Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
The new movement in biography as a literary form began in England with Giles Lytton Strachey (STRAY-chee) as World War I came to an end. Strachey came from a family distinguished in the army, the civil service, and literature. His mother, Lady Jane Strachey, was a respected essayist and an amateur student of French literature; Lionel Strachey, a cousin, had established a literary reputation in the United States; another cousin, John St. Loe Strachey, was the brilliant editor of the Spectator from 1898 to 1925, and his children, John Strachey and Mrs. Amabel Williams-Ellis, were both writers.
A delicate child of marked but rather special talents, Lytton Strachey was limited in his choice of profession. At Trinity College, Cambridge, he distinguished himself in his studies, composed verses, and won the Chancellor’s Medal with his poem “Ely.” Fearing that he lacked true creative power, however, he dallied with literature in the critical essays that he wrote while living with his mother on an independent income. He began writing sketches of the great and the near-great of the Victorian Age; some of these sketches were later published in Eminent Victorians. As biography, his style was new to the English public, but it caught their fancy, and the book sold well. Actually Strachey had been strongly influenced by French biographers, especially Sainte-Beuve—his first publication was Landmarks in French Literature—and their...
(The entire section is 528 words.)
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Lytton Strachey was born on March 1, 1880, in Clapham, London, the eleventh of thirteen children born to an upper-middle class family. Strachey was educated in private schools and by tutors until he attended Trinity College, Cambridge in 1899. At Cambridge, he became a member of a group called The Apostles which included the novelist E. M. Forster and literary critic Leonard Woolf. The Apostles rejected conventional morality and cultivated the pleasures of the senses and the aesthetic appreciation of art. In this group, Strachey was able to give expression to his homosexuality.
Strachey obtained a degree in History from Trinity College in 1903, although the following year he failed to win the fellowship he desired when his dissertation on the British statesman Warren Hastings was rejected. Strachey then returned to London where he became part of the Bloomsbury Group, a group of unconventional intellectuals that included Virginia Woolf and her husband Leonard.
Strachey began writing literary criticism and essays for a variety of journals, and in 1907 became a reviewer for the Spectator. In 1912, he published his first book, Landmarks in French Literature, and first conceived the idea for Eminent Victorians, which at the time he called Victorian Silhouettes.
In 1916, during World War I, Strachey requested exemption from military service and declared himself to be a conscientious objector. His application...
(The entire section is 438 words.)