“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago, end of October, 1922, Italy; Germany; and Ireland

In Rome, National Fascist Party leader Benito Mussolini, 39, wearing a black shirt and trousers and a bowler hat, arrives to form a government and become the youngest Prime Minister in Italy’s history, at the request of King Victor Emmanuel III, 52.

Benito Mussolini

In Florence, American ex-pat art historian Bernard Berenson, 57, tells a visiting friend,

These Fascists are the same people who requisitioned my most precious wines three years ago in the name of the Florentine Soviet Committee; then they were Communists. They don’t know what they are. The only lucky Italians are the ones who live abroad. I’ve lived here for 32 years and I’ve never seen a government and that’s their way of governing, like their police, who lie low during strikes. When the government comes up against some difficulty they disappear; when everything is settled by the nature of things, they reappear, triumphant. But nevertheless everything works in this country. That’s because Italy isn’t a nation; it’s a civilization.”

Bernard Berenson


In Berlin, journalist Count Harry Kessler, 54, president of the German Peace Society, writes in his diary,

Perhaps [Mussolini] will usher in a period of fresh European disorders and wars…This may turn out to be a black day for Italy and Europe.”

Count Harry Kessler


In Dublin, poet and playwright William Butler Yeats, 57, admires Mussolini’s “burst of powerful personality.”

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volumes I through III, covering 1920 through 1922 are available as signed copies at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA, and on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk in print and e-book formats. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

Early next year I will be talking about the centenary of the publication of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Pittsburgh, and about The Literary 1920s in Paris and New York City at the Osher 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.

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, Mid-May, 1920, Ile St. Louis, Paris

Painter Duncan Grant, 35, is having a glass of wine in the most fabulous apartment, lent to him by posh friends for the past two months, at the tip of Ile St. Louis, looking out at Notre Dame.

What a great trip.

Two months ago he was home in London, with his partner, fellow painter Vanessa Bell, 41, listening to a reading of a memoir by her sister, novelist Virginia Woolf, 38.

The next night, he was in Paris dining with his former lover, economist John Maynard Keynes, 37, at legendary restaurant La Perouse, with its scandalous secret rooms.

La Perouse

La Perouse, 51 Quai des Grands Augustins

On the Tuesday he arrived he had written to Vanessa back in London, describing the flat as

full of Bonnards & Vuillards & exquisite views over the Seine with an old world French house servant called Jean. I have only seen it all by the light of the sunset…I do wish you could come before Friday night.”

Vanessa did come over and they had gone with Keynes to Rome for a month. Maynard had wisely determined that the lire would sink against the pound and advised them to spend. Which they did.


Duncan Grant and Maynard Keynes

Rome was filled with tourists. Duncan wrote to his lover, Bunny Garnett, 28, who was staying in Duncan’s rooms back in Bloomsbury, that Rome

is packed with the Italian aristocrats who simply love living in hotels and leaving their estates to Bolsheviks in the country. Our hotel is cram full of contessas, marchesas, principessas, and duchesses. They don’t get up till lunch, at 1, have a siesta till about 4, eat ices and drink coffee till 5 when they take a drive on the Pincio, home to dinner at 9:30. Jazz till 2, even the old ladies received till 4 or 5 in the morning…1 can buy masses of arum lilies irises roses pansies and marigolds for a few francs on the steps of the Piazza di Spagna.”

Maynard, now quite the celebrity economist, had been invited to visit with American art historian Bernard Berenson, 54, at his Villa I Tatti outside Florence. He had insisted that Vanessa and Duncan come along.

Back in Paris, the month of May had started off with riots during the International Labor Day celebrations, and then strikes broke out all over the country—dock workers, coal miners, and, most inconvenient of all, railway workers.

Vanessa had written letters home about their fascinating dinners with

the Derains, Braque & Mme., and Satie—sat til 2 am outside Lipps talking in the end only to the Derains—all the others went. It was very hot & got delicious at that hour. Derain was perfectly charming & so was she. In fact the more I see of her the more I like her & the more I am overcome by her beauty. I think she’s one of the most astonishing people I’ve ever met & less terrifying than she was at first.”

Madame Derain in a White Shawl c.1919-20 by Andr? Derain 1880-1954

Mme. Derain in a White Shawl by Andre Derain

His traveling companions have all left, so today Duncan goes back to La Perouse for lunch, this time with the founder of Nouvelle Revue Française (The New French Review), Andre Gide, 50, and his lover of the past four years, photographer Marc Allegret, 19.

Now it is time for Duncan to go back home to London. One last glass of wine…

“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.

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

In 2020 I will be talking about writers’ salons before and after the Great War in Ireland, England, France and America in the University of Pittsburgh’s Osher Lifelong Learning program.

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