It was in 1907 that one word from one man saw these shackles unceremoniously shrugged off. The man was writer Lytton Strachey and the word, according to Woolf, was “semen”.
Or to be exact, “Semen?” Strachey had just entered a room where Virginia and her sister sat and, pointing to a mark on Vanessa’s dress, casually and explicitly enquired as to its origin. Woolf’s first thought was, “Can one really say it?”; but then, a moment later, “everyone burst out laughing” and a new age was born. The age of anything goes. As she puts it in her autobiographical Moments of Being: “All barriers of reticence and reserve went down. A flood of sacred fluid seemed to overwhelm us. Sex permeated our conversation…”
Saturday, January 05, 2008
To continue the theme from earlier in the evening (I have one more letter of recommendation to write, and then I can go to bed), Melissa Katsoulis (writing for the FT) contemplates Bloomsbury staidness and adherence to old-fashioned notions of politeness in conversation: