“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago, August, 1922, New York City, New York; Dublin; and London

In America, Ireland and England, many are still working their way through Ulysses.

In the States, Gilbert Seldes, 29, writes in The Nation,

Today [James Joyce] has brought forth Ulysses…a monstrous and magnificent travesty, which makes him possibly the most interesting and the most formidable of our time….I think that Nietzsche would have cared for the tragic gaiety of Ulysses.”

Gilbert Seldes

*****

In Dublin, poet and artist AE [George Russell, 55] writes to his friend in New York City, Irish-American lawyer John Quinn, 52:  

I see the ability and mastery while not liking the mood…[Joyce is] very Irish…The Irish genius is coming out of its seclusion and [W. B.] Yeats, [John Millington] Synge, [George] Moore, [George Bernard] Shaw, Joyce and others are forerunners. The Irish imagination is virgin soil and virgin soil is immensely productive when cultivated. We are devotees of convention in normal circumstances and when we break away we outrage convention.”

George Russell, AE

Another Irish friend, novelist and poet James Stephens, 42, writes to Quinn that he didn’t even bother to try Ulysses.

It is too expensive to buy and too difficult to borrow, and too long to read, and, from what I have heard about it, altogether too difficult to talk about.”

*****

In London, novelist Virginia Woolf, 40, has been working on a short story, “Mrs. Dalloway in Bond Street” while still trying to get through Ulysses. She admits to her diary,

I should be reading Ulysses, & fabricating my case for & against. I have read 200 pages. So far—not a third; & have been amused, stimulated, charmed interested by the first two or three chapters–to the end of the Cemetery scene; & then puzzled, bored, irritated, & disillusioned as by a queasy undergraduate scratching his pimples. And Tom [American ex-pat poet T. S. Eliot], great Tom, thinks this on a par with War & Peace! An illiterate, underbred book it seems to me:  the book of a self-taught working man, & we all know how distressing they are, how egotistic, insistent, raw, striking, & ultimately nauseating. When 1 can have the cooked flesh, why have the raw? But I think if you are anemic, as Tom is, there is glory in blood. Being fairly normal myself I am soon ready for the classics again. I may revise this later. I do not compromise my critical sagacity. I plant a stick in the ground to mark page 200…I dislike Ulysses more & more–that is I think it more & more unimportant:  & don’t even trouble conscientiously to make out its meanings. Thank God, I need not write about it.”

But Virginia does write about it to her Bloomsbury friend, biographer and essayist Lytton Strachey, 42:  

Never did I read such tosh. As for the first two chapters we will let them pass, but the 3rd 4th 5th 6th–merely the scratching of pimples on the body of the bootboy at Claridges. Of course genius may blaze out on page 652 but I have my doubts. And this is what Eliot worships…”

Lytton Strachey and Virginia Woolf

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volumes I and II covering 1920 and 1921 are available as signed copies at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA, and also in print and e-book formats on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

Later in the year I will be talking about the centenary of the publication of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes 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 also available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk in both print and e-book versions.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago, April, 1922, England, America, France, and Ireland

Comment continues to come in reacting to the new novel Ulysses, by Irishman James Joyce, 40, published two months ago by a small bookshop in Paris, Shakespeare and Company, owned by American ex-pat Sylvia Beach, 35.

SCANDAL OF JAMES JOYCE’S ULYSSES

After a rather boresome [sic] perusal of James Joyce’s Ulysses, published in Paris for private subscribers at the rate of three guineas in francs, I can realize one reason at least for Puritan America’s Society for the Prevention of Vice, and can understand why the Yankee judges fined the publishers of The Little Review $100 for the publication of a very rancid chapter of the Joyce stuff, which appears in to have been written by a perverted lunatic who has made a specialty of the literature of the latrine…Joyce is a writer of talent, but in Ulysses he has ruled out all the elementary decencies of life and dwells appreciatively on things that sniggering louts of schoolboys guffaw about.

