A Writer's Tale, Literary Liaisons

A Writer’s Tale-Virginia Woolf

It occurred to me that I have done my readership a great disservice by somehow managing only to feature the quirky and wild tales of male authors up to this point. So in this edition, I will remedy that with a tale as amusing as it is cringe-worthy. And what literary lady will grace us with her tale this day? Why none other than the master of the modern novel herself, Miss Virginia Woolf.
The year was nineteen ten, the place Dorset, England. Back before the great war, there was quite a rivalry between officers in Her Majesty’s Navy. As such officers from rival ship sought to pull pranks and get one up on each other. There was a particularly strong enmity between the crews of the HMS Hawke and the HMS Dreadnought which was, at the time, the flagship of the British navy.
One of the officers from the Hawke was friends with a Mr. Horace de Vere Cole, who had earned himself quite a reputation as a prankster in his Cambridge days. The office entreated to Cole to pull some kind of master prank on his bitter rivals. Cole enlisted the help of his dear friend Adrian Stephen, who himself had a cousin on the Dreadnought’s command staff.Adrian had a sister by the name of Virginia. And as you should remember Virginia Stephen is the real name of our author of the day, Virginia Woolf. A plan was devised and the prank was set in motion.
 Cole had a telegram sent to the Dreadnought ordering that the ship be prepared for the visit of a group of princes from Abyssinia. The letter bore the signature of the home secretary and look authentic enough by all contemporary accounts.
Cole, Virginia and three other friends were disguised by a theatrical acquaintance with skin darkeners and turbans, in what would now be considered a rather unseemly impersonation of the Abyssinian royal family. Virginia’s brother Adrian took the role of diplomatic tour guide and interpreter.
At the station to Dorset, Adrian made quite the fuss and managed to secure their entourage of phonies a VIP train. When they arrived they were greeted with an honor guard and given a full tour of the fleet. The whole time speaking gibberish to one another and making ridiculous demands of the officers escorting them.
In the end, they got away with their ruse, with no one the wiser until a London paper ran the story days later. Not even Commander Fisher had recognized his cousins Adrian and Virginia. The entire incident eventually became known as “The Dreadnought Hoax”.
So there you have it Virginia Woolf, literary talent and Hoaxster extraordinaire.

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