Parties given by the friends who live in the Bloomsbury section of London are always great. And this one is no exception.
46 Gordon Square
The host, economist John Maynard Keynes, 39, is mostly occupied by his work in Cambridge and the City of London, traveling to Germany to advise the government there, taking over the failing Liberal magazine The Nation and Athenaeum and working out the economic theory for his next book, A Tract on Monetary Reform.
So it’s time to throw a party! Let’s celebrate “Twelfth Night,” the traditional end to the Christmas season.
Over in the corner English novelist Virginia Woolf, 40, who used to live in Bloomsbury but is now in Richmond with her husband, Leonard, 42, is deep in conversation with German-British painter Walter Sickert, 62. He has entertained the crowd with a one-man performance of Hamlet.
On the other side of the room is writer and suffragist Marjorie Strachey, 40. Her brother Lytton, 42, was with Leonard and Maynard in the secretive group at Cambridge, The Apostles. Marjorie has been reciting obscene versions of children’s nursery rhymes to the assembled partygoers.
But the star of the evening is Maynard’s lover, Russian ballerina Lydia Lopokova, 31, currently in stressful rehearsals for a ballet she is producing and appearing in as part of a revue, You’ll Be Surprised, with her choreographer and dancing partner, Leonide Massine, 26, in Covent Garden later this month. Tonight, Lydia has performed a dance that impressed everyone.
Keynes has given Lydia the ground floor apartment in #41, just a few doors away. Lydia understands that his schedule is busy, but she often is lonely and depressed because Maynard’s Bloomsbury friends haven’t really welcomed her into their group. This party is one of the first times she has felt a bit more accepted.
However, Lydia and Maynard are about to have their first real fight. If he’s too busy to spend time with her, how come he’s planning to spend the Easter holiday in North Africa with his other lover, another Apostle, English writer Sebastian Sprott, 25?!
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.
At the Sam H. Harris Theatre on West 42nd Street, Hamlet, starring the legendary John Barrymore, 40, has just opened. The New York Herald says that his performance “will be memorable in the history of the American theatre.”
The Times predicts,
We have a new and a lasting Hamlet.”
And Brooklyn Life says that Barrymore has “won the right to be called the greatest living American tragedian.”
John Barrymore as Hamlet
Farther up Fifth Avenue, the Cort Theatre on 48th Street is hosting a different type of theatrical success, Merton of the Movies, by Algonquin Hotel lunch buddies Marc Connelly, 31, and George S Kaufman, just turning 33. Like their previous Broadway hit Dulcy, Merton is based on a suggestion from another regular at the Algonquin, top World columnist Franklin Pierce Adams, just turning 41, known to all as FPA.
The Times calls it “a delight in every way,” and their other lunch regular, Heywood Broun, 33, also in the World, calls it “the most amusing show of the season.”
Cast of Merton of the Movies
But, around the corner at the much smaller Punch and Judy Theatre on 49th Street, Connelly and Kaufman have financed a comedy review, The ‘49ers, written by their friends.
The gang put on a show back in April, No Sirree!, which was only performed one night for an invited audience of their friends and fans, who loved it.
So they figured they’d do it right this time—hire a producer, director and professional actors. Besides Connelly, Kaufman, FPA and Broun, the sketches were written by their talented friends, including Dorothy Parker, 29, Robert Benchley, 33, and Ring Lardner, 37.
What could go wrong?!
It wasn’t funny.
On opening night, the Mistress of Ceremonies, legendary vaudevillian Miss May Irwin, 60, was soooo bad, Connelly decided to take on the role himself, over Kaufman’s objections.
The whole disaster just closed after only 15 performances.
One block away, at Tony Soma’s speakeasy, Parker is sharing the horror story of her recent abortion with anyone who will listen. Few want to.
She’d felt sick when her friend, magazine illustrator Neysa McMein, 34, was painting her portrait recently. Neysa gave her a glass of gin and immediately got her to a west side hospital.
DorothyParker by Neysa McMein
They both knew who the father was: That cad, would-be playwright Charles MacArthur, 27.
When Dotty told Charlie that she had had an abortion, he slipped her 30 bucks, which did not cover the cost, and promptly disappeared from her life. Parker said,
It was like Judas making a refund.”
To make it worse, due to her sloppy timekeeping, Parker had passed her first trimester, and “Dr. Sunshine” (one of many so-called in Manhattan) was angry that her pregnancy was farther along than she had claimed.
After one week in the hospital, Parker is back to her usual writing, reviewing and drinking. She has poems regularly in the Saturday Evening Post, and her first short story, “Such a Pretty Little Picture” will be in next month’s Smart Set.