Sporting Times

“In addition to this stupid glorification of mere filth, the book suffers from being written in the manner of a demented George Meredith. There are whole chapters of it without any punctuation or other guide to what the writer is really getting at. Two-thirds of it is incoherent, and the passages that are plainly written are devoid of wit, displaying only a coarse salacrity [sic] intended for humour…The main contents of the book are enough to make a Hottentot sick…[However] there are quite a number of the New York intelligentsia who declare that Joyce has written the best book in the world.”—”Aramis,” Sporting Times, England

[Joyce is] Rabelais after a nervous breakdown.”—Sheffield Daily Telegraph, England

[Ulysses] has nothing at all to do with Homer…The book itself in its blue paper cover looks at first glance like nothing so much as a telephone directory…It seems a pity that Mr. Joyce, who might be a universally admired writer, restricts the appeal of his work by so many Zolaesque expressions, which are, to say the least, disfiguring.”—“Diary of a Man About Town,” London Evening News

[Joyce is] an intensely serious man [with] the mind of an artist, abnormally sensitive to the secret of individuality of emotions and things…A genius of the very highest order, strictly comparable to Goethe or Dostoevsky…Ulysses is, fundamentally (though it is much else besides), an immense, a prodigious self-laceration, the tearing away from himself, by a half-demented man of genius, of inhibitions and limitations which have grown to be flesh of his flesh…Mr. Joyce has made the superhuman effort to empty the whole of his consciousness into it…[But he has become] the victim of his own anarchy….[Joyce] is the man with the bomb who would blow what remains of Europe into the sky…This transcendental buffoonery, this sudden uprush of the vis comica into a world where in the tragic incompatibility of the practical and the instinctive is embodied, is a very great achievement.”—“Mr. Joyce’s Ulysses,” John Middleton Murry, Nation and Athenaeum, England

The Nation and Athenaeum

[Joyce’s vision of human nature is] mean, hostile, and uncharitable,…a very astonishing phenomenon in letters. He is sometimes dazzlingly original. If he does not see life whole he sees it piercingly. His ingenuity is marvelous. He has wit. He has a prodigious humor. He is afraid of naught…It is more indecent, obscene, scatological, and licentious than the majority of professedly pornographic books…He says everything—everything…The code is smashed to bits…[The Nighttown episode has] the richest stuff, handled with a virtuosity to match the quality of the material…I have never read anything to surpass [Molly Bloom’s soliloquy], and I doubt if I have ever read anything to equal it…[Joyce] apparently thinks that there is something truly artistic and high minded in playing the lout to the innocent and defenseless reader…He has made novel reading into a fair imitation of penal servitude. Many persons could not continue reading Ulysses; they would be obliged, by mere shock, to drop it.”—“James Joyce’s Ulysses,” Arnold Bennett, The London Outlook, England

The London Outlook

Amused, stimulated, charmed, interested (through the first three chapters only to be) puzzled, bored, irritated, & disillusioned as by a queasy undergraduate scratching his pimples (by the end of chapter 6)…It was an illiterate, underbred book (by a) self-taught working man”—Virginia Woolf, in her diary, England

*****

[Ulysses is] a step toward making the modern world possible for art. [It gives] a shape and a significance to the immense panorama of futility and anarchy which is contemporary history…[Joyce has replaced narrative with] the mythical method…[It is] a book to which we are all indebted and from which none of us can escape”—T. S. Eliot, “Ulysses, Order and Myth,” The Dial, America

*****

[Molly Bloom’s soliloquy is a feat of] diabolic clairvoyance, black magic.”—Paris edition of New York Herald, France

Take this Irishman Joyce, a sort of Zola gone to seed. Someone recently sent me a copy of Ulysses. I was told I must read it, but how can 1 plow through such stuff? I read a little here and there, but, oh my God! How bored I got! Probably Joyce thinks that because he prints all the dirty little words he is a great novelist. You know, of course, he got his ideas from Dujardin?…Joyce, Joyce, why he’s nobody…from the Dublin docks:  no family, no breeding. Someone else once sent me his A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, a book entirely without style or distinction; why, I did the same thing, but much better in The Confessions. of a Young Man. Why attempt the same thing unless you can turn out a better book?…Ulysses is hopeless, it is absurd to imagine that any good end can be served by trying to record every single thought and sensation of any human being. That’s not art, that’s attempting to copy the London Directory….He lives here in Paris, I understand. How does he manage to make a living? His books don’t sell. Maybe he has money?”—Irish critic George Moore, in conversation in France

A welter of pornography (the rudest school-boy kind), and unformed and unimportant drivel.”—Edith Wharton, France

It bursted over us like an explosion in print, whose words and phrases fell upon us like a gift of tongues, like a less than holy Pentecostal experience”—Young American in France

Sylvia Beach and James Joyce in front of headlines at Shakespeare and Company

*****

I should think you would need something to restore your self-respect after this last inspection of the stinkpots…Everything dirty seems to have the same irresistible attraction for you that cow-dung has for flies.”—The author’s brother, Stanislaus Joyce, Ireland

I’ve always told him he should give up writing and take up singing.”—The author’s partner, Nora Barnacle, visiting her mother in Ireland

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volumes I and II covering 1920 and 1921 are available as signed copies at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA, and also in print and e-book formats on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

In June I will be talking about the Stein family salons in Paris just before and just after the Great War, at Carnegie-Mellon University’s Lifelong Learning program.

