Eminent Victorians, Bloomsbury
a loosely knit group of friends, who began to meet in or around 1905, initially at 46 Gordon Square in Bloomsbury, the home of the children of Leslie Stephen (Virginia Woolf, Vanessa Bell, and Adrian and Thoby Stephen). In 1899 Thoby Stephen, Clive Bell, Lytton Strachey, Saxon Sydney Turner, and Leonard Woolf had all entered Trinity College, Cambridge. As members of the Apostles (except for Stephen and Bell), they were dedicated to ‘love, the creation and enjoyment of aesthetic experience and the pursuit of knowledge’ (G. E. Moore). In 1905 Thoby Stephen began to institute ‘Thursday Evenings’, when the friends (joined by Desmond MacCarthy and, in 1910, Roger Fry) would meet with Vanessa and Virginia, the Stephen sisters.
The mood was one of conscious revolt against the aesthetic, social, and sexual restrictions of Victorian England, and is probably best characterized by Strachey's iconoclastic Eminent Victorians (1918). They attacked the lack of imagination and the hypocrisy of the English monied classes and took great pleasure in offending the British philistine. They were writers, publishers, artists, economists: the genteel wing of the avant-garde of the time, who not only staged subversive events—ranging in seriousness from the Dreadnought Hoax to the First Post-Impressionist Exhibition (both 1910)—but who also actively encouraged new talent through, for example, the Hogarth Press.
Their mood of exclusivism and class consciousness, however, was deeply alienating to some. D. H. Lawrence had no time for them, Wyndham Lewis hated the effeminacy of the culture, F. R. Leavis thought them pretentious and shallow. The extent to which they shared an aesthetic creed is debatable: the group expanded during and after the First World War as younger members such as David Garnett, Francis Birrell, and Dora Carrington became involved. A vast number of biographies, autobiographies, memoirs, and letters have been produced. Quentin Bell's book Bloomsbury (1968) offers an insider's account of the group. Michael Holroyd's two-volume biography of Lytton Strachey (1968) sought to reassess the influence of Bloomsbury, after the reputation of the group had declined in the 1940s and 1950s.