‘Such Friends’:  John Quinn and me

Some of you are familiar with my near-obsession with John Quinn (1870-1924), the Irish-American art collector [to put it mildly] who appeared Zelig-like in all my research into early 20th century writers’ salons [Cf. ‘I want to tell you about an amazing man,’ on the right].

Last summer, on my trip to the States, I spent a tax-deductible day with the helpful staff at the New York Public Library, going through his papers. And thanks to my wonderful brother, Patrick J. Donnelly, we spent a whole day driving around Ohio where Quinn was born and grew up.

I owe it to all those who helped me, and to John Quinn, to finally embark on my long-planned work on his life and his role in the birth of modernism.

For the past 15 months in this blog I’ve been chronicling ‘my writers’ with stories of what they were doing before and during their times as ‘such friends’ hanging out together in living rooms and cafes in Ireland, England, France and America. My original plan was to keep going and tell the stories of what happened to them after their time in these groups. Let me know if you are heartbroken that those blogs are now on hold.

Instead, I am going to chronicle my search for Quinn. I could just write and self-publish a standard biography of him on Amazon. But—why? He’s an interesting guy, but there is a bigger picture.

Quinn was both an observer of and participant in the Irish Literary Renaissance, the Armory Show and the publication of James Joyce’s Ulysses. He was in Dublin, London, Paris and New York when the salons were happening. What a point of view!

And, even more important, he supported the arts and the artists. In unusually creative ways. I think we can learn a lot from him that would help today’s W B Yeats, Virginia Woolf, Gertrude Stein and Dorothy Parker. And Joyce.

Come with me on my journey. John Quinn and me. We are ‘such friends.’

johnquinn

John Quinn      1870-1924

 

 

 

At the New York World offices in midtown Manhattan, on August 5th, 1927…

 

…journalist Heywood Broun, 38, is working on his column for the next day. He knows what he has to write.

For the past few months Broun, along with some of his Algonquin Round Table lunch buddies, and other liberal writers, have been championing the cause of two Italian immigrants, Nicola Sacco, 36, and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, 39, who have been sentenced to death.

They were charged seven years ago with being involved in a Massachusetts robbery where a security guard and paymaster were murdered. As the case has dragged on, it has become a cause celebre for liberals in America and major European capitals, who feel the fishmonger and the cobbler are being prosecuted just for being foreigners living in the US.

Broun’s friend Robert Benchley, 38, has given a deposition stating that he had been told that the judge in the case had made prejudicial comments about the defendants. But it was inadmissible because it was hearsay.

Under public pressure, the judge put together a commission to review his judgment and death sentence, headed by the president of Harvard University, Broun and Benchley’s own alma mater. The commission gave in and supported the judge’s decision.

So the immigrants are scheduled for execution later this month, and Broun’s wife, journalist Ruth Hale, 40, and other Algonquin friends—including Benchley, Dorothy Parker, about to turn 34, poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, 35, and novelist John Dos Passos, 31–are planning to march in Boston next week.

Broun has kept Sacco and Vanzetti’s story alive in his column, but his bosses at the World are not happy. He should be very careful about what he writes now. Broun could lose his job, and, because of the three-year non-compete clause that he signed, he would be out of work for quite a while, with a wife and son, Heywood Hale, 9, to support.

He knows that. He writes,

 ‘It is not every prisoner who has the president of Harvard University throw on the switch for him…’

sacco-and-vanzetti Boston Globe

This is the last in this series about the writers before and during their times as ‘such friends.’ Check back soon for more stories from the early 20th century.

Manager as Muse explores Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ work with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe and is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions.

To walk with me and the ‘Such Friends’ through Bloomsbury, download the Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group audio walking tour from VoiceMap. Look for our upcoming walking tour about the Paris ‘such friends.’

At the New York Tribune offices, West 40th Street, Manhattan, in the summer of 1920…

FPA [Franklin Pierce Adams, 40] is working on his column, The Conning Tower. Known as ‘the comma hunter of Park Row,’ FPA has been amazed at all the errors he has found in this year’s hit novel, This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald, 25, and he has been highlighting them regularly in his column since the book first came out in March.

