“Such Friends”: 100 Years Ago, June 19, 1920, Hotel Elysee, 3 rue de Beaune, Paris

About ten days ago, when American poet Ezra Pound, 34, was still in Italy, he had met for the first time the Irish writer whom he had been corresponding with and encouraging for seven years, James Joyce, 38.

Joyce 1918

James Joyce

He had convinced Joyce to move the entire Joyce family to Paris in the next few months. Pound promised he will pave the way with the proper introductions.

Today he is writing to the American patron of the arts and artists, lawyer John Quinn, 50, back in New York, describing his first impressions of Joyce:

Dear John Quinn:

I came out of Italy on a tram-car [because of a rail strike] & reckon the next man will come out in a cab.

Joyce finally got to Sirmione [Italy]; dont [sic] know yet whether he has got back to Trieste…

Joyce pleasing; after the first shell of cantankerous Irishman…

A concentration & absorption passing [W B Yeats, 55]; Yeats has never taken on anything requiring the condensation of Ulysses.

—Also gt. exhaustion, but more constitution than I had expected, & apparently good recovery from eye operation.

He is coming up here later; long reasons but justified in taking a rest from Trieste.

He is of course as stubborn as a mule or an Irishman, but I failed to find him at all unreasonable:  Thank god he has been stubborn enough to know his job & stick to it…

He is also dead right in refusing to interrupt his stuff by writing stray articles for cash. Better in the end, even from practical point of view…

In the stories of his early eccentricities in Dublin I have always thought people neglected the poignant feature:  i.e. that his “outrageous” remarks were usually so.

His next work will go to the Dial [magazine]—but he shd. rest after Ulysses

yours ever

E. P.”

“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@gpysyteacher.com.

In the fall of 2020 I will be talking about writers’ salons before and after the Great War in Ireland, England, France and America in the University of Pittsburgh’s Osher Lifelong Learning program.

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 available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions.

“Such Friends”:  116 Years Ago, June 16, 1904, Dublin, Ireland

We interrupt our centenary remembrances with a trip back in time to celebrations of “Bloomsday,” the day on which James Joyce set his novel, Ulysses.

Below is a blog I wrote celebrating Bloomsday, way back in the beginning of this millennium. And it is still relevant today, I think.

Excerpts from the original blog series are contained in Gypsy Teacher, available as a blook on Amazon.

Every Wednesday…

The Journal of a Teacher in Search of a Classroom

By Kathleen Dixon Donnelly, June 16, 2003, Hollywood, Florida,

Happy “Bloomsday”!

99 years ago this week, James Joyce had his first date with the woman who was to become his wife, Nora Barnacle. He chose to immortalize the occasion in his epic, Ulysses, which covers every detail of one day in the life of Leopold Bloom, a Jew living in Dublin, in only 783 pages.

joyce and nora1904

James Joyce and Nora Barnacle

What this really means is that next year, Dublin will go fughin’ nuts.

I lived in Ireland for just short of a year, but I have never been there for Bloomsday celebrations. Maybe next year. [NB from the future, gentle reader:  I made it!]

Many think that June 16th is the date that Jimmy and Nora met, but indeed that was a week earlier. She coyly kept putting him off but finally agreed to go out with him. I’ve seen pictures of Nora and let’s just say, she had a wonderful personality.

On my second trip to Ireland, the minute I turned on to the street in Galway town with the house that Nora grew up in, my stomach recognized the site as looking just like where my mom grew up in Pittsburgh. If I showed you photos of the two, you might not see the similarity, but the “feel” was palpable. Small row houses, all looking the same, but with each door painted a different color.

Soon after they met, Joyce convinced Nora to come with him to Switzerland where he had accepted a teaching position. They had two children and went to visit Paris in 1920 for just a few weeks—but stayed for years. Paris has that effect on people. Even the Irish.

James and Nora never actually got around to getting married until their children were both grown. They just presented themselves as a married couple and were always accepted that way. Nobody Googled, looking for a marriage certificate.

Nora and James Joyce

Nora and James Joyce after their wedding

In Paris Joyce continued work on Ulysses and the writers living there knew that he was working on something big. He didn’t socialize in the writers’ salons in Paris at the time. He mostly drank alone, sometimes with others, breaking into song late at night in the cafes. The cab drivers would bring him home, where Nora would be waiting at the top of the stairs, arms akimbo, like a good Irish wife. “Jimmy,” she’d say, looking down on him lying in a drunken heap,

Your fans think you’re a genius but they should see you now.”

When Dorothy Parker visited the city in the twenties, she saw Joyce on the street but he didn’t speak to her. She reasoned,

Perhaps he thought he would drop a pearl.”

Excerpts from Ulysses began appearing in the Little Review in the States around 1918, causing quite a stir because of the language. The first obscenity case brought against the magazine was argued by Irish-American lawyer John Quinn, who didn’t win, but got the Little Review publishers off with a $100 fine.

