“Such Friends”: 100 years ago, early May, 1921, Left Bank, Paris

Everyone’s coming to Paris…

American ex-patriate writer Robert McAlmon, 26, and his new British wife, Bryher, 26, have moved to Paris after visiting her wealthy family in London for their honeymoon.


Bob is planning to use his wife’s inheritance, along with the allowance her family is giving him, to start a small publishing company, Contact Press, named after the Contact magazine he founded in New York late last year with a fellow poet.

When they first got to Paris, the McAlmons made a point of visiting the English-language bookstore, Shakespeare & Co. on the Left Bank, and signing up as members of the lending library. They are using the shop as an address and stopping by every day to pick up their mail.

There is a real buzz in the store. The owner, another American ex-pat, Sylvia Beach, 33, is working on a major project. She has offered to publish Ulysses, the latest work by Irish novelist James Joyce, 39, even though excerpts from it were recently ruled obscene in New York City when they appeared in The Little Review there.

Sylvia Beach at Shakespeare & Co.

McAlmon and Joyce have become good friends. In London, Bob had received a letter of introduction from Harriet Shaw Weaver, 44, one of his benefactors and owner of The Egoist Press, to meet the Irish novelist. He and Bryher have been supporting the Joyces with a $150 per month stipend, and McAlmon is helping to type parts of the—very messy—manuscript as Joyce writes it.

At the shop, everyone is pitching in to mail out a prospectus and order forms to potential subscribers to Ulysses, which is planned to come out in the fall. As orders come in, Beach records them in separate green record books for each country. The biggest single order—25 copies—has come from the Washington Square Bookshop in Greenwich Village, one of the original defendants in the obscenity case. Bryher is helping out by setting up a system of alphabetical pigeon holes for the incoming mail.

At night, McAlmon and Joyce, sometimes joined by French writer Valery Larbaud, 39, make the rounds of the clubs and dance halls. They particularly like Gipsy’s on the Boulevard St. Michel. McAlmon staggers from table to table getting drunken patrons to fill out order forms for the novel. He brings what he calls another “Hasty Bunch” of signed forms to the shop on his way home early in the morning, after having been thrown out of the last club along with his two comrades. Sylvia can barely make out the scrawly handwriting.

McAlmon is popular on the Left Bank for his charming personality, of course, but also because he can buy the drinks. Lots of drinks. He and Larbaud had to bring Joyce home one night in a wheelbarrow. Joyce’s partner and mother of his children, Nora Barnacle, 37, admonished him,

Jim, what is it all ye find to jabber about the nights you’re brought home drunk for me to look after? You’re dumb as an oyster now, so God help me.”

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the book, Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volume 1 covering 1920 is available in print and e-book formats on Amazon. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

This summer I will be 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 F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is available on Amazon in both print and e-book 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.

“Such Friends”: 100 years ago, Spring, 1921, Mayfair, London

Sitting in his new in-laws’ posh house, American publisher, poet, and general drifter Robert McAlmon, 26, can’t believe his luck.

Back in February he had accepted the offer of a woman he had just met, Annie Ellerman, also 26, always known as Bryher, to get married so she could have access to her family money. Until they came over here to introduce Bob to her parents, he hadn’t realized how much family money there is.

The New York Times broke the story this month that the daughter of Sir John Ellerman, 58, first baronet, owner of British newspapers, breweries and shipping lines and the richest man in the United Kingdom, had married some unknown writer and artists’ model, Robert McAlmon. The family made no comment.

McAlmon is getting along well with his new British in-laws. Bryher’s parents have succumb to his charms and promised him a generous allowance. He even has enjoyed chatting with her younger brother John, 11, a reclusive boy. He writes books about rodents.

Sir John Ellerman with his son, John

The newlyweds had hosted a big party at the Hotel Brevoort before their sailing. His fellow co-founder of Contact magazine, poet Dr. William Carlos Williams, 37, had brought the couple orchids. McAlmon did explain to him later that this is a marriage of convenience only.

And how convenient it has turned out for Bob. Bryher is introducing him to most of the literary lights of London. Writer and painter Wyndham Lewis, 38, has agreed to publish two of McAlmon’s poems in his magazine, Blast. Publisher and philanthropist Harriet Shaw Weaver, 44, will publish some in her magazine, The Egoist, and is talking about bringing out a whole collection. American ex-patriate poet T. S. Eliot, 32, has introduced him to Bloomsbury art critic, Clive Bell, 39, although Eliot doesn’t really take Bell seriously as a writer.

