Dorothy Bussy was a member of the Strachey family, one of ten children of Jane Strachey and the British Empire soldier and administrator Lt-Gen Sir Richard Strachey. Writer and critic Lytton Strachey and the first English translator of Freud, James Strachey, were her brothers. She was educated at the Marie Souvestre (1830–1905) girls' school at Les Ruches, Fontainebleau, France and later in England when Souvestre removed the school to Allenswood there. She was later a teacher with Souvestre, and one of her pupils was Eleanor Roosevelt. Dorothy Bussy and Marie Souvestre were both strong influences on the young Eleanor.
In 1903, Dorothy (37) married the French painter Simon Bussy (1870–1954), who knew Matisse, and was on the fringes of the Bloomsbury circle. He was five years younger, and the son of a shoemaker from the Jura town of Dole. Lady Strachey’s liberalism faltered at the sight of him actually cleaning up his plate with pieces of bread. The family drama "shook the regime of Lancaster Gate to its foundations" (Holroyd), and, despite the silent disapprobation of the older Stracheys, Dorothy remained determined to marry him with what her brother Lytton later called "extraordinary courage".
©Graystone Bird (1862-1943)/NPG x13111. Lady Strachey and daughters, ca. 1893 (Dorothy is 2nd from left) (©4)
Dorothy Bussy was an English novelist and translator, close to the Bloomsbury Group. In 1903, Dorothy, 37, married the French painter Simon Bussy, 5 years younger. Dorothy was bisexual and had an affair with Lady Ottoline Morrell. Lady Ottoline Morrell was an English aristocrat and society hostess. She married the MP Philip Morrell, but lovers may have included the philosopher Bertrand Russell, the painters Augustus John and Henry Lamb, the artist Dora Carrington, the art historian Roger Fry, and in her later years, there was even a brief affair with a gardener, Lionel Gomme.
Dorothy was bisexual and was involved in an affair with Lady Ottoline Morrell. She became friends with Charles Mauron, the lover of E.M. Forster.
Bussy anonymously published one novel, Olivia, in 1949, printed by the Hogarth Press, the publishing house founded by Leonard and Virginia Woolf, in which lesbian loves get entangled in the emotional and sexually charged atmosphere of erotic pedagogy in a girls' school. As well as drawing on her own experiences in the schools of Marie Souvestre, the novel's theme probably owes much to Bussy's viewing of the 1931 German film Mädchen in Uniform, that had been distributed in England before the Second World War. It may also owe something to Colette's novel Claudine at School (1900). Bussy's novel was translated into French and appeared in France with an introduction by Rosamond Lehmann. In 1951, the novel was filmed as Olivia, with the lesbian elements toned down, in France by Jacqueline Audry. A BBC radio dramatisation was broadcast in the 1990s. In 1999, her novel appeared at number 35 on Publishing Triangle's '100 best lesbian and gay novels' list.
Bussy was also a close friend of the French Nobel Prize winning author André Gide, whom she met by chance in the summer of 1918 when she was fifty-two, and with whom she struck up a lively correspondence. She adored him and translated all his works into English. Their long-distance friendship lasted for over thirty years. Their letters are published in Richard Tedeschi's Selected Letters of Andre Gide and Dorothy Bussy, and there is also a three-volume French edition. The originals are preserved in the British Library.
Her daughter was the painter Jane Simone Bussy (1906–1960).
Lady Ottoline Violet Anne Morrell (16 June 1873 – 21 April 1938) was an English aristocrat and society hostess. Her patronage was influential in artistic and intellectual circles, where she befriended writers including Aldous Huxley, Siegfried Sassoon, T.S. Eliot and D.H. Lawrence, and artists including Mark Gertler, Dora Carrington and Gilbert Spencer.
Born Ottoline Violet Anne Cavendish-Bentinck, she was the daughter of Lieutenant-General Arthur Cavendish-Bentinck (son of Lord and Lady Charles Bentinck) and his second wife, the former Augusta Browne, later created Baroness Bolsover. Lady Ottoline's great-great-uncle (through her paternal grandmother, Lady Anne Wellesley) was Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington. Ottoline was granted the rank of a daughter of a duke with the courtesy title of "Lady" when her half-brother William succeeded to the Dukedom of Portland in 1879, at which time the family moved into Welbeck Abbey in Nottinghamshire. The dukedom was a title which belonged to the Cavendish-Bentinck family and which passed to Lady Ottoline's branch upon the death of their cousin William Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck.
