Why do I do what I do? Specifically, why am I making available on my website [hidden in the Blank Verse category (erroneously named)]: the work of Lytton Strachey virally available elsewhere if you care to perform a Google search (if you care)?
The link above is to a LibriVox recording of Eminent Victorians by Giles Lytton Strachey read by Margaret Espaillat.
“On Modern Library’s list of 100 Best Non-Fiction books, “Eminent Victorians” marked an epoch in the art of biography; it also helped to crack the old myths of high Victorianism and to usher in a new spirit by which chauvinism, hypocrisy and the stiff upper lip were debunked. In it, Strachey cleverly exposes the self-seeking ambitions of Cardinal Manning and the manipulative, neurotic Florence Nightingale; and in his essays on Dr Arnold and General Gordon, his quarries are not only his subjects but also the public-school system and the whole structure of nineteenth-century liberal values.”
[Note: I first read Eminent Victorians in 1972 at one of those moments I have had in life where I was recovering from a disaster. The disaster in this case was my first divorce after my wife left me for a taxi cab driver in New York whom she met at an evening class in Chemistry. My reaction was to follow my friend David Phillips’ suggestion and move to San Francisco where we lived as roommates in a wooden red house in the Bernal Heights section–an area so steep that when I left the house to pursue free-lance writing assignments and women, I had to walk sideways.
[In times of stress, I turn to literature. One day David handed me Eminent Victorians saying, “This was written by the man who invented the New Yorker profile.” I went on to read Strachey’s biography of Queen Victoria and became immersed in the Bloomsbury Group, especially Virginia Woolf and eventually the multi-volumed autobiography of her husband Leonard. Strachey’s words especially were a great comfort, reading someone who could write so well and leading to the fantasy that someday I might acquire that ability.]