All This Love Business
- Julian Bell: From Bloomsbury to the Spanish Civil War by Peter Stansky and William Abrahams
Stanford, 314 pp, £38.95, ISBN 0 8047 7413 7
Julian Bell returned briefly to England in the spring of 1937. He was 29; he had been teaching in China for 18 months and was now determined to fight in Spain. Everyone knew this was his plan, or rather everyone except his mother, Vanessa, whom Julian had told that he might not go, that ‘of course it would depend on my persuading you.’ Perhaps he’d stay and work for the Labour Party; Vanessa told him she’d found him a job herself, as a director of a Bell family business that imported feathers from China. Everyone waited to see if he’d give in to his mother’s wishes. Virginia Woolf, Julian’s aunt, wrote that he was ‘dog obstinate’, ‘his mouth and face much tenser, as if he had been thinking in solitude’. One evening, according to his younger brother, Quentin,
there was a meal at Charleston eaten by Vanessa, we three children and, I think, Duncan. Vanessa served a pudding; she gave half to Julian, the rest of us divided what remained. Vanessa herself realised that there was something more than a little absurd about this method of displaying affection and said something like: ‘You see I have to.’
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 Elsie Phare, then a student at Newnham, became, as Elsie Duncan-Jones, a distinguished academic. Stansky tells us that Margaret Ellen Thomas, who was at Girton, became a writer, the author of a novel called, rather unpromisingly, A Perch in Paradise.
 In 1932 Lettice and a friend started a photographic business, Ramsey & Muspratt. She, as she said, had the contacts. Some of their photographs are on show at the National Portrait Gallery (until 21 April) and bear out what Helen Muspratt claimed for their work: ‘what we did was not posed portraits but pictures of people as natural as we could make them.’
 Frank Ramsey (1903-30): A Sister’s Memoir by Margaret Paul makes clear his dazzling talents (Smith-Gordon, 304 pp., £20, December 2012, 978 1 85463 248 7).