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Ghost Artists

J.I.M. Stewart, 18 December 1980

The Case of the Philosophers’ Ring by Dr John H. Watson 
by Randall Collins.
Harvester, 152 pp., £6.95, September 1980, 0 85527 458 1
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... of what are coming to be known as ‘guest artists’, room is also found for Lytton Strachey and Virginia Woolf. All these, together with Annie Besant, turn out to be goodies or near goodies, and over against them, as chief baddy, is Aleister Crowley, variously described as ‘the high priest of post-Edwardian mysticism’ and ‘the wickedest man in ...

No Clapping

Rosemary Hill: The Bloomsbury Memoir Club, 17 July 2014

The Bloomsbury Group Memoir Club 
by S.P. Rosenbaum, edited by James Haule.
Palgrave, 203 pp., £20, January 2014, 978 1 137 36035 9
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... domestic and sexual permutations would have caused no consternation among listeners who included Virginia and Leonard Woolf and Clive Bell. Nor, perhaps, would Forster’s own discomfort with the question of Sex, which played a large, complicated part in his own life: ‘You work it out,’ his essay goes on: ‘I can’t ...

Pretending to be the parlourmaid

John Bayley, 2 December 1993

Selected Letters of Vanessa Bell 
edited by Regina Marler, introduced by Quentin Bell.
Bloomsbury, 593 pp., £25, November 1993, 0 7475 1550 6
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... trouble today may be that because we take seriousness seriously we take Bloomsbury too seriously. Virginia Woolf has become an icon, academically hagiographic. Lytton Strachey, on the other hand, is out because he is not in our sense a serious writer – deliberately not, one would have supposed. Things have come to the point where we are in danger of ...

Sunday Mornings

Frank Kermode, 19 July 1984

Desmond MacCarthy: The Man and his Writings 
by David Cecil.
Constable, 313 pp., £9.95, May 1984, 9780094656109
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... he was an Apostle. He married the daughter of a Vice-Provost of Eton, a kinswoman by marriage of Virginia Woolf, and, on the evidence of A Nineteenth-Century Childhood, a more accomplished writer, at any rate of books, than her husband. He was an important but not a dedicated member of the Bloomsbury group, and shows up in memoir after memoir as a man ...

Capital W, Capital W

Michael Wood: Women writers, 19 August 1999

Women Writers at Work 
edited by George Plimpton.
Harvill, 381 pp., £9.99, February 1999, 1 86046 586 2
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Just as I Thought 
by Grace Paley.
Virago, 332 pp., £8.99, August 1999, 1 86049 696 2
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... It is fatal for a woman,’ Virginia Woolf wrote, ‘in any way to speak consciously as a woman.’ Fatal for her as a writer, Woolf meant, but even so, not many people will now agree with this view. Not all that many, perhaps, will understand it straight off. How could it be fatal? How could you not write or speak as a woman if you were one? Except by pretending to speak or write as a man ...

Three Poems

Michael Hofmann, 21 July 1994

... by a hard May. My varsity jacket. The sky between leaves is the brightest thing in nature, Virginia Woolf told the inquiring Rupert Brooke. Whatever. Laisser-faire I can really only feign disapproval of my youngest dibbling his semolina’d fingers in the satiny lining of her red coat. Is it decided Planetary weather, A glittering canopy of ...


John Bayley, 4 June 1987

The Faber Book of Diaries 
edited by Simon Brett.
Faber, 498 pp., £12.95, March 1987, 0 571 13806 3
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A Lasting Relationship: Parents and Children over Three Centuries 
by Linda Pollock.
Fourth Estate, 319 pp., £14.95, April 1987, 0 947795 25 1
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... moving about it: the diary form embodies the truth of the emotion, not minding about the words. Virginia Woolf, on the other hand, is uncomfortable to read because the smart striking words of her diary seem to give her no ease: she is outside even the other self it offers, and cannot have a love relation with its contents, the sort of relation which is ...

