with the sound of the final car driving off.)


(Front door closes. We are inside.)

RICHARD                  Well. Are you tired, Elizabeth?

ELIZABETH              A little, Father.

RICHARD                  You looked lovely tonight.

ELIZABETH              Thank you. Goodnight. (Kiss.) May I take some sweet peas to Miss Kilman tomorrow, Mother?

CLARISSA                 Of course, my dear. I’m glad you enjoyed the party. Goodnight. (Kiss.)

RICHARD                  Shall we go up, Clarissa?

CLARISSA                 You go. I’ll follow in a minute.

RICHARD                  Don’t be long.


CLARISSA (over)      The old lady in the house opposite is standing at her window. She is staring at me. Now she turns away. Her light has gone out. The whole house is dark. Fear no more the heat o’ the sun. The wind is rising. There they are. Sally and Peter. Peter and Sally. Walking along the road together. Elizabeth and Richard are upstairs. Here I am. Clarissa Dalloway.

(Satie. Closing announcements.)



Michelene Wandor: Dramatising Mrs Dalloway.

This dramatisation was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in May 2012. This text © 2012 Michelene Wandor. All rights reserved.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *