Bust of David Garnett

The Orchard: The novelist David Garnett is a central figure at two important points of the Charleston narrative.

A member of the original household, Garnett moved with Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant and Bell’s children Julian and Quentin to Charleston in October 1916.  Garnett and Grant were lovers at the time. Like many members of the Bloomsbury group, they were also both conscientious objectors and needed to find meaningful work on the land in order to avoid prison during World War One.  It was due to this need that the family came to move to Charleston, and a nearby farm took on Grant and Garnett as labourers.

Bust of David Garnett, photograph © Grace Towner

Bust of David Garnett, photograph © Grace Towner

Garnett and Grant’s relationship was often turbulent, filled with jealousies and tension. Life at Charleston was often difficult and uneasy during the first few years; their relationship eventually came to an end.

Garnett, always known as Bunny to friends, had a literary career writing several novels and running a bookshop with Francis Birrell.  Today his best known work is probably his novel Aspects of Love, which was turned into a musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber in 1989.

Garnett was bisexual, and went on to marry the illustrator Rachel (Ray) Marshall, sister of Bloomsbury group member Frances Partridge.  Ray died young of breast cancer, and in due course Garnett once again became a key operator in the lives of the Bloomsbury group at Charleston.

On hearing the news of the birth of his former lover Duncan Grant’s child Angelica on Christmas Day 1918, Garnett wrote to Lytton Strachey ‘I think of marrying it.  When she is 20, I shall be 46 – will it be scandalous?’  When Angelica reached her early twenties, he did just that.

Fittingly for a person labelled ‘Bloomsbury’s Outsider’ in a biography by Sarah Knights, Garnett is represented at Charleston not in the house itself, but by this sculpture in the Orchard.  The sculpture has been the subject of recent restoration work with the aid of the Pebble Trust, which you can find out more about here.

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