Lytton Strachey and the Spectator

  • S. P. Rosenbaum


The Spectator, for which Lytton Strachey wrote a weekly review from August 1907 until April 1909, was unlike any other paper that Bloomsbury wrote for regularly. Except for the reminiscence of its name, the Spectator had no connection with Addison and Steele’s famous periodical; it descended instead from a nineteenth-century Benthamite paper. By the early twentieth century its politics were Independent Liberal, the liberalism being old rather than new like that of the Independent Review or the Speaker. Politically, St. Loe Strachey, the paper’s editor and proprietor, felt he lacked party influence because his tenets ran athwart Liberal and Tory lines (Amy Strachey, pp. 150–1). He advocated free-trade and imperialism but opposed Irish home rule. Almost all his causes were lost ones. Yet the Spectator was considered to be the most widely read political paper in the country. James Strachey, who worked for St. Loe later, estimated its circulation around 20,000 copies — triple that of any of its competitors. Every vicarage in the country was said to subscribe (LS/SE, p. 7).1 Thus Lytton Strachey’s anonymous Spectator reviews circulated more widely than Fry’s Athenaeum art criticism or Bell’s literary reviews, MacCarthy’s Speaker theatre notices or Virginia Woolf’s TLS reviews.


English Poetry Weekly Review Great Critic Spectator Review Modern Poetry 
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© S. P. Rosenbaum 1994

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  • S. P. Rosenbaum

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