‘Imagining a part of them remains’: Emma’s postcards from Charleston

Emma visits Charleston, East Sussex, in July 2013

Emma visits Charleston, East Sussex, in July 2013

Why I went…

Call it a pilgrimage, but I had to see it for myself – then return to see it again.

Charleston is a magical spot that not only channeled the Bloomsbury Group’s collective imaginations but was also an intimate space where their tangled, unconventional lives and relationships played out. The farmhouse still remains unchanged, the interiors (furniture, paintings, wallpaper, books, objects) inextricably bound with the famous set that lived there – every surface has meaning, every ‘thing’ is personal. It is not often that a place completely connects with and expresses the doctrines of the artist, rather than existing first as a place that is – architecturally and décor-wise – of an era, and then becomes associated with the famous face that lived there.

What I got out of the experience…

The writings of Virginia Woolf, Lytton Strachey and E.M Forester majorly impacted my love of literature, and it’s with this visit – along with my visits to other literary places like Sissinghurst, Batemans, the Brontë Parsonage, Shandy Hall etc. – that I can truly place myself in their environment. For academic reasons, I can see where they wrote, what they saw, what they liked and how this might have impacted their literature. For personal reasons, it is a joy to connect with them, and exhilarating – if a bit strange – to think of them haunting the place, imagining that a part of them remains. Charleston felt like they had never moved out: the creative energy that exists – be it in the dining room, or the studio space – is still very much alive. The first time, I came away feeling like I had seen something special, something unique. After a year, I returned to experience it again – like a drug – and it had the same awe-inspiring effect.

Returning to Charleston in August 2014

Returning to Charleston in August 2014

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