“In ‘Notes on Virginia’s Childhood’ Vanessa Stephen observed that her little sister was ‘very sensitive to criticism and the good opinion of the grown-ups.’ Once, while their parents were at dinner, the girls pointedly left an issue of Hyde Park Gate News on the table beside their mother’s sofa, crept into the adjoining room in anticipation, and hid to hear their parents’ reaction. Virginia was ‘trembling with excitement’ as they waited, spying through the window into the drawing room. ‘We could see my mother’s lamplit figure quietly sitting near the fire, my father on the other side with his lamp, both reading. Then she noticed the paper, picked it up, began to read. We looked and listened hard for some comment. “Rather clever, I think,” said my mother, putting the paper down without apparent excitement.
The picture of the remote, undemonstrative Julia and Leslie in pools of light in a dark room and the children, in another space, holding their breath for a word of prais, is poignant. Julia’s cool, detached response is, however, enough to ‘thrill’ Virginia: ‘she had had approval and been called clever, and our eavesdropping was rewarded.’ This incident shows Virginia’s desperate need for recognition, something she continued to crave as an adult writer. She suffered agonies of uncertainty when revising her work; experienced unease about how it would be regarded by an audience; her post-publication depressions are well documented.”
- Gill Lowe in Hyde Park Gate News