Monday, June 13, 2016

HG Wells, Keynes, Orwell ... my years at the heart of the Bloomsbury Set

Great veterans of old wars are a rare and special breed. Anne Olivier Bell, who grew up as “Andy” Popham before she married into Virginia Woolf’s family, is the last survivor of a culture war – the Bloomsbury movement – that is now as venerable and remote as the Somme. Like that conflict, Mrs Bell – Olivier (pronounced “Olivia”) – is about to be a hundred years old.

In the lee of the Sussex downs, just outside Charleston, which has become Bloomsbury central, this tall and serene old lady still lives in the red-brick cottage she shared with Quentin Bell, son of Vanessa, nephew and first biographer of Virginia Woolf.

Her conversation is peppered with allusions to Leonard (Woolf), Maynard (Keynes), and Lytton (Strachey), and the walls of her cottage are decorated with the works of Roger Fry, Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell. Step into her parlour and you enter a vanishing world, peopled by the writers and artists who have shaped our lives: notably, her cousin Laurence Olivier, Peggy Ashcroft, Rupert Brooke, Laurie Lee, Kenneth Clark and the poet laureate Cecil Day-Lewis.   MORE  

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