“Such Friends”: 100 years ago, Spring, 1921, Mayfair, London

Sitting in his new in-laws’ posh house, American publisher, poet, and general drifter Robert McAlmon, 26, can’t believe his luck.

Back in February he had accepted the offer of a woman he had just met, Annie Ellerman, also 26, always known as Bryher, to get married so she could have access to her family money. Until they came over here to introduce Bob to her parents, he hadn’t realized how much family money there is.

The New York Times broke the story this month that the daughter of Sir John Ellerman, 58, first baronet, owner of British newspapers, breweries and shipping lines and the richest man in the United Kingdom, had married some unknown writer and artists’ model, Robert McAlmon. The family made no comment.

McAlmon is getting along well with his new British in-laws. Bryher’s parents have succumb to his charms and promised him a generous allowance. He even has enjoyed chatting with her younger brother John, 11, a reclusive boy. He writes books about rodents.

Sir John Ellerman with his son, John

The newlyweds had hosted a big party at the Hotel Brevoort before their sailing. His fellow co-founder of Contact magazine, poet Dr. William Carlos Williams, 37, had brought the couple orchids. McAlmon did explain to him later that this is a marriage of convenience only.

And how convenient it has turned out for Bob. Bryher is introducing him to most of the literary lights of London. Writer and painter Wyndham Lewis, 38, has agreed to publish two of McAlmon’s poems in his magazine, Blast. Publisher and philanthropist Harriet Shaw Weaver, 44, will publish some in her magazine, The Egoist, and is talking about bringing out a whole collection. American ex-patriate poet T. S. Eliot, 32, has introduced him to Bloomsbury art critic, Clive Bell, 39, although Eliot doesn’t really take Bell seriously as a writer.

Harriet Shaw Weaver

McAlmon and Bryher agree that one of the best uses of her money is supporting fledgling writers like themselves. She has given funds to Weaver’s Egoist Press to publish new poets. In return, Weaver has given McAlmon a letter of introduction to one of his literary idols, Irish novelist James Joyce, 39. He can’t wait to look him up as soon as they move to Paris.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volume I covering 1920 is available on Amazon in print and e-book versions. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

This summer I will be talking about The Literary 1920s in the Osher Lifelong Learning programs at Carnegie-Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.

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

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 e-book formats.

2 thoughts on ““Such Friends”: 100 years ago, Spring, 1921, Mayfair, London

  1. I seem to say this so often but it really will be fascinating to see how this plays out … Of course, in a screenplay the ‘marriage of convenience’ would merely be the starting point for something more substantial but my guess is that the reality is a good deal more messy…
    Incidentally, for the purposes of a future anthology, ‘ have succumb’ should read ‘have succumbed’.

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