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Posts Tagged ‘Caroline Emilia Stephen’

We have already followed Virginia Woolf to locations at Newnham College, King’s College, and the Fitzwilliam Museum during our time at the Literature Cambridge course Virginia Woolf’s Gardens.

But today, the first overcast, drizzly day since we arrived, we went off on our own. We made a trek to nearby Grantchester — and two other spots in Cambridge we just discovered.

The Orchard

Virginia Woolf, along with Maynard Keynes and E. M. Forster, was a member of the Bloomsbury Group and a member of the Grantchester Group as well. Focused around poet Rupert Brooke, who lived in the picturesque Grantchester, the latter group met at Orchard House there, where Brooke is said to have hosted wild parties.

The original pavilion of The Orchard still exists, and one reaches it via a long path from High Street surrounded by a quiet green lawn dotted with apple trees and dark green deck chairs grouped around tables.

An outdoor display board tells the story of the Grantchester Group. Indoors, photos and a display case of Rupert Brooke books, photos and memorabilia, tell his story. Photos of other writers and celebrities, including Woolf, cover the walls.

Byron’s Pool

The river Cam runs through Grantchester Meadows, which includes Byron’s Pool. In the early 1900s a group of Cambridge undergraduates and their friends, dubbed the neo-Pagans, bathed there, according to the University of Cambridge website.

Rupert Brooke and Virginia Woolf are also said to have swum naked by moonlight at Byron’s Pool in 1911. Today, cars on the M11 roar past that spot.

Now one must be a member to obtain access to pool, as entry is not granted without a key. But a gracious friend of someone affiliated with the Literature Cambridge course drove us down the nearest Cambridge road behind the pool, and we snapped a photo of the field that fronts it.

One warm night there was a clear sky and a moon and they walked out to the shadowy waters of Byron’s Pool. ‘Let’s go swimming, quite naked,’ Brooke said, and they did. – Rupert Brooke: A Biography by Christopher Hassall (1964)

The Porch

Also in Cambridge, we found The Porch at 33 Grantchester St., the home of Caroline Emilia Stephen, Woolf’s aunt. Her niece and Woolf’s cousin, Katharine Stephen, was a librarian and later the Principal at Newnham College, where Woolf gave her “Women and Fiction” talk in October 1928.

Both Woolf and her sister Vanessa Bell stayed with their aunt at The Porch when they visited their brothers Adrian and Thoby during May Week at Trinity College. Woolf herself made “formational visits” to her aunt, who she sometimes called “the nun,” from 1904 to 1906. Virginia and Adrian also lived with Stephen for a period of time in 1907, after Vanessa’s marriage to Clive Bell.

As Jane deGay writes on the Leeds Centre for Victorian Studies Blog: “[Caroline] Stephen played a key role in helping Virginia Woolf distance herself from patriarchal ideologies by developing a radical approach to religion and spirituality that was deeply feminist.”

A Quaker, it was this aunt who at her death in 1909 left Woolf the £2,500 inheritance that gave her a modest income of her own. The amount indicates the special relationship she had with Woolf, as she left Adrian and Vanessa just £100 each.

Sign directing visitors to The Orchard Tea Garden in Grantchester, where Virginia Woolf drank tea with Rupert Brooke and others.

The original pavilion where Woolf and others met for tea on rainy days

Sign noting the literary significance of the original pavilion at The Orchard

Information board outside the pavilion noting members of the Grantchester Group, which included Virginia Woolf

Just two of the photos lining the walls inside the pavilion. Woolf’s is on the right.

Past this field of grasses and wildflowers and the stand of trees beyond sits Byron’s Pond, where Woolf and Brooke went skinny dipping.

The Porch, 33 Grantchester Rd., Cambridge, the home of Woolf’s Aunt Caroline Emilia Stephen. Woolf and her sister Vanessa Bell stayed here.

Closeup of the home’s sign, identifying it as The Porch

 

 

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