“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago, mid-January, corner of Sixth Avenue and West 57th Street, New York City, New York

Free-lance writer Dorothy Parker, 29, is worrying about how to handle the regular book club that she is hosting this evening here at her apartment.

Sixth Avenue and West 57th Street

They all will have heard; she lunches at the Algonquin Hotel most days with one of the regulars, New York Times reporter Jane Grant, 30, and her husband American Legion Weekly editor Harold Ross, also 30. Parker knows the writers who congregate there have been spreading rumors and trying to figure out why she did it.

Dottie is thinking it will be best to take the direct approach. She’ll greet each guest saying,

I slashed my wrists.”

That should get over some of the awkwardness.

That Sunday she had arrived back here at her apartment feeling really hungry. She called down and ordered delivery from that vile—but convenient—restaurant downstairs, the Swiss Alps.

When she went into the bathroom Parker saw the razor left behind by her estranged husband Edwin Pond Parker III, 29, when he took off to his family back in Connecticut last summer. She hadn’t noticed it before.

Parker took the blade and cut along the vein in her left wrist. Blood spurted all over the room. Her hand was so slippery she had a hard time slitting the other wrist.

And then the delivery boy arrived with dinner.

Call a doctor!”

Dottie shouted. The ambulance took her to Presbyterian Hospital.

Some of her friends’ comments around the lunch table have gotten back to her.

Playwright Marc Connelly, 32, thinks it was “just a bit of theatre.” A few feel Parker was looking for attention, or to have Eddie come back. Jane Grant is suspicious of the fortuitous arrival of the delivery boy.

Dorothy and Eddie Parker

Her family and some of her lunch friends came to visit Parker in the hospital. Dean of the New York columnists Franklin Pierce Adams (FPA), 41, stayed away. Connelly came; as did theatre critic Alexander Woollcott, about to turn 36. Most important of all was the visit from her best friend, Life magazine editor Robert Benchley, 33.

Eddie didn’t even keep his razors sharp,”

she told him.

In the hospital Parker had tied pale blue ribbons into little bows around the scars on her wrists. For the bridge club tonight, Dottie decides to use black velvet ribbons.

“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 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.

Next month I will be talking about the literary 1920s in Paris and New York City in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at 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”:  100 Years Ago, late September, 1922, Presbyterian Hospital, New York City, New York

What?!

When American actor Paul Robeson, 24, in London, received the cable from his wife of one year, Essie Goode Robeson, 26, back in New York City, he couldn’t believe it.

Essie and Paul Robeson

Paul had been touring the UK in a play, Voodoo—called Taboo when he premiered it in the US—with legendary English actress Mrs. Patrick Campbell, 57. He’d been writing letters home to Essie almost every day, but the ones he received from her seemed remote, with no comments regarding all the details he was giving her about his life here. Finally, he cabled her,

ALL MY QUESTIONS UNANSWERED. WORRIED. IS ANYTHING WRONG. ALL LOVE, PAUL.”

Something sure was wrong—Essie replied that she had been in the hospital the whole time! She hadn’t told him about the complications from her appendectomy, and she’d checked herself in right after he left for the UK. Essie had written out letters to him in advance and had friends send them to Paul at regular intervals so he wouldn’t worry. Ha!

Paul wrote back to say he will return home right away. The producers of the play have decided not to take it on to London, so Paul books a ticket on the RMS Homeric.

As soon as he docks in New York City, Robeson goes straight to Presbyterian Hospital where Essie, now a patient, has worked for years, even before her marriage, as a chemist in the Surgical Pathology Department. When Paul asks to see his wife, Essie, the receptionist says,

Oh, you’re Mr. Goode; I’ll take you right up!”

Reunited, Paul vows to stay by her side in the hospital until she is ready to go home to their house in Harlem to recuperate.

Presbyterian Hospital

“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.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago, early August, 1922, Glasgow, Scotland; and Presbyterian Hospital, New York City, New York

At first, American actor and singer Paul Robeson, 24, was really enjoying his first trip to the UK, touring with a production of Voodoo by Mary Hoyt Wiborg, 34. He had appeared in the Broadway premiere—when it was called Taboo—and Miss Wiborg had used her posh connections to arrange a British tour starring none other than the legendary Mrs. Patrick Campbell, 57.

Mrs. Patrick Campbell

Mrs. Pat, as she is known, has been impressed with Paul’s talents—he was thought by many to be the only good thing in the original show.

