Bloomsbury Group

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The Bloomsbury Group or Bloomsbury Set was a group of writers, intellectuals, philosophers and artists who held informal discussions in Bloomsbury
-Places:* Bloomsbury is an area in central London.* Bloomsbury , related local government unit* Bloomsbury, New Jersey, New Jersey, USA* Bloomsbury , listed on the NRHP in Maryland...

 throughout the 20th century. This English
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 collective of friends and relatives lived, worked or studied near Bloomsbury in London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 during the first half of the twentieth century. "Although its members denied being a group in any formal sense, they were united by an abiding belief in the importance of the arts". Their work deeply influenced literature
Literature is the art of written works, and is not bound to published sources...

, aesthetics
Aesthetics is a branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of beauty, art, and taste, and with the creation and appreciation of beauty. It is more scientifically defined as the study of sensory or sensori-emotional values, sometimes called judgments of sentiment and taste...

, criticism
Criticism is the judgement of the merits and faults of the work or actions of an individual or group by another . To criticize does not necessarily imply to find fault, but the word is often taken to mean the simple expression of an objection against prejudice, or a disapproval.Another meaning of...

, and economics
Economics is the social science that analyzes the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. The term economics comes from the Ancient Greek from + , hence "rules of the house"...

 as well as modern attitudes towards feminism
Feminism is a collection of movements aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights and equal opportunities for women. Its concepts overlap with those of women's rights...

, pacifism
Pacifism is the opposition to war and violence. The term "pacifism" was coined by the French peace campaignerÉmile Arnaud and adopted by other peace activists at the tenth Universal Peace Congress inGlasgow in 1901.- Definition :...

, and sexuality
Human sexuality
Human sexuality is the awareness of gender differences, and the capacity to have erotic experiences and responses. Human sexuality can also be described as the way someone is sexually attracted to another person whether it is to opposite sexes , to the same sex , to either sexes , or not being...

. Its best known members were Virginia Woolf
Virginia Woolf
Adeline Virginia Woolf was an English author, essayist, publisher, and writer of short stories, regarded as one of the foremost modernist literary figures of the twentieth century....

, John Maynard Keynes
John Maynard Keynes
John Maynard Keynes, Baron Keynes of Tilton, CB FBA , was a British economist whose ideas have profoundly affected the theory and practice of modern macroeconomics, as well as the economic policies of governments...

, E. M. Forster
E. M. Forster
Edward Morgan Forster OM, CH was an English novelist, short story writer, essayist and librettist. He is known best for his ironic and well-plotted novels examining class difference and hypocrisy in early 20th-century British society...

 and Lytton Strachey
Lytton Strachey
Giles Lytton Strachey was a British writer and critic. He is best known for establishing a new form of biography in which psychological insight and sympathy are combined with irreverence and wit...



Much about Bloomsbury appears to be controversial, including its membership and name: indeed, some would maintain that 'the three words "the Bloomsbury group" have been so much used as to have become almost unusable'. The group did not hold formal or informal discussions on particular topics, but talked about a range of topics at all times. 'Identifications of the "membership" of the circle have varied considerably depending on who drew up the lists, and when.

'Leonard Woolf
Leonard Woolf
Leonard Sidney Woolf was an English political theorist, author, publisher and civil servant, and husband of author Virginia Woolf.-Early life:...

, in the 1960s, listed as "Old Bloomsbury" Vanessa
Vanessa Bell
Vanessa Bell was an English painter and interior designer, a member of the Bloomsbury group, and the sister of Virginia Woolf.- Biography and art :...

 and Clive Bell
Clive Bell
Arthur Clive Heward Bell was an English Art critic, associated with formalism and the Bloomsbury Group.- Origins :Clive Bell was born in East Shefford, Berkshire, in 1881...

