"‘What he released was a generation of brilliant experimenters in biographical narrative, who at last began to ask how lives can be genuinely reconstructed …’ Richard Holmes
Lytton Strachey-1880 to 1932
Eminent Victorians 1918
Queen Victoria 1930
When I saw Richard Holmes placed Lytton Strachey The New Biography by Michael Holroyd in his list of Canon status biographies (only six twentieth century Works made the list, including Strachey's Eminent Victorians) I decided I must read this book. I have a great fondness for literary biographies and I found many saw this book as the best of the century.
I don't wish to give a brief synopsis of Strachey's life but just to make a few reading journal comments. All who ever hope to write a literary biography should read this book. Anyone at all interested in the Bloomsbury group will find it a great treasure.
Holyrod brought Cambridge vividly to reality. Strachey is a Gay icon and we learn a lot about his and his circles sex lives and romantic entanglements. Famous and infamous writers and artists come and go, among them Virginia Woolf, Rosamund Lehmann and Katherine Mansfield. We are there when Lytton begins to first publish and rejoice over his commercial success. Lytton never had anything as prosaic as a job for very long. In his younger days he had modest subsidies from his family but he did become quite affluent through book sales. Lytton did have long term relationships with women, which might have had sexual elements. (The movie Carrington was based on his life.). He lived, and thrived, in a high drama atmosphere. He avoided service in WW One. He was very influenced by G. E. Moore's Principia Ethica, knew Wittgenstein and Bertrand Russell. The great economist John Maynard Keynes and E. F. Forster were close to him. Bunny Garnett, son of Constance Garnett who made the Russian literary pantheon available to highly influence Lytton and others, was part of Bloomsbury.
There is just a huge amount in this book I have not touched upon. The prose is beautiful, highly learned without being tediously pedagogical.
Lytton was a good man, loyal to his friends and devoted to his family. He inspired love in men and women. He was a devotee to the Reading Life. He loved Proust and was overwhelmed by Dostoevsky.
This book is not a casual read. It is biography elevated to high art. I am very glad I read this book and I think all serious literary autodidacts would be so also.