Harriet Shaw Weaver

McAlmon and Bryher agree that one of the best uses of her money is supporting fledgling writers like themselves. She has given funds to Weaver’s Egoist Press to publish new poets. In return, Weaver has given McAlmon a letter of introduction to one of his literary idols, Irish novelist James Joyce, 39. He can’t wait to look him up as soon as they move to Paris.

“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 will be talking about The Literary 1920s in the Osher Lifelong Learning programs 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 available on Amazon in both print and e-book formats.

“Such Friends”: 100 years ago, February 14, 1921, New York City, New York

Margaret Anderson, 34, founder and publisher of the literary magazine The Little Review, is disappointed. As is her partner, the magazine’s editor, Jane Heap, 37.

Margaret Anderson and Jane Heap

They were not happy about being served with papers last year for publishing “obscene” excerpts from Ulysses, the latest work in progress by Irish novelist James Joyce, just turned 39. And they are grateful that their lawyer, art collector John Quinn, 50, is not charging them a fee for all the work he has been doing.

But here they are in the New York City Court of Special Sessions and Quinn’s main argument is that no one would understand Ulysses anyway, so how can it be obscene?!

Quinn started off alright by presenting Joyce’s reputation as a respected man of letters, but when one of the judges asked how that was relevant, Quinn dropped it. He put a few well-known writers on the stand, but they just testified that the novel wouldn’t corrupt readers.

Anderson has called Ulysses “the prose masterpiece of my generation.” She and Heap want the defense to be that it is great literature and should not be suppressed.

Quinn will have none of that. He has already told Anderson that the case is unwinnable and he has no intention of appealing a guilty verdict. And he doesn’t think they should have published such material in a magazine anyway, because it is sent through the mails. Quinn has been trying to convince Joyce to agree to a privately published book, which couldn’t possibly be prosecuted.

Playing to the three-judge panel, Quinn seizes on the anger of the lead prosecutor:

There is my best exhibit. There is proof that Ulysses does not corrupt or fill people full of lascivious thoughts. Look at him! He is mad all over. He wants to hit somebody. He doesn’t want to love anybody. He wants somebody to be punished. He’s mad. He’s angry. His face is distorted with anger, not with love. That’s what Joyce does. That’s what Ulysses does. It makes people angry. They want to break something. They want somebody to be convicted. They feel like prosecuting everybody connected with it, even if they don’t know how to pronounce the name Ulysses. But it doesn’t tend to drive them to the arms of some siren.”

Anderson feels that the whole scene is surreal. When the prosecutor is about to read out one of the main offending passages from Ulysses’ “Nausicaa” section, one of the judges actually says that Anderson (ignoring Heap) should be excused from the room as she is a young woman. Quinn points out that she is the one who published that passage. The judge says that she can’t possibly understand the significance of what she is publishing.

Oh, yes I do, thinks Margaret.

Court is recessed for one week so the judges can read the full “Nausicaa” episode.


In another New York City courtroom, American self-published poet and general drifter Robert McAlmon, 25, is marrying English writer Annie Winifred Ellerman, 26, known by her adopted name, Bryher.

Newlyweds Bryher and Robert McAlmon

The couple met through friends at a Greenwich Village party just recently. Bryher explained to McAlmon that she is from a very well-to-do British family. But they are holding on to her rightful inheritance until she gets married.

So, if they get married, they can take the money and move to Paris! McAlmon figures this sounds like a pretty good deal.

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

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

Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is also available on Amazon in both print and e-book versions. Later this month I will be talking about Perkins, Fitzgerald and Hemingway in the OLLI program at CMU.

 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’: February, 1922

New York City, February, 1922


John Quinn, 51, has received a cable from James Joyce, just turned 40, in Paris:

Ulysses published. Thanks.

Bit of an understatement.

joyce pound ford quinn

James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Ford Madox Ford, and John Quinn in Paris


Quinn has been supporting Joyce financially, legally, and sometimes emotionally, while he was writing the novel. He’d even gone to court for the right of The Little Review to publish ‘obscene’ chapters. Quinn didn’t win that legal battle, but felt that getting the publishers off with a $100 fine was itself a victory.

He cables back right away,

Congratulations publication Ulysses. Best wishes. Write soon.

Then he starts composing an angry letter to the woman who had taken the risk to publish Ulysses, American ex-patriate Sylvia Beach, 35, owner of the Left Bank bookstore, Shakespeare & Co. He is a bit annoyed that she has written to him about Joyce:

If Joyce wants to write to me at any time it is open to him to do so and not through you.

Joyce and Beach at Sh and Co

Sylvia Beach and James Joyce in her bookshop, Shakespeare & Co.

But what has made him even angrier is that in her most recent letter she has asked whether Ulysses’ US copyright is covered by the publication of the chapters in The Little Review.

