“Such Friends”: 100 years ago, June, 1921, en route to and in Paris

Everyone’s coming to Paris…

Harvard undergraduate Virgil Thomson, 24, is thrilled to be headed to Paris for the first time on the European tour of the Harvard Glee Club—the first such extensive tour by any American university choral group. He’s the accompanist, but also an understudy for the conductor, Dr. Archibald T. “Doc” Davison, 37, who has led the 63-year-old choir for the past two years.

The Glee Club will be traveling through France for four weeks, then three more weeks in Switzerland and Italy. Playing 23 concerts at major venues in 12 major cities.

Harvard Glee Club logo

But what Virgil is looking forward to most is staying on in Paris after the Glee Club goes back to America.

This tour came about because French history professor Bernard Fay, 28, who had been at Harvard, managed to get the French Foreign Office to issue an official invitation to the Club.

In addition to meeting their steamer when they dock at 2 am, Fay will be able to introduce Virgil to those in Paris who he needs to know, particularly French composers such as Darius Milhaud, 28, and Francis Poulenc, 22.

Thanks to a teaching fellowship, Virgil will be staying on in Paris for a full year to study composition with renowned composer and teacher Nadia Boulanger, 33. What an opportunity. He’ll be staying with a French family at first, but then hopes to find his own flat near Boulanger’s studio on the Right Bank.

Nadia Boulanger

*****

Artist Marcel Duchamp, 33, on the other hand, is heading for home.

Marcel has been living in and around New York City for the past six years. After his painting Nude Descending a Staircase was such a big hit at the 1913 Armory Show, he was able to finance a trip to the States and leverage his newfound fame to acquire artist friends and valuable patrons, Walter, 43, and Louise Arensberg, 42. As owners of the building where he has a studio, the Arensbergs agreed to take one of Duchamp’s major paintings, The Large Glass, in lieu of rent.

Duchamp’s English wasn’t good at first, but supporting himself by giving French lessons helped to improve it quickly.

Marcel feels it’s time to go back home to Paris. Even just for a few months.

The Large Glass by Marcel Duchamp

*****

After a stop in London, the Fitzgeralds are now in Paris.

In England, Scott, 24, wasn’t particularly impressed with his fellow Scribner’s novelist John Galsworthy, 53, whom he met at his home in Hampstead.

Scott and his wife Zelda aren’t really impressed with Paris either. The managers of the Hotel Saint-James-et-d’Albany where they are staying complain when Zelda blocks the elevator door on their floor so it will be available for her.

The real problem with this trip, though, is that Zelda is sick all the time. And pregnant.

*****

American novelist Sherwood Anderson, 44, and his wife, Tennessee, 47, on the other hand, are having a ball on their first trip to Paris. They’ve seen a terrific exhibit of work by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso, 39. Visited Chartres. Met American ex-patriate poet Ezra Pound, 35. They were more impressed by the Chartres cathedral than they were by Pound.

What Sherwood is really looking forward to, however, is using the letter of introduction he just received from the American owner of Shakespeare & Co., Sylvia Beach, 34, to meet her friend and fellow American, writer Gertrude Stein, 47. He has read some of Stein’s pieces in the “little mags” that he’s found back in Chicago and has learned so much from her radical style.

In exchange, Sherwood is helping Sylvia send out prospectuses to all the Americans he can think of, soliciting subscriptions for her upcoming publication of Ulysses, the scandalous novel by the Irish ex-patriate, James Joyce, 39.

Prospectus for Ulysses

*****

Recent Yale graduate Thornton Wilder, 24, and his sister, Isabel, 21, both writers, have been in Paris since the beginning of the month. During his recent eight-month residency at the American Academy in Rome, where he studied archaeology and Italian, Thornton started on his first novel, The Cabala.

Now that they are in Paris, Thornton and Isabel are signed up as members of Shakespeare & Co.’s lending library and they have made friends with Sylvia, thanks to a letter of introduction he carried from his friend, poet Stephen Vincent Benet, 22.

Sylvia has offered to introduce Thornton to Joyce, whom he has seen in her shop.

Thornton refused. Joyce always looks as though he doesn’t want to be interrupted.

