April. Novelist Virginia Woolf, 40, writes to her friend, Lady Ottoline Morrell, 48, to arrange a visit to the Morrell’s country home, Garsington. Virginia suggests the last weekend in May, writing,
It’s such an age since I was at Garsington, and it never seems to me a house on the ground like other houses, but a caravan, a floating palace.”
April. Ottoline writes to their mutual friend, novelist Edward Morgan Forster, 43, just back from India, inviting him to Garsington for the last weekend in May, telling him that Virginia as well as American ex-pat poet Thomas Stearns Eliot, 33, are invited for that weekend also.
Mid-May. Forster responds to Ottoline’s invitation, saying that he can’t come that weekend because he will be visiting their mutual friend, writer Lytton Strachey, 42, in Tidmarsh, Berkshire, where Lytton is renting a house owned by economist John Maynard Keynes, 38. Forster apologizes to Ottoline, explaining,
My future is as an uncharted sea, except where it is crossed by Lytton’s system of soundings.”
(Morgan has been reading a lot of Proust lately.)
Mid-May. Virginia writes to Ottoline canceling her Garsington visit for the last weekend in May. She’s had three teeth pulled and can’t shake off the flu. Maybe late June or early July?
Saturday, May 27. Forster is enjoying his weekend in Tidmarsh, chatting with Lytton and others. The surprise guests are Virginia and her husband Leonard, 41. Weren’t they supposed to be at Garsington this weekend?
Ottoline sends a wire to Morgan and Lytton imploring them both to come to her garden party, about an hour away, which will go on all day. She wants them to visit with Tom Eliot. Carrying the Woolfs’ secret with them, Morgan and Lytton set off.
E. M. Forster at Garsington
At Garsington, the party is in full swing. Everyone is swimming in the pond and Ottoline is holding court, dressed in a picture hat and bright yellow satin top.
Forster always enjoys the gossip at these get-togethers but feels that a lot of the chatter when he’s not in the room is about him.
Ottoline Morrell, standing, with her guests at Garsington
“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 in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA, and also in print and e-book formats on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. For more information, email me at email@example.com.
In June I will be talking about the Stein family salons in Paris before and after The Great War at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in 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.
Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is also available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. in both print and e-book versions.