Friday, December 26, 2014

Carrington, family life and the freedom of the new

The photo shows Dora Carrington and Lytton Strachey at their house, Ham Spray.

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.  


Evan said...

I met a guy who had taught at the Sorbonne for a while.

He found you could stop a conversation with an opening like, "In the 14th Century [so and so] said . . ."

He started making things up for fun.

The past can be a dead weight.

Anonymous said...

Anyway, so I admit it - I clicked on the link for Carrington's life, and what do I get? Nothing but sex, baby, nothing but sex. Never mind her artistic accomplishments - we have to get down to the nitty, the gritty, important, stuff: sex!

We pin all these bright flowers and butterflys to the page with mealy mouthed words about what? Not their human accomplishments - no - just their SEX, baby, let's talk about sex.

I'm so tired of that lens; it needs something like DOUBLE-CAPS-LOCK-BOLD-ITALICS to get my attention these days.

- she was actually quite a good painter. NTTAWW


Jim Belshaw said...

Oh dear, Evan. You know, I do that(!), quite a lot in fact. And it does have that type of effect.

kvd, I think that comment is in the running for the best comment of 2014! I absolutely agree on both points.