Mrs Dalloway

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Clarissa’s closest friend who was once passionately in love with her. They are intellectually very similar, but always critical of each other. Clarissa rejected Peter’s proposal of marriage, which has haunted him all his life. He lived in India for years and often has romantic problems with women. Peter is critical of everyone, indulges in long fantasies and musings, and constantly plays with his pocketknife.

Peter Walsh Quotes in Mrs Dalloway

The Mrs Dalloway quotes below are all either spoken by Peter Walsh or refer to Peter Walsh. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Privacy, Loneliness, and Communication Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Harcourt edition of Mrs Dalloway published in 1990.
Section 1 Quotes

How he scolded her! How they argued! She would marry a Prime Minister and stand at the top of a staircase; the perfect hostess he called her (she had cried over it in her bedroom), she had the makings of the perfect hostess, he said.

Related Characters: Clarissa Dalloway (speaker), Peter Walsh (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Prime Minister
Page Number: 7
Explanation and Analysis:

Clarissa is recalling her early relationship with Peter Walsh, who once asked her to marry him, but also grew frustrated with her and critiqued her with words that Clarissa recalls in this passage. Marrying a Prime Minister is, in Peter's consideration, a grave insult: he associates such leaders with the stuffy, antiquated past of the English empire, a past that can only be embarrassing to continue to prop up. "Perfect hostess" is also an accusatory insult, suggesting a lack of depth and a contentment with superficial things in life. Ironically, Clarissa is remembering these words as she rushes around London, doing all she can to be an ideal hostess for her party that evening (which the Prime Minister will attend). But her recollections also underline just how little Peter was able to express how he really felt for Clarissa without descending into frustrated insults, even if they had a real social basis.

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Section 6 Quotes

It was awful, he cried, awful, awful!
Still, the sun was hot. Still, one got over things. Still, life had a way of adding day to day.

Related Characters: Peter Walsh (speaker)
Page Number: 64
Explanation and Analysis:

Peter is thinking about his long-ago rejection by Clarissa: her sublime memory of her kiss with Sally at Bourton now has another layer with the addition of Peter's separate, painful perception of that time. Peter shuttles between feeling acutely the real pain of that moment, and consoling himself by keeping his senses alert to what is around him here, in the present. In a way, he believes, time does ease pain merely by the fact of adding new experiences and memories atop old ones. He has had an entire life since Clarissa rejected him, after all. But at the same time, the last few sentences of this passage seem not to be entirely honest. Coming as they do directly after his exclamation at the "awful" event, they suggest that time does not heal all wounds, that present perception and the reality of past experiences do not cancel each other out, but rather coexist and mingle with each other.

Her emotions were all on the surface. Beneath, she was very shrewd – a far better judge of character than Sally, for instance, and with it all, purely feminine; with that extraordinary gift, that woman’s gift, of making a world of her own wherever she happened to be. She came into a room; she stood, as he had often seen her, in a doorway with lots of people round her. But it was Clarissa one remembered. Not that she was striking; not beautiful at all; there was nothing picturesque about her; she never said anything specially clever; there she was, however; there she was.

Related Characters: Peter Walsh (speaker), Clarissa Dalloway, Sally Seton
Page Number: 75-76
Explanation and Analysis:

Peter's thoughts continue to circle back to Clarissa, casting doubt on the notion that, as he claims, he doesn't love her anymore. Here he thinks in particular about Clarissa's social presence, the way she creates a "world" around herself wherever she moves and stands. She doesn't necessarily communicate taste, beauty, or genius, and yet there is a kind of allure in her very presence, as well as a way she imprints herself on the memories of others so as to last beyond this physical presence.

The end of this passage recalls Clarissa's own assurances, earlier in the novel, that there is nothing exceptional about her. But by reiterating "there she was" - a phrase that will return at the end of the novel - Peter remarks upon the mystery of human relationships outside mere communication, in which co-presence either makes up for or takes the place of communicated truth.

