“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago, Summer, 1922, Manhattan, New York City, New York

So far it’s been one helluva summer for free-lance writer Dorothy Parker, soon to turn 29.

She and her husband of five years, Edwin Pond Parker II, 29, spent Memorial Day in Connecticut with his family. Eddie is thinking that they should move there. Dottie tried to get some writing done that weekend, but…no.

Dorothy and Eddie Parker

Then, soon after the Fourth of July, she comes home to find Eddie all packed up and ready to move out. He says he is fed up with his job at Paine Webber and he’s moving back to Hartford with his family. She can have the dog and the furniture. Well, of course she’ll keep the dog.

Dorothy tells her fellow writers who she lunches with regularly at the Algonquin Hotel that the split is amicable. It’s just because Eddie took a new job in Hartford. They don’t believe that for a minute.

A gossip columnist had recently implied that Dorothy and one of her lunch buddies, theatre critic Robert Benchley, 32, were having an affair because they are seen together around town all the time. Dottie and Bob reassured Eddie that it was just because their jobs are so similar. They review the same plays, are invited to the same parties, go to the same speakeasies, and have lunch together almost every day. That’s all.

Robert Benchley and Dorothy Parker

Despite the turmoil in her personal life. Parker’s writing is going well. She had a piece in the Saturday Evening Post recently, “Men I’m Not Married To,” as a companion to “Women I’m Not Married To” by her Algonquin friend Franklin Pierce Adams [FPA], 40, in the same issue. There has been some talk of publishing the two together as a book. The Post runs something of hers in almost every issue.

“Men I’m Not Married To,” Saturday Evening Post

Parker has also decided to expand beyond the little nonsense verses she’s known for and try her hand at short stories. FPA is encouraging her; he gave her a book of French poetry and suggested that she can work on her prose style by modeling these poems. Parker has also learned that she can’t write fiction on a typewriter; she has switched to longhand, revising as she goes along.

Her first story is about a man clipping the hedges at his home in Scarsdale, ruminating about how trapped he feels by his wife, his kids, his mortgage, the suburbs. Something like Benchley. A bit depressing compared to her usual work, but The Smart Set has offered her $50 to publish it later in the year.

And just as she feels she is getting her life straightened out, along comes would-be playwright Charles MacArthur, 26. Fresh into Manhattan from Chicago; six feet tall; curly brown hair; with a line many women can die for. And fall for. Including Dottie.

Charles MacArthur

They were introduced by her other lunch buddy, theatre critic Alexander Woollcott, 35, who likes MacArthur so much you’d think he was in love with him.

What a perfect world this would be if it were full of MacArthurs!”

he has said.

Apparently, Charlie has a wife back in Chicago. No mind. Dorothy has a husband in Hartford. MacArthur bitches about the phoniness of New York City all the time, but knows he has to live here if he’s going to have any kind of theatre career. One day he showed up at the ASPCA pound with birthday cakes for all the puppies. They both like scotch and they both like sex. How could Dottie not fall in love with him?!

Her Algonquin friends think it’s cute, but surely Dorothy knows his reputation. He’s been sleeping with so many women around town, magazine illustrator Neysa McMein, 34, has a rubber stamp made for him that says

I love you.”

“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 kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

Later in the year I will be talking about the centenary of the publication of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes 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 also available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk in both print and e-book versions.

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

2 thoughts on ““Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago, Summer, 1922, Manhattan, New York City, New York

  1. Strikes me as a quintessential slice of New York life in the 20s … come one, come all, bring what talent to the city and make your mark.

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