“Such Friends”: 100 years ago, June 22, 1921, Left Bank, Paris

American poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, 28, is having dinner with two of her friends visiting from New York City, hit novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, 24, and his wife, Zelda, 20, on their first trip to Europe.

Edna St. Vincent Millay’s passport

They want to meet up with Scott’s friend from his days at Princeton University, Edmund “Bunny” Wilson, 26, just arrived in Paris from New York.

“Poor Bunny,” as she calls him, had eagerly found Millay as soon as he showed up two days ago. Edna made sure that, when Bunny came to her hotel room, on the rue de l’Universite, she was dressed in a demure black dress, at her typewriter, surrounded by neatly stacked manuscripts, evidence that she is indeed working. After all, Millay is living here as the foreign correspondent for Vanity Fair, thanks to Bunny, managing editor of the magazine.

Edmund Wilson

Since she has been here, Edna has only written to Bunny once, sending him one of her poems. He must know that their relationship is over; he’s been seeing someone else, an actress. But it’s pretty clear he came to Paris mostly to meet up with Millay.

As they chatted, Edna started feeling more comfortable, so she confided in Bunny that she is planning to marry Englishman George Slocombe, 27, special correspondent for the London Daily Herald. Well, as soon as he divorces his wife and kids in the suburbs. She wants to move to England with him. Edna has explained to George that Bunny is “just a friend” from New York.

Meanwhile, Bunny has moved from his Right Bank [i.e., posh] hotel to a pension just a few blocks away from her hotel, on this side of the River Seine [i.e., funky].

Scott and Zelda are staying on the Right Bank. They say they’ll try to find Bunny. Edna is in no hurry.

The Fitzgeralds haven’t been enjoying this trip. England. Italy. France—They’ve been disappointed all along. Zelda has been sick because she’s pregnant. Now they are looking forward to going home, albeit via England again. They might move to Zelda’s home state of Alabama next. They feel that they are done with Europe.

Edna feels as though she is just getting started.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volume I covering 1920 is available on Amazon in print and e-book versions. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

This summer I am talking about The Literary 1920s in the Osher Lifelong Learning programs at Carnegie-Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.

Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is available on Amazon in both print and e-book formats.

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 29, 1920, 6 Pleasant Street, Montgomery, Alabama

This whole adventure started a few weeks ago, back in Westport, Connecticut, when newlywed Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, 19, was cranky over breakfast and mused that the people of her home state of Alabama were

very beautiful and pleasant and happy, while up in Connecticut all the people ate bacon and eggs and toast, which made them very cross and bored and miserable—especially if they happened to have been brought up on biscuits…and I wish I could have some peaches anyhow.”

She convinced her new husband, novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, 23, that it was time for a road trip.

So they got in to the second-hand Marmon they had bought a few months ago, which Zelda had already “de-intestined” by running over a fire hydrant, and headed south, home to Montgomery.

Marmon c. 1918

Marmon, c. 1920

Now here they are. They arrived yesterday. After more than a week and 1,200 miles, after

  • Experiencing numerous breakdowns, including losing a tire, in the car they have christened “The Rolling Junk”;
  • Being robbed by highwaymen (almost);
  • Running out of gasoline in the middle of nowhere;
  • Getting a speeding ticket for going over 70 mph;
  • Overcoming all the barriers to driving into Richmond, Virginia, to spend Zelda’s 20th birthday touring the Confederate Museum in 94 degree weather;
  • Navigating unpaved roads, bad signage and guidebooks, nasty weather and nastier locals;
  • Being refused a room in a hotel because Zelda was wearing her custom-made white knickerbocker suit, matched to Scott’s, including being told by some white trash in North Carolina,
  • It’s a pity that a nice girl like you should be let to wear those clothes”;

  • Driving through every town in Alabama where Zelda could identify a different boyfriend she’d had; and
  • Arriving here at Zelda’s childhood home in Montgomery to find that her parents aren’t home.

Still haven’t had any peaches. Or biscuits.

Time to sell the Marmon. They’ll take the train back north.

The_Montgomery_Times_Thu__Jul_29__1920_

Montgomery Times’ “Society” column

“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.

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

This fall I will be talking about writers’ salons in Ireland, England, France and America before and after the Great War 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.

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, February, 1920, Montgomery, Alabama

Well. That was a scare.

Zelda Sayre, 19, had been late.

Not late to the dance. Late.

Her current boyfriend, writer F. Scott Fitzgerald, 23, was back in New York City, finishing off his first novel to be published by Charles Scribner’s & Sons next month, and sending his short stories to magazines. Scott and Zelda were engaged. And then un-engaged.

He is still showering her with lots of presents.

zelda_aged_18 dancing

Zelda Sayre, dancing

When Zelda had written to tell him that she was late, Scott had sent her some pills to get rid of the unwanted baby.

Zelda threw them away. Only prostitutes have abortions. Not socially prominent daughters of Southern judges.

She wrote back to Scott—or “Goofo” as she calls him—to say that

God—or something”

would fix everything.

Must have been God.

She isn’t late anymore.

“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 2020 I will be talking about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins and his relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and others in both the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie-Mellon University’s Osher Lifelong Learning programs.

Manager as Muse, about Perkins and his writers, 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.