Another examination of famous sisters by Judith Barrow, leading to the publication of her new book, Sisters (and purely coincidentally, leading to the publication of my new book Bethulia, which also deals with sisterhood). In this one, we see the girl who never made it to Bloomsbury. Everyone knows Vanessa and Virginia. Who knows poor Laura?
“Words are an impure medium; better far to have been born into the silent kingdom of paint.” © Virginia Woolf
Virginia Woolf and her sister, the artist, Vanessa Bell, were the daughters of the historian Sir Leslie Stephen and Julia Prinsep Duckworth.
Left: Vanessa Bell, 1902. Right: Virginia Woolf, 1902. Images via Wikimedia Commons © https://tinyurl.com/5n7z87cs
Their mother, Julia Prinsep Stephen had become a widow in 1870 after her first husband, Herbert Duckworth, died of a burst abscess. She already had three children: George, Stella, and Gerald. The latter was born shortly after Herbert’s death in 1870.
Eight years later Julia married Leslie Stephen. English society in the late 1800s was built on a rigid social class system, and as a graduate of Eton and Cambridge, a respected literary critic and biographer, Leslie was seen as one of the literary aristocracy. He was also a widower and father of…
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