cover image Lytton Strachey

Lytton Strachey

Michael Holroyd. Farrar Straus Giroux, $35 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-374-19439-0

Holroyd's big, gossipy life of English historian Lytton Strachey (1880-1932), first published in 1968 and now in a revised, expanded edition, offers a vibrant, intimate portrait of the Bloomsbury circle, their love affairs, jealousies and creative ferment. In Eminent Victorians (1918), Strachey stripped away the pious camouflage of Victorian society, targeting hypocrisy, imperialism, militarism and religion. Holroyd, biographer of G.B. Shaw, credits Strachey with revolutionizing historical biography by emphasizing character and hidden sexuality and subverting traditional forms through caricature and psychological innuendo. Drawing on thousands of letters by Strachey and his Bloomsbury coterie, Holroyd unearths details of Strachey's adolescent self-loathing and sexual guilt; his proposing marriage to Virginia Woolf in an effort to renounce his homosexuality; his pacifism during WWI; and his relationship with his adoring live-in companion, painter Dora Carrington, who tolerated his gay affairs. This panoramic account of Strachey's trajectory from hypersensitive, shy Cambridge undergraduate to social and literary lion is peopled with the likes of D.H. Lawrence, Rupert Brooke, John Maynard Keynes, T.S. Eliot, Lady Ottoline Morrell, Augustus John and Bertrand Russell. Photos. (Apr.)