In Midtown Manhattan, Spring, 1919…

Dorothy Parker, 25, is pleased with her new job as theatre critic for Vanity Fair. She’d started last year as a fill in when P. G. Wodehouse, 37, left, but now she has settled in with popular reviews such as ‘The Dramas That Gloom in the Spring”:

Sometimes I think it can’t be true…There couldn’t be plays as bad as these. In the first place, no one would write them, and in the second place, no one would produce them.”

Parker had started with Conde Nast Publications back in 1915 after submitting a poem to Vanity Fair. The editor, Frank Crowninshield, then 43, had hired her—but for Vogue. She had spent the next four years writing captions such as,

From these foundations. of the autumn wardrobe, one may learn that brevity is the soul of lingerie.”

The war ended last November, but her husband of almost two years, former Paine Webber stockbroker Eddie Pond Parker II, 26, has been assigned to the Rhineland, and won’t be back Stateside any time soon.

So for right now, Parker feels writing for Vanity Fair is fine. But she’s heard that Crownie has hired a managing editor, Robert Benchley, 29, some newspaperman from Boston. She’s not looking forward to sharing an office with him…

Vanity Fair magazine, May 1919

Vanity Fair magazine, May 1919

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.

 

In Paris, December, 1918…

…Pvt. Harold Ross, just turned 26, is working on the weekly newspaper for the American Expeditionary Forces [AEF] in France, The Stars & Stripes.

The Armistice was declared last month, but the American troops are still here, preparing to go home, so the paper will continue to be published every Friday for a few more months. But Ross is feeling a rumbling among the service men who work on the paper, against the current managing editor. There is talk that they want to overthrow him and put Ross in charge.

Ross has gathered quite an interesting group of writers around him. Sgt. Alexander Woollcott, 31, showed up a few months ago. He’d left his division to come to Paris and work on the paper. When this short, round, silly soldier had presented himself and announced that he was the drama critic for the New York Times, Ross had laughed hysterically. Turns out it was true.

Another New York newspaperman showed up shortly after, Franklin Pierce Adams, just turned 37, the most popular Manhattan columnist of the time, known as FPA. Ross had let him try out a similar column in Stars & Stripes, but FPA’s cosmopolitan humour just hadn’t worked with enlisted men in the trenches.

But now that the ‘War to End All Wars’ is over, what next? Serving as Stars & Stripes editor for even a few months would help when he got stateside. But what could he do back in New York City in the coming decade? All the other vets would be there too, looking for jobs. And a drink, if Prohibition passes. What Ross would really like to do is start his own magazine.

Stars and Stripes montage 1918

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.

At the Grantwood artist colony, in Ridgefield, NJ, autumn, 1915…

…American artist Emmanuel Radnitzky, 25, who signs his paintings Man Ray and lives here with his wife, Belgian poet Adon, 28, sees two men walking towards him.

The older man he recognizes as Pittsburgh-born modern art collector Walter Arensberg, 37. Ray has been supplementing his income by documenting the collections of wealthy New Yorkers like Arensberg and Ohio-born John Quinn, 45. Arensberg has helped his artsy friends in Grantwood start an avant-garde magazine, Others, just this past summer.

The other man, tall, nattily dressed, and definitely French, is surreal artist Marcel Duchamp, 28, who has been given a studio in Arensberg’s 67th Street apartment just across the Hudson River in New York City. Duchamp caused quite a stir two years ago at the Armory Show with his painting, Nude Descending a Staircase, described as an explosion in a shingle factory.

Nude Descending a Staircase by Marcel Duchamp

Nude Descending a Staircase by Marcel Duchamp

 

Duchamp approaches Ray, but speaks little English. Ray speaks little French. They each instantly pick up tennis racquets and proceed to play a game. With no net. As Ray described it later in his autobiography,

In order to have a conversation I would give a name to each pass […] and each time Duchamp would reply in English with a single word, “Yes”…’

They become life-long friends.

 

 

 

 

Rutherford, NJ, one year later, 1916

Rutherfor NJ 1916Front row, L-R: Alison Hartpence, Afred Kreymborg, WCW, Skip Cannell; Back row, L-R: Jean Crotti, Marcel Duchamp, Walter Arensberg, Man Ray, R.A. Sanborn, Maxwell BodenheimThis year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.

In Cleveland, Ohio, at a drugstore on East 152nd Street, on Sunday, December 1st, 1912…

Sherwood Anderson, 36, founder and president of the successful American Merchants Company in nearby Elyria, Ohio, hands the pharmacist his address book and asks the startled man to help him figure out who he is. Anderson’s business suit is splattered with mud; he is unshaven and confused.

