‘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.

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