Behind the grey walls sat so many young men, some undoubtedly reading, magazines, shilling shockers no doubt; legs, perhaps, over the arms of chairs; smoking; sprawling over tables, and writing while their heads went round in a circle as the pen moved– simple young men, these, who would–but there is no need to think of them grown old; others eating sweets; here they boxed; and well, Mr Hawkins must have been mad suddenly to throw up his window and bawl: “Jo—seph! Jo—seph!” and then he ran as hard as ever he could across the court, while an elderly man, in a green apron, carrying an immense pile of tin covers, hesitated, balanced, and then went on.
—Virginia Woolf, from Jacob’s Room


Poets think in lines, prose writers in sentences; the best of both work from sound to sense, with an ear for the music in their compositions. S for Sentence celebrates lyricism in prose, the play and craft at work in the artful sentence. We post a sentence a month along with comments by a guest writer on the craft that shapes it, on what makes it great. In one or two sentences.
—Pearl Abraham, Editor
Woolf describes a scene at Cambridge, just before World War I, where Jacob and his friends luxuriate in upper class male privilege. Note the narrator’s use of the tentative “perhaps,” “no doubt,” and “undoubtedly” about what is going on behind those walls. Shut out of the elite walls of Cambridge because of her sex, she has no secure access to these “simple young men” she appears to be celebrating. But then, deceptively gently, and hidden in the middle of the sentence, she twists the knife: “there is no need to think of them grown old.” In a few years most of them will be dead at the Somme—do not waste your mental energy imagining them grown up, aging like the elderly college servant who marches on, balancing, at the end of the sentence. These young men will never achieve the full balance of life, from youth to age. This is a sentence, and a novel, that mourns early death, but also seethes with quiet, and not so quiet, feminist rage.
—Pam Thurschwell, author of Literature, Technology and Magical Thinking, 1880-1920 and Sigmund Freud