Partridge, Frances (Catherine) 1900-2004

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PARTRIDGE, Frances (Catherine) 1900-2004

PERSONAL: Born March 15, 1900, in London, England; died February 5, 2004; daughter of William Cecil (an architect) and Margaret (Lloyd) Marshall; married Ralph Partridge, March 2, 1933 (died, 1960); children: Lytton Burgo (deceased). Education: Newnham College, Cambridge, graduated (with honors), 1921. Politics: "Liberal and pacifist." Hobbies and other interests: Music, collecting and identifying wild flowers, reading (particularly history, memoirs, philosophy, and biographies).

CAREER: Translator and author. Worked at a bookstore, 1921-28.

MEMBER: International PEN, Royal Literary Society (fellow).

AWARDS, HONORS: D.Litt., University of London, 2000; Commander of the Order of the British Empire, 2000.


(Editor, with husband, Ralph Partridge) The Greville Memoirs, 1814-1860, eight volumes, Macmillan (London, England), 1938.

A Pacifist's War, Hogarth Press (London, England), 1978.

Love in Bloomsbury: Memories, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1981, published as Memories, Gollancz (London, England), 1983.

(With Julia Strachey) Julia: A Portrait of Julia Strachey, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1983.

Everything to Lose: Diaries, 1945-1960, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1985.

Friends in Focus: A Life in Photographs, Chatto & Windus (London, England), 1987.

A Bloomsbury Album, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1987.

Good Company: Diaries: January 1967-December 1970, HarperCollins (London, England), 1994.

Hanging On: Diaries, December 1960-1963, Flamingo (London, England), 1994.

Other People: Diaries, September 1963-December 1966, Flamingo (London, England), 1994.

Life Regained: Diaries, January 1970-December 1971, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 1998.

(Editor) Diaries: 1939-1972, Phoenix Press (London, England), 2001.

Ups and Downs: Diaries, 1972-1975, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 2001.


Mercedes Ballesteros de Gailbrois, Nothing Is Impossible, Harvill (London, England), 1956.

Vincent Blasco-Ibañez, Blood and Sand, Elek, 1958.

Vincent Blasco-Ibañez, The Naked Lady, Elek, 1959.

Miguel A. Asturias, The President, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1963.

Jose L. Aranguren, Human Communication, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1967.

Pedro L. Entralgo, Doctor and Patient, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1969.

Alejo Carpentier, War of Time, Knopf (New York, NY), 1970.

Rita Guibert, Seven Voices, Knopf (New York, NY), 1973.

Alejo Carpentier, Reasons of State, Knopf (New York, NY), 1976.


Iovleff Bornet, Something to Declare, Harvill (London, England), 1957.

Joseph Dessel, The Enemy in the Mouth, Hart-Davis, 1961.

Gabriel Estivals, A Gap in the Wall, Collins (London, England), 1963.

Raymond Cogniat, Seventeenth-Century Painting, Viking (New York, NY), 1964.

Vassily Photiades, Eighteenth-Century Painting, Viking (New York, NY), 1964.

Olivier Beigbeider, Ivory, Putnam (New York, NY), 1965.

Pierre Nordon, Conan Doyle: A Biography, J. Murray, 1966, Holt (New York, NY), 1967.

Jacques Bonssard, The Civilization of Charlemagne, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1967.

Gilbert Martineau, Napoleon's St. Helena, J. Murray, 1968, Rand McNally (Chicago, IL), 1969.

Gilbert Martineau, Napoleon Surrenders, J. Murray, 1974.

Gilbert Martineau, Napoleon's Last Journey, J. Murray, 1976.

Gilbert Martineau, Madame Mere, J. Murray, 1978.

Translator of magazine articles from French and Spanish. Contributor to New Statesman, Spectator, and Times Literary Supplement.

SIDELIGHTS: A translator of books in Spanish and French for many years, Frances Partridge gave up this work at the age of seventy to write original works based on the diaries she kept while living in the company of members of the famous Bloomsbury group. Members of this group of early-twentieth-century British intellectuals included Virginia Woolf and her husband, Leonard, Lytton Strachey, E. M. Forster, John Meynard Keynes, Vanessa and Clive Bell, Duncan Grant, and others who followed an idealistic philosophy influenced by G. E. Moore's Principia Ethica. Partridge (then Frances Marshall) became involved with the Bloomsburyites when she fell in love with Ralph Partridge, who was at the time married to Dora Carrington. Dora and Ralph Partridge lived, in turn, with Lytton Strachey in a well-known ménage à trois at Ham Spray in Hampshire. This arrangement ended when Strachey died of cancer and Dora subsequently committed suicide. Soon afterwards, Ralph Partridge married Frances and the two lived happily until his death in 1960.

