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Book Reviews A Bloomsbury Diary Tea and Anarchy! The Bloomsbury Diary of Olive Garnett, 1890-1893. Barry C. Johnson, ed. London: Bartletts Press, 1989. xi+ 253 pp. Cloth £17.50 $35.00 Paper £11.95 $24.00 [Bartletts, 39a Kildare Terrace, London, W2] AMONG THE NAMES most intimately associated with the history of the British Museum, two are preeminent—Antonio Panizzi, Principal Librarian from 1856 to 1866, and Richard Garnett (1835-1906), who, at the age of sixteen, began service under Panizzi as an assistant and rose through the ranks to become Keeper of Printed Books from 1890 to 1899. Olivia Rayne Garnett (1871-1958), generally called "Olive," was Garnett's daughter and the author of the diaries which form the heart of Tea andAnarchyl In 1890, Olive was nineteen and the family had just moved from Primrose Hill, where they were neighbors of the Rossetti family and of Ford Madox Brown, the Pre-Raphaelite painter, into one of the "official residences" attached to the Museum which gave onto Montague Street. It was here in Bloomsbury that Olive began her diary in little 6x4 two-penny notebooks bought from a shop in nearby Museum Street. Although she maintained a diary until her death in 1958, it is the early years that are of particular interest and that provide the material for this volume, and for a planned second volume which will extend to 1900. In later life, Olive destroyed numerous sections of her diary, and even records these acts of destruction. Thus, of fifteen original volumes for 1890-1892, eight were destroyed in their entirety. In this activity, Barry Johnson, the editor, likens her to Katherine Mansfield who was also "ruthless with her own past." Johnson draws to some extent upon the work of Anne Lee-Michell (née Garnett), niece of the diarist, who had prepared her own unpublished selection from the diaries, entitled "A Bloomsbury Girlhood," but he has also done considerable research of his own, both at the British Library and among the papers of David Garnett in the Hilton Hall archives. Yet, for all of his efforts, he maintains a commendably low editorial profile. He draws attention to himself but once—to point out that he has been more comprehensive in his identification of people connected with the Museum and of "rooms within its precincts" than might be necessary for the general reader, only because "no editor [of future editions] is likely to be better placed than the undersigned." Johnson was, in fact, on the staff of the Department of Printed Books, 357 ELT: Volume 34:3, 1991 and must have walked every corridor of the Museum's vastness, retracing the footsteps of young Olive and her considerable cast of characters (most of whom are painstakingly identified). In one case at least, Johnson's special knowledge of the Museum helps him to correct a mistake by David Garnett—in his autobiographical The Golden Echo—who locates his grandfather in the Principal Librarian's house. Olive's diary is a document of some importance, both because of the range of people she came to know, and because—from within the portals ofthat august institution, the British Museum—she looked out upon the world with the visionary eye of youth. Moreover, as Johnson points out, "there are very few women's diaries describing literary life in the nineteenth century." Olive had aspirations to be a writer, and perhaps one of her original motives for keeping a diary was to provide material for "An Official Residence," the first novel she ever seems to have contemplated. Nothing, in fact, came of these plans, but after writing an unpublishable and now lost novel, she eventually published Petersburg Tales ( 1900), a collection of semi-autobiographical stories, and in Russia's Night (1918), a novel. Among those who make an appearance in the diary are other inhabitants of "official residences"—Edward Maunde Thompson, the formidable Principal Librarian who once reprimanded an assistant for riding a bicycle, and objected to members of the staff and their families walking in the quad without hats; and Sidney Colvin, Keeper of Prints and Drawings and biographer of Keats, whose literary interests led to friendship with Browning, James...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 357-361
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
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