CARRINGTON: A Life of Dora Carrington, 1893-1932 by Gretchen Gerzina

CARRINGTON: A Life of Dora Carrington, 1893-1932

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Although Dora Carrington has figured in books by and about members of the Bloomsbury Group, Gerzina's is the first full-length--if baggy biography of the young artist, known mainly for her long association with biographer Lytton Strachey. The story of their 14-year relationship has been told by Michael Holroyd in his splendid two-volume biography (1968) of the brilliant, ailing, egocentric homosexual, author of Eminent Victorians and Queen Victoria and the man who breathed new life into the art of biography. Strachey enjoyed Carrington's loving devotion and her talents as homemaker, cook, and hostess; he in turn provided her with what she craved: a home and a father figure (he was 13 years older) who educated her and acted as comforter through her numerous romantic crises. Men were attracted by her girlish looks, breathless manner, and her elusiveness. She liked to have at least two men to toy with, but, until a lesbian relationship awakened her sexually, she had such a strong aversion to sex that she wouldn't even use the word in her letters. Meanwhile, Carrington was a talented painter who denigrated her own work, vitiating her energies on frivolous artistic projects in order to make money. When she married Ralph Partridge, he moved into Ham Spray, the home she and Strachey shared, to complete the happy m‚nage trois. Gerzina (who teaches at Skidmore) has dutifully gathered material from all the previous reports on Carrington, using quotes from her diaries and letters, a volume of which was edited by David Garnett in 1970; she also had help from Ralph's second wife, Frances Marshall Partridge. But the result is a repetitive patchwork, lacking selectivity--and thus, as in life, Carrington remains also artful and elusive here.

Pub Date: Sept. 11th, 1989
Publisher: Norton