“Such Friends”:  100 years ago, December, 1921, Richmond; and West End, London

Virginia, 39, and Leonard Woolf, 41, owners and operators of the Hogarth Press in Richmond, are quite pleased with the sales of their friend’s book, Twelve Original Woodcuts by Roger Fry, just turned 55, which they hand-printed, bound and published themselves. The original press run sold out in two days!

Self-portrait by Roger Fry

Not the same for Poems, by their brother-in-law Clive Bell, 40. The art critic is thrilled that anyone wants to publish these 17 poems, written over the past 12 years, including “To Lopokova Dancing,” an ode to the star of the Ballets Russes, Russian ballerina Lydia Lopokova, 30.


In the West End of London, another one of the Woolfs’ friends, economist John Maynard Keynes, 38, is returning to the Alhambra Theatre in Leicester Square. Since early November he has not missed a performance of the Ballets Russes’ The Sleeping Princess with Lopokova as Aurora.

The production itself has gotten terrible reviews; one calling it a “gorgeous calamity.” And Keynes’ friends in Bloomsbury, once so enamored of the ballet company for its avant-garde choices, have been turned off by this traditional re-staging of a three-act ballet from the end of the last century. They have even soured on Lopokova.

Lydia Lopokova in The Sleeping Princess

Serge Diaghilev, 49, impresario of the Ballets Russes, is losing his shirt on this one. After a disastrous first night he was seen to break down in tears. He received a huge advance against box office income from the Alhambra Company to mount this spectacle. Hardly anyone is coming and it has to run the full three months.

But none of this bothers Maynard. He’s not coming back for the Tchaikovsky score, re-orchestrated by Igor Stravinsky, 39. Or the outlandish sets and costumes.

He returns every evening because he finds himself, much to his surprise and that of all his friends, absolutely entranced by Lydia.

To see Lydia Lopokova dancing a few years before, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BfIHu7b8J4k&fbclid=IwAR3u_4zsWC25sVavS6nO9byBJEcl97T795LcQjddIcuJxyVMHtZ72E9jf-Y

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volumes I and II covering 1920 and 1921 are available as signed copies at Riverstone Books, Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA, and in print and e-book formats on Amazon. If you need gifts for Christmas, I’ll hand deliver them tomorrow anywhere on the Allegheny County Port Authority bus routes. Email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

Early in the new year I will be talking about the centenary of the publication of James Joyce’s Ulysses at 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 also available on Amazon in both print and e-book versions.

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