“The egalitarian Bloomsberries”

From: Noel Coward – a Biography (1995), by Philip Hoare:

“Noel’s eagerness to stress his humble origins seems to have been designed as a play to the egalitarian Bloomsberries. His relationship with Woolf continued erratically throughout 1928, with a certain amount of soul-baring from Coward. ‘I have been lunching with Sibyl to meet Noel Coward; and I enjoyed it’, Woolf told Roger Fry. ‘He says the English theatre is so degraded that he will not produce any serious work here in future…

Woolf was not surprised to receive a letter from Coward later that year, an unashamed panegyric upon her latest book, Orlando, a tale of a sex-changing hero/heroine based on Vita Sackville-West. ‘I am still hot and glowing with it’, Noel wrote fervidly from Manhattan…If ever I could write one page to equal in beauty your “Frozen Thames” description…I should feel that I really was a writer. Please when I come back to England let’s meet and talk a good deal…’

This surprising relationship had sufficient novelty to continue for some time; Coward’s reservations about intellectuals were put aside for the favours of the famously so. His courting of Woolf was unabashed but it is also evidence of Coward’s aspiration to become a more serious writer than his public perceived him to be.”

Susanna Rustin wrote in The Guardian of 5 Jun 2015:

“…the Bloomsbury group was real. In 1905, a group of men in their early 20s, who had made friends at Cambridge where they were members of the same societies, and powerfully influenced by the philosopher GE Moore, began to meet regularly for long late-night conversations at the home of Thoby Stephen – elder brother of Vanessa, Virginia and Adrian – in Gordon Square.

After Thoby died in 1906, the friends drew closer together. Vanessa married Clive (Bell) and Virginia married Leonard (Woolf). By 1910, (Lytton) Strachey was using the term “Bloomby” as affectionate shorthand for fellow members, who continued to meet regularly until 1956, in latter years under the auspices of their autobiography-sharing “Memoir Club”.

How useful, if at all, “Bloomsbury” is as a critical adjective to describe the work any of these people did is another question. It suits anti-modernists to use Bloomsbury as a synonym for English literary modernism because it makes modernism look like a snobby club, but this doesn’t really work. Leonard Woolf’s anti-imperialism set him poles apart, politically, from TS Eliot and Ezra Pound (he took the workers’ side in the 1926 general strike). While the Woolfs hoped to publish Ulysses on their Hogarth Press, Virginia struggled to appreciate James Joyce. The vorticist painter Wyndham Lewis saw Roger Fry as his nemesis, not his ally…”

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