Thursday, August 28, 2014

The two Miss Stephens

Here I am writing under an apple tree in the grounds of Charleston farmhouse, the house lived in by Vanessa Bell, the sister of Virginia Woolf. Before they were Vanessa Bell or Virginia Woolf, they were Vanessa Stephen and Virginia Stephen, their father being Leslie Stephen, quite a literary giant in his day. They had two brothers and some step siblings because both their mother and father were married before and had kids from their previous marriages. Their two brothers were sent to boarding school but the two Miss Stephens were home schooled by their parents. From an early age they have already decided for themselves that Vanessa would paint and Virginia would write. So in the nursery Vanessa would spend hours standing to paint at her easel. Vanessa, being younger and not to be outdone by her older sister would stand and write for hours. Virginia would not be a celebrated author until a very later age. She spent time being nursed for a mental illness, some conjectured by the description, she was bipolar. While their parents were alive they lived in 22 Hyde Park gate, in a tall and narrow house, with dark rooms, dark furnishings and paintings. Both parents died in that house including a step sister. So the house was associated with death and gloom. Soon after they moved to the Bloomsbury area of London and here they were joined by their two biological brothers and the brothers' friends from Cambridge. They met regularly and became known as the 'Bloomsbury group'.

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