Literary Clubs and Groups in English Literature

Literary Clubs and Groups in English Literature

Literary Clubs and Groups in English Literature : The English literature is fertile with many literary clubs which emerged in the literary arena in order to encourage, support and help the budding writers and thinkers of the respective periods. They were associated with literary schools and movements in the literary world. These literary clubs were established for the exchange of ideas and to discuss literary issues of the time.

Most of the literary groups also had mouthpieces in some literary periodicals expressing principles and ideology of these groups. These clubs became rendezvous for the writers, journalists, politicians, illustrators, sculptors, critics and painters who were members of the clubs.

Literary Clubs and Groups in English Literature

Here is a brief note on the famous literary clubs and groups in English literature in chronological order which imparts useful information about the formation and members of these literary clubs. I have tried to condense the information to save the time and energy of the readers.

Famous Literary Clubs and Groups in English Literature

Scriblerus Club:

The Scriblerus Club was a loose group of literary writers who detested pretentious learning and false tastes. It appeared on the literary scene in 1713 but was in action only from January to July 1714. The club was named after an imaginary character ‘Martinus Scriblerus’, a German of Münster who is famous for his great learning but he has no practical knowledge and judgement at all. The primary aim of the Scriblerus Club was to burlesque false science and study through the character of an educated fool ‘Martinus Scriblerus’.

The character of Martinus Scriblerus was originally carved out by John Arbuthnot in his famous prose work, “Memoirs of the Extraordinary Life, Works and Discoveries of Martinus Scriblerus” which was published in 1741. John Arbuthnot’s prose satire was written in collaboration with Alexander Pope. It was brutal attack on the contemporary knowledge and study.

Some of the chief members of the Scriblerus Club were William CongreveJohn GayAlexander PopeJonathan SwiftThomas ParnellLord Oxford and John Arbuthnot.

The character of Martinus Scriblerus inspired many writers like Henry Fielding, George Crabbe, and Richard Owen Cambridge who employed variants of the pseudonym in their works.

Jonathan’s Swifts satire “Gulliver’s Travels” is powerful indictment on man and his foolish activities. It was published in 1726. In “Gulliver’s Travels” the writer has satirized the party spirit and religious dissensions prevailing in England.

Alexander Pope’s mock-critical manual “Peri Bathous”, or The art of Sinking in Poetry” published in 1727 and his famous restoration satire “The Dunciad” published in 1728 were influenced by Memoirs of Martinus Scriblerus.

John Gay’s poem “Mr. Pope’s Welcome from Greece” written in 1720 gives an account of the members of the Scriblerus Club and of other contemporary figures. It was published in 1776. The poem was written on the completion of Pope’s translation of Homer’s “Iliad”.

Thomas Parnell was a member of the Scriblerus Club who is famous for his ‘graveyard poem‘ called ‘Night-Piece on Death‘ which appealed to Oliver Goldsmith and Samuel Johnson.

The Kit-Cat Club:

The Kit-Cat Club was formed in the early part of the 18th century by the members of the Whig Party. Many famous literary figures like Joseph AddisonRichard SteeleSir John VanbrughSamuel Garth, and William Congreve were associated with the Kit-Cat Club. The members of the Kit-Cat Club used to gather at the tavern kept by a pastry cook named Christopher Kat or Cat. The Kit-Cat club was situated near the Temple Bar, London. Christopher Kat’s mutton pies were famous and they were called as ‘Kit-Cats’.

Later on, the Kit-Cat Club shifted to the premises of Jacob Tonson’s house at Barn Elms. He was a renowned publisher and bookseller of the period. It is important to note that Jacob Tonson was the secretary of the Kit-Cat Club. At Tonson’s house, Sir Godfrey Kneller, a famous portrait painter, produced his fine paintings of leading literary figures of the 18th century, and many earlier rulers, generals, and admirals. He artistically painted John Dryden and Matthew Prior’s portraits.

Sir Godfrey Kneller’s portraits also throw light on the beauties of the Royal Court. His ‘Kit-Cat’ portraits are less than half length which suits to the low roof of the dining hall. The half-sized canvas of the portraits covers only the head and one hand so it has come to be known as ‘Kit Cat’. Joseph Addison, one of the leading Whigs, composed a poem on Godfrey Kneller’s painting of George I.

