“Such Friends”: 100 years ago, late August, 1921, 74 Gloucester Place, Marylebone, London; and Shakespeare & Co., 12 rue de l’Odeon, Paris

Harriet Shaw Weaver, 44, publisher of the Egoist magazine, founder of the Egoist Press, and benefactor of many novelists and poets, has come to a decision.

She has heard rumors that one of the writers she supports [well, at least one] uses the money she sends to regularly get drunk. Irish novelist James Joyce, 39, living in Paris, has written to assure her that these are just rumors. Although he does mention that he probably drinks a bit too much.

Weaver has decided that Joyce’s bad habits are irrelevant in the face of his tremendous talent. Not only is she going to continue to support him, she is going to become his only publisher in the United Kingdom. For £15 she purchases the rights to his book of poetry published 14 years ago, Chamber Music, as well as, for £150, the copyrights to his early short story collection, Dubliners, and his play, Exiles.

James Joyce’s Chamber Music

Joyce has told her that American ex-patriate Sylvia Beach, 34, has offered to publish his novel-in-progress, Ulysses, through her Paris bookstore, Shakespeare & Co. Harriet is working with Sylvia to time the publication of the novel in England so that it doesn’t hurt sales of Beach’s publication in Paris.

Joyce assures both women that he’s optimistic the novel could still be ready this fall.

*****

In Paris, after Joyce collapses in a music hall from the strain of working 16 hours a day on his book, he decides to change his work habits.

Now he limits writing and revising Ulysses to five or six hours each day and spends more time on eight-mile walks around Paris.

His eye pain has become a bit more bearable, and he is working on 10 different episodes in the novel at the same time. Joyce has revised one section, “Aeolus,” to incorporate headlines which weren’t in any of the excerpts which appeared in the American magazine The Little Review. This changes the orientation of the second half of the book, which is being sent off to a printer in Dijon to be set into galleys.

The printer comes back to Joyce with all kinds of questions. Why so many compound words? Those are usually two words. Are you sure you want them as one word? Only one of the men who works there has any grasp of the English language at all.

And Joyce and Beach are running out of typists. They have all tried for a while and then given up in frustration over Joyce’s handwritten color-coded insertions to be incorporated into the text.

Recently they have enlisted an American drinking buddy of Joyce’s, fellow novelist and sometimes publisher Robert McAlmon, 26. He is doing his best with the four notebooks full of changes marked in red, yellow, blue, purple and green in Joyce’s scrawl.

Robert McAlmon

For the first few pages of the all-important “Penelope” section, McAlmon is meticulous about determining exactly where Joyce means each phrase to go. He has even re-typed a whole page to make sure everything is in the right place.

But after a bit, McAlmon muses, does it really matter when the character Molly Bloom thinks this, that or the other? What difference does it make if those thoughts go here, or there, or a few pages later, or maybe not at all. So he just puts them in wherever he is typing.

He wonders if Joyce will notice.

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

This fall I will be talking about Writers’ Salons in Dublin and London Before the Great War in the Osher Lifelong Learning program at Carnegie-Mellon University.

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, early July, 1921, 71 rue de Cardinal Lemoine, Paris

Irish novelist James Joyce, 39, has been working hard to finish his controversial novel Ulysses. But now he is in incredible pain.

A few nights ago he was, as usual, out drinking with one of his supporters [financially and morally], American writer and owner of the Contact press, Robert McAlmon, 25. The two ex-pats were making the rounds of their favorite drinking places when Joyce suddenly fainted and went limp.

McAlmon had brought him back home here, where he’s been living for the past month, down the long gravelly driveway through the big iron gate, which requires a huge metal key.

71 rue de Cardinal Lemoine

The next morning, Joyce woke up with a severe attack of iritis. The pressure inside his eye had him rolling on the floor in pain.

Even having a light on is painful. Joyce is now forced to rest and recuperate in this terrific third-floor apartment belonging to one of his French fans, the poet Valery Larbaud, also 39. Larbaud is on holiday until October, so has offered this luxurious flat rent-free to the Joyce family. Of the 22 different addresses the Joyces have had while James has been working on Ulysses, this is definitely the most posh.

Joyce has been making good progress, but he’s not sure that he will make the announced October publication date for his novel. This most recent eye attack will set him back. And there is another hold up from the printer. They are running out of certain letters that appear more in English than they do in French—e, h, w and y. Who knew?

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

This summer I am talking about The Literary 1920s in the Osher Lifelong Learning program at the University of Pittsburgh. In the fall I will be talking about Writers’ Salons in Ireland and England before the Great War in the Osher program at Carnegie-Mellon University.

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.

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

“Such Friends”: 100 years ago, late June, 1921, 74 Gloucester Place, Marylebone, London

Harriet Shaw Weaver, 44, publisher and owner of the Egoist Press, is somewhat relieved after reading the letter from Irish novelist James Joyce, 39, living in Paris, one of the writers she has been supporting for years.

