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Encyclopedia > Bloomsbury group

The Bloomsbury Group was an English collective of loving friends and relatives who lived in or near London during the first half of the twentieth century. Their work deeply influenced literature, aesthetics, criticism, and economics as well as modern attitudes towards feminism, pacifism, and sexuality. Its best known members were Virginia Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, E. M. Forster, and Lytton Strachey. The group actually began as a social clique: a few recent Cambridge graduates and their closest friends would assemble on few nights a week for some drinks and conversation. Image File history File links Emblem-important. ... For other uses, see England (disambiguation). ... Aesthetics is commonly perceived as the study of sensory or sensori-emotional values, sometimes called judgments of sentiment and taste. ... For the American writer, see Virginia Euwer Wolff. ... Keynes redirects here. ... Edward Morgan Forster, OM (January 1, 1879 – June 7, 1970), was an English novelist, short story writer, and essayist. ... Giles Lytton Strachey (March 1, 1880–January 21, 1932) was a British writer and critic. ...



Almost everything about Bloomsbury appears to be controversial, including its membership and name. It is now widely accepted, however, that the group initially consisted of the novelists and essayists Virginia Woolf, E. M. Forster, and Mary (Molly) MacCarthy, the biographer and essayist Lytton Strachey, the economist John Maynard Keynes, the painters Duncan Grant, Vanessa Bell, and Roger Fry, and the critics of literature, art, and politics, Strachey, Fry, Desmond MacCarthy, Clive Bell, and Leonard Woolf. Self Portrait, 1920, National Gallery of Scotland. ... Vanessa Bell Vanessa Bell (May 28, 1879 – April 7, 1961), was an English painter and interior designer and a member of the Bloomsbury group. ... River with Poplars, circa 1912, Tate Gallery. ... Sir Desmond MacCarthy (1878-1952) was an English critic, a member of the Bloomsbury group. MacCarthy was born in Plymouth, England, and educated at Eton College and Trinity College, Cambridge. ... Arthur Clive Heward Bell (September 16, 1881 – September 18, 1964) was an English Art critic, associated with the Bloomsbury group. ... Leonard Woolf (November 25, 1880 – August 14, 1969) married Virginia Woolf in 1912. ...

Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf were sisters, and their brothers, the older Thoby and the younger Adrian, were also original members of the group, as were some other Cambridge figures such as the enigmatic Saxon Sydney-Turner. Lytton Strachey and Duncan Grant - later Vanessa’s partner - were cousins. During the earlier years of the group’s history there were various affairs among the individuals. Most of the members lived for considerable periods of time in the West Central district of London known as Bloomsbury, and ‘group’ seems to be the best general term to describe the nature of their association, which was not merely social as the terms ‘circle’ or ‘set’ may imply. Thoby Stephen (1880 - 1906), known as the Goth, was a member of the Bloomsbury Group, as were his sisters Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf and his younger brother Adrian. ... Adrian Stephen (1883-1948) was a member of the Bloomsbury Group, an author and psychoanalyst, and the brother of Virginia Woolf. ... Bloomsbury may refer to: Bloomsbury, London, an area in the centre of the city the Bloomsbury group, an English literary group active around from around 1905 to the start of World War II. the Bloomsbury Gang, a political grouping centred on the local landowner, John Russell, 4th Duke of Bedford...

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. Lytton Strachey’s companion the painter Dora Carrington was never a member; Keynes’s wife Lydia Lopokova was only reluctantly accepted into the group. Claims have sometimes been made for Ottoline Morrell, Vita Sackville-West, Arthur Waley, and others as part of the group, but none was considered a member either by themselves or their friends in the group. Dora de Houghton Carrington (March 29, 1893 – March 11, 1932) was a British painter and decorative artist. ... Lady Ottoline Morrell [1] (June 16, 1873 - April 21, 1938) was an English socialite, friend and patron of many artistic people, including Aldous Huxley, Siegfried Sassoon and D. H. Lawrence. ... Victoria Mary Sackville-West, The Hon Lady Nicolson, CH (March 9, 1892 – June 2, 1962), best known as Vita Sackville-West, was an English poet, novelist and gardener. ... Arthur David Waley (August 19, 1889 – June 27, 1966) was a noted English Orientalist and Sinologist. ...

Essentialist definers of Bloomsbury (including a few of the members themselves) have sometimes questioned the existence of the group. Yet the lives and works of the group show an overlapping, interconnected similarity of ideas and attitudes that helped to keep the friends and relatives of the group together. 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 underlie the group’s dissatisfaction with capitalism and its wars of imperialism. These Bloomsbury assumptions also inform their criticism of materialistic realism in painting and fiction as well as Bloomsbury’s attacks on their society’s repressive practices of sexual inequality.


