“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago, August, 1922, New York City, New York; Dublin; and London

In America, Ireland and England, many are still working their way through Ulysses.

In the States, Gilbert Seldes, 29, writes in The Nation,

Today [James Joyce] has brought forth Ulysses…a monstrous and magnificent travesty, which makes him possibly the most interesting and the most formidable of our time….I think that Nietzsche would have cared for the tragic gaiety of Ulysses.”

Gilbert Seldes

*****

In Dublin, poet and artist AE [George Russell, 55] writes to his friend in New York City, Irish-American lawyer John Quinn, 52:  

I see the ability and mastery while not liking the mood…[Joyce is] very Irish…The Irish genius is coming out of its seclusion and [W. B.] Yeats, [John Millington] Synge, [George] Moore, [George Bernard] Shaw, Joyce and others are forerunners. The Irish imagination is virgin soil and virgin soil is immensely productive when cultivated. We are devotees of convention in normal circumstances and when we break away we outrage convention.”

George Russell, AE

Another Irish friend, novelist and poet James Stephens, 42, writes to Quinn that he didn’t even bother to try Ulysses.

It is too expensive to buy and too difficult to borrow, and too long to read, and, from what I have heard about it, altogether too difficult to talk about.”

*****

In London, novelist Virginia Woolf, 40, has been working on a short story, “Mrs. Dalloway in Bond Street” while still trying to get through Ulysses. She admits to her diary,

I should be reading Ulysses, & fabricating my case for & against. I have read 200 pages. So far—not a third; & have been amused, stimulated, charmed interested by the first two or three chapters–to the end of the Cemetery scene; & then puzzled, bored, irritated, & disillusioned as by a queasy undergraduate scratching his pimples. And Tom [American ex-pat poet T. S. Eliot], great Tom, thinks this on a par with War & Peace! An illiterate, underbred book it seems to me:  the book of a self-taught working man, & we all know how distressing they are, how egotistic, insistent, raw, striking, & ultimately nauseating. When 1 can have the cooked flesh, why have the raw? But I think if you are anemic, as Tom is, there is glory in blood. Being fairly normal myself I am soon ready for the classics again. I may revise this later. I do not compromise my critical sagacity. I plant a stick in the ground to mark page 200…I dislike Ulysses more & more–that is I think it more & more unimportant:  & don’t even trouble conscientiously to make out its meanings. Thank God, I need not write about it.”

But Virginia does write about it to her Bloomsbury friend, biographer and essayist Lytton Strachey, 42:  

Never did I read such tosh. As for the first two chapters we will let them pass, but the 3rd 4th 5th 6th–merely the scratching of pimples on the body of the bootboy at Claridges. Of course genius may blaze out on page 652 but I have my doubts. And this is what Eliot worships…”

Lytton Strachey and Virginia Woolf

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volumes I and II covering 1920 and 1921 are available as signed copies at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA, and also in print and e-book formats on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

Later in the year I will be talking about the centenary of the publication of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes at Carnegie-Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.

If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, you can download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”:  Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.

Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is also available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk in both print and e-book versions.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago, July 30, 1922, Central Park West, New York City, New York

If Irish-American lawyer and patron of the arts John Quinn, 52, wants to get out of the city as planned to spend all of August with his sister and niece in the Adirondacks, he has a bit of correspondence to catch up on.

Quinn has been corresponding with his emissary in Paris, Henri-Pierre Roche, 43, about leaving his best French paintings to the government of France, to be cared for in the Louvre. Roche has been negotiating to have Quinn acquire The Circus by Georges Seurat. Roche wrote to him at the beginning of the month about a crazy day when he and Spanish painter Pablo Picasso, 40, went flying around Paris carrying a Cezanne landscape with them in a taxi, stopping at every shop to buy up all the suitable frames they could find.

The Circus by Georges Seurat

One of the writers Quinn supports, American T. S. Eliot, 33, living in London, has written to give him power of attorney when negotiating a contract with Boni and Liveright to publish his latest work, an untitled lengthy poem. They are not sure, however, if it will be lengthy enough to appear as a book. Eliot writes that he is planning to add some notes to make it fatter. Quinn is finally getting around to reading the typescript Eliot has sent and is turning it over to his office secretary to make a copy that can be submitted to Liveright.

Typescript of poem by T. S. Eliot

Quinn is finishing off a lengthy letter to one of his Irish friends, poet and painter AE (George Russell, 55). Their mutual friend, Lady Augusta Gregory, 70, had recently asked Quinn to recommend painters for inclusion in the Hugh Lane Gallery, which she is trying to establish in memory of her nephew who went down with the Lusitania seven years ago. Quinn reports to AE that he told her that of the dead ones he would rank, in order, Cezanne, Seurat (much better than Renoir), and Rousseau. He puts Gauguin and van Gogh a bit farther down.

Of living artists he would include Picasso, Georges Braque, 40; Andre Derain, 42; and Henri Matisse, 52; in the first tier. In the second, Raoul Dufy, 45; Constantin Brancusi, 46—whom he has become good friends with—and Georges Rouault, 51.

Quinn tells AE that he would add a third tier of the living:  Juan Gris, 35; Marie Laurencin, 39; and Jacques Villon, about to turn 47, among others.

The Winged Horse by AE

Quinn’s longest letter is to another Irish friend, poet and playwright, William Butler Yeats, 57. He brings Willie up to date on the recent funeral of his father, whom Quinn had taken care of during the past 15 years in New York City. The Yeats family decided it would be better for Dad to be buried in the States, and Quinn arranged a site in upstate New York: 

If you and your sisters could see the place, I am sure you would have approved of [our] selection. When Lady Gregory was here the last time, lecturing, she told me one day, half in earnest and half in fun, that if she died in this country she wanted to be buried where she died, unless she died in Pittsburgh. She refused to be buried in Pittsburgh…One day downtown, when I was having coffee after lunch with two or three men, one of them said:  ‘Times change. Now there is [famous actress] Lillian Russell. In the old days she was supposed to have had many lovers and she was married and divorced four or five times. But years go by, and she marries again, and settles down, and finally dies in the odor of—’

‘Pittsburgh,’ said I.

Lady Gregory refused to be buried in the odor of Pittsburgh.”

Quinn ends by congratulating Yeats on his honorary degree from Trinity College and asks that Willie’s wife send him some photos of their children and Thoor Ballylee, the tower they are living in.

Now he is ready to pack up and go on a well-earned vacation.

Pittsburgh, 1912, when Lady Gregory visited with The Abbey Theatre

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volumes I and II covering 1920 and 1921 are available as signed copies at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA, and also in print and e-book formats on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

Later in the year I will be talking about the centenary of the publication of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes at Carnegie-Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.

If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, you can download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”:  Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.

Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is also available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk in both print and e-book versions.