In New York City, 1909…

Roger Fry, 42, is worried. He hasn’t been happy with the way his job with New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art has been working out. Five years ago, when he first met the Museum’s new president, financier J P Morgan, 72, he was impressed. Two years later, when Morgan chose him over noted art historian Bernard Berenson, 44, to be curator of European painting, he was thrilled.

Initially Fry had enjoyed traveling with the ‘Big Man’ throughout Europe on art-buying excursions, and even the frequent trips to New York. He’d met Mark Twain!

But last year he decided that the travel was wearing him down. His wife, Helen, 45, was ill, and Fry had convinced the museum to reassign him as ‘European adviser’ so he could spend most of his time at home in London.

And now Fry’s suspicions about his wealthy American boss have been confirmed. Fry had negotiated a low price for a fabulous piece of Italian sculpture on the basis that it was going to the Metropolitan Museum. He has just found out that Morgan bought it for his own collection. At the reduced price. Fry suspects this has happened before.

He knows what he has to do. Fry has to tell one of the members of the Museum’s board of trustees. And he knows Morgan will have him fired.

J P Morgan attacking a paparazzi in 1909. Morgan rarely allowed himself to be photographed because he suffered from rosacea which made his nose appear purple.

J P Morgan attacking a paparazzi in 1909. Morgan rarely allowed himself to be photographed because he suffered from rosacea which made his nose appear purple.

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

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In London, 22nd November, 1906…

…she finally says yes.

Clive Bell, 25, Cambridge graduate, from a good family, has been proposing to Vanessa Stephen, 27, for months now. No, no, no, has been the answer.

Clive has been doing his best to ingratiate himself into the circle of her friends and family, including her sister Virginia, 24, and brothers Adrian, 23, and Thoby, 26.

But just two days ago, big, healthy, strapping, incredible Thoby, died. Ever since the Stephen siblings came back sick from a disastrous European tour, the doctors have been treating Thoby for malaria. But he was suffering from typhoid. The Stephens and all his Cambridge friends are devastated.

Clive isn’t sure whether Thoby’s death has influenced Vanessa’s change of heart. All he knows is, she said yes.

Brother and sister Vanessa and Thoby Stephen

Brother and sister Vanessa and Thoby Stephen

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

In Jaffna, Ceylon, 1906…

Leonard Woolf, 25, feels as though he will never adjust to his life as a cadet in the British civil service, assisting the Government Agent here. In the past two years, he has survived typhoid, lost his virginity to a local prostitute, and carried on an affair with one of the women in the expat Brit community.

But it is still too depressing. The heat is oppressive and Charlie, the dog he brought with him from England, is suffering from it. Leonard exchanges letters every day with his friend from his years at Trinity College, Cambridge, essayist Lytton Strachey, also 25. But even that’s not enough. Lytton’s gossip about their friends back in Bloomsbury makes him feel even worse. Leonard writes,

I took out my gun the other night, made my will, and prepared to shoot myself…I shall live and die in these appalling countries now’

Leonard Woolf and friends in Jaffna, Ceylon

Leonard Woolf and friends in Jaffna, Ceylon

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

 

 

In spring, 1906…

…English painter Duncan Grant, 21, is living in Paris. When his aunt gave him £1000 for his birthday in January, he knew exactly what he wanted to do with it.

He has brought along his cousin and current lover, essayist Lytton Strachey, just turned 26, but the relationship is not going well. They’ve mostly spent time hanging out with English friends and relatives. Trying to make connections within the art world, Duncan is studying with painter Jacques-Emile Blanche, 45, and has visited the most talked-about art show, the Salons des Independents, but didn’t notice anything in particular.

American ex-patriate siblings, Leo, 33, and Gertrude Stein, 32, have also visited the exhibit. They were thrilled to hear about the scandal surrounding The Joy of Living [Bonheur de vivre] by their friend, Henri Matisse, 36. They started buying up his paintings last year and are planning to invite him to their salon at 27 rue de Fleurus on the Left Bank to introduce him to one of their other favourites, Pablo Picasso, 24.  She’s been sitting with him for her portrait.

 

Le Bonheur de Vivre [Joy of Life] Henri Matisse, 1905

Le Bonheur de Vivre [Joy of Life] Henri Matisse, 1905

Le Bonheur de Vivre [Joy of Life] Henri Matisse, 1905

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

In mid-January, 1902, at Cambridge University…

Lytton Strachey, 21, has returned to Trinity College. He’s looking forward to reading his new essay, ‘Christ or Caliban?’ for the weekly debate at the Apostles’ meeting. He was thrilled to have been elected to the university’s ‘secret’ society, and has met the most interesting men there. His friend Leonard Woolf, also 21, takes the group very seriously. And the new guy, John Maynard Keynes, 19, from King’s College, is…very attractive.

