“Such Friends”: 100 years ago, August 10, 1921, Abbey Theatre, Lower Abbey Street, Dublin

Way back at the beginning of the century, when the Abbey Theatre was in its planning stages, the co-founder, poet and playwright William Butler Yeats, then 39, commissioned his friend and fellow Dubliner George Bernard Shaw, almost 10 years older than Willie, to write a play for the opening.

George Bernard Shaw by Alvin Langdon Coburn

Shaw gave the Abbey John Bull’s Other Island, a long political comedy about an Irishman and his English business partner who come to Ireland to look in to developing some land. Yeats rejected it. The official reason was that he felt they wouldn’t be able to find any actors to do the British characters justice. The real reason was that Yeats couldn’t stand Shaw’s argumentative style of playwriting.

An edited version of the play premiered in London at the Royal Court Theatre that same year, 1904, and made Shaw a big hit with the Brits. Reports are that the king laughed so hard during a performance that he fell off his chair.

Royal Court Theatre, London

John Bull’s Other Island was performed at another theatre in Dublin a few years later. And in 1909, when Abbey co-founder John Millington Synge died at age 37, both Yeats and his other Abbey cofounder, Lady Augusta Gregory, then 52, asked Shaw to step into the vacancy and help guide their theatre. He declined.

Now here is Lady Gregory to guide, what is basically her Abbey, 17 years after its opening. Tomorrow night they are putting on their seventh run of Shaw’s political play.

Abbey Theatre, Dublin

Performances will be this Thursday and Saturday nights, and a Saturday matinee. In the cast is one of their new stars, Barry Fitzgerald, 33, in the role of Tim Haffigan, which he has done six times already.

Barry came to the Abbey a few years ago through his younger brother, who is both actor and stage manager for this production. Despite his breakthrough success last year in one of Lady Gregory’s own plays, Barry still works his full-time civil service job. Where he is known by his given name, William Shields. Just to be safe.

In addition to his day job, Fitzgerald is appearing tonight and Friday in a new play by Lady Gregory, Aristotle’s Bellows, and Bedmates by George Shiels, 40, his first play produced here.

Augusta feels that the theatre has reached a stable point in its history. But she is always on the lookout for new blood, both actors and playwrights.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volume I covering 1920 is available in print and e-book format on Amazon. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

This fall I will be talking about Writers’ Salons in Dublin and London Before the Great War in the Osher Lifelong Learning program at Carnegie-Mellon University.

If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, 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 available on Amazon in both print and e-book versions.

“Such Friends”: 100 years ago, June 25, 1921, Berkshire, England; Dundrum, Dublin; and Manhattan, New York City, New York

Irish poet and playwright William Butler Yeats, just turned 56, living in Berkshire, England, with his pregnant wife, is convinced that he has finally gotten his father to agree.

His Dad, painter John Butler “JB” Yeats, 82, has been living in New York City for 13 years. He went over on holiday and just decided to stay. Despite constant entreaties from his son and daughters.

Yeats’ friend, Irish-American lawyer John Quinn, 51, has been looking out for JB, but he’s running out of patience with the older man’s demands. And, with a baby on the way, Willie can’t afford to keep covering Dad’s expenses.

Willie has issued an ultimatum and Quinn is booking JB passage back to Ireland for this fall.

*****

Yeats’ sister Lolly, 53, a publisher and teacher, is thrilled that Dad will be coming to live with her and her sister Lily, 54, an embroiderer, in the Dundrum suburb of south Dublin. They have painted his room and bought him a new bed and mattress.

Lily Yeats at Bedford Park by JB Yeats

Yesterday Lolly wrote to assure her father that in the intervening 13 years, his daughters have changed. They’re no longer irritable and over-tired, and they look forward to just sitting and chatting with him. Their brother, Willie, however, is wondering whether Dad will be able to stick to a curfew.

*****

However.

In Manhattan, JB Yeats is in no humor to go back to his family.

