The Dreadnought Hoax

Updated November 4, 1998
Created June 30, 1997

Virginia Woolf is the figure on the far left.  Adrian Stephen is the third person from the left.

One of the lighter moments of Virginia Woolf's life is when she took part in a very public practical joke cooked up by her brother Adrian Stephen and his friend and classmate Horace Cole.  On February 10, 1910, the three of them, along with three other friends, dressed up as a group of foreign diplomats from Abyssinia and British Foreign Office officials.  The six disguised friends requested to be taken on a tour of the H.M.S. Dreadnought, the most important warship in England at the time.  The captain and crew of the ship were fooled, and they showed Woolf and company the secret areas of the ship. The group even imitated the foreign language!  Horace could not let the joke end there.  He alerted the press about what they had done, and this photograph was printed in The Daily Mirror.

Source:  Lehmann, John.  Virginia Woolf and Her World.  Harcourt Brace Jovanovich: New York, 1975.  26-8.

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