Lytton's page in the Apostles album, 1902

Lytton’s page in the Apostles album, 1902

Lytton is also planning a major academic work on the 18th century governor general of India, Warren Hastings, which he hopes will secure him a permanent position at Cambridge. He’d spend his whole life there, if he could. Lytton’s been getting some other pieces published in the Cambridge Review, including, ‘The Cat’:

‘Dear creature by the fire a-purr,

Strange idol, eminently bland,

Miraculous puss! As o’er your fur,

I trail a negligible hand,

And gaze into your gazing eyes,

And wonder in a demi-dream,

What mystery it is that lies,

Behind those slits that glare and gleam…

Oh, strange! For you are with me, too,

And I who am a cat once more

Follow the woman that was you

With tail erect and pompous march,

The proudest puss that ever trod…’

The results of a debate at an Apostles meeting later that year. The question was ‘Why laugh?’ and Lytton voted, ‘Don’t.’

The results of a debate at an Apostles meeting later that year. The question was ‘Why laugh?’ and Lytton voted, ‘Don’t.’

On October 8th, 1904, at 22 Hyde Park Gate, London,…

…it’s moving day.

Vanessa Stephen, 25, and her brothers Thoby, 24, and Adrian, 21, are packing up and movin’ out. Their sister Virginia, 22, has been shipped off to family friends so she won’t lapse into any of her ‘fits’ and disrupt the process.

Vanessa is in charge of this whole project, convincing her siblings that, now that their father had died, just months before, they’re entitled to their freedom. And that means getting out of this ‘house of all the deaths,’ as family visitor Henry James, 61, had referred to it.

The Stephen relatives are absolutely scandalized by the decision. Moving is one thing, but to Bloomsbury! That dirty, congested Bohemian neighbourhood. What on earth has come over Vanessa?!

But Vanessa knows what she wants. She found #43 Gordon Square, negotiated a lease, and is organizing and moving the whole household of 11 Stephens and seven servants.

Her sister Virginia remembered this time years later,

We were full of experiments and reforms…We were going to paint; to write; to have coffee after dinner instead of tea at 9 o’clock. Everything was going to be new; everything was going to be different.  Everything was on trial.’

Here is the Google maps route from Hyde Park Gate to Gordon Square, but for the Stephen siblings, it was a world away:

https://www.google.co.uk/maps/dir/Hyde+Park+Gate/Gordon+Square,+London+WC1H+0PY,+UK/@51.5125979,-0.1747165,14z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m14!4m13!1m5!1m1!1s0x487605596653082b:0xd5e571b2696f1bc6!2m2!1d-0.1827435!2d51.5006688!1m5!1m1!1s0x48761b2fea135bcd:0x68fc546718fcf9cd!2m2!1d-0.1304264!2d51.5244765!3e2

On 2nd February, 2015,…

…Manager as Muse: Maxwell Perkins’ Work with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe is published.

When I first met with Charles Scribner, Jr., president of Charles Scribner’s Sons, in May of 1980, to discuss Maxwell Perkins and his influence on writers and publishing, Mr. Scribner expressed his doubt about the relevance of Perkins as a subject for my MBA thesis:

“My goodness, Miss Donnelly, Maxwell Perkins was one of the worst businessmen who ever lived.”

This is the traditional view of Perkins’ work with his three most famous authors, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe. However, when it came time for me to choose a topic for my thesis at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA, I wanted to find out how he managed to get such incredible work out of these fabulous characters.

This version of the book has been substantially edited from my original case study. I felt it would be best to keep the emphasis on the relationships between Perkins and these three interesting men. But the conclusion is the same—guidelines to help anyone who has to manage or supervise creative people. How did Perkins keep these guys writing? How much did he push? How much did he stay hands off?’

The terrific 1980s biography, Max Perkins: Editor of Genius, by Pulitzer-prize winning author A. Scott Berg, gave me a sound basis to build on. But I also drew on many other sources about editors, publishing, and creative people. Quite a bit came from collections of letters between the editor and his authors. People wrote letters in those days! They provide a wealth of information.

Berg’s book is currently being made into a film, Genius, starring Colin Firth as Perkins, Jude Law as Wolfe, and Nicole Kidman as Wolfe’s mistress, Aline Bernstein. The film has been shooting now in the UK and is scheduled to be released later this year or early in 2016.

After researching Perkins and that time period, when it came time to do my Ph.D. in Communications, at Dublin City University, I decided to build on the information I had and look into writers who socialized together, as Fitzgerald and Hemingway did in Paris in the 1920s with Gertrude Stein and others.

This led me to ‘Such Friends’ and this blog. When I went back to edit Manager as Muse, I realized that Perkins and his writers were, also, ‘such friends.’

Manager as Muse is now available in both print and Kindle versions on Amazon.com in the US and Amazon.co.uk in the UK.

If you are in the UK and want a signed copy of Manager as Muse, let me know and I’ll arrange to get you one. If you are in the US, you can order the print version and I’m happy to sign it next time I’m there!

Manager as Muse by Kathleen Dixon Donnelly

Manager as Muse by Kathleen Dixon Donnelly