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 in both print and e-book versions.

‘Such Friends’: John Quinn in 1904

New York City, October 1904

Ohio-born John Quinn, 34, a junior partner in a major law firm, has recently moved out of a comfortable boarding house to his own lodgings on West 87th Street.

His apartment is already cluttered with hundreds of his books and paintings he has begun collecting. He is doing well enough in the law practice to employ a valet.

But what Quinn is most excited about is his upcoming three-week vacation to Europe.

Two years ago, he made his first trip to Ireland, to connect with his Irish roots. Quinn quickly was accepted in to a circle of friends including the poet William Butler Yeats, now 39; the playwright Lady Augusta Gregory, 52; the novelist George Moore, also 52; the poet and painter, ‘AE’ [George Russell], 37; the playwright John Millington Synge, 33; and the founder of the Gaelic League, Douglas Hyde, 44. He’s been helping them with the legalities of their American tours, the American copyright of their works, and the Irish theatre company they are establishing.

On this trip, Quinn plans just a short stop in France, some time in England on the way to Ireland and on the way back, and almost two full weeks in Dublin. This will be the third year in a row that he has visited Ireland, and he hopes to continue to make it an annual occasion.

Over at the New York Evening Mail, on Broadway and Fulton Streets, a new columnist from Chicago is settling in. Franklin Pierce Adams, 23, always writing as FPA, has transferred his new wife and his column about a little bit of everything, now called ‘Always in Good Humour,’ to midtown Manhattan.

mail_and_express_building_01

Mail and Express Building, New York City

Up on West 44th Street, the two-year-old Algonquin Hotel has bought the carriage stables next door to expand its residential services. However, the real revenue is from short term guests.

 

Paris, October 1904

John Quinn is disappointed that he can’t spend more time in France. This morning he managed to see the Chartres cathedral, but he is back in Paris just for the afternoon before leaving for Folkestone.

Two other Americans, siblings Leo, 32, and Gertrude Stein, 30, who moved to 27 rue de Fleurus on the Left Bank the year before, from the Bloomsbury area of London, are enjoying learning about and buying paintings from the dealer Ambroise Vollard, 38. He has managed to get a room full of works by Paul Cezanne, 65, into the second salon d’automne at the Grand Palais. Leo is studying art at Academie Julian, and Gertrude has joined him on his buying trips to Vollard’s gallery on rue Lafitte. They find Cezanne particularly intriguing, but Gertrude is more focused on the writing she is doing late at night.

27-rue-de-fleurus

27 rue de Fleurus, Left Bank, Paris

Across town in Montmartre, Spanish painter Pablo Picasso, 23, is settling in to his new studio and his new life with Fernande Olivier, also 23. After several visits, he has decided to make Paris his home, and his dealer Vollard is finding new buyers for his work.

 

London, October 1904

Arriving late Sunday night, John Quinn checks in to the Carlton Hotel, at the corner of the Haymarket and Pall Mall. He spends the whole day Monday visiting bookstores with a stop at the Leicester Galleries in Leicester Square.

carlton-hotel-1905

Carlton Hotel, London

Up in the Bohemian Bloomsbury section of London, the move is on. Painter Vanessa Stephen, 25, has shipped her nervous sister Virginia, 22, off to their aunt’s while she moves her and their brothers into a three-story walk up in Gordon Square. Their widowed father, editor of The Dictionary of National Biography, Leslie Stephen, 72, died in February. Vanessa feels liberated.

Her aunts and uncles are scandalized that these young people would live on their own in such a neighbourhood.

Vanessa doesn’t care. This past spring, on their way back from Italy, she and Virginia had visited Paris with friends. They smoked cigarettes and talked about art into the wee hours at the Café de Versailles. That’s what they are going to do now in London, in their own home.

 

Dublin, October 1904

After a miserable train trip across England to the port of Holyhead—he had paid for first class, but was put in a bunk bed—John Quinn is thrilled to be back in Ireland. He checks in to the Shelbourne Hotel in St. Stephen’s Green at 6:30 Tuesday morning, and finds a welcoming telegram from AE already waiting for him.

shelbourne-and-lake

Shelbourne hotel and the Stephen’s Green lake, Dublin

After a much-needed two-hour nap, Quinn is visited by his friend Yeats, and they walk over to the nearby studio of painter John Butler Yeats, 65, the poet’s father. Following a leisurely lunch at the Empire Restaurant, the men are joined by Lady Gregory who has brought fresh food from her western Ireland home, Coole Park, on the train with her. Augusta surprises Quinn by announcing that he is going to be the special guest at a reception with the actors of their young theatre company that evening, in gratitude for his generous donations in the past two years.