Quinn is one of the true heroes of early 20th century literature and art. He helped William Butler Yeats and Lady Augusta Gregory found the Abbey Theatre in Dublin (and had an affair with Augusta later), bought up lots of Cubist and Post-Impressionist paintings in Paris, lent many of them to the 1913 Armory Show in New York, and argued a case for the organizers of that show that changed the customs law in the U.S.:  From that point on, works of art less than 100 years old would be free of tariffs as their classical cousins were.

Virginia and Leonard Woolf, operating their Hogarth Press in London, had rejected Ulysses. Reading it made Virginia feel, in the words of one biographer, that

someone had stolen her pen and scribbled on the privy wall.”

Sylvia Beach, the American who founded the bookstore Shakespeare & Co., the social center for the expatriate community in Paris, met Joyce at a party and soon offered to publish his novel. After being rejected by so many who weren’t adventurous enough to take it on, he was intrigued that this woman wanted his book.

Joyce took longer to finish the work than they expected. So for the local artistic community, many of whom had subscribed in response to Beach’s mailing announcing the work, she held a reading on December 7th, 1921, in her shop. Gertrude Stein and her partner, Alice B. Toklas, didn’t come; they lived a few blocks away but were preparing for their annual Christmas party.

When Beach did publish Ulysses the following February, on Joyce’s 40th birthday, Alice promptly walked over to Shakespeare & Co and cancelled Gertrude’s subscription. They would brook no competitors for her title as greatest living writer in English.

JoyceUlysses2 cover

First cover of Ulysses

After publication, Ulysses was promptly banned in Boston, but a friend of Ernest Hemingway managed to smuggle a copy into the United States via Canada.

Joyce died in 1941 at the age of 59 of a duodenal ulcer. Nora lived another ten years.

Beach, who funded the publication of Ulysses on her own with the help of the paid subscriptions, never saw any profit or royalties from it. Her writer friends helped her keep the bookstore open, but when the Nazis occupied Paris during World War II she was interned for a few years. She wrote a lovely memoir called Shakespeare & Co. which was published in the mid-fifties.

During our marriage ceremony on Hollywood Beach last year, on St. Patrick’s Day, our friend performing the ceremony announced that Tony and I each wanted to say something that we’d written. We looked at each other, and Tony said,

You’re the writer. Go ahead.”

So I glanced at my scribbled notes and told him that I wouldn’t promise to solve his problems, but that I would help him to solve them. And that I wouldn’t promise to love everyone he loved, but that I would always respect those he loved.

I finished with Molly Bloom’s “Yes!” from the ending of Ulysses, but because I didn’t do the requisite fact-checking, I misquoted it. So here, for those of you who were at the wedding, and those who weren’t, is the correct ending for Molly and for me:

…and yes I said yes I will Yes.”

EPSON MFP image

Tony Dixon and Kathleen Dixon Donnelly, March 17, 2002

“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@gpysyteacher.com.

This fall I will be talking about writers’ salons in Ireland, England, France and America before and after the Great War in the University of Pittsburgh’s Osher Lifelong Learning program.

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.

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, Mid-May, 1920, Ile St. Louis, Paris

Painter Duncan Grant, 35, is having a glass of wine in the most fabulous apartment, lent to him by posh friends for the past two months, at the tip of Ile St. Louis, looking out at Notre Dame.

What a great trip.

Two months ago he was home in London, with his partner, fellow painter Vanessa Bell, 41, listening to a reading of a memoir by her sister, novelist Virginia Woolf, 38.

The next night, he was in Paris dining with his former lover, economist John Maynard Keynes, 37, at legendary restaurant La Perouse, with its scandalous secret rooms.

La Perouse

La Perouse, 51 Quai des Grands Augustins

On the Tuesday he arrived he had written to Vanessa back in London, describing the flat as

full of Bonnards & Vuillards & exquisite views over the Seine with an old world French house servant called Jean. I have only seen it all by the light of the sunset…I do wish you could come before Friday night.”

Vanessa did come over and they had gone with Keynes to Rome for a month. Maynard had wisely determined that the lire would sink against the pound and advised them to spend. Which they did.

grant-and-keynes

Duncan Grant and Maynard Keynes

Rome was filled with tourists. Duncan wrote to his lover, Bunny Garnett, 28, who was staying in Duncan’s rooms back in Bloomsbury, that Rome

is packed with the Italian aristocrats who simply love living in hotels and leaving their estates to Bolsheviks in the country. Our hotel is cram full of contessas, marchesas, principessas, and duchesses. They don’t get up till lunch, at 1, have a siesta till about 4, eat ices and drink coffee till 5 when they take a drive on the Pincio, home to dinner at 9:30. Jazz till 2, even the old ladies received till 4 or 5 in the morning…1 can buy masses of arum lilies irises roses pansies and marigolds for a few francs on the steps of the Piazza di Spagna.”

Maynard, now quite the celebrity economist, had been invited to visit with American art historian Bernard Berenson, 54, at his Villa I Tatti outside Florence. He had insisted that Vanessa and Duncan come along.

