“Such Friends”: 100 Years Ago, First Week of February, 1920, 8 rue Dupuytren, Paris

After two and a half months of running her own bookshop, Shakespeare & Co., on the Left Bank of Paris, American Sylvia Beach, 32, daughter of a Princeton, New Jersey, Presbyterian minister, is having a ball.

Sylvia Beach 1919

Sylvia Beach

She is writing to her sister Holly, 35, back in the States, about her new best friend forever, Adrienne Monnier, 27, owner of the bookstore, La Maison des Amis des Livres (The House of the Friends of Books), a few blocks away. Adrienne and other Parisians were so helpful to Sylvia last fall in sorting out the details of starting a business in France. Adrienne and she had had

a sort of set-to or climax effect one day,”

she writes to Holly. Mostly about the design of the new bookshop. But now they have made up and

become the best of friends…Adrienne is the best friend in the world and we get along puffickly [sic] now.”

Monnier in front of bookstore

Adrienne Monnier in front of her bookstore

Beach loves the independence of having her own successful business—her lending library is up to 80 subscribers now—as well as getting to know the American and British ex-patriates who feel comfortable hanging out at her shop.

But the best part is being in the center of the creative life of the Left Bank. The two friends have been going to concerts and plays all over town. They’ve had fascinating lunch guests such as Parisian playwright Georges Duhamel, 35, and composer Erik Satie, 53. His works are so funny.

Satie in 1920

Erik Satie

Satie mentioned that he is working on a project now with fellow French composer Darius Milhaud, 21, for a big performance being staged by poet Jean Cocteau, 30, later this month. But Satie is so secretive about all his work. Even when collaborating with Milhaud, he sent him a note saying,

Don’t give anything away. Not a word to ANYBODY, above all:  Don’t give anything away. SERIOUS.”

Sylvia, Adrienne, and some of their French friends—she is the only “foreigner” in the group—are planning to see Duhamel’s hit play, L’Oeuvre des athletes (The Action of Athletes), at Jacques Copeau’s Theatre du Vieux-Colombier,

Beach suspects she is being included, not just because of her friendship with Monnier, but because the French like to ask her questions about one of her favorite American writers, Walt Whitman.

Sylvia writes to her sister,

I am so lucky to be able to do something interesting [for] the rest of my life.”

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the book, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s, to be published by K. Donnelly Communications. For more information, email me at kaydee@gpysyteacher.com.

In 2020 I will be talking about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins and his relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and others in both the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie-Mellon University’s Osher Lifelong Learning programs.

Manager as Muse, about Perkins and his writers, is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions.

If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, you can download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”: Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.



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