, Virginia
Virginia Woolf
Adeline Virginia Woolf was an English author, essayist, publisher, and writer of short stories, regarded as one of the foremost modernist literary figures of the twentieth century....

 and Leonard Woolf, Adrian
Adrian Stephen
Adrian Stephen was a member of the Bloomsbury Group, an author and psychoanalyst, and the brother of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell...

 and Karin Stephen
Karin Stephen
Karin Stephen was a British psychoanalyst and psychologist.Karin Stephen was educated at Newnham College, Cambridge, where she became a Fellow. She married Adrian Stephen shortly before World War I; the couple, as conscientious objectors, spent the war working on a dairy farm...

, Lytton Strachey, Maynard Keynes, Duncan Grant
Duncan Grant
Duncan James Corrowr Grant was a British painter and designer of textiles, potterty and theatre sets and costumes...

, Morgan Foster
E. M. Forster
Edward Morgan Forster OM, CH was an English novelist, short story writer, essayist and librettist. He is known best for his ironic and well-plotted novels examining class difference and hypocrisy in early 20th-century British society...

, Saxon Sydney-Turner
Saxon Sydney-Turner
Saxon Arnold Sydney-TurnerMiddle name sometimes spelt, seemingly deliberately, as Arnoll was a member of the Bloomsbury Group who worked as a British civil servant throughout his life.-Early life:...

, Roger Fry
Roger Fry
Roger Eliot Fry was an English artist and art critic, and a member of the Bloomsbury Group. Establishing his reputation as a scholar of the Old Masters, he became an advocate of more recent developments in French painting, to which he gave the name Post-Impressionism...

, Desmond
Desmond MacCarthy
Sir Desmond MacCarthy was a British literary critic and journalist.-Early life and education:MacCarthy was born in Plymouth, Devon, and educated at Eton College and Trinity College, Cambridge. At Cambridge he got to know Lytton Strachey, Bertrand Russell and G. E...

 and Molly MacCarthy
Mary (Molly) MacCarthy
Mary MacCarthy was a British writer, known for her involvement in the "Bloomsbury Group".Mary MacCarthy was the daughter of the teacher and man-of-letters Francis Warre Warre-Cornish...

, with Julian, Quentin and Angelica Bell, and David Garnett
David Garnett
David Garnett was a British writer and publisher. As a child, he had a cloak made of rabbit skin and thus received the nickname "Bunny", by which he was known to friends and intimates all his life.-Early life:...

 as later additions'. However, the claim has been made that (though factually accurate) Woolf's formulation is 'a little too dogmatic and definite and contributes to the false view that Bloomsbury was an entity, almost a formal body', as opposed to 'an informal group of friends, and nothing more'.

Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf were sisters, and their brothers, the older Thoby
Thoby Stephen
Julian Thoby Stephen , known as the Goth, was the elder brother of several members of the Bloomsbury Group, namely his sisters Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf and his younger brother Adrian....

 and the younger Adrian, can also be considered original members of the group, (as were some other Cambridge figures - indeed, to some, 'Bloomsbury was really Cambridge in London'). Lytton Strachey and Duncan Grant – later Vanessa’s partner – were cousins, so that a web of kinship, intellectual, social, sexual and amicable ties bound the group, while throughout the group’s history there were various (and complicated!) affairs among the individual members, most of whom lived for considerable periods of time in the West Central 1 district of London known as Bloomsbury
-Places:* Bloomsbury is an area in central London.* Bloomsbury , related local government unit* Bloomsbury, New Jersey, New Jersey, USA* Bloomsbury , listed on the NRHP in Maryland...


"Group" seems to be the best general term to describe the nature of the association, which was not merely social as the terms "circle" or "set" may imply. A remarkable historical feature of these friends and relations is that their close relationships all predated their fame as writers, artists, and thinkers. Yet close friends, brothers, sisters, and even sometimes partners of the friends were not necessarily members of Bloomsbury: Keynes’s wife Lydia Lopokova was only reluctantly accepted into the group, and there were certainly 'writers who were at some time close friends of Virginia Woolf, but who were distinctly not "Bloomsbury": T. S. Eliot
T. S. Eliot
Thomas Stearns "T. S." Eliot OM was a playwright, literary critic, and arguably the most important English-language poet of the 20th century. Although he was born an American he moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 and was naturalised as a British subject in 1927 at age 39.The poem that made his...