The Bloomsbury Group came from mostly upper middle-class professional families. E. M. Forster, Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell had small independent incomes. Others such as Lytton Strachey, Leonard Woolf, the MacCarthys, Duncan Grant, and Roger Fry needed to work for their livings. Only Clive Bell could be called wealthy. All the male members of the early Bloomsbury Group except Duncan Grant were educated at the Cambridge colleges of Trinity College or King’s College. At Trinity in 1899 Lytton Strachey, Leonard Woolf, Saxon Sydney-Turner and Clive 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 secret undergraduate society known as the Cambridge Apostles; 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 Bloomsbury also encountered the analytic philosophers G. E. Moore and Bertrand Russell who were revolutionizing British philosophy at the turn of the century. Moore’s Principia Ethica (1903) provided Bloomsbury with a moral philosophy that fundamentally differentiated intrinsic from instrumental value. Distinguishing between ethical end and means was a commonplace of ethics, but what made Principia Ethica so important for Bloomsbury was Moore’s conception of intrinsic worth. For Moore intrinsic value depended on an unanalysable 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. The greatest goods for Moore and Bloomsbury were ideals of personal relations and aesthetic appreciation. 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. This article is about the city in England. ... Full name The College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity Motto Virtus vera nobilitas Virtue is true Nobility Named after The Holy Trinity Previous names King’s Hall and Michaelhouse (until merged in 1546) Established 1546 Sister College(s) Christ Church Master The Lord Rees of Ludlow Location Trinity Street... Full name The Kings College of Our Lady and St Nicholas Motto Veritas Et Utilitas Truth and usefulness Named after Henry VI Previous names - Established 1441 Sister College New College Provost Dame Judith Mayhew-Jonas Location Kings Parade Undergraduates 397 Graduates 239 Homepage Boatclub Kings College, Cambridge... Trinity College Great Court. ... George Edward Moore George Edward Moore, also known as G.E. Moore, (November 4, 1873 - October 24, 1958) was a distinguished and hugely influential English philosopher who was educated and taught at the University of Cambridge. ... Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, OM, FRS, (18 May 1872 – 2 February 1970), was a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, advocate for social reform, and pacifist. ...

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, which lasted until 1920. Bloomsbury artists rejected the traditional distinction between fine and decorative art, as can be seen at Charleston Farmhouse near Lewes in Sussex where Vanessa Bell, her children and Duncan Grant moved in 1916 for the rest of their lives. (Charleston is now opened to visitors, as is the Rodmell cottage the Woolfs moved to in 1919, now owned by the National Trust.) Post-Impressionism is a term applied to a number of painters of the late 19th and early 20th centuries whose style developed out of or reacted against that of the Impressionists. ... The Omega Workshops were a design enterprise by members of the Bloomsbury group, set up as a company by the critic Roger Fry. ... Charleston Farmhouse, near Lewes, East Sussex, UK Charleston, often called Charleston Farmhouse is a farmhouse located between Lewes and Polegate in Sussex, England. ... The standard of the National Trust The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty, usually known as The National Trust, is a British preservation organization. ...

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. 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 shattered along with just about everything else in modernist culture by the First World War. 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. Ypres, 1917, in the vicinity of the Battle of Passchendaele. ...

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 finally brought out her first novel, which was influenced by Forster’s Edwardian fiction. And in 1917 the Woolfs founded their Hogarth Press, which would publish T. S. Eliot, Katherine Mansfield, and many others including Virginia herself along with the standard English translations of Freud. Then in 1918 Lytton Strachey published his critique of Victorianism in the shape of four ironic biographies. Biography has never been the same since. Eminent Victorians added, of course, to the arguments around Bloomsbury which continue to this day. The immediate impact of Strachey’s art on Bloomsbury’s books appeared in J. M. Keynes’s influential attack the next year on the Versailles Peace Treaty. The Hogarth Press was founded in 1917 by Leonard and Virginia Woolf. ... For other persons named Thomas Eliot, see Thomas Eliot (disambiguation). ... Katherine Mansfield (14 October 1888 – 9 January 1923) was a prominent New Zealand modernist writer of short fiction. ... Sigmund Freud His famous couch Sigmund Freud (May 6, 1856 - September 23, 1939) was an Austrian neurologist and the founder of the psychoanalytic school of psychology, a movement that popularized the theory that unconscious motives control much behavior. ... Victorianism is the name given to the attitudes, art, and culture of the later two-thirds of the 19th century. ... Woodrow Wilson with the American Peace Commissioners For other treaties with this name, see Treaty of Versailles (disambiguation) The Treaty of Versailles (1919) was the peace treaty which officially ended World War I between the Allied and Associated Powers and the German Empire. ...