Back in Paris, the month of May had started off with riots during the International Labor Day celebrations, and then strikes broke out all over the country—dock workers, coal miners, and, most inconvenient of all, railway workers.

Vanessa had written letters home about their fascinating dinners with

the Derains, Braque & Mme., and Satie—sat til 2 am outside Lipps talking in the end only to the Derains—all the others went. It was very hot & got delicious at that hour. Derain was perfectly charming & so was she. In fact the more I see of her the more I like her & the more I am overcome by her beauty. I think she’s one of the most astonishing people I’ve ever met & less terrifying than she was at first.”

Madame Derain in a White Shawl c.1919-20 by Andr? Derain 1880-1954

Mme. Derain in a White Shawl by Andre Derain

His traveling companions have all left, so today Duncan goes back to La Perouse for lunch, this time with the founder of Nouvelle Revue Française (The New French Review), Andre Gide, 50, and his lover of the past four years, photographer Marc Allegret, 19.

Now it is time for Duncan to go back home to London. One last glass of wine…

“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@gpysyteacher.com.

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

In 2020 I will be talking about writers’ salons before and after the Great War in Ireland, England, France and America in the University of Pittsburgh’s Osher Lifelong Learning program.

Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins and his relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions.

 

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago, April 19, 1920, Left Bank, Paris

Eleanor Beach, 56, is on her annual visit to see her daughters—she calls them her “chicks”—who live in Europe.

The youngest, Sylvia, 33, owns an English-language bookshop and lending library in Paris on the rue Dupuytren, Shakespeare and Co., which seems to be going well. It hasn’t even been open a year and she already has 103 subscribers to the lending library, most of whom are pretty active borrowers.

But Mom wants to help out. So she and her daughter go on a shopping spree and come back with some decent clothes, a kitchen table, and some more books for the shop.

Sylvia writes to her sister, Holly, 35, in Florence, Italy,

PLM [Poor Little Mother] is flourishing.”

Sylvia’s good friend, Adrienne Monnier, 27, who owns a French-language bookshop a few blocks away, La Maison des Amis des Livres (The House of the Friends of Books), has been a big help in Sylvia’s first year in business.

Adrienne Monnier and Sylvia Beach

Adrienne Monnier and Sylvia Beach

Shakespeare & Co. recently had good write-ups in the respected trade journal Publisher’s Weekly and other English-language publications distributed in France. As a result, Sylvia is having a hard time responding to all the letters she is receiving. Many American students write asking for jobs. Sylvia is feeling more like a secretary, rather than an entrepreneur.

“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@gpysyteacher.com.

In 2020 I will be talking about writers’ salons in Ireland, England, France and America before and after the Great War in the University of Pittsburgh Osher Lifelong Learning program.

Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins and his relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle 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, March 16, 1920, 8 rue de Dupuytren, Paris

Sylvia Beach, just turned 33, is curious about the couple she sees walking towards her bookshop, Shakespeare & Co., on the Left Bank.

On the left is a stout, tall woman, about 200 pounds, in rustic clothes, her head styled with a double bun that resembles a basket. Next to her is a smaller woman, dark-haired, thin, like a bird, with drooping eyes, a hooked nose, and the trace of a mustache, in gypsy-like clothes.

As they get closer, Sylvia recognizes them as American writer Gertrude Stein, 46, and her constant companion, Alice B. Toklas, 42.

Gert and Alice dressed for travel

Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas

Sylvia is familiar with Stein’s works, Tender Buttons and Three Lives. And of course she has heard talk of the salons the two women have held at their home, 27 rue de Fleurus, on the other side of the Jardin du Luxembourg. Before the Great War, the local painters would come. Now, the Left Bank community is still reorganizing after the Armistice, and Sylvia has been so busy opening her shop, she hasn’t yet sought out her fellow Americans.

So here comes Stein for her inaugural visit to Shakespeare & Co. to sign up as a subscriber—not the first. The 91st.

During their chat, Beach mentions that she would welcome more American and British customers. Stein promises that she will help by sending out a flyer to all their friends.

A few days later, Sylvia sees the promotion which Stein has written and Toklas has typed up and mailed out:

Rich and Poor in English

The poor are remarkably represented…

In dealing with money we can be funny…”

With the cost for book rentals listed on the back.

Beach feels that Stein’s subscription is

merely a friendly gesture. She took little interest of course in any but her own books.”

But, like many of Shakespeare & Co.’s visitors over the years, Gertrude and Alice really like the atmosphere in the store.

SylviaBeach1920 rue de depuytren

Sylvia Beach at Shakespeare & Co.

“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@gpysyteacher.com.

In 2020 I will be talking about writers salons in Ireland, England, France and America before and after the Great War in the University of Pittsburgh’s Osher Lifelong Learning program.

Manager as Muse, about Maxwell Perkins and his relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle 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, February 28, 1920, Comédie des Champs-Élysées, 15 avenue Montaigne, Paris

Curtain going up—again!

