Poet, playwright and new dad William Butler Yeats, 56, is writing to his friend in New York City, art collector John Quinn, 51. Yeats and his wife, Georgie, 28, have just returned from taking their baby son, Michael Butler, one month old, to Dublin for an operation. All went well, however, Michael might need more surgery, in London, next month.
But the Yeatses arrived home to find out that, once again, his father, painter John Butler Yeats, 82, has cancelled his booking to sail back home to his family in Ireland. This time he blamed it on some recent sickness.
W. B. Yeats by J. B. Yeats
Both Willie and Quinn have virtually ordered JB to come home. Quinn is resenting taking care of the older man, and Yeats has told his father point blank that, with his growing family, he can no longer afford to his support Dad’s American lifestyle.
Quinn has booked JB, once again, to sail in November and has put down a deposit.
Virginia Woolf, 39, had written to a friend this past summer.
She had been ill—and not working—for so long.
But now that it is autumn, with lovely weather and long walks out here in the countryside, she is feeling better and writing better than before.
Monk’s House, Rodmell
Virginia and her husband, Leonard, 40, had recently bought a used platen machine for their expanding Hogarth Press, which they run out of their London home. Virginia’s short story collection, Monday or Tuesday, which they published earlier this year, is selling well. And she is now close to finishing her next novel, Jacob’s Room.
One of many interruptions this month was the visit this past weekend of their friend, poet Tom Eliot, just turning 33. Virginia hadn’t been looking forward to it. She had written to her sister, painter Vanessa Bell, 42,
I suppose you wdn’t come for the 24th? When Eliot will be here?”
But Vanessa wasn’t available.
His stay turned out to be uneventful. Lots of chat about writing and books. Virginia confides in her diary that Tom’s visit
passed off successfully…& yet I am so disappointed to find that I am no longer afraid of him—”
Eliot hadn’t mentioned this to the Woolfs this past weekend, but he is looking forward to a visit to a London nerve specialist. His wife, Vivien, 33, has made the appointment for him because they have both agreed that his job at Lloyds Bank, a summer visit from his American family, and his work on a major poem, are all affecting his health. They may be moving out of hectic London soon and are hoping that an upcoming trip to Paris to visit fellow ex-pat American poet Ezra Pound, 36, might help. He and Pound are going to work together on editing the poem.
Vivien and Tom Eliot
Vivien writes to one of their friends, jokingly, that she is seeking help for Tom but hasn’t “nearly finished my own nervous breakdown yet.”
But Vivien has written a much longer letter to her brother-in-law, archaeologist Henry Ware Eliot, 41, just gone back home to St. Louis. Not joking, she confides that she knows her husband is not in love with her anymore. And Vivien adds a postscript,
Good-bye Henry…And be personal, you must be personal, or else it’s no good. Nothing’s any good.”
Which is worse? Financial problems or visiting family members?
That’s what is confronting ex-pat bookstore owner Sylvia Beach, 34, who is writing to her sister, Holly Beach Dennis, 37, in Italy to ask for money.
Shakespeare and Company, 12 rue de l’Odeon
Sylvia and her partner, Adrienne Monnier, 29, who owns a French-language bookstore across the street, have just returned from a lovely holiday in Hyeres on the southeastern coast of France.
Now that they are back home Sylvia has to face her mother, here on her annual visit, joined by Mom’s brother and his son.
In addition, the bill for renovations Sylvia had to have done to move her shop, Shakespeare and Company, to this new—much improved—location has come due. A total of 2,120 francs, including printing the announcement of the relocation.
But the bill that worries Sylvia the most is the one from the printer, Darantiere, in Dijon. He needs 1,000 francs for the work he has done setting type for Ulysses, the controversial novel by Irish ex-pat James Joyce, 39, which Sylvia has offered to publish. Darantiere has agreed to be paid in instalments, and Sylvia has solicited quite a few pre-orders from around the world. But not enough subscribers have sent checks yet to cover the growing expenses.
