Charleston (1)

I went to the opening event of this year’s Charleston Festival, which commemorated the centenary of the day in October 2016 when eight people, including Clive and Vanessa Bell, their children, Julian and Quentin (aged six), David Garnett and Duncan Grant and a nursemaid and cook arrived in a taxi at Charleston Farmhouse which they had rented from the Firle Estate in order that Grant and Garnett could work on a local farm as conscientious objectors.   Virginia Nicholson (née Bell) spoke of her memories of the house, both inherited (the distant sound of the guns in France) and during the summers of her childhood.   Claire Tomalin talked of a visit by Contance Garnett not long afterwards.   Garnett didn’t make a good impression.  Christopher Hampton showed extracts from his film about Carrington, which suggested that Lytton Strachey had first met Dora Carrington at Charleston when really it was at Asheham, four miles away.   And Carmen Calil spoke of the long association between the Bloomsbury Group and not just the Hogarth Press, but just as much Chatto and Windus, including the work that Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant did as book illustrators.  

The talks gave a strong sense of the multiple meanings and associations of Charleston and Bloomsbury (most of all, freedom of expression) to a generation, many of whom had first discovered Bloomsbury through Michael Holroyd’s two-volume biography of Lytton Strachey published in 1967.


One thought on “Charleston (1)

  1. Edward Chaney says:

    Sounds fun (if somewhat xclusiv)…By ‘Garnett didn’t make a good impression’ it sounds like you mean David’s Sussex-born mum, but perhaps you meant ‘Bunny’ hisself who occasionally also failed to make a good impression. (In preparation for the Alderney Literary Festival I read his correspondence with T.H. White, yet another who sometimes failed to make a good impression). I talk a bit about the extraordinary Garnett clan in my Genius Friend: G.B. Edwards and The Book of Ebenezer Le Page if you’d like a copy (or did i already inflict one on you?). The Literary Review have just decided not to review it… Needless to say i’ve cancelled my subscription…
    On behalf of Jonathan Cape, Bunny’s brilliant father, Edward, commissioned my chum Gerald Edwards to write what would have been the first book about D.H. Lawrence but he never got his act together; Lawrence died a year later and Gerald’s friends abandoned him; instead he wrote his great Guernsey novel almost fifty years later… the rest is history, albeit not as celebrated or picturesque as that of Charleston…xe

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