She enjoyed practically everything… She had a sense of comedy that was really exquisite, but she needed people, always people, to bring it out, with the inevitable result that she frittered her time away, lunching, dining, giving these incessant parties of hers, talking nonsense, saying things she didn’t mean, blunting the edge of her mind, losing her discrimination.

Related Characters: Peter Walsh (speaker), Clarissa Dalloway
Page Number: 78
Explanation and Analysis:

Peter's thoughts continue to focus on Clarissa, and here his analysis of her extends to her social self, the way she is constructed by and through those around her. Peter's judgment seems in many ways to be quite critical of Clarissa, although we have to balance his tone with the knowledge that he was once, and may well still be, in love with her and simultaneously frustrated with himself for loving her. Peter also doesn't seem entirely clear on whether Clarissa's true self comes to the fore when she is around others, or whether she is artificial and in some way not truly herself around other people. In the same way, this passage is ambivalent regarding whether the parties given by Clarissa are actually superficial and meaningless, or are true possibilities for communication among different people: this is an ambivalence that will run throughout the book.

Section 7 Quotes

All the same, that one day should follow another; Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday; that one should wake up in the morning; see the sky; walk in the park; meet Hugh Whitbread; then suddenly in came Peter; then these roses; it was enough. After that, how unbelievable death was! – that it must end; and no one in the whole world would know how she had loved it all…

Related Characters: Clarissa Dalloway (speaker), Peter Walsh
Related Symbols: Flowers
Page Number: 122
Explanation and Analysis:

In her head, Clarissa runs over all the sensations and small happenings of the day thus far. She simultaneously marvels at the rich particularities of daily life and wonders at how easily they are all cut off. Here, we see a major difference between Clarissa and Septimus: although they are both preoccupied with death, Clarissa takes much greater joy in the small daily realities of her life. The events she mentioned are not important objectively - indeed, they're perhaps not important to anyone other than herself, as she acknowledges when she realizes that no one will be able, after her death, to witness and report how much she loved this life. But Clarissa is able to treasure them regardless.

Clarissa's thoughts here also linger on the strange nature of the passing of time. Indeed, one of the reasons she feels that her love of life will remain unremarked-upon is that she cannot manage to assign meaning to or profoundly conceptualize the way she experiences time as cut through with daily events. Clarissa usually is able to remark upon the daily happenings of her life without having to fit them into some greater meaning, but here she does think about this lack - although only in the vague sense of calling it strange and unbelievable.

Section 9 Quotes

“How delightful to see you!” said Clarissa. She said it to every one. How delightful to see you! She was at her worst – effusive, insincere. It was a great mistake to have come. He should have stayed at home and read his book, thought Peter Walsh; should have gone to a music hall; he should have stayed at home, for he knew no one.

Related Characters: Clarissa Dalloway (speaker), Peter Walsh (speaker)
Page Number: 167
Explanation and Analysis:

The narrative has moved quickly and even grotesquely from Septimus's death to the banal small talk to be found at Clarissa's upper-class dinner party. Here, the passage is filtered through Peter's mind. Peter has long criticized Clarissa's social attitudes and what he sees as superficial hypocrisy, even as he's attracted to these very abilities at the same time. Peter presumably responds just as politely to Clarissa, but since we're seeing things through his perspective, we see just how many regrets and internal anxieties run through his mind as he realizes how difficult, if not impossible, it would be to break through Clarissa' insincerity and truly communicate with her.

Nobody looked at him. They just went on talking, yet it was perfectly plain that they all knew, felt to the marrow of their bones, this majesty passing; this symbol of what they stood for, English society. Old Lady Bruton… swam up, and they withdrew into a little room which at once became spied upon, guarded, and a sort of stir and rustle rippled through every one, openly: the Prime Minister!
Lord, lord, the snobbery of the English! thought Peter Walsh, standing in the corner. How they loved dressing up in gold lace and doing homage!