A bit ago, two other writers she supports, Englishman Wyndham Lewis, 38, and American Robert McAlmon, 26, had both mentioned to her that their mutual friend Joyce uses some of the money she sends to him to fund a “lavish” lifestyle, meaning most evenings he ends up quite drunk. And she thought that she has been helping out his family.

Wyndham Lewis

Harriet is no prude. She is an active suffragist and has used her family inheritance [her maternal grandfather did quite well in the cotton trade] to support writers and artists, through the Egoist magazine and now her Egoist Press, as well as personally financing many creative individuals. She published excerpts from Joyce’s Ulysses in her magazine even though they had to be printed abroad because English printers wouldn’t touch the “obscene” text.

Early issue of The Egoist

But she wrote to Joyce earlier this month to express her concerns about his drinking.

Harriet is pleased with his response.

Joyce writes that there are lots of rumors about the way he lives. He’s a spy. He’s addicted to cocaine. He’s lazy. And mad. And even dying.

Joyce describes the technique he is using to write the scandalous novel Ulysses

I have not read a work of literature for several years. My head is full of pebbles and rubbish and broken matches and bits of glass picked up ’most everywhere. The task I set myself technically in writing a book from 18 different points of view and in as many styles, all apparently unknown or undiscovered by my fellow tradesmen…would be enough to upset anyone’s mental balance. I want to finish the book and try to settle my entangled material affairs. After that I want a good long rest in which to forget Ulysses completely. I now end this long rambling shambling speech having said nothing of the darker aspects of my detestable character.”

However, at the end of the letter, Joyce confesses about his drinking,

Yet you are probably right.”

Harriet is not sure. She and Joyce have been corresponding almost daily since she published his novel Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man four years ago. Once she has begun to support an artist, she has never wavered.

But should she continue to invest her capital in an Irishman who drinks so much?

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

This summer I am talking about The Literary 1920s in the Osher Lifelong Learning program at the University of Pittsburgh. In the fall I will be giving presentations about writers’ salons in Dublin and London before the Great War in the Osher program at Carnegie-Mellon University.

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 e-book formats.

“Such Friends”: 100 years ago, early May, 1921, Left Bank, Paris

Everyone’s coming to Paris…

American ex-patriate writer Robert McAlmon, 26, and his new British wife, Bryher, 26, have moved to Paris after visiting her wealthy family in London for their honeymoon.

Bryher

Bob is planning to use his wife’s inheritance, along with the allowance her family is giving him, to start a small publishing company, Contact Press, named after the Contact magazine he founded in New York late last year with a fellow poet.

When they first got to Paris, the McAlmons made a point of visiting the English-language bookstore, Shakespeare & Co. on the Left Bank, and signing up as members of the lending library. They are using the shop as an address and stopping by every day to pick up their mail.

There is a real buzz in the store. The owner, another American ex-pat, Sylvia Beach, 33, is working on a major project. She has offered to publish Ulysses, the latest work by Irish novelist James Joyce, 39, even though excerpts from it were recently ruled obscene in New York City when they appeared in The Little Review there.

Sylvia Beach at Shakespeare & Co.

McAlmon and Joyce have become good friends. In London, Bob had received a letter of introduction from Harriet Shaw Weaver, 44, one of his benefactors and owner of The Egoist Press, to meet the Irish novelist. He and Bryher have been supporting the Joyces with a $150 per month stipend, and McAlmon is helping to type parts of the—very messy—manuscript as Joyce writes it.

At the shop, everyone is pitching in to mail out a prospectus and order forms to potential subscribers to Ulysses, which is planned to come out in the fall. As orders come in, Beach records them in separate green record books for each country. The biggest single order—25 copies—has come from the Washington Square Bookshop in Greenwich Village, one of the original defendants in the obscenity case. Bryher is helping out by setting up a system of alphabetical pigeon holes for the incoming mail.

At night, McAlmon and Joyce, sometimes joined by French writer Valery Larbaud, 39, make the rounds of the clubs and dance halls. They particularly like Gipsy’s on the Boulevard St. Michel. McAlmon staggers from table to table getting drunken patrons to fill out order forms for the novel. He brings what he calls another “Hasty Bunch” of signed forms to the shop on his way home early in the morning, after having been thrown out of the last club along with his two comrades. Sylvia can barely make out the scrawly handwriting.

McAlmon is popular on the Left Bank for his charming personality, of course, but also because he can buy the drinks. Lots of drinks. He and Larbaud had to bring Joyce home one night in a wheelbarrow. Joyce’s partner and mother of his children, Nora Barnacle, 37, admonished him,

Jim, what is it all ye find to jabber about the nights you’re brought home drunk for me to look after? You’re dumb as an oyster now, so God help me.”

