“Such Friends”: 100 years ago, January 21, 1921, 13 Nassau Street, Manhattan, New York City, New York

John Quinn, 50, corporate lawyer and passionate supporter of the arts, is fed up.

He doesn’t mind being busy. But this is ridiculous.

Quinn is trying to serve his corporate, fee-paying clients, but his most important staff member has been hospitalized with diabetes. Of course, Quinn paid the hospital bill and told the clerk to take time off for a trip out to the country. But they really need him back in the office.

The requests he is getting from his creative friends and former lovers are what really has him raving.

The Irish poet and artist AE [George Russell], 53, has been giving him advice on how to approach his defence of The Little Review magazine on obscenity charges for serializing sections of the novel Ulysses, by Irish writer James Joyce, 38.

In the preliminary hearing last fall, Magistrate Joseph E. Corrigan, 45, an old friend of Quinn’s, ruled that the section of Ulysses, where, as Quinn describes it, “the man went off in his pants,” was definitely “smutty, filthy within the meaning of the statute.” So he has scheduled the trial for next month.

And Joyce—he’s the most annoying of all. He’s writing Quinn from Paris that he MUST have a royalty of $3 or $3.50 per copy if Quinn arranges to have a private edition of Ulysses printed. And Joyce refuses to allow the publisher to change even one word.

And then he cables begging for money, which Quinn assumes is to pay for the Ulysses manuscript he is buying as Joyce writes it. So he will send the money.

Then Quinn gets a letter from Lady Augusta Gregory, 68, his friend and former lover, who wants the names of magazines and estate agents in New York to help her rent out her home, Coole Park outside of Galway, Ireland. Oh. And could he send some apples. Bad year for apples in Ireland.

Coole Park, drawn by W B Yeats

American ex-patriate poet, Ezra Pound, 35, his original connection with Joyce, writes from Paris that he wants Quinn to pass on a message to a Japanese Noh actor that he knows. Oh. And could he get him a job as foreign editor for Century magazine.

Pound’s friend, English writer and painter Wyndham Lewis, 38, writes asking Quinn to get subscribers for his magazine, Blast, which he is planning to revive. Oh. And could he buy some more of his paintings. Lewis needs the money.

Previous issue of Blast

Former Irish MP Horace Plunkett, 66, writes from Dublin asking Quinn to find some obscure pamphlet so he can get some quotes out of it.

That does it. Quinn figures the one person he can vent to is Pound. He is writing a ranting ten-page letter to him, mentioning that he doesn’t have any time to write letters: 

I haven’t had time to read a book in weeks or to see any art or read about art stuff…I have tried to let you know how busy I am, how driven I am, how harassed I am, but it does not seem to penetrate…Plunkett wrote as though I had a special alcove in my library thoroughly digested and thoroughly classified and all arranged so that all I needed to do would be to step up to [the pamphlet] and tip the thing out with one of my fingers and send it to him. I exist only to supply Plunkett with pamphlets…Good God Almighty, what do they take me for?…I am supposed to work on [Joyce’s] contract, advise about the contract, to negotiate it, to make the contract legally possible with this action, and yet at the same time to advance him money. And I suppose I will end by doing it. But, by God, there is an end of him too. I am not the father of his children…Nine times out of ten these requests are so small that it seems easier to do the God damned infernal things than to refuse them and explain about it…[The Little Review/Ulysses trial] will be a miraculous victory if I bring it about.”

What Quinn would really rather do is to see the play by the late Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, which just opened last night on Broadway.

But first, he’s going to write a telegram to Joyce insisting that the Irishman stop cabling him about anything. Quinn will tell him that he has been trying to make Joyce and Pound “understand I am working limits of my endurance.”

“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 this year I will be talking about Perkins, 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, January 21, 1921, 13 Nassau Street, Manhattan, New York City, New York

  1. If this were a movie, the audience, if it had a shred of humanity and feeling for the guy behind the scenes, would look beyond the ‘superstars’ and urge him, with growing intensity, to tell them where to shove it! Thank goodness he wrote that 10 page screed – without that outlet one would have feared for his sanity.

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