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How inexhaustible, after all, are ""the Bloomsberries"" -- that intimate, self-sufficient, exclusive, ambivalent but congruent circle of aesthetes who were above all true to their unconventional attitudes, high-minded interests and fastidious tastes, themselves and each other. No matter how severely strained their loyalties often were by the sexual difficulties and absurdities of their relationships. One wonders -- particularly since Holroyd's excellent Lytton Strachey and Quentin Bell's equally fine Virginia Woolf -- how many readers will now return summarily to this minor group portrait, or as Mr. Gadd puts it more punctiliously, ""conspectus."" He has added relatively little to what we already know -- beginning with Virginia and Vanessa Stephen as the ""mother-goddesses"" of the enclave. Gadd devotes equal space to the ever-present Lytton; to Clive Bell who lent ""warmth and humanity"" even if he did wander between the sisters; to Lady Ottoline (deservedly?), always a flamboyant source of bogus amusement and most uncharitably treated by the little collection she entertained so generously; and particularly Dora Carrington, in whom he finds the greatest fascination and appeal -- Dora with her many loves of both genders although it was for Lytton, whom she kept domestically content through the last years, that she literally laid down her life. They're all here and more -- with Gadd's justifying apostrophe at the close which does not quite succeed in establishing Bloomsbury's ""relevance"" for today's modern generation. They were, after all, sui generis -- cultivating often with considerable self-indulgence their own hothouse sensibilities.

Pub Date: March 14th, 1975
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich