British writer and critic LYTTON STRACHEY was born (d. 1932). He is best known for establishing a new form of biography in which psychological insight and sympathy are combined with irreverence and wit. His 1921 biography Queen Victoria was awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize.
Educated at Cambridge, he became close friends with non-Apostles Thoby Stephen and Clive Bell, and they, together with sisters Vanessa and Virginia Stephen (later Bell and Woolf respectively), eventually formed the Bloomsbury group. Strachey is credited with having revolutionized the art of writing biography. In reaction to the copious dull scholarship and the lengthy panegyrics of the 19th century, he determined to write biographies that were swift, selective, critical, witty, and artistic.
His work includes Eminent Victorians (1918), a volume of short biographical studies; Queen Victoria (1921), his masterpiece; Elizabeth and Essex (1928); and Portraits in Miniature (1931). As a critic, Strachey was the author of such works as Landmarks in French Literature, a study of the classical spirit (1912), and Books and Characters (1922).
Though Strachey spoke openly about his sexuality with his Bloomsbury friends (he had a relationship with economist JOHN MAYNARD KEYNES, who also was part of the Bloomsbury group), it was not widely publicized until the late 1960s, in a biography by Michael Holroyd. He had an odd relationship with the painter Dora Carrington. Allegedly, she loved him; it was unrequited, two months after Strachey’s death, she burned all of Strachey’s personal possessions and committed suicide.