“Such Friends”: 100 years ago, May 20, 1921, Grosvenor Gallery, Bond Street, London

The opening of the “Nameless Exhibition” here, sponsored by The Burlington Magazine, has caused a bit of controversy.

Poster for Nameless Exhibition by Roger Fry

The organizers, including Burlington founder and former editor Roger Fry, 54, and Professor of Fine Art at the Slade School Henry Tonks, 59, decided to make a brave move and hang a whole exhibit of paintings with no artists’ names attached. Not on the walls; not in the catalogue. They want to strike a blow against the cult of personality which has gathered around some artists.

Included are works by three of Roger’s Bloomsbury friends, his former lover Vanessa Bell, about to turn 42, her partner Duncan Grant, 36, and Slade School grad, Dora Carrington, 28.

Roger Fry by Vanessa Bell, 1912

Fry can’t wait to tell Vanessa that Tonks has hung one of her works, Visit, quite prominently, unaware that it is by a woman. Tonks goes on incessantly about how women painters are always imitating men.

Even though this is one of Carrington’s first important exhibits, all she is thinking about is her wedding tomorrow.

*****

Carrington has spent the past four years living with and in love with Bloomsbury writer Lytton Strachey, 41, at Mill House in Tidmarsh, Berkshire. Carrington is well aware that Lytton is openly gay, but he is fond of her and is providing her the literary education she lacked. In exchange she paints and runs the household.

About three years ago, into this lovely arrangement walked big, strong, Ralph Partridge, 27, an Oxford friend of Carrington’s younger brother. He’s fallen in love with Carrington and moved into Tidmarsh. And Lytton is interested in him.

Dora Carrington, Ralph Partridge and Lytton Strachey

Now that Ralph has gainful employment—working as an assistant at the Hogarth Press operated by Bloomsbury regulars Virginia Woolf, 39, and her husband Leonard, 40—he can afford to take a wife. Although Lytton is paying for the wedding.

Lytton has spent the past two months convincing Carrington to take the plunge. And the Woolfs approve also.

So Carrington has now agreed. She cries each night and writes Lytton long love letters. Ralph knows she’s not in love with him. Carrington feels this is the way to keep the three together.

Lytton is already in Venice. The newlyweds are going to meet up with him there in a few weeks on their honeymoon.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volume 1 covering 1920 is available in print and e-book formats on Amazon. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

This summer I will be talking about The Literary 1920s in the Osher Lifelong Learning programs at Carnegie-Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.

If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, 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 e-book versions.

“Such Friends”: 100 years ago, April 17, 1921, Hogarth House, Richmond, London

Novelist Virginia Woolf, 39, is concerned about the sales of her most recent book. Her first short story collection, Monday or Tuesday, was published by her and her husband Leonard’s own Hogarth Press last month.

Monday or Tuesday, cover design by Vanessa Bell

Today she writes in her diary, “

Sales & revenues flag, & I much doubt if M. & T. will sell 500, or cover expenses.”

First, the book looks horrible. Terrible printing job. The Woolfs will never use that printer again.

Then their assistant, Ralph Partridge, 27, screwed up the publicity from the start by sending a review copy to the Times that didn’t include the publication date. All she got was a tiny write-up in an obscure part of the paper.

In the meantime, the new biography, Queen Victoria by her friend Lytton Strachey, 41, is featured in the paper with three columns of unabashed praise! Virginia has also heard that Lytton’s book sold 5,000 copies in the same week hers only moved 300. No wonder.

Queen Victoria by Lytton Strachey

Lytton dedicated his book to her, and he has been complimentary about her collection, particularly the story “The String Quartet.”

But the slow sales are beginning to depress Virginia. On the other hand, when she receives reports of strong sales she worries that she is becoming too commercial.

A little over a week ago Virginia confided to her diary,

I ought to be writing Jacob’s Room; and I can’t, and instead I shall write down the reasons why I can’t…Well, you see, I’m a failure as a writer… And thus I can’t get on with Jacob…My temper sank and sank till for half an hour I was as depressed as I ever am. I mean I thought of never writing any more—save reviews…What depresses me is the thought that I have ceased to interest people…One does not want an established reputation, such as I think I was getting, as one of our leading female novelists. I have still, of course, to gather in all the private criticism, which is the real test.”

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the book, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s Volume I covering 1920 is available on Amazon in both print and e-book versions. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.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

This summer I will be talking about The Literary 1920s in the Osher Lifelong Learning programs at Carnegie-Mellon University and 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 e-book formats.

“Such Friends”: 100 Years Ago, October, 1920, Hogarth House, Richmond, London

The scheme seems to be working.

Leonard Woolf, 39, co-founder and owner with his wife Virginia, 38, of the five-year-old Hogarth Press, is poring over the company accounts. It appears the subscription scheme the Woolfs implemented almost a year and a half ago is working.

