At the Café Royal, Regent Street, near Piccadilly Circus, London, January, 1915…

…economist John Maynard Keynes, 31, newly appointed to the Treasury Department, is excited about his new job. Even if his friends aren’t.

Keynes is giving a party here tonight as a celebration of his new position, but his Bloomsbury pacifist friends don’t agree with him working for a government which has entered an impossible war.

Two of his former lovers, writer Lytton Strachey, 34, and artist Duncan Grant, about to turn 30, are conscientious objectors.

Keynes has decided to seat one of his Bloomsbury friends, painter Vanessa Bell, 35, between writer David ‘Bunny’ Garnett, 22, and Duncan. He thinks they’ll all get along.

After the party, they will all go back to Vanessa’s house, 46 Gordon Square in Bloomsbury, to continue celebrating and watch puppets created by Duncan act out a Racine play.

Painting of the Café Royal by William Orpen, 1912

Painting of the Café Royal by William Orpen, 1912

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

If you were able to watch the BBC Two drama Life in Squares about the Bloomsbury group, 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.

Advertisements

In Number 46 Gordon Square, Bloomsbury, London, summer of 1913…

…art critic Clive Bell, 32, is considering an opportunity.

His friend and fellow art critic, Roger Fry, 46, has been asked by publisher Chatto and Windus to write a book on post-impressionism, a term that Roger coined and used for two major art exhibits he has mounted in the past few years.

Fry is the obvious choice, but currently he is too busy setting up his ‘Omega Workshops’ to sell ceramics and fabrics with painters Duncan Grant, 28, and Vanessa Bell, 34, Clive’s wife. So he has recommended Clive for the job.

Clive and Roger have had their theoretical differences about art. They’d recently sustained an argument about the definition of the term ‘aesthetic’ in the Nation magazine.

But Roger is distracted by his Omega project. And by Vanessa, Clive thinks. So the book would be all his. Clive decides to call it Art.

Clive Bell, c. 1913

Clive Bell, c. 1913

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

If you were able to watch the BBC Two drama Life in Squares about the Bloomsbury group, 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.

In 27 rue de Fleurus, the Left Bank of Paris, April, 1909…

…British painter Duncan Grant, 24, is thrilled to visit the American ex-pat art collectors Gertrude Stein, 35, and Alice B. Toklas, about to turn 32, to see the latest art hung all over their walls.

He’s been to Paris many times, but this trip has been an even bigger eye opener for Duncan. Thanks to an introduction from a friend, he has been to the studio of Henri Matisse, 39, and was blown away. Here at Fleurus he’s seeing more Matisses and equally astounding works by other contemporaries.

Duncan has also been to Versailles with his current lover, economist John Maynard Keynes, 25. They’ve been living together since the end of last year in Fitzroy Square. But Duncan is starting to feel that this relationship has run its course. Time to move on.

Le Danse, Henri Matisse, 1909

Le Danse, Henri Matisse, 1909

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

If you were able to watch the BBC Two drama Life in Squares about the Bloomsbury group, 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.

In 46 Gordon Square, Bloomsbury, London, in fall of 1914…

…artist Vanessa Bell, 35, is in tears. She’s admitting to her sister, Virginia Woolf, 32, that her love for gay painter Duncan Grant, 29, is hopeless. Totally hopeless.

Vanessa, Duncan, and the art critic Roger Fry, 47, have been running the Omega Workshops together for a while now. But last year, while she was carrying on an affair with Roger, she inexplicably found herself attracted to Duncan.

Roger Fry by Vanessa Bell, 1912

Roger Fry by Vanessa Bell, 1912

Vanessa feels she has learned so much about art—and herself—from her time with Roger. He is so upset he won’t even visit Gordon Square if he knows Duncan is present. Which he often is. Even her husband, art critic Clive Bell, 33, has complained that Duncan is around too much.

Vanessa has always admired Duncan as the only other full-time painter in the group. She knows about his relationships with the gay men in their circle of Bloomsbury friends. But now…she feels she wants to have his child.

