“Such Friends”: 100 years ago, May 7, 1921, Left Bank, Paris

As soon as he wakes up, English art critic Clive Bell, 39, can’t wait to draft a letter to his mistress back in London, writer Mary Hutchinson, 32, about his memorable evening the night before.

by Bassano, whole-plate glass negative, 7 March 1921

Clive Bell

Clive and some friends started with drinks at Les Deux Magots in Place Saint-Germain des Prés, moving on to dinner at Marchaud’s, a few blocks away at rue Jacob and rue des Saints-Peres,where there were bound to be a lot of Americans. The food is good and it’s very affordable.

One of Clive’s friends sees two men he knows in the next room and invites them over to the table. Clive tells Mary that he didn’t recognize one of the men, but was told he is

a bad sort—speaks only about his own books and their value in a French [accent] out of an opera bouffe. And who do you think [he] was? The creature immediately thrust an immense card under my nose and on it was the name of your favorite author—James Joyce. His companion, who happily spoke not one word of French, was called [Robert] McAlmon…and gives himself out as the most intimate friend of the well-known American poet—T. S. Eliot. God what a couple. Joyce did not seem stupid, but pretentious, underbred and provincial beyond words:  And what an accent. McAlmon is an American. They both think nobly of themselves, well of Ezra Pound and poorly of Wyndham Lewis…The little nuisance [who had brought the two over] broke in drunkenly on Joyce’s incessant monologue of self-appreciation. [Joyce looks like] exactly what a modern genius ought to be…like something between an American traveller in flash jewellery and a teacher in a Glasgow socialist Sunday school.”

Clive decides that in his wanderings around Paris he is going to avoid Joyce.

“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.

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.