Victorian Bloomsbury by Rosemary Ashton - review by Catherine Peters

Catherine Peters

Experiments in Benevolence

Victorian Bloomsbury


Yale University Press 380pp £25

‘Victorian’ Bloomsbury? Did Bloomsbury exist before 1905, when the Stephen siblings moved to Gordon Square and made the area famous? Rosemary Ashton’s enlightening book, packed with wonderful characters and anecdotes, quashes that misapprehension forever. The Bloomsbury Group were latecomers, benefiting from a series of extraordinary educational, scientific and social experiments, an intellectual ferment that spread through the streets and squares between the British Museum and the Euston Road during the nineteenth century. A number of disparate and frequently disputatious people, united only by their enthusiasm, made Bloomsbury the intellectual powerhouse of London. 

The earliest project was a new university. A group of liberals headed by Henry Brougham planned an institution, modelled on those in Germany and Scotland, which would be open to all creeds and none, and would teach a modern curriculum. Sciences, modern languages, modern history and English literature would replace

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