Hogarth Press logo, designed by Virginia’s sister, Vanessa Bell

The two-tiered system was set up so “A” list subscribers pay £1 for a commitment to buy all the titles printed by Hogarth in a given year. Last year there were five, including T. S. Eliot’s Poems.

“B” list subscribers pay nothing up front, but are notified early of new releases and can choose which they want to buy.

So far, Hogarth has 34 people on the “A” list and 15 on the “B” list.

Truth be told, almost all of the subscribers are the Woolfs’ friends and family. Some are well-known writers among their Bloomsbury Group friends—essayist Lytton Strachey, 40, economist John Maynard Keynes, 37. Some are established authors in their own right—H. G. Wells, 54, whose War of the Worlds had been a big hit a while back, and Rebecca West, 27, already known for her novel about the Great War, The Return of the Soldier, and a biography of American writer Henry James.

Hiring an assistant to help out two or three days a week, Ralph Partridge, 26—chosen on Lytton’s recommendation—also seems to have been a good move. The Woolfs have promised to pay him £100 for the year, as well as half of their net profits. Last year Hogarth Press netted a respectable 13 pounds, 14 shillings and 2 pence. Young Ralph is working on the press in their home, setting type, etc., as well as serving as Leonard’s secretary. So Leonard and Virginia feel that the expense will pay off.

Lytton Strachey and Ralph Partridge

Ralph has been living out in the country with Lytton and their mutual love, painter Dora Carrington, 27. Now that he’s got a job, Ralph has convinced Carrington to move into a Bloomsbury Gordon Square townhouse with him. He hopes by the end of the year to finally convince her to marry him. Lytton is encouraging this.

“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.

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

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

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

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”: 100 Years Ago, Summer, 1920, London, Bishopsbourne, and East Sussex, England

At 74 Gloucester Place in Marylebone, London, publisher and editor Harriet Shaw Weaver, 43, is thrilled to have received a letter from the American owner of the Paris bookshop, Shakespeare & Co., Sylvia Beach, 33.

H Weaver

Harriet Shaw Weaver

Having just met Irish writer James Joyce, 38, Beach wants to buy as many books as she can from Weaver’s Egoist Press, which supports Joyce. Weaver is writing back to offer Shakespeare & Co. a 33% discount and free shipping. She knows this is going to be a good deal.

Later in the summer, Weaver uses an inheritance from her aunt to set up a trust to fund Joyce. She had submitted his latest work in progress, Ulysses, to many publishers, including London’s Hogarth Press, run by Virginia Woolf, 38, and her husband Leonard, 39, but no one wants to touch it.

A few stops east on the Metropolitan Railway, and a short walk from Euston Station, a luncheon is being held at 46 Gordon Square in Bloomsbury to honor art critic and painter Roger Fry, 53, on the occasion of his private showing of 81 paintings at London’s Independent Gallery. His Bloomsbury friend, fellow painter Duncan Grant, 35, had returned from his two-month trip to France and Italy with two cases of paintings that Fry had done while he was there.

Roger Fry c. 1910

Roger Fry

Fry appreciates his friends’ attempt to cheer him up because, despite fairly low prices for all his works, neither the reviews nor the sales are going well. Earlier in the summer he had written to a friend,

It’s almost impossible for an artist to live in England:  I feel so isolated.”

After an easy Underground ride from nearby Russell Square station, south on the Piccadilly Line to Leicester Square station, it’s a short walk to the New Theater. The first play by actor Noel Coward, 20, I’ll Leave It to You, is getting good reviews. Coward stars in his own play, which has just transferred to the West End from a successful run up north in Manchester.

noel_coward_young

Noel Coward

The London Times is excited:

It is a remarkable piece of work from so young a head–spontaneous, light, and always ‘brainy.’”

And the Observer predicts:

Mr Coward…has a sense of comedy, and if he can overcome a tendency to smartness, he will probably produce a good play one of these days.”

But this one closes after only 37 performances.

London tube map 1921

London Underground map

From Leicester Square station, heading south down the Hampstead Line, changing to go east on the District Line, the Cannon Street station is in the heart of the City, the financial capital of the country. At the Cannon Street Hotel, a group of radical socialists have gathered for the first Congress of their newly formed Communist Party of Great Britain.

The publisher and editor of the socialist Worker’s Dreadnought newspaper, Sylvia Pankhurst, 38, and one of her reporters, Jamaican Claude McKay, 30, both attend. But Sylvia decides the Communists are way too right wing for her taste, and votes against affiliating with the Labour Party.

Communist Unity Convention 1920

Communist Unity Convention, Summer 1920

Farther south down the District Line, near the West Kensington station, poet Ezra Pound, 34, is back in London after spending time in Europe specifically to introduce his new find, James Joyce, to the literary society of Paris. Pound gives a brown paper package with old clothing and shoes to his friends, poet T. S. Eliot, 31, and painter and writer Wyndham Lewis, 37, to pass on to Joyce on their upcoming trip to Paris.

