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The Bloomsbury Group

The Bloomsbury Group consisted of a few intellectuals in the Bloomsbury area of

London, meeting frequently from around 1907 to 1930. Many of the groups
beginning number were found at Cambridge University and had been a part of a
secretive university club, the Apostles, which discussed serious questions. As the
group grew, most of the male members had attended university at Cambridge,
Trinity or Kings College, adding credibility to the writing of the group, even with
the conservatives criticism. The members had different areas of interest and
different approaches, but held the same core beliefs, significantly left wing views.
The group was relatively small, only
consisting of a small area, Bloomsbury,
but is now well known due to the number
of intelligent people it contained, rather
than a specific cause. There was no real
initiation process; rather a person was
approached based on their merit as
determined by the existing members. It
was not organised in any true form,
lacking rules, a mission and structured
gatherings, preferring to hold gathering
and meals over which serious subjects
were discussed and contemplated. This
format of discussion could occur as only
about a dozen individuals could claim to be a member at any one time.
Members consisted of the elite of the time that believed that many of the
Victorian values were outdated and too rigid for human nature. However the
members of the group did not share all their opinions, or focus on one shared
belief. Disagreement on subjects occurred and many stimulating writing and
ideas stemmed from their internal conflict of beliefs as perspectives could be
enhanced and refined.
When the group began, the members were not well known in society, their
opinions only known to those around them. The fame of each member came
later in life, after publishing their works over the course of their membership to
the Bloomsbury Group. They are increasing more famous in the present due to
their position as leaders in the movement towards the values of current society.

Virginia Woolf
Adeline Virginia Stephen, now known as Virginia Woolf, is the most prominent
member of the Bloomsbury Group, being a founder alongside her brothers as
they moved into the Bloomsbury area. She came from a moneyed household that
held strong Victorian values. Sir Leslie Stephen, her father, was a strong
influence on Virginias intellectual growth, being an accomplished writer himself.

Virginia Woolf, and her brothers Thoby and Adrian

created the foundation of the Bloomsbury Group
when they moved in 1904 after their father died.
Woolf was an excellent writer, known for her
essays, but with her natural expression found in
novels. She wrote in a different way to that of the
day, forgoing much punctuation with the stream
of consciousness style, constantly changing
focus. The style allows for further exploration of a
characters psychology, rather than simply
stating a characters state of mind. It lacked the
structure of most novels of the time that mirrored
the rigid organisation of Victorian society. Her
writings included challenges to the traditions of
the day, such as her feminist literature, but she
also wrote on literary topics unrelated to these
She married Leonard Woolf, an intelligent writer, in 1912, sharing many political
views with him. With no need to worry about financial security, they founded the
Hogarth Press in 1917, publishing many types of works. Through the publishing
company, attention was brought to up and coming writers allowing their careers
to take off.

Her Works:
Examples of her essays are The Common Reader [1925], A Room of One's Own
[1929], Three Guineas [1938] and The Death of the Moth [1942].
Woolf wrote ten novels which are The Voyage Out [1915], Night and Day [1919],
Jacob's Room [1920], Mrs Dalloway [1925], To the Lighthouse [1927], Orlando
[1928], The Waves [1931], Flush: A Biography [1933], The Years [1937] and
Between the Acts [1941].
Virginia Woolf also wrote several short stories that can be found in the two books
Monday or Tuesday [1921], and A Haunted House [1944].

Other Prominent Members of the Group

The Bloomsbury Group is now known for its range of excellent writers and other
artists and intellectuals. The group either contained important intellectuals and
artist or was associated with these kinds of people, which is now appreciated in
the present day.
Giles Lytton Stratchey, a critic at the time, held a strong role in the group. The
group recognised his talents where as his scholarship examinations did not. His

first noticeable achievement was his publication Landmark of French Literature

[1912], establishing his position as elite critic. Only several years after being a
member of the Bloomsberries did he write and public Eminent Victorians
[1918], creating a strong foundation as a great modern biographer. He had a life
goal to destroy the myths around Victorian culture that allowed the present
society to believe that society had reached its peak, having and maintaining
morals of high standard. Rather he brought the beliefs down to a moderate level,
where reality was held. He also humanised figures of society that had distanced
themselves from the public with their positions of authority, aiding to his mission.
His works, in involving these goals, changed the perception of the biographical
text and its limitations.
George Edward Moore was an extremely influential English philosopher of the
time. He was a forward thinker, only promoting schools of thought that would
result in the advancement of human society, going so far as to oppose those that
did not. His Principia Ethica [1903] is a prominent text in that it can be viewed as
a founding document for the Bloomsbury Group. It accurately depicts the groups
view of ethics and their complexity, paving the way towards the deep discussions
the group would hold in the future. It also addresses their approach to their
opinions, believing them to be inherently good and right without needing to
prove them to others.
E.M. Forster was an accomplished member of the Bloomsbury Group, his talent
found in writing novels. He was not a central member of the group, however
together they had a lasting effect on each other. He had joined the group later in
life, already having an established reputation as an elite writer. His works
focused on the state of the British Edwardian society, detailing and critically
analysing the end of the Victorian era. He held the life of peasants in Greece and
Italy in high esteem in contrast to the routine and structure of the majority of
British society. A fan of traveling, he found appeal in the Empire, but easily
noticed the flaws that it held in the cultural differences held between colonies
and the motherland. These criticisms of Britains society helped align him with
the core values of the Bloomsbury Group.
Many others were influential members of the group. These people included the
economists John Maynard Keynes, artists such as Vanessa Bell, Virginia Woolfs
sister, and Duncan Grant, the art critic Clive Bell, the sculptor Stephen Tomlin,
and the critic Raymond Mortimer. Lowes Dickinson a literary critic, the
philosopher Henry Sidgwick, J.M.E. Mc Taggart, A.N. Whitehead, G.E. Moore and
Roger Fry, an art critic, became members of the Bloomsbury group after their
position as members of the Apostles, an older group that focused on serious
questions. Other members included Desmond Macarthy, Arthur Waley, Saxon
Sidney-Turner, Robert Trevelyan, Francis Birrell and J.T. Sheppard.
Other prominent individuals that were associated with the group, but not
members, were Bertrand Russel, Aldous Huxley and T.S. Elliot.

