STRACHEY, Lytton (1880-1932)
Plaque erected in 1971 by Greater London Council at 51 Gordon Square, Bloomsbury, London, WC1H 0PN, London Borough of Camden
History and Biography
LYTTON STRACHEY 1880-1932 Critic and Biographer lived here
Lytton Strachey was a critic and biographer, and a prominent member of the Bloomsbury Group. Number 51 Gordon Square was his London home from 1921 until his death in 1932.
WORK AND FAMILY
Strachey is best known for Eminent Victorians (1918), his pungent account of the lives of Florence Nightingale, General Gordon, Thomas Arnold and Cardinal Manning, which contrasted with the uncritical, magisterial biographies that were then the norm. In the preface, he recommended that ‘a becoming brevity . . . is the first duty of the biographer’.
Strachey’s mother, the suffragist Jane Strachey (1840–1928), secured the house in Gordon Square in 1919 and appears to have moved in early the following year. Also based at number 51, which dates from 1857, were the unmarried Strachey sisters: Pippa (1872–1968), Marjorie (1882–1964) and Pernel (1876–1951).
Gordon Square was already home to many of the Bloomsbury Group causing Strachey to observe to Virginia Woolf, ‘Very soon I foresee that the whole square will become a sort of college, and the rencontres in the garden I shudder to think of’. It was his own chief London residence from 1921; he deemed it ‘a great deal more comfortable & convenient’ than the family’s previous address in Belsize Park Gardens, Hampstead, and he had a self-contained flat on the ground floor – where the plaque is situated – from 1929 until his death. Parts of Queen Victoria (1921) and Elizabeth and Essex (1928) were written at the house.
Strachey’s biographer Michael Holroyd, who proposed the plaque, discovered his subject’s lost fellowship dissertation on Warren Hastings, the controversial Governor-General of Bengal, in the basement of number 51 during a visit in 1963, the family having given up the lease on the increasingly decrepit house not long before. An ‘In/Out’ board still stood in the entrance hall: deceased members of the Strachey family, some of whom had been dead for half a century, were marked as ‘out’.