“Such Friends”: 100 years ago, early summer, 1921, 27 rue de Fleurus, Paris

He is so anxious to know you, for he says you have influenced him ever so much and that you stand as such a great master of words,”

reads the letter of introduction that Sylvia Beach, 34, owner of the Left Bank bookshop Shakespeare & Co., has sent to Gertrude Stein, 47, about their visiting fellow American, novelist Sherwood Anderson, 44. Gertrude and her partner, Alice B. Toklas, also 44, instantly decide that they would love to meet him.

Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein at home

A few days ago, Beach had found Anderson looking at his own book, Winesburg, Ohio, in the display window of her shop, and invited him in. Even after having great success two years ago with that collection of stories focused on the residents of one town, he still works in an ad agency back in Chicago. But a generous benefactor agreed to pay his expenses for this first trip to Europe. Anderson has read some of Stein’s work in obscure American publications and has been impressed by her radical approach to writing.

Anderson and his wife Tennessee, 47, arrive at 27 rue de Fleurus, anticipating being in the presence of greatness. Alice is out running errands, but they talk at length with Gertrude about writing and writers. Sherwood tells her how much her writing has meant to him, and how it gave him confidence to keep going.

27 rue de Fleurus

When Alice comes back, Gertrude tells her how impressed she is with Anderson. She has been writing for years but has few publications and little recognition. Sherwood praising her work means so much to her.

Gertrude and Alice hope that Sherwood will be Stein’s link to the publishing world in America.

This summer, everyone’s coming to Paris…

NB:  The first meeting of Stein, Toklas and Anderson is where I mark in my research the beginning of the Americans in Paris salon.

“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 am talking about The Literary 1920s in the Osher Lifelong Learning programs at Carnegie-Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.

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.

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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