Significance of their Association

These people did not all share the same view,
but were aligned in their pursuit of knowledge
and the advancement of human kind. The
group is known in the present day for
providing many of modern societys values,
especially those regarding equality and
profound thought. The Bloomsbury group is
known for the number of intellectual people in
it that were willing to discuss their opinions
and accept new ideas, a trait appreciated in
current society. Their association brought forth
a great amount of ideas that were refined and improved through group
discussions and contemplation.

Challenged Traditional Values

The Bloomsbury Group had a major focus on answering and discussing serious
questions, often involving morals and the state of society. These discussions
often challenged the current traditions and accepted facts of the day, creating
controversy and attracting the criticism of the time.
The traditions of the day followed rigid structure, allowing every individual to
know their place in society. These included the perspective that women belonged
in the home while the man takes his role in the work force, whether menial or
intellectual, marriage should be between a male and a female, and sexual
activity should be exclusive to marriage. These were the major traditions that the
Bloomsbury group felt needed addressing in their oppressiveness to society. The
group also opposed war, preferring a pacifist approach to conflict, a relevant
view as the group existed throughout the Great War. The pre-war environment
had an atmosphere of invincibility and attainable perfection that the
Bloomsberries disproved, believing it to not be as perfect as society as a whole
Womans Disempowerment to Feminism
During the time of the Bloomsbury group, women were expected to care for the
home and household, the bread winner husband providing for her needs.
Throughout the Victorian period, genders had different spheres of life. Men
supposedly belonged in the public sphere with their capacity for reason, action,
aggression, independence, and self-interest. 1 Women, however, were to inhabit
the private sphere with their so call inherent qualities of femininity: emotion,
passivity, submission, dependence, and selflessness 2 that derived from a
womans sexual and reproductive organization3. Through these principles, men
were able to control society and expected women to fall into their given role.

Marriage at the time was a necessity for survival, as a woman

could not support herself alone, being unable to make a
living due to societys constraints. Therefore marriage was
their only means of livelihood. To be considered for a
bride, women had to be pure in thought and body,
keeping their innocence and virginity until they were wed.
This however was not expected of men, who had the
freedom to have premarital and extramarital relationships.
In marriage, a woman would lose her rights, property and
identity to her husband who had complete supervision of her
under the law. A husband had control over his wifes body,
allowing for beatings and marital rape, their children and any
property or money that his wife brought into his house. Marriage
was almost slavery to some women. Wives were seen as part of the furniture 4
by men. However women held a great importance in the home, running the
household and any servant, helping their husbands with work, and managing
Motherhood was not different, lacking the respect it should have garnered and
carrying just as many social expectations. Sex for pleasure was appalling and
had to be separated from motherhood. Women also had to be religious to instil
the same values in their daughters. Purity was an essential part of motherhood,
no matter that it was not possible for women to do this. Mothers had to appear
virginal, lacking a passion for sex. This contradiction was found
in many areas of
1, 2, 3
Kent 30, Susan Kent
a womans social expectations.
Kent 91, Susan Kent

The Bloomsbury group was viewed that women should have rights, Virginia Woolf
being a key figure. The Bloomsberries could easily accept that women were
capable of rational thought and deserved to participate in society, assisted by
the number of female members the group contained. The group believed that
with the right resources and education, women could be just as much involved in
society as men, and should take their place in moulding it. Whilst not a large
group, their opinions were well known and helped society consider different

Heterosexuality to Sexual Acceptance

The Bloomsberries believed that homosexuality need
not be critically assessed. It was seen as a grave
moral fault at the time, unnatural and unpleasant to
speak about. In light of the high religious beliefs at
the time, these opinions and preferences were not
A greater number of people were recognising their sexuality, rather than
conforming to the past of society. The society met this obstacle by making any

male homosexual sex a criminal offence in 1885, no matter that it was occurring
in the privacy of homes.
Sexual preference was an important topic due to the prominence of the church in
England. Christianity stated that homosexual acts were a sin, so society treated
it as such. Individuals felt the need to conform to the standards that were
considered holy, right and accepted by general society. However the
Bloomsberries viewed homosexuality as natural and should be accepted.
The group wanted to emphasise that individuals were born with sexual
preferences, and could not change them, just as heterosexual individuals would
not consider changing their sexuality.

Monogamy to Any Relationship

During this time, marriage was a must for all women, and thought of as one of as
an inevitable stage of life for men. It was a part of society, for a gentleman to
have a woman on his arm or a lady to be led by a man. Society and religion both
dictated that a woman must remain faithful to her husband and that the husband
provide for his wife. However, sex was a hidden topic of society, never to be
mentioned in respectable public in any positive form.
The Bloomsbury group viewed sex as another way to enjoy ones self, a method
of pleasure. They wanted to express freedom of thought and body, including the
right to participate in sexual acts of their choosing, whether within their marriage
or not. This belief was highly controversial due to the belief that sex should not
be sought out for the purpose of pleasure, especially by women. The
Bloomsberries wanted to free individuals of the constraints society enforced on
them, including marriage.