15 November 2008

Roy Campbell, the Bloomsbury Group and C.S. Lewis

I've been reading Virginia Woolf's A writer's diary, and got curious about why it never mentioned Roy Campbell, the poet, who had at one point been associated with the Bloomsbury group, and so got out Joseph Pearce's biography of Roy Campbell to refresh my memory, and found I had almost completely forgotten the tangled web of relationships -- that Roy Campbell's wife Mary was in love with Vita Nicholson (nee Sackville-West) and that the Campbells had gone to live in a cottage on the Sackville-West estate.

But Virginia Woolf was also in love with Vita, and had written her Orlando in a fit of jealousy over Vita's relationship with Mary Campbell. None of that comes out in the (edited) version of the diary. And when he found out about the affair, on 6 November 1927, Roy Campbell went off by train to London, to drown his sorrows in drink. He met C.S. Lewis in a pub, and drinking with him, told him all about it (Pearce 2001:90), and when Lewis remarked "Fancy being cuckolded by a woman" Campbell rushed back to Kent in a rage, and thereafter came to despise the Bloomsbury group, and drew closer to Evelyn Waugh and D.B. Wyndham Lewis, and told Lytton Strachey, who advocated detachment, "Strachey, you are about as detached, morally, physically and intellectually as the animal you most resemble". "What is that?" asked Strachey. "A tapeworm," replied Campbell (Pearce 2001:95).


Jenny Hillebrand said...

Fascinating! I hope that some day I will have the time and mental energy to read as much as you do. Although I suspect it is the result of years of reading . . .

Steve Hayes said...


Unfortunately i read far too little. Perhaps its one of my peculiarities that I find the diaries and biographies of authors are often more interesting than their works. I've read the fiction of C.S. Lewis, and remember a couple of Roy Campbell's shorter poems from school, but the only novel of Virginia Woolf's that I tried to read (Jacob's room) I never managed to finish.


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