We interrupt our usual chronicling of what was happening in the literary 1920s for this year’s ever-helpful “Such Friends” Holiday Gift Giving Guide.
So there are friends on your gift list who are, let’s just say, bookish. Maybe your book club? Or teenagers who just discovered a favorite author? Or someone you argue with over the relative merits of classic novels?
You have a good idea which books they like—but you really don’t know which ones they have or haven’t read.
They haven’t read this one!
Cover design by Lisa Thomson
By giving them either volume—1920 or 1921, both available on Amazon—of “Such Friends”: The Literary 1920s you are giving them the gift of gossip about their favorite early 20th century novelists, short story writers, poets, and journalists.
What could be better, you ask?
How about—a signed copy of Such Friends”: The Literary 1920s?! It can be arranged. Just email me at email@example.com. And if you are near any convenient city of Pittsburgh bus route, I will be happy to hand deliver your copy.
But wait. “Teenagers”?, you are asking. Teenagers don’t want to slog through some print doorstop all about the past. Ha! Then give them the e-book, also readily available from Amazon. And look at this beautiful interior design by Lisa Thomson from Volume II—1921. All the vignettes are laid out in easy-to digest pages. You can dip in and out or read all the way through.
Another gift for your bookish friends,Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Thomas Wolfe, is also available on Amazon in both print and e-book versions.
At the end of this month I will be talking about Writers’ Salons in Dublin and London Before the Great War in the Osher Lifelong Learning program at Carnegie-Mellon University.
The friends from London’s Bloomsbury neighborhood are settling into this hotel on the French Riviera.
Hotel La Maison Blanche
As soon as painter Vanessa Bell, 42, arrives, she writes to their friend, economist John Maynard Keynes, 38, back home, asking him to send them a dozen packages of oatmeal, 10 seven-pound tins of marmalade, four pounds of tea, and “some potted meat.”
Vanessa is here with her former lover, art critic Roger Fry, 54, who has received a letter from Vanessa’s sister, novelist Virginia Woolf, 39, reporting on a recent evening at her country home in Sussex:
T. S. Eliot says that [James Joyce’s novel Ulysses] is the greatest work of the age—Lytton [Strachey] says he doesn’t mean to read it. Clive [Bell, Vanessa’s husband] says—well, Clive says that [his mistress] Mary Hutchinson has a dressmaker who would make me look like other people.”
Also here for the winter is Vanessa’s partner, painter Duncan Grant, 36, who has arrived via Paris.
Visitors or not, Vanessa intends to spend her time here working on still lifes and interiors, in preparation for her first solo show next spring.
Virginia Woolf, 39, had written to a friend this past summer.
She had been ill—and not working—for so long.
But now that it is autumn, with lovely weather and long walks out here in the countryside, she is feeling better and writing better than before.
Monk’s House, Rodmell
Virginia and her husband, Leonard, 40, had recently bought a used platen machine for their expanding Hogarth Press, which they run out of their London home. Virginia’s short story collection, Monday or Tuesday, which they published earlier this year, is selling well. And she is now close to finishing her next novel, Jacob’s Room.
One of many interruptions this month was the visit this past weekend of their friend, poet Tom Eliot, just turning 33. Virginia hadn’t been looking forward to it. She had written to her sister, painter Vanessa Bell, 42,
I suppose you wdn’t come for the 24th? When Eliot will be here?”
But Vanessa wasn’t available.
His stay turned out to be uneventful. Lots of chat about writing and books. Virginia confides in her diary that Tom’s visit
passed off successfully…& yet I am so disappointed to find that I am no longer afraid of him—”
Eliot hadn’t mentioned this to the Woolfs this past weekend, but he is looking forward to a visit to a London nerve specialist. His wife, Vivien, 33, has made the appointment for him because they have both agreed that his job at Lloyds Bank, a summer visit from his American family, and his work on a major poem, are all affecting his health. They may be moving out of hectic London soon and are hoping that an upcoming trip to Paris to visit fellow ex-pat American poet Ezra Pound, 36, might help. He and Pound are going to work together on editing the poem.
