In Stendhal’s The Charterhouse of Parma (1839), we follow the life of impetuous, rebellious young Italian aristocrat Fabrice del Dongo during the Napoleonic era, from Fabrice’s birth in 1798 until his death. Fabrice wanders across France, loses his money, is imprisoned, escapes thanks for the jailer’s wife, and then, largely clueless, wanders out onto the muddy field at the Battle of Waterloo.
"An eminent philosopher among my friends, who can dignify even your ugly furniture by lifting it into the serene light of science, has shown me this pregnant little fact. Your pier-glass or extensive surface of polished steel made to be rubbed by a housemaid, will be minutely and multitudinously scratched in all directions; but place now against it a lighted candle as a centre of illumination, and lo! the scratches will seem to arrange themselves in a fine series of concentric circles round that little sun. It is demonstrable that the scratches are going everywhere impartially and it is only your candle which produces the flattering illusion of a concentric arrangement, its light falling with an exclusive optical selection. These things are a parable. The scratches are events, and the candle is the egoism of any person now absent-- of Miss Vincy, for example."
George Eliot, Middlemarch, book 3, ch.27
For years I was convinced I had read this passage somewhere in Virginia Woolf, but then rediscovered it, to my surprise, in Middlemarch. I'm not sure whether reveals that I had misunderstood Woolf, or underestimated Eliot.
p. 738ff https://archive.org/details/magicmountain00mann_0/page/737/mode/2up