I dreamt of you again last night

Lytton Strachey by Dora Carrington
Oil on panel, 1916, NPG 6662
© National Portrait Gallery, London

Born in Hereford, England in 1893, Dora Carrington was an accomplished and posthumously acclaimed painter known for her portraits of friends and fellow artists, and for her close relationships with various members of the Bloomsbury Group. In 1915, at the home of Virginia Woolf, Carrington met Lytton Strachey, a gay writer and critic with whom she would forge a special bond and live happily from 1917, their relationship largely platonic but loving. In January of 1932, Strachey died of cancer and Carrington’s heart broke; this anguished diary entry came a few weeks later. Tragically, the loss was too much to bear, and Dora Carrington died by suicide on 11th March 1932. Her ashes were buried in the garden at Ham Spray, the Wiltshire farmhouse they had shared for so long.

The Diary Entry

February 17th. In the Library.

I dreamt of you again last night. And when I woke up it was as if you had died afresh. Every day I find it harder to bear. For what point is there in life now? I read all your letters this afternoon. Because I could not bear the utter loneliness here without you. If only I had believed my fears and had never left you for a day. But that would have meant ‘en-croaching’ on your liberty, and breaking the ‘laws’. What is the use of anything now without you? I keep on consulting you. But for what purpose? For I can no longer please you. I look at our favourites I try and read them, but without you they give me no pleasure. I only remember the evenings when you read them to me aloud and then I cry. I feel as if we had collected all our wheat into a barn to make bread and beer for the rest of our lives and now our barn has been burnt down and we stand on a cold winter morning looking at the charred ruins. For this little room was the gleanings of our life together. All our happiness was over this fire and with these books. With Voltaire blessing us with up-raised hand on the wall. It was all for you; I loved you so utterly and now there is nothing left to look forward to. You made me so absolutely happy. Every year had grown happier with you. It is impossible to think that I shall never sit with you again and hear your laugh. That everyday for the rest of my life you will be away. No one to talk to about my pleasures. No one to call me for walks to go ‘to the terrace’. I write in an empty book. I cry in an empty room. And there can never be any comfort again. ‘You can’t get away from the fact that Lytton is dead’, he said.

Further Reading

Dora Carrington’s diary is held at the British Library, and can only be viewed by those with a letter of introduction. However, in 1970, a selection of its entries were included in the book, Carrington: Letters and Extracts from her Diaries, edited by David Garnett.

Diary entry excerpted from Carrington: Letters and Extracts from her Diaries by Dora Carrington. Published by Jonathan Cape, 1970. Copyright © The Estate of Dora Carrington. Reproduced by permission of the Estate c/o Rogers, Coleridge & White Ltd., 20 Powis Mews, London W11 1JN.

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