“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago, late December, 1922, Montmartre, Paris; and West End, London

In Paris, the Ballets Russes is performing Parade, which they premiered here five years ago with music by Erik Satie, 56, and a scenario written by Jean Cocteau, 33. The scenery, curtains and costumes are all created in a Cubist style by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso, 41, who gets his own ovation when the audience stands up to cheer, and faces the box he is seated in.

A costume for Parade designed by Pablo Picasso

But the big success of the season is Cocteau’s production of Antigone, his “contraction” of Sophocles’ original, as Cocteau calls it.

Picasso also received a round of cheers during the rehearsals for the play, when Cocteau brought him to an almost bare set, with just some masks and a violet-blue and white backdrop, and told the painter to create a hot, sunny day.

Picasso paced the stage. Picked up a piece of red chalk. Rubbed the white boards with it until they looked like marble. Dipped a brush in a bottle of ink. Drew some lines on the background and blackened in a few spaces.

Three Doric columns appeared. All those watching applauded.

Cocteau also persuaded Coco Chanel, 39, to design the heavy Scotch woolen costumes for Oedipus’s daughters.

Antigone is packing them in at the 100-year-old Théâtre de l’Atelier, owned by the actor and drama teacher Charles Dullin, 37, who directed the production and appears in it as well. Dullin’s mother pawned the family’s furniture and silverware to get enough money for Charles to buy and renovate this theatre.

Théâtre de l’Atelier,

Cocteau himself is playing the part of the Chorus, and also in the cast is one of Dullin’s students, Antonin Artaud, 26. The music for the play has been written by Swiss composer Arthur Honegger, 30, and the lead is played by a Romanian dancer, Génica Athanasiou, 25, who speaks so little French she had to learn her lines syllable by syllable. As a reward for her efforts, Cocteau has dedicated the production to her.

Génica Athanasiou by Man Ray

Each evening begins with a short curtain-raiser by Italian playwright Luigi Pirandello, 55, who had success last year with his Six Characters in Search of an Author.

The names Picasso, Chanel and Pirandello are what initially drew the crowds. However, now that Antigone is a big hit, Cocteau is becoming a cult figure among young men who show up in large groups to applaud each night. Some have even been hanging around outside Cocteau’s house and climbing up the lamp post just to get a look at him.

Jean Cocteau by Man Ray


In London’s West End, German Count Harry Kessler, 54, is enjoying theatre while visiting the city for the first time since the Great War broke out. He confides his impressions to his diary,

Not much change in the shops. They are as good class and as elegant as they used to be. But there is no longer the astounding amount of hustle and luxury as in 1914 and which is still to be met in Paris. It can be sensed that the country has become poorer and the shoppers rarer…[At the theatre] to my astonishment, at least half the men in the stalls were in lounge suits, the rest in dinner jackets, and only five or six in tails. A real revolution or, more accurately, the symptom of such.”

A West End theatre audience

“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.

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 d on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk in both print and e-book versions.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago, Mid-May, 1922, Hotel Venetia, Boulevard du Montparnasse, Paris

Having her Mom, Cora, 58, here for the past month or so has been a great distraction for American ex-pat poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, 30.

Cora and Edna are having a great time. Attending the Russian Ballet at the Opera House. Eating in the local cafes. Dancing at Zelli’s, the Montmartre Club. Mom is a big hit.

Cora Millay

Edna has moved them here from the original hotel she booked. As she explains in a letter to her sister,

because it [was] so cust expensive, and [we] are now in a cheap but not a very clean hotel…Two minutes from this bleeding kafe [the Rotonde] and just around the corner from the beautiful Luxembourg Gardens.”

Since Cora’s arrival, Edna has started seeing a Frenchman—whom Mom does not like. Not only does he borrow money, he shows up unexpectedly and takes Edna away from Cora. And he looks too much like her ex-husband.

Edna’s love life has been on the skids so far this year.

Millay spent the first part of the year in Vienna, living with a former boyfriend, only because he could split expenses. She’d gone through her income from the poems and Nancy Boyd stories she is sending back to Vanity Fair and the $500 advance from Boni and Liveright for a raunchy novel she can’t write.

