‘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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