Virginia Woolf uses the archaic adjective “immitigable” in The Waves. It is always in the context of Neville and a certain tree. A very Edenic tree with lethal consequences.
Project Gutenberg with an electronic version allows for a quick search to refresh memory.
‘Since I am supposed,’ said Neville, ‘to be too delicate to go with them, since I get so easily tired and then am sick, I will use this hour of solitude, this reprieve from conversation, to coast round the purlieus of the house and recover, if I can, by standing on the same stair half-way up the landing, what I felt when I heard about the dead man through the swing-door last night when cook was shoving in and out the dampers. He was found with his throat cut. The apple-tree leaves became fixed in the sky; the moon glared; I was unable to lift my foot up the stair. He was found in the gutter. His blood gurgled down the gutter. His jowl was white as a dead codfish. I shall call this stricture, this rigidity, “death among the apple trees” for ever. There were the floating, pale-grey clouds; and the immitigable tree; the implacable tree with its greaved silver bark. The ripple of my life was unavailing. I was unable to pass by. There was an obstacle. “I cannot surmount this unintelligible obstacle,” I said. And the others passed on. But we are doomed, all of us, by the apple trees, by the immitigable tree which we cannot pass.
‘The man lay livid with his throat cut in the gutter,’ said Neville. ‘And going upstairs I could not raise my foot against the immitigable apple tree with its silver leaves held stiff.’
‘I will not lift my foot to climb the stair. I will stand for one moment beneath the immitigable tree, alone with the man whose throat is cut, while downstairs the cook shoves in and out the dampers. I will not climb the stair. We are doomed, all of us. Women shuffle past with shopping-bags. People keep on passing. Yet you shall not destroy me. For this moment, this one moment, we are together. I press you to me. Come, pain, feed on me. Bury your fangs in my flesh. Tear me asunder. I sob, I sob.’
A trip to the O.E.D.
That cannot be mitigated, softened, or appeased ; implacable ; not to be toned down.
Interestingly, and perhaps ironically, the O.E.D. gives an occasion in Swinburne: 1887 Swinburne Stud. Prose & Poetry (1894) 188 The principle or the impulse of universal and immitigable charity.
Swinburne is commenting on Victor Hugo
All his logic, all his reason, all his conscience, had been resolved by nature into a single quality or instinct, the principle or the impulse of universal and immitigable charity. All his argument on matters of social controversy is based on the radical and imprescriptible assumption that no counter consideration can be valid, that no other principle exists.
We know that Woolf read Swinburne. Could she have formed part of Neville’s character from Swinburne’s remarks on Hugo?
And so for day 1998