3 December 2002
A Guide to the Study of the Bloomsbury Group
The term “Bloomsbury”
refers to a group of friends who actively participated in the intellectual, literary,
and artistic world of
In 1907, Clive Bell
and Vanessa Stephen married and continued the residence at
The aforementioned individuals comprise the core of the Bloomsbury Group, though there is much debate over who actually belonged, for during the later years of the Group’s existence, they widened their circle and saw several individuals come and go. For the purposes of this guide, which is to provide an introduction to the study of the Bloomsbury Group, the core members are given prominence over those who began associating with the group at a later date, with the exception of Dora Carrington. Though she is not considered to be an original member of the Group, she eventually became very involved with the Group during the time of the First World War, after her and Lytton Strachey moved to Ham Spray together, where they resided until his death in 1932. For this reason, she has been included in this guide, whereas, many others have not. Due to the extensive amount of written material concerned with and produced by the members of the Bloomsbury Group, this guide is not all-inclusive. Rather, it sets forth the objective of providing a starting point for the study of these fascinating individuals known collectively as the Bloomsbury Group, concentrating on the secondary materials concerned with these painters, critics, novelists, biographers, theorists, and economists. Though where possible, this guide provides the reader with references to material that either contains or refers to the primary works of the members of the Group.
The most recent and comprehensive bibliographic material pertaining to the Bloomsbury Group is Lawrence Markert’s The Bloomsbury Group: A Reference Guide (1), which serves as a good starting point for any study of the Bloomsbury Group. As one of the only two published, it is an annotated guide to commentary on the group, arranged chronologically. Rae Robbins’s The Bloomsbury Group: A Selected Bibliography(2) is the other secondary bibliography that currently exists. Though it is slightly less comprehensive than Markert’s and though Robbins does not provide annotations of the included material, it is arranged in a way that is much more conducive for the study of the individual members of the Group, though as its title suggests, it is selective. The material is organized by member and the members referenced in Robbin’s bibliography include Angelica Bell Garnett, Clive Bell, Julian Bell, Quentin Bell, Vanessa Bell, E.M. Forster, Roger Fry, David Garnett, Duncan Grant, John Maynard Keynes, Desmond MacCarthy, and Molly MacCarthy. In addition to these two reference books, many of the materials included in this guide contain bibliographic lists of their own, some selective, some extensive.
In A Bloomsbury Iconography (3) Elizabeth P. Richardson provides an index that is helpful in locating the artwork, or images of the artwork produced by the Bloomsbury Group. She also indexes periodicals, books, and catalogues for exhibitions.
Other useful reference sources on the Bloomsbury
Group include biographical dictionaries, especially useful considering the
incongruity of thought regarding the members of the Group. Alan and Veronica
Palmer’s Who’s Who in
Consulting collections of writings both by and about the Bloomsbury Group are a helpful way to acquire a familiarization with the Group and their work without becoming overwhelmed by the enormous amount of material stemming from and directed towards the Group. S.P. Rosenbaum’s A Bloomsbury Group Reader (6) offers a representative selection of short writings by members of the Bloomsbury Group, such as E.M. Forster, Lytton Strachey, Roger Fry, Clive and Vanessa Bell, Desmond MacCarthy, John Maynard Keynes, and Leonard and Virginia Woolf. These writings give the reader a sense of the Group’s vast interests and the scope of their talent, for they are comprised of short stories, biographies, essays that illustrate their aesthetic principles and beliefs, as well as their social and political views, reviews, and memoirs, among other things. In this collection, Rosenbaum also provides a list for further reading, as he does in another collection titled The Bloomsbury Group: A Collection of Memoirs, Commentary, and Criticism (7). This source not only contains memoirs written by members of the Group about the Group, but also contains several essays of criticism and commentary.
The Bloomsbury Group
acquainted with the Bloomsbury Group, one might turn to one of the many works
devoted to them, works which consider the different aspects of the Group in
more detail than the reference books.
This interest is
evident not only through the enormous amount of commentary that has been
written about the Group throughout the latter half of the twentieth century,
but also by the number of visitors that travel to the homes where the Group
lived and worked. The
For sources emphasizing only the literary history of the Bloomsbury Group, S.P. Rosenbaum, one of the leading scholars in this area of study, provides such an account in several of his works. In 1981, he published a “Preface to a Literary History of the Bloomsbury Group” (18) in the journal New Literary History. This preface is a great introduction to his subsequent works on the subject, for it explains the need for such a history of the Group, emphasizing the interrelatedness of the member’s writings. He continues this study in Victorian Bloomsbury (16), which he published in 1987, and in Edwardian Bloomsbury (17), the second volume of this study, which appeared in 1994. Both volumes trace the early literary history of the Group and pave the way for analytic and comparative interpretations of the Group’s writings. In Aspects of Bloomsbury: Studies in Modern English Literary and Intellectual History (15), he discusses the Group’s writings in relation to their philosophies.
Due to the impact that
the Group’s philosophies and aesthetic principles had on their works, an
understanding of their thought is essential to an understanding of their works.
