ON OR ABOUT DECEMBER 1910 by Peter Stansky


Early Bloomsbury and Its Intimate World
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 For the last several decades, the Bloomsbury industry has operated at a frenetic pace, as biographies, histories, slim appreciations, ane large catalogues have streamed forth from the academic mill. So little has been left unsaid that most writers are now reduced to a desperate search for something new to say, as is the case with Stansky's (Orwell: The Transformation, 1980, etc.) disjointed chronicle of a supposedly watershed year in the life of Bloomsbury and British society. His inspiration is Virginia Woolf's passing remark in her essay, ``Mr. Bennett and Mr. Brown,'' that since 1910, ``All human relations have shifted.'' Stansky's search for supporting evidence isn't much helped by Bloomsbury. Most of the figures in that extended circle had yet to shake their undergraduate habits of dilettantism. Woolf and Lytton Strachey were working sporadically on their first books. John Maynard Keynes, Vanessa Bell, and Duncan Grant had all accomplished little of substance. E.M. Forester, however, with the publication of Howard's End, did achieve a degree of critical acclaim. Outside of Bloomsbury, 1910 saw two Parliamentary elections which led to extended suffrage (though not yet for women) and the terminal decline of the Liberal Party, but there was little else that shook the status quo. Stansky's defense of 1910's protean importance, in the end, comes down to the year- end, Postimpressionist show organized by Bloomsbury's Roger Fry and Desmond McCarthy. Featuring artists such as van Gogh, CÇzanne, Matisse, and Gauguin, it was enormously controversial, reviled as ``savage,'' ``crude,'' and ``pornographic.'' In spite of the venomous attacks, it did serve to introduce the British to Modernism, but did that really change society? Despite a game effort, Stansky ultimately fails to prove his thesis.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-674-63605-8
Page count: 296pp
Publisher: Harvard Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1996