Giles Lytton Strachey was born in 1880, the eleventh of thirteen
children, to General Sir Richard Strachey and his wife Jane Grant. Though he
spent some years at boarding schools, including Abbotsholme and Leamington
College, he received much of his education at home. His mother enjoyed strong
interests in literature and politics and Strachey met many of the leading
writers and thinkers of the day when they came to visit Lady Strachey.
Strachey's secondary education was completed at University College in Liverpool
where he studied Latin, Greek, mathematics, and English literature and history.
It was at University College that he met and was influenced by Walter Raleigh,
a professor of English literature and well known biographer.
After failing to receive a scholarship to Oxford in 1899, Strachey
decided to attend Cambridge where he developed many friendships which lasted
the rest of his life. At Cambridge he met Clive Bell, Thoby Stephen, and
Leonard Woolf, with whom he started the Midnight Society and the X Society.
Along with many other future "Bloomsberries" he was
elected to the Apostles. In 1903 fellow Apostle G.E. Moore's
Principia Ethica was published, producing a
profound effect on the aspiring intellectuals.
Principia became a rationalizing factor in
loosening the repression of homosexual tendencies among the Apostles and in
Trinity and King's College as well.
Strachey completed his work at Cambridge with a thesis on Warren
Hastings but failed to receive a Trinity fellowship. He returned to his
parents' home in Lancaster Gate and sought to support himself as a journalist.
Much of his social life centered on the Bloomsbury group which focused on the
Thursday night "at-homes" of the Stephenses (Thoby,
Adrian, Vanessa [Bell], and Virginia [Woolf]). Over the next several years
Strachey traveled, visited friends and wrote his first book,
Landmarks in French Literature (1912) which
was commissioned by H.A.L. Fisher. In 1910 Strachey made the acquaintance of
Ottoline Morrell with whom he carried on a playful and extended correspondence
over the years. Through Morrell he met Henry Lamb and Henry Norton, who loaned
him £100 to rent a cottage so he could begin his next major work,
Eminent Victorians (1918). In 1915 Strachey
met Dora Carrington, a graduate of the Slade School of Art and the woman who
would shortly devote herself to him for the rest of his life.
In 1917 Strachey and Carrington moved into a cottage in Tidemarsh,
Oxfordshire, and continued to carry on with their personal lives. Carrington
maintained a relationship with fellow artist Mark Gertler before marrying Ralph
Partridge in 1921, and Strachey moved through a series of relationships as
well. Strachey's time at Tidemarsh cottage was also spent productively writing.
Eminent Victorians with
Queen Victoria (1921) and produced a
collection of essays,
Books and Characters as well. His style was
becoming very popular and he began to achieve a measure of fame which allowed
him to support himself and his household from the proceeds of his writing. In
1924 Strachey purchased the lease to Ham Spray House and he, along with
Carrington and Partridge, moved in. He completed
Elizabeth and Essex in 1928 and started
The Greville Memoirs which were completed
posthumously by Ralph and Frances Partridge and Roger Fulford.
Though his frequent ill-health often made it difficult, Strachey enjoyed
traveling and made several trips abroad between 1928 and 1931. Late in 1931 he
began to decline rapidly from an illness which doctors were unable to identify.
He died January 21, 1932, of what was later found to be stomach cancer.
Carrington committed suicide a few weeks later, unable to live without him.