While the story behind this and other affairs among the Bloomsburyites has become the subject of many, often gossipy, books, critics note that Partridge provides a new perspective on the lives of these people in her personal accounts. Caroline Moorehead, for example, described Love in Bloomsbury in the London Times as "a book about friendship, among people who really cared about friends, about its rules and limits and the determining power of its influence." New York Times critic Anatole Broyard added that Partridge "is natural, unassuming and observing, neither a spy, a gossip nor one of the charmed circle herself, but someone who was always there and deeply interested in the others."

Each of Partridge's books about the Bloomsbury group covers a different period and subject of its history. A Pacifist's War covers the years during World War II, Love in Bloomsbury: Memories involves the times between world wars, and Julia: A Portrait of Julia Strachey focuses on one of the group's enigmatic if personally troubled members as well as a longtime friend of Partridge. Everything to Lose: Diaries, 1945-1960 is somewhat less concerned with Bloomsbury and instead centers on the life the author enjoyed with her husband after World War II. In a Spectator article concerning all these books, Moorehead wrote that "if John Updike is the poet of unhappy marriage, Frances Partridge is that of friendship, an attachment whose rules and demands she understands and conveys extraordinarily well. Furthermore, she lacks the malice of some of the Bloomsbury writers; she can be mocking and exigent but she is not merciless. It is her own particular and very agreeable voice that leaves its mark on every page."

Because Partridge often goes into great detail in her descriptions of the daily lives of the Bloomsbury group, some reviewers have found parts of her books to be slow reading. Times Literary Supplement contributor Margaret Forster remarked that the descriptions of Robert Kee's love affairs are uninteresting to read, "as are the commonplace comings and goings of most of [Partridge's] friends." But, Forster added, "there is also . . . the inspiring theme of Partridge's love for her husband." Other critics, such as Washington Post Book World reviewer Stanley Weintraub, praised the author for the writing skills she demonstrates in her diaries. "Nothing of Frances Partridge's other writing evidences the verve for vivid description of her diaries," stated Weintraub. "From the opening pages her knack for capsulizing sensory impressions is remarkable."

Partridge's books about Bloomsbury are significant, according to New York Times Books Review critic Samuel Hynes in his review of Love in Bloomsbury, in that the author has written more than an account of life among British intellectuals in the early twentieth century; "she has [also] written a social history of what happened to young persons of her sex and class in England in a time of great social change." Partridge's portrayal of these people succeeds, opined Jean Strouse in Newsweek, because "there is no reverential talk of genius, no poppycock about intellect's finest hour. Instead, she draws deft sketches from her personal impressions of the 'Bloomsburies.'" Concluded New York Times Book Review contributor Caryn James, Partridge "has outlived the ghostly presences of Bloomsbury and refused to become a living relic of her era. Still assessing, still irreverent, she is Bloomsbury's living legacy."

Ups and Downs: Diaries, 1972-1975 was written a decade after the death of Partridge's husband. In it she still struggles with that loss, trying to make meaning in her life. She continued to live, surrounded by friends, and record her own candid observations and thoughts about their lives. Lindsay Duguid commented in the Times Literary Supplement that such observations, while "entertainingly abrasive," are "balanced by her sympathetic concern and appreciation of kindness as well as her gusto for life's pleasures."



Los Angeles Times Book Review, September 13, 1981; September 4, 1983.

Newsweek, October 5, 1981.

New York Times, September 30, 1981; August 26, 1983.

New York Times Review of Books, September 27, 1981; October 16, 1983; May 4, 1986.

Spectator, February 21, 1981; December 7, 1985; November 17, 2001, Richard Shone, review of Ups and Downs: Diaries, 1972-1975, p. 52.

Times (London, England), January 29, 1981; March 17, 2001, Tim Teeman, "The Last Voice of Bloomsbury," p. W6.

Times Literary Supplement, August 4, 1978; February 13, 1981; May 13, 1983; October 25, 1985; September 4, 1998, Anne Chisholm, review of Life Regained: Diaries, January 1970-December 1971, p. 5; November 30, 2001, Lindsay Duguid, "The Longest Lap," p. 14.

Washington Post Book Review, April 13, 1986.*

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