“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago, December, 1922, on the newsstands of America

When Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis, 37, was published a few months ago, it was met with mostly positive reactions.

Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis

H. L. Mencken, 42, literary critic for Smart Set, found the main character to be a symbol of everything wrong with American culture: 

It is not what [Babbitt] feels and aspires that moves him primarily; it is what the folks about him will think of him. His politics is communal politics, mob politics, herd politics; his religion is a public rite wholly without subjective significance.”

In The New Statesman, Rebecca West, just turned 30, declared that Babbitt “has that something extra, over and above, which makes the work of art.”

Fellow novelist H. G. Wells, 56, told Lewis that it is

one of the greatest novels I have read…I wish I could have written Babbitt.”

Somerset Maugham, 48, wrote to say that he felt that

it is a much better book than Main Steet.

Edith Wharton, 60, to whom the novel is dedicated, wrote from one of her villas in France,

I wonder how much of it the American public, to whom irony seems to have become unintelligible as Chinese, will even remotely feel?…Thank you again for associating my name with a book I so warmly admire and applaud.”

But now in December, Edmund Wilson, 27, has his say in Vanity Fair, comparing Lewis unfavorably to Dickens and Twain, and stating that Lewis’ literary gift “is almost entirely for making people nasty.”

*****

Last month The Dial published “The Waste Land” by T. S. Eliot, 34, and in this month’s issue the publisher, Scofield Thayer, just turned 33, announces that Eliot is the second recipient of the magazine’s annual Dial Prize of $2,000.

In the same issue, Eliot has a piece about the death of English vaudeville star, Marie Lloyd, aged 52, which depressed Eliot terribly. In October, almost 100,000 mourners attended her funeral in London.

Marie Lloyd

This issue of The Dial also contains Edmund Wilson’s praise of “The Waste Land,” an in-depth piece about Eliot’s importance as a poet:  

He feels intensely and with distinction and speaks naturally in beautiful verse…The race of the poets—though grown rare—is not yet quite dead.”

Eliot is pleased with Wilson’s review, but unhappy that Wilson called his fellow ex-pat Ezra Pound, 37, an “imitator of [Eliot]…extremely ill-focused.” Eliot considers Pound to be the greatest living English-language poet.

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In The Nation this month, Dial editor Gilbert Seldes, 29, is also enamored of “The Waste Land,” comparing it to Ulysses by James Joyce, 40, published earlier this year: 

That ‘The Waste Land’ is, in a sense, the inversion and the complement of Ulysses is at least tenable. We have in Ulysses the poet defeated, turning outward, savoring the ugliness which is no longer transmutable into beauty, and, in the end, homeless. We have in ‘The Waste Land’ some indication of the inner life of such a poet. The contrast between the forms of these two works is not expressed in the recognition that one is among the longest and one among the shortest of works in its genre; the important thing is that in each the theme, once it is comprehended, is seen to have dictated the form.”

Eliot sends Seldes a nice note thanking him for the review.

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Outlook magazine, on the other hand, features “A Flapper’s Appeal to Parents,” asking parents and society as a whole to be more understanding of these dancing females who spend “a large amount of time in automobiles.”

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First described by American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, 26, the flapper grows up in his story in this month’s Metropolitan magazine, “Winter Dreams,” about a midwestern boy in love with a selfish rich girl, who marries someone all wrong for her. When writing the story, Fitzgerald cut some descriptions to save them for his third novel, which he is working on now.

Metropolitan, December

*****

The December Smart Set has the first short story by one of America’s most-published and most popular poets, Dorothy Parker, 29, whose “Such a Pretty Little Picture” describes a man living a monotonous life in the suburbs, just cutting his hedge. Similar to her best friend, fellow Algonquin Round Table member Robert Benchley, 33, who lives in Scarsdale with his wife and two sons.

“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 as signed copies at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA, and on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk in print and e-book formats. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

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 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.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago, June, 1922, on the newsstands of America

The Dial magazine has “More Memories” by Irish playwright William Butler Yeats, just turned 57, and two line drawings by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso, 40. Its monthly columns include “Paris Letter” by American ex-pat poet Ezra Pound, 36, and “Dublin Letter” by the recently retired Head Librarian of the National Library of Ireland, John Eglinton, 54, actually writing from his home in Bournemouth, England. He reviews the new novel Ulysses by his fellow Dubliner, James Joyce, 40, living in Paris: 

The Dial, June 1922

I am by no means sure, however, that I have understood Mr. Joyce’s method, which is sufficiently puzzling even where he relates incidents in which I have myself taken a humble part…There is an effort and a strain in the composition of this book which makes one feel at times a concern for the author. But why should we half-kill ourselves to write masterpieces? There is a growing divergence between the literary ideals of our artists and the books which human beings want to read.”

The New York Times Book Review has a review of The Secret Adversary, the second novel from English writer Agatha Christie, 31: 

It is safe to assert that unless the reader peers into the last chapter or so of the tale, he will not know who this secret adversary is until the author chooses to reveal him…[Miss Christie] gives a sense of plausibility to the most preposterous situations and developments…[But she] has a clever prattling style that shifts easily into amusing dialogue and so aids the pleasure of the reader as he tears along with Tommy and Tuppence on the trail of the mysterious Mr. Brown. Many of the situations are a bit moth-eaten from frequent usage by other quarters, but at that Miss Christie manages to invest them with a new sense of individuality that renders them rather absorbing.”

