Study Guide

Minor Characters from the World of Virginia Woolf in The Hours

By Michael Cunningham

Minor Characters from the World of Virginia Woolf

Julian, Quentin, and Angelica

Julian, Quentin, and Angelica are the children of Virginia Woolf's sister, Vanessa Bell. On the day that they come to visit their aunt, Julian is fifteen years old, Quentin is thirteen, and Angelica is just five. By finding a dying bird in the yard and giving it a funeral, the children help to inspire part of the plot of Mrs. Dalloway.

As she observes them with her keen novelist's eye, Virginia characterizes her nephews and niece like so: "Julian is bluff and sturdy, royal; he possesses a gracefully muscular, equine beauty so natural it suggests that beauty itself is a fundamental human condition and not a mutation in the general design. Quentin (bless him), for all his intellect and irony, could already, at thirteen, be a stout, red-faced colonel in the Royal Cavalry, and Angelica, perfectly formed, evinces even at five a nervously wrought, milky prettiness that almost certainly will not last beyond her youth" (10.33).

Although Virginia can see that Julian is "clearly and effortlessly the hero of this family's story, the repository of its grandest hopes" (10.33), she prefers Quentin. While Angelica plans an elaborate funeral for the dying bird, Quentin is the only one who reminds the others—repeatedly—that the bird is still alive.


Lottie is a maid in Virginia and Leonard Woolf's home. Other than performing the occasional errand, she is almost totally invisible and nondescript. Since this isn't Downton Abbey or Upstairs, Downstairs, we'll never know how she feels about her lot in life.

Nelly Boxall

Nelly Boxall works as a cook in Virginia and Leonard Woolf's home. Virginia tries to avoid her because she finds Nelly moody and disagreeable—and, let's be real, Nelly makes Virginia feel like an incompetent housekeeper and wife.

From Virginia's point of view, Nelly is "always large and red, regal, indignant, as if she'd spent her life in an age of glory and decorum that ended, forever, some ten minutes before you entered the room" (7.11). When Nelly suggests that Virginia and Leonard have pears for dessert at lunchtime, "unless [they'd] like something fancier" (7.17), Virginia thinks to herself:

Here it is, then: the challenge thrown down. Unless you'd like something fancier. So the subjugated Amazon stands on the riverbank wrapped in the fur of animals she has killed and skinned; so she drops a pear before the queen's gold slippers and says, "Here is what I've brought. Unless you'd like something fancier." (7.18)

Needless to say, there are some power struggles in play here.

Ralph and Marjorie

Ralph and Marjorie are publishing assistants who, well, assist Leonard Woolf in running Hogarth Press. From the sounds of things, they're just two among many who have come and gone over the years (5.8), and Virginia Woolf doesn't put much stock in them sticking around.

Virginia thinks of Ralph as a "young foot soldier, who appreciates literature but appreciates also, with equal or perhaps greater fervor, the brandy and biscuits waiting when the day's work is done; is good-hearted and unexceptional and can barely be counted on to perpetuate, in his allotted span, the ordinary business of the ordinary world" (5.15).

As for Marjorie, Virginia simply thinks of her as having a "terrible drawl" and a "parakeet's voice" (5.8), and she feels mildly disappointed that Marjorie is willing to do the kinds of tasks that Ralph "considers beneath him" (5.8; 10.4).