In 46 Gordon Square, Bloomsbury, London, in March of 1907…

…everyone is moving.

Clive Bell, 25, is moving in with his new wife, Vanessa Stephen Bell, 27. Clive has been living with his family since graduating from Cambridge University. Vanessa has been living in the tacky neighbourhood of Bloomsbury since she moved her brothers and sister, Virginia, 25, out of Hyde Park Gate when their widowed father died, more than three years ago. Smartest thing she ever did.

46 Gordon Square

46 Gordon Square

Their brother Thoby unexpectedly died last fall, age 26. Two days later, Vanessa finally accepted Clive’s proposal.

Now that Vanessa is a married Edwardian lady with a husband, it’s time for her siblings to move out.

Virginia and Adrian, 24, have found a suitable place, 29 Fitzroy Square. Virginia has heard that the family of the playwright George Bernard Shaw, 50, had lived there when they first emigrated from Dublin. That’s a good omen.

Moving a few blocks away won’t separate Virginia and Vanessa. The Bell marriage is a bigger threat. Virginia worries that the intimacy that she has shared with her sister will suffer.

But at least now she will have her own place, with Adrian. She can spend more time writing.

And their friends will still come on Thursday evenings, which Virginia always looks forward to. As she described these evenings later:

Talking, talking, talking…as if everything could be talked…’

Tour guide talking, talking, talking in front of 29 Fitzroy Square.

Tour guide talking, talking, talking in front of 29 Fitzroy Square.

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

Watch the BBC Two drama Life in Squares about the Bloomsbury group, Mondays, 3rd and 10th August, at 9 pm, and let us know what you think.   

To walk with me and the ‘Such Friends’ through Bloomsbury, download the Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group audio walking tour from VoiceMap.

In the UK, on Monday, 27th July, 2015, Life in Squares premieres on BBC Two…

…focusing on the life and loves of the Bloomsbury group.

We’d love to know what you think of it. We’ll be watching—with the cats, William Butler Yeats and Lady Augusta Gregory, both 12 years old—and tweeting our highly valued opinions @SuchFriends.

Parts of the three-part series were filmed at the gorgeous Charleston, the east Sussex home of Vanessa Bell, and parts in the Bloomsbury section of London, where many of them spent their early years together.

This month we’ll be posting about what the Bloomsbury group was doing during the important years of 1907-1915. And watch this space for information about upcoming walking tours of Gordon and Fitzroy squares you can enjoy with me—even if you’re not in London!

Post your comments about the BBC show here. We’d love to know what you think.

The cast of Life in Squares. Can you figure out who is who?

The cast of Life in Squares. Can you figure out who is who?

At Coole Park, Co. Galway, Christmas, 1898…

…poet, playwright and linguist Douglas Hyde, 38, is putting on a ‘Punch and Judy’ show for kids as part of the local school festival. His hostess, Lady Augusta Gregory, 46, presents the play first in English, and then Hyde does it in Gaelic.

Douglas Hyde

Douglas Hyde

Augusta and he met this past summer when he was traveling around the west of Ireland, collecting stories. He would stop on a country road and pretend that his bike had broken down until a passing farmer would stop to help him. They’d end up back in the farmer’s house for a drink. Hyde’s proficiency in Gaelic helped him draw out their folk tales in their native language.

Augusta is interested in learning more Gaelic, and having Hyde ‘put the Irish on’ the plays she and poet William Butler Yeats, 33, are writing for their theatre. The plays will be performed in English, but they need to sound right. So they will write them in English. Hyde can then translate them into Irish, and then back into English.

Hyde is happy to help, and he thinks both Yeats and Lady Gregory can be useful to his organization, The Gaelic League.

And besides, Lady Gregory and he actually like each other.

Pamphlet setting out the aims of the Gaelic League, 1893

Pamphlet setting out the aims of the Gaelic League, 1893

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

On the train to Gort, in the summer of 1898…

…writer John Millington Synge, 27, is looking forward to the next part of his trip.

He has just spent time living on the Aran Islands, getting to know the people, their stories, and their dialects.