The Select Society:

The Select Society was a Scottish literary circle of the moral philosophers, mathematicians, and thinkers who discussed many religious, political and philosophical questions. It was formed in 1754 in EdinburghScotland.

Some of the leading figures of the Select Society were William WilkieHugh BlairAdam FergusonAdam Smith, and David Hume.

William Wilkie was a mathematician and Classicist who produced his epic poem, “The Epigomiad” in 1757. It is modelled on Homer and Sophocles’s works. The poem deals with the story of the siege of Thebes. It was written in heroic couplet and appreciated by David Hume and Adam Smith.

Hugh Blair was closely associated with the Select Society. He is the author of “A Critical Dissertation on the Poems of Ossian”. It was published in 1763. According to Hugh Blair, James Macpherson’s famous work “Fingal” contains ‘all the essential requisites of a true and regular epic’.

Adam Ferguson, another member of the Select Society, was a professor of moral philosophy and mathematics in Edinburgh. He believed that Poetry is more natural form of literary expression than prose. According to Adam Ferguson, literature develops and prospers better during the course of social activity than in leisure and loneliness. He composed a work “The Morality of Stage-Plays Seriously Considered” which was published in 1757.

Another renowned figure of the Select Society was Adam Smith who brought immense change in the economic theory with the publication of his work “An Enquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations”. It was published in 1776. According to Adam Smith, conventional trade and commerce restricts the growth of nations and it aggravates poverty in society.

Adam Smith’s theory laid the foundation of the modern economic theory. It is important to note that he composed his “Wealth of Nations” during his stay in London for three years. It is important to note that he got admitted to the Club in 1776.

David Hume, the central sun of the Select Society, had little to do with English literary arena. He produced “A Treatise of Human Nature” between 1739 and 1740, and “Essays Moral and Political” in 1741-42.

James Burnett Monboddo was associated with the Select Society. He has been considered as the pioneer in anthropology. He believed that civilization caused corruption. He was criticized by Dr. Johnson for his love for the idea that primitive man might have vestigial tail. He produced his work “Ancient Metaphysics” between 1779 and 1799.

Literary Clubs and Groups in English Literature

 The Club:

Dr. Samuel Johnson founded a Literary Club at the Turk’s Head, Soho in 1764. Some of the chief members of the Club were David GarrickOliver GoldsmithJames BoswellEdmund BurkeThomas PercyGeorge ColmanGeorge SteevensRichard Brinsley SheridanEdward MaloneWilliam Pitt,, and Charles James Fox. It was also frequently visited by Edward Gibbon. The idea of formation of the Club was suggested to Johnson by Joshua Reynolds. Many budding writers and politicians of the time were associated with the Club.

Lunar Society; or Lunar Circle:

The Lunar Society was a group of intellectuals, theologians, natural scientists and thinkers in Birmingham who used to gather for the meetings during the full moon. The members of the Lunar Circle could meet and go home safely in the full moon light. It was so because of the absence of electricity in those days.

They called themselves as “Lunaticks” which was a pun on the word ‘lunatics’. The Lunar Society was also known as ‘Lunar Circle’ when it was established. In 1775, it was named as Lunar Society.

Some of the chief figures of the Lunar Society were Erasmus DarwinJoseph PriestleyMatthew BoultonJames Watt, and Josiah Wedgewood.

Some of the meetings of the Lunar Society were held at Darwin’s house in Lichfield where he developed a botanical garden. Erasmus Darwin translated Carl von Linnaeus’s “Genera Plantarum” {1771}, a theory of plant classification as “The Botanic Garden” which appeared between 1789 and 1791.

The first part of it appeared as “The Economy of Vegetation” and the second part “The Loves of Plants” in 1789. The poem also contains Darwin’s views on scientific and industrial matters. It is important to note that it was parodied by John Hookham Frere as “The Loves of the Triangle” in the literary magazine “Anti-Jacobin” in 1798.

Joseph Priestley, one of the members of the Lunar Society was a famous chemist and one of the founders of the Unitarian Society. He wrote religious treatises. His “Essay on the First Principle of Government” was published in 1768, and “Disquisition relating to Matter of Spirit” in 1777. It is important to note that his laboratory and Birmingham house was attacked by a mob due to views on the French Revolution. The Lunar Society served people from 1765 to 1813.

