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On or About December 1910

On or About December 1910

Early Bloomsbury and Its Intimate World

Peter Stansky

ISBN 9780674636064

Publication date: 10/30/1997

On or about December 1910 human character changed, Virginia Woolf remarked, and well she might have. The company she kept, the Bloomsbury circle, took shape before the coming of World War I, and would have a lasting impact on English society and culture after the war. This book captures the dazzling world of Bloomsbury at the end of an era, and on the eve of modernism.

Peter Stansky depicts the vanguard of a rising generation seizing its moment. He shows us Woolf in that fateful year, in the midst of an emotional breakdown, reaching a turning point with her first novel, The Voyage Out, and E. M. Forster, already a success, offering Howards End and acknowledging his passion for another man. Here are Roger Fry, prominent art critic and connoisseur, remaking tradition with the epochal exhibition “Manet and the Post-Impressionists”; Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant beginning their most interesting phase as artists; Lytton Strachey signing the contract for his first book; and John Maynard Keynes entering a significant new stage in his illustrious career.

Amid the glittering opulence and dismal poverty, the swirl of Suffragists, anarchists, agitators, and organizers, Stansky—drawing upon his historical and literary skills—brings the intimate world of the Bloomsbury group to life. Their lives, relationships, writings, and ideas entwine, casting one member after another in sharp relief. Even their Dreadnought Hoax, a trick played on the sacred institution of the navy, reveals their boldness and esprit. The picture Stansky presents, with all its drama and detail, encompasses the conflicts and sureties of a changing world of politics, aesthetics, and character.


  • Peter Stansky makes a strong case for 1910 as a galvanizing year in which this promising but largely unknown group of friends established a decisive public identity. With a wealth of detail, Stansky fleshes out what he considers the crucial events of their year—the Dreadnought Hoax, the legendary First Post-Impressionist Exhibition and the appearance of E. M. Forster’s next-to-last novel, Howards End… Although On or About 1910 covers a period of Bloomsbury that many other writers have explored, Stansky skips the usual panoply of anecdotes and offers instead a genuine history, rich in political and social contexts for what might otherwise seem merely youthful high spirits and lukewarm middle-class rebellion. He makes it clear how Bloomsbury could subvert Edwardian materialism from a position of financial security and youthful family connections… With considerable skill, Stansky [also] places Bloomsbury’s artistic and domestic rebellions against the backdrop of the women’s suffrage movement, military buildup and the struggle to limit the power of the House of Lords.

    —Regina Marler, San Francisco Examiner & Chronicle


  • Peter Stansky is the Frances and Charles Field Professor of History at Stanford University; author, among other works, of Redesigning the World: William Morris, the 1880s, and the Arts and Crafts; and coauthor of Journey to the Frontier: Two Roads to the Spanish Civil War.

Book Details

  • 300 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press