Synge's cottage on the Aran Islands

Synge’s cottage on the Aran Islands

Now Synge will spend a few days in the west of Ireland with his new friend, the poet William Butler Yeats,  just turned 33, whom he met in Paris a few years ago. It was Yeats who had suggested that Synge ‘go west’ to explore his own family’s roots in Aran. Yeats felt Synge would be better off writing about them than the reviews of French literature he had been working on.

The two will stay at Coole Park, and their hostess there, Lady Augusta Gregory, 46, is coming to meet Synge at the train station. He has his manuscript about the Aran Islands tucked under his arm.

Sketch of John Millington Synge

Sketch of John Millington Synge

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

In the west of Ireland, near Gort, in the summer of 1897…

…amateur playwright Edward Martyn, 38, has invited his neighbour, Lady Augusta Gregory, 45, to tea. Her home, Coole Park, is over six miles away from his, Tullira, so they don’t see each other too often.

Augusta wants to meet Martyn’s house guest, the poet William Butler Yeats, just turned 32, who has been traveling around this part of the country for the past week or so.

Tullira

Tullira

Yeats and Lady Gregory have met briefly before, in London, where she held salons at her flat when her husband Sir William Gregory, Member of Parliament, was alive. Now she spends most of her time here in her native Ireland, raising their son Robert, 16, and trying to learn Irish.

Martyn is not particularly sociable. Or neighborly. But on this occasion he figures Augusta will keep the conversation going. He’s already angry with Yeats for having invoked some sort of ‘lunar power’ the other night. And in the room right above his chapel! These Protestants have no respect for the religion of others, particularly Catholics like Martyn.

Besides, Willie and Augusta just might get on with each other.

The chapel in Tullira

The chapel in Tullira

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

In Dublin, late August, 1904…

…playwright, poet and painter ‘AE’ [birth name: George Russell], 37, is writing to his Irish-American friend, art collector John Quinn, 34:

My exhibit has just opened and my heart is full of woe because I have sold over half of them the first day.”

AE has been drawing and painting for years, but this is his first exhibit. Its success means he will now have to actually think of himself as a professional painter. He continues…

I think I have sold 37 altogether and I believe I have beaten the record in Dublin for any show of the kind. I will hardly have a picture on my walls and I had grown fond of them.”

The Winged Horse, by AE, included in the 1904 exhibition

The Winged Horse, by AE, included in the 1904 exhibition

Despite his forlorn tone, AE was actually pleased to think he might have an alternative career to his work with the Irish National Theatre Society. Lately, the fights among the directors—William Butler Yeats, 39, Lady Augusta Gregory, 52, John Millington Synge, 33—had gotten nasty. AE had pulled out, but then been drawn back in to help re-organize the group into a limited company.

However, as he’d written to Quinn earlier this year,

I am always fighting with [Yeats], but if I hadn’t him to fight with it would make a great gap in my life.”

The Spirit of the Pool by AE, included in the 1904 exhibition

The Spirit of the Pool by AE, included in the 1904 exhibition

Thanks to our new ‘Such Friends’ at The New York Public Library (John Quinn Memorial Collection) for permission to quote from AE’s letter to John Quinn.

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

In Upper Ely Place, Dublin, May of 1902…

…writer George Moore, 50, is excited about the upcoming production of The Tinker and the Fairy, a play based on Irish folk tales by his new friend, founder of the Gaelic League, Douglas Hyde, 42.

Moore is the one who suggested staging it in his own back garden, as a one-off special event, with Hyde playing the lead role of the Tinker, followed by a posh, invitation-only reception for 300 special guests,

Upper Ely Place, Dublin

Upper Ely Place, Dublin

As Moore had hoped, this is turning in to THE event of the Dublin social season—and it is all his baby. He and Hyde agreed on a translator to produce an English version of the play, from the original Irish. But it was Moore who edited it, made major changes in the script, and has directed the whole production. Hyde might have gotten tired of his constant letters of instruction, but even he would have to admit that the play is stronger.

Moore’s purpose is to bring his native Irish culture into the mainstream by working these folk stories from the people into plays by Hyde and his other friends in the Irish National Theatre Society. And everyone in Ireland will know that it is all because of him, Moore, and his efforts.