J.K. Johnstone’s The Bloomsbury Group: A Study of E.M. Forster, Lytton
Strachey, Virginia Woolf, and Their Circle (21) provides a comprehensive
overview of the Group’s history and the development of these philosophies and
aesthetic principles, though he focuses primarily on the writers, illustrating
that the values of the Group make themselves apparent in the composition of
Forster, Strachey, and Virginia Woolf. David Dowling presents a similar study
in Bloomsbury Aesthetics and the Novels of Forster and Woolf (20). For a
study that focuses on the
The Bloomsbury Group’s
views on British culture and society and their desire to free themselves from
social constraints heavily impacted the development of Modernism and the
Group’s relation and reaction to this movement. In On or About December
1910: Early Bloomsbury and Its Intimate World (27), Peter Stansky argues
that 1910 saw the emergence of Modernism with the Post-Impressionism exhibit
arranged by Roger Fry. Ann Banfield discusses how Modernist thought informed
both the art and literature of the
For a study of
Modernism in relation to the painters and critics of Bloomsbury, Richard
Shone’s The Art of Bloomsbury: Roger Fry, Vanessa Bell, and Duncan Grant
(32) is a good source to consult, containing images of the art produced during
the Bloomsbury years and also a discussion of Roger Fry’s and Clive Bell’s
attempts to define Modernism in the 1920s.
Another area of study
that is steadily growing more popular is the study of the
That they are worthy of study is evident by the enormous amount of critical essays and articles that exists on the Bloomsbury Group, in addition to the aforementioned works on the Group. Noel Annon discusses the Group’s regard for themselves in “The Intellectual Aristocracy” (38) and how this regard surfaces in the style of their writings. Similarly, in an essay simply titled “The Bloomsbury Group” (40), Carolyn Heilbrun attempts to define their morals and principles, especially those relating to androgyny, and illustrates how their writings reflect their way of thinking. Barbara Fassler discusses this same subject in “Theories of Homosexuality as Sources of Bloomsbury’s Androgyny” (49).
In addition to criticism that discusses the Group’s
works, there is a large amount of criticism that discusses
While referencing the cultural significance of the
Group, several scholars discuss how the Group’s delight in new ways of thought
appears in their art and in their writings, such as Peter Knox-Shaw in “
Two articles, which
The Members of the Bloomsbury Group
In addition to the voluminous amount of material that addresses the Bloomsbury Group as a whole, there are several other works devoted to the individual members of the Bloomsbury Group. For the purposes of this guide, only pertinent information that discusses these individuals in relation to the Group have been referenced, though where possible, references to materials that contain suggestions for further readings on these individuals have also been included.
concerning Lytton Strachey, Martin Kallich’s “Lytton Strachey: An Annotated Bibliography
of Writings About Him” (60) is a good place to start, as is “Lytton Strachey:
To become familiar
with John Maynard Keynes’s writings, one might consult The Collected
Writings of John Maynard Keynes (64), which is a massive 30 volume
collection of his work, including essays, theories, and social, political, and
literary writings, among other things. Roy Forbes Harrod’s biography The
Life of John Maynard Keynes (65) discusses the environment and factors which
led to the production of his writings and is very helpful, for it provides us
with a better understanding of the man’s work, though D.E. Moggridge’s Maynard
Keynes: An Economist’s Biography (66) offers a biographical account that is
largely focused on Keyne’s involvement with the Bloomsbury Group. For more
information on his involvement with the Group, see Paul Levy’s essay “The
Bloomsbury Group”(69) or Derek Crabtree and A.P. Thirlwall’s Keynes and the
Bloomsbury Group, which also addresses the social and cultural significance
of the Group as well. In the essay “Maynard Keynes as a Biographer” (68), David
Garnett discusses Keynes in that respect, while Piero Mini’s Keynes,
Bloomsbury, and ‘The General Theory’ ” (70) is a study of the ideas of
Keynes and how
Leonard Woolf, like
Keynes, also proved to be a prolific writer, though his writings are primarily
social and political. For an account of his life and his involvement with the
Bloomsbury Group, his 4 volume autobiography spanning the years 1880-1969
(71-74) is a good source to consult. So is J.H. Willis’s Leonard and
Virginia Woolf as Publishers: The Hogarth Press, 1917-41 (79), which
focuses on their development of the Hogarth Press – a major event in
Leonard’s wife, the
writer and novelist Virginia Woolf, is a well-known figure who has attracted an
enormous amount of critical attention. Because there is so much material
written by and about her, consulting both a primary and secondary bibliography
would be useful for those who wish to consider her beyond the context of
Bloomsbury. B.J. Patrick’s A Bibliography of Virginia Woolf (81) lists
The art critic Clive
Bell, Vanessa’s husband, is another figure that played an essential role in the
For information on the painter Duncan Grant and his relationship to the Bloomsbury Group, one should consult Douglas Blair Turnbaugh’s largely biographical account, Duncan Grant and the Bloomsbury Group (99). This book traces his development as an artist and contains a number of prints designed by Grant, as well as photographs of some of the decorative artwork from the Omega Workshops. Clive Bell discusses this artwork, where and when it appeared, Grant’s sensibility, and the characteristics of his style in an essay titled “Duncan Grant” within the book Since Cezanne (100).
