It is tempting to see Sally Seton as a minor character in Woolf’s 1925 modernist novel Mrs Dalloway. She only appears late in the day at her old friend Clarissa’s party, and when she is announced Clarissa doesn’t initially recognise her married name of Rosseter. But the impact of Sally on the reader is immense, despite her relatively few lines.
‘The wild, the daring, the romantic Sally’ (p. 79 — all page references are to the Penguin Classics edition) emerges in flashes. Woolf, influenced by the new medium of cinema, experiments with cuts, flashbacks and close-ups to create intense sparks between Sally and Clarissa during the summer at Bourton. Clarissa, reflecting in the present, asks herself: ‘But this question of love (she thought putting the coat away), this falling in love with women. Take Sally Seton… had not that, after all, been love?’ (p. 35). Woolf cuts straight to Clarissa’s first sight of Sally: ‘She sat on the floor with her arms round her knees, smoking a cigarette […] all that evening she could not take her eyes off Sally.’ (p. 39).
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