, Katherine Mansfield
Katherine Mansfield
Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp Murry was a prominent modernist writer of short fiction who was born and brought up in colonial New Zealand and wrote under the pen name of Katherine Mansfield. Mansfield left for Great Britain in 1908 where she encountered Modernist writers such as D.H. Lawrence and...

, Hugh Walpole
Hugh Walpole
Sir Hugh Seymour Walpole, CBE was an English novelist. A prolific writer, he published thirty-six novels, five volumes of short stories, two plays and three volumes of memoirs. His skill at scene-setting, his vivid plots, his high profile as a lecturer and his driving ambition brought him a large...

'. Members cited in 'other lists might include Ottoline Morrell
Lady Ottoline Morrell
The Lady Ottoline Violet Anne Morrell was an English aristocrat and society hostess. Her patronage was influential in artistic and intellectual circles, where she befriended writers such as Aldous Huxley, Siegfried Sassoon, T. S. Eliot and D. H...

, or Dora Carrington
Dora Carrington
Dora de Houghton Carrington , known generally as Carrington, was a British painter and decorative artist, remembered in part for her association with members of the Bloomsbury Group, especially the writer Lytton Strachey....

, or James
James Strachey
James Beaumont Strachey was a British psychoanalyst, and, with his wife Alix, a translator of Sigmund Freud into English...

 and Alix Strachey
Alix Strachey
Alix Strachey , née Sargant-Florence, was an American-born British psychoanalyst and with her husband the translator into English of the works of Sigmund Freud....

'; but even such a close associate as Virginia Woolf's long term lover Vita Sackville-West
Vita Sackville-West
The Hon Victoria Mary Sackville-West, Lady Nicolson, CH , best known as Vita Sackville-West, was an English author, poet and gardener. She won the Hawthornden Prize in 1927 and 1933...

 - 'Vita would be the Hogarth Press
Hogarth Press
The Hogarth Press was founded in 1917 by Leonard Woolf and Virginia Woolf. It was named after their house in Richmond, in which they began hand-printing books....

's best-selling author' - belonged to a different literary grouping.

Shared ideas

The lives and works of the group members show an overlapping, interconnected similarity of ideas and attitudes that helped to keep the friends and relatives together, reflecting in large part the influence of G. E. Moore: 'the essence of what Bloomsbury drew from Moore is contained in his statement that "one's prime objects in life were love, the creation and enjoyment of aesthetic experience and the pursuit of knowledge"'.

Bloomsbury reacted against the social rituals, 'the bourgeois habits...the conventions of Victorian life' - its valorisation of the public sphere - in favour of a more informal, private-oriented focus upon personal relationships and individual pleasure: E. M. Forster lauded for example 'the decay of smartness and fashion as factors, and the growth of the idea of enjoyment'. His famous (or infamous) assertion that 'if I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country' belongs here.

The Group 'believed in pleasure....They tried to get the maximum of pleasure out of their personal relations. If this meant triangles
Love triangle
A love triangle is usually a romantic relationship involving three people. While it can refer to two people independently romantically linked with a third, it usually implies that each of the three people has some kind of relationship to the other two...

 or more complicated geometric figures, well then, one accepted that too' - in the spirit perhaps of what later became known as polyfidelity
Polyfidelity is a form of polyamory where all members are considered equal partners and agree to be sexually active only with other members of the group. The term originated in the Kerista Village commune in San Francisco which practiced polyfidelity from 1971 to 1991...

. Yet at the same time, theirs was a sophisticated, civilized, and highly articulated shared ideal of pleasure: as Virginia Woolf put it, their 'triumph is in having worked out a view of life which was not by any means corrupt or sinister or merely intellectual; rather ascetic and austere indeed; which still holds, and keeps them dining together, and staying together, after 20 years'.

