Bombay to Bloomsbury: A Biography of the Strachey Family
The Stracheys were an exceptionally intelligent and unusual family, prominent in imperial administration, science, and feminism in the nineteenth century, and in the suffrage movement, women's education, and the bringing of new approaches to sexuality in the twentieth century. Bombay toBloomsbury examines the lives of Lytton Strachey, a well-known member of the Bloomsbury set, his nine siblings, and his parents. Richard Strachey worked in India, marrying Jane, the daughter of the Indian Chief Justice, in 1859. A successful imperial couple, they were progressive, following the ideas of Auguste Comte and J. S. Mill, and the teachings of science. Their ten children were born over a period of 27 years andreflect the development and changes in a Victorian society moving to modernity. The richness of their letters provides a fascinating picture of a large, complex, and diverse family where attitudes to the family name, gender tensions, differing views on sexuality, ideas on modernity, and varyingdegrees of support for feminism all played a part. Dick Strachey, the eldest son, had an unsuccessful military career in India but a loving marriage, whereas Oliver announced to horrified parents that he wished to learn the piano and give music lessons, eventually finding success as a code-breaker in both world wars. Elinor, married to a man ofwealth and position, devoted her life exclusively to family and social life, whilst Ralph, Chief Surveyor in India, married a woman who suffered emotional and nervous collapses and was unable to manage a family. Pippa, a full-time suffrage organizer and, in all but name, head of the family, combinedthe Victorian devoted single daughter with the twentieth-century independent career woman, and James, a homosexual in adolescence, married Alix, one of the Bloomsbury cropheads who embraced sexual experimentation, psychoanalysis, and new patterns of domestic life. The remaining children, includingLytton, all had lives no less absorbing, and it is the examination of these lives, as well as relating the issues which they faced to wider society, which make Barbara Caine's study so captivating and intriguing.
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