Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The In Crowd: Bloomsbury Style

On our way back from Skiing in Stratton this weekend, Adam and I stopped by award-winning Northshire Bookstore to pick up a good audio tape for the long drive home.  After a little cajoling on my part, Ad relented and we were ready to roll with this gem from the British Library:
The Spoken Word, The Bloomsbury Group.
Maybe it was Acton and my recent visit to The Algonquin that inspired the choice. Or maybe it was that Acton and Dr. Burnshead and I have been recently discussing starting up a writers group of our own. But either way, I can't seem to get enough of literary in-crowds these days.
The heart of the Bloomsbury Group lay within the Stephen's family, which was comprised of Virginia Stephen (later Woolf), her sister Vanessa (later Bell) and their brother Thoby. It was Thoby who would extend the circle of the Bloomsbury Group by introducing Virginia and Vanessa to his friends at Cambridge. The circle later encompassed notables such as John Maynard Keynes, E. M. Forster and Lytton Strachey.
Bloomsbury started as a writers group; although now they're most famous for serving as history's archetypal bohemians. Once a week, the friends would meet around 9 or so at Virginia and Vanessa's house and bring chapters from their most recent works. All of them wanted to write a novel. The tapes mention that their was very little alcohol or food in those days. They drank mostly coffee and would end the evening with a whiskey and soda.
In the later part of the Bloomsbury period after WW1. The group centered more around critical essays and discourse. They also began throwing extravagant parties infamous for their carousing and debauchery: Sailors parties, fancy dress parties and many charade nights and improvised short plays.
Far and away the best treat of the CD was getting to hear old BBC interviews with the peripheral members of the group. These speakers tended to point out the intellectual elitism that Woolf and her sister were famous for. Or the ole 'limp handshake and a grave expression' that the group used to show that you were NOT part of their circle. The CD suggests that this could have arisen from the Woolf's evangelical background where some were chosen and others were not.

Further Reading:
Virginia Woolf on Jane Austen
Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell: A Very Close Conspiracy by Jane Dunn
Vanessa and Virginia by Susan Sellers
Among The Bohemians, Virginia Nicholson

1 comment:

  1. I wish I had the willpower to buy an audiocd like this and not the latest swedish thriller import from britain. Audio book switch?