Politically, Bloomsbury held mainly left-liberal stances (opposed to militarism, for example); but its 'clubs and meetings were not activist, like the political organizations to which many of Bloomsbury's members also belonged', and they would be criticised for that by their Thirties successors, who by contrast were 'heavily touched by the politics which Bloomsbury had rejected'.

Their convictions about the nature of consciousness and its relation to external nature, about the fundamental separateness of individuals that involves both isolation and love, about the human and non-human nature of time and death, and about the ideal goods of truth, love and beauty – all these were largely shared. These "Bloomsbury assumptions" are also reflected in members' criticisms of materialistic realism in painting and fiction, influenced above all by Clive Bell's 'concept of "Significant Form", which separated and elevated the concept of form above content in works of art': it has been suggested that, with their 'focus on form...Bell's ideas have come to stand in for, perhaps too much so, the aesthetic principles of the Bloomsbury Group'.


The Bloomsbury Group came from mostly upper middle-class professional families; formed part of 'an intellectual aristocracy which could trace itself back to the Clapham Sect
Clapham Sect
The Clapham Sect or Clapham Saints were a group of influential like-minded Church of England social reformers based in Clapham, London at the beginning of the 19th century...

'. E. M. Forster, Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell had independent incomes. Others such as Lytton Strachey, Leonard Woolf, the MacCarthys, Duncan Grant, and Roger Fry needed to work for their living. Of the 'set', perhaps only Clive Bell could be called wealthy . Of the male members of the early Bloomsbury Group, all but Duncan Grant were educated at Trinity
Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. Trinity has more members than any other college in Cambridge or Oxford, with around 700 undergraduates, 430 graduates, and over 170 Fellows...

 or King’s. At Trinity in 1899 Strachey, Woolf, Sydney-Turner and Bell became good friends with Thoby Stephen, who introduced them to his sisters Vanessa and Virginia in London, and in this way the Bloomsbury Group came into being. All the Cambridge men except Clive Bell and the Stephen brothers were also members of 'the exclusive Cambridge society, the "Apostles"
Cambridge Apostles
The Cambridge Apostles, also known as the Cambridge Conversazione Society, is an intellectual secret society at the University of Cambridge founded in 1820 by George Tomlinson, a Cambridge student who went on to become the first Bishop of Gibraltar....

'; there they met older members such as Desmond MacCarthy and Roger Fry as well as E. M. Forster and J. M. Keynes, who were all from King’s College.

Through the Apostles they also encountered the analytic philosophers G. E. Moore and Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, OM, FRS was a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, and social critic. At various points in his life he considered himself a liberal, a socialist, and a pacifist, but he also admitted that he had never been any of these things...

 who were revolutionizing British philosophy at the turn of the century. Distinguishing between ends and means was a commonplace of ethics, but what made Moore’s Principia Ethica (1903) so important for the philosophical basis of Bloomsbury thought was Moore's conception of intrinsic worth as distinct from instrumental value. As with the distinction between love (an intrinsic state) and monogamy (a behavior), Moore's differentiation between intrinsic and instrumental value allowed the Bloomsburies to maintain an ethical high-ground based on intrinsic merit, independent of, and without reference to, the consequences of their actions. For Moore, intrinsic value depended on an indeterminable intuition of good and a concept of complex states of mind whose worth as a whole was not proportionate to the sum of its parts. For both Moore and Bloomsbury, the greatest ethic goods were 'the importance of personal relationships and the private life', as well as aesthetic appreciation: 'art for art's sake'. But more important than these for the group’s values was the recurrent questioning of human behaviour in terms of instrumental means and intrinsic ends.