The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie, US edition

Metropolitan magazine has a piece, “Eulogy for the Flapper” by Zelda Fitzgerald, 22, who is considered to be the original flapper, as created in the two recent hit novels by her husband, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 25: 

The flapper is deceased…They have won their case. They are blase…Flapperdom has become a game; it is no longer a philosophy.”

The Smart Set has a short story by Zelda’s husband, “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz”: 

[Percy Washington boasts that his father is] by far the richest man in the world and has a diamond bigger than the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.”

The Smart Set, June 1922

The Saturday Evening Post has two pieces by friends who lunch together regularly at the midtown Manhattan Algonquin Hotel:  “Men I’m Not Married To” by free-lance writer Dorothy Parker, 28, and “Women I’m Not Married To” by popular newspaper columnist FPA [Franklin Pierce Adams], 40.

Saturday Evening Post, June 1922

The Double Dealer, A National Magazine. from the South, true to its mission to publish new work by new writers has “Portrait,” a poem by recent University of Mississippi dropout, William Faulkner, 24, and “Ultimately,” a four-line poem by Toronto Star foreign correspondent Ernest Hemingway, 22, a Chicagoan currently living in Paris: 

He tried to spit out the truth

Dry-mouthed at first,

He drooled and slobbered in the end

Truth dribbling his chin.”

The Double Dealer magazine

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volumes I and II covering 1920 and 1921 are available as signed copies at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA, and also in print and e-book formats on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

This month I will be talking about the Stein family salons in Paris before and after The Great War at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Carnegie-Mellon University.

In the fall, I will be talking about the centenary of The Waste Land in the Osher programs at Carnegie-Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.

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

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago, January 6, 1922, Scribner’s, 153-157 Fifth Avenue, New York City, New York

Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins, 37, is thinking about how to word this letter to one of his star authors, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 25, currently with his wife and newborn daughter in his hometown of St. Paul, Minnesota.

Maxwell Perkins

Scott’s second novel, The Beautiful and Damned, is set to be published this spring. Max believes it will do at least as well as his first, This Side of Paradise, which was a Scribner’s best-seller of 1920.

Fitzgerald is also continually publishing short stories in widely read magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post and Metropolitan.

Perkins likes following a hit novel with a collection of stories by the same author, feeling that the sales of each will help both. This was true of Paradise.

For the follow up collection, Fitzgerald suggested a number of titles:  We Are Seven. A La Carte. Journeys and Journey’s End. Bittersweet. Or Flappers and Philosophers.

Flappers and Philosophers

Perkins has chosen the last one, although Charles Scribner II, 67, president of the company, was aghast.

Like Scribner, Perkins doesn’t want to mess with success. Nevertheless, he wants to suggest to Fitzgerald that it might be time to take a different turn.

He knows Scott is in the beginning stages of thinking about his third novel. And Max is also concerned that his own four daughters might want to become flappers.

Perkins writes,

We ought to…get away altogether from the flapper idea.”

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volumes I and II covering 1920 and 1921 are available as signed copies at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA, and also in print and e-book formats on Amazon. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

On February 3, 2022, we will be celebrating the 148th birthday of my fellow Pittsburgher Gertrude Stein, at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill. You can register for this free event, or sign up to watch it via Zoom, here

Early in the new year I am talking about the Centenary of the Publication of James Joyce’s Ulysses in the Osher Lifelong 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 also available on Amazon 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.

“Such Friends”: 100 years ago, August 31, 1921, Scribner’s, 153-157 Fifth Avenue, New York City, New York

Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins, 36, knows that he has to be really upbeat and optimistic.

Scribner’s

He has received a letter from his star author, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 24, whose second novel, The Beautiful and Damned, will be serialized in Metropolitan magazine next month. Scribner’s predicts it will be as big a hit as his first book, published last year, This Side of Paradise.

Fitzgerald is back home in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he and his wife, Zelda, 21, have moved to await the birth of their first child.

626 Goodrich Avenue, St. Paul, Minnesota, which the Fitzgeralds rented

With the royalties from Paradise, the Fitzgeralds sailed to Europe earlier this year, but the trip was pretty disastrous as Zelda was sick the whole time.

Thanks to Perkins, they did meet with one of Scribner’s older stars, English novelist John Galsworthy, 54, when they were in London. Perkins had written to Galsworthy that their meeting “may turn out to have done [Fitzgerald] a great deal of good, for he needs steering.”

Now Perkins is worried about the latest letter from Scott. He says that he has had a “hell of a time” trying to write again.

Loafing puts me in this particular obnoxious and abominable gloom. My third novel, if I ever write another, will I am sure be black as death with gloom…I should like to sit down with half dozen chosen companions and drink myself to death but I am sick alike of life, liquor and literature. If it wasn’t for Zelda I think I’d disappear out of sight for three years. Ship as a sailor or something & get hard—I’m sick of the flabby semi-intellectual softness in which I flounder with my generation.”

Max puts as much enthusiasm as he can into his reply:

Everybody that practices the last [literature] is at uncertain intervals weary of the first [life], but that is the very time they are likely to take strongly to the second [liquor].”

Perkins also extols the benefits of being in the St. Paul weather because Scott will want to stay inside and write most of the time.

“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. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

This summer 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.

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

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