Related Characters: Peter Walsh (speaker), Lady Bruton
Related Symbols: The Prime Minister
Page Number: 172
Explanation and Analysis:

The Prime Minister has arrived at Clarissa's party, and here we see the guests' reactions, filtered through the perspective of Peter, who looks on from afar quite skeptically. Although the Prime Minister has been mentioned with awe earlier in the book, here Peter sees him as a small, plump, unassuming-looking man, unworthy of all that attention - and indeed, representative of a bygone age. Peter is already feeling alone and isolated, so he is inclined to view everything he sees around him rather negatively. However, his isolation also allows him to become acutely attuned to the hypocrisy that can be seen in the way everyone acts, trying to be casual but actually over-excited by their mere proximity to this important figure.

…and the words came to her, Fear no more the heat of the sun. She must go back to them. But what an extraordinary night! She felt somehow very like him – the young man who had killed himself. She felt glad that he had done it; thrown it away. The clock was striking. The leaden circles dissolved in the air. He made her feel the beauty; made her feel the fun. But she must go back. She must assemble. She must find Sally and Peter. And she came in from the little room.

Related Characters: Clarissa Dalloway (speaker), Septimus Warren Smith, Peter Walsh, Sally Seton
Related Symbols: Big Ben
Page Number: 186
Explanation and Analysis:

Clarissa repeats again the phrase from Shakespeare's Cymbeline, another common thread between herself and Septimus. After a moment of darkness and despair, she once again is able to conceive of Septimus's suicide as a powerful and even positive act of communication and independence - even if, given Clarissa's shifting and contradictory opinions, we cannot be sure that this will be her final word on the subject. Still, in this scene she does feel a kinship with Septimus, suggesting that he has managed, through his death, to create a kind of communion with another person.

Once again the clock strikes, here reminding Clarissa of her duties at the party, but also serving as a reminder of the inevitable passing of time. Septimus's death has also reminded Clarissa of the "fun" and the "beauty" that she still has the time to experience in her own life. Rather than throwing away the everyday realities that have come to characterize her own existence, then, Clarissa feels once again able to return to what she has just recently labeled superficial and unimportant, feeling a renewed interest in her daily life.

“I will come,” said Peter, but he sat on for a moment. What is this terror? what is this ecstasy? he thought to himself. What is it that fills me with extraordinary excitement?
It is Clarissa, he said.
For there she was.

Related Characters: Peter Walsh (speaker), Clarissa Dalloway
Page Number: 194
Explanation and Analysis:

Peter and Clarissa have both changed profoundly over the course of what one might think is a random, insignificant dinner party. Clarissa has been deeply affected by Septimus's death, which has triggered a number of thoughts concerning her own life. Peter, meanwhile, through his conversation with Sally, has a renewed commitment to being honest, to communicating as best he can rather than remaining frustrated with the inevitable failure of such communication. Now, he pays close attention to what he's feeling, determined to identify his feelings for Clarissa as he truly experiences them, rather than denying them to himself. Peter is thus committed to an integrity of perception, one that would not hide or deny what is experienced but would pay renewed attention to the same. At the same time, however, the book ends with this scene, leaving the resolution off-stage: we never know what the scene of true communication between Peter, Clarissa, and Sally would look like - or even if it happens at all. 

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Peter Walsh Character Timeline in Mrs Dalloway

