“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago, March 23, 1923, corner of quai des Grands-Augustins and 1 rue Git-le-Coeur, Paris

Visiting novelist John Dos Passos, 27, is enjoying tagging along with his fellow American writer Donald Ogden Stewart, 28, walking around Paris, visiting some of the ex-pats Stewart knows.

Quai des Grands-Augustins

At this address Dos Passos is introduced to the Murphys—Gerald, about to turn 35, and Sara, 39. Stewart was a few years behind Gerald at Yale, and he has given the couple a big build-up, describing them as a prince and a princess. Dos Passos, a cynic from Harvard, figures he won’t succumb to their allure.

Dos Passos is impressed with Sara, one of the most charming women he’s ever met. Gerald seems a bit distracted. He’s getting ready for a big dinner party they’re throwing.

John Dos Passos

The Murphys are in the process of renovating this apartment, with its white walls, lacquered black floors, Mexican rugs, and floor to ceiling windows surrounded by red antique brocade drapes, a perfect frame for the fabulous view down the River Seine.

Gerald and Sara have become huge fans of the Kamerny Theatre from Moscow, and this party is to celebrate their successful run at the Theatre de Champs-Elysees. The Murphys have been to all 10 of the Kamerney’s performances..

Kamerny Theatre poster

The Murphys’ new Algerian chef is making couscous; dessert will be slightly obscene-shaped chocolate mousse with crème Chantilly; and there will, of course, be plenty of wine.

Because they are in the midst of the renovation, there are few pieces of furniture for guests to sit on. Gerald and Sara have improvised, placing mattresses and pillows all over and covering them with brocade fabric. Planks mounted on blocks will serve as tables. Plumbers’ lamps will do for lighting. And, supporters of the arts that they are, the Murphys have attached to the walls “found sculptures” made from bicycle wheels and other discarded junk by their new friend, Fernand Leger, 42.

Sara graciously invites their guests, Stewart and Dos Passos, to stay for the party. But Dos Passos declines. He never feels comfortable in situations like this and is embarrassed by his stammer.

“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 Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA. They are also on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk in print and e-book formats. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

Later this month I will be talking about F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Carnegie-Mellon University.

Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with Fitzgerald, 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.


One thought on ““Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago, March 23, 1923, corner of quai des Grands-Augustins and 1 rue Git-le-Coeur, Paris

  1. are these Murphy’s also in the south of France with Hemingway and Fitzgerald? I seem to remember their names from reading about Hemingway. The party sounds lovely with the plumbers lamps etc. but I do feel sympathy for Dos Passos not wanting to be there and feeling self conscious.

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 )

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s