P is for …


The Pattle Sisters


Virginia’s Grandmother, Maria Pattle; one of the Pattle sisters.

Adeline de l’Etang, a French aristocrat, and James Pattle, of Calcutta, had ten children; nine girls and a boy.  James, Eliza and Harriett all died as children. The remaining seven girls came to be known as the Pattle sisters. One of them, Maria was Virginia’s grandmother. The others were her Great Aunts.

The siblings (all born between 1812 and 1828) were Adeline, James, Eliza, Julia Margaret, Sarah, Maria, Louisa, Sophie, Virginia and Harriett.

The sisters were famous for their beauty and they were the ‘toast’ of Calcutta and Kensington. They were good looking, high spirited and unconventional and they certainly caused quite a stir in Victorian Society.  Virginia and Sophia made aristocratic marriages and Julia became a famous photographer. Between them they had a huge circle of influential, literary, artistic and political friends and were part of the well known social and cultural life in London. Maria married Dr John Jackson who was a highly respected physician in India. Maria and her daughters spent much time in London. One of Maria’s daughters, Julia, was to become Virginia Stephen’s (Woolf’s) mother.

Virginia Woolf certainly descended from a high profile family. William Thackeray is reported to have been besotted and to have said abut Virginia Pattle that ‘when she comes into the room, it is like a beautiful air of Mozart breaking on you’. He described her as a ‘young lady with every kind of perfection, a charming face and a perfect form’.


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