Joseph Wright, a friend to Erasmus Darwin, was famous for his paintings, and effects of  light: moonlight, candlelight, and the lights coming through the window-panes. He was patronized by Josiah Wedgewood. His works vividly present the scientific zeal in the industrial Midlands. It is important to note that Erasmus Darwin’s famous poem “The Botanical Garden” resembles to Joseph wright’s marvellous pictures in feeling. He seemed to be associated with the Lunar Society.

Jenny Uglow’s study of the Lunar Society called “The Lunar Men” was published in 2003 which throws light on the activities of the members of Lunar Society. It won for the writer name and fame with a prestigious James Tait Black Memorial Prize.

Literary Clubs and Groups in English Literature

Blue-Stockings Group:

The term “Blue-Stockings” has been applied in disparaging sense for the intellectual and sociable women of the later part of the eighteenth century. It was probably named after the unconventional cheap and worsted ‘blue-stockings’ worn instead of the black silk stockings by Benjamin Stillingfleet.

Some of the active members of the ‘Blue-Stockings’ Club were Mrs. Elizabeth VeseyHannah MoreHester ChaponeMrs. Frances BoscawenElizabeth Montagu, Elizabeth CarterMary Delany. They were women of aristocratic background.

It was Elizabeth Vesey who resolved to establish a literary and fashionable society for new type of evening party with the support of her husband in the 1750s. She had a novel method of breaking her parties into small groups. She hosted the meetings for nearly 50 years.

The primary aim of the ‘Blue-Stockings’ group was to promote and encourage the budding literary genius. The ‘Blue-Stockings’ group took delight in tea, coffee, and lemonade parties instead of drinking alcohol and card-games. It abhorred political discussions and swearing. Elizabeth Vesey hosted the meetings of the ‘Blue-Stockings’ group in early 1750s.

Many famous men of letters were regular visitors of the group including Samuel Johnson, Horace Walpole, Samuel Richardson, David Garrick, Joshua Reynolds, and James Boswell. They were invited as guests of the meetings. A few meetings of the group were held at the houses of Joshua Reynolds, and Hester Thrale.

Hannah More has described the conversational charm of the Blue-Stockings group in her poem “Bas Bleu”. It was composed in 1782 and published in 1784. She was supported and encouraged by the ‘Blue-Stockings’ club. She became a member of the group in 1775. In her poem “Bas Bleu” Hannah More has hailed Elizabeth Vesey, Frances Boscawen, and Elizabeth Montagu as ‘the triple crown’ who hosted the meetings of the ‘Blue-Stockings’. Horace Walpole was a regular attender and staunch supporter of the ‘Blue-Stockings’ society; he called Elizabeth Vesey’s gatherings as ‘Babels’.

Another celebrated hostess of the ‘Blue Stockings’ was Elizabeth Montagu. She helped many budding authors of the time with money and encouragement. She began to host meetings of the Blue-Stockings society in 1750s. Hannah More hailed her as ‘the female Maecenas of Hill St”. She was called as ‘Queen of the Blues” by Dr. Samuel Johnson.

Hartford Wits or The Connecticut Wits:

It was a literary group of writers of Connecticut who trod on the path of the two great English writers Alexander Pope and Joseph Addison. The Hartford wits are also known as Connecticut Wits which appeared on the literary scene about the period of the American Revolution {1765-1791}. The members of the Hartford Society were undergraduates of the Yale University. They had conservative tastes in literature and politics. Their philosophical principles were also conservative.

The leading members of the Hartford Wits were: Joel BarlowTimothy DwightJohn TrumbullDavid HumphreysLemuel Hopkins, and Elihu Hubbard Smith.

Joel Barlow, one of the chief members of the Connecticut Wits composed a lengthy patriotic epic poem called “The Vision of Columbus” which was published in 1787. In 1807, the title of the poem was changed as “The Columbiad” when it revised. ‘The Columbiad’ was written in heroic couplets.

Another important work of Joel Barlow is his mock-epic “The Hasty Pudding” which was published in 1796. The Hartford wits bitterly attacked social and political evils including the obsolete and outdated curriculum in sarcastic vein.

The most important work of the Hartford Wits is “The Anarchiad” which was composed jointly by David Humphreys, Joel Barlow, Trumbull and Hopkins. It is written in satiric vein and it expresses their opposition to the Articles of Confederation. In this mock-epic, the Hartford wits raised question regarding democratic society. They expressed their views in favour of federal union.

