“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago, late September, early October, 1922, 82 Merrion Square, Dublin; and Great Neck, Long Island, New York

Georgie Yeats, 29, is relieved to be settling into her new home in Merrion Square, Dublin, with her family—her husband, poet William Butler Yeats, 57, and their two children, Anne, 3, and Michael, 13 months.

She bought this posh row house just a few months ago, with her own family money. But they have been living out in the west of Ireland, in the tower Willie bought and named Thoor Ballylee.

Willie has been optimistic about how the newly independent Irish Free State is progressing. Despite the ongoing civil war, the Parliament elected in June has taken their seats and chosen W. T. Cosgrave, 42, as their President.

However, at the beginning of this month Republican soldiers came to the door of Thoor Ballylee and told Georgie that they were going to blow up the bridge over the stream that runs by the tower. She should move the family upstairs. Big of them to give notice.

They ignited the fuses; a Republican told her there would be two explosions. She writes to a friend: 

After two minutes, two roars came & then a hail of falling masonry & gravel & then the same man shouted up ‘All right now’ & cleared off.”

No one was injured. When the Yeats family left for Dublin the stream had poured two feet of water in the downstairs dining room.

Thoor Ballylee flooded

*****

As she got off the train at Great Neck, Long Island, Zelda Fitzgerald, 22, carrying her daughter Scottie, 11 months, took one look at the nanny that her husband, hit novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, just turned 26, had hired—and fired her.

Scott and Zelda have recently rented a house in this suburb, only a 45-minute drive from Manhattan, and, while Zelda went back to St. Paul, Minnesota, to pick up Scottie from Fitzgerald’s parents, Scott had botched things up as usual.

Scottie and Zelda Fitzgerald

They had come back to New York at the beginning of the month to start a life with less booze and more work on Scott’s next novel and a play he’s writing. But they made the mistake of staying in their favorite place for partying, the Plaza Hotel, and the partying came back too.

A few weeks ago, Scott invited his old Princeton University buddy, critic and managing editor of Vanity Fair, Edmund “Bunny” Wilson, 27, over to the Plaza for an impromptu lunch—lobster croquettes and top shelf illegal liquor. Also joining them were novelists John Dos Passos, 26, and Sherwood Anderson, 46, who was looking a bit scruffy. The bootlegger’s bartender mixed Bronx cocktails (gin, vermouth and orange juice) and the men sat around drinking and whining about how their publishers didn’t promote their books enough.

Dos Passos and Zelda started teasing each other and Anderson, who had only come to be polite, left early.

John Dos Passos

Scott mentioned that, now that he had published two successful novels and just brought out his second short story collection, Tales of the Jazz Age, he and Zelda had decided to rent a house out on Long Island where they could raise their daughter.

So the slightly tipsy Fitzgeralds and Dos Passos got in a chauffeured red touring car and took off to meet up with a real estate agent in Great Neck. None of the houses interested them so they decided to pay a call on their friend, humor writer Ring Lardner, 37, at his home on East Shore Road looking out over Manhasset Bay.

Ring was already drunker than they were, so after only a few more drinks the group headed back to the Plaza. Zelda insisted on stopping at an amusement park along the way so she could ride the Ferris Wheel, and Scott stayed in the car drinking from a bottle that he had hidden there. Dos Passos decided his new friends were going to have a hard time adjusting to strictly domestic life.

After several other house-hunting trips, the Fitzgeralds finally found this lovely home at 6 Gateway Drive, in the leafy confines of Great Neck Estates:  A circular driveway; red-tiled roof; great big pine tree in the front yard; and a room above the garage where Scott can write in peace.

6 Gateway Drive, Great Neck

Zelda took off to retrieve Scottie in St. Paul, leaving Fitzgerald to hire servants and a baby nurse. He sure has screwed that up.

Despite his recent writing success, and encouragement from his publisher, Scott really isn’t making enough to afford the rent, the servants, the laundress, the nurse, the country club, the theatre tickets, the restaurant bills, and the Rolls Royce (second hand) that living in Great Neck requires.

Zelda doesn’t care. The finances are his problem.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volumes I through III, covering 1920 through 1922 are available at Thoor Ballylee in Co. Galway, and as signed copies at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA. They are also available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk in print and e-book formats. 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.

Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is also available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk 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.

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.’