Old Bloomsbury

When they came down from college, the men of Cambridge began to meet the women of Bloomsbury through the Stephen family. Thoby’s premature death in 1906 brought them more firmly together. Lytton Strachey became a close friend of the Stephen sisters as did Duncan Grant through his affairs with Lytton Strachey, Maynard Keynes, and Adrian Stephen. Clive Bell married Vanessa in 1907, and Leonard Woolf returned from the Ceylon Civil Service to marry Virginia in 1912. Cambridge Apostle friendships brought into the group Desmond MacCarthy, his wife Molly, and E. M. Forster. Except for Forster, who published three novels before the highly successful Howards End in 1910, the group were late developers. It was also in 1910 that Roger Fry joined the group. His notorious post-impressionist exhibitions of 1910 and 1912 involved Bloomsbury in a second revolution following on the Cambridge philosophical one. This time the Bloomsbury painters were much involved and influenced. Bloomsbury was also part of Fry’s extension of post-impressionism into the decorative arts with his Omega Workshops
Omega Workshops
The Omega Workshops was a design enterprise founded by members of the Bloomsbury Group and established in 1913. It was located at 33 Fitzroy Square in London, and was founded with the intention of providing graphic expression to the essence of the Bloomsbury ethos...

, which lasted until 1920. Bloomsbury artists rejected the traditional distinction between fine and decorative art, as can be seen at Charleston Farmhouse
Charleston Farmhouse
Charleston, the country home of the Bloomsbury group is an example of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant's decorative style within a domestic context and represents the fruition of over sixty years of artistic creativity...

 near Lewes in Sussex where Vanessa Bell, her children and Duncan Grant moved in 1916 for the rest of their lives. (Charleston is now open to visitors, as is Monk's House, the Rodmell cottage the Woolfs moved to in 1919, now owned by the National Trust
National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty
The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty, usually known as the National Trust, is a conservation organisation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland...


The establishment’s hostility to post-impressionism made Bloomsbury controversial, and controversial they have remained. Clive Bell polemicized post-impressionism in his widely read book Art (1914), basing his aesthetics partly on Roger Fry’s art criticism and G. E. Moore’s moral philosophy; and as the war came he argued provocatively that 'in these days of storm and darkness, it seemed right that at the shrine of civilization - in Bloomsbury, I mean - the lamp should be tended assiduously'. The campaign for women’s suffrage added to the controversial nature of Bloomsbury, as Virginia Woolf and some but not all members of the group perceived the connections between the politics of capitalism, imperialism, gender and aesthetics.

Old Bloomsbury’s development was inevitably impacted on, along with just about everything else in modernist culture, by the First World War: indeed, 'the small world of Bloomsbury was later said by some on its outskirts to have been irretrivably shattered', though in fact its friendships 'survived the upheavals and dislocations of war, in many ways were even strengthened by them'. None of the men fought in the war. Most but not all of them were conscientious objectors, which of course added to the group’s controversies. Politically the members of Bloomsbury were divided between liberalism and socialism, as can be seen in the respective careers and writings of Maynard Keynes and Leonard Woolf. But they were united in their opposition to the government that involved them in the war and then in an impermanent peace.

Though the war dispersed Old Bloomsbury, the individuals continued to develop their careers. E. M. Forster followed his successful novels with Maurice which he could not publish because it treated homosexuality untragically. In 1915 Virginia Woolf brought out her first novel, The Voyage Out. And in 1917 the Woolfs founded their Hogarth Press
Hogarth Press
The Hogarth Press was founded in 1917 by Leonard Woolf and Virginia Woolf. It was named after their house in Richmond, in which they began hand-printing books....

, which would publish T. S. Eliot
T. S. Eliot
Thomas Stearns "T. S." Eliot OM was a playwright, literary critic, and arguably the most important English-language poet of the 20th century. Although he was born an American he moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 and was naturalised as a British subject in 1927 at age 39.The poem that made his...

, Katherine Mansfield
Katherine Mansfield
Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp Murry was a prominent modernist writer of short fiction who was born and brought up in colonial New Zealand and wrote under the pen name of Katherine Mansfield. Mansfield left for Great Britain in 1908 where she encountered Modernist writers such as D.H. Lawrence and...