Quinn reminds her that he has already told Joyce, often, that it is. However, her advertisement for the novel in the magazine might set off the censors again! Now the customs authorities will be watching all the post from Paris to New York.

Quinn paid for his own 14 copies in advance, telling Beach,

They will become my property and then I must be consulted as to how they are to be sent here…[Set them aside] carefully wrapped up, and held subject to my order.

He then suggests ways copies might be smuggled into the US via Canada.

Now Quinn has to focus on his problem right here in New York:  John Butler Yeats, painter and father of his friend, poet William Butler Yeats, 56, whom he has been supporting for the past 14 years of his self-imposed exile in Manhattan, has died, aged 82. Quinn’s ‘assistant’ (and lover), Mrs. Jeanne Foster, 42, has been watching over JB in his lodgings on West 29th Street the past two days, and he succumb in the night.


W B Yeats by his father John Butler Yeats, 1900

john butler yeats self portrait

John Butler Yeats’ self-portrait

Quinn and Foster have to deal with the doctor, the friends, the visitors—and what about the funeral? New York or Dublin?


Downtown from Quinn’s 11-room Central Park West apartment, lunch is on at The Algonquin Hotel. For the past three years, the writers and freelancers who work for nearby newspapers and magazines—Life, Vogue, the World—come by to have lunch and trade quips.

Dorothy Parker, 28, nee Rothschild, is trying to calculate if she can afford a half-order of the eggs. Her friends are carefully avoiding discussing her recent suicide attempt. The fact that she had ordered dinner to be delivered from the nearby Alps Restaurant just before she tried to slit her wrists with her husband’s dull razor, makes it more drama than tragedy.

hirshfield alg

The Algonquin Round Table by Al Hirschfeld

Parker’s main supporter, fellow free-lancer and former Vanity Fair writer, Robert Benchley, 32, is one of the few who had come to see her in the hospital. Bench had told her,

Go easy on this suicide stuff. First thing you know, you’ll ruin your health.

parkerbenchley cartoon

Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley


Farther down in midtown, in Scribner’s offices on Fifth Avenue, editor Maxwell Perkins, 37, is planning to have a discussion with his current star author, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 25.

Fitzgerald’s second novel, The Beautiful and Damned, is about to come out. Perkins feels it is a good follow up to his first, The Far Side of Paradise. Now the editor thinks Fitzgerald could take a different turn, and, discussing the advertising for Damned, Perkins tells him,

We ought to…get away altogether from the flapper idea.


F. Scott Fitzgerald

Maxwell_Perkins_NYWTS free to use

Maxwell Perkins


Farther down Manhattan, at JB Yeats’ rooms in Chelsea, Quinn and Foster are beginning to sort through the late painter’s belongings, waiting for instructions as to whether JB should be sent to Ireland or laid to rest here in his adopted home, New York.

Quinn is composing a telegram to the Yeats sisters in Dublin:

Regret your father passed away this morning 7 o’clock…The end came in sleep without pain or struggle. After conference please cable desires about burial…Everything was done for his comfort and peace of mind and he had best possible medical attention.

Next, he sends the details to the painter’s son, Willie, currently in Oxford, adding,

He fought bravely for life but it was almost hopeless since Wednesday. His mind was unclouded and his spirits buoyant until the end.


Jeanne Foster by John Butler Yeats


John Quinn


Dublin, February, 1922


In Dundrum, south Dublin, Lily, 55, and Lolly Yeats, 53, read the telegram they had been dreading from their American friend, John Quinn.

Lily and Lolly Yeats

Lily and Lolly Yeats

They knew that Quinn had worried that the old man would die ‘on his watch.’ Right now, they feel nothing but gratitude for all Quinn has done for him.

Of course, they will need to check with their brother Willie in Oxford, but agree that it is best to advise Quinn to handle the funeral arrangements in New York.


London, February, 1922


Everyone has the flu.

The Times reports that 13,000 people in England and Wales have died since Christmas. They caution that one of the symptoms is a ‘tendency to “feel the heart”—ie., to palpitations,’ and that anyone suspecting they have contracted the disease should take to their beds at once. Just last month they had reported that Pope Benedict XV, 67, had died from influenza that turned into pneumonia.

Pope Benedict xv

Pope Benedict XV


T. S. Eliot, 33, is trying to get his new long poem published. As soon as he returned home last month, reinvigorated by a three-month leave spent in Switzerland, he had been laid low with the influenza for a good ten days. At least that meant time away from his dreaded office at Lloyds Bank so he could work on finishing off The Waste Land.