The pharmacist finds the number of an Elyria businessman, who comes to get Anderson and checks him into the Huron Road Hospital.

His wife, Cornelia, 35, rushes to the hospital to see him. For the past four days, no one has known where Anderson was. His secretary said that last Thursday he was dictating a letter to her, stopped, wrote a note to Cornelia, stood up, said:

‘I feel as though my feet were wet, and they keep getting wetter,’

and walked out of the office.

The note Anderson wrote to his wife said,

‘Cornelia:  There is a bridge over a river with cross-ties before it. When I come to that I’ll be all right. I’ll write all day in the sun and the wind will blow thru my hair. —Sherwood’

Lying in the Cleveland hospital, Anderson slowly starts to remember his wife, his children, his life in Elyria. He still doesn’t know why he is here.  But he knows one, specific, thing. He knows he is going to be a writer.

 

Sherwood Anderson

Sherwood Anderson

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.

In Cambridge, Massachusetts, at Harvard University, in 1924…

…recent composition graduate, Virgil Thomson, 27, is fondly remembering his time spent in Paris. He’d had the opportunity to study with Nadia Boulanger, 36, although he didn’t go along with all of her teaching methods, the way the other American ‘Boulangeries,’ as he called them, did.

And Virgil had also met one of his heroes, composer Erik Satie, 58. He’d hung out with fellow composer Darius Milhaud, 31, at a funky bistro near Place Vendome, Le boeuf sur la toit, named after one of Milhaud’s recent pieces.

Having returned to the States two years ago, Virgil is earning a little bit of money by writing music criticism for magazines like Vanity Fair, and working as an organist near Boston. He’d even spent a year in New York, playing and conducting. Both places seem cold and sterile to him.

And now, here he is, back at Harvard. As a teaching assistant.

But Virgil has had offers. He’s considering becoming the director of the music program at the University of South Carolina. Or taking a major organist post back home in Kansas.

No. He won’t. The time has come. Back to Paris.

“I said to my friends that if I was going to starve, I might as well starve where the food is good”

Virgil Thomson, composer and music critic, in 1921

Virgil Thomson, composer and music critic, in 1921

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.

In New York City, on Valentine’s Day, 1921…

…aspiring writer Robert McAlmon, 24, cannot believe his luck.

He is marrying…today…right after tea…the most fascinating woman he has ever met. Annie Ellerman, 26. British. Smart. Witty. Also a writer. And she has told him that her father, Sir John, one of the richest men in England, has promised she can have her inheritance, the equivalent of $30 million, once she is married and he meets her new husband.

So the newlyweds plan to sail to Liverpool at the end of the month. But, after meeting the family, they want to set off for Paris. McAlmon has read that a lot of American writers, including one of his favorites, Sherwood Anderson, 44, are living there on the Left Bank. He could use some of this ‘dowry’ to set up a publishing company, extending the Contact press that he has been trying to establish here in New York.

Annie also mentions that she prefers to be known by her pen name, Bryher. Oh, and when they go to Paris, she will bring along her close friend, poet Hilda Doolittle [known by her pen name HD], 34, and her daughter.

McAlmon feels that it will all work out fine…

Bryher and McAlmon in the year of their marriage, 1921

Bryher and McAlmon in the year of their marriage, 1921

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.

On the Left Bank of Paris, Spring, 1925…

…a man walks in to a bar.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, 28, whose third novel, The Great Gatsby, has just been published by Scribner’s back in the US, goes to the Dingo on rue Delambre. He has been told he will find there the American writer that everyone in Paris is talking about, Ernest Hemingway, 25.

After reading a few of Ernest’s stories last year, Scott had written to his Scribner’s editor, Maxwell Perkins, 40, about

Hemmingway…I’d look him up right away.  He’s the real thing.’

 

F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

 

Wearing his finest Brooks Brothers suit, Scott finds Ernest drinking at the bar with some of his British ex-pat friends, Duff Twysden, 32, and her distant cousin and current squeeze, Pat Guthrie, 30. Fitzgerald orders champagne for all, asks Hemingway questions about his wife, feels violently ill, and passes out. His new friends send him home in a taxi.

Hemingway is not impressed.

Ernest Hemingway, Duff Twysden, Hadley Hemingway, Donald Ogden Stewart and Pat Guthrie in Pamplona, Spain, for the bullfights a few months later, July 1925.