Who edited this mess?! Scribners is usually known for more professional output.

FPA’s lunch buddy from the Algonquin Hotel, New York World columnist Heywood Broun, 33, has joined the party. Between the two of them they are turning the search for mistakes into a scavenger hunt for their Manhattan readers.

This_Side_of_Paradise_dust_jacket

Fitzgerald’s debut novel from Scribners, with all the mistakes

Again this year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ during and after their times together.

Manager as Muse explores Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ work with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe and is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions.

To walk with me and the ‘Such Friends’ through Bloomsbury, download the Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group audio walking tour from VoiceMap. Look for our upcoming walking tour about the Paris ‘such friends.’

At the Court Theatre in Chicago, February 20, 1921…

…playwright Marc Connelly, 30, is feeling excited.

Dulcy, his first collaboration with George S. Kaufman, 31, also from western Pennsylvania, is about to open in its tryout before Broadway.

They had written it at night, after working their day jobs on Manhattan newspapers, and based it on a character used in the column of their Algonquin Round Table lunch buddy, FPA [Franklin Pierce Adams, 39].

A week ago Dulcy had been a hit in Indianapolis. The lead Lynn Fontanne, 33, has star written all over her.

But his new writing partner, Kaufman, is a wreck. At dinner tonight he said to Connelly,

We’ve been kidding ourselves and might as well admit it.’

If Kaufmann is this nervous when things are going well, Connelly thinks, what is he going to be like to work with when they don’t have a hit?!

dulcy-poster Pgh playwrights co.

Poster for a recent production of Dulcy by the Pittsburgh Playwrights Co.

Again this year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ during and after their times together.

Manager as Muse explores Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ work with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe and is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions.

To walk with me and the ‘Such Friends’ through Bloomsbury, download the Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group audio walking tour from VoiceMap. Look for our upcoming walking tour about the Paris ‘such friends.’

At 412 West 47th Street, ‘Hell’s Kitchen,’ in Manhattan, September 1922…

…New York Times drama critic Alexander Woollcott, 35, is looking forward to the big housewarming he has planned with his new roommates, Harold Ross, 29, and his wife, Jane Grant, 30.

Last year, Harold and Jane were going over blueprints for their new home, and Alex had burst in and said,

I’m joining this little intrigue.’

Since then he’s enjoyed the planning and remodelling. He owns 25% of the place, but likes making 100% of the decisions. Except the domestic part. That’s left to Jane.

All involved had agreed with Woollcott’s demand that any of the Algonquin Round Table would be welcome at any time for any meal. Why not?, he thought.

Their ‘Vicious Circle’ friends Dorothy Parker, 29, and Harpo Marx, 33—Alex just loves Harpo—have rented a carousel for the day, to keep the kids happy.

But Alex isn’t happy about some of the people Harold and Jane have included on the guest list. He’s thinking he just might boycott.

412-14_W_47th_Street

412 West 47th Street, which sold for $2.7 million in 2013

Again this year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ during and after their times together.

Manager as Muse explores Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ work with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe and is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions.

To walk with me and the ‘Such Friends’ through Bloomsbury, download the Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group audio walking tour from VoiceMap. Look for our upcoming walking tour about the Paris ‘such friends.’

At the 49th Street Theatre, mid-town Manhattan, April 30th, 1922…

…writer Robert Benchley, 32, is relieved.

He’s just come off stage after performing his one-man skit, “The Treasurer’s Report,” in his friends’ one-off revue, No Sirree! That went well, he thinks.

Preceding Benchley on stage was a chorus line of short women, including Tallulah Bankhead, 20, and Helen Hayes, 21, dancing around his friend, 6 feet 8 inches tall Robert Sherwood, just turned 26, singing “The Everlastin’ Ingenue Blues,” written by their drinking buddy and former co-worker when they all worked at Vanity Fair, Dorothy Parker, 28.