But this whole experience has truly depressed her. Her pal Benchley is supportive, but he warned her about MacArthur, who has become one of Benchley’s best friends.
She tells him,
Serves me right for putting all my eggs in one bastard.”
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.
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.
American writer Djuna Barnes, 29, arrived in Paris a few months ago with a letter of introduction to one of the ex-patriate writers she most admires, James Joyce, 40. This month, her profile of the Irishman appears in Vanity Fair magazine.
…Of Joyce, the man, one has heard very little. I had seen a photograph of him, the collar up about the narrow throat, the beard, heavier in those days, descending into the abyss of the hidden bosom. I had been told that he was going blind, and we in America learned from Ezra Pound that ‘Joyce is the only man on the continent who continues to produce in spite of poverty and sickness, working from eight to sixteen hours a day.’…
“And then, one day, I came to Paris. Sitting in the café of the Deux Magots, that faces the little church of St. Germain des Près, I saw approaching, out of the fog and damp, a tall man, with head slightly lifted and slightly turned, giving to the wind an orderly distemper of red and black hair, which descended sharply into a scant wedge on an out-thrust chin.
“He wore a blue grey coat, too young it seemed, partly because he had thrust its gathers behind him, partly because the belt which circled it, lay two full inches above the hips…
“Because he had heard of the suppression of The Little Review on account of Ulysses and of the subsequent trial, he sat down opposite me, who was familiar with the whole story, ordering a white wine. He began to talk at once. ‘The pity is,’ he said, seeming to choose his words for their age rather than their aptness, ‘the public will demand and find a moral in my book—or worse they may take it in some more serious way, and on the honor of a gentleman, there is not one single serious line in it.’
“For a moment there was silence. His hands, peculiarly limp in the introductory shake and peculiarly pulpy, running into a thickness that the base gave no hint of, lay, one on the stem of the glass, the other, forgotten, palm out, on the most delightful waistcoat it has ever been my happiness to see. Purple with alternate doe and dog heads…
James Joyce by Djuna Barnes
“He saw my admiration and he smiled. ‘Made by the hand of my grandmother for the first hunt of the season’ and there was another silence in which he arranged and lit a cigar…
“’In Ulysses I have recorded, simultaneously, what a man says, sees, thinks, and what such seeing, thinking, saying does, to what you Freudians call the subconscious,—but as for psychoanalysis,’ he broke off, ‘it’s neither more nor less than blackmail.’
“He raised his eyes. There is something unfocused in them,—the same paleness seen in plants long hidden from the sun,—and sometimes a little jeer that goes with a lift and rounding of the upper lip…
“If I were asked what seemed to be the most characteristic pose of James Joyce I should say that of the head; turned farther away than disgust and not so far as death…After this I should add—think of him as a heavy man yet thin, drinking a thin cool wine with lips almost hidden in his high narrow head, or smoking the eternal cigar, held slightly above shoulder-level, and never moved until consumed, the mouth brought to and taken away from it to eject the sharp jets of yellow smoke…
“It has been my pleasure to talk to him many times during my four months in Paris. We have talked of rivers and religion, of the instinctive genius of the church which chose, for the singing of its hymns, the voice without ‘overtones’—the voice of the eunuch. We have talked of women, about women he seems a bit disinterested. Were I vain I should say he is afraid of them, but I am certain he is only a little skeptical of their existence. We have talked of Ibsen, of Strindberg, Shakespeare. ‘Hamlet is a great play, written from the standpoint of the ghost,’ and of Strindberg, ‘No drama behind the hysterical raving.’
“We have talked of death, of rats, of horses, the sea; languages, climates and offerings. Of artists and of Ireland…
“Sometimes his wife, Nora, and his two children have been with him. Large children, almost as tall as he is himself, and Nora walks under fine red hair, speaking with a brogue that carries the dread of Ireland in it; Ireland as a place where poverty has become the art of scarcity. A brogue a little more defiant than Joyce’s which is tamed by preoccupation.
“Joyce has few friends, yet he is always willing to leave his writing table and his white coat of an evening, to go to some quiet near-by cafe, there to discuss anything that is not ‘artistic’ or ‘flashy’ or ‘new.’ Callers have often found him writing in the night or drinking tea with Nora. I myself once came upon him as he lay full length on his stomach poring over a valise full of notes taken in his youth for Ulysses…
“However it is with him, he will come away for the evening, for he is simple, a scholar, and sees nothing objectionable in human beings if they will only remain in place…”
In June I will be talking about the Stein family salons in Paris just before and just after the Great War in the Osher Lifelong Learning program at Carnegie-Mellon University.
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.