Timothy Dwight wrote some poems ad songs praising the soldiers of the American Revolution. Another member of the Hartford wits, John Trumbull composed a poem called “M’Fingal” in satiric vein attacking the British policy.

Similarly, David Humphreys wrote a few patriotic poems such as “Address to the Armies of the United States of America”. Many of the members of the Connecticut group joined the Continental army except Trumbull.

With the passage of time, the Hartford Wits moved away from their goal and followed their personal interests and aspirations. Some of the m left poetry and embraced politics and law while the others continued to satirized the social evils.

Literary Clubs and Groups in English Literature

Knickerbocker Group:

The term ‘Knickerbocker’ has been derived from a burlesque called “A History of New York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty” by Washington Irving published in under a pseudonym as Diedrich Knickerbocker in 1809. The term ‘Knickerbocker’ became famous with the publication of Irving’s comic history of an imaginary Dutchman named Diedrich Knickerbocker.

The Knickerbocker school was a loose group of American writers of the early nineteenth century. It comprised some renowned writers of the period like Washington IrvingJames Fenimore CooperHenry Wadsworth Longfellow, and William Cullen Bryant. Though these writers had no common purpose, they were associated with the New York State when it became an epicenter of literary activity.

The Knickerbocker School of writers had a mouthpiece in a literary magazine named, “Knickerbocker Magazine” which began in New York City in 1833. It was edited by Charles Fenno Hoffman. Arthur Compton-Rickett aptly remarks, “In many ways Irving is to American prose what Longfellow is to its poetry: he is varied, wholesome, and attractive writer.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, another member of the group, is chiefly known for his poetry. His poetical work, “The Song of Hiawatha” appeared on the literary scene in 1858. It is modelled on Indian folktales. It is written in an unrhymed octosyllabic verse: a verse made up of four metrical feet comprising eight syllables. The octosyllabic verse was in vogue in medieval period.

James Fenimore Cooper is another important member of the Knickerbocker School. He is best known for his group of the Leather-Stocking novels. The Leather stocking series comprised five novels. The first novel of the group named “The Pioneers” was published in 1823, “The Last of the Mohicans” in 1826 and “The Prairie” in 1827.

The other two novels “The Pathfinder” was published in 1840 and “The Deerslayer” appeared in 1841. In the Leather-Stocking novels deals with tales of frontier life in Indian region. They are called after the deerskin stockings of the hero Natty Bumppo.  It is important to note that James Fenimore Cooper has often been compared with Sir Walter Scott. He has been hailed as the ‘American Walter Scott’.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s another famous work “The Courtship of Miles Standish” was published in 1858. It is based on a New England legend. His “Tales of a Wayside Inn” is modeled on Geoffrey Chaucer’s famous poem “Canterbury Tales” which written in melodious hexameter. It was published in 1863.

William Cullen Bryant earned name and fame with the publication of his poem in blank verse named “Thanatopsis” in 1817. Most of his poems are inspired by William Wordsworth. His work “Thanatopsis” is a meditation on death. There is fine blending of purity and precision in his poetry. It was published in the literary periodical “North American Review”.

Literary Clubs and Groups in English Literature

Apostles Society; or Cambridge Conversazione Society:

It was a society of writers, thinkers, critics, scholars, and philosophers who were associated with the Trinity College, Cambridge. The society came into being for formal discussion and friendship in 1820.

Some of the founder members of the Apostles are Alfred TennysonArthur Henry HallamMonckton Milnes, and Richard Trevenix Trench. Later on, it was joined by some other thinkers like G.E. MooreBertrand RussellLytton StracheyMaynard KeynesLeonard Woolf, and E.M. Forster.

In his famous poem, “Bothie of Toher-na-vuolich”, Arthur Hugh Clough has reflected upon the society’s function and faith in reasoned discussion. The poem was published in 1848 and it was originally entitled as “The Bothie of Toper-na-fuosich”.

The poem tells the readers about a student reading party in Scotland. The student, Philip gets attracted to a peasant girl, Elspie and falls in love with her. She represents mother earth and work.

Arthur Hugh Clough’s poem, “Bothie of Toher-na-vuolich” is an account of an excursion of Oxford students in the Highland. It is influenced by William Wordsworth and unveils the healing and spiritualizing power of Nature.