We’ve got the blues, we’ve got the blues,

We believe we said before we’ve got the blues.

We are little flappers, never growing up,

And we’ve all of us been flapping since Belasco was a pup.

We’ve got the blues, we mean the blues,

You’re the first to hear the devastating news.

We’d like to take a crack at playing Lady Macbeth,

But we’ll whisper girlish nothings with our dying breath.

As far as we’re concerned, there is no sting in death

We’ve got those everlasting ingénue blues.”

The show is for an invited audience and going well, but thank God they decided to do it as a joke for just one night. They named it after one of the hottest revues currently on Broadway, La Chauve-Souris.

Expected to contribute something, Benchley had finished off writing his part in the taxi on the way over. He thought it was pretty funny; the audience liked it. Right now, he’s just really glad he won’t have to do it again.

Bench Treas Report

Robert Benchley filmed doing The Treasurer’s Report

Here is a link to the short film, The Treasurer’s Report, for Fox Movietone (1928): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=edlpn3CnqaQ

In the film Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle (1994), there is a scene showing parts of No Sirree!, including a short piece of “The Everlastin’ Ingenue Blues”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eMX6BubBwmM

Again this year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ during and after their times together.

Manager as Muse explores Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ work with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe and is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions.

To walk with me and the ‘Such Friends’ through Bloomsbury, download the Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group audio walking tour from VoiceMap. Look for our upcoming walking tour about the Paris ‘such friends.’

At the Algonquin Hotel, mid-town Manhattan, June 1919…

…New York City’s top newspaper and magazine writers have all been invited for lunch.

Earlier this month, press agent John Peter Toohey, 39, searching for a way to promote his young client, playwright Eugene O’Neill, 30, had set up a lunch with New York Times drama critic Alexander Woollcott, 32, just returned from France. At lunch, Alex, who weighed only 195 for the last time in his life, had no interest in talking about anyone but himself and his recent exploits in the “theatre of war,” of which he was inordinately proud.

To get back at Woollcott for monopolizing that meeting, and to get more publicity, Toohey had decided to invite all the other well-known critics from New York’s many publications to a big gathering at the hotel—all 12 dailies in Manhattan and five in Brooklyn.

Thirty-five have showed up! So hotel manager Frank Case, 49, has put them all at a big round table in the back of the dining room.

Dorothy Parker, 25, is here as the drama critic at Vanity Fair, wearing her best suit, and she had insisted that her new co-worker Robert Benchley, 29, come along. Sports writer Heywood Broun, 30, and his wife, Ruth Hale, 32, are here. Parker had met him, a vague acquaintance of her sister, one summer a few years before. The dean of New York columnists, FPA [Franklin Pierce Adams, 37] is here as a personal friend of Woollcott.

When lunch is over, Toohey–or somebody–says, “Why don’t we do this every day?”

And so they did. For the next nine years.

hirshfield alg

 

The Algonquin Round Table by Al Hirschfeld. Left to right at main table, Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, Alexander Woollcott, Heywood Broun, Marc Connelly, FPA. On the other side of the table, left to right, Robert Sherwood, George S Kaufman, and Edna Ferber.

Again this year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ during and after their times together.

Manager as Muse explores Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ work with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe and is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions.

To walk with me and the ‘Such Friends’ through Bloomsbury, download the Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group audio walking tour from VoiceMap. Look for our upcoming walking tour about the Paris ‘such friends.’

In Manhattan in mid-summer of 1915…

…New York Tribune writer FPA [Franklin P. Adams, 33] is searching for material for his daily column, “The Conning Tower.”

It appears that his loyal readers stuck with him after he got kicked off The Evening Mail last year—after a decade of building up one of the largest audiences in New York–when it was bought by a pro-German syndicate. The new owners managed to get rid of most of their Jewish writers, including one of FPA’s proteges, George S Kaufman, 25. So he’d brought Kaufman with him to the Trib.

