‘Such Friends’: 100 Years Ago, March 1910

In Ireland…

Lady Augusta Gregory turns 58.

Her main focus is on the Abbey Theatre, which she had started with poet and playwright William Butler Yeats, 44, and her neighbor in the west of Ireland, Edward Martyn, 51, 12 years before.

After a lot of fights, feuds, and resignations, the theatre is doing well. Yeats’ school friend, poet, playwright and painter ‘AE’ [George Russell, 42], has recently defected to another theatre group, so things at the Abbey have calmed down a bit.

Yeats and Lady Gregory have had their own disagreements this past year, but they also joined forces to argue for the right of The Shewing Up of Blanco Posnet, by Dubliner George Bernard Shaw, 53, to be performed without censorship.

This year, Lady Gregory is working on many plays, including The Full Moon and The Deliverer, which uses the story of Moses in Egypt to show how the Irish people treated the late nationalist Charles Parnell.

In England

…painter Vanessa Bell, 30, is three months pregnant with her second son, Quentin. She and her husband, art critic Clive Bell, 28, have been married for three years and live in Gordon Square in the Bloomsbury section of London.

At the beginning of the year, they re-ignited a friendship with art critic Roger Fry, 43, and he has joined their circle which meets regularly at their home, and at the home of Vanessa’s siblings, Virginia, 28, and Adrian Stephen, 27, in nearby Fitzroy Square. Fry has begun painting a portrait of Vanessa.

One of their Cambridge friends, Lytton Strachey, has just turned 30. He has written a blank verse play, called Essex, for a Stratford-on-Avon competition, and some essays on Rousseau and the women’s suffrage movement. Despite bouts of bad health, Lytton has begun work on his first large work, Landmarks in French Literature.

In France

….Pablo Picasso, 28, is working on a painting of his art dealer, Portrait of Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler.

Picasso has been painting musical instruments, still-lifes, and friends. Four years ago he completed a portrait of his benefactor, American ex-patriate writer Gertrude Stein, now 36. She and her brother Leo Stein, 38, had been among the first to buy Picasso’s work. When their fellow San Franciscan Alice B. Toklas, now 32, moved to Paris in 1907, Gertrude had brought her to Picasso’s studio during her first few weeks there. Alice took French lessons from Picasso’s wife.

At that time Picasso had been working on a large work, Demoiselles d’Avignon, and Leo Stein had turned against his art. Leo and his sister had fought about it; Gertrude sided with Picasso. As Leo described the situation later:

‘I bought my last picture from Picasso…and that was one that I did not really want, but I had from time to time advanced him sums of money, and this cleared the account. Picasso was amusing sometimes when he was hard up. At one such moment the pictures of Renoir for the first time brought large prices at an auction, and Picasso, who had no coal and no money to buy it, drew glowing pictures of Renoir’s house with sacks of coal everywhere and some special choice hunks on the mantelpiece. Once when I gave him a 100 Francs to buy coal, he stopped on the way home and spent 60 of it for Negro sculpture.’

In America

…Maxwell Perkins, 25, who had graduated from Harvard three years before in economics, is working as a cub reporter on the New York Times. Perkins is hopeful of getting a job with better hours and pay at the publishers Charles Scribner’s and Sons so he can marry, Louise Saunders, 17.

Perkins has been sent to the Bowery to cover a would-be bank robber who is trapped in the collapsed tunnel he had been digging to get into the bank. To report back to the paper every half hour, Perkins uses the phone in a local saloon, and feels obliged to buy a drink each time he goes in. By dawn, after the robber is arrested, Perkins reels home only to find he has a message to go for his second interview at Scribner’s at 9 am.

Despite his hung over state, Perkins impresses Mr. Scribner, who hires him, for the advertising department.

After four years, Perkins is moved over to editorial where he specializes in spotting new young talent such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Thomas Wolfe, among others.

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‘Such Friends’: 100 Years Ago, February 1910

In Ireland…

…in Dublin, the Abbey Theatre premieres the latest Cuchulain play by William Butler Yeats, 44, The Green Helmet, an heroic farce. The program includes Yeats’ poem by the same name, which is collected in The Green Helmet and Other Poems published by his sisters’ Dun Emer Press later in the year.