Sterling Club:

The Sterling Club was named after a writer John Sterling who was a friend to Thomas Carlyle and one of the proprietors of the literary periodical “Athenaeum”. The Sterling Club took birth in 1838 and the members of the club used to gather for monthly literary meetings.

Some of the chief members of the Sterling Club were John SterlingThomas CarlyleJohn Stuart MillLord Alfred Tennyson, and Julius Hare.

Thomas Carlyle paid a tribute to his intimate friend in his biography “Life of Sterling” in 1851. The work presents a vivid picture of a tragic life of John Sterling. Thomas Carlyle’s biography of John Sterling ranks among the best of his literature. It is a perfectly sincere and natural expression of the writer. It was Thomas Carlyle’s biographical sketch of John Sterling which made him famous.

It is important to note that John Sterling was one of the members of an intellectual society known as “Apostles of S.T. Coleridge” founded in Cambridge University in 1820.

Literary Clubs and Groups in English Literature

Transcendental Club:

The Transcendental Club was a group of writers and thinkers of the first half of the nineteenth century. It was not a formal group as such but a group of writers and intellectuals who had similar literary tastes and principles. They used to assemble at Emerson’s house to discuss social, religious, philosophical, and economical issues of the period. The Transcendental Club had revolutionary ideas which changed the countenance of the United States.

In 1841, Ralph Waldo Emerson expressed his theories of Transcendentalism in his lecture “The Transcendentalist” which is based on the philosophical doctrines propounded by Immanuel Kant. According to Kant, the cognizance of categories, shapes and various forms such as space, time, and quantity are imposed on whatever we see and perceive by the constitution of human mind. The Transcendentalist Club adhered to Immanuel Kant’s theories of intuitive knowledge. The Transcendentalists considered natural phenomena as symbols of higher spiritual truths.

In his essay, “The American Scholar’ Emerson has appealed America to assert its intellectual independence of Europe. His essay “Nature” published in 1836 can be deemed as the manifesto of Transcendentalism. The Transcendentalists believed in the power of intuition and private conscience because for them they are valid moral guides. In America, Transcendentalism was at its acme between 1835 and 1860, especially in New England.

In his essay, “The Poet”, Ralph Waldo Emerson declares, “America is a poem in our eyes.” The transcendentalism was greatly inspired by German philosophy, and the theories of William WordsworthSamuel Taylor Coleridge and Thomas Carlyle. It had a mouthpiece in the literary periodical “The Dial” which began in 1840.

Another important member of Transcendentalism is Henry David Thoreau who was ‘a mystic, a transcendentalist, and natural philosopher’. He produced his seminal book “Walden, or Life in the Woods” in 1854. “Walden” holds the spirit of Transcendentalism whish questions the material progress man has made and the prevailing work ethic of the time. Henry Thoreau’s “Walden” presents his life in self-sufficiency and his agricultural experiments in the vicinity of a Walden Pond, near Concord. Henry Thoreau’s “Walden” is written in autobiographical vein which displays a kind of revolt against modern materialism.

It is important to note that Henry Thoreau’s theory of passive resistance was later on adopted by M.K. Gandhi in the Indian Freedom Movement. Henry Thoreau has propounded his theories in his essay “Civil Disobedience” which was published in 1849.

Some of the members of Transcendental Club were Margaret FullerFrederick Henry HedgeTheodore ParkerAmos Bronson AlcottWilliam Henry ChanningElizabeth PeabodyGeorge Ripley and Jones Very. The Transcendentalists way of interpreting nature in symbolic terms influenced the works of Nathaniel HawthorneHerman Melville, and Walt Whitman.

The Transcendental utopian principles of the Transcendental Club can be traced in the Brook Farm Community of George Ripley. It was a communal experiment in West RoxburyMassachusetts, near Boston. It began in 1841 and ceased to work in 1847 due to disagreement among its members and insufficient soil fertility at Brook Farm.

The primary goal of the Brook Farm Institute of Agriculture and Education was to cater to its members an opportunity for cultural pursuits and amusement with education. The members of the Brook Farm would work on the basis of rotation and they could also attend lectures, read, write and discuss various issues at the Farm.

Nathaniel Hawthorne has artistically depicted his own experiences at the Brook Farm community in his novel, “The Blithedale Romance” when he resided at Brook Farm in 1841. It was published in 1852.

