Virginia Woolf Gives Some ‘Motherly’ Advice To Her Nephew

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Virginia Woolf famously never had children, but apparently she was quite involved in the life of her nephew Julian — particularly when it came to perfecting his poetic prowess.

The Paris Review dug up a letter from Virginia to Julian from 1929 in which the authoress gives her nephew some criticisms regarding his latest work. They observe:

Composed in Woolf’s signature purple ink, and dated simply “Monday,” the letter reads in full: “Monday. My dear Julian. I like the poem very much. It still wants CURRENCY I think. When did you write it? It shall be the cornerstone of my new library at Rodmell. But this is to say—please be here 7:30 sharp tomorrow (Friday) as we want you to drive Rachel & us to a restaurant.”

Virginia was noted to be very involved in the life of her nephew as well as that of her sister, Vanessa Bell. Julian was named after Virginia’s brother Julian Thoby Stephen who died of typhoid at 26 years old.

The Paris Review tells us:

The following year, after Julian’s first book of poems came out, Virginia declared, “He is no poet.” She once described her relationship to him as “half sister, half mother, and half (but arithmetic denies this) the mocking stirring contemporary friend.”

Virginia’s description of her relationship with her nephew alludes to the many childless women who play an important and influential role in the lives of many kids. Cultural attitudes about childless women often depict them as being “selfish” for not choosing to becoming a mother. Yet, parenthood only presents one avenue through which to engage with and guide a child. One doesn’t need to be a mother to care deeply about the well-being and development of our youth — or in Virginia’s case — the development of their poetry.