Vintage Photos of a Young Virginia Woolf Playing Cricket (Ages 5 & 12)

woolf and sister playing cricket

Scenes, I note, seldom illustrate my relation with Vanessa; it has been too deep for ‘scenes’. Vanessa and I were both what we call tomboys; that is, we played cricket, scrambled over rocks, climbed trees, were said not to care for clothes and so on.

Until she was fifteen indeed, she was outwardly sober and austere, the most trustworthy, and always the eldest; sometimes she would lament her “responsibilities”. But beneath the serious surface … there burnt also the…passion for art. …Once I saw her scrawl on a black door a great maze of lines, with white chalk. “When I am a famous painter-” she began, and then turned shy and rubbed it out in her capable way…She was awkward as a long-legged colt.

This is how Virginia Woolf remembered her sister Vanessa Bell in correspondence that’s been revived by a Smith College web site. Later in life, of course, Woolf wrote some of the finest modernist works of the 20th century. Meanwhile Vanessa became a respected painter — see 142 of her paintings here — and a central member of the avant-garde Bloomsbury Group. As adults, they both had a lot of cultural clout. But during another time — during their “tomboy” years — they were just kids looking for a good game of cricket. Above, we have an 1894 picture of Virginia (in the front, about 12 years old) and Vanessa, playing cricket at St. Ives. Below we have a shot, courtesy of Smith’s web site, of 5-year-old Virginia playing cricket with her little brother Adrian Stephen (also later a member of the Bloomsbury Group) in 1886.

Works by Woolf can be found in our Free Audio Books and Free eBooks collections.

virginia woolf cricket 5

via The Paris Review

Related Content:

Watch Patti Smith Read from Virginia Woolf, and Hear the Only Surviving Recording of Woolf’s Voice

Virginia Woolf Writes About Joyce’s Ulysses, “Never Did Any Book So Bore Me,” and Quits at Page 200

Portraits of Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Walter Benjamin & Other Literary Legends by Gisèle Freund

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Comments (7)
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  • Rain,adustbowlstory says:

    Look at the photograph of a writer at any age: the intensity, from the beginning, is always and already there.

  • Alexov says:

    Sorry to have to say this, but seriously…. Why do you put up this trivia on this otherwise excellent site? Anyone playing any game could have a look of determination on their face, especially as others are looking on. It doesn’t really indicate anything of great meaning or value. If it was photos of a young Virginia Woolf writing at length on a blank page, that would be different. But cricket? Everyone played cricket back then.

  • Laura Young says:

    I find these pictures delightful. I’m very interested in Vanessa Bell and her life as part of the Bloomsbury group. I’m also interested in her paintings.

  • Kesava says:

    @Alexov, by ‘everyone’ you would mean every man! women were though too demure for cricket. (english) cricket was rather misogynistic in its early years. heck women were only allowed into the ‘hallowed’ long room of Lords Cricket Ground only in 1999! so under these circumstances, tomboyish virginia woolf choosing cricket over dolls was definitely a sign of things to come !

  • Kristina says:

    The sports of cricket began in the late 16th century and originated in South East England. The lovely pictures of Virginia wolf playing cricket is such a great example of how much craze for cricket has even existed in that era. That shows cricket was always a beloved sport since when it was originated.

  • Elizabeth Gomes says:

    Virginia playing cricket with her little brother Adrian Stephen depicts a beautiful memory that had created in their childhood. These beautiful pictures a cheerful moment created between Vanessa Bell and Virginia Wolf in their college life. Both of them were basically tomboys as it stated they were playing cricket, climbing rocks, and so on doing different works to engaged themselves to create a passion regarding sports.

  • Anne says:

    Top photo: Ages are more likely to be 9 and 12 yrs, not 5 and 12 yrs. There is three years between Vanessa (1879) and Virginia (1882).

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