In the next few weeks I will be posting vignettes about how each of the four writers’ salons came together. This is the beginning of Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group:
She had finally said yes.
For months art critic Clive Bell, 25, had been proposing to painter Vanessa Stephen, 27. She had continually refused him, despite his wealthy family and connections with the group of friends who gathered around the Bloomsbury townhouse she shared with her younger siblings, Thoby, 26, Virginia, 25, and Adrian, 24.
But late last year, she had given in and accepted. Just two days after the sudden death of her beloved brother Thoby—big, strapping, healthy Thoby, who had died of typhoid after being misdiagnosed with malaria.
After a few weeks honeymooning in England and France, the new couple is now making No. 46 Gordon Square their own. Virginia and Adrian are moving a few blocks past Tottenham Court Road, over to Fitzroy Square.
But Virginia and Vanessa are planning to hold on to one important part of their old life: Thoby’s Thursday night salons. These “at homes” had become popular with Thoby’s friends from his recent days at Cambridge University, including the irritating but charming writer Lytton Strachey, 27.
Vanessa and Clive want to use the weekly gatherings to talk about avant-garde art and literature, and the meaning of “good.” Whoever shows up can have a light meal in Gordon Square, and then stroll over to Fitzroy Square for whiskey, buns and cocoa—and conversation and cigarettes late into the night. As Virginia remembered later:
Talking, talking, talking,…as if everything could be talked—the soul itself slipped through the lips in thin silver discs which dissolve in young men’s minds like silver, like moonlight.”
No. 46 Gordon Square, Bloomsbury
Your humble author at Fitzroy Square
If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, you can download my audio walking tour, ‘Such Friends’: Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.
This fall, I will be teaching a class in the first semester of the University of Pittsburgh’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute [OLLI], ‘Such Friends’: The Literary 1920s in Dublin, London, Paris and New York.
To read about American writers, Manager as Muse explores Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ work with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe and is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions.