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Ottoline Morrell: Life on the Grand Scale Hardcover – June, 1993

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Admitting to great admiration for her subject, Seymour ( Ring of Conspirators: Henry James and His Circle ) has nonetheless written a fully realized study of Ottoline Morrell (1873-1938), famed British patron of the arts. Morrell was satirized in print for her striking dress and extravagant personality, but, as Seymour recounts, the same writers who caricaturized her style accepted her financial support and flocked to her literary salons. Her frequent guests included T. S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf and D. H. Lawrence (who used Morrell as the model for Hermione Roddice in Women in Love ). Seymour's access to her subject's letters and diaries enables her to draw a detailed picture of Morrell's lengthy love affair with philosopher Bertrand Russell, provide a rich account of her life at Garsington--the country retreat used to house conscientious objectors during WW I--and share sharp observations of such Bloomsbury stalwarts as Duncan Grant, Lytton Strachey and Virginia Woolfe. Illustrations not seen by PW.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

Ottoline Morrell (1873-1938), benefactor to and social catalyst of the Bloomsbury Group, has found in Seymour (Ring of Conspirators, 1989, etc.) a sharp eye and fine sense of irony to tell, for the first time, her side of the story (her memoirs, which appeared shortly after her death, were edited by her husband)--and it's an amazing one, including nearly every artist and writer in early 20th-century England. With a title, a small inheritance, but little education, talent, or even good health, Ottoline married Philip Morrell, who became an MP. Through a devoted but asexual marriage that survived their many infidelities, the two created the most famous salon in modern England, first in London and then on the great country estate of Garsington, outside of Oxford. There, between the wars, among exotic birds and flowers, Bertrand Russell, D.H. and Frieda Lawrence, Eliot, Yeats, Virginia Woolf, Lytton Strachey, Maynard Keynes, Katherine Mansfield, Aldous Huxley, E.M. Forster, Graham Greene, Walter de la Mare, Oxford undergraduates, and a clutch of painters and dilletantes enjoyed their freedom, Morrell's hospitality and admiration, and the ``spirit of active benevolence'' in which she sheltered, fed, amused, comforted, and loved this unruly crowd--who repaid her with scurrilous letters, betraying her even as they used her. Over six feet tall with red hair and a taste for wearing bizarre costumes, Morrell was an easy mark for parody, but as Lawrence--who in Women in Love offered the most painful one--said, she ``moved men's imaginations.'' And her range was encompassing: She could enjoy a Henry James or Joseph Conrad, a Wittgenstein or the young stonemason with whom, late in life, she had her first successful sexual experience after a lifelong romance with Bertrand Russell. Social history at its best. Ottoline confided that ``life on a grand scale'' was ``damnably difficult''--and Seymour has captured that life splendidly. (Photographs) -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 451 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar Straus & Giroux (T) (June 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374228183
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374228187
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,523,130 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Henry Cohen on June 19, 2013
Format: Paperback
Miranda Seymour states in her epilogue that she lived with Ottoline Morrell, "so to speak, for the past four years." Through the memoirs, journals, and letters of Ottoline and those she knew, Ms. Seymour got to know Ottoline intimately, and she superbly presents what seems to be almost every waking moment of her life. Ottoline was six feet tall and wore red high-heeled shoes and big hats. She had an affair and then a long-term friendship with Bertrand Russell, and she knew D.H. Lawrence and the Bloomsbury circle well. She didn't speak to Lawrence for ten years after he based a character in "Women in Love" on her. She was a host or benefactor to, or at least visited, just about every major European writer of the early 20th century, including W.H. Auden, Max Beerbohm, Joseph Conrad, T.S. Eliot, E.M. Forster, André Gide, Maxim Gorky, Henry Green, Graham Greene, Thomas Hardy, Aldous Huxley, Henry James, James Joyce, Katherine Mansfield, Alberto Moravia, Siegfried Sassoon, Stephen Spender, Lytton Strachey, H.G. Wells, Thornton Wilder, Virginia Woolf, and W.B. Yeats. People she knew other than writers included Charlie Chaplin, Diaghilev, Augustus John, J.M. Keynes, Nijinsky, Picasso, William Walton, Kaiser Wilhelm II, and Herbert Asquith, the prime minister of the U.K. from 1908-1916.

She made small monthly payments to refugees and homeless women throughout World War I, and she later counseled prostitutes and unemployed women. She was generous in her opinions of almost everyone, yet, "What, the Bloomsberries might ask, had Ottoline achieved that gave her the right to judge her intellectual superiors, however kindly?" Her guests accepted her hospitality and then wrote letters to one another ridiculing her behind her back.
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Ms. Morrell had a very interesting life during the early 20th century. The story as told presents her as empathetic and attractive to many. Lord Russell was one of her admirers. She was quite the fashion leader and knew how to spend money. I enjoyed the book very much.
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1 of 8 people found the following review helpful By jane on September 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I received this book in quick order. I was especially impressed with the attention to detail in the packaging. Will certainly order from here again.
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