She edited the play to make his part better, and, after she heard him humming “Go Down Moses” when he was preparing for a dream sequence, she insisted that he add more singing. During one of the curtain calls, Mrs. Pat pushed Paul forward, saying to him,

It’s your show—not mine”

as the audience’s applause increased. She has mentioned to Robeson that he would make a great Othello.

But their opening in Blackpool was a disappointment; the show didn’t get any better in Edinburgh. There was some improvement last night, here in Glasgow. And Paul got another good review: 

Particularly good was Mr. Paul Robson [sic] as the minstrel Jim…[He] sang and acted splendidly…a magnificent voice, his singing has undoubtedly much to do with the success Voodoo achieved last night.”

Robeson has been to a Celtics v. Hibernians “football” match, and generally found he is treated better here as a Black man than he is back in the States.

Now things seem to be turning sour. Mrs. Campbell is mumbling about leaving the show and shutting it down before they get to London.

More worrying to Paul, though, is the correspondence he’s been getting from his wife of one year, Essie, 26, back in New York.

Eslanda Goode Robeson

He writes to her almost every day, with great detail about the show and his experiences: 

Mrs. Pat is a really wonderful woman and a marvelous actress…[English theatre] seems in as bad a state as those in New York or worse…Vaudeville pays better here than the legitimate…”

Paul receives letters from her regularly. But they seem odd. Essie doesn’t respond to what he has told her, and doesn’t answer his questions about their future:  Does she want to join him over here? Maybe he should think about going to Oxford University for a year? Or should he finish law school back at Columbia in New York? What’s the best plan that will give them a solid foundation for their life together?

Paul writes to Essie that he has too many options.

Worries me sick…[You should] think carefully from every angle…You’ll know what to do…You always know.”

*****

Back in New York City, Essie is in Presbyterian Hospital where she works as a chemist in the Surgical Pathology Department. But now she is a patient.

Presbyterian Hospital

The day before Paul left for the UK, back in July, Essie’s doctor told her she needed an immediate operation to correct complications from her recent appendectomy.

Essie didn’t want Paul to worry about her while he was away, so she waited until his ship pulled out of New York harbor and then checked herself into Presby.

Essie had written out 21 letters to him in advance and handed them over to friends whom she could trust to mail them to him at regular intervals.

The operation went fine, but Essie developed phlebitis and other complications, so the doctors have kept her in here longer than anticipated.

Essie loves the beautiful letters she receives from her husband. She’s thinking it might be time to send Paul a telegram and tell him the truth.

“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.

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.

“Such Friends”: 100 Years Ago, Fall, 1920, Harlem, New York City, New York

Paul Robeson, 22, has a decision to make.

Having graduated from Rutgers College last year, Robeson is now studying law here at Columbia University. Throughout his college years he has appeared in plays and done some singing at special events.

Paul Robeson in his Rutgers College football uniform

Now an opportunity has come up for a major role in a play by poet Ridgely Torrence, 47, the poetry editor of The New Republic, who is developing a reputation for writing plays about African-Americans rebelling against society. It’s a good role—the title character in Simon the Cyrenian, to be performed at the Harlem YWCA.

Robeson is doing well at Columbia. Much better since he transferred here from New York University’s Law School earlier this year, after just one semester. He feels more comfortable living and studying up here in Harlem than he did down in the Village.

The only snag has been that he has just spent several weeks in New York Presbyterian Hospital recovering from a football injury. The good news is—that’s where he got to know Eslanda Goode, 24, the head chemist in the Surgical Pathology department.

They had run into each other in Harlem before, during summer school and at parties. But it was after his recent hospital stay that they began to date.

Eslanda Goode

Goode is keen on Paul performing more. He enjoys his singing engagements, but thinks of that as a hobby. Essie really wants him to get into acting. She is encouraging Paul to take this part in Torrence’s play.

Robeson figures he’ll say yes just so she’ll quit nagging him about it.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the book, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s, to be published by K. Donnelly Communications. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

My “Such Friends” presentations, The Founding of the Abbey Theatre and Dorothy Parker and the Algonquin Round Table, are available to view on the website of PICT Classic Theatre.

This fall I am talking about writers’ salons in Paris and New York after the Great War in the Osher Lifelong Learning program at the University of Pittsburgh.

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 Kindle versions. I will be talking about Perkins, Fitzgerald and Hemingway in the Osher program at Carnegie-Mellon University early next year.

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