Letter from Darantiere
Reluctantly, Sylvia writes to Holly:
I’m asking you to lend me a thousand francs!!! My carpentry bill will be handed in any day now and mother who was going to lend me all the money for my moving expenses had to stop off in the midst, having had a great deal of expense getting [their sister] Cyprian equipped as a rising film star…My business is going well [but I] have to put every single centime aside to pay the printer.”
The plan is still to bring out Ulysses this fall, but Sylvia is dubious.
That’s how the British Foreign Office in London had described Nottingham native David Herbert Lawrence, just turned 36, on the passport they issued him two years ago.
Now he is traveling from his current home in Sicily to the British consulate in Florence to get a renewal. He and his wife Frieda, 42, are feeling as though it may be time to move on.
They have been living in a beautiful hilltop home, Fontana Vecchia, since last year. They had left England during the Great War, feeling as though Frieda’s German nationality and David’s supposedly “obscene” writings were not welcome.
After traveling around Europe, David had managed to finish his most recent novel, Aaron’s Rod, this past summer, although it won’t be published until next year. His UK publisher, after much waffling, had finally brought out his Women in Love this past summer, to many negative reviews.
Lawrence has a travel piece coming out next month in TheDial magazine, but he hasn’t been writing much. Except letters to his New York publisher:
I wish I could find a ship that would carry me round the world and land me somewhere in the West—New Mexico or California—and I could have a little house and two goats, somewhere away by myself.”
With only about £40 in their British bank account, where can he and Frieda go? Maybe somewhere on a tramp steamer.
Friends are moving to Ceylon to study Buddhism, but the Lawrences have turned down their offer to join them.
David is still waiting to hear from his American agent about the current balance in his accounts there. Maybe that’s the next option.
You don’t have to wait for this blog to work its way through the year.
Just order “Such Friends”: The Literary 1920s, Volume II—1921, the second in the series collecting these blog postings about this amazing decade. The print version is available now on Amazon; the e-book will be available in a few weeks.
You’ve certainly put a lot of work into this. It is a panorama of the period…Look forward to reading your future work”—Richard, Hemingway fan
Following less than eight months after the publication of Volume I, this collection of more than 100 vignettes has the same easy to dip in and out of layout. Or you can read straight through from January 1st to the upcoming December 31st.
Interior pages of “Such Friends”
Spoiler alert: It’s got a great ending [and two recipes]!
I have really been enjoying your book…Because of the way it’s set up with episodes corresponding to dates of the year, it’s a great one for reading a bit from on a daily basis.”—Emily, British writer fan
And what about your book-loving friends? You may know which early 20th century writers they love, but are you sure which works they have read or not read at gift-giving time? The series “Such Friends”: The Literary 1920s is the perfect present because they sure haven’t read this! Give them the gift of great gossip about their favorite creative people.
The series “Such Friends”: The Literary 1920s is based in part on my research for my Ph.D. in Communications from Dublin City University in Ireland. which focused on the legendary writers and artists who socialized in salons in the early years of the 20th century—William Butler Yeats and the Irish Literary Renaissance, Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group, Gertrude Stein and the Americans in Paris, and Dorothy Parker and the Algonquin Round Table. For the blogs and books I have expanded the cast of characters to also include those who orbited around them such as T. S. Eliot, E. M. Forster, James Joyce, D. H. Lawrence, Edna St. Vincent Millay and others.
My investigations into creative writers in the early 20th century began with Manager as Muse, a case study of Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ work with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, the topic of my MBA thesis at Duquesne University in my hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This is also available on Amazon in print and e-book formats.
The “Such Friends” book series has been beautifully designed by Lisa Thomson [LisaT2@comcast.net] and produced on Amazon by Loral and Seth Pepoon of Selah Press [email@example.com].
The cover art on Volume II is a painting by Virginia Woolf’s sister, painter Vanessa Bell, A Conversation.
A Conversation by Vanessa Bell, 1913-1916
If you are in Pittsburgh, and easily accessible by bus, I will hand deliver your personally signed copy!
Everyone is reading “Such Friends”!
