The party seems to be going well.
Art critic Clive Bell, 40, is hosting the dinner party following this evening’s meeting of The Memoir Club.
The Club was started a couple of years ago by about a dozen friends, family and lovers who live in and around the Bloomsbury section of London. Kept totally private, the main purpose of the organization is to get its members thinking about writing their own autobiographies. And because those who read out papers at the get-togethers are bound by the rules to be as candid as possible, The Memoir Club provides delightful entertainment as well.
Tonight’s presenters include Lytton Strachey, 42, whose biography of Queen Victoria was a big hit last year, and novelist Edward Morgan Forster, 43, recently returned from another trip to India.
Forster is in particularly good form tonight. By happy accident he has become the main topic of conversation in the letters page of the London Times.
At the beginning of the month, the Times’ review of Da Silva’s Widow and Other Stories by “Lucas Malet”—in reality Mary St. Leger Kinsley, 70—compared the book to Forster’s 1911 collection of six short stories, The Celestial Omnibus. Truth be told, Forster’s hadn’t sold well.
But the mention in the Times set off a volley of letters of praise for Forster’s writing, almost every day for two weeks, headlined “Mr. E. M. Forster’s Books.” This culminated in a letter from Kingsley herself who claimed she had never heard of him.
Well. She sure has heard of him now. The publisher of Celestial Omnibus wrote in offering a free copy of Forster’s book to anyone who made the same claim. A previous publisher got in touch, inquiring if Morgan was working on another novel. And sales soared.
The Celestial Omnibus
Reveling in his newfound fame, Morgan is feeling confident sharing pieces of his memoir and chatting with his Bloomsbury friends.
At the dinner, most of the discussion however is about a new long poem by another friend of theirs, the American ex-patriate Thomas Stearns Eliot, 33, which he calls The Waste Land. Eliot has been reading it out to friends over the past few months, and writer Mary Hutchinson, 33, Clive’s current mistress, calls it “Tom’s autobiography—a melancholy one.”
Mary Hutchinson and Clive Bell
Clive’s sister-in-law, novelist Virginia Woolf, 40, agrees with Mary’s opinion of the poem, but Virginia has been jealous of Hutchinson in the past. Tonight Mary is being quite kind. Virginia records in her diary later that Mary “crossed the room & purred in my ear.”
“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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
This month I am 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 CMU 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.com and Amazon.co.uk in both print and e-book versions.