Monday, November 07, 2005

More on Woolf's childhood

I look forward to the following publication being one who is extremely curious about the state of childhood on the life of writers—among all folks really. What I wouldn’t give to find a similar stash of writing from Gertrude Stein. I would spend the next decade comparing notes.
Hyde Park Gate News VANESSA CURTIS
Gill Lowe, ed. Hesperus Press, £14.99 NINE-year-old Virginia Woolf, her sister Vanessa and brother Thoby hatched the idea for a weekly family newspaper based on happenings at their house, 22 Hyde Park Gate, Kensington. The children would put the latest issue by their mother's armchair and then hide, delighted to hear her say "rather clever, I think".

The newspapers are preserved in the archives of the British Library, and are now published for the first time. The earliest extant copy dates from April 6, 1891 and further issues exist from 1892 and 1895 (when Woolf was 13). They provide a rich source of information on Woolf's childhood.

The newspaper, full of childish Victorian sentiment, included a long-running series of comic courtship letters: "Nora" writes that she loves her betrothed "with that fervent passion with which my father regards roast beef". Virginia's first attempt at a story came with 'A Cockney's Farming Experience', published in the August 1892 issue when she was 10. The story related the misfortunes of two Cockneys who "decided to purchase a small farm in Buckinghamshire"; it ran over six subsequent issues and ended with the welcome news that an old aunt had died and left the hard-up farmers a "jolly lot of money" (a prophetic conclusion, for 17 years later Virginia's old aunt Caroline Emilia Stephen died and left her a substantial legacy).

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