Literary Clubs and Groups in English Literature

Saturday Club:

The Saturday Club was a group of intellectual writers and thinkers of the first half of the nineteenth century who resided in Boston and Cambridge. It had no specific rules or principles. The members of the Club would discuss many issues in the monthly meetings. The Saturday Club had a mouthpiece in a literary periodical “Atlantic Monthly”. Many works of the writers appeared in the “Atlantic Monthly Magazine”.

Some of the chief members of the Saturday Club were Ralph Waldo EmersonHenry Wadsworth LongfellowLouis AgassizOliver Wendell Holmes, James Russell Lowell, and Benjamin Pierce.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow produced his prose romance, “Hyperion” which deals with a journey of a young man who tries to forget the hardships and pains of his life in the course of travel. The work was published in 1839. It is pregnant with philosophical discourses, poems and legends.

Oliver Wendell Holmes composed some fine reflective essays such as, “Autocrat at the Breakfast Table” published in 1858, “The Poet at the Breakfast Table” in 1872, and “Over the Tea-Cups” in 1891. He also wrote memoirs of Ralph Waldo Emerson and John Lothrop Motley. He also produced a poem called “At the Saturday Club” which deals with the memories of meetings at the Saturday Club. It was published in 1884.

James Russell Lowell worked as an editor of the Atlantic Monthly Magazine. He became famous for his prose-work “Biglow Papers” published in 1848.

Savage Club:

The emergence of the Savage Group can be traced in 1857; it was named after the eighteenth century poet Richard Savage. Some of the chief members of the group were George SalaDylan ThomasGeorge and Weedon Grossmith and Edgar Wallace.

George Augustus Sala was a journalist and illustrator who contributed to Charles Dickens’ literary periodical “Household Words”. George and Weddon Grossmith wrote the “Diary of a Nobody” in collaboration which appeared in the “Punch” magazine. It was published in 1892 and illustrated by Weedon Grossmith.

Savile Club:

The origin of the Savile Club can be found in the second part of the nineteenth century in 1868 when it was originally called as the Eclectic Club. It was later on known as the New Club in 1869. When the meeting place of the Club was shifted to Savile Row in 1871, it was renamed as Savile Club. Later on, it was moved to 69, Brook Street in 1927.

Some of the members of the Savile Club were Robert Louis StevensonEdmund GosseThomas HardyWilliam Butler YeatsLytton Strachey, and Henry James. The members of the club had a peculiar style of writing and set of beliefs. They chose their material from a wide range of sources and authorities.

The Rhymers’ Club:

The Rhymers’ Club was actually a meeting place of the budding poets of the 1890s. Many poets of the decadent movement of the 1890s were associated with the Rhymers’ Club. It was situated at Cheshire Cheese in Fleet Street, London. It got increased in size when it came in contact with Herbert Horne’s artists group at Fitzroy Street in 1891.

Arthur Symons, the cicerone of the age, has described the objectives and origin of the Rhymers’ Club in his essay on Ernest Dowson. It was arranged that the poets would read and discuss each other’s poems. They would try to recapture something of the Gallic spirit of art and the charm of open discussion in the Latin Quartier in London. It is important to note that the Rhymers’ Club had no specific rules or officers.

The Rhymers’ Club comprised the following members: Ernest DowsonJohn DavidsonArthur SymonsWilliam Butler YeatsVictor PlarrGeorge Arthur GreeneLionel JohnsonEdwin J. EllisErnest RhysArthur Cecil HillierRichard Le GallienneErnest RadfordThomas William Rollestone, and John Todhunter.

Though Oscar Wilde attended a few meetings at the Rhymers’ Club, he was never a member of the Rhymers’ Club. There were a few permanent guests of the Club like John Gray, Edward Rose, J.T. Nettleship, Morley Roberts, A.B. Chamberlain, Edward Garnett and Edward Theodore Peters.

Cambridge Ritualists, or The Myth and Ritual Group:

The Cambridge Ritualists’ Group was a group of twentieth century Classical scholars and thinkers like Gilbert MurrayJane HarrisonF.N. Cornford, and A.B. Cook. These classical scholars believed that the origin of drama is deeply rooted in religious rituals.

