|Pencil portrait of Renoir © Craig Ede (c1974)|
Leonard Woolf [British writer, husband of Virginia Woolf] in Sowing: An Autobiography of the Years 1880 to 1904. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1960, pp. 137-138—
Thoby [Julian Thoby Stephen, Virginia Woolf's brother] was an intellectual…But he also, though rather scornful of games and athletics, loved the open air—watching birds, walking, following the beagles. In these occupations, particularly in walking, I often joined him. Walking with him was by no means a tame business, for it was almost a Stephen principle in walking to avoid all roads and ignore the rights of property owners and the law of trespass…In our walks up the river towards Trumpington, we had several times noticed a clump of magnificent hawthorn trees in which vast numbers of starlings came nightly to roost. I have never seen such enormous numbers of birds in so small a space; there must have been thousands upon thousands and the trees were in the evening literally black with them. We several times tried to put them all up into the air at the same time, for, if we succeeded, it would have been a marvelous sight to see the sky darkened and the setting sun obscured by the immense cloud of birds. But we failed because every time we approached the trees, the birds went up into the sky spasmodically in gusts, and not altogether. So we bought a rocket and late one evening fired it from a distance into the trees. The experiment succeeded and we had the pleasure of seeing the sun completely blotted out by starlings.
|Thoby Stephen, PicSketch image from G.C. Beresford photograph|