The Wives of Herr Bear

Julia Briggs: Jane Harrison, 21 September 2000

The Invention of Jane Harrison 
by Mary Beard.
Harvard, 229 pp., £23.50, July 2000, 0 674 00212 1
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... circles, though it is set in the 17th century to disguise any resemblances to contemporaries. Virginia Woolf, gossiping extravagantly about her visit to Paris, reported seeing Hope and Jane ‘billing and cooing together’. Mirrlees – Harrison’s pupil and later her companion – is the third woman in Beard’s story. She seems to have worked on ...

Chelsea’s War

Jill Neville, 18 July 1985

Love Lessons: A Wartime Diary 
by Joan Wyndham.
Heinemann, 203 pp., £9.95, April 1985, 0 04 348786 6
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... moyenne sensuelle, unashamed, with nothing very noble or sensitive to commend her. The Diary of Virginia Woolf it is not. But she preserves for us the street vitality of a certain time and place. Ah, Bohemia ... when artists lived in garrets, wore corduroys and beards, had sardonic eyes and struck attitudes: ‘Bloody useless – bloody virgin too ...

The Adventures of Richard Holmes

Michael Holroyd, 1 August 1985

Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer 
by Richard Holmes.
Hodder, 288 pp., £12.95, July 1985, 0 340 28337 8
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... exiles and dreams that form this book is to extend those frontiers. Some fifty years ago Virginia Woolf likened the biographer to the miner’s canary ‘testing the atmosphere, detecting falsity, unreality, and the presence of obsolete conventions’. Compared to fiction and poetry, biography had only recently begun its career, but such ...


Gabriele Annan, 3 September 1987

The Neo-Pagans: Friendship and Love in the Rupert Brooke Circle 
by Paul Delany.
Macmillan, 270 pp., £14.95, August 1987, 0 333 44572 4
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... knew of one another – in l911, there was a partial, temporary and gingerly link-up, initiated by Virginia Woolf; and all along James Strachey, born to be Bloomsbury but in love with Rupert Brooke, functioned as a sort of inter-coterie courier. So it’s easy to get confused, and although, like most generalisations, Delany’s compare-and-contrast ...

Fifteen years on

Elaine Showalter, 20 October 1994

No Man’s Land. Vol. III: Letters from the Front 
by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar.
Yale, 476 pp., £25, October 1994, 0 300 05631 1
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... discussed at great length and in exhaustive depth as ‘representative’ of the century are Virginia Woolf, Edna St Vincent Millay, Marianne Moore, H.D. and Sylvia Plath. The Harlem Renaissance novelists, Jessie Redmon Fauset, Nella Larsen and Zora Neale Hurston, have a collective chapter as well; and elsewhere the authors manage to work in a ...

Poor Harold

C.H. Sisson, 3 December 1981

Harold Nicolson: A Biography. Vo. II: 1930-1968 
by James Lees-Milne.
Chatto, 403 pp., £15, October 1981, 0 7011 2602 7
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... which the BBC published to accompany the series gave me my first sight of the work of T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, and I believe James Joyce, though I learn from the volume before me that Sir John Reith, reigning at the BBC, forbade Nicolson to mention Ulysses, then banned. Little encounters of that kind were to be expected in those days, and Nicolson ...

Seeing and Being Seen

Penelope Fitzgerald: Humbert Wolfe, 19 March 1998

Harlequin in Whitehall: A Life of Humbert Wolfe 
by Philip Bagguley.
Nyala, 439 pp., £24.50, May 1997, 0 9529376 0 3
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... An obituary,’ Virginia Woolf wrote on Saturday, 6 January 1940. Humbert Wolfe. Once I shared a packet of choc creams with him at Eileen Power’s. An admirer sent them. This was a fitting tribute. A theatrical-looking glib man. Told me he was often asked if I were his wife. Volunteered that he was happily married, though his wife lived – Geneva? I forget ...

A Tale of Three Novels

Michael Holroyd: Violet Trefusis, 11 February 2010

... of patterns, lace, brocades, velvets, taffetas. Shopping lists were pinned to her bosom. Virginia Woolf read the American edition of Challenge in the mid-1920s when she began writing Orlando, described by Sackville-West’s son Nigel Nicolson as ‘the longest and most charming love letter in literature’. Orlando is a love letter to his ...

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