The Charleston Bulletin was a handwritten, illustrated family newspaper created by Quentin and Julian Bell in the summer of 1923, when the siblings were teenagers. Quentin and Julian were the sons of artist Vanessa Bell (Virginia Woolf’s sister) and art critic Clive Bell. The Bulletin was produced daily, typed up each morning and presented to the family at breakfast. It chronicled daily events and adventures at Charleston, the family’s Sussex farmhouse. The boys were consciously continuing a family tradition: the Charleston Bulletin was modelled on Hyde Park Gate News, the newspaper produced by Virginia, Vanessa and Thoby Stephen when they were children.
‘Eminent Charlestonians’, shown here, was one in a series of Charleston Bulletin ‘Supplements’. Over five years Quentin Bell collaborated on these special issues with his aunt, Virginia Woolf, as she simultaneously wrote her major novels such as Mrs Dalloway (1925) and To the Lighthouse (1927). Sharing a mischievous sense of humour, Woolf wrote the text and Bell supplied the illustrations for their lively, irreverent faux-biographies of the Bloomsbury Group that poke fun at the circle’s eccentricities and mishaps. They are full of family jokes, fantastical tales, and ironic literary allusions. Common targets were Vanessa Bell, Clive Bell and Duncan Grant. Bell and Woolf intended to tease and amuse the adults, who were both their subjects and readers.
Who and what is ‘Eminent Charlestonians’ about?
‘Eminent Charlestonians’ was produced in 1923 in the vein of Lytton Strachey’s successful Eminent Victorians. It is a long manuscript divided into seven chapters, ‘an entirely original work being 40 incidents described and illustrated concerning 7 eminent Charlestonians’. The short scenes or ‘incidents’ depict the everyday events and misfortunes of Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant, Clive Bell, family friends the Bagenals, and servants Trissy, Emily and Alice, as well as other Charleston residents including Henry the dog.