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.’

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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 New York City, in the winter of 1919…

…freelance writer Robert Benchley, 29, is considering the offer of a full-time job, as associate editor of Collier’s magazine.

It’s certainly more attractive than what he’s been doing. Freelance work is fine, but intermittent.

Benchley has tried working as a reporter—couldn’t bring himself to ask hard questions. Or any questions.

Tried being a Broadway press agent—hated it.

Moved the family to Washington, DC, last year to do publicity for the Aircraft Production Board—crashed.

Came back to work at the New York Tribune Magazine. Got fired just before he was going to quit.

Benchley doesn’t think Collier’s is much of a magazine. But he has a wife and a three-year-old son in the suburbs—and just found out there is another one on the way—looking at houses in Scarsdale.

Before he tells Collier’s yes, he thinks he should mention this offer to Frank Crowninshield, 46, editor of Vanity Fair. Crownie had published Benchley’s first piece in the magazine five years before:

 No Matter from What Angle You Looked at it, Alice Brookhansen Was a Girl You Would Hesitate to Invite Into Your Own Home,”

but had changed the title to “Hints on Writing a Book.”  Recently Crowninshield had mentioned something about a full-time position. Maybe he can get an interview with the publisher, Conde Nast, 46. Worth a shot…

Robert Benchley

Robert Benchley

 

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

In Midtown Manhattan, Spring, 1919…

Dorothy Parker, 25, is pleased with her new job as theatre critic for Vanity Fair. She’d started last year as a fill in when P. G. Wodehouse, 37, left, but now she has settled in with popular reviews such as ‘The Dramas That Gloom in the Spring”:

Sometimes I think it can’t be true…There couldn’t be plays as bad as these. In the first place, no one would write them, and in the second place, no one would produce them.”

Parker had started with Conde Nast Publications back in 1915 after submitting a poem to Vanity Fair. The editor, Frank Crowninshield, then 43, had hired her—but for Vogue. She had spent the next four years writing captions such as,

From these foundations of the autumn wardrobe, one may learn that brevity is the soul of lingerie.”

The war ended last November, but her husband of almost two years, former Paine Webber stockbroker Eddie Pond Parker II, 26, has been assigned to the Rhineland, and won’t be back Stateside any time soon.

So for right now, Parker feels writing for Vanity Fair is fine. But she’s heard that Crownie has hired a managing editor, Robert Benchley, 29, some newspaperman from Boston. She’s not looking forward to sharing an office with him…

Vanity Fair magazine, May 1919

Vanity Fair magazine, May 1919

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

 

In Paris, December, 1918…

…Pvt. Harold Ross, just turned 26, is working on the weekly newspaper for the American Expeditionary Forces [AEF] in France, The Stars & Stripes.

The Armistice was declared last month, but the American troops are still here, preparing to go home, so the paper will continue to be published every Friday for a few more months. But Ross is feeling a rumbling among the service men who work on the paper, against the current managing editor. There is talk that they want to overthrow him and put Ross in charge.

Ross has gathered quite an interesting group of writers around him. Sgt. Alexander Woollcott, 31, showed up a few months ago. He’d left his division to come to Paris and work on the paper. When this short, round, silly soldier had presented himself and announced that he was the drama critic for the New York Times, Ross had laughed hysterically. Turns out it was true.

Another New York newspaperman showed up shortly after, Franklin Pierce Adams, just turned 37, the most popular Manhattan columnist of the time, known as FPA. Ross had let him try out a similar column in Stars & Stripes, but FPA’s cosmopolitan humour just hadn’t worked with enlisted men in the trenches.

But now that the ‘War to End All Wars’ is over, what next? Serving as Stars & Stripes editor for even a few months would help when he got stateside. But what could he do back in New York City in the coming decade? All the other vets would be there too, looking for jobs. And a drink, if Prohibition passes. What Ross would really like to do is start his own magazine.

Stars and Stripes montage 1918

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

100 years ago this month, December 1914…

In Ireland…

…Poet and playwright William Butler Yeats, 49, has started selling some of his manuscripts to his Irish-American friend, collector John Quinn, 44, and using the funds to support his dad, painter John Butler Yeats, 75, living near Quinn in Manhattan. Dad refuses to come home to Dublin.

