‘Such Friends’:  New York City, May 1917

The May issue of Vanity Fair is on the newsstands in Manhattan.

vanity-fair-cover-may-1917

Vanity Fair, May 1917

On the Upper West Side, lawyer and art collector John Quinn, 46, is eager to get his copy and see in print the article he submitted, ‘James Joyce: A New Irish Novelist.’

Quinn had sent most of his friends copies of the new novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by Joyce, 35. Earlier this year, his piece had been rejected by the New York Sun for being too long. So he had submitted it to Vanity Fair, knowing that they did not shy away from challenging their readers. They’d published Gertrude Stein, 43, after all. Vanity Fair had accepted it, offering to donate the $65 fee to an Irish charity of Quinn’s choice.

Ha! Quinn feels he is done with Irish charity, having supported his artist, writer and political friends there financially and morally over the last few years. He told them to give the cash to French war orphans instead.

But Irishman-in-exile Joyce has become his pet project. Quinn had heard his Irish friends talk about him when visiting Dublin almost ten years ago. But it wasn’t till the American ex-patriate poet Ezra Pound, 31, had introduced him to Joyce’s writing that he vowed to champion this new prose in America. Through Pound in London, Quinn had managed to get $100 to a grateful Joyce, ill in Zurich, by buying the original manuscript for A Portrait. Quinn felt that buying manuscripts and paintings from developing writers and artists was a good way to support them as well as increase his own holdings.

Portrait_of_the_Artist_as_a_Young_Man

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce

Paging through the current issue of Vanity Fair, Quinn finds his article nestled among the ads for perfumes and deodorants, children’s shoes and rubber body suits for weight loss.

Farther down in mid-town, Dorothy Rothschild, 23, is grabbing her copy of Vanity Fair to see her latest poem, ‘Actresses:  A Hate Song’:

I hate actresses.

They get on my nerves.

There are the Adventuresses,

The Ladies with Lavender Pasts.

They wear gowns that show all their emotions,…’

She’s been getting a lot of mileage—and $12 a shot—out of this theme, starting with ‘Men:  A Hate Song’ in the same magazine over a year ago.

Dottie is actually on staff at Vanity Fair’s sister magazine, Vogue, both owned by Conde Nast publishing.  She spends her days writing captions such as,

‘Brevity is the soul of lingerie—as the Petticoat said to the chemise.’  

vogue-cover-may-1917 (1)

Vogue, May 1917

Rothschild would love to switch over to the more literary Vanity Fair, and submits poems to get their attention. But mostly she is thinking about her upcoming wedding to Wall Street stock broker Edwin Pond Parker II, 24, about a month away.

Is this a good time to get married? Just last month, America entered the war in Europe! At least she will be able to change her name.

Also in midtown, looking through this month’s issue, is another sometime Vanity Fair contributor, Robert Benchley, 27. In ‘The Alcoholic Drama’ he reviews a roundup of plays, including one he wasn’t so impressed with:

Somehow it drags. One has plenty of time…to look about the house and see who is there, and then come back to the play, without missing a stroke.’

Benchley has just been fired along with all his colleagues on the New York Tribune Magazine. He’d loved that job. They’d even encouraged him to play a corpse in a play so he could write an article about it.

But the publishers of the Tribune are big supporters of America’s involvement in the war, so they’d gotten rid of any staff who disagreed. Benchley is a pacifist; and with a wife and 18-month old son in the suburbs, he is exempt from military service.

Bob had seen the disaster coming, so has applied for a rumoured opening at Vanity Fair. But the editor is vague about whether this will materialize, so Benchley is thinking of creative ways to free-lance. Writing articles for the Atlantic Monthly, advertising copy, movie titles. Even becoming a press agent for Broadway shows.

Quinn instructs the staff in his Nassau Street law office to send copies of Vanity Fair out to a list of his acquaintances. He wants to do everything he can to promote Joyce and his writing.

But he also has to get ready for the dinner party he is giving tonight. On Pound’s suggestion, he has invited the editors of a literary magazine based in Greenwich Village, The Little Review, Margaret Anderson, 30, and Jane Heap, 34, to dine that evening in his Central Park West ninth floor penthouse.

The purpose of the dinner is to discuss the support Quinn has been giving to the magazine via Pound, who has been appointed, at Quinn’s request, as The Little Review’s foreign editor. Quinn is sure he will be able to persuade these women to take his additional advice about how to run their little magazine.

Little Review May 1917

The Little Review, May 1917

This year I’ll be piecing together my planned biography of John Quinn (1870-1924). Read more about him on the link to your right: ‘I want to tell you about an amazing man.’

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.

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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.’

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.