Vivien and Tom Eliot
Vivien writes to one of their friends, jokingly, that she is seeking help for Tom but hasn’t “nearly finished my own nervous breakdown yet.”
But Vivien has written a much longer letter to her brother-in-law, archaeologist Henry Ware Eliot, 41, just gone back home to St. Louis. Not joking, she confides that she knows her husband is not in love with her anymore. And Vivien adds a postscript,
Good-bye Henry…And be personal, you must be personal, or else it’s no good. Nothing’s any good.”
You don’t have to wait for this blog to work its way through the year.
Just order “Such Friends”: The Literary 1920s, Volume II—1921, the second in the series collecting these blog postings about this amazing decade. The print version is available now on Amazon; the e-book will be available in a few weeks.
You’ve certainly put a lot of work into this. It is a panorama of the period…Look forward to reading your future work”—Richard, Hemingway fan
Following less than eight months after the publication of Volume I, this collection of more than 100 vignettes has the same easy to dip in and out of layout. Or you can read straight through from January 1st to the upcoming December 31st.
Interior pages of “Such Friends”
Spoiler alert: It’s got a great ending [and two recipes]!
I have really been enjoying your book…Because of the way it’s set up with episodes corresponding to dates of the year, it’s a great one for reading a bit from on a daily basis.”—Emily, British writer fan
And what about your book-loving friends? You may know which early 20th century writers they love, but are you sure which works they have read or not read at gift-giving time? The series “Such Friends”: The Literary 1920s is the perfect present because they sure haven’t read this! Give them the gift of great gossip about their favorite creative people.
The series “Such Friends”: The Literary 1920s is based in part on my research for my Ph.D. in Communications from Dublin City University in Ireland. which focused on the legendary writers and artists who socialized in salons in the early years of the 20th century—William Butler Yeats and the Irish Literary Renaissance, Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group, Gertrude Stein and the Americans in Paris, and Dorothy Parker and the Algonquin Round Table. For the blogs and books I have expanded the cast of characters to also include those who orbited around them such as T. S. Eliot, E. M. Forster, James Joyce, D. H. Lawrence, Edna St. Vincent Millay and others.
My investigations into creative writers in the early 20th century began with Manager as Muse, a case study of Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ work with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, the topic of my MBA thesis at Duquesne University in my hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This is also available on Amazon in print and e-book formats.
The “Such Friends” book series has been beautifully designed by Lisa Thomson [LisaT2@comcast.net] and produced on Amazon by Loral and Seth Pepoon of Selah Press [firstname.lastname@example.org].
The cover art on Volume II is a painting by Virginia Woolf’s sister, painter Vanessa Bell, A Conversation.
A Conversation by Vanessa Bell, 1913-1916
If you are in Pittsburgh, and easily accessible by bus, I will hand deliver your personally signed copy!
Everyone is reading “Such Friends”!
I read it in chronological order and found the vignettes most interesting. A sort of behind the scenes look into the thoughts, character, and personalities of the writers and artists affiliated with the individual salons in the beginning of the decade. I do believe the 20s sparked a Renaissance of thought and ideas in the literary and artistic world. I must admit that there were a few of their associates that I was not familiar with which may merit further study.”—Robert, Wisconsin fan
For complimentary review copies of both volumes of “Such Friends”: The Literary 1920s, email me at email@example.com.
This fall I will be talking about Writers’ Salons in Dublin and Ireland Before the Great War in the Osher Lifelong Learning program at Carnegie-Mellon University.
Novelist Edward Morgan Forster, 42, has awoken from a bad dream and feels relieved.
To attend this two-day festival celebrating the birth of Lord Krishna, Forster has moved from his three-room furnished suite to these rooms in the Old Palace, which offer a better view.
In his dream, Forster was back home in England with his mother Lily, 66, and his cat, Verouka. He dreamt that he had shown Verouka a mechanical doll that scared him. The cat was running round and round in the room above, making a terrible racket.
Forster’s relief comes as he realizes the racket is from a steam engine that is generating electricity for the festival outside his window.
Morgan left England—and his annoying mother—on his second trip to India more than five months ago.
