Fan Mail from Bloomsbury

A charming letter for the Eleventh Hour this time. John Herbert Sprott (1897 -1971), known as Sebastian, was a member of the Bloomsbury Set. Sprott studied the moral sciences at Cambridge, and would ultimately become a distinguished professor of Philosophy and Psychology at Nottingham University, writing influential works on sociology. He is now perhaps chiefly remembered as one of John Maynard Keynes’ lovers, maintaining a friendship with Keynes and keeping his links with the Bloomsbury group, particularly E.M. Forster, even after his departure for Nottingham.

NAF 1-8-1-4 Letter to Mestrovic from Sebastian Sprott 1919 [cropped]

In 1919 Sprott was a young man who attended an exhibition in Brighton of the works of the Croatian sculptor and architect Ivan Meštrović, and was almost completely over-awed to meet the artist himself. Sprott gathered his nerve to write this piece of fan mail that survives as part of the Mitrinović Archive. Mitrinović and Meštrović were good friends, and on occasion Mitrinović lectured on his friend’s art, although it’s not entirely clear why or how this letter came to be in Mitrinović’s possession.

NAF 1-8-1-4 Letter to Mestrovic from Sebastian Sprott 1919 [detail]

Sebastian Sprott wrote in what feels to me like very correct schoolboy French, telling Meštrović that meeting him was one of the proudest moments of his life. He asked the artist for an autograph, saying that his work had “un effet extraordinaire” on him. Sprott even threw in a Serbian proverb, “Nema smrti bez sudjena dana” (“There is no death except on the destined day”), perhaps to try and impress Meštrović with his knowledge of Southern Slav culture, and express his belief that all the big things in life are governed by Fate.

Sprott isn’t Mitrinović’s only connection to Bloomsbury. Mitrinović lived in the area for many years, and his followers and various groups had their headquarters at 42 and 55 Gower Street, close to the British Museum. As an avid scholar, Mitrinović made good use of the Reading Room. I am hoping to uncover further connections as I catalogue, as it seems so likely that there could have been overlaps between these educated, intellectual circles operating in the same small corner of London at the same time. If you know of any, please do get in touch and let us know! Otherwise, watch this space.

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3 responses to “Fan Mail from Bloomsbury

  1. David Page

    I’ve spent weeks digging around this issue, and have found only three direct connections. 1) Leonard Woolf chaired the third lecture in the New Europe Group series ‘Popular Myths Exploded’: ‘That Science Will see us through’. It was held at Caxton Hall in Westminster on 23 June 1932 — at 8.30pm, to be precise! 2) The New Europe Group was a client of the Hogarth Press. 3) The Valerie Cooper School of Rhythmic Movement of Dance was a meeting place for Mitrinovic’s circle and the Bloomsbury Group. I think you’d be doing a great service to intellectual historians of the period if you could revisit this topic whenever you unearth evidence of any other overlaps. I’m eager to hear about any of your discoveries!

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    • Hi David, thank you so much for sharing these findings. I have found some letters from Iris Tree and her husband Curtis Moffat, which I need to explore further, and as I get the opportunity to do a little more digging into Mitrinovic’s many connections I would be surprised if we don’t find more Bloomsbury-related material! I’m glad that you think this would be so useful to explore and will definitely revisit the topic on this blog. If you do manage to find anything else in your research, we would be delighted to hear about it!

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