Farther south, the District line terminates in Richmond. A few blocks from the station in Hogarth House on Paradise Road, the Woolfs are feeling overwhelmed by the success of their Hogarth Press.

The sales flooding in up until now have been primarily from word of mouth among their Bloomsbury friends. Who also send along their manuscripts for the Woolfs to publish.

They’ve recently taken their first ads in national papers such as the Times and the Manchester Guardian and magazines such as the Nation and the New Statesman. Leonard is closing out the account for Eliot’s Poems, and finds they have made a small profit of £9.

This summer they are planning to bring out Reminiscences of Count Leo Tolstoi, by Maxim Gorky, 52, translated by their friend S. S. Koteliansky, 40.

hogarth-house

Hogarth House, Richmond

This is quite a landmark for the Woolfs and their five-year-old company. Not only is it the first Russian translation they have published, with an initial run of 1,250 it is also the first time they have used an outside commercial printer from beginning to end. Up until now they have been setting type, printing and binding, all on their own in their home. Now they have become a true publishing house, not just a small press.

Virginia writes to a friend,

The Hogarth Press is growing like a beanstalk and [Leonard and I] think we must set up a shop and keep a clerk.”

Later in the summer she confides to her diary that Leonard is

on the verge of destruction. As a hobby, the Hogarth Press is clearly too lively & lusty to be carried on in this private way any longer. Moreover, the business part of it can’t be shared, owing to my incompetence. The future, therefore, needs consideration.”

****

About a two-hour drive southeast of Richmond is Bishopsbourne, Kent. At his house, Oswalds, Polish-born novelist Joseph Conrad, 62, is writing to his American benefactor, Irish-American lawyer, John Quinn, 50, in New York.

Oswalds Kent

Oswalds, Bishopsbourne, Kent

Quinn was not happy that Conrad went back on his promise to sell the manuscript of his latest novel to Quinn. But Conrad explained that he had hurriedly sold it to another collector to get cash quickly, and Quinn was understanding. Conrad writes, “

I am glad you take my arrangement as to the MSS. so well…I had many claims on me, and I have some still…—not to speak of my wife’s prolonged disablement.”

Conrad is comforted by the fact that after his death his copyrights will help support his wife Jessie, 46, and their two sons. One of whom is named for Quinn.

Quinn writes back to re-assure him,

You are far from the end of your time…You are one of the leading writers living in the world today and still producing work that is worthy of your best…There is no falling off there [in Conrad’s latest novel The Rescue]! It is a fine thing, one of your best things.”

*****

Seventy miles farther south, in Rodmell, East Sussex, the Woolfs are spending the last half of the summer at their country home, Monk’s House, still worried about overworking at Hogarth.

monk's house from road

Monk’s House, Rodmell, Sussex

Their young friends, painter Dora Carrington, 27, and her lover Ralph Partridge, 26, have  come to stay for a weekend, and the Woolfs talk to Partridge about working for them. Virginia writes to Fry, back in Bloomsbury, that she and Leonard

now think of setting up a proper printing plant and doing all production ourselves—that is with a manager…[Or else close it] as we can’t go on with it as we’ve been doing.”

By the end of August the Hogarth Press has hired Partridge as a part-time assistant for £100 per year and 50% of their net profit.

A twenty-minute drive away, at Charleston Farmhouse, Virginia’s sister, painter Vanessa Bell, is hosting the usual summer assemblage of Bloomsbury creatives.

Charleston farmhouse_exterior_photo_credit_grace_towner better

Charleston Farmhouse, Firle, Sussex

Julian, 12, her son with her estranged husband, art critic Clive Bell, 38, has set off his airgun by mistake and a bullet has gotten stuck in a chair.

According to one of their friends, up in his room Clive is

pretending to read Stendhal.”

Down the hall, economist John Maynard Keynes, just turned 37, is working on his latest book, A Treatise on Probability while continuing to edit the Economic Journal.

Vanessa and her partner, Duncan Grant, are working on a huge project. Keynes has commissioned them to create new murals for his rooms at King’s College, Cambridge. They have decided to produce eight allegorical figures, alternating male and female, to fill almost a whole wall, representing Science, Political Economics, Music, Classics, Law, Mathematics, Philosophy and History. They are advising Maynard on every detail of the interior decoration of the sitting room, right down to the color of the curtains.

Duncan has just returned from a visit to his aging parents up in Kent, and is a bit concerned about his father’s welfare. He tells Vanessa that in the nursing home the Major, 63, is

spending most of his time alone and hardly ever speaking at meals.”

Duncan hopes Virginia and Leonard could make use of his father on some Hogarth Press project.

Overall, Duncan writes to a friend back in Bloomsbury,

Life here is very quiet.”

Studies for murals in Keynes rooms

Drawings for Vanessa and Duncan’s murals for Keynes’ Cambridge sitting room

“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.