Uncommon Arrangements

married life in London literary circles 1900-1939 Most people know about the strange personal relationships which existed amongst the Bloomsbury Group, of whom it was said that they were a “a circle of friends who lived in squares and loved in triangles.” But the truth is that many other people in the artistic and literary […]

Singled Out

how two million women survived without men after the first world war Before the First World War a single woman was expected to have one aim in life – to get married. But three-quarters of a million British soldiers were killed in that war, leaving not enough men to go round for a generation of […]

Parallel Lives

studies of five unusual Victorian marriages Parallel Lives made a big impact when it first appeared, and continues to be a source of inspiration to many biographers. I noticed an appreciative reference to it in Katie Roiphe’s recent study of unconventional literary relationships, Uncommon Arrangements, which deals with similar issues. Phyllis Rose has chosen to […]

Among the Bohemians

unconventional ways of living: 1900-1940 For almost half a lifetime I have marvelled at the way Bloomsbury bohemians organised their private lives. Switching partners, even sexes in their life choices? They took it in their stride. Menage a trois? Easy-peasy. Menage a quatre? Can be done. How on earth did they manage it? Virginia Nicholson’s […]

Peggy Guggenheim

poor little rich girl Peggy Guggenheim came from a family of rich Jewish business people who had made fortunes as immigrants in the nineteenth century from trade, mining, and eventually banking. Her father was a womaniser who died aboard the Titanic in 1913 – putting on his dinner clothes to go down in style. When […]

Wyndham Lewis

painter, novelist, critic, bohemian rebel Wyndham Lewis was a controversial figure in English modernism between 1912 and 1954. He was both a graphic artist and a novelist, and he collaborated with some of the most influential creative figures of the period – the American poet Ezra Pound, the French sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, and the British […]

Vladimir Nabokov an illustrated life

potted biography with charming photos and illustrations This short biographical study offers an introduction to Nabokov’s amazingly varied yet consistent life, and his unrelenting devotion to creativity. It’s written by an expert, and presented in a very attractive manner with archive photographs on almost every page. Even though he came from a rich and privileged […]

Vita: The Life of Vita Sackville-West

best-selling author, horticulturalist, and lesbian Vita Sackville-West is best known these days as the woman who had an affair with Virginia Woolf, and maybe also as the woman who ‘eloped’ with Violet Trefusis. She’s also famous for being one half of a doubly bisexual relationship with her husband Harold Nicolson – recorded by their son […]

Virginia Woolf illustrated biography

an introduction to her life and work This is a best-selling book from Thames and Hudson. It’s slim, cheap, and you might almost say a little old fashioned – yet it goes on being popular year after year. And it’s easy to see why. The text is written by John Lehmann who actually worked for […]

Virginia Woolf biography

a short critical study of her life and works The life of Virginia Woolf’s is now quite well known in its main details. Quentin Bell (her nephew) produced the definitive factual biography, and there have been interpretive studies by Lyndall Gordon, John Lehmann, Alexandra Harris, and Hermione Lee amongst others. There’s plenty of scope for […]