The Premiere Spectacle-Concert staged by poet Jean Cocteau, 30, is about to be presented for the fourth and probably last time. It’s been more successful than the performers expected, when they premiered about a week ago in front of a carefully selected audience. A patron had bought up all the box seats. Cocteau didn’t want the kind of nasty reaction that greeted the premier of The Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky, 37, at this theatre seven years ago.

The Premiere Spectacle-Concert is a tribute to French culture, featuring the music of Les Six, particularly composer Erik Satie, 53. He has been working on his Trois petites pièces montées (Three Little Stuffed Pieces) for months now.

Program Boeuf_premiere

Program from the premiere of Cocteau’s Premiere Spectacle-Concert

Some of the songs are set to some of Cocteau’s own texts and two circus acrobats performing a fox trot. But the surprise hit has been the surrealist ballet by composer Darius Milhaud, 21. The dream sequence with the Fratellini clown family in slow motion contrasts with the outrageously fast music of this latest work, Le Bœuf sur le toit, Op. 58 (The Ox on the Roof:  The Nothing-Doing Bar). [Wait for it–You’ll recognize it.]

Video – Darius Milhaud – Le Bœuf sur le toit – Ballet (2 of 2) (08:46).]

“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@gpysyteacher.com.

In 2020 I will be talking about writers’ salons in Ireland, England, France and America in the University of Pittsburgh’s Osher Lifelong Learning program.

Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins and his relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle 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, First Week of February, 1920, 8 rue Dupuytren, Paris

After two and a half months of running her own bookshop, Shakespeare & Co., on the Left Bank of Paris, American Sylvia Beach, 32, daughter of a Princeton, New Jersey, Presbyterian minister, is having a ball.

Sylvia Beach 1919

Sylvia Beach

She is writing to her sister Holly, 35, back in the States, about her new best friend forever, Adrienne Monnier, 27, owner of the bookstore, La Maison des Amis des Livres (The House of the Friends of Books), a few blocks away. Adrienne and other Parisians were so helpful to Sylvia last fall in sorting out the details of starting a business in France. Adrienne and she had had

a sort of set-to or climax effect one day,”

she writes to Holly. Mostly about the design of the new bookshop. But now they have made up and

become the best of friends…Adrienne is the best friend in the world and we get along puffickly [sic] now.”

Monnier in front of bookstore

Adrienne Monnier in front of her bookstore

Beach loves the independence of having her own successful business—her lending library is up to 80 subscribers now—as well as getting to know the American and British ex-patriates who feel comfortable hanging out at her shop.

But the best part is being in the center of the creative life of the Left Bank. The two friends have been going to concerts and plays all over town. They’ve had fascinating lunch guests such as Parisian playwright Georges Duhamel, 35, and composer Erik Satie, 53. His works are so funny.

Satie in 1920

Erik Satie

Satie mentioned that he is working on a project now with fellow French composer Darius Milhaud, 21, for a big performance being staged by poet Jean Cocteau, 30, later this month. But Satie is so secretive about all his work. Even when collaborating with Milhaud, he sent him a note saying,

Don’t give anything away. Not a word to ANYBODY, above all:  Don’t give anything away. SERIOUS.”

Sylvia, Adrienne, and some of their French friends—she is the only “foreigner” in the group—are planning to see Duhamel’s hit play, L’Oeuvre des athletes (The Action of Athletes), at Jacques Copeau’s Theatre du Vieux-Colombier,

Beach suspects she is being included, not just because of her friendship with Monnier, but because the French like to ask her questions about one of her favorite American writers, Walt Whitman.

Sylvia writes to her sister,

I am so lucky to be able to do something interesting [for] the rest of my life.”

“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@gpysyteacher.com.

In 2020 I will be talking about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins and his relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and others in both the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie-Mellon University’s Osher Lifelong Learning programs.

Manager as Muse, about Perkins and his writers, is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle 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’: 1921, Summer, Left Bank, Paris

In the past few weeks I have been posting vignettes about how each of the four writers’ salons came together. This is the beginning of Gertrude Stein and the Americans in Paris:

‘He is so anxious to know you, for he says you have influenced him ever so much and that you stand as such a great master of words,’

read the note that Sylvia Beach, 34. owner of the Left Bank bookshop Shakespeare & Co., sent to Gertrude Stein, 47, about their fellow American, novelist Sherwood Anderson, 44. Gertrude and her partner, Alice B. Toklas, also 44, instantly decided that they would love to meet him.

Beach had found Anderson looking in the display window of her shop, and invited him in.  He had left his advertising job after having success with Winesburg, Ohio, his collection of stories focused on the residents of one town. Anderson had read some of Stein’s work in American publications and was impressed by her radical approach to writing.

