Virginia Woolf: © The Society of Authors as the Literary Representative of the Estate of Virginia Woolf. You may not use the material for commercial purposes. Please credit the copyright holder when reusing this work.
Vanessa Bell: © Estate of Vanessa Bell, courtesy of Henrietta Garnett. Except as otherwise permitted by your national copyright laws this material may not be copied or distributed further.
These are the 69 surviving issues of ‘Hyde Park Gate News’, a family magazine produced by Vanessa Stephen (afterwards Bell) and Adeline Virginia Stephen (afterwards Woolf), with help from their brother Julian Thoby Stephen. Other family members made occasional contributions.
‘Hyde Park Gate News’ provides a vivid, entertaining and unique insight into the late-Victorian childhoods of Vanessa and Virginia. But more than that, it reveals Woolf’s early and developing voice as a writer.
The first volume dates from 1891 to 1892, when Virginia Stephen was 10, and the second from 1895. The children titled it after their childhood family home – 22 Hyde Park Gate, Kensington, London – where they lived until their father died in 1904.
Mimicking a newspaper, the Stephen children laid out each issue in columns. The features were copied out, from drafts, in pencil or ink. Some issues feature drawings, mostly by Vanessa Stephen.
Vanessa wrote out many of the pieces, although some – mostly later – passages are in Virginia’s hand. We cannot be certain who authored each piece, however, as the Stephen children took turns writing out the copy. Moreover, it is likely that the children collaborated in the creation of most of the pieces.
The issues have been preserved in their original binding of brown cloth. 'Hyde Park Gate News' and the initials 'V.S.' is stamped in gilt on the front of the first volume, and 'Hyde Park Gate News 1895', with the initials 'V.S.' and 'A.V.S.', is stamped in gilt on the front of the second volume.
‘Hyde Park Gate News’ can be characterised as high-spirited, boisterous and energetic. It is full of teasing, satire and parody. Issues feature family news and gossip, riddles, jokes, poems, drawings, accounts of visits to concerts and plays, fictional letters and diary extracts, and stories in serial form. Much of the material was inspired by family members and visitors, and the result is a record of the adult world as seen from a child’s perspective. It is, overall, a precocious display of wit and intellect that was intended to amuse and impress the children’s parents.
Several family events recorded in ‘Hyde Park Gate News’ became keystones in Woolf’s life. On ff. 71v-72r, written when the Stephens were holidaying in St Ives, is the record that ‘Master Adrian Stephen was much disappointed’ at not being allowed to sail to the lighthouse. This moment emerges centre stage in To the Lighthouse, Woolf’s 1927 novel. There it replays like a stuck record, with over 20 references throughout about the anticipated trip to the lighthouse. To the Lighthouse is also a paean to their mother, Julia Stephen, whose presence and influence is strongly felt in the juvenile newspaper.