15 color plates, 15 halftones
5 1/2 x 8 1/2
Grace Higgens (1903–83) arrived at the Gordon Square house of Vanessa Bell—a member of the Bloomsbury Group and the sister of Virginia Woolf—in June 1920. Higgens remained with the family for fifty years as housemaid, nurse, cook, and, finally, housekeeper at Charleston, the country house in Sussex where the Bell family spent their holidays during the interwar period and later lived permanently until the 1970s.
This book, the first to focus on the life of Higgens, is based on her diaries and correspondence. Dubbed the "Angel of Charleston” by Vanessa’s son Quentin, Grace was high-spirited with a robust sense of fun; she read all she could and often sat for her painter employers, who much admired her looks. Her numerous diaries recount her years in Gordon Square, Charleston, and the south of France, painting a vivid—and intimate—picture of life with the Bells and the Bloomsbury Group. With great humor, Higgens describes the various denizens of Charleston, such as Duncan Grant, Roger Fry, E. M. Forster, and, of course, Virginia Woolf. There are moving entries about the death of Vanessa Bell in 1961 as well as Higgens’s final years at Charleston looking after the elderly Duncan Grant.
The Angel of Charleston describes a little-known side of the Bloomsbury world and illuminates a lost era.