VIRGINIA AND HER SISTER, VANESSA BELL
Scenes, I note, seldom illustrate my relation with Vanessa; it has been too deep for ‘scenes’. Vanessa and I were both what we call tomboys; that is, we played cricket, scrambled over rocks, climbed trees, were said not to care for clothes and so on.
Until she was fifteen indeed, she was outwardly sober and austere, the most trustworthy, and always the eldest; sometimes she would lament her “responsibilities”. But beneath the serious surface … there burnt also the…passion for art. …Once I saw her scrawl on a black door a great maze of lines, with white chalk. “When I am a famous painter-” she began, and then turned shy and rubbed it out in her capable way...She was awkward as a long-legged colt.
Nessa, when Stella died was just eighteen. Vanessa … was exalted, in the most tragic way, to a strange position, full of power and responsibility.
And she moved, like some young Queen, all weighted down with the pomp of her ceremonial robes, perplexed and mournful, uncertain of her way.
Very soon after Stella’s death, Nessa and I formed together a close conspiracy. In that world of many men, coming and going, in that big house with innumerable rooms, we formed our private nucleus.
I visualize it as a little sensitive center of acute life; of instantaneous sympathy, in the great echoing shell of Hyde Park Gate. The shell was empty all day. In the evening they would all come; Adrian from Westminster; Jack from Lincoln’s Inn Fields; George from the Post office or the Treasury. Every day we did battle for that which was always being snatched from us, or distorted.
The most imminent obstacle, the most oppressive stone laid upon our vitality and its struggle to live was of course father. Day after day we tried to remove the pressure of his tremendous obstacle. Then father died.
Vanessa wound up Hyde Park Gate once and for all. She had sold; she had burnt; she had sorted. It was thus that 46 Gordon Square came into existence. Everything was going to be new; everything was going to be different. Everything was on trial.