The timeline below shows where the character Peter Walsh appears in Mrs Dalloway. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Section 1
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...about how she has always liked Hugh, though her husband Richard and her old friend Peter Walsh do not. Clarissa thinks again of Bourton years earlier, when Peter was making fun... (full context)
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Clarissa then thinks more about Peter Walsh, who has been in India for years but is returning soon. She imagines him... (full context)
Section 2
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...with Hugh Whitbread and his like, and she feels slightly guilty that she is fulfilling Peter’s old insult – throwing a party and waiting at the top of the stairs. (full context)
Section 3
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...die ‘twere now to be most happy.” There were other people there that day too, Peter Walsh and her own father, but Clarissa had eyes only for Sally. (full context)
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One night Clarissa, Sally, Peter, and another friend were out walking. Clarissa and Sally fell behind, and “Sally stopped; picked... (full context)
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Clarissa now thinks more of Peter, and how she owes much of her intellectual life to conversations with him. She and... (full context)
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The front doorbell rings, breaking Clarissa’s reverie. She is surprised to hear that it is Peter Walsh, who has just returned from India. They greet each other and Peter kisses Clarissa’s... (full context)
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The two make small talk and Peter feels irritated with Clarissa for her society lifestyle and for choosing to marry the Conservative... (full context)
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Peter feels a judgment in Clarissa’s wealth and happiness, as if he has been a failure,... (full context)
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Clarissa is disappointed that Peter has succumbed to falling in love again, but she asks Peter about it. He says... (full context)
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Peter is suddenly overcome by his memories and his perceived struggle against Clarissa, and he bursts... (full context)
Section 4
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The narrative now follows Peter Walsh as he leaves Clarissa’s house. He criticizes Clarissa angrily to himself, thinking that she... (full context)
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The St. Margaret’s bell rings (a few minutes after Big Ben) and it makes Peter think of Clarissa’s illness and the fact that she will die someday. He reassures himself... (full context)
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Peter recognizes that he has been a failure in some sense, as he was expelled from... (full context)
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Peter stands in Trafalgar Square and feels a sudden sense of freedom, as if he was... (full context)
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The woman finally reaches her house, takes out her keys, and goes inside. Peter’s fantasy disappears, but he isn’t upset. He recognizes that “one makes up the better part... (full context)
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Peter comes to Regent’s Park and observes the London life passing by. He is proud of... (full context)
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Peter sits down on a bench next to a gray-haired nurse with a baby in a... (full context)
Section 5
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Peter dreams about a solitary traveler who imagines visions of women. The traveler, who seems to... (full context)
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Peter wakes up suddenly saying “The death of the soul” to himself. He immediately links these... (full context)
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Clarissa was shocked to hear this, which was not so strange at the time, but Peter associated her prudish reaction with “the death of her soul.” It seemed to show her... (full context)
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That same night Richard Dalloway had come to Bourton for the first time. Peter saw him sitting with Clarissa’s Aunt Helena, and he knew instinctively that Clarissa would marry... (full context)
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After this burst of anger Peter felt love and passion for Clarissa again whenever she showed him kindness, but he knew... (full context)
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In his passion Peter had often written to Sally Seton about Clarissa, and finally he confronted Clarissa by a... (full context)
Section 6
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Peter feels awful all over again at this memory, but he is comforted by the progression... (full context)
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...unhappy, and the clock strikes eleven forty-five. The man Septimus thought was Evans is actually Peter Walsh, who watches the couple and wonders what their trouble is. (full context)
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To Peter, Septimus and Lucrezia’s quarrel is just a part of the bustle and beauty of London.... (full context)
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Peter remembers Sally in her wild younger days and how she hated Hugh Whitbread. Clarissa and... (full context)
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...had married Evelyn, and now he had great wealth and a collection of tasteful objects. Peter still hates Hugh, but envies his money and success. Peter finds Richard Dalloway a “thorough... (full context)
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Peter does object to Richard’s views on poetry though, and he wonders how Clarissa can stand... (full context)
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Peter thinks of Clarissa as having a special gift of being, that wherever she is “there... (full context)
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Peter thinks that Clarissa has a special genius for bringing people together, especially intellectuals and artists.... (full context)
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...bitter after her sister’s death, but continued to enjoy life and nearly everything in it. Peter praises her cleverness to himself, but laments that she is always throwing parties and “blunting... (full context)
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Peter realizes that he will never suffer for love again in the way that Clarissa made... (full context)
