“Such Friends”: 100 Years Ago, December 20, 1920, West 12th Street, Manhattan, New York City, New York

Poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, 28, is writing to her mother in Massachusetts, who is still lingering in the Cape Cod cottage they shared for a time this summer.

Just last week, Edna had gone to the wedding of her sister Kathleen, 23, here in New York at the Hotel Brevort. Her sister looked uncomfortable; probably because she was regretting giving up a modelling opportunity to marry this guy. Edna had been feeling weak; mostly because of the botched abortion she had a few weeks before.

Edna St. Vincent Millay

But Edna just tells her mother that she had bronchitis and been

quite sick…[from] a small nervous breakdown.”

The good news is that Vanity Fair, where Edna has been having her poems published quite regularly, is going to pay her a good price for the stories she has been selling to rival magazine Ainslee’s under her pseudonym, Nancy Boyd. Ainslee’s had offered to double her fee if they could use her real name, but she wants to keep a distance between that popular trash she writes and her more serious poetry.

Ainslee’s magazine, April 1920

Better yet, Vanity Fair is making her a foreign correspondent and sending her to Paris in the beginning of the new year. She writes to her mother that she desperately needs to get away from New York.

She tells one of her beaus, Vanity Fair managing editor Edmund “Bunny” Wilson, 25,

I’ll be 30 in a minute!”

Edna finishes the letter to her mother and starts packing a trunk for France:  Her blue silk umbrella. A pair of velvet galoshes with fur trim. And, of course, her portable Corona typewriter.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the book, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s, to be published by K. Donnelly Communications. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

My “Such Friends” presentations, The Founding of the Abbey Theatre and Dorothy Parker and the Algonquin Round Table, are available to view on the website of PICT Classic Theatre.

Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Thomas Wolfe, is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions. Early next year I will be talking about Perkins, Fitzgerald and Hemingway in the Osher Lifelong Learning program at Carnegie-Mellon University.

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

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago, July, 1920, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and Greenwich Village, New York City, New York

Edna St. Vincent Millay, 28, checking her new copy of the July issue of Vanity Fair, thinks, That sure paid off.

At a Greenwich Village party back in April she had met Princeton grad Edmund “Bunny” Wilson, 25. He was immediately entranced by her bobbed red hair and impromptu poetry recital. She wasn’t that interested—until she found out he was the new managing editor of Vanity Fair.

Vanity Fair cover Jul 1920

Vanity Fair, July 1920

Shortly after, Edna had taken his virginity—well, he had offered it. Then she took off for Cape Cod for the summer, to stay in this borrowed cottage with her mother and sisters, without heat or electricity. She is happy banging out sonnets on her portable Corona typewriter.

Millay has had poems published before, in smaller magazines such as Ainslee’s and Current Opinion, and her anti-war play Aria da Capo has been produced by the Provincetown Players.

But thanks to her suitor Bunny, she now has a poem in Vanity Fair, “Dead Music—An Elegy,” accompanied by a plug for her play and a squib describing her as

one of the most distinctive personalities in modern American poetry.”

Thanks for that, Bunny.

Edna sees this as quite a step up, with her work nestled in between pieces by G. K. Chesterton, 46, Stephen Leacock, 50, and, oh, yes, John Peale Bishop, 28. He’s coming to visit soon for a few days. But she plans to have him leave just before Bunny arrives.

*****

Back in Greenwich Village, Egmont Arens, 32, owner of the Washington Square Bookshop on West Eighth Street, is setting out the July Vanity Fair along with the July-August issue of The Little Review.

Founded and edited by Margaret Anderson, 33, and Jane Heap, 36, for the past six years The Little Review has been publishing the most cutting-edge writers in America and abroad. Their foreign editor, ex-patriate American poet Ezra Pound, 34, has introduced them to the latest developments in literature from Europe.

Thanks to Pound, for the past two years The Little Review has been publishing excerpts from the latest work in progress, Ulysses, by the Irish novelist James Joyce, 38.

However, the authorities don’t agree with Anderson and Heap’s enthusiasm for contemporary literature. Last year, and again this January, issues of the magazine carrying the “Cyclops” chapter of Ulysses were seized and burned by the US Post Office.

Since then, however, they have been left alone. March issue, no problem. April issue, no problem. Even the May-June issue, with the first two parts of Joyce’s “Nausicaa” episode, had been published, sold and mailed with no interference.

Little Review 3 issues with Nausicaa

Three issues of The Little Review containing the “Nausicaa” episode of Ulysses

This July-August issue contains the third part of “Nausicaa.” Pound admits that, before sending the manuscript on to The Little Review,

I did myself dry [Stephen] Bloom’s shirt,”

removing Joyce’s reference to a semen stain.

We’ll see if this issue will be left alone by the censors, thinks Arens. Fingers crossed.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the book, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s, to be published by K. Donnelly Communications. For more information, email me at kaydee@gpysyteacher.com.

In the fall I will be talking about writers’ salons before and after the Great War in Ireland, England, France and America in the Osher Lifelong Learning programs at University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie-Mellon University.

My presentation, “Such Friends”:  Dorothy Parker and the Algonquin Round Table is available to view on the website of PICT Classic Theatre. The program begins at the 11 minute mark, and my presentation at 16 minutes.

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

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