Monday or Tuesday by Virginia Woolf — a 1921 short story (full text)
By Nava Atlas | On July 6, 2020 | Updated August 28, 2022 | Comments (0)
“Monday or Tuesday,” a 1921 short story by Virginia Woolf, appeared in the only collection of stories she published during her lifetime. The title of the collection was also Monday or Tuesday. It was later anthologized in A Haunted House and Other Short Stories (1944), which contained six of the eight original stories.
First published by Hogarth Press, the small publishing company run by Virginia and Leonard Woolf, Mr. Woolf deemed it the worst book ever printed due to a plethora of typographical errors. They were corrected in later editions.
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Learn more about Virginia Woolf
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Here are a duo of excellent analyses of this very short, very perplexing story:
A Short Analysis of Virginia Woolf’s Monday or Tuesday begins helpfully: If you found reading ‘Monday or Tuesday’ a disorienting experience, don’t worry: you’re meant to. One of the things Woolf is exploring through this short story is disorientation, distraction, the difficult and perhaps foolish quest for truthful and honest representation of the world through one’s writing. Even the title hints at this confusion and uncertainty: to the narrator, and perhaps to Woolf herself, today could be either Monday or Tuesday.
ENotes has a helpful critical analysis as well: In “Monday or Tuesday,” a series of contrasts between up and down, spatially free timelessness (a lazily flying heron) and restrictive timeliness (a clock striking), day and night, inside and outside, present experience and later recollection of it conveys the ordinary cycle of life suggested by the title and helps capture its experiential reality, the concern expressed by the refrain question that closes the second, fourth, and fifth paragraphs: “and truth?”
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A Foreword by Leonard Woolf
The original stories in Monday or Tuesday were later collected in A Haunted House and Other Short Stories. Monday or Tuesday was included along with the several other original stories: “A Haunted House,” “An Unwritten Novel,” “The String Quartet,” “Kew Gardens,” and “The Mark on the Wall.”
Mr. Woolf, as he explains here, omitted two of the original stories, “Blue & Green,” and “A society,” as he felt that would have been Virginia’s preference. Here is the Foreword by Leonard Woolf introducing this volume, which was published in the early 1944, after Virginia’s death.
Monday or Tuesday, the only book of short stories by Virginia Woolf which appeared in her lifetime, was published in 1921. It has been out of print for years.
All through her life, Virginia Woolf used at intervals to write short stories. It was her custom, whenever an idea for one occurred to her, to sketch it out in a very rough form and then to put it away in a drawer. Later, if an editor asked her for a short story, and she felt in the mood to write one (which was not frequent), she would take a sketch out of her drawer and rewrite it, sometimes a great many times.
Or if she felt, as she often did, while writing a novel that she required to rest her mind by working at something else for a time, she would either write a critical essay or work upon one of her sketches for short stories. For some time before her death we had often discussed the possibility of her republishing Monday or Tuesday, or publishing a new volume of collected short stories.
Finally, in 1940, she decided that she would get together a new volume of such stories and include in it most of the stories which had appeared originally in Monday or Tuesday, as well as some published subsequently in magazines and some unpublished. Our idea was that she should produce a volume of critical essays in 1941 and the volume of stories in 1942.
In the present volume I have tried to carry out her intention. I have included in it six out of the eight stories or sketches which originally appeared in Monday or Tuesday. The two omitted by me are “A Society,” and “Blue and Green.” I know that she had decided not to include the first and I am practically certain that she would not have included the second.
Monday or Tuesday by Virginia Woolf
Lazy and indifferent, shaking space easily from his wings, knowing his way, the heron passes over the church beneath the sky. White and distant, absorbed in itself, endlessly the sky covers and uncovers, moves and remains. A lake? Blot the shores of it out! A mountain? Oh, perfect—the sun gold on its slopes. Down that falls. Ferns then, or white feathers, for ever and ever——
Desiring truth, awaiting it, laboriously distilling a few words, for ever desiring—(a cry starts to the left, another to the right. Wheels strike divergently.
Omnibuses conglomerate in conflict)—for ever desiring—(the clock asseverates with twelve distinct strokes that it is midday; light sheds gold scales; children swarm)—for ever desiring truth. Red is the dome; coins hang on the trees; smoke trails from the chimneys; bark, shout, cry “Iron for sale”—and truth?
Radiating to a point men’s feet and women’s feet, black or gold-encrusted—(This foggy weather—Sugar? No, thank you—The commonwealth of the future)—the firelight darting and making the room red, save for the black figures and their bright eyes, while outside a van discharges, Miss Thingummy drinks tea at her desk, and plate-glass preserves fur coats——
Flaunted, leaf—light, drifting at corners, blown across the wheels, silver-splashed, home or not home, gathered, scattered, squandered in separate scales, swept up, down, torn, sunk, assembled—and truth?
Now to recollect by the fireside on the white square of marble. From ivory depths words rising shed their blackness, blossom and penetrate. Fallen the book; in the flame, in the smoke, in the momentary sparks—or now voyaging, the marble square pendant, minarets beneath and the Indian seas, while space rushes blue and stars glint—truth? content with closeness? Lazy and indifferent the heron returns; the sky veils her stars; then bares them.
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More about Monday or Tuesday by Virginia Woolf
- Listen online at Librivox
- Monday or Tuesday at the British Library
- Read the entire collection of Monday or Tuesday on Project Gutenberg