Florence Ada Keynes (1861-1958) – part 1

Mother of John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946, KC 1902)

John Maynard Keynes (hereafter Maynard) was born in Cambridge on 5 June 1883, the son of Florence and Dr. John Neville Keynes, Fellow of Pembroke College and later University Registrary. Although it was his father who was the academic, his mother was a very influential lady. She was an early member of Newnham College, who went on to become a social reformer and magistrate. In 1932, she became Mayor of Cambridge. She thrived in intellectual and powerful circles which, at that time, may not have welcomed women.

Florence Ada Keynes’ reflections on Maynard’s childhood suggest that he was precocious but polite. They tell of how he passed his time, from reading to collecting stamps. They show that she and his father would chastise him if he misbehaved but that this was not often necessary. Vanessa Bell had seldom chastised her son Julian, although friends such as Roger Fry sometimes felt it would have been appropriate. This may reflect the fact they were from different generations.

Maynard was educated at Eton, and came up to King's College, Cambridge as a scholar in 1902. He went on to become a Fellow and Bursar of the College, as well as one of the most influential economists of his generation. Like E.M. Forster, he was also an early member of the Bloomsbury group. He did not discuss his personal life as openly as Julian Bell had discussed his with Vanessa Bell, but Maynard did seem to have an easier relationship with his mother than Rupert Brooke and E.M. Forster had with theirs.

Maynard was a member of the Apostles, a prestigious secret society in Cambridge. In 1903, having been given leave to do so, he confided his election as an Apostle to his mother. This may suggest that he knew she would understand the significance and that she could be trusted to be discreet.