Literary London – Why Virginia Woolf Dressed up as a man in 1910

Literary London – Why Virginia Woolf Dressed up as a man in 1910

Comments Off on Literary London – Why Virginia Woolf Dressed up as a man in 1910
Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf (far left) and the Dreadnought Hoaxers picture Wikimedia

We have four different walks and a talk featuring Virginia Woolf in the Footprints Literary festival in October, so plenty of opportunity to hear about her life and works.

But perhaps one of the oddest stories associated with Virginia Woolf relates to her part in a 1910 hoax perpetrated on the Royal Navy in February 1910.

The hoax was initiated by Horace de Vere Cole. Cole tricked the Royal Navy into showing their flagship, the battleship HMS Dreadnought, to a fake delegation of Abyssinian royals. Amongst the delegation were Adrian Stephens and his as yet unmarried sister, Virginia. Adrian was the interpreter, so only he had to speak English. Their main problem though was that they could or eat or drink anything as this would spoil their made up darkened faces.

During the visit to Dreadnought, the visitors expressed amazement or appreciation by using the phrase “Bunga! Bunga!” And when in 1915 during the First World War, HMS Dreadnought rammed and sank a German submarine, one of the telegrams of congratulation simply read “BUNGA BUNGA”.

So now you know – “Bunga Bunga” is not a modern phrase invented in relation to parties held by a certain Italian Prime Minister!

For more about Virginia Woolf, her work and her friends, why not come on one of the Footprints Literary Festival walks:


Sunday 12 October @ 14.00: Lives and loves of the Bloomsbury Group

Tuesday 21 October @ 11.00: Literary Bloomsbury

Sunday 26 October @ 14.00: Virginia Woolf in Bloomsbury


Tickets cost £10 (£7.50 concession) or you can buy a season ticket for unlimited Literary Festival walks for one person for just £40.

Or why not join us for a one off talk “Virginia Woolf and friends – her life, her work, her books” on Monday 13 October at 18.30 St Olave’s Church, Hart Street, EC3. Tickets cost £10 (or £5 in conjunction with a Literary Footprints season ticket)

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