One of my Guilty Pleasures is books that I classify as Anglophilia. The latest to join the heap is Regina Marler’s Bloomsbury Pie: The Making of the Bloomsbury Boom. It’s comfortable and interesting in a slightly voyeuristic way, and from time to time one encounters a passage that just needs to be passed along to others. Today’s case in point:
Perhaps because they threaten our private feelings for a cherished figure, attempts to explain the few veiled elements of Virginia Woolf’s character arouse frenzied opposition. Armed with Freud or Laing or Husserl or Lacan and the immense written record of Virginia Woolf’s life, numberless critics and biographers have tried their hand at the puzzle only to be judged, at best, plausible and sensitive or, at worst, hostile, fanciful, unreflective, biased, arrogant, self-serving, and violently appropriative. Even the official biographer was attacked for broaching the possibility of sexual molestation: those who came after were torn by jackals. Some observers, like Leon Edel, blamed Michael Holroyd for establishing a prurient interest in the Bloomsberries and setting the tone for subsequent journalism and scholarship. This overlooks not only the growing candor of the period, however, but the perennial appeal of other people’s private lives. “Let me confess,” wrote Quentin Bell, “horrible though it may be to do so, that I would rather read almost any frivolous and salacious journalism than almost any literary criticism.” (pp 167-168)
And so say we all.