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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