Bloomsbury Group

Some of the members of the Bloomsbury Group

The Bloomsbury Group—or Bloomsbury Set—was a group of associated English writers, intellectuals, philosophers and artists in the first half of the 20th century,[1] including Virginia Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, E. M. Forster and Lytton Strachey. This loose collective of friends and relatives was closely associated with Cambridge University for the men and King's College London for the women, and they lived, worked or studied together near Bloomsbury, London. According to Ian Ousby, "although its members denied being a group in any formal sense, they were united by an abiding belief in the importance of the arts."[2] Their works and outlook deeply influenced literature, aesthetics, criticism, and economics as well as modern attitudes towards feminism, pacifism, and sexuality.[3]

Origins

Left to right: Lady Ottoline Morrell, Maria Nys (neither members of Bloomsbury), Lytton Strachey, Duncan Grant, and Vanessa Bell

All male members of the Bloomsbury Group, except Duncan Grant, were educated at Cambridge (either at Trinity or King’s College). Most of them, except Clive Bell and the Stephen brothers, were members of "the exclusive Cambridge society, the 'Apostles'".[4][5] At Trinity in 1899 Lytton Strachey, Leonard Woolf, Saxon Sydney-Turner and Clive Bell became good friends with Thoby Stephen, and it was through Thoby and Adrian Stephen's sisters Vanessa and Virginia that the men met the women of Bloomsbury when they came down to London.[4][5]

In 1905 Vanessa began the "Friday Club" and Thoby ran "Thursday Evenings", which became the basis for the Bloomsbury Group,[6] which to some was really "Cambridge in London".[4] Thoby's premature death in 1906 brought them more firmly together[5] and they became what is now known as the "Old Bloomsbury" group who met in earnest beginning in 1912. In the 1920s and 1930s the group shifted when the original members died and the next generation had reached adulthood.[7]

The Bloomsbury Group, mostly from upper middle-class professional families, formed part of "an intellectual aristocracy which could trace itself back to the Clapham Sect".[4] It was an informal network[8][9] of an influential group of artists, art critics, writers and an economist, many of whom lived in the West Central 1 district of London known as Bloomsbury.[10] They were "spiritually" similar to the Clapham group who supported its members' careers: "The Bloomsberries promoted one another's work and careers just as the original Claphamites did, as well as the intervening generations of their grandparents and parents."[11]

A historical feature of these friends and relations is that their close relationships all pre-dated their fame as writers, artists, and thinkers.[12]

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