“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago, late September, early October, 1922, 82 Merrion Square, Dublin; and Great Neck, Long Island, New York

Georgie Yeats, 29, is relieved to be settling into her new home in Merrion Square, Dublin, with her family—her husband, poet William Butler Yeats, 57, and their two children, Anne, 3, and Michael, 13 months.

She bought this posh row house just a few months ago, with her own family money. But they have been living out in the west of Ireland, in the tower Willie bought and named Thoor Ballylee.

Willie has been optimistic about how the newly independent Irish Free State is progressing. Despite the ongoing civil war, the Parliament elected in June has taken their seats and chosen W. T. Cosgrave, 42, as their President.

However, at the beginning of this month Republican soldiers came to the door of Thoor Ballylee and told Georgie that they were going to blow up the bridge over the stream that runs by the tower. She should move the family upstairs. Big of them to give notice.

They ignited the fuses; a Republican told her there would be two explosions. She writes to a friend: 

After two minutes, two roars came & then a hail of falling masonry & gravel & then the same man shouted up ‘All right now’ & cleared off.”

No one was injured. When the Yeats family left for Dublin the stream had poured two feet of water in the downstairs dining room.

Thoor Ballylee flooded


As she got off the train at Great Neck, Long Island, Zelda Fitzgerald, 22, carrying her daughter Scottie, 11 months, took one look at the nanny that her husband, hit novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, just turned 26, had hired—and fired her.

Scott and Zelda have recently rented a house in this suburb, only a 45-minute drive from Manhattan, and, while Zelda went back to St. Paul, Minnesota, to pick up Scottie from Fitzgerald’s parents, Scott had botched things up as usual.

Scottie and Zelda Fitzgerald

They had come back to New York at the beginning of the month to start a life with less booze and more work on Scott’s next novel and a play he’s writing. But they made the mistake of staying in their favorite place for partying, the Plaza Hotel, and the partying came back too.

A few weeks ago, Scott invited his old Princeton University buddy, critic and managing editor of Vanity Fair, Edmund “Bunny” Wilson, 27, over to the Plaza for an impromptu lunch—lobster croquettes and top shelf illegal liquor. Also joining them were novelists John Dos Passos, 26, and Sherwood Anderson, 46, who was looking a bit scruffy. The bootlegger’s bartender mixed Bronx cocktails (gin, vermouth and orange juice) and the men sat around drinking and whining about how their publishers didn’t promote their books enough.

Dos Passos and Zelda started teasing each other and Anderson, who had only come to be polite, left early.

John Dos Passos

Scott mentioned that, now that he had published two successful novels and just brought out his second short story collection, Tales of the Jazz Age, he and Zelda had decided to rent a house out on Long Island where they could raise their daughter.

So the slightly tipsy Fitzgeralds and Dos Passos got in a chauffeured red touring car and took off to meet up with a real estate agent in Great Neck. None of the houses interested them so they decided to pay a call on their friend, humor writer Ring Lardner, 37, at his home on East Shore Road looking out over Manhasset Bay.

Ring was already drunker than they were, so after only a few more drinks the group headed back to the Plaza. Zelda insisted on stopping at an amusement park along the way so she could ride the Ferris Wheel, and Scott stayed in the car drinking from a bottle that he had hidden there. Dos Passos decided his new friends were going to have a hard time adjusting to strictly domestic life.

After several other house-hunting trips, the Fitzgeralds finally found this lovely home at 6 Gateway Drive, in the leafy confines of Great Neck Estates:  A circular driveway; red-tiled roof; great big pine tree in the front yard; and a room above the garage where Scott can write in peace.

6 Gateway Drive, Great Neck

Zelda took off to retrieve Scottie in St. Paul, leaving Fitzgerald to hire servants and a baby nurse. He sure has screwed that up.

Despite his recent writing success, and encouragement from his publisher, Scott really isn’t making enough to afford the rent, the servants, the laundress, the nurse, the country club, the theatre tickets, the restaurant bills, and the Rolls Royce (second hand) that living in Great Neck requires.

Zelda doesn’t care. The finances are his problem.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volumes I through III, covering 1920 through 1922 are available at Thoor Ballylee in Co. Galway, and as signed copies at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA. They are also available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk in print and e-book formats. 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 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.


4 thoughts on ““Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago, late September, early October, 1922, 82 Merrion Square, Dublin; and Great Neck, Long Island, New York

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s