Yeats’ ‘Hostess’ for many years, Lady Augusta Gregory, 62, back from the Abbey Theatre’s third tour of America, has rented out her stately home, Coole Park in the west of Ireland, for shooting parties.

Coole Park

Coole Park

In England…

Virginia, 32, and Leonard Woolf, 34, married two years now, are celebrating Christmas in Marlborough, near their Bloomsbury friend, writer Lytton Strachey, 34. There is a big party planned at the Lackett, the cottage Lytton is renting. He has introduced his lover and cousin, painter Duncan Grant, 29, to David ‘Bunny’ Garnett, 22. They seem to hit it off.

In France…

…British King George V, 49, has recently visited the frontline troops.

American writer Gertrude Stein, 40, and her partner, Alice B. Toklas, 37, have taken to walking around Paris with their friend, painter Pablo Picasso, 33. On the Boulevard Raspail one night, as Alice tells it later in her Autobiography, they see their first camouflaged cannon. Picasso stops:

“He was spell-bound…It is we that have created that, he said. And he was right, he had. From Cezanne through him they had come to that. His foresight was justified”

Big Bertha cannon, used in Paris

Big Bertha cannon, used in Pari

In America…

…The New York Stock Exchange, having closed except for bond trading when war broke out in Europe, has reopened. The Dow Jones Average drops 24%, the largest one day drop in its history.

Recently married, and recently fired from his personnel job, Harvard University alumni Robert Benchley, 25, has given the speech at the dinner following the Harvard-Yale game. His parody translation of a description of football from the Chinese earns him the reputation as ‘the greatest humourist of all time at Harvard.’

In New Jersey, Rev. Sylvester Beach, 62, has been the subject of gossip, even in New York publications, for having an affair with one of his parishioners. His wife Eleanor, just turned 53, preferring to live apart from her husband, tells him that she’ll take their daughters back to Europe, where they had lived before, to benefit from the travel experience. Her only regret, she writes, is that her daughter Nancy, 27, who prefers to be known as ‘Sylvia,’ will be ‘lost to this country.’

Sylvia Beach

Sylvia Beach

 

 

 

All are looking forward to 1915, feeling that the war will be over soon…

100 years ago this month, September 1914…

…In England

War has come to Bloomsbury.

The image of Lord Horatio Kitchener, 64, recruiting young men, appears for the first time, on the black and white cover of London Opinion magazine.

1st appearance of Lord Kitchener's recruiting image

1st appearance of Lord Kitchener’s recruiting image

Bloomsbury friend, critic Desmond MacCarthy, 37, has signed up for the Red Cross Ambulance Service; art critic Clive Bell, turning 33, is trying to figure out how to join a non-combat unit such as the Army Service Corps; and painter Duncan Grant, 29, has entered the National Reserve.

Despite the hostilities in the rest of Europe, the Bloomsberries don’t stop moving. Duncan takes a studio in Fitzroy Square as well as rooms in nearby 46 Gordon Square, where Clive lives with his wife, painter Vanessa Bell, 35. Their friend John Maynard Keynes, 31, writing articles for The Economist magazine, moves to Great Ormond Street; and Vanessa’s sister, writer Virginia Woolf, 32, and her husband, Leonard, 33, are house hunting in London while still spending time at the sisters’ Sussex retreat, Asham.

On Tuesday, 9th September, and Sunday, 14th September, I will be leading a ‘Such Friends’ walking tour of some of these spots in Bloomsbury. Either day we’re meeting at 12:30 at the Mrs. Dalloway bench in Gordon Square, and after a stroll around the area, taking the Tube to see the excellent exhibit, Virginia Woolf: Art, Life & Vision, at the National Portrait Gallery [http://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/virginiawoolf/home.php]. Email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com if you would like to join us.

 …In France

Near Paris, the French and British forces rout the Germans and, despite the half million casualties, the Allies score a victory that leads most to believe the troops will be home by Christmas. From her vantage point in Huily, journalist Mildred Aldrich, 60, watches the battle, taking detailed notes in both her journal and letters to her friend and fellow-American ex-patriate, Gertrude Stein, 40, in Paris.

