Charleston – a place where you could do what you wanted

Visited Charleston in East Sussex on Wednesday – what an amazing place and full of fascinating paintings and pieces of furniture, textiles, decorative arts and so on.

One thing particularly struck me which was in the film shown in the  shop area where Quentin Bell  spoke about what it had been like to grow up in Charleston. He said that this was  a place where you could do what you wanted. Everyone was doing what they wanted. For the children this was about playing and exploring with apparently no limits and no restrictions. The adults painted, wrote and talked – they also had relationships with one another and seemed able to remain friends with ex husbands, lovers and so on. Clearly as Bell added someone else was doing the mundane tasks of shopping, washing the laundry, cooking and cleaning.

This raises various questions about knowing what it is one wants and whether of course this interferes with someone else doing what they want. How does one person’s desires or even work impact on another person’s? How does the Christian respond to this or is that merely a Puritanical out dated stance? Is it guilt making then to do what you want when clearly so many others have neither the money nor the spirit to do so?

Perhaps it appeared idyllic to a child …. or perhaps just to Quentin Bell , as  a contrary view is put forward by Angelica Garnett in her extraordinary account Deceived with Kindness. . In the preface to the 1995 edition she writes: ‘Bloomsbury believed in and largely practised intellectual tolerance, but often failed to recognise the power of the emotions or the reasoning of the heart . Fascinating and vital, they hid their feelings behind an apparent detachment that I found at the time repressive and confusing.’

I wonder what Virginia Woolf felt as she cycled over from her house seven miles away? Was she doing what she wanted as she drowned herself…