He has just read parts of Willie’s family memoir, “Four Years,” scheduled to appear in The Dial literary magazine. Dad has a big problem with at least one item in the text. Back when the family lived in the Bedford Park neighborhood of West London, young Willie left for two weeks to do some research in Oxford. In the memoir he describes the family as “enraged” at his absence.

Yeats’ family home in Bedford Park

Not the way Dad recalls it. He remembers the loving family being supportive of this overgrown teenager.

Yesterday he wrote to Willie,

As to Lily and Lollie, they were too busy to be ‘enraged’ about anything. Lily working all day…, and Lolly dashing about giving lectures on picture painting and earning close on 300 pounds a year…while both gave all their earnings to the house. And besides all this work, of course, they did the housekeeping and had to contrive things and see to things for their invalid mother…”

He admonishes his son for choosing a career writing plays and establishing Dublin’s Abbey Theatre with Lady Augusta Gregory, 69, and other friends. If he were a good son he would have collaborated with his artist-father, and thereby helped both their careers.

And by the way, Dad isn’t coming back.

The W. B. Yeats Bedford Park Artwork Project, a community-led arts/education charity, is working to install a major contemporary sculpture, the first ever honouring Yeats in Britain, at the former Yeats family home. Find out more here

“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 am talking about The Literary 1920s in the Osher Lifelong Learning program at the University of Pittsburgh. This fall, at the Osher program at Carnegie-Mellon University, I will be talking about Writers’ Salons in Dublin and London before the Great War.

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 available on Amazon in both print and e-book formats.

“Such Friends”: 100 years ago, 1 pm, GMT, May 25, 1921, Custom House Quay and Dundrum, Dublin

About 100 Irish Republican Army [IRA] Volunteers who have been milling around outside the Custom House, on the Liffey in Dublin City Centre, rush the building and herd the staff into the main hall. A truck loaded with supplies pulls up, and members of the IRA Dublin Brigade scatter oil and cotton all over the building and set it on fire.

The Custom House on fire

Within about ten minutes, British police arrive in three trucks and exchange fire with the IRA Volunteers inside the building. After about a half hour, the IRA’s ammunition runs out. The rebels are shot by the British as they run away.

Staff inside who have been held hostage by the Volunteers walk out of the building, hands raised, waving white handkerchiefs.

Seven civilians are killed and 11 wounded. 100 people are arrested, mostly IRA members.

The Fire Brigade arrives late because they have been held at their station by other IRA bands. Local government records from throughout the country, dating back to 1600, had been transferred to the Custom House for safekeeping. They are all destroyed.

Tonight, the building, one of the most beautiful in Ireland, called by the IRA the “seat of an alien tyranny,” is still burning.

*****

Six miles south, in the Dublin suburb of Dundrum, Lolly Yeats, 53, co-owner of Cuala Press with her brother, poet William Butler Yeats, 55, is disgusted by this War of Independence raging all around.

Just yesterday she had written to her father in New York City about the horrible IRA ambush ten days ago outside of Galway, of British officers and their friends, which left three dead. The only survivor is Margaret Gregory, 37, widowed daughter-in-law of Lady Augusta Gregory, 69, co-founder with Willie of Dublin’s Abbey Theatre.

Margaret and her British friends were leaving a tennis party when the IRA jumped out and began shooting at their car. Lolly can’t understand why on earth Margaret had been keeping company with British military officers?! Might as well wear a target on her back.

Re-enactment of the Ballyturn ambush

Lady Gregory was in England at the time of the ambush, but returned to the west of Ireland as soon as she heard. When the police questioned Margaret about the identity of the attackers, Augusta had cautioned them that Margaret doesn’t recognize any of the local country folk.

Lolly has heard about the IRA’s burning of the Custom House today. What a waste. The IRA calls it a victory but what about the loss of all those killed and arrested?!

She wrote to her father that what upsets her most is her women neighbors having their houses raided by the British, searching for their sons who have supposedly joined the IRA.