The term, ‘Cambridge Ritualists’ has been employed in the context of myth and tragedy. The Cambridge Ritualists studied Greek tragedy under the light of the anthropological theories propounded by James George Frazer in his famous work, “The Golden Bough” published in 1890. It comprises twelve volumes

Bloomsbury Group:

The emergence of the Bloomsbury Group can be traced in 1904. It was a loose group of modern literary artists. It was situated in 46 Gordon Street, Bloomsbury area, London in the house of Leslie Stephen, father of Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf. The Bloomsbury group did not observe any doctrine and it had no specific objectives. It was not a formal group as such but it appeared on the literary scene in the 1920 with the formation of the ‘Memoir Club’ in the house of Leslie Stephen. It was influenced by the moral philosophy of G.E. Moore’s propounded in “Principia Ethica” {1903}.

According to Vanessa Bell, the Bloomsbury Group was linked by a taste for discussion in pursuit of truth and contempt for conventional ways of thinking and feeling, and contempt for conventional morals if you will. The Bloomsbury Group can be considered as a revolt against Victorian puritanism and pretensions. It had great influence on British culture between 1920 and 1940. The members used to discuss political and literary affairs of the period.

Some of the members of the Bloomsbury Group were Vanessa BellVirginia WoolfGeoffrey KeynesLytton StracheyLeonard WoolfE.M. ForsterRoger FryDavid GarnettDuncan GrantDesmond and Molly MacCarthyJohn Maynard KeynesDuncan GrantClive Bell, and Frances {Catherine} Patridge.

Lytton Strachey, one of the leading figures of the Bloomsbury Group, brought inventiveness in the art of biography. He produced a remarkable work “Eminent Victorians”, a collection of four biographical essays of Cardinal Manning, Florence Nightingale, Thomas Arnold, and General Gordon. Lytton Strachey earned name and fame with its publication in 1918. The work reflects Strachey’s detestation for the moral pretensions of the Victorian age.

Another famous work of Lytton Strachey called “Elizabeth I and Essex: A Tragic History” appeared on the scene in 1928. It describes the relationship between Elizabeth I and her father. The work conveys the impact of their relationship on Earl of Essex. It is important note that Lytton Strachey was also a member of the ‘Apostles”.

Vanessa Bell, the chief figure of the Bloomsbury Group, produced several portraits of the members of the Bloomsbury Group. She was a prolific writer and painter.

Clive Bell, husband of Vanessa Stephen, produced his theory of “Significant Form” in his work called “Art” which emphasizes the importance of form in a work of art. Clive Bell was greatly influenced by Roger Fry. He produced a work, “Civilization” which is pregnant with irony and wit. He remarked that civilization is itself artificial and marked with discrimination, reason and tolerance.

As a central figure of the Bloomsbury Group, Virginia Woolf depicted a fictional world which cannot be called a reflection of the actual world. She created a world of her own which is devoid of the coarseness and roughness of life. She excluded the ugly and coarser issues of common life from her works.

Leonard Woolf was a publisher, writer, commentator; and husband of Virginia Woolf. He was more involved in the arena of journalism and political writings. His novel, “The Village in the Jungle” presents anti-imperialist theme. Leonard Woolf, like Roger Fry, was linked to the group of Apostles.

Roger Fry, an art critic and painter, organized exhibitions of Post-Impressionists’ Paintings in 1910 and 1912. He was also associated with the group of Apostles.

According to D.H. Lawrence, the Bloomsbury Group was a tight little world peopled by upper-middle-class ‘black beetles’.

Frances Patridge was also associated with the Bloomsbury Group. Her ‘Diaries‘ present the account of the Bloomsbury Group from 1930 to 1970.

Literary Clubs and Groups in English Literature

The Inklings Group:

The emergence of the ‘Inklings’ group can be traced in the first half of the 20th century. The term, ‘Inklings’ has been taken from a small under-graduate society established in 1931 at University CollegeOxford.

Clive Staples Lewis adopted the name for a loose group of writers, thinkers and philosophers for informal meetings. They used to meet at C.S. Lewis’ rooms at Magdalen College, Oxford between 1930s and 1960s. Some of the meetings were also held at Oxford pubs such as the ‘Eagle’ and ‘Child’.

