The Strachey family

When we talk about the Strachey family we usually mean the English family, lived in India. But the Strachey family was established a long time ago in England, the first members of this family were well known in the 18th century.

Sir Henry Strachey lived in 1736-1810 was 1st Baronet and private secretary to Lord Clive. Sir Henry Strachey, son of an impoverished Somerset County family, began his public career as a clerk in the War Office in 1764. The same year he became secretary to Clive and spent the next decade in India. He continued in a key position in the brief Shelburne administration as undersecretary of the Home Department, and in this office, was one of the negotiators of the peace treaty ending the American Revolutionary War. Richard Charles Strachey lived in 1781-1847; he was the son of Sir Henry Strachey. Edward Strachey, 1st Baron Strachey was born on 30 October 1858. He married Constance Braham on 17 January 1880. He died on 25 July 1936 at age 77. Sir John Strachey (1823-1907), British Indian civilian, fifth son of Edward Strachey, was born in London on 5 June 1823. After passing through Haileybury, Strachey entered the Bengal civil service in 1842, and served in the North-Western Provinces, occupying many important positions.

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The Strachey family in India was founded by Richard and Jane Strachey. They have ten children, which were of the new generation. Children grouped themselves as if into two generations, with James coming as one of the younger five. Their ten children were born over a period of 27 years and reflect the development and changes in a Victorian society moving to modernity. The richness of their letters provides a picture of a large, complex, and diverse family where attitudes to the family name, gender tensions, differing views on sexuality, ideas on modernity, and varying degrees of support for feminism all played a part.

The Strachey family is well known as liberals. The Strachey family, like other professional families in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, transformed concepts of honor and authority. Rather than rooting such concepts in the values of birth and wealth, the Stracheys realized and utilized the ironic possibilities in the conventions of their time to reshape their understanding of the ways that they fit into the world. The Stracheys were a literary family. In things Indian and imperial, in things French, and in psychoanalysis they negotiated the discontinuities and uncertainties of the modern world in their drive for power, place, meaning, intimacy and a different kind of authority.

Liberalism is an ideology, philosophical view, and political tradition which holds that liberty is the primary political value. Liberalism has its roots in the Western Age of Enlightenment, but the term has taken on different meanings in different time periods.

The universalism principles of nineteenth-century liberalism promoted a denial of place in liberal political theory, a purposeful neglect of the significance of territory. In the nineteenth century, the repudiation of place was politically meaningful because it aided the articulation of a specifically liberal brand of imperialism. The rejection of place allowed Victorian liberals to refuse the territorial claims that typically bolstered anticolonial nationalist movements. Thus, the doctrine of “placelessness” had great utility for the governance of empire. But it has been a remarkably robust doctrine, a sturdy legacy of liberal thought. It continues to function as a crucial element in the neoliberalisms and neocolonialisms.

Historically liberalism stood for liberty and freedom from coercion by the State in the political and economic realms under the rule of law. Cultural liberalism focuses on the rights of individuals pertaining to conscience and lifestyle, including such issues as sexual freedom, religious freedom, cognitive freedom, and protection from government intrusion into private life.

Pernel Strachey was a member of the large and distinguished Strachey family, she shared its characteristically lively intellectual interests, wit and argumentative engagement with ideas. Pernel Strachey was a witty and fluent speaker and debater. She possessed the easy but polished politeness of an earlier and more formal era which reflected the upper class moeurs of her family – and which was much missed by many when she left.

Lytton Strachey was born at Clapham Common in 1880, in central London. He was the eleventh child of Richard Strachey and his wife Jane Grant. Though he spent some years at boarding schools, including Abbotsholme and Leamington College, he received much of his education at home. His mother took an interest in literature and politics, and Strachey met many of the leading writers and thinkers of the day when they came to visit Lady Strachey. His secondary education was completed at University College in Liverpool where he studied Latin, Greek, mathematics, and English literature and history. It was there that he met and was influenced by Walter Raleigh, a professor of English literature and well known biographer.  His style was becoming very popular and he began to achieve a measure of fame which allowed him to support himself and his household from the proceeds of his writing. In 1924 Strachey purchased the lease to Ham Spray House and he, along with Carrington and Partridge, moved in. He completed Elizabeth and Essex in 1928 and started The Greville Memoirs which were completed posthumously by Ralph and Frances Partridge and Roger Fulford. A biographer and essayist, Strachey became involved with Bloomsbury through his friendship with Vanessa Bell’s brother Thoby Stephen, although in fact the whole Strachey family was involved in the history of Bloomsbury. A mainstay of Bloomsbury’s ‘Thursday evenings’ and an important figure within the Bloomsbury circle, he also introduced his cousin Duncan Grant to the group. He achieved overnight success with the publication of a collection of satirical biographical essays called Eminent Victorians in 1918. Lytton Strachey lived within the swirling context of British modernism, the devastation of the Great War, and the emerging movements of feminism and psychoanalysis.

John St. Loe Strachey was editor of The Spectator magazine between 1887 and 1925.

Dorothy Bussy was a member of the Strachey family, one of ten children of Jane Strachey and the great British Empire engineer and administrator Sir Richard Strachey. Writer and critic Lytton Strachey and the first English translator of Freud, James Strachey, were her brothers.

Ray Strachey was born in London in 1887, the first of the two children of Mary Whitall Smith and Frank Costelloe. Ray Strachey serves as a notable anomaly in the pattern established recently by Olive Banks, in which a close relationship with supportive fathers was an important issue in the development of feminist ideas amongst late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century British women.

The tension between Strachey’s commitment to Victorian mores and his desire for sexual freedom influenced his concept of love between men formulated during his undergraduate career at Cambridge. In his second year at university, Strachey was elected to the secret Society of Apostles. The Brotherhood to which he now belonged constructed its own code of manliness that sanctioned all male romantic friendships. The Apostles advocated the Neoplatonist doctrine of the Higher Sodomy, following in the tradition of such eminent Victorian champions of Greek Love as John Addington Symonds and Goldworthy Lowes Dickinson.

The Strachey family was the members of the Indian Civil Service. There were just over 1,000 of them at Queen Victoria’s death in 1901, presiding over the administration of more than 300 million people scattered over what is now India, Burma, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The Indian Civil Service was a small, exclusive group in another respect: Its members came in proportionately from a select number of middle-class British and Irish families who over the decades sent son after son to work in the subcontinent. At one point, there were five Lawrence brothers working there. Thirteen members of the Strachey family went to India over four generations, and no fewer than thirty members of the Loch family established careers there.

In fact, Eminent Victorians fails so completely to reach what might be called the “spirit” of the Victorian Age, that the reader must conclude this was not Strachey’s intention. It is more plausible to read the text as an agile, but flawed, attempt to obscure the continuity between Bloomsbury liberalism and the most vital aspects of Victorian culture.

The English brand of modernism to which Strachey aspired involved a prevailing sense of dislocation from the past and a commitment to the active remaking of art. The self-styled modernists believed the era of Victorianism had ended, and in its place they offered a new conception of society, art, and thought.3 A disillusioned vision, an impending sense of crisis, a disregard for old forms, and an awakened sexual curiosity characterized Strachey’s generation of artists, writers, philosophers, and activists.