27 rue de fleurus

27 rue de Fleurus

Anderson and his wife Tennessee, 47, arrived at 27 rue de Fleurus, anticipating being in the presence of greatness.  As Toklas remembered later in The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, by Gertrude Stein:

‘For some reason or other I was not present on this occasion, some domestic complication in all probability, at any rate when I did come home Gertrude Stein was moved and pleased as she has very rarely been. Gertrude Stein was in those days a little bitter, all her unpublished manuscripts, and no hope of publication or serious recognition. Sherwood Anderson came and quite simply and directly as is his way told her what he thought of her work and what it had meant to him in his development. He told it to her then and what was even rarer he told it in print immediately after. Gertrude Stein and Sherwood Anderson have always been the best of friends but I do not believe even he realizes how much his visit meant to her.’

When the Andersons went back to America, they told others of the wonders of postwar Paris. They sent a young reporter, Ernest Hemingway, 22, and his new wife Hadley, 29, to Stein. A few years later, Hemingway brought successful novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, 24, and his wife Zelda, 21, to Stein. And so the influx of American writers and their wives to 27 rue de Fleurus began:

‘The geniuses came and talked to Gertrude Stein and the wives sat with me. How they unroll, an endless vista thru the years…Hadley and Pauline Hemingway and Mrs. Sherwood Anderson, and Mrs. Bravig Imbs and the Mrs. Ford Maddox Ford and endless others, geniuses, near geniuses and might be geniuses, all having wives, and I have sat and talked with them all all the wives…’

The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas

This fall, I will be teaching a class in the first semester of the University of Pittsburgh’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute [OLLI], ‘Such Friends’:  The Literary 1920s in Dublin, London, Paris and New York.

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

To read about American writers, 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.

How Could Gertrude Stein Write The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas and What’s with Those Brownies?

[A Secret Sisterhood:  The Hidden Friendships of Austen, Bronte, Eliot and Woolf, by Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney [Aurum Press, 2017], is now out in paperback. Midorikawa and Sweeney run the blog, Something Rhymed, about female literary friendships, so it seemed this would be a good time to post a piece I wrote a few years ago about the famous duo, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. Although they were much more than friends.]

If an autobiography is someone’s own life story, how can one person write an autobiography of someone else? Did Gertrude Stein goof in her title?

If you want to read it yourself—and it’s a great, fun read—skip the ending of this blog which gives away Gertrude’s ending.

And besides, Gertrude could do anything she wanted. She was a genius. And Alice knew it.

Gertrude Stein was an American writer who spent almost her entire adult life living in Paris with her partner—Yes, they were gay!—Alice B. Toklas, also an American. They were so close that their joint biographer Diana Souhami [Gertrude and Alice, I. B. Tauris, 2009] says that from the day they met,

“They were together until Gertrude’s death. They never traveled without each other or entertained separately, or worked on independent projects.”

Like me, Gertrude was born in Pittsburgh, PA, although Alice said she should have been born in Oakland, CA. Her family moved west to the Bay area when Gertrude was only a baby. Dad made a bunch of money on the San Francisco trolley car system and then died. Her oldest brother Michael was such a good money manager that she and her other brother, Leo, were able to move to Paris right after the turn of the last century, live pretty well and collect art. They were known around town as the crazy Americans who wore sandals and bought weird paintings by unknown artists—Picasso, Braque, Matisse.

Stein family

The Stein family

Leo and Gert are the first two on the left.

Alice also grew up in San Francisco, although the two did not meet until she came to visit friends in Paris in 1907, soon after the San Francisco earthquake. When she was introduced to Gertrude, she says she heard bells ring. She always heard bells ring when she met a genius, and Gertrude was her first genius. The second was Picasso, whom Gertrude introduced Alice to the next day.

After Alice moved in, Leo felt it was getting a bit crowded in their apartment at 27 rue de Fleurus on the Left Bank of Paris, so he moved out soon after.

Gertrude would sit up late at night at her writing table, under a Cezanne, trying to do in written portraits what Cezanne had done on canvas. Alice would get up early, type up the copy, note some changes in the margin, plan the meals and chores for the day, and dust the paintings. She said she learned all about the paintings by dusting them. In the evenings they would host salons and invite the artists to come see their paintings, hanging two deep on the walls.

Gert and Alice with the paintings

Gertrude and Alice at home with the paintings

During World War I Gert and Alice ordered a car from the States—they called her Godiva—and volunteered for the Red Cross ambulance service. They were both honored for their work by the French government after the war.

When the war ended in 1918, the GIs came back to the States with tales of the beauties of France and were slapped in the face with Prohibition. What better plan than to go right back to Paris where it was really cheap to live and you could drink? As a result, Americans flooded Paris in the 1920s. They sat around drinking in cafes, got into brawls in the street, and were the subject of nasty letters to the editors by the French. No wonder they hate us now.

Some of Gertrude’s avant-garde writings were being published back home in the States, so the American writers came to her house to listen to her expound on her theories of modernistic writing and eat Alice’s little cakes.

Novelists Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, the photographer/painter Man Ray, and the composer Virgil Thomson were among the creative people who would come to the Saturday night salons. Alice would answer the door, ask who had sent you, and, if she let you in, she might allow you to sit within the charmed circle around Gertrude. But your wife would be ushered into a separate corner of the large room to chat with Alice.