The important members of the group were: Clive Staples LewisNevis CoghillJ.R.R. TolkienCharles Williams, and Owen Barfield. The Inklings were interested in traditional and narrative fiction and fantasy literature. They had their own rules and regulations. The members used to gather to read aloud the original works of writers and they discussed many literary issues of the period.

It is interesting to note that J.R.R. Tolkien read aloud his famous works “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” at the Inklings Society. Clive Staples Lewis produced “The Chronicles of Narnia” which comprises seven stories. It is highly allegorical in nature and implies C.S. Lewis’ views about Christianity. Charles Williams, one of the members of the Inklings, composed his famous poetical works based on Arthurian legend named “Taliessin through Logres” in 1938 and “The Region of the Summer Stars” in 1944.

Malone Society:

The Malone Society took birth in 1906 and its primary aim was to facilitate the study of the early 17th century English plays to the restoration age. The Malone Society was established by Sir Walter Wilson Greg and Ronald McKerrow. It was named after Edmond Malone, a scholar and leading literary figure of the Club. 

Sir Walter Greg published a finding list of the early 17th century English plays in 1900. His outstanding work, “A Bibliography of the English Printed Drama to the Restoration” was published between 1939 and 1959. Another important contribution of Sir Walter Greg is his edition of Philip Henslow’s “Diary and Papers” published between 1904 and 1908.

The work vividly displays Sir Walter Greg’s interest and knowledge of Elizabethan theatrical past. He enriched the study of drama with his scholarly criticism and reviews which he applied to the editions of manuscript plays, for example “Sir Thomas More’ published in 1911. He also published a parallel text of Christopher Marlowe’s famous play, “Doctor Faustus” in 1950. 

Ronald McKerrow, a bibliographer and companion of Walter Greg, produced important edition of the work of Thomas Nashe between 1904 and 1910 and “An Introduction to Bibliography for Literary Students” in 1927.

Literary Clubs and Groups in English Literature

The Boom:

It was a group of twentieth century authors of Latin America who followed the footsteps of European and North American modernist writers like James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, and William Faulkner. They were inspired by these writers and they adhered to the narrative techniques and style of their masters.

Some of the chief members of the Boom group are Gabriel Garcia MarquezMario Vargas LlosaJulio Cortãzar, and Carlos Fuentes. The Boom authors employed the narrative techniques and style in their works and they artistically blended realism and fantasy in their literature. Their works are tinged with humour and irony. The Boom authors were promoted by a literary magazine “Mundo Nuevo” in Paris.

The Boom group of authors did not blindly follow their masters but made some changes in their writings and they tried to bring in novelty and variety in their works. For example, Gabriel Garcia Marquez employed magical realism in his work “Cien aňos de soledad, or One Hundred Years of Solitude” published in 1967.

Similarly, Carlos Fuentes tried to present complexity and violence in Mexico in his novel “La muerte de Artemio Cruz, or The Death of Artemio Cruz” in 1962. Mario Vargas Llosa’s two novels “La ciudad y los perros, or The Time of the Hero” {1963} and “La casa verde, or The Green House” depict the turbulent condition in Peru.

In brief, the Boom authors liked to experiments in their works and tried to attract the attention of readers with their novel style and narrative techniques which could appeal a wide range of readers.

Lyon School:

The Lyon School was a group of French poets and artists whose works dealt primarily with the Platonic and spiritual theory of love. The members of the Lyon school derived inspiration from Plato and Plutarch. The emergence of the Lyon school can be traced in Antoine Heroet’s work, “Parfaicte Amye” which appeared on the literary scene in 1542. Many women artists and poets were actively participated in the meetings of the school.

Some of the chief members of the Lyon school were Maurice Scève, his two sisters, Claudine and Sibylle ScèveClaude de TailllemontJeanne GaillardePernette de GuilletClémence de Borges, and Louise Labe.

The Lyon school flourished under the leadership of Maurice Scève who was compared to John Donne by Henry Cary. He was a French poet and humanist. His famous work is “Délie, objet de plus haute vertu” a sequence of 449 decasyllabic dizains (designs). They deal with the inner conflict in love. It was published in 1544.

Maurice Scève also composed some famous pastoral eclogues like “Arion” published in 1536, and “La Soulsaye” in 1547. His epic poem “Le Microcosm” deals with the fall of Adam and the history of mankind. It was published in 1562. His works were published in the “London Magazine”.

Read it also:  Apocalyptic literature

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