Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Angelica Garnett, merely a name to me, has died


Angelica Garnett, merely a name to me, has died. Of course I have read David Garnett's novels written in the early 1920s and had no idea his wife was until now still with us. I expected one of the Telegraph's wonderfully amusing obituaries but instead I am pleased to say the obituarist did not essay irony and told a very pitiful story with tragic simplicity. What a sad story about a victim of the Bloomsbury set and free love - there are far more victims of free love these days thanks to the Bloomsberries.

The only book I ever read about them was Quentin Bell's simply wonderful biography of Virginia Woolf which taught me very much about the history of England in the Twentieth Century. All undergraduates reading English Twentieth Century history should be advised to read it though I read it after university. 
Do read it people and enjoy it but remember the harm they did to one another and their children and their country.

The Bloomsberries were in many ways, in my eyes, surprisingly Victorian. They were brought up as young Victorians and reading Virginia Woolf's essays on  literature one is reminded of Bagehot and Macaulay, but arguably they planted a seed which only bore fruit in the 1960s. In the 1940s and 1950s very few British people were bohemian - a few people among the upper and upper middle-classes and some people in Fitzrovia and other parts of London, a few eccentrics. From the 1960s onwards bohemianism became democratised. I pride myself on being in some ways a bohemian, by which I mean unconventional, a free spirit, but not in the morbid and vicious way the Bloomsbury Set were.

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