Back on 22 December 2008, I wrote:
As I read into the Bloomsbury set I actually found them quite repulsive. There was an intellectual narrowness, a bigotry, that I found hard to accept. I also found the description of of the family life that so many of them had experienced very strange indeed. This was not my world.I was reminded of all this when, by accident, I picked up and started reading Gretchen Gerzina's Carrington, the life of Dora Carrington.
Carrington, she always called herself that from her days at the Slade School of Fine Art, was born a little later than the key figures in the Bloomsbury set. By then, Victorian English attitudes towards child rearing had begun to change. Certainly Carrington as a woman received opportunities that might not have been possible earlier. And yet, Carrington's character seems to have been shaped by the complex relationship between her parents, including reaction to her mother's overwhelming sense of propriety.
My own research is focused especially on Australia. Quite a bit of that research involves reading personal memoirs, biographies or autobiographies. Reading these, I don't have the same feeling about the picture of family life and growing up presented by the English equivalents. You do get the same type of conflict for those whose sexual orientation was strong, confused or just different. But family life itself was different, more open, less angst ridden.
Comparisons are useful things. To really see a society, you need an external view. This allows you to look in, to break away from the rigid bounds imposed by belonging or, indeed, the rebellion associated with not belonging,
When I first visited England with Sue on a quite wonderful trip, my first reaction to the history was exhilaration. Later, I came to find it in a sense overbearing. The past was ever present and imposed its own rigidities. I concluded that there was a lot to be said for growing up in a new country.