In 46 Gordon Square, Bloomsbury, London, in March of 1907…

…everyone is moving.

Clive Bell, 25, is moving in with his new wife, Vanessa Stephen Bell, 27. Clive has been living with his family since graduating from Cambridge University. Vanessa has been living in the tacky neighbourhood of Bloomsbury since she moved her brothers and sister, Virginia, 25, out of Hyde Park Gate when their widowed father died, more than three years ago. Smartest thing she ever did.

46 Gordon Square

46 Gordon Square

Their brother Thoby unexpectedly died last fall, age 26. Two days later, Vanessa finally accepted Clive’s proposal.

Now that Vanessa is a married Edwardian lady with a husband, it’s time for her siblings to move out.

Virginia and Adrian, 24, have found a suitable place, 29 Fitzroy Square. Virginia has heard that the family of the playwright George Bernard Shaw, 50, had lived there when they first emigrated from Dublin. That’s a good omen.

Moving a few blocks away won’t separate Virginia and Vanessa. The Bell marriage is a bigger threat. Virginia worries that the intimacy that she has shared with her sister will suffer.

But at least now she will have her own place, with Adrian. She can spend more time writing.

And their friends will still come on Thursday evenings, which Virginia always looks forward to. As she described these evenings later:

Talking, talking, talking…as if everything could be talked…’

Tour guide talking, talking, talking in front of 29 Fitzroy Square.

Tour guide talking, talking, talking in front of 29 Fitzroy Square.

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.

Watch the BBC Two drama Life in Squares about the Bloomsbury group, Mondays, 3rd and 10th August, at 9 pm, and let us know what you think.   

To walk with me and the ‘Such Friends’ through Bloomsbury, download the Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group audio walking tour from VoiceMap.

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In the UK, on Monday, 27th July, 2015, Life in Squares premieres on BBC Two…

…focusing on the life and loves of the Bloomsbury group.

We’d love to know what you think of it. We’ll be watching—with the cats, William Butler Yeats and Lady Augusta Gregory, both 12 years old—and tweeting our highly valued opinions @SuchFriends.

Parts of the three-part series were filmed at the gorgeous Charleston, the east Sussex home of Vanessa Bell, and parts in the Bloomsbury section of London, where many of them spent their early years together.

This month we’ll be posting about what the Bloomsbury group was doing during the important years of 1907-1915. And watch this space for information about upcoming walking tours of Gordon and Fitzroy squares you can enjoy with me—even if you’re not in London!

Post your comments about the BBC show here. We’d love to know what you think.

The cast of Life in Squares. Can you figure out who is who?

The cast of Life in Squares. Can you figure out who is who?

At Coole Park, Co. Galway, Christmas, 1898…

…poet, playwright and linguist Douglas Hyde, 38, is putting on a ‘Punch and Judy’ show for kids as part of the local school festival. His hostess, Lady Augusta Gregory, 46, presents the play first in English, and then Hyde does it in Gaelic.

Douglas Hyde

Douglas Hyde

Augusta and he met this past summer when he was traveling around the west of Ireland, collecting stories. He would stop on a country road and pretend that his bike had broken down until a passing farmer would stop to help him. They’d end up back in the farmer’s house for a drink. Hyde’s proficiency in Gaelic helped him draw out their folk tales in their native language.

Augusta is interested in learning more Gaelic, and having Hyde ‘put the Irish on’ the plays she and poet William Butler Yeats, 33, are writing for their theatre. The plays will be performed in English, but they need to sound right. So they will write them in English. Hyde can then translate them into Irish, and then back into English.

Hyde is happy to help, and he thinks both Yeats and Lady Gregory can be useful to his organization, The Gaelic League.

And besides, Lady Gregory and he actually like each other.

Pamphlet setting out the aims of the Gaelic League, 1893

Pamphlet setting out the aims of the Gaelic League, 1893

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.                                                                                                                        

On the train to Gort, in the summer of 1898…

…writer John Millington Synge, 27, is looking forward to the next part of his trip.

He has just spent time living on the Aran Islands, getting to know the people, their stories, and their dialects.

Synge's cottage on the Aran Islands

Synge’s cottage on the Aran Islands

Now Synge will spend a few days in the west of Ireland with his new friend, the poet William Butler Yeats,  just turned 33, whom he met in Paris a few years ago. It was Yeats who had suggested that Synge ‘go west’ to explore his own family’s roots in Aran. Yeats felt Synge would be better off writing about them than the reviews of French literature he had been working on.

The two will stay at Coole Park, and their hostess there, Lady Augusta Gregory, 46, is coming to meet Synge at the train station. He has his manuscript about the Aran Islands tucked under his arm.

Sketch of John Millington Synge

Sketch of John Millington Synge

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.                                                                                                                        

In the west of Ireland, near Gort, in the summer of 1897…

…amateur playwright Edward Martyn, 38, has invited his neighbour, Lady Augusta Gregory, 45, to tea. Her home, Coole Park, is over six miles away from his, Tullira, so they don’t see each other too often.

Augusta wants to meet Martyn’s house guest, the poet William Butler Yeats, just turned 32, who has been traveling around this part of the country for the past week or so.

Tullira

Tullira

Yeats and Lady Gregory have met briefly before, in London, where she held salons at her flat when her husband Sir William Gregory, Member of Parliament, was alive. Now she spends most of her time here in her native Ireland, raising their son Robert, 16, and trying to learn Irish.

Martyn is not particularly sociable. Or neighborly. But on this occasion he figures Augusta will keep the conversation going. He’s already angry with Yeats for having invoked some sort of ‘lunar power’ the other night. And in the room right above his chapel! These Protestants have no respect for the religion of others, particularly Catholics like Martyn.

Besides, Willie and Augusta just might get on with each other.

The chapel in Tullira

The chapel in Tullira

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.

In Dublin, late August, 1904…

…playwright, poet and painter ‘AE’ [birth name: George Russell], 37, is writing to his Irish-American friend, art collector John Quinn, 34:

My exhibit has just opened and my heart is full of woe because I have sold over half of them the first day.”

AE has been drawing and painting for years, but this is his first exhibit. Its success means he will now have to actually think of himself as a professional painter. He continues…

I think I have sold 37 altogether and I believe I have beaten the record in Dublin for any show of the kind. I will hardly have a picture on my walls and I had grown fond of them.”

The Winged Horse, by AE, included in the 1904 exhibition

The Winged Horse, by AE, included in the 1904 exhibition

Despite his forlorn tone, AE was actually pleased to think he might have an alternative career to his work with the Irish National Theatre Society. Lately, the fights among the directors—William Butler Yeats, 39, Lady Augusta Gregory, 52, John Millington Synge, 33—had gotten nasty. AE had pulled out, but then been drawn back in to help re-organize the group into a limited company.

However, as he’d written to Quinn earlier this year,

I am always fighting with [Yeats], but if I hadn’t him to fight with it would make a great gap in my life.”

The Spirit of the Pool by AE, included in the 1904 exhibition

The Spirit of the Pool by AE, included in the 1904 exhibition

Thanks to our new ‘Such Friends’ at The New York Public Library (John Quinn Memorial Collection) for permission to quote from AE’s letter to John Quinn.

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.