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Mrs Lesley Stephen to Arthur Llewelyn Davies - 189


Letter from Julia (Mrs Lesley) Stephen to Arthur on his engagement to Sylvia, 25 March 1890. Julia Stephen was the mother of Virginia Woolf.

[No original available]


22, Hyde Park Gate, S. W.
26 March [1890]

My dear Arthur,
You must let me call you so - I am so glad. I don't know when I have heard a thing which gave me so much pleasure.
I only know her enough to wish to know her more, and I hope I shall - but I know you well enough to feel that she will be the happiest of women. You have looked so sad lately and I have so often thought of you going away alone. Now perhaps you won't go, but if you do you won't be sad.
I know we mustn't hope to see you on Sunday unless you could persuade her to come too. Somehow somewhere I must see you. My husband sends you his affectionate congratulations. Brer Rabbit is a little scornful but says, "When is he going to be married?"
Always your affectionate
Julia Stephen

Peter's comments:

The writer of this letter was a second wife of Lesley Stephen (later Sir L. S., KCB). She seems to have had a very soft corner in her heart for Arthur. She died in 1895, and Leslie Stephen himself in 1904, which no doubt explains why they were neither of them even names to us in our childhood. She was aunt by marriage of the Lady Stephen (Barbara) who wrote "Emily Davies and Girton College", and was the widow (when she married Leslie Stephen) of Herbert Duckworth. I take her to have been the mother of the George Duckworth who was a friend of Arthur's and used to come to Egerton House, and of Gerald Duckworth, the publisher. Brer Rabbit may have been her young son, Thoby Stephen, to whose early death there is a reference in one of Arthur's last letters. Her daughter Virginia, at this time only [8] years old, was later to become famous as Virginia Woolf.

Julia Stephen herself was a beautiful and accomplished woman. Among the relics which I collected from Taff Coles in 1949, after Coley's [May du Maurier's husband] death, were two immense and hauntingly beautiful camera portraits of her in youth, taken at Freshwater [Isle of Wight] in 1874 by her aunt Julia Cameron, the celebrated photographer, after whom, I suppose, she was named. I gave them to Elizabeth Taylor, the novelist, because of her love of Virginia Woolf.


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