“I had often said that I would write, The wives of geniuses I have sat with,”

says Alice in the Autobiography.

The line

“A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose”

appeared in one of Stein’s poems written in the early twenties, “Sacred Emily.” Ever on the lookout for ways to promote Stein’s brand, Alice took the phrase and arranged it in a circle to appear on Gertrude’s stationery, creating a logo for her work.

Gertrude's letterhead

Gertrude’s letterhead, designed by Alice

At the end of the 1920s, Alice got tired of cleaning up after the messy writers. Some of them, like Thomson, received Gertrude’s personal engraved cards with a note from Alice:

“Miss Stein declines further acquaintance with Mr. Thomson.”

That was that.

Virgil and Gert working together

Gert and Virgil working together on the opera Four Saints in Three Acts

Gert kept badgering Alice to write the story of her life, because she had had the privilege of spending most of it with geniuses, but Alice was too busy taking care of Gertrude. So in 1932, at their summer home in the French countryside, in six weeks Gertrude sat down and wrote her most popular book.

Friends of hers in the States arranged to have it published by Harcourt Brace and, at the age of 58, Gertrude Stein was a huge hit. Her friends convinced her and Alice to come on a triumphant tour of the country they had both left behind almost 30 years before. When they arrived in New York, Gertrude’s name was up in lights in Times Square and the newspaper headlines read:

Gerty Gerty Stein Stein Is Back Home Home Back.”

She introduced Alice as “my secretary” everywhere they went, although Alice ran all the details of the tour like the control freak she really was.

Back in Paris during World War II, they invited American soldiers to come to their salon.  They got to know a lot of writers and painters who turned out to not be as talented or famous as the ones who had come earlier.

After World War II, the US government sent Gert and Alice on a tour of American bases in Europe but towards the end, Gertrude became really ill. Rushed to the American Hospital in Paris, she was operated on but they found that her cancer was too far along.  Before she died, she turned to Alice and said,

“What is the answer?”

Alice didn’t say anything.

“In that case, what is the question?”

Alice was devastated but devoted the rest of her life to guarding Gertrude’s memory. In her old age Alice began doing some writing herself, mostly memoirs. Neither she nor Gertrude had ever been devout Jews, and Alice started practicing Catholicism with the rationale that she would be reunited with Gertrude in heaven. When she checked in for a retreat at a convent, at the age of 83 still chain-smoking Pall Malls, a copy of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita fell out of her suitcase.

Alice finally died at the ripe old age of ninety and is buried in Pere Lechaise cemetery.  She’s not anywhere near Jimi Hendrix; she’s right where she always was—directly behind Gertrude, for eternity.

gertrude stein grave

Gertrude’s grave

What’s with those brownies?

 

The writers and artists all remembered Alice’s cooking fondly and in the 1950s convinced her to put together a cookbook of her own recipes as well as others from the people who came to the salons.

Painter Brian Gysin, who was just a passing acquaintance, sent along the recipe:

“Haschich Fudge

(which anyone could whip up on a rainy day)

This is the food of Paradise…it might provide an entertaining refreshment for a Ladies’ Bridge Club or a chapter meeting of the DAR…”

Alice was in a hurry to get her manuscript to the publisher, and hadn’t tested any of the recipes, so she just slipped this one in.

Right before publication, someone at the American publishing house pointed out that hashish was a controlled substance, and Alice was mortified. It was taken out of the American edition, but her British publisher left it in. Some clever reviewers felt that this explained a lot about Gertrude’s writings.

There was a Peter Sellers movie in the 60s based on this myth—We Love You Alice B. Toklas. But neither Gert nor Alice ever needed drugs to alter their view of reality.

 

The ending of The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas:

 

“I am a pretty good housekeeper and a pretty good gardener and a pretty good needlewoman and pretty good secretary and a pretty good editor, and a pretty good vet for dogs and I have to do them all at once and I find it difficult to add being a pretty good author. About six weeks ago Gertrude Stein said, it does not look to me as if you were ever going to write that autobiography. You know what I am going to do. I am going to write it for you. I am going to write it as simply as Defoe did the autobiography of Robinson Crusoe. And she has and this is it.”

me-at-stein-house

Gertrude Stein’s house, on the North Side of Pittsburgh, and me

To read more about American writers, 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.

 

 

 

‘Such Friends’: February, 1922

New York City, February, 1922

 

John Quinn, 51, has received a cable from James Joyce, just turned 40, in Paris:

Ulysses published. Thanks.

Bit of an understatement.

joyce pound ford quinn

James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Ford Madox Ford, and John Quinn in Paris

 

Quinn has been supporting Joyce financially, legally, and sometimes emotionally, while he was writing the novel. He’d even gone to court for the right of The Little Review to publish ‘obscene’ chapters. Quinn didn’t win that legal battle, but felt that getting the publishers off with a $100 fine was itself a victory.

He cables back right away,

Congratulations publication Ulysses. Best wishes. Write soon.

