Home > Features > Moments in history >

Virginia Woolf and the cricket connection

Virginia Woolf © Getty Images
Virginia Woolf © Getty Images

Virginia Woolf was born on January 25, 1882. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back at a woman, a pioneer of modernism who – amongst many things – played cricket.

Adeline Virginia Stephen (Woolf) perhaps needs no introduction. Few people have revolutionised the language of English to the extent Woolf has, and the legacy she has left behind can be compared to few. While her first novel The Voyage Out became a craze, winning hearts of the classes and the masses at the same time, she is more renowned for Mrs Dalloway, To The Lighthouse, Orlando, and A Room of One’s Own.

The names of a few books, however, can hardly do justice to Woolf’s legacy: volumes have been written on her contribution to literature and other aspects of life— perhaps influenced by Henri Bergson more than by Friedrich Nietzsche, Woolf was one of the pioneers of modernism in British literature (along with, perhaps, James Joyce and Dorothy Richardson).

A Room of One’s Own is generally accepted as one of the works that triggered the feminist movement in English literature (something that was probably started by Rebecca West); three decades after she had passed away, Woolf’s works suddenly became a phenomenon with the growth of feminist literary criticism in the 1970s.

We live (and have forever lived in) an age where cricket has been heavily gender-biased: while the media, boards, and fans have been blatantly biased against women’s cricket and cricketers play their role in sexism of the worst sort, we could have done with the presence of another Woolf. She might have shredded the bigots to pieces with her pen. After all, she was also a cricket enthusiast.

Woolf was a keen cricketer, especially in her early days. Woolf wrote in a correspondence with “Scenes, I note, seldom illustrate my relation with Vanessa [Virginia’s sister]; it has been too deep for ‘scenes’. Vanessa and I were what we call tomboys; that is, we played cricket, scrambled over rocks, climbed trees, were said not to care for clothes and so on.”

Vanessa looks focussed on the ball while Virginia is probably dreamier than she should have been behind the stumps. St Ives, circa 1896. Picture Courtesy - The Paris Review
Vanessa looks focussed on the ball while Virginia is probably dreamier than she should have been behind the stumps. St Ives, circa 1896. Picture Courtesy – The Paris Review

Vanessa Stephen Bell was, of course, a renowned painter and interior designer, a member of the much-acclaimed Bloomsbury Group — of which Virginia herself was a key member. One must remember here that the sisters often clashed on their cultural differences in their later years — but at heart they remained cricketers.

As Dan Colman wrote in Open Culture, “As adults, they both [Vanessa and Virginia] 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.” Virginia’s cricket ‘career’, however, had started much earlier: by four she had been at it with his younger brother Adrian (renowned author and one of the earliest British psychoanalysts).

Their father, Sir Leslie Stephen — a famous historian, author, critic, and mountaineer — later wrote in his memoirs: “We made what we called a ‘lawn tennis’ ground on the most level bit, where the children delighted in playing small cricket every evening.”

With the chasm between the sexes in the sport increasing by the day one can do with a legend like Woolf— especially given the fact that she was a keen cricketer.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Deputy Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in and can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)

World T20 League 2014

Sep 19, 2014 (20:00 IST)   at Raipur

World T20 League 2014

Sep 20, 2014 (16:00 IST)   at Mohali

World T20 League 2014

Sep 20, 2014 (20:00 IST)   at Mohali

World T20 League 2014

Sep 21, 2014 (16:00 IST)   at Hyderabad

World T20 League 2014

Sep 21, 2014 (20:00 IST)   at Hyderabad

More

World T20 League 2014

Sep 18, 2014  at Mohali

Kings XI Punjab won by 5 wkts

World T20 League 2014

Sep 17, 2014  at Hyderabad

Kolkata Knight Riders won by 3 wkts

World T20 League 2014

Sep 16, 2014  at Raipur

Northern Knights won by 6 wkts

World T20 League 2014

Sep 16, 2014  at Raipur

Lahore Lions won by 55 runs

World T20 League 2014

Sep 14, 2014  at Raipur

Mumbai Indians won by 9 wkts

Photos

West Indies vs Bangladesh, 2nd Test at Gros Islet

Videos

Anderson plays golf with Jaguar competition winners

Champions League T20 Champions League T20 2014 Chennai Super Kings CLT20 CLT20 2014 CSK vs KKR Hobart Hurricanes Kings XI Punjab Kings XI Punjab vs Hobart Hurricanes KKR vs CSK Kolkata Knight Riders Mumbai Indians Northern Knights Pakistan West Indies

James Anderson hopes to utlise Sri Lanka ODI series for World Cup preparation

Dolphins vs Perth Scorchers CLT20 Match 4 Preview: Scorchers start with slight advantage

Furious MS Dhoni and CSK check out of Hyderabad hotel

Asian Games 2014: Absence of India and Pakistan gives minor nations a good chance

Afghanistan to start ICC World Cup 2015 preparatory tour in Australia and New Zealand

James Anderson hopes to utlise Sri Lanka ODI series for World Cup preparation

Dolphins vs Perth Scorchers CLT20 Match 4 Preview: Scorchers start with slight advantage

Furious MS Dhoni and CSK check out of Hyderabad hotel

Chris Cairns cleaning bus shelters? Why?

Asian Games 2014: Absence of India and Pakistan gives minor nations a good chance

Fan of the Day

Niharika Shah

Niharika Shah

669 Posts | 6 Fans

Video Highlights: Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) vs Hobart Hurricanes (HH) CLT20 2014

Scoop: Varun Dhawan makes it official with girlfriend Natasha Dalal!

Selfie addiction may lead to low self-esteem

Can designer genes end insomnia?

Furious MS Dhoni and CSK check out of Hyderabad hotel

Defending Australian Open Champion Li Na announces retirement from Tennis

International programme in Animal Husbandry

Chennai Super Kings vs Kolkata Knight Riders, Group A, Match 1 CLT20 2014

Dil Dosti Dance, Tu Mere Agal Bagal Hai, and Ek Boond Ishq to go off air

HOT: Miley Cyrus strips naked for V Magazine

NGOs pursue education for all

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here