Edna St. Vincent Millay poem in Vanity Fair, May, 1922

One of her beaus, fellow poet Arthur Ficke, 38, back in America, asked her why she hadn’t responded to the marriage proposal sent to her in a letter from Hal, writer Witter Bynner, 40, another of her conquests. She didn’t even remember a marriage proposal?! Hal is good-looking, well-traveled, a Harvard grad, rich. She wrote to him to ask if he wants to get married, and when she didn’t hear back right away she cabled him, “Yes!” She even told her sister that she was “sort of engaged.”

When Edna finally does get a letter from Hal, now living in Santa Fe, New Mexico, exhausted from a recent cross-country lecture tour, he explains that of course she must know the whole marriage thing was a joke.

Edna wrote back instantly,

Oh, Lord—oh, Lord—Oh. Hal!”

Of course she knew it was a joke. Ha ha. The letters and cables she sent must have really frightened him. Thank God he hadn’t taken her seriously! Ha ha.


Then came the crushing blow. Arthur writes to say that he is finally leaving his wife. For his girlfriend. Not Edna.

Millay is thinking she might as well marry the French guy.

Arthur Ficke

“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.

In June 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.

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.

‘Such Friends’: John Quinn in 1904

New York City, October 1904

Ohio-born John Quinn, 34, a junior partner in a major law firm, has recently moved out of a comfortable boarding house to his own lodgings on West 87th Street.

His apartment is already cluttered with hundreds of his books and paintings he has begun collecting. He is doing well enough in the law practice to employ a valet.

But what Quinn is most excited about is his upcoming three-week vacation to Europe.

Two years ago, he made his first trip to Ireland, to connect with his Irish roots. Quinn quickly was accepted in to a circle of friends including the poet William Butler Yeats, now 39; the playwright Lady Augusta Gregory, 52; the novelist George Moore, also 52; the poet and painter, ‘AE’ [George Russell], 37; the playwright John Millington Synge, 33; and the founder of the Gaelic League, Douglas Hyde, 44. He’s been helping them with the legalities of their American tours, the American copyright of their works, and the Irish theatre company they are establishing.

On this trip, Quinn plans just a short stop in France, some time in England on the way to Ireland and on the way back, and almost two full weeks in Dublin. This will be the third year in a row that he has visited Ireland, and he hopes to continue to make it an annual occasion.

Over at the New York Evening Mail, on Broadway and Fulton Streets, a new columnist from Chicago is settling in. Franklin Pierce Adams, 23, always writing as FPA, has transferred his new wife and his column about a little bit of everything, now called ‘Always in Good Humour,’ to midtown Manhattan.


Mail and Express Building, New York City

Up on West 44th Street, the two-year-old Algonquin Hotel has bought the carriage stables next door to expand its residential services. However, the real revenue is from short term guests.


Paris, October 1904

John Quinn is disappointed that he can’t spend more time in France. This morning he managed to see the Chartres cathedral, but he is back in Paris just for the afternoon before leaving for Folkestone.

Two other Americans, siblings Leo, 32, and Gertrude Stein, 30, who moved to 27 rue de Fleurus on the Left Bank the year before, from the Bloomsbury area of London, are enjoying learning about and buying paintings from the dealer Ambroise Vollard, 38. He has managed to get a room full of works by Paul Cezanne, 65, into the second salon d’automne at the Grand Palais. Leo is studying art at Academie Julian, and Gertrude has joined him on his buying trips to Vollard’s gallery on rue Lafitte. They find Cezanne particularly intriguing, but Gertrude is more focused on the writing she is doing late at night.


27 rue de Fleurus, Left Bank, Paris

Across town in Montmartre, Spanish painter Pablo Picasso, 23, is settling in to his new studio and his new life with Fernande Olivier, also 23. After several visits, he has decided to make Paris his home, and his dealer Vollard is finding new buyers for his work.


London, October 1904

Arriving late Sunday night, John Quinn checks in to the Carlton Hotel, at the corner of the Haymarket and Pall Mall. He spends the whole day Monday visiting bookstores with a stop at the Leicester Galleries in Leicester Square.


Carlton Hotel, London

Up in the Bohemian Bloomsbury section of London, the move is on. Painter Vanessa Stephen, 25, has shipped her nervous sister Virginia, 22, off to their aunt’s while she moves her and their brothers into a three-story walk up in Gordon Square. Their widowed father, editor of The Dictionary of National Biography, Leslie Stephen, 72, died in February. Vanessa feels liberated.