Morrell was known to have had many lovers. Her first love affair was with an older man, the doctor and writer Axel Munthe, but she rejected his impulsive proposal of marriage because her spiritual beliefs were incompatible with his atheism. In February 1902, she married the MP Philip Morrell, with whom she shared a passion for art and a strong interest in Liberal politics. They shared what would now be known as an open marriage for the rest of their lives. Philip's extramarital affairs produced several children who were cared for by his wife, who also struggled to conceal evidence of his mental instability. The Morrells themselves had two children (twins): a son, Hugh, who died in infancy, and a daughter, Julian.
Morrell had a long time affair with philosopher Bertrand Russell, with whom she exchanged more than 2000 letters. Her lovers may have also included the painters Augustus John, and Henry Lamb, the artist Dora Carrington, the art historian Roger Fry, and in her later years, there was even a brief affair with a gardener, Lionel Gomme, who was employed at Garsington. Her circle of friends included many authors, artists, sculptors and poets. Her work as a patron was enduring and influential, notably in her contribution to the Contemporary Art Society during its early years.
The Morrells maintained a townhouse in Bedford Square, in the Central London neighbourhood known as Bloomsbury, and restored Garsington Manor near Oxford. Morrell delighted in opening both as havens for like-minded people. 44 Bedford Square served as her London salon, while Garsington provided a convenient retreat, near enough to London for many of their friends to join them for weekends. She took a keen interest in the work of young contemporary artists, such as Stanley Spencer, and she was particularly close to Mark Gertler and Dora Carrington, who were regular visitors to Garsington during the war, whilst Gilbert Spencer lived for a while in a house on the Garsington estate.
During World War I, the Morrells were notable pacifists, not a popular position then. They invited conscientious objectors such as Duncan Grant, Clive Bell, and Lytton Strachey to take refuge at Garsington. Siegfried Sassoon, recuperating there after an injury, was encouraged to go absent without leave as a protest against the war.
The hospitality offered by the Morrells was such that most of their guests had no suspicion that they were in financial difficulties. Many of them assumed that Ottoline was a wealthy woman. This was far from being the case and during 1927, the Morrells were compelled to sell the manorhouse and its estate, and move to more modest quarters in Gower Street. In 1928 she was diagnosed with cancer, which resulted in a long hospitalization and the removal of her lower teeth and part of her jaw.
Later, Lady Ottoline remained a regular host to the adherents of the Bloomsbury Group, in particular Virginia Woolf, and to many other artists and authors, who included WB Yeats, LP Hartley, T.S. Eliot, and an enduring friendship with Welsh painter Augustus John. She was an influential patron to many of them, and a valued friend, who nevertheless attracted understandable mockery, due to her combination of eccentric attire with an aristocratic manner, extreme shyness and a deep religious faith that set her apart from her times. Her pioneering work as a decorator, colourist, and garden designer remains, to this day, curiously undervalued, but it was for her great gift for friendship that she was mourned when she died 21 April 1938. She actually died from an experimental drug given by a doctor. Henry Green, the novelist, wrote to Philip Morrell of "her love for all things true and beautiful which she had more than anyone...no one can ever know the immeasurable good she did".
Her memorial in St Winifred's Church, Holbeck was carved by Eric Gill.
Morrell wrote two volumes of memoirs, but these were edited and revised after her death, losing a little of their charm and much of their intimate detail in the process. She also maintained detailed journals, over a period of twenty years, which remain unpublished. But perhaps Lady Ottoline's most interesting literary legacy is the wealth of representations of her that appear in 20th-century literature. She was the inspiration for Mrs Bidlake in Aldous Huxley's Point Counter Point, for Hermione Roddice in D. H. Lawrence's Women in Love, for Lady Caroline Bury in Graham Greene's It's a Battlefield, and for Lady Sybilline Quarrell in Alan Bennett's Forty Years On. The Coming Back (1933), another novel which portrays her, was written by Constance Malleson, one of Ottoline's many rivals for the affection of Bertrand Russell. Some critics consider her the inspiration for Lawrence's Lady Chatterley. Huxley's roman à clef, Crome Yellow depicts the life at a thinly-veiled Garsington.
Non-literary portraits are also part of this interesting legacy, for example, as seen in the artistic photographs of her by Cecil Beaton. There are portraits by Henry Lamb, Duncan Grant, Augustus John, and others. Carolyn Heilbrun edited Lady Ottoline's Album (1976), a collection of snapshots and portraits of Morrell and of her famous contemporaries, mostly taken by Morrell herself.
She is portrayed by Tilda Swinton in Derek Jarman's film Wittgenstein and by Penelope Wilton in Christopher Hampton's film Carrington.
Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
Amazon: Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time
Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher
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