The philosopher G.E.
Moore’s thoughts permeated the Bloomsbury Group and greatly influenced the
other members. Tom Regan discusses this in Bloomsbury’s Prophet: G.E. Moore
and the Development of His Moral Philosophy (102). Paul Levy also discusses
Art critic Roger Fry played a crucial role in the development of the Group’s aesthetic principles and is the originator of the Omega Workshops. A selected bibliography of his criticism and theories, as well as criticism on him is found in The Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature (105). Frances Spalding has produced a biography of Fry titled Roger Fry: Art and Life (106), which speaks largely of his relation to the Bloomsbury Group. Quentin Bell provides a more in-depth account of this relation in Vision and Design: The Life, Work, and Influence of Roger Fry (107). For criticism on Roger Fry’s own critical work, consult The Interpretation of Art: Essays on the Art Criticism of John Ruskin, Walter Pater, Clive Bell, Roger Fry, and Herbert Read (108). Denys Sutton has published a two volume collection of Fry’s correspondence, Letters of Roger Fry (109).
Adrian Stephen, along
with Desmond and Molly MacCarthy, were among some of the original members of
the Bloomsbury Group who gathered at
and novelist E.M. Forster is another figure, who like Virginia Woolf, has
attracted a considerable amount of attention. Consulting Claude Summers’s E.M.
Forster: A Guide to Research (114) is a helpful starting point, for this guide
provides both a primary and secondary bibliography for Forster. Phillip
Nicholson Furbank’s biography of Forster, E.M. Forster: A Life (115), is another good
source to consult, offering readers a comprehensive account of this man’s life.
P. Wilkinson presents a portrait of Forster’s relationship with the Bloomsbury
Group in “Forster and
The figure Dora Carrington is referred to in several sources focusing on the art produced by the Group and also in several of the sources that primarily discuss the women of the Group. Gretchen Gerzina’s Carrington: A Life (117) is a biography that, among other things, traces Carrington’s involvement with the Bloomsbury Group, the development of her artwork, and also her relationship with Lytton Strachey.
A number of memoirs
written by members of the Bloomsbury Group and those associated with it provide
us with deeper insight into the lives of these individuals, who comment on how
their involvement with the Group have impacted their lives. Many of Vanessa
Bell’s memoirs are found in Sketches in Pen and Ink (120), while her
son’s memories of growing up in such an environment are found in Bloomsbury
Recalled (119). Angelica Garnett, another Bloomsbury child, discusses her
own memories growing up in the midst of the Group in Deceived With Kindness: A Bloomsbury Childhood (121), while friend and Bloomsbury associate
Frances Partridge recalls her own
addition to the vast amount of written material on the Bloomsbury Group, there
are also a number of reputable websites devoted to them. The
These studies on the Bloomsbury Group illustrate the enormous impact their thoughts and views had on society, such as the concept of Modernism and G.E. Moore’s economic theory. Partly because of the Group’s own vast array of pursuits, interest in the Bloomsbury Group and their work is still strong. Several colleges currently offer courses devoted to the study of the Group, while scholars continue to produce biographies, histories, and critical studies of the Group. For these reasons, Bloomsbury and its members are a historical facet of British culture worth studying.
1. Markert, Lawrence W. The Bloomsbury Group: A Reference Guide. Boston: G. K.
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4. Palmer, Alan and Veronica. Who’s Who in Bloomsbury. New York: St. Martin’s P,
5. Richardson, Elizabeth P. A Bloomsbury Iconography. Winchester, St. Paul’s
6. Rosenbaum, S.P., ed. A Bloomsbury Group Reader. Oxford: Blackwell, 1993.
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Commentary, and Criticism. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1975.
8. Bell, Quentin. Bloomsbury. New York: Basic, 1968.
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12. Todd, Pamela. Bloomsbury At Home. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1999.
13. Bell, Quentin, Angelica Garnett, Henrietta Garnett, and Richard Shone. Charleston:
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14. Bell, Quentin and Virginia Nicholson. Charleston: A Bloomsbury House and Garden.
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16. Rosenbaum, S.P. Victorian Bloomsbury: The Early Literary History of the
Bloomsbury Group. Vol. 1. New York: St. Martin’s P, 1987.
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19. Caws, Mary Ann and Sarah Bird Wright. Bloomsbury and France: Art and Friends.
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20. Dowling, David. Bloomsbury Aesthetics and the Novels of Forster and Woolf. New
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37. Marsh, Jan. Bloomsbury Women: Distinct Figures in Life and Art. New York: Henry
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50. Garrity, Jane. “Selling Culture to the ‘Civilized’: Bloomsbury, British Vogue, and the
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