Now FPA’s thinking of giving one of his other young writer friends a mention, Heywood Broun, 27. He has just moved from sports reporter to drama critic at the Trib. And has told FPA that he’s fallen madly in love with a Russian ballerina, Lydia Lopokova, 23, and is determined to marry her. FPA writes for tomorrow’s issue,

Heywood Broun, the critic, I hear hath become engaged to Mistress Lydia Lopokova, the pretty play actress and dancer. He did introduce her to me last night and she seemed a merry elf.’

Lydia Lopokova, c. 1915

Lydia Lopokova, c. 1915

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.

In San Francisco, August 17, 1915…

Call & Post reporter Harold Ross, 22, is reading about the lynching of Jewish businessman Leo Frank, 31, in Atlanta, Georgia.

Ross had covered the story of Frank’s trial back at the Atlanta Journal in the hot summer of 1913. The Journal was in fierce competition with the Atlanta Georgian, owned by the Hearst syndicate.

But Ross had managed to be with Frank when the police took him to the morgue to see the body of the victim, one of his employees, 14-year old Mary Phagan, and he had interviewed the accused afterwards. Ross wrote later,

Without making the assertion that Frank is innocent, it may be said that his conduct from the outset was that of an innocent man.

After Frank was convicted, Ross had moved on to New York City, back home to Salt Lake City, and then back here to San Francisco where he is in his old job at Hearst’s Call & Post.  He has also returned to his addictive hobbies of poker and cribbage and is now enjoying driving around in a Stutz roadster.

1915_Stutz_H.C.S._Roadster

This past June, when the outgoing Georgia governor commuted Frank’s sentence, Ross had written an article for the Call, “The Leo M. Frank Case by a Reporter Who Covered the Tragedy”:

If juries convict men upon [such] evidence…and judges uphold them, no man is absolutely safe from paying the penalty for a crime he did not commit…The police did what they always do in Georgia—arrested a Negro…But this time the public—always excitable in the South—was not satisfied…So they arrested more Negros. But this did not stop the clamor…The murder of Mary Phagan must be paid for with blood. And a Negro’s blood would not suffice …There was a strong religious prejudice against [Jewish] Frank. The atmosphere in the courtroom was obviously hostile.

And now, a few months later, a lynching. A group of more than 20 prominent Atlanta businessmen, calling themselves The Knights of Mary Phagan, kidnapped Frank from prison, drove him to a town near where Phagan grew up, and hung him. The crowd that gathered took pictures to turn into postcards. Some popular publications cheered the lynching, saying that the voice of the people had been heard.

The Leo Frank lynching as reported by the Atlanta Journal

The Leo Frank lynching as reported by the Atlanta Journal

Ross can see what is coming. Some members of the lynch mob were also charter members of the Georgia Ku Klux Klan and now would be encouraged to revive their old club…

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.

At the Globe Theatre in Manhattan, September 30th, 1916…

Marc Connelly, 25, is angry.

The producers have just announced that The Amber Empress, the operetta for which he has been credited with both books and lyrics, will close tonight. After just 15 performances.

Connelly had been working on the musical since last year, but actually a lot of his hard work hadn’t made it into the final production. The Amber Empress, about a Hollywood movie crew filming in Italy, hadn’t gotten many good reviews; some singled out the score:

The music of the piece…has little to commend it, few of the numbers rising above mediocrity.

When Connelly had first moved to New York from Pittsburgh in 1915, he had worked on some additional lyrics for a musical revue, Hip! Hip! Hooray! and that had run more than eight months at the Hippodrome.

Hippodrome Theatre, New York City, 1915

Hippodrome Theatre, New York City, 1915

But it might be time to reconsider. Connelly’s widowed mom is struggling back in Pennsylvania, and maybe he isn’t cut out for this writing stuff anyway.

He has been selling some short pieces to Life magazine, and the Morning Telegraph just told him that he could have a Broadway column. Besides–he doesn’t have the bus fare back to Pittsburgh.

Connelly decides to stay.

Marc Connelly

Marc Connelly

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.