Confessions of a bohemian

David Jays writes about The Letters of Lytton Strachey, edited by Paul Levy, in The Guardian:

Lyttonstrachey200x299‘As usual, it struck me that letters were the only really satisfactory form of literature,’ mused Lytton Strachey in 1916. ‘They give one the facts so amazingly, don’t they?’ Strachey’s iconoclastic biographical writing pounced on intimate detail and modern biography has followed suit, often focusing on the Bloomsbury circle. Michael Holroyd’s sprightly 1967 life of Strachey followed precisely this model, twitching at sauce and gossip, for which letters and diaries rather than published writings represent a treasure trove.

‘The literature of the future,’ he assures Virginia Woolf, ‘will, I clearly see, be amazing. At last it’ll tell the truth, and be indecent and amusing, and romantic.’ Initially, Strachey imagines writing plays or panoramic social novels – ‘My footmen are amazing, and so are my prostitutes’ – but only gradually defines his supple notion of personal history.

He and his friends, the Woolfs and Bells, Keynes and Forster, believed they were inventing the modern world and, to a surprising degree, they did. Their idea of modernity – of free thought, free talk, technological advance and self-examination – is still very much our own.

More here.