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Book Reviews of Richard Garnett's forthcoming biography of his grandmother—to which Johnson had access in manuscript—to learn more of the matter. It is difficult to do justice to the richness of this Diary, for all the apparent ruthlessness of Olive's excisions. She regularly records her response to what she is reading—Anne Brontë, Kipling, Lord Lytton, Meredith, Pater, Schopenhauer, Tolstoi—as well as to concerts, lectures, and the theatre. Her "commitment" to Anarchism, for example, by no means precluded a lively interest in religion and philosophy; so we hear of morning service at St. Paul's, of a sermon at the Unitarian Free Church, and of her shock at Ford Madox Ford's indulgence in "bigoted pietism in the Brompton Oratory." We even get a wonderful blow-by-blow account of the 1893 Theosophy vs. Buddhism debate featuring the infamous Mrs. Annie Besant. No reader interested in the life of lateVictorian London—social, political, or literary—can fail to find something of value in this fascinating document, the editing of which has so obviously been a labor of love. J. Lawrence Mitchell Texas A & M University Bloomsbury Women and l'écriture féminine Mary Ann Caws. Women of Bloomsbury: Virginia, Vanessa, and Carrington . New York and London: Routledge, 1990. xviii + 218 pp. $40.00 Jane Dunn. A Very Close Conspiracy: Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf. Jonathan Cape, 1990; Boston: Little, Brown, 1991. xiii + 338 pp. $30.00 MARY ANN CAWs thesis seems to be that there were startling similarities in the work—and especially the love-lives—of her three "Women of Bloomsbury." Each was devoted to her art; Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell came to live without sex; Carrington and Vanessa denigrated their own art in deference to the men (Lytton Strachey and Duncan Grant, both homosexuals) whom they adored. Repeatedly Caws says that the deference of the female artist "can scarcely go unnoticed" and "has to be addressed." But reiterating a point does not address it. Nor do rhapsodic associations establish similarities. Caws writes: 'Virginia writing of, and at Monk's House, Carrington writing of, and at Tidmarsh, and the Ham Spray [three houses], will be in some measure empowered by the same longing to express what is, large and small, most 361 ELT: VOLUME 34:3, 1991 lingering in the heart." Does Caws mean that her writing will empower Virginia Woolf s and Carrington's? Whatever lingers in the heart, imprecise prose does not. Caws invents a female artistic Bloomsburian triumvirate, overlooking the fact that Carrington was not truly a part of Bloomsbury. Until the final illness of Lytton Strachey, the only time there was any significant interaction between these three women was in 1916 when Carrington (along with Barbara Hiles and David Garnett) broke into the Woolfs' Sussex home and spent the night. Apparently for Duncan Grant, who was David Garnett's lover, Vanessa Bell worked to placate her offended sister Virginia and Virginia's "he wolf (as Carrington called Leonard Woolf). This story does not fit Caws's picture of closeness between the three women; she makes no reference to it. Caws's book is full of howlers. She identifies the half-sister of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell as their "stepmother" (6), thinks they had only one brother (62), retitles Clive Bell's Art as Significant Form (32), doesn't know that the photograph she reproduces of Virginia and Leonard is datable as 23 July 1912, describes Vanessa's 1911 illness as measles (73) when it was a miscarriage, refers to Sidney Waterlow as Sidney Waklow (189), and so on. Sources are confused, distorted, improperly and inconsistently cited, omitted. Caws attempts a new sort of writing, at once subjective and scholarly. Though she does not use the term, perhaps she intended to write l'écriture féminine. She describes her writing as "personal criticism [that] requires a certain intensity in the lending of oneself, in the giving of a role to the past of the artist as to the textual present and the possible future, to the elements inside and outside the mind, unafraid as they are of mingling." However we read that sentence, we expect Caws to disregard chronology and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 361-366
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
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