I read it in chronological order and found the vignettes most interesting. A sort of behind the scenes look into the thoughts, character, and personalities of the writers and artists affiliated with the individual salons in the beginning of the decade. I do believe the 20s sparked a Renaissance of thought and ideas in the literary and artistic world. I must admit that there were a few of their associates that I was not familiar with which may merit further study.”—Robert, Wisconsin fan
For complimentary review copies of both volumes of “Such Friends”: The Literary 1920s, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This fall I will be talking about Writers’ Salons in Dublin and Ireland Before the Great War in the Osher Lifelong Learning program at Carnegie-Mellon University.
Newlyweds Ernest, 22, and Hadley Hemingway, 29, have just returned to their cramped, gloomy, top floor walk-up apartment after a wonderful dinner with one of Ernest’s mentors, Sherwood Anderson, just turning 45.
1239 North Dearborn Street, Chicago, Illinois
Anderson represents the type of successful writer Ernie aspires to be. Two years ago Sherwood’s novel—really a collection of interwoven stories about one town, Winesburg, Ohio—was a big hit. Since then two short story collections have been big sellers as well. The most recent, The Triumph of theEgg: A Book of Impressions from American Life in Tales and Poems, includes 15 stories and seven photos of clay sculptures by Anderson’s wife, Tennessee Mitchell, 47, illustrating some of the characters.
Anderson is regularly published in The Dial literary magazine, where Hemingway regularly has his poems rejected.
Sherwood and Tennessee have just returned from their first trip to Europe and are filled with stories of the interesting people—mostly Americans—whom they became friends with there.
Sherwood and Tennessee Anderson
Ernest and Hadley are planning a trip to Europe also. But they want to move there permanently.
Ernie is making $200 a month as editor of the house organ for the Cooperative Commonwealth Society. But he is growing more suspicious of the organization every day. In addition to writing the Co-Op Notes, Personal Mentions and Insurance Notes sections in the newsletter, he’s been including coverage of the allegations of fraud brought against them.
Hadley, on the other hand, has a bit of a trust fund. And with the recent death of an uncle she never cared much for anyway, she will soon have an income of almost $300 a month.
Ernie knows he can count on the Toronto Star to continue to pay him for free-lance pieces, and he wants to show Hadley the places he was in Italy during the Great War. Including where he was injured. They have even bought some lira—at a great exchange rate—in preparation for their trip.
But Sherwood has a different idea. Forget Italy, he tells the young couple. France is equally inexpensive and the most interesting writers and artists of the time are flocking there.
Sherwood promises Ernest he will write letters of introduction for him so he can meet Anderson’s new ex-pat American friends on the Left Bank. Sylvia Beach, 34, from Princeton, New Jersey, runs a terrific English-language bookshop. Even more important, the modernist writer Gertrude Stein, 47, from San Francisco [via Pittsburgh]. Sherwood has been a big fan of her work for years and was thrilled to have long discussions with her about writing. He is contributing the preface to a major anthology of her pieces from the past decade, Geography and Plays, in hopes of getting her a wider American audience.
Back here in their depressing apartment, the Hemingways are re-thinking their plans. Anderson has convinced them.
A few days ago, the 51-year old lawyer was quoted in the New York Times calling the protest against the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s first exhibit of modern French painting, “Ku Klux criticism.” He meant it. Still does.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Even the Times can’t determine who is behind the four-page pamphlet,
A Protest Against the Present Exhibit of Degenerate ‘Modernistic’ Works in the Metropolitan Museum of Art [by] An Anonymous Committee of Citizens and Supporters.”
Here’s what these self-appointed critics have to say:
This ‘Modernistic’ degenerate cult is simply the Bolshevic philosophy applied to art…The real cult of ‘Modernism’ began with a small group of neurotic Ego-Maniacs in Paris who styled themselves “Satanists”—worshippers of Satan—the God of Ugliness…It is understandable that the Museum should decide, in the interest of public Enlightenment, to lend its galleries for the Exhibition of such Art Monstrocities [sic] in order to give the public an opportunity to see…specimens of so-called ‘Art’ which has been boosted into notoriety in Europe and now here, by the most vulgar, crafty and brazen methods of advertisement by the European speculators in Art…[But] the Trustees should publicly…disclaim all intention of lending the prestige of the Museum in support of the propaganda for Bolshevistic Art, which is repudiated by the majority of our artists and citizens.”
