Jan Marsh came to believe she had discovered the real-life inspiration for the character of Lily Briscoe, from Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. But in the absence of documentary proof how could she persuade readers of her case? How, as a careful biographer, could she justify even trying to make it?
Dorothy Parker claimed the Bloomsbury set painted in circles, lived in squares and loved in triangles. Our own obsession with Bloomsbury, as Nicholas Murray points out, seems to spiral — in spite of their old school privilege and elitism. Does Bloomsbury merit our continuing regard? Or were they just a bunch of vocal, self-boosting toffs, whose artistry has been seriously overvalued?
Charlotte Mew ought to be better known. Brittle, self-regarding and a hugely talented poet, she craved renown. Yet unlike her contemporary Virginia Woolf, Mew detested the gushing world of literary sociability: she shunned Woolf’s friendship, tripped up would-be patrons and snapped at offers of preferment. It cost Mew her reputation, says Julia Copus, but also her peace of mind.