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

George Moore, charcoal drawing

George Moore, charcoal drawing

In Dublin, in the summer of 1904…

Lady Augusta Gregory, 52, is critically watching the rehearsal of A Pot of Broth, a little comedy she wrote a few years ago with William Butler Yeats, 39, for their theatre.

The actors are doing well. But Yeats is driving them nuts. As one of the theatre’s staff related later,

Lady Gregory was the very opposite to…Yeats in sitting quietly and giving direction in quiet, almost apologetic tones”

Augusta is thinking that, after the rehearsal, she’ll invite everyone over to her room at the nearby Nassau Hotel to re-hash the performances and make suggestions.

Earlier this evening she’d had dinner with Yeats and John Quinn, 34, the handsome Irish-American lawyer from New York. He’s been coming over to Ireland in the summers to uncover his Irish roots, and spending more time with her here in Dublin and at her western Ireland home, Coole Park. Quinn has been talking to one of the other theatre principals, Douglas Hyde, 44, about arranging an American lecture tour to raise funds for Hyde’s Gaelic League..

But tomorrow, Quinn will be off to London and Augusta will head back to Coole. She’s thinking it would be great to bring the theatre over to New York for a tour sometime soon.

Lady Augusta Gregory, c. 1904

Lady Augusta Gregory, c. 1904

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

In Craughwell, County Galway, August 31, 1902…

…everyone is enjoying the Raftery feis.

Poet William Butler Yeats, 37, is there with his father and brother, both painters, to support his friend Lady Augusta Gregory, 50, who has been planning this event for the past two years.

Yeats in 1903

Yeats in 1903

In her research into Irish folklore, Augusta had discovered Raftery, the legendary 18th century blind Gaelic poet. Upset to learn that his grave here in Craughwell was unmarked, she organized a ceremony a few years ago to set up a stone cross. Now that she’s bought a real headstone, a whole festival is being held to celebrate it.

There’s quite a crowd. Have they come to honor Raftery or for the singing, dancing, flute playing and prizes? Yeats has come so as not to disappoint Augusta.

Ever the hostess, Lady Gregory is inviting some of the festival goers over to hers, nearby Coole Park, for some play-reading. Mostly those involved in their Irish theatre project, such as Yeats and Gaelic League president Douglas Hyde, 42. And an American tourist she’s been chatting up, lawyer John Quinn, 32, who is on his first trip to Ireland, searching for his roots.

Raftery's grave

Raftery’s grave

Ninety years later, in August of 1992, I visited Ireland and went to Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann in Dublin for Irish music and dancing. Met my husband, Tony Dixon. To all Irish-Americans seeking your roots in Ireland, beware…

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

In the west of Ireland, outside Gort, Summer, 1897…

…poet William Butler Yeats, just turned 32, traveling with a friend, visits a mutual acquaintance, amateur playwright Edward Martyn, 38, at the Martyn family home, Tullira.

Tullira today, in private hands

Tullira today, in private hands

Lady Augusta Gregory, 45, a friend of Edward who lives a few miles away, stops by.

Willie and Augusta [OMG! That’s our cats!] have met before in her London apartment where, as wife of an MP, she held salons for the Irish Protestants living there. But this is the first time the two have had a chance to get to know each other.

To continue the conversation, Augusta invites Willie and Edward over to hers, the nearby Coole Park, family home of her late husband, MP Sir William Gregory.

Coole House, which is no longer standing, located in Coole Park which is open to the public.

Coole House, which is no longer standing, located in Coole Park which is open to the public.

As Lady Gregory writes later:

Though I had never been at all interested in theatres, our talk turned on plays…I said it was a pity we had no Irish theatre where such plays [as Martyn’s] could be given. Mr. Yeats said that it had always been a dream of his, but he had of late thought it an impossible one, for it could not at first pay its way, and there was no money to be found for such a thing in Ireland …We went on talking about it, and things seemed to grow possible as we talked, and before the end of the afternoon we had made our plan.”

As Yeats marches around the drawing room dictating, Lady Gregory types, and they draft letters to send to her wealthy and influential friends, asking for money to start their theatre.

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