Then he starts composing an angry letter to the woman who had taken the risk to publish Ulysses, American ex-patriate Sylvia Beach, 35, owner of the Left Bank bookstore, Shakespeare & Co. He is a bit annoyed that she has written to him about Joyce:

If Joyce wants to write to me at any time it is open to him to do so and not through you.

Joyce and Beach at Sh and Co

Sylvia Beach and James Joyce in her bookshop, Shakespeare & Co.

But what has made him even angrier is that in her most recent letter she has asked whether Ulysses’ US copyright is covered by the publication of the chapters in The Little Review.

Quinn reminds her that he has already told Joyce, often, that it is. However, her advertisement for the novel in the magazine might set off the censors again! Now the customs authorities will be watching all the post from Paris to New York.

Quinn paid for his own 14 copies in advance, telling Beach,

They will become my property and then I must be consulted as to how they are to be sent here…[Set them aside] carefully wrapped up, and held subject to my order.

He then suggests ways copies might be smuggled into the US via Canada.

Now Quinn has to focus on his problem right here in New York:  John Butler Yeats, painter and father of his friend, poet William Butler Yeats, 56, whom he has been supporting for the past 14 years of his self-imposed exile in Manhattan, has died, aged 82. Quinn’s ‘assistant’ (and lover), Mrs. Jeanne Foster, 42, has been watching over JB in his lodgings on West 29th Street the past two days, and he succumb in the night.

William_Butler_Yeats_by_John_Butler_Yeats_1900

W B Yeats by his father John Butler Yeats, 1900

john butler yeats self portrait

John Butler Yeats’ self-portrait

Quinn and Foster have to deal with the doctor, the friends, the visitors—and what about the funeral? New York or Dublin?

***

Downtown from Quinn’s 11-room Central Park West apartment, lunch is on at The Algonquin Hotel. For the past three years, the writers and freelancers who work for nearby newspapers and magazines—Life, Vogue, the World—come by to have lunch and trade quips.

Dorothy Parker, 28, nee Rothschild, is trying to calculate if she can afford a half-order of the eggs. Her friends are carefully avoiding discussing her recent suicide attempt. The fact that she had ordered dinner to be delivered from the nearby Alps Restaurant just before she tried to slit her wrists with her husband’s dull razor, makes it more drama than tragedy.

hirshfield alg

The Algonquin Round Table by Al Hirschfeld

Parker’s main supporter, fellow free-lancer and former Vanity Fair writer, Robert Benchley, 32, is one of the few who had come to see her in the hospital. Bench had told her,

Go easy on this suicide stuff. First thing you know, you’ll ruin your health.

parkerbenchley cartoon

Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley

***

Farther down in midtown, in Scribner’s offices on Fifth Avenue, editor Maxwell Perkins, 37, is planning to have a discussion with his current star author, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 25.

Fitzgerald’s second novel, The Beautiful and Damned, is about to come out. Perkins feels it is a good follow up to his first, The Far Side of Paradise. Now the editor thinks Fitzgerald could take a different turn, and, discussing the advertising for Damned, Perkins tells him,

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

fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Maxwell_Perkins_NYWTS free to use

Maxwell Perkins

***

Farther down Manhattan, at JB Yeats’ rooms in Chelsea, Quinn and Foster are beginning to sort through the late painter’s belongings, waiting for instructions as to whether JB should be sent to Ireland or laid to rest here in his adopted home, New York.

Quinn is composing a telegram to the Yeats sisters in Dublin:

Regret your father passed away this morning 7 o’clock…The end came in sleep without pain or struggle. After conference please cable desires about burial…Everything was done for his comfort and peace of mind and he had best possible medical attention.

Next, he sends the details to the painter’s son, Willie, currently in Oxford, adding,

He fought bravely for life but it was almost hopeless since Wednesday. His mind was unclouded and his spirits buoyant until the end.

440px-Jeanne_Robert_Foster,_by_John_Butler_Yeats

Jeanne Foster by John Butler Yeats

johnquinn

John Quinn

 

Dublin, February, 1922

 

In Dundrum, south Dublin, Lily, 55, and Lolly Yeats, 53, read the telegram they had been dreading from their American friend, John Quinn.

Lily and Lolly Yeats

Lily and Lolly Yeats

They knew that Quinn had worried that the old man would die ‘on his watch.’ Right now, they feel nothing but gratitude for all Quinn has done for him.

Of course, they will need to check with their brother Willie in Oxford, but agree that it is best to advise Quinn to handle the funeral arrangements in New York.

 

London, February, 1922

 

Everyone has the flu.

The Times reports that 13,000 people in England and Wales have died since Christmas. They caution that one of the symptoms is a ‘tendency to “feel the heart”—ie., to palpitations,’ and that anyone suspecting they have contracted the disease should take to their beds at once. Just last month they had reported that Pope Benedict XV, 67, had died from influenza that turned into pneumonia.

Pope Benedict xv

Pope Benedict XV

***

T. S. Eliot, 33, is trying to get his new long poem published. As soon as he returned home last month, reinvigorated by a three-month leave spent in Switzerland, he had been laid low with the influenza for a good ten days. At least that meant time away from his dreaded office at Lloyds Bank so he could work on finishing off The Waste Land.