…in America

One who is convinced that the German defeat will mean a short war is American artist and critic Walter Pach, 31, who is hoping to follow up the success of last year’s Armory Show with future exhibits of the latest contemporary art. He decides this would be a good time to go back to Europe and collect the works that have already been promised.

Also in New York, at Columbia University, George S Kaufman, 24, is looking for a new career by taking a playwriting course. But at Princeton University, F. Scott Fitzgerald, turning 18, can write proudly in his ledger, ‘Play accepted.’ His Fie! Fie! Fi-Fi! musical for the university’s Triangle Club gets good reviews and is a big hit.

The socialist magazine The Masses carries an article by former Mexican war correspondent John Reed, 26, which states of the current conflict in Europe:

“We, who are Socialists, must hope — we may even expect — that out of this horror of bloodshed and dire destruction will come far-reaching social changes — and a long step forward towards our goal of Peace among Men.

“But we must not be duped by this editorial buncombe about Liberalism going forth to Holy War against Tyranny.

“This is not Our War.”

Yet.

Cover of The Masses, September 1914

Cover of The Masses, September 1914

100 years ago this month, July 1914…

In England…

…Americans Gertrude Stein, 40, and her partner Alice B. Toklas, 37, are visiting London. They are hopeful that British publisher John Lane, 60, of Bodley Head will make good on his promise to publish Gertrude’s Three Lives. Most of literary London isn’t familiar with her writing, but both Lane’s wife and his friend, art critic Roger Fry, 47, have recommended her.

In exchange Lane introduces Gertrude and Alice to the magazine Blast, published by Wyndham Lewis, 31. On a trip to Cambridge, they meet and become friends with philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, 53. Alice says that when she meets a genius she hears bells and it has happened three times: When she met Gertrude almost seven years before, then Pablo Picasso, 32, the very next day, and now Alfred. After this encounter however–no more bells.

 

The catalog for John Lane's publishing house, Bodley Head.

The catalog for John Lane’s publishing house, Bodley Head.

Gertrude’s friend and supporter, American Mabel Dodge, 35, has encouraged her to meet with Lane, and Gertrude promised Mabel that she will “do her best to look like a genius” in London. They attend Lane’s Sunday afternoon salon, and, as she did in her own drawing room in Paris, Gertrude sits quietly listening until a topic arises that she is interested in, and then talks for hours in an uninterrupted flow. Alice just sits and listens.

At the end of the month, King George V holds a conference at Buckingham Palace to work out how to introduce Home Rule to Ireland without inciting a civil war. Leaders from both sides, the nationalists and the unionists, sit down together for the first time to talk things out, as civilized countries do.

Also in London, American journalist and playwright George S. Kaufman, 24, has sailed over to take in the European sights. He manages to attend a meeting of suffragettes before taking off to visit the Netherlands and France.

In France…

…In addition to Kaufman, another newspaperman, New York Times drama critic Alexander Woollcott, 27, is in Paris to learn about theatre and interview legendary actress Sarah Bernhardt, 69. He’ll be heading home soon.

Gertrude’s brother Michael, 49, has lent 19 of their paintings by Henri Matisse, 44, to a German gallery. The artist had asked his friends to make the loan, assuring them that the gallery in Berlin was a perfectly safe place to send them.

Matisse’s Promenade des Oliviers which the Steins lent to a Berlin gallery in July 1914, and recently sold for £2.77 million in London

Matisse’s Promenade des Oliviers which the Steins lent to a Berlin gallery in July 1914, and recently sold for £2.77 million in London

On the 26th of the month, when Michael’s wife Sarah turns 44, the Tour de France ends with a victory by the incumbent champion, Belgian Philippe Thys, 24. Everyone is looking forward to next year’s race.

In America…

…at the New York Tribune, top columnist FPA [Franklin Pierce Adams, 32] is lobbying to get a full time reporting job for his protégé, George S Kaufman, on his way back from his European tour.