At the beginning of the year, Morgan had written to his primary publisher that he would notify him if he ever got around to writing another book. His third and fourth novels, A Room with a View and Howards End have done well. But they were both published more than a decade ago.
Despairing of his mundane life and his inability to write, Forster prophesied to a friend,
I shall go [on] some long and fantastic journey; but we do not yet know whither or when. I am so sad at the bottom of my mind.”
Days later he received a cable from an old, dear friend, Sir Tukoji Rao IV, the Maharajah of Dewas State, 33, with whom he shares a January 1st birthday.
Sir Tukoji Rao IV
HH, as he is always referred to, decided—for some unfathomable reason—that Forster would be the ideal person to stand in for his private secretary who is going on six-month leave. HH offered Morgan paid return fare and expenses, 300 rupees per month, and his own young male concubine. Morgan had no idea what a “private secretary” would do. Still doesn’t.
But Forster jumped at the chance for a “fantastic journey,” renewed his passport and booked passage to India as soon as he could. Also, he knew his sea voyage would include a brief stopover in Port Said, Egypt, where he hoped to meet up with his Egyptian former lover.
E. M. Forster
His mother emphatically did not want him to leave and became a real pain. His friends in Bloomsbury were not happy either, but slightly more understanding. Fellow novelist Virginia Woolf, 39, thinks she will never see him again; he will become a mystic and forget about his despised life back home in Weybridge. Besides the fact that she likes having him around, Virginia looks to Morgan’s opinions on her writing. The rest of his Bloomsbury friends just think he’s running away from home.
Which he is.
He did spend four idyllic hours in Port Said having sex on a chilly beach with his Egyptian lover.
But now that he is “away,” what’s he supposed to do?! Morgan knows that he doesn’t have the skills necessary to organize the chaotic finances of the palace, and he isn’t any better at supervising the gardens, the garages, or the electricity. He tried to start a literary society, but attendance was patchy and engagement by the participants non-existent. HH asked that Morgan read aloud to him every day; this happens maybe once a month.
Morgan should be using all his free time to write. He had planned to work on what he has called his “Indian Manuscript” which he had started before the Great War. Now he feels that the words on the page melt in the Indian humidity. All he is able to write are deceptively cheery letters back home.
The only bright spots are the instalments on royalties he is receiving from Virginia’s Hogarth press for his supernatural fiction, The Story of the Siren; the most recent was last month on the first anniversary of its publication. The fact that it has sold at all maybe means that he shouldn’t give up trying to write.
Art critic Clive Bell, 39, is at Charleston Farmhouse which he shares with his estranged wife, painter Vanessa Bell, 42, their two sons, Julian, 13, Quentin, about to turn 11, and assorted other family members and lovers.
Clive is writing to his current mistress, Mary Hutchinson, 32, back in London:
Nothing could exceed the monotony of life at Charleston except the pleasantness of that monotony…One comes down to breakfast as much before 10 as possible, hopes for letters, kills a wasp, smokes a pipe, contemplates nature, writes til lunch, reads the Times, goes for a walk, drinks tea, reads Proust, shaves, writes [a letter]…dines, lights a fire, smokes a cheroot, reads the Grenville memoirs, smokes a pipe, reads Proust, goes to bed. Sometimes it rains.”
Mrs. St. John Hutchinson by Vanessa Bell, 1915
About 10 miles away, at Monk’s House in Rodmell, Vanessa’s sister, novelist Virginia Woolf, 39, is quite unwell and has been losing weight. The sales of her latest book, Monday or Tuesday, are good, and she has started sleeping a bit better, without medication. But her current doctors have her on horrible “milk cures,” which she can’t abide.
Virginia has been unable to do any writing or see any guests for about two months, and confides to her diary,
What a gap! Two whole months rubbed out—These, this morning, the first words I have written—to call writing—for 60 days.”
We interrupt our usual chronicle of what was happening 100 years ago to commemorate “Dalloway Day.”
Not “Bloomsday” which celebrates June 16th as the day on which James Joyce set his novel Ulysses . But the third Wednesday in June which is the day on which Virginia Woolf set her novel Mrs. Dalloway . This year, they happen to be the same day.