Vanessa Bell by Duncan Grant, 1914-15

Vanessa Bell by Duncan Grant, 1914-15

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

Watch the final episode of the BBC Two drama Life in Squares about the Bloomsbury group, on Monday, 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.

In 29 Fitzroy Square, Bloomsbury, London, 23rd August, 1909…

…aspiring author Virginia Stephen, 27, writes to her friend, painter Duncan Grant, 24:

Good God! to have a room of one’s own with a real fire and books and tea and company, and no dinner-bells and distractions, and little time for doing something!—It’s a wonderful vision, and surely worth some risks!”

Virginia realizes how lucky she is. When her Quaker aunt Caroline Stephen died a few months ago, aged 75, she left her favorite niece £2500—a lot more than the £100 she left to Virginia’s siblings Vanessa, 30, and Adrian, 26.
Caroline had published books about her Quaker religion, and Virginia knew that her aunt wanted to encourage her own writing efforts. In the Stephen family aunt Caroline was known as ‘Nun’ because she, like many women in those days, had given up her own career to care for her older brother, Leslie Stephen, then age 43, when his first wife died.

Virginia Stephen and her father, Sir Leslie Stephen

Virginia Stephen and her father, Sir Leslie Stephen

Men always need a woman to take care of them. Virginia has had marriage proposals; but has no interest in taking care of a husband.
But now that she has a room of her own, here with her brother, and some pieces published in the Times Literary Supplement, and some private income, Virginia can turn her efforts to what she has been working on intermittently for the past few months—a novel.
This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.
Watch the last episode of the BBC Two drama Life in Squares about the Bloomsbury group, on Monday, 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.

In spring, 1906…

…English painter Duncan Grant, 21, is living in Paris. When his aunt gave him £1000 for his birthday in January, he knew exactly what he wanted to do with it.

He has brought along his cousin and current lover, essayist Lytton Strachey, just turned 26, but the relationship is not going well. They’ve mostly spent time hanging out with English friends and relatives. Trying to make connections within the art world, Duncan is studying with painter Jacques-Emile Blanche, 45, and has visited the most talked-about art show, the Salons des Independents, but didn’t notice anything in particular.

American ex-patriate siblings, Leo, 33, and Gertrude Stein, 32, have also visited the exhibit. They were thrilled to hear about the scandal surrounding The Joy of Living [Bonheur de vivre] by their friend, Henri Matisse, 36. They started buying up his paintings last year and are planning to invite him to their salon at 27 rue de Fleurus on the Left Bank to introduce him to one of their other favourites, Pablo Picasso, 24.  She’s been sitting with him for her portrait.

 

Le Bonheur de Vivre [Joy of Life] Henri Matisse, 1905

Le Bonheur de Vivre [Joy of Life] Henri Matisse, 1905

Le Bonheur de Vivre [Joy of Life] Henri Matisse, 1905

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

100 years ago this month, December 1914…

In Ireland…

…Poet and playwright William Butler Yeats, 49, has started selling some of his manuscripts to his Irish-American friend, collector John Quinn, 44, and using the funds to support his dad, painter John Butler Yeats, 75, living near Quinn in Manhattan. Dad refuses to come home to Dublin.

Yeats’ ‘Hostess’ for many years, Lady Augusta Gregory, 62, back from the Abbey Theatre’s third tour of America, has rented out her stately home, Coole Park in the west of Ireland, for shooting parties.

Coole Park

Coole Park

In England…

Virginia, 32, and Leonard Woolf, 34, married two years now, are celebrating Christmas in Marlborough, near their Bloomsbury friend, writer Lytton Strachey, 34. There is a big party planned at the Lackett, the cottage Lytton is renting. He has introduced his lover and cousin, painter Duncan Grant, 29, to David ‘Bunny’ Garnett, 22. They seem to hit it off.

In France…

…British King George V, 49, has recently visited the frontline troops.