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Peter’s thoughts are interrupted by singing coming from opposite the Regent’s Park Tube Station. The voice... (full context)
Section 7
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...who sees the same old woman singing. At first she pities the woman just as Peter did, but when she hears “if some one should see, what matter they?” she suddenly... (full context)
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Hugh interrupts to say that he met Clarissa that morning. Lady Bruton says that Peter Walsh is back in town, and they all remember how passionately Peter had loved Clarissa,... (full context)
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...in love with Richard once. Richard, Lady Bruton, and Hugh all feel vaguely flattered that Peter Walsh has returned to England unsuccessful. They all want to help him but feel it... (full context)
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...she never wears it, which pains him to remember. Richard thinks about Elizabeth and about Peter Walsh’s passionate love for Clarissa. He notes that Hugh is being even more pompous than... (full context)
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Richard heads home to see Clarissa, feeling especially affectionate because of his thoughts of Peter Walsh. He buys a bouquet of red and white roses to bring to her, and... (full context)
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Richard thinks of Peter Walsh and how he used to be jealous of Peter. Now he agrees with Clarissa... (full context)
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...for her roses than for the Armenians,” but she grows suddenly unhappy because Richard and Peter criticize and trivialize her love of throwing parties. Clarissa realizes that she just likes life,... (full context)
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Love seems just as bad as religion to Clarissa, and she thinks of Peter Walsh as an example – he is a wonderful man intellectually and by himself, but... (full context)
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Rezia is making a hat for Mrs. Peters, the large, married daughter of Mrs. Filmer, the Smith’s neighbor. Rezia talks aloud about her... (full context)
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Septimus says the hat is too small for Mrs. Peters, and he starts to speak in a lucid way for the first time in weeks.... (full context)
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Rezia returns, talking about Mrs. Peters. She feels happy and comfortable with Septimus now, like she can be honest with him.... (full context)
Section 8
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Peter Walsh hears the ambulance rush by to pick up Septimus’s body, and he thinks of... (full context)
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Peter remembers how he and Clarissa used to ride the omnibus and explore London together. Clarissa... (full context)
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Peter reminisces about his thirty-year-long friendship with Clarissa. They have fought often, but overall Clarissa has... (full context)
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Peter goes to his room and finds a letter from Clarissa, saying how “heavenly” it was... (full context)
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Peter imagines the moments after their meeting that afternoon – he pictures Clarissa regretting her refusal... (full context)
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Peter has been successful with women recently, and the narrator muses about why this is –... (full context)
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Peter thinks about his situation and wonders if marrying Daisy would be a good idea. She... (full context)
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Peter dislikes the idea of staying devoted to Daisy, but he knows he would be furious... (full context)
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Peter makes up his mind to go to Clarissa’s party. He tells himself that he wants... (full context)
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Peter sits down in a wicker chair on the hotel steps and watches the city wake... (full context)
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Peter muses that the past and tradition can enrich experience, and then he sets off for... (full context)
Section 9
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...helping the family for forty years. Clarissa greets everyone with “How delightful to see you!” Peter Walsh arrives and finds her “at her worst – effusive, insincere.” He wishes he had... (full context)
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Clarissa sees Peter in the corner, criticizing her with his eyes, and she worries that the party will... (full context)
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...stood for, English society.” He makes his rounds and then goes off with Lady Bruton. Peter watches this and criticizes the “snobbery of the English.” (full context)
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Peter then sees Hugh Whitbread and mocks him mercilessly in his thoughts, watching Hugh patronizing and... (full context)
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...Helena, who is over eighty now. She talks about Burma and orchids, and Clarissa sends Peter to talk to her. (full context)
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...women respect each other, but they have little to say. Lady Bruton then talks to Peter Walsh and Aunt Helena about India. The narrator describes Lady Bruton’s love of the British... (full context)
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Sally catches Clarissa by the arm, but Clarissa is still busy entertaining. She asks Peter and Sally to stay, meaning that they will talk after the other guests have left.... (full context)
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...joy of life all the more precious. She goes back to the party, looking for Peter and Sally. (full context)
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Meanwhile Peter and Sally are reminiscing about the past and wondering where Clarissa is. They discuss their... (full context)
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...affection for Clarissa though, and declares her pure of heart. She flaunts her sentimentality to Peter, saying that it is best to just say what one feels. Peter says he doesn’t... (full context)
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Peter tells Sally that his relationship with Clarissa had “spoilt his life,” as he could not... (full context)