“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago, Late September, 1922, 23 rue de Boitie; and Morgan, Harjes et Cie, 14 Place Vendome, Paris

Olga Picasso, 31, is recuperating at home after an emergency operation.

She and her family—husband Pablo, 40, and their son, Paulo, almost 20 months old—were having a lovely holiday, despite the bad weather, in Dinard on the Brittany Coast.

Suddenly Olga became seriously ill and they had to rush her to the hospital in Paris, 400 km away. The five-hour trip was a nightmare:  Paolo was car sick and Pablo kept putting ice packs on Olga’s head.

She’s feeling a bit better now that she is home. But Pablo has gone back to Dinard to retrieve all the paintings and drawings he’s been working on since they arrived there in July.

Women Running on the Beach by Picasso

The Spanish painter has never learned to drive, saying that it would affect his wrists and hands. So he bought a posh new car and has hired a chauffeur to take care of the driving for him. He tells Olga that, back in Dinard, he is quite a celebrity. His arrival is in the local paper and everyone wants to see his new car.

Olga is more concerned about her “woman’s problems.”


Nearby in the city, about 2 km away, American ex-patriate Harry Crosby, 24, is at his desk in the Morgan, Harjes et Cie bank in Place Vendome.

Morgan, Harjes et Cie bank in Place Vendome.

Harry’s not doing much work. He rarely does. His aunt, Jane Norton Morgan, 54, wife of the bank owner, J. P. Morgan, Jr., just turned 55, arranged this job for him. Harry had already walked out on a banking job in Boston, after only eight months of putting up with it and a six-day drinking binge.

But Aunt Jane didn’t send him off to Paris this spring just to restart his career. She wanted to get him away from his mistress, Mrs. Mary “Polly” Phelps Rodgers, 30, with whom he has been conducting a scandalous affair for the past two years. All of Boston is talking.

Didn’t work. Polly finally divorced her husband earlier this year, and at the beginning of this month she finally said yes to Harry’s most recent marriage proposal, via transatlantic cable.

Harry was over the moon. He collected on the $100 bet he’d made with his roommate, raced to Cherbourg to get the next boat, used the money to bribe officials so he wouldn’t have to quarantine, and managed to sail to New York City on the RMS Aquitania on September 3rd. He won some money gambling on the ship but used that to buy champagne for his fellow passengers. He dressed up and crashed the posh restaurant on board, but while he was eating caviar, mock turtle soup and hummingbirds on toast, a steerage inspector tossed him out.

RMS Aquitania

Harry arrived in Manhattan after six days at sea, broke, and Polly was waiting for him at the dock. They got married that day and made a quick trip to Washington, DC, to try to reconcile with his family. That didn’t work.

Wedding picture of Harry and Polly Crosby

Back in New York City they collected Polly’s two children, and the responsibility of actually being a stepfather sunk in to Harry. He disappeared for a few hours.

But all four members of the newly blended family boarded the RMS Aquitania for the trip back to Paris.

Harry returned to this cushy job, and Polly found them an impressive apartment on the Right Bank so they could move out of the hotel they had been living in. And every workday, Polly, in a stunning red bathing suit, rows her new husband—somberly dressed in a business suit, hat, umbrella and briefcase—down the Seine to Place de la Concorde. He disembarks and walks the few blocks to his job here at the family bank. Polly rows back, often to the delight of the Frenchmen who whistle and wave at her and her large breasts. She loves it.

Harry likes this life, too, but not the job. He spends a lot of time reading poetry rather than banking and has even tried writing some himself.

Right now, he thinks it’s time to leave this office and go across the street to the Ritz Hotel Bar.

“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 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 F. Scott 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.