Lytton Strachey

Lytton Strachey books and biography

Lytton Strachey

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Lytton Strachey,1931
Lytton Strachey,1931

Giles Lytton Strachey (March 1, 1880 – January 21, 1932) was a British writer and critic. He is best known for establishing a new form of biography in which psychological insight and sympathy are combined with irreverence and wit.



Strachey was born in London, the son of Lady (Jane) Strachey, a leading supporter of the women's suffrage movement, and Sir Richard Strachey, an engineer. He was the 11th of 13 children, 10 of whom survived to adulthood, including his sister Dorothy Strachey. From 1899 to 1905, he studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, having previously read history at the University of Liverpool. His membership in the "Apostles" Society while at Cambridge led him to form friendships with people such as the philosopher G.E. Moore, John Maynard Keynes and Leonard Woolf; at Cambridge he also became close friends with non-Apostles Thoby Stephen and Clive Bell, and they, together with sisters Vanessa and Virginia Stephen (later Woolf) eventually formed the intellectually-centered Bloomsbury group. From 1904 to 1914 he contributed book and drama reviews to The Spectator magazine, published poetry, and wrote an important work of literary criticism, Landmarks in French Literature (1912). During World War I, he was a conscientious objector, and spent much time with like-minded people such as Lady Ottoline Morrell and the "Bloomsberries". His first great success, and his most famous achievement, was Eminent Victorians (1918), a collection of four short biographies of Victorian heroes. With a dry wit, he exposed the human failings of his subjects and what he saw as the hypocrisy at the centre of Victorian morality. This work was followed in the same style by Queen Victoria (1921). He died of (then undiagnosed) stomach cancer at age 51 at his country house near Hungerford in Berkshire.

Though Strachey spoke openly about his homosexuality with his Bloomsbury friends(he had a relationship with John Maynard Keynes, who also was part of the Bloomsbury group), it was not publicly revealed until (1967-8), in a biography by Michael Holroyd. His unusual relationship with the painter Dora Carrington (she loved him, but Strachey was much more interested in her husband Ralph Partridge, as well as various other young men) was portrayed in the film Carrington (1995). A couplet from the period describes their unusual relationship: "Lytton Strachey was gay, Dora was bisexual/Life is strange when you're an intellectual." Jonathan Pryce won Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival for his performance as Strachey in this film.

Strachey's letters, edited by Paul Levy, were published in 2005. His letters reveal that, In keeping with the mores of the times, his affection for males extended to those of adolescent age. His first love affair had been with the young Duncan Grant, and later in life his letters reflect his appreciation for the young: "Girlish rapture alternates with disgust and disillusionment as the ravishing boys who troop through these pages ("eyelashes a foot long and a dream of a face") regularly grow up, broaden out, sprout beards and settle down to marry and/or sleep with women."[1]


  • Landmarks in French Literature (1912)
  • Eminent Victorians: Cardinal Manning, Florence Nightingale, Dr. Arnold, General Gordon (1918)
  • Queen Victoria (1921)
  • Books and Characters (1922)
  • Elizabeth and Essex: A Tragic History (1928)
  • Portraits in Miniature and Other Essays (1931)
  • Characters and Commentaries (ed. James Strachey, 1933)
  • Spectatorial Essays (ed. James Strachey, 1964)
  • Ermyntrude and Esmeralda (1969)
  • Lytton Strachey by Himself: A Self Portrait (ed. Michael Holroyd, 1971)
  • The Really Interesting Question and Other Papers (ed. Paul Levy, 1972)
  • The Shorter Strachey (ed. Michael Holroyd and Paul Levy, 1980)
  • The Letters of Lytton Strachey (ed. Paul Levy, 2005) ISBN 0-670-89112-6


  • Ely: an Ode (written at Trinity College)


  • "Lytton Strachey", Michael Holroyd 1994, ISBN 0-09-933291-4 (paperback)
  • 'Lytton Strachey: The Art of Biography', Desmond MacCarthy. "Sunday Times" Nov. 5, 1933: 8.
  • "Lytton Strachey: his mind and art," Charles Richard Sanders. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1957.
  • "The Psychological Milieu of Lytton Strachey",Martin Kallich. NY: Bookman Associates, 1961.
  • 'Nabokov and Strachey.'G.Diment. "Comparative Literature Studies" 27.4 (1990): 285-97.
  • "Lytton Strachey", John Ferns. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1988.
  • 'Holroyd/Strachey/Shaw: Art and Archives in Literary Biography,' Harold Fromm. "The Hudson Review", 42.2 (1989): 201-221.
  • 'Lytton Strachey’s Eminent Victorians', Millicent Bell. "The Biographer’s Art", ed. Jeffrey Meyers. London: Macmillan Press, 1989, 53-55.
  • 'Lytton Strachey’s Elegant, Energetic Character Assassinations Destroyed for Ever the Pretensions of the Victorian Age to Moral Supremacy,'Roy Hattersley. "New Statesman" Aug. 12, 2002.

This article might use material from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

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Books And Characters

Eminent Victorians

Landmarks In French Literature

Queen Victoria

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