Below is a blog I wrote about the Dalloway Day events in London that I attended in 2017. If you are interested in the celebrations being held this year, click here. I particularly recommend the panel this evening featuring my “such friends” Emily Midorikawa and Emma Clair Sweeney, talking about Woolf’s friendship with Katherine Mansfield.
As I recommend to all my visiting American friends, when in the UK, time your train trip so you can take along some lunch from M&S Simply Food, ubiquitous in train stations here. My preference is carrot sticks with reduced fat humous and salmon pasta salad. Yum.
So I stocked up and took off for London a few Saturdays ago to take part in my first “Dalloway Day,” commemorating the day on which Virginia Woolf’s 1925 novel, Mrs. Dalloway, is set. The Irish all over the world have been celebrating “Bloomsday” based on James Joyce’s Ulysses for over 50 years. Now it’s Virginia’s turn.
Original cover of Mrs. Dalloway, designed by Vanessa Bell
The Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain is sponsoring this day, which includes a walk through some of the novel’s settings, a discussion of the book, and a 1920s party at the Bloomsbury Waterstones. I signed up for the whole package.
On one of the hottest days of the year, I took the train from Birmingham New Street to Euston station, and then the Underground to the appointed meeting place, outside the Regent’s Park Tube.
Waiting for the Underground lift, literally a breath of fresh air came wafting through. The woman next to me, about my age, said,
Oh! That feels great. It’s so hot.”
I nodded in agreement.
Watching her walk up the stairs in front of me, I realized she was wearing a blue flower print dress and lovely straw hat. Aha. Another Dalloway Day participant, I surmised.
As we reached the street at the top, we both laughed. Standing just a few feet away was a gaggle of Dalloway Day fans. About 20 women “of a certain age” in flowered dresses or skirts, straw hats—they all looked just like me! No trouble finding this group.
The walk was led by Jean Moorcroft Wilson, who obviously was a lot more familiar with the book and Virginia than I am, having read it years ago as part of my research. I actually have much more vivid memories of the Vanessa Redgrave film, which I’ve used in my presentations.
Jean was dressed in the full Dalloway, including a vintage dress and hat, complemented by darling low-heeled black shoes with straps. Very 1920s. She’d obviously done this many times before.
Jean pointed out that there is debate as to when Dalloway Day actually is. Whereas Joyce clearly set Ulysses on 16th June, 1904, the day of his first date with his eventual wife, Nora Barnacle, Woolf ‘s novel says “mid-June.” However, by lining up events in the book with cricket games and the Ascot races, most scholars have settled on the third Wednesday in June. But—this year, we are celebrating on Saturday, 17th June. So more of us can come.
The unusually warm weather—it’s actually been hot; Miami hot, not just England hot—didn’t slow us down a bit. After a stop in Regent’s Park, Jeanne walked us over to Fitzroy Square, where Virginia lived from 1907 until 1911 with her brother Adrian. Their sister Vanessa had married art critic Clive Bell and kicked the siblings out when the newlyweds took over the Gordon Square house, where we headed next.
My own Bloomsbury walkactually takes the reverse route, starting in Gordon Square and then over to Fitzroy Square.
Here’s me on one of my walks pointing out the house at #29 where Virginia and Adrian lived:
At Waterstone’s, we sat in a circle, sipping refreshing flavored ice water. Jean and Maggie Humm of the Woolf Society led us through an interesting discussion of the book. My research was on the relationships among the creative people in the Bloomsbury group, but wasn’t focused on their works—books, paintings, etc. This discussion brought new insights about the connections for me to incorporate into my future presentations.
And I learned that there is a website that maps all the walks of the characters in the book—Clarissa, Peter, Septimus and Rezia—showing how they interconnect.
For the 1920s party, I was planning to switch to Dorothy Parker mode, and so had tucked my red feather boa into my travel bag. But not many others were quite so dedicated to the flapper look, so I decided to stay in Bloomsbury garb.
