Characters And Commentaries: Lytton Strachey And The Hampstead Tribunal

Ostentatiously sat on a light blue air cushion, apparently necessary due to his fear that the wooden bench on which he sat might worsen his piles, the slight, bespectacled and bearded figure proceeded to spread a tartan rug over his legs.

‘I understand, Mr Strachey, that you are a conscientious objector to all wars?’‘ In his typically affected manner, he replied, ‘Oh, no…not at all. Only this one.’ The interrogation continued, ‘Then tell me, Mr Strachey, what would you do if you saw a German soldier attempting to rape your sister?’ After slowly and deliberately looking at every one of his sisters who sat in the public gallery, he earnestly answered, ‘I should try and interpose my own body.’

The politician Philip Snowden later claimed that those who questioned Lytton Strachey had, ‘enough sense to realise that it would be useless to try to make this man into a soldier, so he was granted exemption as a political conscientious objector. This, I believe, was the only case where exemption was given on political grounds.’

Born Giles Lytton Strachey into a military family in London in 1880, Lytton was one of the 13 children of Lieutenant-General Sir Richard Strachey and his second wife Jane, 10 of whom survived to adulthood. At the age of 13, the young Strachey was sent to Abboltsholme School, were manual tasks were part of the curriculum, an environment wholly unsuited to his delicate constitution. Consequently, he was moved to Leamington College where he was severely bullied, an experience that only enhanced his innate awkwardness. Continue reading