The Bloomsbury Group was a circle of writers, artists and intellectuals from the Bloomsbury district of London. The group included Virginia Woolf, E.M. Forster, Lytton Strachey, Dora Carrington, Leonard Woolf, Roger Fry, Vanessa and Clive Bell and John Maynard Keynes.
The “Bloomsberries,” as they were called, were mostly privileged and well-educated members of the upper middle class. Yet, what separates them from other intellectual groups at the time was that they were the only group to supported gay rights, women in the arts, pacifism, open marriages, uninhibited sexuality and other unconventional ideas.
Having grown up in Victorian households, the Bloomsbury group rejected the old Victorian ideals from their childhoods for more liberal and progressive attitudes. Seeing Victorian society as prudish and narrow-minded, they chose to live more freely and unrestricted. As the book “Great World Writers: Twentieth Century” explains, “In short, they were determined to reinvent society, at least within their own circle.”
The Bloomsbury group began when Virginia Woolf’s father, Sir Leslie Stephen, died in 1904, prompting Virginia and her three siblings, Thoby, Vanessa and Adrian, to move into a home in Gordon square within the Bloomsbury district. There they began hosting parties for their friends, mostly fellow artists and students, where they openly discussed taboo and controversial topics.
Although progressive, the Bloomsbury group members were often accused of being snobbish, wealthy elitists with no self-control. Critics of the group claimed they looked down on the lower classes as well as other artists and writers outside of their group.
As artists and writers, the Bloomsbury group produced an impressive body of work. Virginia Woolf wrote and published many influential literary works such as “Mrs. Dalloway”, “A Room of One’s Own” and “To The Lighthouse”; Lytton Strachey wrote a ground breaking biography titled “Eminent Victorians”, E.M. Forster wrote many classics such as “A Passage to India” and “A Room With a View” and Vanessa and Clive Bell, Duncan Grant and Roger Fry held many highly acclaimed art exhibits throughout London.
The group was also known for its playful side. In 1910, members of the Bloomsbury group made national headlines when they dressed up as Abyssinian ambassadors and tricked the British Navy into giving them an exclusive tour of their flagship, the Dreadnought, in an incident that came to be known as the Dreadnought Hoax.
By the 1930s, the group began to fall apart. Several members died suddenly, including Lytton Strachey in 1931, followed by the suicide of Dora Carrington. Roger Fry passed away a few years later in 1934. With the possibility of a Nazi invasion looming and suffering from another bout of depression, Virginia Woolf killed herself in 1941 and John Maynard Keynes died in 1946. The last surviving member of the group was Duncan Grant, whose death in 1978 officially brought the Bloomsbury group to an end.
“Great World Writers : Twentieth Century, Volume 1”; Patrick M. O’Neil; 2004
“The Bloomsbury Group: a Collection of Memoirs and Commentary”; Stanford Patrick Rosenbaum; 1995