• LOCATION 10 | 'Such Friends': Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group

    Leonard Woolf

    One of Thoby’s Cambridge friends was Leonard Woolf. You might have been wondering when he would show up in our story to marry Virginia.

    After graduating from Cambridge, Leonard joined the Colonial Service and was assigned to represent the crown in Jaffna, Ceylon. He spent seven years there, and, ironically, while Thoby Stephen was being misdiagnosed back in London, Leonard was successfully treated for typhoid in the jungles of Ceylon.

    Leonard realized the absurdity of a 25 year old with no experience being assigned to take charge of an entire country of Ceylonese people. He was not happy in the post, and in 1911 he applied to come back to England on leave. Leonard had kept in touch with his university friends—many of whom were, like him, members of the Cambridge association, the Apostles.

    Although the Apostles were then a ‘secret’ society that students had to be invited in to, they became less secret in the 1950s. Government officials Guy Burgess and Anthony Blunt were revealed to be passing top secrets to Russia during the Cold War. Part of the scandal was that they had both been recruited by the Communist Party when they were Apostles at Cambridge.

    Even in Ceylon, Leonard remained close to Lytton Strachey. Lytton wrote him letters about the lovely evenings he would spend in conversation with Virginia, Vanessa, Duncan, Clive and Maynard. So when Leonard came home, he couldn’t wait to get back in to the cultural and social life of his friends who were now writers and artists in Bloomsbury.

    Leonard had met Virginia and Vanessa years before when they had come to visit their brother Thoby at Cambridge. Later, Leonard wrote of his first impression of the Stephen sisters.

    He said, "Their beauty literally took one's breath away...One stopped astonished...It was almost impossible for a man not to fall in love with them and I think that I did at once."

    He and Virginia became re-acquainted when he came to dinner one summer night at Gordon Square in 1911.

Preview mode limited to first 3 locations.
'Such Friends': Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group