Lytton Strachey and techniques in modern biography



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It is almost passe to refer to Lytton Strachey as the "father" of modern biography. For years critic a have been assigning him this role. The basis for this widespread contention is subjected to appraisal in the present essay which studies the influence of Strachey's biographies upon the techniques of the modern school. In an attempt to clarify the problem of influence, this essay deals with three basic issues: What makes the biographies of Lytton Strachey unusual or distinctive ? Is it possible to separate contemporary biography-- as a literary form--from traditional biography? What significant elements of modern biography are traceable directly to the works of Strachey? The first four chapters of the essay deal with Strachey's background as a writer, with his artistic conception of biography, and with the chief techniques which he used in his works. Strachey's literary credo suggests that his purpose in biography was like the creative artist's in poetry, drama, or fiction. For it was from the viewpoint of a literary artist--not the traditional academic scholar-that he approached the materials of biography. [...]