STEPHEN TOMLIN (1901–37), known to friends as ‘Tommy’, is the mystery man of the Bloomsbury Group.
Though tantalising glimpses of him appear in biographies of the main Bloomsbury figures, BLOOMSBURY STUD is the first serious account of his life.
A talented sculptor, trained by Frank Dobson, Tommy is best known for his widely admired busts of Duncan Grant, Lytton Strachey and Virginia Woolf, to be found in the permanent collections of leading museums.
But he was a man of many other artistic gifts, a poet, actor, musician and ceramicist, also renowned for his seductive charm and brilliant conversation.
Virginia Woolf described him as ‘the devastation of all hearts’. Lytton Strachey thought him ‘a remarkable character … there is strength there, and a mind’. Cyril Connolly considered him ‘the most interesting young person I have met’.
Diana Mosley remembered him as ‘the best talker among the clever Bloomsberries I knew’, while Rosamond Lehmann admitted to Frances Partridge that she had fallen ‘completely under the spell of his charm’.
A handsome adonis, Tommy was a legendary seducer who generally had his way with anyone he fancied, regardless of age or sex. His amorous progress was only briefly interrupted by his marriage at the age of twenty-six to Julia Strachey, Lytton’s niece.
Apart from the Bloomsbury luminaries Duncan Grant, Lytton Strachey and Dora Carrington, his numerous lovers included the writer David Garnett, the aesthete Eddy Sackville-West and the photographer Barbara Ker-Seymer.
He was painted by Henry Lamb; he was a favourite guest of Augustus John; he broke the heart of Sylvia Townsend Warner; he brought the reclusive novelist
T. F. Powys to public notice.
But he was a ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ character, whose life-enhancing qualities masked
a devilish and self-destructive side.
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An increasingly melancholy disposition, coupled with a succession of cruel blows of fate, drove him to drink, drugs, and a sad and lonely death at the age of thirty-five.
Intensely secretive by nature, Tommy presents a challenge to his biographers; but the researcher Susan Fox and the writer Michael Bloch have spent a decade getting to the heart of the man.
BLOOMSBURY STUD gives a fascinating account of Tommy’s tempestuous career; his relationships with Bloomsbury and other friends; his sculpture and other work; his racy sex-life and doomed marriage; and his battle with the demons that eventually overcame him.
portrait by Carrington
with his wife Julia
working on Lytton's bust
Beautifully bound in dark-blue cloth, with John Banting’s striking, bare-chested portrait embedded in the cover, Bloomsbury Stud includes almost a hundred illustrations, most of them never before published.
The ﬁrst printing, limited to six hundred copies, is destined to become a collector's item.