Yesterday we went to the Tower, which is an impressive murderous bloody grey raven haunted military barrack prison dungeon palace; like the prison of English splendour; the reformatory at the back of history; where we shot and tortured and imprisoned. Prisoners scratched their names, very beautifully, on the walls. And the crown jewels blazed, very tawdry, and there were the orders, like Spinks or a Regent Street jewellers. And we watched the Scots Guards drill: and an officer doing a kind of tiger pace up and down--a wax faced barbers block officer trained to a certain impassive balancing. The sergeant major barked and swore. All in a hoarse bark: the men stamped and wheeled like--machines: then the officer also barked: all precise, inhuman, showing off. A degrading, stupefying sight. But in keeping with the grey walls, the cobbles, the executioner's block. People sitting on the river bank among old cannons. Steps etc. very romantic: a dungeon like feeling. (A Writer's Diary, Wednesday, March 27th, 1935)
Thursday, September 23, 2010
I found this amid my Oxford notes, taken from the semester I spent studying Virginia Woolf as a visiting member of Wycliffe Hall. An excerpt from Woolf's diary, it's fragmented and rough, but I find it powerful for its disconcerting juxtaposition of the mundane and the violent. When did we become so complacent to torture and death? And is that complacency not the final ugliness?