And the damned military curfew that the Brits have imposed has totally ended any social life. No more evenings in the theatre.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volume 1 covering 1920 is available in print and e-book formats on Amazon. 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.

If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, 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 available on Amazon in both print and e-book versions.

“Such Friends”: 100 years ago, March 13, 1921, Shillingford, Berkshire, England

Irish poet and playwright William Butler Yeats, 55, is writing to his friend and fellow founder of Dublin’s Abbey Theatre, Lady Augusta Gregory, about to turn 69, back in her home in Coole Park in the west of Ireland.

Yeats wants to explain to her why he and his pregnant wife, Georgie, 29, and their two-year-old daughter Anne, have moved from the place they had rented in Oxford to this cottage in Berkshire.

Shillingford Bridge, Berkshire

Mainly, to save money. Not only is there a baby on the way [Yeats is hoping for a boy], but Willie is still sending money to New York to support his father, painter John Butler Yeats, almost 82. Thankfully, Dad is being watched over by their friend, Irish-American lawyer and art collector, John Quinn, 50. Quinn often buys some of Willie’s manuscripts, giving the money to JB to keep him going.

But Yeats and his sisters are pressuring Dad to move back home. To no avail.

The Yeatses also considered moving back to Ireland. But their tower in the west of the country, Thoor Ballylee, has been terribly flooded by the recent rains. And living there, near Galway, is too dangerous now with the Civil War raging.

So Willie and Georgie found this cottage in Shillingford, about ten miles south of Oxford, which will reduce their expenses. And it is within walking distance of the town’s Catholic Church. Of course, the Yeatses are Protestants. But the proximity makes it more convenient for their maids.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volume I covering 1920 is available in both print and e-book formats on Amazon.

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.

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 available on Amazon in both print and e-book versions.

“Such Friends”: 100 years ago, February 26, 1921, Dublin

Irish poet, playwright and Abbey Theatre co-founder William Butler Yeats, 55, is hoping that this production will bring in additional audience members who are moved by stories of the heroes of the ongoing Irish rebellion against British rule.

The Revolutionist is the most overtly political play that Yeats and his co-founder and theatre director, Lady Augusta Gregory, 68, have put on at the Abbey. Its author, former Lord Mayor of Cork, the late Terence MacSwiney, is considered a martyr for Ireland since his death last October, after 74 days of hunger strike in the British Brixton Prison.

The Cork Dramatic Society with founder Terence MacSwiney, front row center

Yeats is sure that his countrymen will recognize MacSwiney in the character of the play’s hero.

The Abbey premiered The Revolutionist just two days ago, and today is the first Saturday matinee. It’s been a success and is repeating next weekend.

One of the actors, Barry Fitzgerald, 32, has been a big hit at the Abbey the past few years, while continuing to work full-time as a Dublin civil servant.

Yeats thinks that the play is pretty light on plot and structure, but is very poetic. He is thinking of repeating The Revolutionist in the fall, following it up with a new version of his own The King’s Threshold, which deals with a hunger strike.

Across the River Liffey, in St. Stephen’s Green, revolutionary Maud Gonne, 54, Yeats’ former lover, is writing to their mutual New York friend, attorney and supporter of the arts John Quinn, 50:

Maud Gonne

My dear Friend

…Here we are having a very strenuous and trying time, but the heroism and courage of everyone makes one proud of being Irish. The English may batter us to pieces but they will never succeed in breaking our spirit…Iseult (Mrs. Stuart) [Gonne’s daughter, 26]…is staying with me. Her baby will be born next month. Luckily her nerves are pretty good, for Dublin is a terrible place just now. Hardly a night passes that one is not woke up by the sound of firing. Often there are people killed, but often it is only the crown forces firing to keep up their courage. One night last week there was such a terrible fusillade just outside our house, that we all got up thinking something terrible was happening. That morning, when curfew regulations permitted us to go out, we only found the bodies of a cat and dog riddled with bullets.”

