‘Such Friends’: 100 Years Ago, October 1909

In Ireland:

All those in the Abbey theatre are still struggling to get over the death from lymphoma earlier in the year of one of their three directors, playwright John Millington Synge, at age 39.

His fellow director Lady Augusta Gregory, 57, dealt with the Synge family and the executors, but decided that she didn’t want to write about him. However, the third member of the triumvirate, William Butler Yeats, 44, is writing an introduction to a collection of Synge’s essays. Lady Gregory sent him this advice:

“I would like you to give some impression of…the theatre years in Dublin when none of us saw anyone from outside, we just moved from the Abbey [Theatre] to the Nassau [Hotel] and back again, we three always…We can’t say and don’t want to say what was true, [Synge] was ungracious to his fellow workers, authors and actors, ready in accepting praise, grudging in giving it. I wonder if he ever felt a moment’s gratitude for all we went thru fighting his battle over Playboy [of the Western World]? On tour he thought of his own plays only, gave no help to ours, and if he repeated compliments they were to his own…Those who attacked him didn’t know him at all…We who are his friends and know him could find more…to say against him but we won’t.”

Douglas Hyde, 49, founder of the Gaelic League and one of the founding playwrights of the Abbey, has been named Professor of Modern Irish at University College Dublin, and he has taken a house in the city.

James Joyce is also still living in Dublin, and world renowned tenor, Enrico Caruso, performed there at the Theatre Royal that summer.

In England:

Virginia Stephen, 27, has been at Studland Beach near her sister, Vanessa, 30, and her husband Clive Bell, 28, since mid-September. They had all traveled together in Italy earlier in the year, but Virginia tired of the married couple and came home early. Now they were all ready to go back to London and start up their weekly salons in Bloomsbury again.

Artist Duncan Grant, 24, is sharing rooms in Belgrave Road, St. John’s Wood, with his lover, economist John Maynard Keynes, 26. He has painted a portrait of his cousin, Lytton Strachey, 29, and then turned it over and painted Lytton’s sister Marjorie in Le Crime & le Chatiment.

Lytton is heading off to Cambridge for the rest of the year. He is working on a blank verse play, called Essex, he hopes to enter in a Stratford-on Avon competition.

In France:

Ireland’s La Passionara, and Yeats’ lover, Maud Gonne, is living in France, separated from her abusive husband Sean MacBride. Yeats and Lady Gregory are both supportive of her bringing charges of drunkenness against MacBride so she can have sole custody of their son. The French call her “La belle Irlandaise”

Roger Fry, 43, based in London but serving as curator of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, has met both Henri Matisse and Edgar Degas in Paris.

At 27 rue de Fleurus, Alice B. Toklas, 32, has moved in with her lover and fellow Californian, Gertrude Stein, 35. After the publication of Stein’s Three Lives, Alice was able to fulfill one of her childhood “romances”—subscribing to the clipping service, Romeike, which she had seen advertised in the San Francisco Argonaut when she was a child. “Soon the clippings began to come in,” she wrote in the Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas.

In America:

In Minnesota, F. Scott Fitzgerald, just turned 13, has one of his mystery stories published in the St. Paul Academy magazine.

The Fitzgeralds had moved back to St. Paul the year before, after his father lost his job with Procter & Gamble in Buffalo. They are living with his mom’s family, the McQuillan’s, in the Summit Hill neighborhood, where hundreds of well-preserved 19th and 20th century grand homes stand to this day.

Scott is active in the dancing classes, but also enjoys football and baseball.

The Pittsburg Pirates beat the Detroit Tigers 8-0 in the seventh game to win the World Series.

George S Kaufmann, 19, is living in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburg, as it was then spelled, although his mother and sister had moved to New Jersey when Mr. Kaufman got a job with the Columbia Ribbon Manufacturing Co. He’s trying to get his son George a sales job there, but George is more interested in working on the poems he is sending to FPA’s column in Manhattan’s Evening Mail.

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‘Such Friends’ 100 Years Ago, September 1909

In Ireland:

This is a year of loss for the directors of the Abbey Theatre. Playwright and co-director John Millington Synge dies of Hodgkin’s disease at the age of 38. Fellow director William Butler Yeats, 44, loses his grandfather, ending his connections with his mother’s family in Sligo, where he had spent summers as a child.

Lady Augusta Gregory, 57, is thrilled with the birth of her first grandchild, but now that her son has an heir, the house she had lived in since her early marriage, Coole Park, will probably pass to him.

This September, Augusta’s friend Violet Martin writes to her that “there was a curious enchantment over all…I think the constant output of spirit and mind at Coole creates a very special atmosphere.”

In England:

Although the Bloomsbury group still gets together most Thursday evenings in Gordon Square and Fitzroy Square for whiskey, buns and cocoa, they travel around quite a bit.

Virginia Stephen, 27, and her younger brother Adrian, who live in Fitzroy Square together, have been touring Europe. They visit their older sister, Vanessa and her husband, Clive Bell, turning 28 this month, at Studland Beach in mid-September. Virginia has been working on her first novel, Melymbrosia, and given it to Clive to critique.

Lytton Strachey, 29, working on a blank verse play, Essex, for a competition in Stratford-on-Avon, has returned to London from a rest in a sanatorium in Sweden, paid for by his mother. He’s been corresponding with his Cambridge friend Leonard Woolf, serving in the Civil Service in Ceylon and ready to come home.

Lytton’s cousin, Duncan Grant, 24, is sharing rooms with his lover John Maynard Keynes, 26, in St. John’s Wood, London, and they get away together for some time alone in the Cotswolds. Keynes has recently been named a Fellow of King’s College Cambridge.

In France:

At 27 rue de Fleurus in Paris, Alice B. Toklas, 32, has officially moved in with Leo and Gertrude Stein, 35. Stein’s Three Lives has been published that year, and Alice signed up to a clipping service to keep track of its publicity.

The other young women who came from San Francisco to visit the Steins have all gone home, and Alice has made it clear to them that they did not need to come back to Paris.

Gertrude is working on “Ada,” and the manuscript shows almost as much in Toklas’ handwriting as Stein’s.

In America:

In New York City, Alexander Woollcott, 22, fresh out of Hamilton College, has just been hired as a reporter at the Times. He’s thrilled to discover he can get free theatre tickets.

Emmannuel Radnitzky, 20, is taking in art shows such as “The 8,” and starts recording his paintings—signed Man Ray—with a Brownie camera, a service he offers to collectors such as John Quinn.

In Boston, MA, Robert Benchley, celebrating his 20th birthday, is giving mock travelogues around town. He started at Harvard the year before, although he would have preferred Yale.

In St. Paul, MN, Frances Scott Key Fitzgerald, 13, plays basketball and football, but is really pleased that he has finally managed to join the “right” dance class.

Read more about the groups by clicking on any of the pages or categories to the right.