The Bloomsbury Group: Members & Books

Instructor: Debbie Notari
The Bloomsbury Group was an intellectual society formed in the center of London by a group of artists and writers. In this lesson, we will learn more about the members of this influential group.

What was the Bloomsbury Group?

The members of the Bloomsbury Group, as they called themselves, lived and/or worked in the Bloomsbury portion of the central part of London in the early 20th century. The group members were intellectuals. Some were artists, writers and even politicians, but all were non-conservatives. They were friends with radical ideas.

The Bloomsbury Group was not a formal club. It just formed from a small group of people with primarily similar ideals who met on a regular basis to discuss what they felt and believed. In this post-Victorian, yet not quite Modern era, these intellectuals bridged the gap.

The Writers

Some key, even prominent writers were part of the Bloomsbury Group, most notably Virginia Woolf, who really led the group. Her two brothers Adrian and Thoby Stephens were also a key part, as well as her husband, Leonard Woolf. Woolf's sister, Vanessa Stephen Bell and her husband Clive Bell were also members. Finally, there was Giles Lytton Stratchey. These individuals formed the original core of the Bloomsbury Group. Later, E.M. Forster also joined the group, which also both influenced and supported such writers as T.S. Eliot. And there were others, such as John Maynard Keynes, an economist.

Philosophies

The Bloomsbury Group didn't have a particular political agenda, though they advocated feminism and anti-war ideas. Certainly, they represented a backlash to the Victorian Era, practicing open sexual relationships between couples and even touting homosexuality as an acceptable choice in a day where that idea was reprehensible. It is no wonder that they were rejected by mainstream society as intellectual left-wing rebels. However, things were changing in the world and in England.

Virginia Woolf

Because Virginia is the most famous writer in the Bloomsbury Group, it would be good to learn a bit more about her. Although her childhood started out relatively happily, with parents who were fairly well-off and intellectually connected, Virginia Woolf was sexually abused by two half-brothers when she was only six. No doubt this horrifying experience affected her for life. Shortly after, her own mother died, and so did a beloved half-sister. She later attended the women's part of King's College and began to study and be influenced by feminism. Feminism would continue to be an integral part of Virginia's writing. Tragically, Virginia Woolf committed suicide in 1941.

Bloomsbury Antics

The Bloomsbury Group once pulled off a practical joke which became known as the Dreadnought hoax. The members of the group disguised themselves as royalty from Ethiopia and somehow fooled the English Navy to give them a tour of the ship, the Dreadnought. Virginia dressed up as a man, and this sparked the beginning of her lifelong relationship with her future husband, Leonard.

Freud

The Bloomsbury Group was interested in and influenced by the psychoanalytic theories of Sigmund Freud. Leonard Woolf called Freud a writer 'with great subtlety of mind, a broad and sweeping imagination more characteristic of the poet than the scientist or medical practitioner.' No doubt, Freud's more liberal ideas appealed to the group, and Freud actually corresponded with at least one member of the group, Giles Lytton Stratchey.

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