, and many others including Virginia herself along with the standard English translations of Freud. Then in 1918 Lytton Strachey published his critique of Victorianism
Victorianism is the name given to the attitudes, art, and culture of the later two-thirds of the 19th century. This usage is strong within social history and the study of literature, less so in philosophy. Many disciplines do not use the term, but instead prefer Victorian Era, or simply "Late 19th...

 in the shape of four ironic biographies in Eminent Victorians
Eminent Victorians
Eminent Victorians is a book by Lytton Strachey , first published in 1918 and consisting of biographies of four leading figures from the Victorian era. Its fame rests on the irreverence and wit Strachey brought to bear on three men and a woman who had till then been regarded as heroes and heroine...

which added to the arguments around Bloomsbury that continue to this day, and 'brought him the triumph he had always longed for...The book was a sensation'.

The following year came J. M. Keynes’s influential attack the next year on the Versailles Peace Treaty: ' The Economic Consequences of the Peace immediately established Maynard as an economist of international eminence' .

Later Bloomsbury

In March 1920 Molly MacCarthy began a club to help Desmond and herself write their memoirs; and also 'for their friends to regroup after the war (with the proviso that they should always tell the truth)', thus bringing the members of Old Bloomsbury back together. The comedy of a group of friends in their forties reading one another their memoirs was not lost on Bloomsbury. Many of the ensuing memoirs, such as Virginia Woolf on her Hyde Park Gate home and Maynard Keynes on his early beliefs, are ironic in ways not always recognized by later commentators. The Memoir Club testifies to the continuing cohesion of Bloomsbury. For the next thirty years they came together in irregular meetings to write about the memories they shared in growing up together, at college, and later in Bloomsbury. The members of The Memoir Club were not quite equivalent to those of Old Bloomsbury, however; the club did not include Adrian Stephen, for example, or Sydney-Turner, who certainly belonged to Old Bloomsbury. Yet all but one of the other members belonged to Old Bloomsbury, and indeed Old Bloomsbury itself became a popular subject for the Club’s memoirs.

The 1920s were in a number of ways the blooming of Bloomsbury. Virginia Woolf was writing and publishing her most widely-read modernist novels and essays, E. M. Forster completed A Passage to India
A Passage to India
A Passage to India is a novel by E. M. Forster set against the backdrop of the British Raj and the Indian independence movement in the 1920s. It was selected as one of the 100 great works of English literature by the Modern Library and won the 1924 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction. Time...

which remains the most highly regarded novel on English imperialism in India. Forster wrote no more novels but he became one of England’s most influential essayists. Duncan Grant, and then Vanessa Bell, had single-artist exhibitions. Lytton Strachey wrote his biographies of two Queens, Victoria then Elizabeth (and Essex). Desmond MacCarthy and Leonard Woolf engaged in friendly rivalry as literary editors, respectively of the New Statesman
New Statesman
New Statesman is a British centre-left political and cultural magazine published weekly in London. Founded in 1913, and connected with leading members of the Fabian Society, the magazine reached a circulation peak in the late 1960s....

and the Nation and Athenaeum, thus fuelling animosities that saw Bloomsbury dominating the cultural scene. Roger Fry wrote and lectured widely on art; while Clive Bell applied Bloomsbury values to his book Civilization (1928), which Leonard Woolf saw as limited and elitist, describing Clive as a 'wonderful organiser of intellectual greyhound racing tracks'. Leonard, who had helped formulate proposals for the League of Nations during the war, offered his own views on the subject in Imperialism and Civilization (1928). In many respects throughout its history Bloomsbury’s most incisive critics came from within.

In the darkening 1930s Bloomsbury began to die: 'Bloomsbury itself was hardly any longer a focus'. A year after publishing a collection of brief lives, Portraits in Miniature (1931), Lytton Strachey died; shortly afterwards Carrington shot herself. Roger Fry, who had become England’s greatest art critic, died in 1934. Vanessa and Clive’s eldest son, Julian Bell
Julian Bell
Julian Heward Bell was an English poet, and the son of Clive and Vanessa Bell . The writer Quentin Bell was his younger brother, and the writer and painter Angelica Garnett is his half-sister...

