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Sherman, M.H. (1969/1970). Lytton Strachey: A Study in English Character and Eccentricity. Psychoanal. Rev., 56D(4):597-608.

(1969/1970). Psychoanalytic Review, 56D(4):597-608

Special Book Review

Lytton Strachey: A Study in English Character and Eccentricity

Review by:
Murray H. Sherman, Ph.D.

Lytton Strachey: A Critical Biography. Vol. I, The Unknown Years. Vol. II, The Years of Achievement. Michael Holroyd. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1967 & 1968. xxii + 479 & xii + 754 pp.

Lytton Strachey (1880-1932) is known mainly for his volumes on Eminent Victorians and Queen Victoria, but his interest to psychoanalysts today lies partly in the fact that he was the brother of the late James Strachey (1887-1967), the eminent translator and editor of Sigmund Freud. James had a close relationship with Lytton, and his wife Alix had been a good friend of Lytton's intimate companion Dora Carrington. Together James and Alix Strachey were able to supply to Lytton's biographer a huge file of correspondence as well as detailed reminiscences and other material. What has emerged is a large, infinitely detailed, two-volume life study of Lytton, which is definitive and perhaps a landmark in biographical frankness.

Holroyd candidly recognizes that Lytton Strachey was not a peerless writer or biographer. He has been judged somewhat superficial in his judgments and too eager to create effects rather than to probe deeply. Nevertheless, Strachey's volume on Eminent Victorians was one of the first important books to debunk the Victorian attitude of smugness and artificiality and was also among the first to set a style of intimacy and informality in biography, although to some extent these characteristics may be traced back as far as Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans.

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