The Irish National Theatre Society, with its co-directors Yeats, Gregory and Synge, is becoming more stable. Having premiered Synge’s emotional one-act play, Riders to the Sea, this spring, they are getting ready to move in to their own building on Abbey Street. They should be able to start performing there by Christmas.

In addition to starting a national theatre, Lady Gregory has helped other Irish writers and artists as well. Earlier this year, she sent some money to a young writer AE had recommended, James Joyce, 22, so he could take off for Switzerland with his new love, Nora Barnacle, 20, where he had been offered a job teaching English. Lady Gregory wished him well.

For the next two weeks, Quinn’s holiday in Dublin falls in to a pleasing pattern. Breakfast with Willie and a visit to his father’s studio in the morning, lunches with fascinating writers and artists each afternoon, dinner and late night conversation about theatre with Yeats and Lady Gregory, usually at her rooms in the Nassau Hotel. What a life! This is how he would prefer to spend all his days.

 

London, November 1904

W B Yeats has come with John Quinn to London for his last week of vacation. Visiting Yeats’ rooms in the Woburn Buildings in Bloomsbury, Willie introduces Quinn into British culture, and the American appreciates the writers and painters he meets.

wobrun-buildings

Yeats’ rooms in the Woburn Buildings, Bloomsbury, London

Nearby in Gordon Square, the doctor says Virginia is well enough to visit her brothers and sister in their new home for ten days. Before she goes back to their aunt’s, they have dinner with one of their brother’s Cambridge University friends, Leonard Woolf, 23, who is back home on leave from his government job in Ceylon.

Yeats has one last breakfast with Quinn in the Carlton hotel, and then drives him to Waterloo station to see him off on the boat train to Southampton for the trip home to New York City aboard the St. Paul.

 

New York City, November 1904

While John Quinn was away, the New York City subway, under construction for the past four years, has finally opened. Theodore Roosevelt, just turned 46, has been elected to a full term as President, having first taken office three years ago when the sitting President William McKinley, aged 58, had been assassinated. With Roosevelt assured in office for four more years, there is a ‘progressive’ feel in the air.

Roger Fry, 37, editor of England’s Burlington magazine, and recently turned down for the post of Professor of Art at the Slade School, has made a special trip to the States to raise money for his magazine. Friends introduce him to J P Morgan, 67, of the board of trustees of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 5th Avenue at 87th Street, an inveterate collector of art, books, clocks and various objets d’art. Morgan is more impressed with Fry than the Slade School was.

metrop-museum-of-art

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

Back home, Quinn misses the cultural life of Europe that he has enjoyed for the past three weeks. Now he is back to the old grind of his law practice. His main client, the National Bank of Commerce, has supreme confidence in his abilities. He is working with and meeting important people. There is work to do.

But his heart is with his friends in Ireland…

johnquinn

John Quinn (1870-1924)

This year I’ll be piecing together my planned biography of John Quinn. Read more about him on the link to your right: ‘I want to tell you about an amazing man.’

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.

 

 

 

 

In Upper Ely Place, Dublin, May of 1902…

…writer George Moore, 50, is excited about the upcoming production of The Tinker and the Fairy, a play based on Irish folk tales by his new friend, founder of the Gaelic League, Douglas Hyde, 42.

Moore is the one who suggested staging it in his own back garden, as a one-off special event, with Hyde playing the lead role of the Tinker, followed by a posh, invitation-only reception for 300 special guests,

Upper Ely Place, Dublin

Upper Ely Place, Dublin

As Moore had hoped, this is turning in to THE event of the Dublin social season—and it is all his baby. He and Hyde agreed on a translator to produce an English version of the play, from the original Irish. But it was Moore who edited it, made major changes in the script, and has directed the whole production. Hyde might have gotten tired of his constant letters of instruction, but even he would have to admit that the play is stronger.

Moore’s purpose is to bring his native Irish culture into the mainstream by working these folk stories from the people into plays by Hyde and his other friends in the Irish National Theatre Society. And everyone in Ireland will know that it is all because of him, Moore, and his efforts.

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.

George Moore, charcoal drawing

George Moore, charcoal drawing