American writer Gertrude Stein, 40, and her partner, Alice B. Toklas, 37, have taken to walking around Paris with their friend, painter Pablo Picasso, 33. On the Boulevard Raspail one night, as Alice tells it later in her Autobiography, they see their first camouflaged cannon. Picasso stops:

“He was spell-bound…It is we that have created that, he said. And he was right, he had. From Cezanne through him they had come to that. His foresight was justified”

Big Bertha cannon, used in Paris

Big Bertha cannon, used in Pari

In America…

…The New York Stock Exchange, having closed except for bond trading when war broke out in Europe, has reopened. The Dow Jones Average drops 24%, the largest one day drop in its history.

Recently married, and recently fired from his personnel job, Harvard University alumni Robert Benchley, 25, has given the speech at the dinner following the Harvard-Yale game. His parody translation of a description of football from the Chinese earns him the reputation as ‘the greatest humourist of all time at Harvard.’

In New Jersey, Rev. Sylvester Beach, 62, has been the subject of gossip, even in New York publications, for having an affair with one of his parishioners. His wife Eleanor, just turned 53, preferring to live apart from her husband, tells him that she’ll take their daughters back to Europe, where they had lived before, to benefit from the travel experience. Her only regret, she writes, is that her daughter Nancy, 27, who prefers to be known as ‘Sylvia,’ will be ‘lost to this country.’

Sylvia Beach

Sylvia Beach

 

 

 

All are looking forward to 1915, feeling that the war will be over soon…

Almost 100 years ago…

This month, instead of looking back 100 years, I want to visit 1916.

Recently I attended a writing workshop, conducted by the terrific Fiona Joseph, connected to the Library of Birmingham’s exhibition, Voices of War:  Birmingham People 1914-1919 [http://www.libraryofbirmingham.com/event/Events/voicesofwar]. The display will be up until the end of the year, and I highly recommend paying a visit.

Our assignment was to write a piece based on something we saw in the exhibit. I chose a quote from a conscientious objector’s letter, and connected it to the members of the Bloomsbury group.

[PS:  The first shot in the trailer for the film Carrington shows Jonathan Pryce as Lytton Strachey in the scene described below: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h9MXDP2B4DU]

1916

By Kathleen Dixon Donnelly

March 1916:  London

Essayist and pacifist Lytton Strachey, soon to turn 36, is called before the Hampstead Tribunal to apply for status as a conscientious objector. He brings a cushion for his tush, explaining to the military men sitting in judgment on him,

‘I am a martyr to the piles…’

When they ask him, ‘If you were to find a German soldier raping your sister, what would you do?,’ Lytton answers,

‘I would try to interpose my own body between them.’

He then gives an impassioned explanation of his stand against the current war, reminding them,

I am the society you’re fighting for.’

October 1916:  East Sussex

Painter Vanessa Bell, 37, is desperate. She is trying to find any way to keep her lover—Lytton’s cousin and former lover—painter Duncan Grant, just turned 31, out of the war.

The only way for a single man to avoid conscription is to work in service to his country. As a last resort, Vanessa finds a local farm, Charleston, which she can rent and live in with her sons. Duncan and their other painter/writer/intellectual/homosexual friends can then ‘work’ the farm.

 

Oh, and her husband, art critic Clive Bell, 34. He can help, too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

February 1916:  Birmingham

‘Never mind if you feel a prig or if you look a fool before the rest of the world. Those living in 2016 will be the best judges of whether you did right or wrong at this time.’

–Gerald Lloyd, 30, conscientious objector

And we will…

Birmingham Remembering 1914-18

Birmingham Remembering 1914-18

100 years ago this month, September 1914…

…In England

War has come to Bloomsbury.

The image of Lord Horatio Kitchener, 64, recruiting young men, appears for the first time, on the black and white cover of London Opinion magazine.

1st appearance of Lord Kitchener's recruiting image

1st appearance of Lord Kitchener’s recruiting image

Bloomsbury friend, critic Desmond MacCarthy, 37, has signed up for the Red Cross Ambulance Service; art critic Clive Bell, turning 33, is trying to figure out how to join a non-combat unit such as the Army Service Corps; and painter Duncan Grant, 29, has entered the National Reserve.