This past week, I had another tax-deductible reason to go to London. Paula Maggio, better known to many of you as “Blogging Woolf”’ was visiting from the States to attend the 27th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf. We made plans to meet up and she wanted to try the Dalloway Terrace at the Bloomsbury Hotel. We had a fabulous lunch of pasta and prosecco, treated ourselves to dessert, and took a peek at the 1920s-style Bloomsbury Club downstairs.
Dalloway Terrace at the Bloomsbury Hotel, photo by Paula Maggio
Paula had also heard about a life-size statue of Virginia at Kings College, where Woolf had studied classics in her early days. A bit of Googling and walking led us to the Woolf Building. A sign said it was locked due to increased security, but when the guard saw our noses pressed against the glass, he let us in.
There she was, encased behind plexiglass, big as life, holding a copy of A Room of One’s Own, in a wardrobe that was, as Paula said, “a closet of her own.”
Surrounded by large quotes from Virginia’s works, and photos of her, it makes a fitting entrance for the College’s School of English.
Virginia Woolf statue, Kings College, photo by Paula Maggio
I would definitely add both of these places—Dalloway Terrace and the Kings College statue—to my Bloomsbury walk. Here’s a review of the restaurant by one of last year’s conference participants..
Heading back towards Euston station, Paula and I stopped by Woburn Walk, where the poet William Butler Yeats lived at the same time that Virginia and her siblings were moving into Gordon Square, just a few blocks away.
These intersections of time, place and characters are what interest me most. I can picture an aerial view of north London in 1907, as the Irish poet walks past the Stephens sisters, on their way over to enjoy a stroll through Regent’s Park.
Might make an interesting structure for a biography. Watch this space.
Novelist Sherwood Anderson, 44, and his wife Tennessee, 47, are sailing to Europe for the first time. Anderson’s third book, Winesburg, Ohio, was a big hit two years ago, and he’s been working at an ad agency in Chicago, but the Andersons wouldn’t have been able to afford this trip on their own. Sherwood’s benefactor, journalist and music critic Paul Rosenfeld, just turned 31, is accompanying them and paying for Sherwood’s expenses at least. He wants to introduce them around to the other American ex-patriate writers and artists in Paris this summer.
Sherwood and Tennessee Anderson
Novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, 24, and his wife Zelda, 20, are sailing to Europe for the first time.
Their first stop will be London where, thanks to a letter of introduction from Fitzgerald’s Scribner’s editor, Maxwell Perkins, 36, they plan to meet with one of Scribner’s other legendary authors, John Galsworthy, 53.
But the Fitzgeralds are mostly looking forward to the next leg of their journey—Paris. They plan to visit with one of their New York friends who has been living there since January as the foreign correspondent for Vanity Fair, poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, 29.
Scott had thought of writing a European diary, but Perkins discouraged him so he will work on a new novel instead. His first, This Side of Paradise, did well for Scribner’s, and he recently handed Perkins the finished manuscript of the second, The Beautiful and Damned, to get the money to pay for these tickets.
However, Zelda is about four months pregnant. She’s been feeling sick a lot lately and this sea voyage on the RMS Aquitania isn’t helping.
RMS Aquitania brochure
English painters Vanessa Bell, about to turn 42, and her partner Duncan Grant, 36, are sailing over from London to Paris again. This is their usual spring and/or summer trip. This time they plan to visit with two of the painters whom they admire, Andre Derain, 40, and Pablo Picasso, 39, both of whom they met at a Gordon Square party two summers ago. Duncan is bringing along one of his current lovers.
On the Left Bank, ex-pat English-language bookshop owner Sylvia Beach, 34, is looking forward to attending a play reading tonight a few blocks away at the French-language bookshop of her partner, Adrienne Monnier, 29.
Today, May 28th, the Paris Tribune, European edition of the Chicago Tribune, is running a big feature article about Sylvia and her store, Shakespeare & Co., written by a friend.
Literary Adventurer. American Girl Conducts Novel Bookstore Here”
includes pictures of Sylvia and refers to her as “an attractive as well as a successful pioneer.”
