Virginia Woolf cannot write badly but this book is entirely self indulgent and, despite some beautiful language, says very little of significance. In so far as it could be accused of having a plot, it does open up the possibility of interesting reflections, for example on the differences between men and women, or on the writing of poetry in different centuries. I encountered no such reflections that I would call interesting or illuminating and certainly none that I would wish to pick out for praise or debate. At most, it tells me that a member of the landed aristocracy could have the head of a donkey and the arse of a baboon and suffer no impediment to the quiet enjoyment of unearned wealth and status, with servile politicians rushing without question and without reward to protect their interests.
The best I could salvage from this tedious text was the discovery of an argument written in 1927 which could fit just as easily into the world of 2017: a curious piece of social history I think, not regarding the Elizabethan era which it claims to describe, but about attitudes in the late 1920s when this was written and their simlarity to attitudes today. For it has to be remembered that crime and poverty had none of the attractions for the Elizabethans that they have for us. They had none of our modern shame of book leaning, none of our belief that to be born the son of a butcher is a blessing and to be unable to read a virtue; no fancy that what we call ‘life’ and ‘reality’ are somehow connected with ignorance and brutality nor, indeed any equivalent for these two words at all. It was not to seek ‘life’ that Orlando went among them not in quest of ‘reality’ that he left them.