Gonne also asks Quinn if he can find an agent for her, as she would like to have her political articles printed in American publications. She needs the money.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the book, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volume I—1920 is available on Amazon in print or e-book format. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

This summer I will be talking about the Literary 1920s in Dublin, London, Paris and New York in the Osher Lifelong Learning programs 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 in both print and e-book versions.

“Such Friends”: 100 years ago, January, 1921, Broadway, New York City, New York

Marc Connelly, 30, budding playwright from western Pennsylvania, is pleased with how his Broadway debut play, Erminie, is going.

Erminie in 1921

Connelly came east to New York City from his hometown of McKeesport, just south of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, about six years ago, working on a play that had been a big hit back home. But it flopped in New York.

Made sense to stay.

Producer George Tyler, 53, asked him to adapt this 19th century comedy opera, Erminie, which has been brought back to life many times in the UK and the US.

Connelly is thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Tyler. The cigar smoking, gambling producer from Ohio has built his company by bringing European talent to America, including four tours of Dublin’s Abbey Theater with their founder and director Lady Augusta Gregory, now 68.

Tyler also produced Someone in the House by another western Pennsylvania playwright, George S Kaufman, 31, at the end of the Great War. That play didn’t do so well, only partially because authorities were telling everyone to stay home to protect themselves from the influenza that was roaring through the city. Kaufman paid for ads that said,

Avoid the Crowds! Come See Someone in the House!”

Didn’t help.

George S Kaufman

Connelly’s Erminie is in its third week and Kaufman gave it a good review in the New York Times where he is an assistant to the main drama critic, Alexander Woollcott, about to turn 34.

Connelly and Kaufman met a few years ago and have started collaborating and hanging out in the Times newsroom, waiting for Woollcott to leave so they can use his typewriter. They are working on a play based on a character created by one of the other writers they lunch with regularly at the nearby Algonquin Hotel, Franklin P. Adams, 39, better known as the dean of New York columnists, FPA.

Their first joint project, Dulcy, is due to open in Chicago next month; FPA has been promised 10% of the profits. If there are any.

“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.

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

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. Early this year I will be talking about Perkins, Fitzgerald and Hemingway in the Osher Lifelong Learning program at Carnegie-Mellon University.

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, Summer, 1920, Lindsey House, 100 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, London

She is not going to give up.

Playwright and co-founder of the Abbey Theatre, Lady Augusta Gregory, 68, is determined that the extensive art collection owned by her nephew, the late Sir Hugh Lane, only 39 when he went down on the RMS Lusitania, will go to the city of Dublin.

Picture 384

Sir Hugh Lane

To show his anger at the Dublin City Corporation for making it so difficult for him to create a gallery to hold his collection, Lane had withdrawn his offer and changed his will to bequeath the art to the National Gallery in London.

However, just before he boarded the Lusitania in New York City, back in May of 1915, he had a change of heart and wrote out a codicil to the will, giving the paintings to Dublin. He carefully initialled each page, but neglected to have the document witnessed.

And so the battle wages on between Dublin and London. With Augusta in the middle.

She has enlisted the support of her fellow founder of the Abbey, poet and playwright W B Yeats, 55. A few years ago, Willie had written a poem, “To a Shade,” chastising the Dublin newspaper owner who was leading the assault against this generous gift from a generous man:

“And insult heaped upon him for his pains,

And for his open-handedness, disgrace;

Your enemy, an old foul mouth, had set

The pack upon him.”

The critics point out that living conditions in Dublin tenements are appalling; why should money be spent for rich men’s art?

In the poem Yeats counters by pointing out that art in a public gallery will give the Irish

“…loftier thought,

Sweeter emotion, working in their veins.”

But by now, even Yeats is ready to give up the fight.

Not Augusta.

This summer, staying in Lane’s London flat in Cheyne Walk, she is corresponding with anyone who can possibly help. In June alone she has written to Irish painters and sculptors who would want to have their work included in a Dublin gallery alongside the major French Impressionists Lane specialized in.

