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Virginia Woolf: The Voyage Out
13. Chapter XIII (continued)
She watched the lines on her uncle's face gradually rearrange themselves at her question. It had been smooth as a mask before she spoke.
"Please say that again," said her uncle, either because he had not heard or because he had not understood.
She repeated the same words and reddened slightly as she did so.
"Gibbon! What on earth d'you want him for?" he enquired.
"Somebody advised me to read it," Rachel stammered.
"But I don't travel about with a miscellaneous collection of eighteenth-century historians!" her uncle exclaimed. "Gibbon! Ten big volumes at least."
Rachel said that she was sorry to interrupt, and was turning to go.
"Stop!" cried her uncle. He put down his pipe, placed his book on one side, and rose and led her slowly round the room, holding her by the arm. "Plato," he said, laying one finger on the first of a row of small dark books, "and Jorrocks next door, which is wrong. Sophocles, Swift. You don't care for German commentators, I presume. French, then. You read French? You should read Balzac. Then we come to Wordsworth and Coleridge, Pope, Johnson, Addison, Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats. One thing leads to another. Why is Marlowe here? Mrs. Chailey, I presume. But what's the use of reading if you don't read Greek? After all, if you read Greek, you need never read anything else, pure waste of time--pure waste of time," thus speaking half to himself, with quick movements of his hands; they had come round again to the circle of books on the floor, and their progress was stopped.
"Well," he demanded, "which shall it be?"
"Balzac," said Rachel, "or have you the Speech on the American Revolution, Uncle Ridley?"
"The Speech on the American Revolution?" he asked. He looked at her very keenly again. "Another young man at the dance?"
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