Ottoline Morrell: Life on a Grand Scale

This book is to be republished by Harper Collins in 2024.


One name links Bertrand Russell and Axel Munthe, Augustus John and Henry Lamb, H.H. Asquith and Duncan Grant, Aldous Huxley and Lytton Strachey.

To some she was a lover, to others a confidante and adviser. To many she was a mother substitute. But wherever the phrase "Bloomsbury group" is spoken, Lady Ottoline Morrell's name is not far behind.

A half-sister of the Duke of Portland and wife to a Liberal MP, she ran a celebrated salon from 44 Bedford Square before the First World War, swiftly emerging as a personality in her own right. Later she offered solace, comfort and hospitality at Garsington Manor in Oxfordshire, to artists and writers, under-graduates, conscientious objectors or just mere hangers-on. Her influence, which was enormous, is only just beginning to be recognised. Aldous Huxley was one of many young writers who described her as having given him "a complete mental re-orientation".

"I have a horror of opening myself to the world," Ottoline wrote. Miranda Seymour is the only Bloomsbury biographer to be allowed access to family papers which include her lost correspondence with Lytton Strachey and the revealing private records she kept from 1902 (the year of her marriage) to her deatlh in 1938. This is also the first life of Ottoline to have full benefit of Bertrand Russell's 2,500 letters to her. Fresh and often startling light is thrown not only on her passionate relationship with Bertrand Russell and on her curious marriage to Philip Morrell, which survived against all odds, but also on the Bloomsberries, their snobbery, their malice and their deceit.

"A seductive model of elegant scholarship." Sue Gaisford, The Independent
"A kind of blissography, teeming with bon mots." Jilly Cooper, The Sunday Times Books of the Year
"Magnificent... you have not read a better book for years." Dirk Bogarde, Daily Telegraph Books of the Year
"A sympathetic and surely definitive account, adding greatly to our knowledge of the people and the period." Claire Tomalin, The Independent on Sunday
"Miranda Seymour’s elegant writing gives us an unforgettable window on the world at a point of profound change - sexually, creatively, and perhaps most importantly, across boundaries of class and race. A delight!" Joy Porter, Shepherd

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