“Such Friends”: 100 Years Ago, Ireland, England, France and America, December 31, 1920/January 1, 1921

What a year.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s predicted “greatest, gaudiest spree in history” hasn’t materialized—yet. At the end of the first year of the new decade and the beginning of the second:

Irish poet and playwright W B Yeats, 55, and his wife Georgie, 28, are at home, still resting up, after an extensive and successful American lecture tour. They are pleased to be back with their daughter, Anne, almost two years old, and Yeats is continuing to work on his autobiography. He has finally admitted to himself that his father, painter John Butler Yeats, 81, is never going to leave the comfortable life he has in New York City to come back to Ireland. His father had told him that one of his New York friends commented,

In Dublin it is hopeless insolvency. Here it is hopeful insolvency”

John Butler Yeats self-portrait, 1919

English novelist Virginia Woolf, almost 39, and her husband, Leonard, 40, are spending the holidays at their Sussex home, Monk’s House near Rodmell. Their almost six-year old project, the Hogarth Press, has lost one of its authors, Katherine Mansfield, 31, to a more established publisher because they had neglected to contract her for more than one book.

Katherine Mansfield

And their latest assistant, Ralph Partridge, 26, has only earned £56 as his share of the company yearly profits. But they have printed and published four titles—including Virginia’s story, Kew Gardens, which has sold 620 copies—and earned £68 19s 4d.

In Paris American ex-patriate writer Gertrude Stein, 46, and her partner, Alice B. Toklas, 43, have recently welcomed a new member of their household on the Left Bank—Godiva, their new Ford touring car. Their previous auto, “Auntie Pauline,” which took them all over France as they volunteered for the Fund for French Wounded during the Great War, had finally died right in front of the Luxembourg Palace, the 17th century government building. The replacement arrived and Alice remarked that it was naked—no clock, no cigarette lighter, no ashtray. So Gertrude promptly named her Godiva.

1920 Ford Model-T

Free-lance New York writer Dorothy Parker, 27, is floating. She’s getting plenty of her articles and poetry published in magazines, and lunching most days with her fellow writers at the midtown Manhattan Algonquin Hotel. Two of her lunchmates, and former Vanity Fair colleagues, Bob Benchley, 31, and Robert Sherwood, 24, are willing to accept silly pieces she submits to their monthly humor magazine, Life; the Saturday Evening Post is willing to buy the same kind of fluff. Dottie knows that it is not her best work. But it pays the bills.

Robert Sherwood

What will the new year bring?

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

My “Such Friends” presentations, The Founding of the Abbey Theatre and Dorothy Parker and the Algonquin Round Table, are available to view for free on the website of PICT Classic Theatre.

Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Thomas Wolfe, is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions. Early in the new year I will be talking about Perkins and his relationships with Fitzgerald and Hemingway in the Osher Lifelong Learning program at Carnegie-Mellon University.

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

2 thoughts on ““Such Friends”: 100 Years Ago, Ireland, England, France and America, December 31, 1920/January 1, 1921

  1. Have you considered including Michael Arlen – author of The Green Hat ? He dated heiress Nancy Cunard while she was still mrs Fairbairn and she may be part inspiration for Iris Storm. Nancy went on to have an affair with Afro American Henry Crowder and set up a poetry publishing firm with him. ( I have featured Nancy as a judge in an hallucination trial in my play based on Waugh’s auto biog book The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold- it takes place on a cruise – hence the cunard reference !)

    • Good idea. It’s funny he hasn’t come up at all, altho Nancy Cunard sometimes appears in pieces about the Woolfs because she was a publisher at the same time. I remember reading Arlen’s A Bottle of Milk for Mother my first semester in college…

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