The untold story of Shakespeare’s profound influence on Virginia Woolf and the rest of the Bloomsbury Group
“A spirited dance of minds.”—Chris Vognar, Boston Globe
For the men and women of the Bloomsbury Group, Shakespeare was a constant presence and a creative benchmark. Not only the works they intended for publication—the novels, biographies, economic and political writings, stage designs and reviews—but also their diaries and correspondence, their gossip and small talk turned regularly on Shakespeare. They read his plays for pleasure in the evenings, and on sunny summer afternoons in the country. They went to the theater, discussed performances, and speculated about Shakespeare’s mind. As poet, as dramatist, as model and icon, as elusive “life,” Shakespeare haunted their imaginations and made his way, through phrase, allusion, and oblique reference, into their own lives and art.
This is a book about Shakespeare in Bloomsbury—about the role Shakespeare played in the lives of a charismatic and influential cast, including Virginia and Leonard Woolf, Vanessa Bell, Clive Bell, Roger Fry, Duncan Grant, Lytton Strachey, John Maynard Keynes and Lydia Lopokova Keynes, Desmond and Molly MacCarthy, and James and Alix Strachey. All are brought to sparkling life in Marjorie Garber’s intimate account of how Shakespeare provided them with a common language, a set of reference points, and a model for what they did not hesitate to call genius. Among these brilliant friends, Garber shows, Shakespeare was in effect another, if less fully acknowledged, member of the Bloomsbury Group.
Marjorie Garber is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Research Professor of English and Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard University. She is the author several books on Shakespeare, as well as of books on cultural topics ranging from dogs and real estate to bisexuality and cross-dressing. Her most recent book is Character: The History of a Cultural Obsession. She lives in London, UK.
“The subject of how different eras engage with Shakespeare is a juicy one, and an excellent choice for Marjorie Garber . . . [who] in the most expansive and delightful way possible . . . propel[s] readers through a lively inventory of the playwright’s imprints on Bloomsbury’s lives and works.”—Donna Rifkind, Wall Street Journal
“[A] revelatory book.”—Kathryn Hughes, Sunday Times
“A spirited dance of minds. . . . [Garber] places Shakespeare and Woolf in passionate conversation with each other, separated by centuries but joined at the hip. . . . The beautiful minds of Shakespeare and Woolf are joined by a third, belonging to Garber . . . [whose] love of language and of her subject, and her ability to render that love contagious, is enough to make you want to devour the works of the playwright, the novelist, and the critic together in one fell swoop.”—Chris Vognar, Boston Globe
“[Garber] succeeds in highlighting the diverse ways in which a brilliant group of thinkers made use of Shakespeare’s oeuvre. . . . A worthy testament to the Bard of Avon’s ubiquitous influence.”—Publishers Weekly
“The latest inventive work by Marjorie Garber. . . . Excavating not only published works but letters and diaries, Garber has found an ocean of rich language in which to frolic.”—Harvard Magazine
“Eloquent, sensitive to nuance, committed to civilized personal friendship and immersed in Shakespeare, Marjorie Garber might herself be considered a latter-day member of the Bloomsbury Group. This scintillating account of their engagement with Shakespeare radiates all that was most valuable about the Bloomsbury ethos.”—Michael Dobson, director, Shakespeare Institute
“Marjorie Garber’s brilliant book shows that Shakespeare should be considered a part of the Bloomsbury Group and a part of the invention of modernity. He was their contemporary because he truly was their companion, not roughly dragged into their present to preserve their needs, but the very medium of their thought and their creativity.”—David Scott Kastan, author of On Color
“With great intelligence and warmth, Garber paints a richly detailed, immensely appealing, often dazzling portrait of Bloomsbury’s Shakespeare as a figure omnipresent in the lives and hearts of a remarkable group of artists and thinkers. In their private diaries and letters, in their conversations, in the poetry they read, either silently or aloud, in plays they read and performed with such pleasure, but most of all in their writings and paintings, he appears as a touchstone for all they revered, indeed loved, an indispensable standard to measure themselves against.”—Maria DiBattista, author of Imagining Virginia Woolf
“The highly literary nature of these friends meant on the whole that they preferred reading Shakespeare to hearing his plays performed. It was his words that mattered, as Marjorie Garber shows in this hugely enjoyable book, as she moves swiftly, through the complex history of Bloomsbury, showing how Shakespeare infiltrated their lives, thoughts, and discussions about art and literature.”—Frances Spalding, author of The Bloomsbury Group
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