Ernest Hemingway, Duff Twysden, Hadley Hemingway, Donald Ogden Stewart and Pat Guthrie in Pamplona, Spain, for the bullfights a few months later, July 1925.

 

On the Left Bank of Paris, December, 1921…

…recently arrived Americans, Ernest Hemingway, 22, and his new wife, Hadley Richardson Hemingway, 30, are having drinks at one of their favourite cafes, the Dome, on the Boulevard de Montparnasse. They’re very excited about starting their new life here, living off Hadley’s trust fund and Ernest’s writing for the Toronto Star.

But, they’re lonely. They don’t know anyone. Their friend back in Chicago, novelist Sherwood Anderson, 45, has given them letters of introduction to other ex-patriate writers in the city, but they haven’t summoned up the courage to use them yet.

At the Dome in the 1920s

At the Dome in the 1920s

At the Dome last week

At the Dome last week

About ten minutes away, at 27 rue de Fleurus, two other American friends of Anderson, writer Gertrude Stein, 47, and her partner, Alice B. Toklas, 44, are getting ready for their Christmas party. Each year they invite the writers and painters living in Paris. Well, the ones they like.

And, on the other side of the Luxembourg Gardens, on rue de l’Odeon, there is a buzz around the Shakespeare & Co. bookstore, run by another American, Sylvia Beach, 34. Irish author James Joyce, 39, is getting ready to give a reading of his new novel, Ulysses, which Sylvia is preparing to publish early next year. This reading is a way of getting more pre-orders to finance the project. All of cultural Paris is coming.

But not Gert and Alice. They cancelled their membership in Sylvia’s bookstore when she took on Joyce.

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.

American Sylvia and her Irishman on rue de l’Odeon in the 1920s

American Sylvia and her Irishman on rue de l’Odeon in the 1920s

American Kathleen and her Irishman on rue de l’Odeon last week

American Kathleen and her Irishman on rue de l’Odeon last week

In Paris, on September 8th, 1907…

Alice Babette Toklas, 30, hears a bell ring.

Having just arrived in Paris, Alice has been taken to rue Madame, near the Luxembourg Gardens, to visit with her fellow San Franciscans, the Stein family, who have been living there for the past few years.

The oldest, Michael, 42, and his wife, Sarah, 37, are art collectors who hold regular salons on Saturday nights to show off their paintings. Sarah had brought three Matisses home to California last year, after the earthquake, and Alice had been invited to see them there.

Michael’s brother, Leo, 35, also a serious art collector, comes by for dinner. He lives a few blocks away, with their sister, Gertrude, 33.

As Gertrude described the moment, years later in her Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas:

And there…I met Gertrude. I was impressed by the coral brooch she wore and by her voice. I may say that only three times in my life have I met a genius and each time a bell within me rang and I was not mistaken, and I may say that in each case it was before there was any general recognition of the quality of genius in them…In this way my new life began.’

A few days later, Alice heard a bell again when Gertrude took her to meet the Steins’ painter friend, Pablo Picasso, 25.

‘From that day on they were together until Gertrude’s death…They never travelled without each other or entertained separately, or worked on independent projects"—Diana Souhami, Gertrude and Alice

‘From that day on they were together until Gertrude’s death…They never travelled without each other or entertained separately, or worked on independent projects”—Diana Souhami, Gertrude and Alice

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.

In San Francisco, at 5:15 am, on Wednesday, April 18th, 1906…

…the earth moves.

A major earthquake wipes out 80% of the city and surrounding area, killing 3000 people and leaving almost three-quarters of the population homeless.

Back in Paris, American Michael Stein, 41, is worried about the family property back home, right in the middle of all the earthquake fires. His brother and sister, Leo, 33, and Gertrude, 32, who live a few blocks away, leave all responsibility for the family finances to him. He and his wife, Sarah, 35, decide they had better make the trip back to the US.

Sarah is thrilled. This is her chance to impress all their friends with the clothes and jewellery she has been buying in Paris. And the paintings. She has got to bring some of the paintings with her. Sarah decides on three Matisses, including the one of his wife with a green stripe. The folks in America have never seen anything like THAT.

Green Stripe (Madame Matisse)

Green Stripe (Madame Matisse)

 

 

 

 

Gertrude, in the evenings, is sitting in front of one of the artworks she and Leo have bought, Cezanne’s Portrait of Madame Cezanne. She is trying to do with her writing what Cezanne has done with his painting.

Portrait of Madame Cezanne

Portrait of Madame Cezanne

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.