Right now, Thornton’s biggest concern is finding a new place to live. The Hotel du Maroc, where they have been since they arrived, is crawling with bedbugs.

Thornton Wilder, Yale University graduation photo

“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.

Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is available on Amazon in both print and e-book formats.

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, October, 1920, Graduate School for Arts and Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Thomas Wolfe, just turned 20, recently graduated with a BA in English from the University of North Carolina, can’t believe he is finally here at Harvard.

Thomas Wolfe at University of North Carolina

Wolfe’s parents agreed to an advance on his inheritance so that he could enrol here to study playwriting. His mother’s boarding house back home in Asheville, North Carolina, has done well over the years, but it is still a bit of a financial stretch for them to send him here.

Tom was set on Harvard so that he could study playwriting with the legendary Professor George Pierce Baker, 54. His English 47 class is world renowned as a training ground for successful playwrights, and Baker founded the university’s Drama Club over a decade ago. Wolfe is hopeful that his play The Mountains, about his hometown, may be performed by Baker’s “47 Workshop” next year; quite an honor.

Tom has already gotten good feedback from both Baker and his all-male classmates, as he writes home to his mother:

Prof. Baker read the prolog of my play…to the class a week ago. To my great joy he pronounced it the best prolog ever written here. The class, harshly critical as they usually are, were unanimous in praising it. This circumstance bewilders as well as pleases me. I am acutely no judge of my own work…The work over which I expend the most labor and care will fail to impress while other work, which I have written swiftly, almost without revision will score.”

“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@gypsyteacher.com.

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

This fall I am talking about writers’ salons in Paris and New York after the Great War in the Osher Lifelong Learning programs at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie-Mellon University. Early in 2021 I will be talking about Perkins’ worth with Fitzgerald and Hemingway at CMU.

My “Such Friends” presentations, The Founding of the Abbey Theater and Dorothy Parker and the Algonquin Round Table are available to view on the website of PICT Classic Theatre.

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”:  150 Years Ago, April 24, 1870, Tiffin, Ohio

Happy birthday, John Quinn!

We interrupt our usual posting of events that happened 100 years ago with a momentous event of 150 years ago.

Regular readers of this blog [you know who you are] will have wondered who this John Quinn fellow is, supporter of art and artists, who keeps popping up 100 years ago. Hosting Irish poet William Butler Yeats and his wife in New York. Writing and receiving letters to and from American ex-patriate poet Ezra Pound. Buying manuscripts of works by writers like Yeats, Joseph Conrad and James Joyce.

Below is a posting I wrote in 2003 about Quinn in my weekly blog, “Every Wednesday:  The Journal of a Teacher in Search of a Classroom,” chronicling my year of unemployment in south Florida. [#shamelessselfpromotion: Available in paperback on Lulu.com,  Or on Amazon combined with my other Gypsy Teacher blogs.]

“Every Wednesday:  I Want to Tell You About an Amazing Man”

When I was doing my research for my dissertation on early 20th century writers’ salons—W B Yeats and the Irish Literary Renaissance, Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group, Gertrude Stein and the American expatriates in Paris, and Dorothy Parker and the Algonquin Round Table—there was this character who kept popping up. Like Woody Allen’s Zelig he appeared in biographies, memoirs and letters of the time, as well as in group photos of people like Yeats, Picasso, Matisse, Ezra Pound, James Joyce. Who was this guy? He certainly had “such friends.”

pound_joyce_ford_quinn

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

When I first came across Quinn, I checked the bibliographies and saw that there was one biography about him, B. L. Reid’s The Man from New York:  John Quinn and His Friends (New York:  Oxford University Press, 1968). Earlier this year I began doing some research on the 1913 New York Armory Show to include in my work-in-progress about the writers’ salons, “Such Friends.” There was John Quinn again, buying art in Paris, organizing the first exhibition of international modern art in the United States, writing to Conrad and other struggling writers of the time.

Jealous that someone else had written the definitive history of this intriguing creature, I broke down and took the biography out of the library. I discovered that it’s not great—good research but not well-presented, hard to read. And, worst of all, the author makes this fascinating man’s life seem boring.

So here is the John Quinn I discovered. I’m still working on some of the details.

