The Letters of Lytton Strachey

Paul Levy, Editor, Penelope Marcus, With , assisted by Penelope Marcus. Farrar, Straus & Giroux $25 (698p) ISBN 978-0-374-25854-2

A complete edition of Lytton Strachey's letters would total six volumes, testament to the ferocious epistolary energy of the author of the classic Eminent Victorians , which ridiculed the hapless inhabitants of that era as priggish, canting hypocrites and revolutionized the biographical form. Levy, a Strachey trustee and editor of Lytton Strachey: The Really Interesting Question , has selected the best of them, no easy task given that letter writing was Strachey's natural mode of communication. As a pivotal member of the Bloomsbury group—whose luminaries included Virginia Woolf and John Maynard Keynes—Strachey's interests delved deep and spanned wide, encompassing theater, painting, history, literature, music, modernism, waspish gossip—and sex, including some forms still considered shocking even in our jaded day. For the conflicted Strachey (1880–1932)—a radical member of the upper-class, a hypochondriac who died at 51 of an undiagnosed cancer, a sentimental cynic, a masochist who hurt others by telling them painful truths, a homosexual who had affairs with women—the serious was trivial, the trivial, serious; and he never could decide whether, as he remarked to his brother James, "I'm an utter fool, a genius, or an ordinary person." As Levy's careful, sensitive volume demonstrates, he was all three—and many more. (Dec.)

Reviewed on: 10/24/2005
Release date: 12/01/2005
Genre: Nonfiction
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