But this question of love (she thought putting her coat away), this falling in love with women. Take Sally Seton; her relation in the old days with Sally Seton. Had not that, after all, been love?
Clarissa’s mind moves from thinking about Richard and her own bed in the attic to memories about Sally Seton, her good friend, with whom she shared the happiest moment of her life: a kiss in the moonlight. She has never shared such a passionate moment with her husband, Richard, and she lets herself remember her first impressions of Sally and the intimacy they shared as young women. Sally will surprise Clarissa by attending her party that evening.
The strange thing, on looking back, was the purity and integrity of her feeling for Sally. It was not like one’s feeling for a man.
Clarissa reminisces about the time in her life when she and Sally were close and muses about her emotions surrounding her love for her friend. They shared something profound by virtue of both being women. She felt close and protective, not competitive or confused. With Sally, she was able to let go and have fun, to take risks and act silly. She misses this sense of freedom and joy.
She was Clarissa’s greatest friend, always about the place, totally unlike her, an attractive creature, handsome, dark, with the reputation in those days of great daring and he used to give her cigars, which she smoked in her bedroom.
Peter Walsh recalls Sally Seton in her youth as he thinks back to his love for Clarissa and her rejection of him. Sally was daring; Clarissa was timid. Sally made fun of Richard Dalloway; Clarissa defended him. The memories foreshadow the friends’ reunion at Clarissa’s party that evening.
It was Sally Seton—the last person in the world one would have expected to marry a rich man and live in a large house near Manchester, the wild, the daring, the romantic Sally!
Peter Walsh passes Septimus and Lucrezia in the park, and the stream of consciousness revealed in the text shifts from theirs to his. Seeing blue hydrangeas makes Peter recall Sally Seton and other wild girls he has known. Peter sees the irony in the fact that Sally has settled into such a conservative life, for she was rambunctious and passionate about women’s rights. This memory foreshadows their reunion to come.
She had the simplest egotism, the most open desire to be thought first always, and Clarissa loved her for being still like that. “I can’t believe it!” she cried kindling all over with pleasure at the thought of the past.
Clarissa reacts to seeing Sally Seton at her party. Although she was not invited, Sally attends the party, and Clarissa reacts with sheer delight. The two have not seen each other for many years. Sally is married to a man named Rosseter and has five sons. Sally enjoys reconnecting with Peter Walsh and seeing Clarissa again, although the two women do not converse much. Sally remains happy, vibrant, and optimistic, just as she was in her youth.
“What does the brain matter,” said Lady Rosseter, getting up, “compared with the heart?”
Toward the end of the story, Lady Rosseter (née Sally Seton) speaks a line that contains the kernel of one of the book’s major themes: Despite everything intellectual, we are all ruled by our passions and emotions. Sally Seton exists as the truth-teller in the novel. In this final conversation with Peter Walsh, she explicitly asks the question that the entire novel answers.