Her aunts and uncles are scandalized that these young people would live on their own in such a neighbourhood.

Vanessa doesn’t care. This past spring, on their way back from Italy, she and Virginia had visited Paris with friends. They smoked cigarettes and talked about art into the wee hours at the Café de Versailles. That’s what they are going to do now in London, in their own home.


Dublin, October 1904

After a miserable train trip across England to the port of Holyhead—he had paid for first class, but was put in a bunk bed—John Quinn is thrilled to be back in Ireland. He checks in to the Shelbourne Hotel in St. Stephen’s Green at 6:30 Tuesday morning, and finds a welcoming telegram from AE already waiting for him.


Shelbourne hotel and the Stephen’s Green lake, Dublin

After a much-needed two-hour nap, Quinn is visited by his friend Yeats, and they walk over to the nearby studio of painter John Butler Yeats, 65, the poet’s father. Following a leisurely lunch at the Empire Restaurant, the men are joined by Lady Gregory who has brought fresh food from her western Ireland home, Coole Park, on the train with her. Augusta surprises Quinn by announcing that he is going to be the special guest at a reception with the actors of their young theatre company that evening, in gratitude for his generous donations in the past two years.

The Irish National Theatre Society, with its co-directors Yeats, Gregory and Synge, is becoming more stable. Having premiered Synge’s emotional one-act play, Riders to the Sea, this spring, they are getting ready to move in to their own building on Abbey Street. They should be able to start performing there by Christmas.

In addition to starting a national theatre, Lady Gregory has helped other Irish writers and artists as well. Earlier this year, she sent some money to a young writer AE had recommended, James Joyce, 22, so he could take off for Switzerland with his new love, Nora Barnacle, 20, where he had been offered a job teaching English. Lady Gregory wished him well.

For the next two weeks, Quinn’s holiday in Dublin falls in to a pleasing pattern. Breakfast with Willie and a visit to his father’s studio in the morning, lunches with fascinating writers and artists each afternoon, dinner and late night conversation about theatre with Yeats and Lady Gregory, usually at her rooms in the Nassau Hotel. What a life! This is how he would prefer to spend all his days.


London, November 1904

W B Yeats has come with John Quinn to London for his last week of vacation. Visiting Yeats’ rooms in the Woburn Buildings in Bloomsbury, Willie introduces Quinn into British culture, and the American appreciates the writers and painters he meets.


Yeats’ rooms in the Woburn Buildings, Bloomsbury, London

Nearby in Gordon Square, the doctor says Virginia is well enough to visit her brothers and sister in their new home for ten days. Before she goes back to their aunt’s, they have dinner with one of their brother’s Cambridge University friends, Leonard Woolf, 23, who is back home on leave from his government job in Ceylon.

Yeats has one last breakfast with Quinn in the Carlton hotel, and then drives him to Waterloo station to see him off on the boat train to Southampton for the trip home to New York City aboard the St. Paul.


New York City, November 1904

While John Quinn was away, the New York City subway, under construction for the past four years, has finally opened. Theodore Roosevelt, just turned 46, has been elected to a full term as President, having first taken office three years ago when the sitting President William McKinley, aged 58, had been assassinated. With Roosevelt assured in office for four more years, there is a ‘progressive’ feel in the air.

Roger Fry, 37, editor of England’s Burlington magazine, and recently turned down for the post of Professor of Art at the Slade School, has made a special trip to the States to raise money for his magazine. Friends introduce him to J P Morgan, 67, of the board of trustees of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 5th Avenue at 87th Street, an inveterate collector of art, books, clocks and various objets d’art. Morgan is more impressed with Fry than the Slade School was.


Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

Back home, Quinn misses the cultural life of Europe that he has enjoyed for the past three weeks. Now he is back to the old grind of his law practice. His main client, the National Bank of Commerce, has supreme confidence in his abilities. He is working with and meeting important people. There is work to do.

But his heart is with his friends in Ireland…


John Quinn (1870-1924)

This year I’ll be piecing together my planned biography of John Quinn. Read more about him on the link to your right: ‘I want to tell you about an amazing man.’

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.