This is Quinn’s own collection they are criticizing. He has leant 26 pieces to the show—modestly titled “Loan Exhibition of Impressionist and Post-impressionist Paintings”—including Cezanne’s Madame Cezanne in a Red Armchair and Van Gogh’s Portrait of the Artist. One of his fellow collectors has even told Quinn how jealous he is of his pieces in the exhibit.
Madame Cezanne in a Red Armchair by Paul Cezanne
The American Art News gave the exhibit a positive review when it opened back in May. But the New York World called it “dangerous” and singled out one of Quinn’s Gauguins as an “odious Bolshevik work.”
Portrait of the Artist by Vincent Van Gogh
Quinn and Lilly P. Bliss, 57, along with some other New York patrons, had negotiated with the Museum to host this show, and Quinn thinks that, if anything, it is too conservative. They have included Spanish painter Pablo Picasso, 39, for example, but none of his Cubist work.
Quinn and Bliss had collaborated before, to introduce the American public to contemporary art at The Armory Show. It was a huge success. But eight years later self-righteous Philistines are still protesting in print.
This summer the Museum hosted a solo show of drawings by a woman! Is anyone protesting that?, Quinn asks.
Film actor Roscoe Arbuckle, 34, is waking up in this posh hotel room and slowly starting to remember what a disaster last night’s party had been.
St. Francis Hotel, San Francisco
His butt is still sore from a stupid accident back home in Los Angeles a few days ago when he sat on some rags soaked in acid that burnt through his pants causing second degree burns.
But Roscoe’s friends insisted that he still come with them for this planned Labor Day weekend bash to celebrate the hit films Roscoe starred in this year—and his new $1 million contract with Paramount. One of them bought him a rubber padded ring to sit on for the long drive.
The suite in this hotel—two bedrooms for them and a party room for everyone—the women and the booze have all been arranged by his friends.
Roscoe is familiar with two of the women from Hollywood. Virginia Rappe, 26, is an actress and sometimes model who had been in a film a few years ago with Rudolph Valentino, also 26. Since then he has become quite a star based on his most recent picture, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. But Virginia has only done bit parts and is mostly known for getting drunk and vomiting at every party.
Her friend, Maude Delmont, 35, has an even more scandalous reputation. She provides young women for wealthy men who are then accused of rape and blackmailed. Delmont has even been convicted of fraud and extortion.
Roscoe was a bit concerned when he first saw those two in the suite yesterday morning. If the local cops find out, they might feel they have to look into this illegal liquor party.
Yesterday afternoon he had found Virginia in his bathroom, vomiting, as usual. He carried her into his room.
But a bit later, Virginia was on the floor, screaming and ripping at her clothes. Other guests tried to cool her down in a tub of cold water. Roscoe called the hotel manager and doctor, who decided that the young woman had just had too much to drink and could sleep it off. The doctor gave her some morphine.
Roscoe figures he’d better get up now and see how she and the others are doing. Virginia was pretty sick last night.
From the other room he hears one of his friends call him,
The Ziegfeld Follies of 1921 opened at Broadway’s Globe Theatre, with music once again by Victor Herbert, 62. The leads are Fanny Brice, 29, coming back to the Follies after ten years, singing “My Man” and “Second Hand Rose,” and comedian and juggler W. C. Fields, 41, his fifth time in the Follies.
Ziegfeld Follies of 1921
This was followed two weeks later by the premiere of George White’s Scandals at the Liberty Theatre, a few blocks away from the Globe. The music is by George Gershwin, 22, who hit it big two years ago when Broadway star Al Jolson, 36, heard Gershwin sing his tune “Swanee” at a party and used it in one of his shows.