Alfred Stieglitz, 50, owner of the 291 Gallery, publishes a special issue, “What is 291?” of his magazine Camera Work, including a tribute to the writings of Gertrude Stein by her friend and American publicist Mabel Dodge.

Stieglitz's magazine Camera Work

Stieglitz’s magazine Camera Work

Dodge is also working on a longer essay, “The Secret of War,” which the socialist magazine The Masses is interested in publishing. Based on her recent experience in Europe, she writes that the secret of war is that “Men like fighting. That is the force behind the war… We have been saying for a long time that war isn’t civilized. We should have realized perhaps that civilization isn’t human… [Another truth is] just as deep and just as profound… Women don’t like war.”

100 years ago this month, June 1914…

In England…

…in Sussex, Leonard Woolf, 33, is going on a speaking trip to Birmingham on behalf of the socialist Fabian Society. He is particularly worried about leaving his wife, Virginia, 32, on her own at their home, Asham. They’ve been married less than two years, and she has been quite ill for a lot of that time. Before he leaves they negotiate a strict schedule for her to follow in his absence.

In London, publisher Grant Richards brings out the first edition of Dubliners by James Joyce, 32. The same publisher had turned down the collection of 15 short stories a decade earlier, but this time is persuaded by American poet Ezra Pound, 28, who is serializing Joyce’s novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in his magazine The Egoist.

First edition of James Joyce's Dubliners

First edition of James Joyce’s Dubliners

The United Kingdom is debating the pros and cons of switching to daylight saving time. The Manchester Guardian says yes!

By the end of the month, Alexander Woollcott, 27, whose employer, the New York Times, appointed him as drama critic and then sent him off to Europe to learn about theatre, is soaking up all he can and getting ready to head over to Paris.

In France…

…in Paris, Woollcott meets with the legendary actress Sarah Bernhardt, 69, before she embarks on her triumphant tour of America. He later writes, ‘She was a ravaged and desiccated old woman with one leg. And the foot of that one was already in the grave.’

American ex-pat Gertrude Stein, 40, has just bought the first of many paintings by Juan Gris, 27, from one of her favourite art dealers, Daniel Kahnweiler, just turning 30. But she is most excited that she has finally seen one of her first works, Tender Buttons, published in the States. So far, reviews are mixed.

On 28th June, all of Paris cheers on the start of the twelfth Tour de France.

Tour de France, 1914, Paris

Tour de France, 1914, Paris

 

In America…

…in Chicago, novelist Sherwood Anderson, 37, is impressed by Stein’s Tender Buttons. He has read about her cubist approach to literature in a new magazine, The Little Review, published by Margaret Anderson, 27, which has asked him for contributions.

In Kansas City, MO, Virgil Thomson, 17, graduates from Central High School and is heading off to the new Kansas City Polytechnic Institute, practicing the organ in his spare time.

In St Paul, MN, Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald, also 17, is lamenting to his journal that he has failed algebra, trigonometry, coordinate geometry, and most humiliating, hygiene.

In Pittsburgh, the Pirates’ Honus Wagner, 40, becomes the first baseball player in the 20th century to have 3000 hits.

Honus Wagner, Pittsburgh Pirates record breaker

Honus Wagner, Pittsburgh Pirates record breaker

In New York City, Dorothy Rothschild, 20, is putting her convent school lessons to work by teaching dancing classes, and sending light verses off to the city’s many newspaper columnists. She doesn’t think of these as real writing. Her father, who died a few months before, used to toss them off as jokes, so, obviously, anyone can write like that.

Dorothy dreams of having one of her poems published in the most important column in the city, the New York Tribune’s ‘Conning Tower,’ written by FPA [Franklin Pierce Adams], 32. Adams has been lured to the Trib from the Evening Mail, bringing his substantial readership with him.

On June 28th, the front page of the Tribune reports that former president Theodore Roosevelt, recently returned from his South American expedition, is cancelling a speaking engagement in Pittsburgh on doctor’s orders; John D. Rockefeller is donating $2.55 million to the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research; and Mrs. A. H. Miller, 28, has drowned in a reservoir when the horse pulling her wagon is scared by a goose.

Front page of the New York Tribune, June 28, 1914

Front page of the New York Tribune, June 28, 1914