Frances Partridge: The Biography, By Anne Chisholm

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The Independent Culture

You wouldn't bet on it, but this is possibly the last biography of a major Bloomsburyite. Jolly enjoyable it is too in the manner of Schnitzler's La Ronde, a play performed by Ralph Partridge at a 1924 party (Vanessa Bell: "painfully embarrassing"). When Frances fell for Ralph, he was in a ménage à trois with Dora Carrington and Lytton Strachey.

The latter offered "vague encouragement" when Ralph rowed at Oxford: "I hope you'll get a bump very quickly every time." Her encouragement of Ralph's extramarital activities ("I do not understand what holds him back") strikes her biographer as "extraordinary".

Frances emerges as lively, articulate and appealing. She eased the passage for Holroyd's groundbreaking biography of Strachey, but blocked a BBC adaptation. She might have been right at that – the director would have been Ken Russell.