Monday, July 12, 2010

Dear All,
In relation to what we were saying about the psychological connection in Virginia Woolf's Oralando, someone had mentioned a connection with Lydden Starchey. Lydden Starchey was one of the founding members of the Bloomsbury group and, therefore, friends with Virginia as well as a lover of John Maynard Keynes (the economist and also Bloomsberry, as they called themselves).
Starchey was a biographer who won fame and fortune for his biography of Queen Victoria published, I believe, in the early 1920s. What was important--and it became an issue when Virginia Woolf published Orlando, calling it a "biography."--was that Starchey was then on the forefront of creating a new concept of writing biography, incorporating psychoanalytic concepts into the portrait that the biographer was trying to paint.
This was a direct result of work done by Sigmund Freud who, with his publication in 1910 of a paper called, "Leonardo da Vinci and a Memory of His Childhood," then wrote a letter to Carl Jung saying, "The domain of biography must, too, become ours,..." Freud continued working on this kind of psychoanalytic-biography/case history on both historical and living subjects (analysand) The implication, of course, was that henceforth biography would examine the psychological elements in the development of a personality--something that Starchey was doing and that Virginia would incorporate into the writing of Orlando. It should also be said, as was noted in our discussion, that the bisexual nature of the human being was considered--in the psychoanalytic circles in both Vienna and Zurich--to be normal.
Not only were these new ideas coming to the fore in the biographies of Lydden Starchey and, therefore, most certainly discussed among the Bloomsberries, Lydden's younger brother James--who was also a Bloomsberry. He moved to Vienna in 1920 to undergo analysis by Dr. Freud. James lived until 1967 and he was--invited by Freud, himself--to become the translator into English of the standard edition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud.
Robert Mitchell


Terry said...

I enjoyed Robert's comment and sorry I missed the discussion. Lytton Strachey's much discussed book was called Eminent Victorians and it provided four biographical studies -- Gen Charles Gordon, Florence Nightingale, Cardinal Manning and Thomas Arnold. So much has been written about these people since Strachey's book, it would be interesting to reread Eminent Victorians to see how his sketches hold up, especially the odd Gordon whom the Victorians, beginning with the queen herself, idolized to an absurd degree. Strachey understood this well. Gordon's final efforts on behalf of Khedive Ismail in the Sudan, which allowed his martyrdom, brilliantly displayed his Victorian predilections and had catastrophic repercussions in the Sudan itself. I came away from my small reading among the Bloomsbury crowd with a feeling that they took they so "so very seriously."

Heath said...

I read Eminent Victorians just recently during “Snowmageddon.” I wonder about the factualness of Strachey’s suggestion that Florence Nightingale might have worked one of her co-workers to death. Facts aside, I think the quartet of biographies is witty.

Of the Bloomsbury bunch, Virginia Woolf certainly took herself and many of her circle very seriously.