, was killed in 1937 while driving an ambulance in the Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil WarAlso known as The Crusade among Nationalists, the Fourth Carlist War among Carlists, and The Rebellion or Uprising among Republicans. was a major conflict fought in Spain from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939...

. Virginia Woolf wrote Fry’s biography but with the coming of war again her mental instability recurred, and she drowned herself in 1941. In the previous decade she had become one of the century’s most famous feminist writers with three more novels, and a series of essays including the moving late memoir “Sketch of the Past”, It was also in the Thirties that Desmond MacCarthy became perhaps the most widely read – and heard – literary critic with his columns in The Sunday Times
The Sunday Times
The Sunday Times is a British Sunday newspaper.The Sunday Times may also refer to:*The Sunday Times *The Sunday Times *The Sunday Times *The Sunday Times...

and his broadcasts with the BBC. John Maynard Keynes’s The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money (1936) made him the century’s most influential economist. He died in 1946 after being much involved in monetary negotiations with the United States.

The diversity yet collectivity of Later Bloomsbury’s ideas and achievements can be summed up in a series of credos that were done in 1938, the year of Munich. Virginia Woolf published her radical feminist polemic Three Guineas that shocked some of her fellow members including Keynes who had enjoyed the gentler A Room of One’s Own (1929). Keynes read his famous but decidedly more conservative memoir My Early Beliefs to The Memoir Club. Clive Bell published an appeasement pamphlet (he later supported the war), and E. M. Forster wrote an early version of his famous essay “What I Believe” with its choice, still shocking for some, of personal relations over patriotism: his quiet assertion in the face of the increasingly totalitarian
Totalitarianism is a political system where the state recognizes no limits to its authority and strives to regulate every aspect of public and private life wherever feasible...

 claims of both left and right that 'personal and loyalty to an individual can run counter to the claims of the State'.

Posthumous Bloomsbury

The Memoir Club continued meeting intermittently until Clive Bell’s death in 1964. Younger members of the group and the club included the writer David Garnett
David Garnett
David Garnett was a British writer and publisher. As a child, he had a cloak made of rabbit skin and thus received the nickname "Bunny", by which he was known to friends and intimates all his life.-Early life:...

, and later his wife Angelica Garnett
Angelica Garnett
Angelica Vanessa Garnett is a British writer and painter.-Early life:She was the illegitimate daughter of the painters Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell, sister of Virginia Woolf, and was a member of the Bloomsbury Group...

, the daughter of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. Her half-brother the artist and writer Quentin Bell eventually became the club’s secretary, and later wrote his aunt’s biography. Sister and brother wrote very different memoirs about Bloomsbury, Angelica’s being Deceived by Kindness (1984) and Quentin’s Elders and Betters (1995). Among other younger members were Lytton’s niece the writer Julia Strachey
Julia Strachey
Julia Strachey was an English writer, born in Allahabad, India, where her father, Oliver Strachey, the elder brother of Lytton Strachey, was a civil servant. Her mother, Ruby, was of Swiss-German origin...

, and the diarist Frances Partridge
Frances Partridge
Frances Catherine Partridge CBE was a long-lived member of the Bloomsbury Group and a writer, probably best known for the publication of her diaries...

 who had married into Lytton Strachey’s ménage in the thirties.

Following Virginia’s death Leonard Woolf began editing collections of her writings including a selection from her diaries, A Writer’s Diary (1953), which revealed publicly for the first time what the Bloomsbury Group had been like. Leonard’s own volumes of autobiography in the 1960s (he died in 1969) gave the fullest account, but he remained reticent about the sexual lives of the members, as had the excerpts from Virginia’s diary. Subsequent biographies of Strachey then Virginia Woolf, Forster, Keynes, Fry, Vanessa Bell, and Grant removed all veils. Indeed much of the interest in Bloomsbury has been biographically driven, yet it is their achievements as writers, artists, and thinkers that have ultimately made their lives biographically interesting. The case of Virginia Woolf provides an example. There have now been more than half a dozen biographies of her, yet a good deal of the basic scholarship of locating and editing her work remains unfinished; significant unpublished writings of hers are still being found in library archives.

