“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.

At the New York World offices in midtown Manhattan, on August 5th, 1927…

 

…journalist Heywood Broun, 38, is working on his column for the next day. He knows what he has to write.

For the past few months Broun, along with some of his Algonquin Round Table lunch buddies, and other liberal writers, have been championing the cause of two Italian immigrants, Nicola Sacco, 36, and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, 39, who have been sentenced to death.

They were charged seven years ago with being involved in a Massachusetts robbery where a security guard and paymaster were murdered. As the case has dragged on, it has become a cause celebre for liberals in America and major European capitals, who feel the fishmonger and the cobbler are being prosecuted just for being foreigners living in the US.

Broun’s friend Robert Benchley, 38, has given a deposition stating that he had been told that the judge in the case had made prejudicial comments about the defendants. But it was inadmissible because it was hearsay.

Under public pressure, the judge put together a commission to review his judgment and death sentence, headed by the president of Harvard University, Broun and Benchley’s own alma mater. The commission gave in and supported the judge’s decision.

So the immigrants are scheduled for execution later this month, and Broun’s wife, journalist Ruth Hale, 40, and other Algonquin friends—including Benchley, Dorothy Parker, about to turn 34, poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, 35, and novelist John Dos Passos, 31–are planning to march in Boston next week.

Broun has kept Sacco and Vanzetti’s story alive in his column, but his bosses at the World are not happy. He should be very careful about what he writes now. Broun could lose his job, and, because of the three-year non-compete clause that he signed, he would be out of work for quite a while, with a wife and son, Heywood Hale, 9, to support.

He knows that. He writes,

 ‘It is not every prisoner who has the president of Harvard University throw on the switch for him…’

sacco-and-vanzetti Boston Globe

This is the last in this series about the writers before and during their times as ‘such friends.’ Check back soon for more stories from the early 20th century.

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

To walk with me and the ‘Such Friends’ through Bloomsbury, download the Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group audio walking tour from VoiceMap. Look for our upcoming walking tour about the Paris ‘such friends.’