VIRGINIA WOOLF AS AN ABYSSINIAN PRINCE: ADRIAN STEPHEN’S THE “DREADNOUGHT” HOAX
(WOOLF, Virginia) STEPHEN, Adrian. The “Dreadnought” Hoax. London: Hogarth Press, 1936. Slim octavo, original photographic paper-covered boards. $900.
First edition, illustrated with three black-and-white photographs.
“On the morning of 10 February 1910, Virginia [Woolf], with five companions, drove to Paddington Station and took a train to Weymouth. She wore a turban, a fine gold chain hanging to her waist and an embroidered caftan. Her face was black. She sported a very handsome mustache and beard. Of the other members of the party three—Duncan Grant, Anthony Buxton and Guy Ridley—were disguised in much the same way. [Woolf’s younger brother] Adrian was there, wearing a beard and an ill-fitting bowler hat so that he looked, as he himself put it, ‘like a seedy commercial traveller,’ while the sixth member (and leader) of the party, Horace Cole, was convincingly attired as an official of the Foreign Office. The object of their excursion was to hoodwink the British Navy, to penetrate its security and to enjoy a conducted tour of the flagship of the Home Fleet, the most formidable, the most modern and the most secret man o’ war then afloat, H.M.S. Dreadnought” (Bell, 163). Their ruse succeeded, and the group revealed the hoax by sending a letter and a photograph to the Daily Mirror, causing the British Navy no end of embarrassment. One of the photographs in the book (also reproduced on the front cover) shows the young Virginia Stephen in her guise as an Abyssinian prince. Written by Woolf’s brother, the book was not a success: Woolmer notes that, of the 2530 printed in November 1936, 1530 were later pulped (Woolmer 396). Owner signature dated two months after publication; bookseller ticket.
Scattered light foxing to interior. Foxing to original buff paper covers, paper joints expertly repaired, small chip to spine head. An extremely good copy of a scarce piece of Woolfiana.