Bloomsbury Tea

It’s been three weeks, now, of almost constant work, to the point of having no free time.  I know I should be grateful, both because it’s an uncertain thing in the current economy, and I’m self-employed, so it’s even that much more uncertain.  But one cannot live on grammar and ESL alone, so I’ve been ferreting off to read for at least an hour each day.  I’m on another Bloomsbury kick.  This happens about every two years and lasts several months.  Beware.   This week, I devoured Virginia Woolf’s Jacob’s Room, and have started on E.M. Forster’s The Life to Come (which I’ve never read before, somehow).  Friday was a long day, so I tucked a copy of Lytton Strachey’s Queen Victoria in the bottom of my book bag; the weight of the small book was negligible, but the strength of Victoria and Strachey combined was powerful enough to keep me going.

I always associate the Bloomsbury Group with Queen Victoria.  Yes, I’m well-aware that it was King Edward‘s bizarre sense of leadership that gave the group the freedom to be themselves (and permission to re-define “convention”), but I think it was Victoria who gave them the cultural and spiritual strength.  She forged the first path through the unknown (read: bulldozed; she didn’t acknowledge that her sex and age and position could have held her back), and the artists of the time followed along in her wide wake.  I suppose it was Prince Albert who first inspired her, but he was long gone by the time the Bloomsbury lot were doing their thing, so I give the kudos to Vicki.

I’ve never been quite clear on why the Bloomsbury Group attracts me so much.  Each member had at least one aspect which entertains me (Virginia Woolf’s writing style, Morgan Forster’s spiritual bravery, Lytton Strachey’s audacity, Leonard Woolf’s business abilities, Carrington’s androgyny), but it’s something about the group as a whole which draws me to them.  The world, particularly in the last 100 years, has not lacked small gatherings of artists who ignore society’s rules and inspire each other to do more, but none of them draw me in the same way.  In my early days of writing, I liked to believe that I was an avatar of Virginia Woolf; I still like to believe that, but am entirely aware of the problems associated with the fantasy.  No, I don’t intend to be a delicate woman who depends on her husband for everything.  No, I’m not going to off myself.  Yes, I do wish I had an independent income and the freedom to write whenever I wanted.  Yes, I wish I could get that fine balance of distance and intimacy she has in her characters.

But I also want to hone that insanity Forster gives his characters.  Can I be an avatar of both? Vir-gan?  Morg-inia?

In any case, to me this group is as sustaining as a cup of hot tea.  Fortified tea, even, with a “drop of something” in it.  I wonder if they knew that 90 years down the road, they’d be seen as gurus.  Maybe they didn’t care.  Maybe they had no thought for lost writers in the future.

I’d like to find my own Bloomsbury Group someday.  I realise, though, that such arrangements aren’t successful if you try to organise them; you just have to wait for the muses to get it together themselves and fling you into the midst of like-minded people.  Still, like a little girl dreaming of her wedding dress and Charming Prince, I await my Bloomsbury Group.

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