The Bloomsbury Group has featured in many works of fiction, including, notably, Michael Cunningham
Michael Cunningham
Michael Cunningham is an American writer, best known for his 1998 novel The Hours, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the PEN/Faulkner Award in 1999.-Early life and education:...

's The Hours
The Hours (novel)
The Hours is a 1998 novel written by Michael Cunningham. It won the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the 1999 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, and was later made into an Oscar-winning 2002 movie of the same name starring Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore.-Plot introduction:The book...

 and Susan Sellers
Susan Sellers
Susan Sellers is a British author, translator, editor and novelist. She is Professor of English and Related Literature at the University of St Andrews, and co-General Editor of the Cambridge University Press edition of the writings of Virginia Woolf...

' Vanessa and Virginia.


If 'the contempt or suspicion - the environment that a person or group creates around itself - is always a kind of alter ego, an essential and revealing part of the production', there is perhaps much to be learnt from the (extensive) criticism that the Bloomsbury Group aroused. Early complaints focused on a perceived cliquiness: 'on personal mannerisms - the favourite phrases ("ex-quisitely civilized", and "How simply too extraordinary!"), the incredulous, weirdly emphasised Strachey voice'. After World War I, as the members of the Group 'began to be famous, the execration increased, and the caricature of an idle, snobbish and self-congratulatory rentier class, promoting its own brand of high culture began to take shape': as Forster self-mockingly put it, 'In came the nice fat dividends, up rose the lofty thoughts'.

The growing threats of the Thirties brought new criticism from younger writers of 'what the last lot had done (Bloomsbury, Modernism, Eliot) in favour of what they thought of as urgent hard-hitting realism'; while 'Wyndham Lewis
Wyndham Lewis
Percy Wyndham Lewis was an English painter and author . He was a co-founder of the Vorticist movement in art, and edited the literary magazine of the Vorticists, BLAST...

's The Apes of God, which called Bloomsbury élitist, corrupt and talentless, caused a stir' of its own. The most telling criticism, however, came perhaps from within the Group's own ranks, when on the eve of war Keynes gave a 'nostalgic and disillusioned account of the pure sweet air of G. E. Moore, that belief in undisturbed individualism, that Utopianism based on a belief in human reasonableness and decency, that refusal to accept the idea of civilisation as "a thin and precarious crust"....Keynes's fond, elegiac repudiation of his "early beliefs", in the light of current affairs ("We completely misunderstood human nature, including our own")'.

After the outbreak of war, with the group accused of 'intellectual elitism its reputation faltered in the 1940s and 1950s, but from the 1960s critical interest in their achievements began to revive'. However controversy continues to accompany Bloomsbury wherever it goes. Much work on Bloomsbury continues to focus on the group’s class origins and alleged elitism, their satire, their atheism
Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities...

, their oppositional politics and liberal economics, their non-abstract art, their modernist fiction, their art and literary criticism, and their non-nuclear family and sexual arrangements.

See also

Further reading

  • Bell, Quentin, Bloomsbury (new edition, 1986).
  • Edel, Leon, Bloomsbury : a house of lions (stops at 1920), Philadelphia : Lippincott, c1979
  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004).
  • Kromhout, Rindert, "Soldaten huilen niet" (Dutch Young Adult novel about the youth of Quentin 2010)
  • Reed, Christopher, Bloomsbury Rooms (2004).
  • Rosenbaum, S. P (ed), A Bloomsbury Group Reader (1993).
  • Rosenbaum, S. P (ed), The Bloomsbury Group: A Collection of Memoirs and Commentary (revised edition, 1995).
  • Shone, Richard, Bloomsbury Portraits (1976).

Photograph Albums

External links