He was born in Tiffin, Ohio, on this date in 1870 of Irish immigrant parents; his father was a baker. He grew up in middle-class Fostoria, Ohio, and attended the University of Michigan. A family friend who became Secretary of the Treasury under President Benjamin Harrison offered Quinn a job with him in Washington, D.C. While working full-time in the federal government, he went to Georgetown University law school at night. After receiving his law degree, he earned an advanced degree in international relations from Harvard University. Not bad for the son of a shanty-Irish baker.

Quinn then moved to New York City, which was to be his home for the rest of his life. He predictably got a job with a major New York law firm and worked on a lot of high profile corporate cases. During a two-year period there were a lot of deaths in his family—parents, sisters, etc.—and he began to explore his Irish roots.

Right after the turn of the century he went to Ireland and, while attending a Gaelic language festival in the west, near Galway, met Lady Augusta Gregory and other friends of Yeats involved in the Irish Literary Renaissance. While helping them found the Abbey Theatre, he started his own law firm in 1906. As you do.

His successful firm was supported by retainers from major corporations, and he became involved in New York’s Tammany Hall politics. But when his candidate didn’t get the nomination at the 1912 Democratic Party convention, he got disgusted with the whole system (go figure). After that he turned his considerable energies to art and literature.

Quinn did delegate a lot of the work in his law firm when he was away, but, like a true control freak, he was always unhappy with the way his employees handled everything. During the first two decades of the 20th century he managed to:

  • Help organize the Armory Show,
  • Fight Congress to have a tariff on contemporary art changed,
  • Bail out the Abbey Theatre after they were arrested for performing John Millington Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World in Philadelphia,
  • Have an affair with Lady Gregory and a number of other much younger women, some of whom he “shared” with Yeats,
  • Support Yeats’ father in New York City by buying his paintings and Yeats’ manuscripts,
  • Support James Joyce in Paris by buying his manuscripts as he wrote them,
  • Argue the original case to have excerpts of Ulysses published in the Little Review magazine in the United States, and
  • Amass an incredible collection of modern art, focused primarily on European painters.

During that time he kept up a detailed correspondence with all of the above as well as Maud Gonne, Augustus John and many other cultural luminaries of the early 20th century. Quite a guy. I get tired just thinking about all he accomplished.

Quinn died of intestinal cancer at the age of 54, and, having no children, was generous to his sister and niece, but willed that his art collection be sold off and dispersed among museums and collectors around the world. And it was.

Quinn and Yeats

John Quinn and William Butler Yeats

Yesterday I gave my first presentation about the Armory Show to a group of art collectors at the Boca Raton Museum of Art. I tried to communicate to them John Quinn’s enthusiasm for supporting the living artist as well as the art.

Currently I am doing more research about Quinn and plan to write an article about him. Eventually I would like to give him the decent biography he deserves. I’ll keep you posted.

See you next Wednesday.

Thanks for reading. You can e-mail me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

“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 2020 I will be talking about writers’ salons in Ireland, England, France and America before and after the Great War 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.

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

 

On this date, 20th September, in 1884, on the corner of Second Avenue and Fourteenth Street in Manhattan…

…Maxwell Evarts Perkins was born. Descendant of two signers of the Declaration of Independence, he was always described as more New England Yankee than New Yorker.

After graduating from Harvard with a degree in Economics, Perkins worked for a bit as a reporter at the New York Times, then joined the well-respected publisher Charles Scribner’s Sons in 1910 in the advertising department.

Within a few years he was moved to the editorial side, and began his long tenure as a legendary spotter of talent. Because of Perkins, Scribner’s published those Paris ‘such friends’ F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemingway, as well as Thomas Wolfe and other distinguished novelists from the beginnings of their careers.

What can we learn today from the way Perkins worked with these outstandingly creative people? That’s the question I asked when working on my MBA thesis at Duquesne University. The result is Manager as Muse: Maxwell Perkins’ Work with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, which I have recently slimmed down and published on Amazon, in both print and Kindle versions.

Manager as Muse by Kathleen Dixon Donnelly

Manager as Muse by Kathleen Dixon Donnelly

What a perfect way to celebrate Max’s birthday! I’ll even be happy to sign a print copy the next time I see you…

 

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.’