Eminent Victorians: Julia Margaret Cameron and Virginia Woolf

By LIZ HAGER

(Top) Julia Margaret Cameron, Julia Jackson, albumen print, ca. 1867; (Bottom) George Charles Beresford, Virginia Woolf, platinum print, 1902.

While on the subject of Julia Cameron. .  . (see Alice of the Pure Unclouded Brow) I couldn’t help noticing the many portraits of a contemporary of Alice Liddell, a pure pre-Raphaelite beauty, Julia Prinsep Jackson (top).  Julia Jackson was one of Cameron’s favorite sitters; she happened also to be her neice, daughter of Cameron’s sister Maria.   Julia Jackson (1846-1895) married Sir Leslie Stephen (writer and critic) and they begat Virginia (1882-1941), who later married Leonard Woolf, as well as artist Vanessa, who would be a founding member of The Omega Group. V. Stephens looks were distinctive—the long narrow face and those bug-y eyes!— and the portrait above of her has been pretty widely circulated. Still, I was surprised to learn of Virginia’s connection to Cameron.  Julia Stephens died when Virginia was just 13,  and this event was to haunt the writer for many years.

Virginia and her mother were skeins in a familial and social web of the sort that has bound English aristocrats together for centuries—

Julia Jackson’s first marriage was to Herbert Duckworth, a barrister, who died tragically a few years into their marriage. Duckworth might have been a descendent of William the Conquerer, but that illustrious lineage wouldn’t have passed to Virginia, as he was not her father. Interestingly, his descendants are related to Princess Diana. Not to be outdone, however, Virginia was descended on her mother’s side from a page in Marie Antoinette’s court.

Julia Jackson also posed for Edward Burne-Jones, the pre-eminent pre-Raphaelite painter; we know that she was the model for the head of the virgin in  his Adoration of the Magi.

Sir Leslie Stephens’ (Virginia’s father) was a widower when he met Julia Jackson Duckworth. His first wife was the daughter of author William Makepeace Thackeray (Vanity Fair).

In 1926, Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) wrote an introduction to Julia Margaret Cameron’s (her great-aunt) posthumously-published Victorian Photographs of Famous Men & Fair Women.

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