Chicago Tribune Paris edition nameplate
What’s most important is that the article mentions Sylvia’s biggest project to date: Her publication of Ulysses, the notorious novel by ex-pat Irish writer James Joyce, 39. Excerpts printed in a New York City magazine have already been ruled to be obscene, and this kind of publicity just increases the drama around her big upcoming publishing event.
The Tribune article warns that
its present publication may mean that Miss Beach will not be allowed to return to America.”
Who cares, thinks Sylvia. Everyone’s coming to Paris.
The opening of the “Nameless Exhibition” here, sponsored by The Burlington Magazine, has caused a bit of controversy.
Poster for Nameless Exhibition by Roger Fry
The organizers, including Burlington founder and former editor Roger Fry, 54, and Professor of Fine Art at the Slade School Henry Tonks, 59, decided to make a brave move and hang a whole exhibit of paintings with no artists’ names attached. Not on the walls; not in the catalogue. They want to strike a blow against the cult of personality which has gathered around some artists.
Included are works by three of Roger’s Bloomsbury friends, his former lover Vanessa Bell, about to turn 42, her partner Duncan Grant, 36, and Slade School grad, Dora Carrington, 28.
Roger Fry by Vanessa Bell, 1912
Fry can’t wait to tell Vanessa that Tonks has hung one of her works, Visit, quite prominently, unaware that it is by a woman. Tonks goes on incessantly about how women painters are always imitating men.
Even though this is one of Carrington’s first important exhibits, all she is thinking about is her wedding tomorrow.
Carrington has spent the past four years living with and in love with Bloomsbury writer Lytton Strachey, 41, at Mill House in Tidmarsh, Berkshire. Carrington is well aware that Lytton is openly gay, but he is fond of her and is providing her the literary education she lacked. In exchange she paints and runs the household.
About three years ago, into this lovely arrangement walked big, strong, Ralph Partridge, 27, an Oxford friend of Carrington’s younger brother. He’s fallen in love with Carrington and moved into Tidmarsh. And Lytton is interested in him.
Dora Carrington, Ralph Partridge and Lytton Strachey
Now that Ralph has gainful employment—working as an assistant at the Hogarth Press operated by Bloomsbury regulars Virginia Woolf, 39, and her husband Leonard, 40—he can afford to take a wife. Although Lytton is paying for the wedding.
Lytton has spent the past two months convincing Carrington to take the plunge. And the Woolfs approve also.
So Carrington has now agreed. She cries each night and writes Lytton long love letters. Ralph knows she’s not in love with him. Carrington feels this is the way to keep the three together.
Lytton is already in Venice. The newlyweds are going to meet up with him there in a few weeks on their honeymoon.
As soon as he wakes up, English art critic CliveBell, 39, can’t wait to draft a letter to his mistress back in London, writer Mary Hutchinson, 32, about his memorable evening the night before.
Clive and some friends started with drinks at Les Deux Magots in Place Saint-Germain des Prés, moving on to dinner at Marchaud’s, a few blocks away at rue Jacob and rue des Saints-Peres,where there were bound to be a lot of Americans. The food is good and it’s very affordable.
One of Clive’s friends sees two men he knows in the next room and invites them over to the table. Clive tells Mary that he didn’t recognize one of the men, but was told he is
a bad sort—speaks only about his own books and their value in a French [accent] out of an opera bouffe. And who do you think [he] was? The creature immediately thrust an immense card under my nose and on it was the name of your favorite author—James Joyce. His companion, who happily spoke not one word of French, was called [Robert] McAlmon…and gives himself out as the most intimate friend of the well-known American poet—T. S. Eliot. God what a couple. Joyce did not seem stupid, but pretentious, underbred and provincial beyond words: And what an accent. McAlmon is an American. They both think nobly of themselves, well of Ezra Pound and poorly of Wyndham Lewis…The little nuisance [who had brought the two over] broke in drunkenly on Joyce’s incessant monologue of self-appreciation. [Joyce looks like] exactly what a modern genius ought to be…like something between an American traveller in flash jewellery and a teacher in a Glasgow socialist Sunday school.”
Clive decides that in his wanderings around Paris he is going to avoid Joyce.