This volume also includes No Second Troy, one of his many poems inspired by his rocky love affair with the Irish nationalist Maud Gonne, 43. The previous year, Gonne had finally left her husband, the Irish patriot Major John Mac Bride, 44. Yeats and his fellow Abbey founder, Lady Augusta Gregory, 57, had supported Gonne in separating from her husband on grounds of drunkenness, which gave her custody of the MacBrides’ son Sean, 6.

No Second Troy includes the lines:

Why should I blame her that she filled my days

With misery, or that she would of late

Have taught to ignorant men most violent ways…

Why, what could she have done, being what she is?

Was there another Troy for her to burn?

In England…

…in Weymouth, Dorset, where the Navy’s HMS Dreadnought is docked, six Abyssinian princes come aboard for a royal visit. The captain had received a telegram from the Foreign Office a few days before telling him to prepare for the inspection.

But in reality the ‘princes’ are writer Virginia Stephen, 28, her brother Adrian, 26, painter Duncan Grant, 25, ringleader Horace deVere Cole, 28, and two of his Cambridge friends. They wear blackface, fake beards, and African-looking robes, and are not found out, even by those among the ship’s crew who know them.

To embarrass the Navy, Cole reveals the story to the newspapers, which publishes photos of the entourage. The media delights that the hoaxers had spoken in gibberish the whole time, translated by Adrian, repeatedly shouting, ‘Bunga! Bunga!’

Although this event becomes synonymous with Bloomsbury’s anti-establishment attitudes, for Virginia it merely reinforces her view that most men—particularly those who have the benefit of a formal education, which she hasn’t—are silly.

Duncan, in the meantime, has confessed to his lover, economist John Maynard Keynes, 26, that he is in love with Virginia’s brother Adrian. Grant and Keynes remain close throughout their lives, despite many affairs with others and Keynes’ marriage to ballerina Lydia Lopokova in 1925.

In France…

…on the Left Bank, American writer Gertrude Stein is celebrating her 36th birthday, her seventh since coming to live in Paris with her brother, Leo, 37.

Their apartment at 27 rue de Fleurus has become the center for art and artists among the expatriate community.

In the past year, painter Duncan Grant, 25, and Lady Ottoline Morrell, 36, have come from England to see canvasses by Henri Matisse, 40. In the salon, Leo holds forth on the superiority of the work of Pablo Picasso, 28, to that of James Whistler, 75.

While her brother Leo is recognized as one of the few American connoisseurs of modern art, Gertrude has been trying to replicate with words what the artists are doing with paint. She had finally found a publisher, the Grafton Press, for her Three Lives. But the editor there had corrected her grammar, and one year after publication they had sold only 73 books. Gertrude has sent a copy to her former teacher, William James, 68, but he dies before he can read it.

But this will be the year that Gertrude’s partner since 1907, Alice B. Toklas, 32, from San Francisco like the Steins, will officially move in to rue de Fleurus; eventually Leo will move out. Alice is already there every day, cleaning, cooking, typing whatever Gertrude has written the night before. They even collaborate on one piece, Ada, which clearly shows Alice’s handwriting on the typescript.

As she says later of the early salons, in The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas:

‘Everybody brought somebody…It was an endless variety and everybody came and no one made any difference. Gertrude sat peacefully in a chair and those who could did the same, and the rest stood. There were the friends who sat around the stove and talked and there were the endless strangers who came and went. My memory of it is very vivid.’

In America…

…in the Brooklyn Heights section of New York City, Heywood Broun, 21, is still living with his parents on Pineapple Street. He is enrolled at Harvard University, but is flunking French and won’t be able to graduate. The most important thing Broun has learned from his university education is that the only career left to him, though poorly paid and not what his upper middle class family had in mind, is journalism. This summer Broun gets a job on the Morning Telegraph for $20 per week.

…in Manhattan, already starting his journalism career, Alexander Woollcott, just turned 23, had been hired as a general reporter at the Times the previous year, and now is assigned to cover trials and crimes.

…in New Jersey, George S Kaufman, 20, still living with his family, has had his first poem published in the popular ‘Always in Good Humor’ column by FPA [Franklin Pierce Adams, 28] in New York’s Evening Mail. FPA had invited the younger writer over to New York for lunch to encourage his career.

This year, Kaufman is taking classes once a week at the Alverne School of Dramatic Art in New York, to help his future prospects as a playwright. He also invests $100 in a theatre company in Troy, NY, but his job as manager there doesn’t last. Kaufman cables back to his family in New Jersey:

‘LAST SUPPER WITH ORIGINAL CAST WOULDN’T DRAW IN THIS HOUSE’