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.
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.
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.
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 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, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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.”
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 email@example.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.