A century ago that word stood for everything loathsome to the dying Victorian Age. Homosexuality and impiety, infidelity and socialism, all were embraced at one time or another by the roughly dozen figures of the Bloomsbury Group while even the most freethinking of their Imperial elders scratched their heads, wondering what their small acts of mid-century intellectual defiance had wrought.
Fearsome celebrities that long century ago, today most of the Bloomsbury cabal are the private delights beloved of a small collection of literature nerds and post-Edwardian junkies. Lytton Strachey, who savaged Victorian respectability and piety beyond all hope of recovery in Eminent Victorians (1918) and Queen Victoria (1921), is today That Fellow with the Long Hands in That One Carrington Painting, while Dora Carrington herself is simply That Artist Emma Thompson Played in That Movie Once. We do remember John Maynard Keynes—as Keynes the Economist, not Keynes the Homosexual Rebel. And of the others—Desmond MacCarthy, Saxon Sydney-Turner, Duncan Grant, Roger Fry ... only whispers.