Eliot has been corresponding with The Dial magazine in the States, but is leery about the deal on offer. He feels he had been burned a few years ago by a contract with Alfred Knopf that John Quinn had negotiated for him. Now he is using his friend Ezra Pound, 36, as a go between.


T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound


In the southwest suburb of Richmond, Virginia Woolf, just turned 40, is devastated that she is spending the first months of this year as she had the previous summer—in bed. She confides to her diary,

 I have taken it into my head that I shan’t live till 70…Suppose, I said to myself the other day[,] this pain over my heart wrung me out like a dish cloth & left me dead?

The flu had hit her just a few weeks before her 40th birthday, which made her acutely aware of the passage of time:

I feel time racing like a film at the Cinema. I try to stop it. I prod it with my pen. I try to pin it down.’

Her husband Leonard, 41, however supportive, insists on following the doctor’s instructions that she must stay in bed. But Virginia wants to be out in the cold air, walking, which means writing, because she works out her sentences in her head as she makes her way through the London streets.

Va and Leon

Virginia and Leonard Woolf

Virginia is thinking of experimenting with a tale of a woman walking through the city while preparing for a party, the passage of the hours marked by Big Ben’s bongs.

Her sister, painter Vanessa Bell, 42, hasn’t let her children’s flu keep her from her work. She is in Paris, again, for a painting holiday. Virginia writes to her,

For Gods [sic] sake make friends with Joyce. I particularly want to know what he’s like.’

She’d read parts of Ulysses when it had been submitted to her and Leonard for publication by their Hogarth Press. She can’t imagine what kind of working class man could write like that.

Va and V in Firle Park 1911

Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell


Paris, February, 1922


Newlyweds Hadley, 30, and Ernest Hemingway, 22, are back from a Switzerland skiing trip and settling in to their new fourth floor walk-up apartment at 74 rue du Cardinal Lemoine.

Hadley and Ernest Hemingway

Hadley and Ernest Hemingway

Ernest has taken an office on the Rue Mouffetard, a pleasant five-minute walk away. Going there on a regular schedule is the only way he is going to get any writing done.

After all, that’s why they came at the end of last year. Paris is so cheap, the exchange rate so good, and between his salary as a foreign correspondent for the Toronto Daily Star, and his wife’s family money, they can afford an apartment, a studio, and dinner at local cafes every night. Great French food is 50 US cents for a meal; the wine only 60 centimes for a whole bottle.

Ernest is eager to get started on his writing career, and is planning to make good use of the contacts he had been given last summer back in Chicago by Sherwood Anderson, 45, author of the hit novel, Winesburg, Ohio.

Sherwood anderson and wife

Sherwood and Tennessee Anderson

Anderson and his wife, Tennessee, 48, had just come back to the States from Paris and encouraged the young Hemingways to follow in their footsteps. He gave Ernest an all-important letter of introduction to fellow American writer Gertrude Stein, celebrating her 48th birthday. Ernest and Hadley are gathering the courage to visit Stein and her partner, Alice B. Toklas, 44, soon.

Gert and Alice with the paintings

Alice B. Toklas and her partner Gertrude Stein with Picassos



Another expatriate, Kansas-born Robert McAlmon, 25, is in Paris, also with his new wealthy wife, Bryher, 27. As well as supporting himself as a writer with her inheritance, McAlmon intends to use her family money to publish other writers on the Left Bank.

McAlmon and Bryher

Bryher and Robert McAlmon

Soon after he came to Paris two years ago, McAlmon had struck up a close friendship with an Irishman, James Joyce. McAlmon had supported his new friend while he was struggling with his big novel, both financially and practically by helping with the typing of the manuscript.

But now that publication day—and Joyce’s big birthday—is nearing, McAlmon chickens out. He takes off for the Riviera. He figures he’ll just buy Joyce a present.


Standing on the platform at the Gare du Lyon, Sylvia Beach is waiting for the Paris-Dijon Express, due in at 7 am.

When she’d told Joyce that her printer in Dijon guaranteed to put the parcel in the post on 1st February, Joyce was not pleased. He insisted that the package be put on the train so the conductor can hand deliver it to Sylvia personally.

As the train approaches, Beach is working out her next steps in her head. She will get a taxi to Joyce’s apartment, to give him the 40th birthday present that he wants the most, the first copy of Ulysses. There is a small party planned for tonight at one of Joyce’s favorite restaurants, Ferraris. He and his partner, Nora Barnacle, 37, and a few friends will be celebrating his accomplishment, seven years in the making, the result of his relentless vision and the support of his family, Sylvia Beach…and John Quinn.

jas joyce sylvia beach

American Sylvia and her Irishman on rue de l’Odeon

K and T at rue de l'Odeon

American Kathleen and her Irishman on rue de l’Odeon