Despite the hostilities in the rest of Europe, the Bloomsberries don’t stop moving. Duncan takes a studio in Fitzroy Square as well as rooms in nearby 46 Gordon Square, where Clive lives with his wife, painter Vanessa Bell, 35. Their friend John Maynard Keynes, 31, writing articles for The Economist magazine, moves to Great Ormond Street; and Vanessa’s sister, writer Virginia Woolf, 32, and her husband, Leonard, 33, are house hunting in London while still spending time at the sisters’ Sussex retreat, Asham.

On Tuesday, 9th September, and Sunday, 14th September, I will be leading a ‘Such Friends’ walking tour of some of these spots in Bloomsbury. Either day we’re meeting at 12:30 at the Mrs. Dalloway bench in Gordon Square, and after a stroll around the area, taking the Tube to see the excellent exhibit, Virginia Woolf: Art, Life & Vision, at the National Portrait Gallery [http://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/virginiawoolf/home.php]. Email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com if you would like to join us.

 …In France

Near Paris, the French and British forces rout the Germans and, despite the half million casualties, the Allies score a victory that leads most to believe the troops will be home by Christmas. From her vantage point in Huily, journalist Mildred Aldrich, 60, watches the battle, taking detailed notes in both her journal and letters to her friend and fellow-American ex-patriate, Gertrude Stein, 40, in Paris.

…in America

One who is convinced that the German defeat will mean a short war is American artist and critic Walter Pach, 31, who is hoping to follow up the success of last year’s Armory Show with future exhibits of the latest contemporary art. He decides this would be a good time to go back to Europe and collect the works that have already been promised.

Also in New York, at Columbia University, George S Kaufman, 24, is looking for a new career by taking a playwriting course. But at Princeton University, F. Scott Fitzgerald, turning 18, can write proudly in his ledger, ‘Play accepted.’ His Fie! Fie! Fi-Fi! musical for the university’s Triangle Club gets good reviews and is a big hit.

The socialist magazine The Masses carries an article by former Mexican war correspondent John Reed, 26, which states of the current conflict in Europe:

“We, who are Socialists, must hope — we may even expect — that out of this horror of bloodshed and dire destruction will come far-reaching social changes — and a long step forward towards our goal of Peace among Men.

“But we must not be duped by this editorial buncombe about Liberalism going forth to Holy War against Tyranny.

“This is not Our War.”

Yet.

Cover of The Masses, September 1914

Cover of The Masses, September 1914

100 years ago this month, May 1914…

Vanessa Bell, about to turn 35, is in Paris for the opening of a new staging of Twelfth Night [La Nuit des Rois], by Jacques Copeau, also 34, with costumes by her fellow Bloomsbury painter Duncan Grant, 29. Her husband, art critic Clive Bell, 33, is also along for the trip. The visiting Bloomsberries take advantage of the opportunity to see the art collection of American ex-patriates Michael, 49, and Sarah Stein, 43, at their flat on rue Madame. In turn they introduce the Brits to Henri Matisse, 44.

Michael’s sister, Gertrude Stein, 40, takes Duncan to meet her favourite of the Paris artists, Pablo Picasso, 32, in his studio. Duncan notices that the Spaniard is experimenting with papier-colle, and volunteers to bring him some wallpaper rolls he has found in his hotel room, altho Picasso protests that this amounts to stealing. Duncan later writes to Clive about the upcoming return visit,

‘I shall find it difficult to know what to say…’

Copeau’s minimalist version of Twelfth Night is a big hit, and reviewers single out Duncan’s costume designs as

‘enchanting, gay and reposeful…[but]…inappropriate to the play.’

Here is a piece of fabric designed by Vanessa the year before for the Omega Workshops, which Duncan used in one of the costumes for the play:

Maud by Vanessa Bell (1913)

Maud by Vanessa Bell (1913)

And here is the Facebook page for the Abbey Theatre’s production of Twelfth Night which is running until the end of this month: https://www.facebook.com/abbeytheatredublin?fref=nf