Lytton Strachey and the Prose of Empire

  • S. P. Rosenbaum


‘You don’t know how superb one feels — writing a real book, with real chapters’, Lytton Strachey wrote to Maynard Keynes in the summer of 1904 (MH/LS, p. 223). This last, still unpublished book of Bloomsbury’s early Edwardian years is as important in its way to the Group’s literary history as The Court Theatre, Euphrosyne, or Where Angels Fear to Tread. A list of Bloomsbury books centrally or peripherally about English imperialism would have to include Forster’s Howards End and A Passage to India, his collections of stories and essays, as well as his Egyptian writings; a half-dozen of Leonard Woolf’s works, among them his books about Ceylon and Africa; Virginia Woolf’s The Voyage Out, Mrs. Dalloway, The Years and Three Guineas; Keynes’s Indian Currency and Finance; and Strachey’s Eminent Victorians and Queen Victoria. If the idea is extended to other forms of exploitation and control than national ones, imperialism could be seen as perhaps the central concern in Bloomsbury’s criticism of English life. It is interesting for Bloomsbury’s development, then, that the first sustained consideration of imperialism among the Group’s writings was a fellowship dissertation by Lytton Strachey defending an eminent eighteenth-century English imperialist.


East India Company Governor General Historical Writing Missionary Paper Civil Service Examination 
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© S. P. Rosenbaum 1994

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  • S. P. Rosenbaum

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