Later Bloomsbury

In March 1920 Molly MacCarthy began a club to help Desmond and herself write their memoirs and also to bring 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 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 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 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. 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. The New Statesman is a left-of-centre political weekly published in London. ...

In the darkening 1930s Bloomsbury began to die. 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, was killed in 1937 while driving an ambulance in the Spanish Civil War. 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 past decade she had become the century’s most famous feminist writer 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 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. Julian Heward Bell (February 4, 1908 – July 18, 1937) was an English poet, and the son of Clive and Vanessa Bell. ... Not to be confused with the Spanish Civil War of 1820-1823. ...

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.

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, and later his wife Angelica Garnett, the daughter of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. Her half-brother the artist and writer Quentin Bell eventually became then 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, and the diarist Frances Partridge who had married into Lytton Strachey’s ménage in the thirties. See also David S. Garnett (science fiction writer) David Garnett (1892 – 1981) was a British writer and publisher, and a prominent member of the Bloomsbury group. ... Angelica Vanessa Garnett (née Bell, born December 25, 1918) is a British author and artist. ...

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 autobiographies in the 1960s (he died at the end of the decade) 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 become biographically driven, yet it was their achievements as writers, artists, and thinkers that made their lives notable. 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 libraries.

And of course controversy continues to accompany Bloomsbury wherever it goes. The first extensive exhibition of Bloomsbury’s painters, mounted at the Tate Gallery in 1999-2000, was highly popular with the public but attacked by almost all of the professional reviewers. Much criticism of Bloomsbury continues to center on the group’s class origins, their elitism, their satire, their atheism, their oppositional politics and liberal economics, their non-abstract art, their modernist fiction, their unacademic criticism, and their non-nuclear family and sexual arrangements. Seldom are these aspects of Bloomsbury considered in their historical context. When they are, disinterested observers may realize the extent to which the Bloomsbury Group was a unique and complex creative force in modern culture. The Tate Gallery in the United Kingdom is a network of four galleries: Tate Britain (opened 1897), Tate Liverpool (1988), Tate St Ives (1993), Tate Modern (2000), with a complementary website Tate Online (1998). ...


  • Bell, Quentin, Bloomsbury (new edition, 1986).
  • The Bloomsbury Group: A Collection of Memoirs and Commentary, ed. S. P. Rosenbaum (revised edition, 1995).
  • A Bloomsbury Group Reader, ed. S. P. Rosenbaum (1993).
  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004).
  • Reed, Christopher, Bloomsbury Rooms (2004).
  • Shone, Richard, Bloomsbury Portraits (1976).

See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
Bloomsbury Group

For the LGBT rights article for a particular country, see LGBT rights by country. ... For Christian theological modernism, see Liberal Christianity and Modernism (Roman Catholicism). ... The First World War was mainly opposed by left-wing groups, there was also opposition by Christain groups baised on pacifism The trade union and socialist movements had declared before the war their determined opposition to a war which they said could only mean workers killing each other in the... Roy Campbell (1901-1957) Roy Campbell (2 October 1901 – 22 April 1957) was a South African poet and satirist. ...

External links

Cultural Bloomsbury today

  • http://www.communitywalk.com/map/41999
  • Bloomsbury Group in the Tate Gallery Archives
  • Charleston homepage
  • http://archive.tate.org.uk/DServe/dserve.exe?dsqServer=tb-calm&dsqIni=Dserve.ini&dsqApp=Archive&dsqCmd=Show.tcl&dsqDb=Catalog&dsqPos=2&dsqSearch=(UserWrapped5='charleston')

  Results from FactBites:
Bloomsbury Group - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1044 words)
Vanessa laid the foundation of Bloomsbury in 1904 by moving the Stephen family (the four children of Julia and Leslie Stephen -- Vanessa, Thoby, Virginia and Adrian) to Gordon Square, in the Bloomsbury area of London.
The group gained notoriety in 1910 when many of its members were involved in the Dreadnought Hoax that embarrassed the British Navy and was deemed unpatriotic.
The Bloomsbury Set could certainly be considered as a clique, including acquaintances, such as Lady Ottoline Morrell, whose estate in Garsington undoubtedly became another Bloomsbury centre, where the Bloomsberries mingled with other artists and intellectuals of their day.
  More results at FactBites »



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