‘Such Friends’: Britain before the War—The Bloomsbury Group
“…and say my glory was I had such friends.” –William Butler Yeats
Compiled by Kathleen Dixon Donnelly, Ph.D.
Quentin Bell. Virginia Stephen, 1882-1912, and Mrs. Woolf, 1912-1941. Vols. I and II of his Virginia Woolf: A Biography. Hogarth Press, 1972. His uncle Leonard Woolf asked him to write it and he did a great job.
Michael Cunningham. The Hours. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998. A well-deserved Pulitzer prize for fiction went to this creative and fascinating novel that, like Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, weaves three stories in different time periods together. Woolf’s original title for her novel was The Hours.
Leon Edel. Bloomsbury: House of Lions. Philadelphia and New York: J. B. Lippincott, 1979. Not great, but one of the only books about the group as a whole.
Michael Holroyd. The Unknown Years and The Years of Achievement. Vols. I and II of his excellent Lytton Strachey: A Criticial Biography. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1968. This is the work that the film Carrington is based on.
John Lehmann. Thrown to the Woolves.New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1978. A memoir by one of Hogarth Press’s many, many assistants. He lasted longer than most.
Selma S. Meyerowitz. Leonard Woolf. Boston: Twayne Publications, 1982. Not much has been written about Leonard on his own, but she shows him to be very interesting.
B. L. Reid. The Man from New York: John Quinn and His Friends. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1968. Read it if you must, but it’s a slog and it makes this absolutely fascinating man seem so boring. I would love to write a decent biography of him.
Phyllis Rose. Woman of Letters: A Life of Virginia Woolf. London: Pandora, 1986. Rose is the first one to even mention anorexia as a cause of Virginia’s illnesses (and then only in a footnote). This biography is a more feminist view than some others and includes interesting critiques of Virginia’s novels, relating them to events and people in her life.
Richard Shone. Bloomsbury Portraits: Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant and Their Circle. Oxford: Phaidon Press, 1976. Excellent text as well as great reproductions of their work.
Robert Skidelsky. Hopes Betrayed, 1883-1920 and The Economist as Saviour, 1920-1937. Vols. I and II of his excellent John Maynard Keynes. New York: Viking Press. He was so enthralled he lived in Keynes’ house down the road from Charleston.
Frances Spalding. Roger Fry: Art and Life. London: Elak/Granada and Berkeley: University of California, 1980. Excellent biography.
Frances Spalding. Vanessa Bell. London: Weidenfield and Nicolson, 1983. In writing about Roger Fry, Spalding discovered Vanessa Bell and was fascinated enough to write this definitive biography.
George Spater and Ian Parsons. A Marriage of True Minds: An Intimate Portrait of Leonard and Virginia Woolf. London: Jonathan Cape and the Hogarth Press, 1977. A good look at the relationship between the two.
J. H. Willis, Jr. Leonard and Virginia Woolf as Publishers: The Hogarth Press, 1917-1941.Charlottesville and London: University Press of Virginia, 1992. A really good resource for information about Hogarth and other small presses at the time. Very detailed and interesting.
Leonard Woolf. Leonard’s five volumes of autobiography are really interesting accounts of, not only his life, but the world around him at the time. All are published by Harcourt, Brace and World. In chronological order they are:
Sowing: An Autobiography of the Years 1880 to 1904. 1960.
Growing: An Autobiography of the Years 1904 to 1911. 1961.
Beginning Again: An Autobiography of the Years 1911 to 1918. 1964.
Downhill All the Way: An Autobiography of the Years 1919 to 1939. 1967.
It’s the Journey Not the Arrival that Matters: An Autobiography of the Years 1939 to 1969. 1969.
Virginia Woolf. A Room of One’s Own. New York: Harcourt Brace and Co., 1989. This version has a good foreword by Mary Gordon.
A Room of One’s Own. Eileen Atkins re-created Virginia’s lecture at Cambridge in a one-woman show, and taped it for PBS. It’s just her on stage with props and costumes, but very well done. Date unknown.
Carrington. Terrific film about the relationship between Lytton Strachey and his partner, Dora Carrington. The beginning scenes show the Bloomsbury group at Vanessa Bell’s Sussex house, Charleston, where it was filmed. Jonathan Pryce and Emma Thompson.
Mrs. Dalloway. Vanessa Redgrave was the perfect choice to portray Virginia’s favorite heroine. The New Yorker said, “…the spirit of Virginia Woolf has been caught, its heart still beating, on the screen.” Also featuring Rupert Graves; directed by Marleen Gorris.
The Hours. Even more amazing than Cunningham’s feat in writing his complex novel is that the film version lives up to it. A Best Actress Oscar for Nicole Kidman as Virginia; also starring Miranda Richardson as Vanessa and Stephen Dillane as Leonard. Eileen Atkins has a small part as the flower shop owner in New York. The scenes of Los Angeles in the 1950s were all filmed near where we lived in Hollywood, Florida.
The Bloomsbury section of London is a great place to walk around. There are also scheduled tours through London Walks, but they sometimes focus on other decades rather than when the Bloomsberries lived there. If you want to do it right, I’ll take you!
Charleston Farmhouse, outside of Lewes, east Sussex is well worth the trip for any scheduled talk, workshop, guided walk or tour, and also just to visit. Their annual festival in May is a special treat. www.charleston.org.uk