Eliot has been corresponding with The Dial magazine in the States, but is leery about the deal on offer. He feels he had been burned a few years ago by a contract with Alfred Knopf that John Quinn had negotiated for him. Now he is using his friend Ezra Pound, 36, as a go between.

T.S.-Eliot-and-Ezra-Pound

T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound

***

In the southwest suburb of Richmond, Virginia Woolf, just turned 40, is devastated that she is spending the first months of this year as she had the previous summer—in bed. She confides to her diary,

 I have taken it into my head that I shan’t live till 70…Suppose, I said to myself the other day[,] this pain over my heart wrung me out like a dish cloth & left me dead?

The flu had hit her just a few weeks before her 40th birthday, which made her acutely aware of the passage of time:

I feel time racing like a film at the Cinema. I try to stop it. I prod it with my pen. I try to pin it down.’

Her husband Leonard, 41, however supportive, insists on following the doctor’s instructions that she must stay in bed. But Virginia wants to be out in the cold air, walking, which means writing, because she works out her sentences in her head as she makes her way through the London streets.

Va and Leon

Virginia and Leonard Woolf

Virginia is thinking of experimenting with a tale of a woman walking through the city while preparing for a party, the passage of the hours marked by Big Ben’s bongs.

Her sister, painter Vanessa Bell, 42, hasn’t let her children’s flu keep her from her work. She is in Paris, again, for a painting holiday. Virginia writes to her,

For Gods [sic] sake make friends with Joyce. I particularly want to know what he’s like.’

She’d read parts of Ulysses when it had been submitted to her and Leonard for publication by their Hogarth Press. She can’t imagine what kind of working class man could write like that.

Va and V in Firle Park 1911

Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell

 

Paris, February, 1922

 

Newlyweds Hadley, 30, and Ernest Hemingway, 22, are back from a Switzerland skiing trip and settling in to their new fourth floor walk-up apartment at 74 rue du Cardinal Lemoine.

Hadley and Ernest Hemingway

Hadley and Ernest Hemingway

Ernest has taken an office on the Rue Mouffetard, a pleasant five-minute walk away. Going there on a regular schedule is the only way he is going to get any writing done.

After all, that’s why they came at the end of last year. Paris is so cheap, the exchange rate so good, and between his salary as a foreign correspondent for the Toronto Daily Star, and his wife’s family money, they can afford an apartment, a studio, and dinner at local cafes every night. Great French food is 50 US cents for a meal; the wine only 60 centimes for a whole bottle.

Ernest is eager to get started on his writing career, and is planning to make good use of the contacts he had been given last summer back in Chicago by Sherwood Anderson, 45, author of the hit novel, Winesburg, Ohio.

Sherwood anderson and wife

Sherwood and Tennessee Anderson

Anderson and his wife, Tennessee, 48, had just come back to the States from Paris and encouraged the young Hemingways to follow in their footsteps. He gave Ernest an all-important letter of introduction to fellow American writer Gertrude Stein, celebrating her 48th birthday. Ernest and Hadley are gathering the courage to visit Stein and her partner, Alice B. Toklas, 44, soon.

Gert and Alice with the paintings

Alice B. Toklas and her partner Gertrude Stein with Picassos

 

***

Another expatriate, Kansas-born Robert McAlmon, 25, is in Paris, also with his new wealthy wife, Bryher, 27. As well as supporting himself as a writer with her inheritance, McAlmon intends to use her family money to publish other writers on the Left Bank.

McAlmon and Bryher

Bryher and Robert McAlmon

Soon after he came to Paris two years ago, McAlmon had struck up a close friendship with an Irishman, James Joyce. McAlmon had supported his new friend while he was struggling with his big novel, both financially and practically by helping with the typing of the manuscript.

But now that publication day—and Joyce’s big birthday—is nearing, McAlmon chickens out. He takes off for the Riviera. He figures he’ll just buy Joyce a present.

***

Standing on the platform at the Gare du Lyon, Sylvia Beach is waiting for the Paris-Dijon Express, due in at 7 am.

When she’d told Joyce that her printer in Dijon guaranteed to put the parcel in the post on 1st February, Joyce was not pleased. He insisted that the package be put on the train so the conductor can hand deliver it to Sylvia personally.

As the train approaches, Beach is working out her next steps in her head. She will get a taxi to Joyce’s apartment, to give him the 40th birthday present that he wants the most, the first copy of Ulysses. There is a small party planned for tonight at one of Joyce’s favorite restaurants, Ferraris. He and his partner, Nora Barnacle, 37, and a few friends will be celebrating his accomplishment, seven years in the making, the result of his relentless vision and the support of his family, Sylvia Beach…and John Quinn.

jas joyce sylvia beach

American Sylvia and her Irishman on rue de l’Odeon

K and T at rue de l'Odeon

American Kathleen and her Irishman on rue de l’Odeon