100 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea

Lady Gregory has even written to blatant unionists like Sir Edward Henry Carson, 66, head of the Irish Unionist Party, hoping he could serve as a go-between. She has heard back from museum curators, aristocrats, trustees of the London National Gallery, and even the recent UK Chief Minister for Ireland Ian MacPherson, 40.

No progress.

Having just two years ago lost her only son, Robert, 36, when he was shot down by friendly fire in Italy, Augusta is not ready to give up on the last wishes of her favorite nephew.

Not yet. Not ever.

“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.

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

This fall I will be talking about writers’ salons in Ireland, England, France and America before and after the Great War in the Osher Lifelong Learning programs at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie-Mellon University.

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.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago, August 2, 1920, Abbey Theatre, Lower Abbey Street, Dublin, Ireland

Opening night.

Sara Allgood, 40, is ready. She has played the title character in Cathleen ni Houlihan many times, but not for a few years now. The play, billed as being by the poet William Butler Yeats, 55—but everyone knows that his fellow Abbey co-founder Lady Augusta Gregory, 68, wrote most of it—has become the Abbey’s signature piece.

Sara-Allgood younger

Sara Allgood

Premiered back in 1902, before the theatre even had this building on Abbey Street, the star then was Yeats’ love, English-Irish activist Maud Gonne, now 53, and the play caused quite a stir for its nationalistic themes. Some critics said Gonne was just playing herself.

The theatre has staged Cathleen many times, including for its own opening night as the Abbey, during the Christmas holidays in 1904, when Sara played a smaller part.

The seven performances this week—including the Saturday matinee—are the first time it’s been performed at the Abbey since St. Patrick’s Day last year. On the infamous night when Lady Gregory herself stepped into the lead role when the scheduled actress was taken ill.

So no pressure there, Sara.

original abbey theatre

Abbey Theatre, Lower Abbey Street, Dublin

After this run, she jumps next week right in to the lead in the late John Millington Synge’s masterpiece, Riders to the Sea. Just three performances for that gem, about a widow who loses all her sons to the sea. For a one-act, it’s an emotional roller coaster.

Later in the month, she’s scheduled to star in some of the smaller plays the Abbey is known for. She’s looking forward to working again with one of their new stars, Barry Fitzgerald, 32, who had his breakthrough just last year in Lady Gregory’s The Dragon.

A widow herself, having lost her husband to the Spanish flu two years ago, Sara is proud that she has been able to have a career as a full-time actress for the past fifteen years.

“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.

This fall I will be talking about writers’ salons in Ireland, England, France and America before and after the Great War in the Osher Lifelong Learning programs at University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie-Mellon University.

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.

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.

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.

 

‘Such Friends’:  1897, summer, the West of Ireland

In the next few weeks I will be posting vignettes about how each of the four writers’ salons came together. This is the beginning of W B Yeats and the Irish Literary Renaissance:

After being in the center of the Dublin riots that greeted the celebration of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee, poet W B Yeats, 32, is happy to spend the rest of his summer traveling throughout the west of Ireland with a friend.

Yeats is invited by the Baron de Basterot to stop by his home, Duras, in Co. Galway. By chance the other guests that day are Lady Augusta Gregory, 45, from nearby Coole Park, and her neighbour from Gort, Edward Martyn, 38. Yeats and Lady Gregory had crossed paths a few times before, at her salons in London, but this is the first time they actually get to know each other.

The three are getting along famously and lamenting the fact that there is no theatre in Ireland to produce plays, such as the ones Martyn is writing, about Irish people.

As Lady Gregory remembers it later,

We went on talking about it, and things seemed to grow possible as we talked, and before the end of the afternoon we had made our plan.”

Lady Gregory invites Yeats and Martyn to come to Coole Park where they can embark on their plan to start a theatre for the Irish, with plays by and about the Irish.

coole-house

Lady Gregory’s Coole Park

coole park steps

What is left of Coole Park today

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

To read about American writers, 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.