One of the most renowned intellectual circles of the 20th century, the Bloomsbury Group left a significant mark on British literary history. The inspiration behind many novels, films and TV series, the Bloomsbury Group was a bohemian crowd of artists, intellectuals and writers, spearheaded by sisters Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell. The group was brought together at the turn of the 20th century by mutual acquaintances who shared an interest in art and literature. Its members lived and worked in London’s leafy Bloomsbury and would often congregate at the sisters’ home, 46 Gordon Square, a stone’s throw from The Montague on the Gardens. The address was a hub for discussing and sharing ideas, seeking creative support and, most importantly, friendship.
The origins of the Bloomsbury Group can be traced back to 1905 when author Virginia, painter Vanessa and their younger brother, Thoby Stephen, would invite creative types over to Gordon Square for drinks and inspired conversation. While studying at the University of Cambridge, Thoby had befriended a group of men who would become established members of the Bloomsbury Group. Among these were art critic Clive Bell, publisher Leonard Woolf, acclaimed writer E.M. Forster and prominent economist John Maynard Keynes. Thoby was known for holding court on Thursday evenings, while Vanessa hosted what became known as the Friday Club. Guests at The Montague can take a seven-minute stroll to Gordon Square where they’ll discover a discreet blue plaque which pays tribute to the square’s former residents.
Despite Thoby’s sudden tragic death from Typhoid in 1906, the Bloomsbury Group and its members continued to flourish. As well as creative endeavours, several members of the group struck up longstanding and often complicated romantic relationships. Vanessa married Clive Bell in 1907 while Virginia married Leonard Woolf just a few years later.
In addition to their creative output, the Bloomsbury Group members were well known for promoting a more liberal, forward-thinking attitude to that of their Victorian peers in matters of religion, sexuality and politics as well as the arts. The 1920s was really the golden era for the group, with E.M. Forster publishing his best-known novel A Passage to India and Virginia Woolf , who would later be recognised as one of the most important female writers of the 20th century, publishing three acclaimed novels. In addition, Woolf and her husband Leonard set up the influential Hogarth Press which went onto publish the work of literary luminaries such T.S. Eliot, Katherine Mansfield and E.M.Forster.
Discover more about the vibrant history of Bloomsbury courtesy of the Bloomsbury’s secrets package at The Montague on the Gardens.
Image credits: lead image- Duncan Grant Interior at Gordon Square c.1915 © The estate of Duncan Grant (on display at Tate Modern). Vanessa Bell Studland Beach. Verso: Group of Male Nudes by Duncan Grantc.1912. Tate © Estate of Vanessa Bell, courtesy Henrietta Garnett (on display at Tate Britain). Duncan Grant Bathing 1911© Tate (on display at Tate Britain). Vanessa Bell Still Life on Corner of a Mantelpiece1914. Tate © Estate of Vanessa Bell, courtesy Henrietta Garnett (on display at Tate Britain).