Pretzels & Bullfights: Bloomsberries

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In a short three years, we have bonded together a strong group of poets throughout the world. In many ways, we are the same although differences exist. The one thing we share is a love for our creative art of writing. We meet here in this virtual pub to share, discuss, inspire and learn. Considering that most endeavors like dVerse have a productive life of two years, we beat the odds. Let’s continue to skew the statistics.

When I say we, I am referring to every single person who participates in dVerse, from the team that volunteers to coordinate activities to the people who can only find time in their over-busy lives to read a post and click the Like button on the blog. Every person is equally valuable to making our group a success.

We are not the first to band together into a strong, creative group and we won’t be the last. We are fortunate to have the virtual reach that our poetic ancestry never knew they were missing. In this article, we will learn a little about the Bloomsbury Group, a small, informal association of artists, writers and intellectuals who lived and worked in the Bloomsbury area of central London.

The Bloomsbury Group, also known as Bloomsberries, was an English group of artists and scholars. It existed from about 1905 until the beginning of World War II. Noted Bloomsberries included E.M. Forster (novelist), Paul Roche (poet and translater), Lytton Strachey (biographer), Clive Bell (art critic), Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant (painters), John Maynard Keynes (economist), Leonard and Virgina Woolf (writers). Other members were Desmond Macarthy, Saxon Sidney-Turner, J.T. Sheppard, Arthur Waley, Robert Trevelyan, Raymond Mortimer, Francis Birrell and Stephen Tomiland. On occasion, T.S. Eliot, Bertrand Russell, Gerald Shove and Aldous Huxley were associated with the Bloomsberries.

The Bloomsbury Group in the garden at Charleston, Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant’s home, in 1930. Standing from left to right: Angus Davidson, Duncan Grant, Julian Bell and Leonard Woolf. Seated: Virginia Woolf, Margaret Duckworth, and Clive and Vanessa Bell. From the Tate Archive.

The Bloomsbury Group in the garden at Charleston, Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant’s home, in 1930. Standing from left to right: Angus Davidson, Duncan Grant, Julian Bell and Leonard Woolf. Seated: Virginia Woolf, Margaret Duckworth, and Clive and Vanessa Bell. From the Tate Archive.

The Bloomsbury Group was extremely informal and most often seen as a group of friends. They did not have a charter or a defined mission. Their beliefs and activities were largely controversial primarily for their involvement with the Dreadnought Hoax (1910) that embarrassed the British Navy and was considered unpatriotic. Six members pulled off what is referred to as one of the greatest pranks in history. If you get a chance to read about the Dreadnought Hoax, I’m confident you will find it entertaining. The group was also highly criticized for their outspoken pacifism and purportedly free moral and sexual standards.

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Donald Robert Paul Roche (1916-2007) was a noted English poet and critically acclaimed translator of Greek and Latin classics. When Mr. Roche (pronounced “rawsh”) succumbed to cancer at age 91, he was one of the last remaining associates of the Bloomsbury Group. His life was strongly intertwined with the lives of members of the Bloomsbury Group, most notably with the painter Duncan Grant. Most of Mr. Roche’s work remains under copyright protection and is unavailable online. I was able to locate the following Villanelle (courtesy of The Intercollegiate Studies Institute) as representative of his poetic gifts.

Villanelle For A Modern Warrior

Young soldier, airman, sailor-king
The earth is trembling at your potency.
Celebrate but do not sing.

The world’s eyes plead while worshipping.
Your body’s strong in fighting livery,
Young soldier, airman, sailor-king.

A Titan everywhere you swing
The earth a trinket at your wrist. You’re free.
Celebrate but do not sing.

Kisses on your blossoming!
Rapine in atomic latency!
Young soldier, airman, sailor-king.

Watch a mushroom moonfire fling
A town in fountained ashes to the sea.
Celebrate but do not sing.

Spread think your lustihood, your wantoning,
To match that power to blast. Your lonely
Laughter afterwards will ring
As homeward echoes vanishing.
Young soldier, airman, sailor-king,
Celebrate but do not sing.

PAUL ROCHE 1957

The line “Celebrate but do not sing” resonates with me. So many successes and failures in life are bittersweet. That line will linger with me.

Although the Bloomsbury Group was informal and largely unorganized, it left many marks in history. Members reveled in the controversy they stirred up and the resulting distaste expressed by conservatives along with their outspoken social support of anti-war movements and feminism. However controversial, they were catalysts for change in a time when change was most needed and their writings continue to influential to this day.

By the end of World War II, members homes had been reduced to war rubble from the London bombings and Virginia Woolf had committed suicide. The original Bloomsbury Group became a part of history although several groups have continued to follow their way of life.

Every group has its detractors and supporters. As with every experience in life, we make it what we want it to be. I do not suggest that we at dVerse go on a lark and hoax a security agency but I do believe that our common passion for the written word will hold us together for years to come.

Thank you for joining me for Pretzels & Bullfights. I hope that this article has whet your curiosity and you look further into this intriguing band of writers and artists.

Resources:

Martin Frost’s Former Website
The Intercollegiate Studies Institute
Tate Archives
infoplease
The Literature Network
brain pickings

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