Philosophy and the Cambridge Apostles

  • S. P. Rosenbaum


Bloomsbury’s undergraduate love of literature was matched only by their passion for philosophy. Even Virginia Woolf, pursuing her education as a private student in London, studied Plato in Greek. So fundamental was philosophy to the development of Bloomsbury that a literary history of the Group must be to some extent a philosophical history too. The ahistorical criticism devoted to the Bloomsbury writers has largely ignored the actual philosophical context of their work. Yet the need of critic after critic to relate Forster’s or Virginia Woolf’s fiction to some system of ideas known to the critic but not the writer at least shows an awareness that Bloomsbury’s writing is grounded in some basic philosophical presuppositions. This, of course, is true of other modern writers, but the philosophical environment of Virginia Woolf, Forster and Strachey differs from that of, say, Joyce or Lawrence, Yeats or Eliot, in two interesting respects: the particular philosophical tradition the Group was involved in, and the way they shared their philosophical concerns with one another.


Active Member Literary History Moral Science Philosophical Concern Religious Doubt 
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  1. 4.
    Some Dogmas of Religion brought McTaggart a fan letter from Thomas Hardy, who wrote that in The Dynasts he was trying to sketch a negative philosophy not all that different from McTaggart’s. In addition to Hardy and Yeats, McTaggart also impressed two modern novelists in different ways. H. G. Wells mocked him in The New Machiavelli (1911) as Codger, whose ‘woven thoughts’ lay across the narrator’s perception of realities when he was his student at Cambridge (ch. 3). Wells’s antipathy may have increased the admiration of one of his writer loves, Dorothy Richardson. In Deadlock (1921), the sixth novel of Pilgrimage, she represented McTaggart in propria persona as a lecturer in philosophy who influences the heroine towards a mystical individualism (ch. 7; C. Blake, pp. 57ff.).Google Scholar

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© S. P. Rosenbaum 1987

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  • S. P. Rosenbaum

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