George White’s Scandals
And just two days after that a new musical, Dulcy, by two young playwrights, both from western Pennsylvania, Marc Connelly, 30, and George S Kaufman, 31, opened just down 42nd Street at the Frazee Theatre. For their first collaboration, Connelly and Kaufman based the lead on a character created by one of their friends they lunch with regularly at the nearby Algonquin Hotel, New York Tribune columnist Franklin Pierce Adams, 39, known to all of New York as FPA.
The duo has already started in on their next musical project, To the Ladies!, set to premiere next year.
One of their other lunch buddies, Robert Benchley, 31, an editor at the humor magazine Life, had finally gotten around to having his first drink while listening to the live broadcast of the Dempsey-Carpentier fight at the midtown speakeasy Tony Soma’s. Soon after, Benchley tried some rye whiskey and realized it smelled just like his Uncle Albert did at family picnics back in Massachusetts.
Benchley’s best friend, and now best drinking buddy, free-lance writer Dorothy Parker, just turned 28, has had another short story in the Saturday Evening Post, “An Apartment House Trilogy,” based mostly on the characters around the flat she and her husband moved to just about a year ago, at 57 West 57th Street. When she sent the piece to the editor, she had warned him that it was “rotten…poisonous.” He didn’t think it was too rotten, but not quite her best. He really wants more of the shorter fluffy things she’s been selling to Benchley over at Life.
Saturday Evening Post, August 20, 1921
Bob has introduced Dottie to one of his other friends, Donald Ogden Stewart, 26, who has had some pieces in Vanity Fair and Smart Set. He’s been hanging out at Parker’s place but doesn’t like joining the others at their Algonquin lunches. They’re vicious. Stewart feels he has to fortify himself with a few drinks before he even gets to the hotel.
Edna Ferber, just turned 36 [but only admits to 34], would love to be invited to one of the Algonquin lunches. Her second novel, The Girls, has just come out and it wasn’t easy to get a national magazine to serialize it. Her story of unmarried Chicago women was too scandalous for most, but finally Women’s Home Companion bought it without any major changes. Not only did FPA praise the way she described his hometown of Chicago, even her own mother conceded that it’s not too bad.
Ferber has asked her friend Alexander Woollcott, 34, the New York Times drama critic, if she could lunch with him at the Algonquin maybe just once?
Alex took a leave of absence from his Times job this summer to go back to his alma mater, Hamilton College in New York state, to finish a book he’s been working on, Mr. Dickens Goes to the Play. He’s written a few chapters about Charles Dickens’ love of theatre and will fill out the rest with sections from Dickens’ novels and essays.
But the biggest news in New York publishing this summer is how the new editor of the New York World, Herbert Bayard Swope, 39, has been poaching columnists from his competitors.
Herbert Bayard Swope
Swope became executive editor of the paper last year and has been making big changes. He thought the page opposite the editorials was a mess, so he cleared out the book reviews and obituaries and now devotes the page to opinion pieces, christening it the “op-ed” page. Swope believes
Nothing is more interesting than opinion when opinion is interesting.”
Those pesky facts can stay where they belong in the rest of the paper.
Swope also stole one of the top columnists at the Tribune, Heywood Broun, 32, another regular Algonquin luncher. Broun was eager to jump. Swope makes clear to him and all his columnists, that they can write whatever they want—within the limits of libel law and good taste. In return, they have to write new copy for each instalment, three times a week. No hoarding a bank of evergreen filler, ready to print any time. Swope wants it all to be fresh.
For $25,000 a year, in his column “It Seems to Me” on the op-ed page, Broun can write what he likes—theatre reviews, reports of the most recent football game of his alma mater, Harvard, or campaigns about social issues such as censorship, racial discrimination or academic freedom.
Poaching Broun is a coup. But Swope astounds New York’s literati again by luring the Tribune’s number one columnist, FPA himself, over to the World. Unlike the other writers, FPA is given his own private office to work on his “Conning Tower” columns. One of the first at his new home is about the return to New York of his fellow Algonquin-ite, Alex Woollcott.
Maybe Woollcott will be the next star to jump ship and land on Swope’s World?