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the book, 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.

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.

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, May 7, 1921, Left Bank, Paris

As soon as he wakes up, English art critic Clive Bell, 39, can’t wait to draft a letter to his mistress back in London, writer Mary Hutchinson, 32, about his memorable evening the night before.

by Bassano, whole-plate glass negative, 7 March 1921

Clive Bell

Clive and some friends started with drinks at Les Deux Magots in Place Saint-Germain des Prés, moving on to dinner at Marchaud’s, a few blocks away at rue Jacob and rue des Saints-Peres,where there were bound to be a lot of Americans. The food is good and it’s very affordable.

One of Clive’s friends sees two men he knows in the next room and invites them over to the table. Clive tells Mary that he didn’t recognize one of the men, but was told he is

a bad sort—speaks only about his own books and their value in a French [accent] out of an opera bouffe. And who do you think [he] was? The creature immediately thrust an immense card under my nose and on it was the name of your favorite author—James Joyce. His companion, who happily spoke not one word of French, was called [Robert] McAlmon…and gives himself out as the most intimate friend of the well-known American poet—T. S. Eliot. God what a couple. Joyce did not seem stupid, but pretentious, underbred and provincial beyond words:  And what an accent. McAlmon is an American. They both think nobly of themselves, well of Ezra Pound and poorly of Wyndham Lewis…The little nuisance [who had brought the two over] broke in drunkenly on Joyce’s incessant monologue of self-appreciation. [Joyce looks like] exactly what a modern genius ought to be…like something between an American traveller in flash jewellery and a teacher in a Glasgow socialist Sunday school.”

Clive decides that in his wanderings around Paris he is going to avoid Joyce.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volume I covering 1920 is available on Amazon in print and e-book versions. 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, 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 e-book formats.

“Such Friends”: 100 years ago, Spring, 1921, Mayfair, London

Sitting in his new in-laws’ posh house, American publisher, poet, and general drifter Robert McAlmon, 26, can’t believe his luck.

Back in February he had accepted the offer of a woman he had just met, Annie Ellerman, also 26, always known as Bryher, to get married so she could have access to her family money. Until they came over here to introduce Bob to her parents, he hadn’t realized how much family money there is.

The New York Times broke the story this month that the daughter of Sir John Ellerman, 58, first baronet, owner of British newspapers, breweries and shipping lines and the richest man in the United Kingdom, had married some unknown writer and artists’ model, Robert McAlmon. The family made no comment.

McAlmon is getting along well with his new British in-laws. Bryher’s parents have succumb to his charms and promised him a generous allowance. He even has enjoyed chatting with her younger brother John, 11, a reclusive boy. He writes books about rodents.

Sir John Ellerman with his son, John

The newlyweds had hosted a big party at the Hotel Brevoort before their sailing. His fellow co-founder of Contact magazine, poet Dr. William Carlos Williams, 37, had brought the couple orchids. McAlmon did explain to him later that this is a marriage of convenience only.

And how convenient it has turned out for Bob. Bryher is introducing him to most of the literary lights of London. Writer and painter Wyndham Lewis, 38, has agreed to publish two of McAlmon’s poems in his magazine, Blast. Publisher and philanthropist Harriet Shaw Weaver, 44, will publish some in her magazine, The Egoist, and is talking about bringing out a whole collection. American ex-patriate poet T. S. Eliot, 32, has introduced him to Bloomsbury art critic, Clive Bell, 39, although Eliot doesn’t really take Bell seriously as a writer.

Harriet Shaw Weaver

McAlmon and Bryher agree that one of the best uses of her money is supporting fledgling writers like themselves. She has given funds to Weaver’s Egoist Press to publish new poets. In return, Weaver has given McAlmon a letter of introduction to one of his literary idols, Irish novelist James Joyce, 39. He can’t wait to look him up as soon as they move to Paris.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volume I covering 1920 is available on Amazon in print and e-book versions. 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, 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 e-book formats.

“Such Friends”: 100 years ago, February 14, 1921, New York City, New York

Margaret Anderson, 34, founder and publisher of the literary magazine The Little Review, is disappointed. As is her partner, the magazine’s editor, Jane Heap, 37.

Margaret Anderson and Jane Heap

They were not happy about being served with papers last year for publishing “obscene” excerpts from Ulysses, the latest work in progress by Irish novelist James Joyce, just turned 39. And they are grateful that their lawyer, art collector John Quinn, 50, is not charging them a fee for all the work he has been doing.

But here they are in the New York City Court of Special Sessions and Quinn’s main argument is that no one would understand Ulysses anyway, so how can it be obscene?!

Quinn started off alright by presenting Joyce’s reputation as a respected man of letters, but when one of the judges asked how that was relevant, Quinn dropped it. He put a few well-known writers on the stand, but they just testified that the novel wouldn’t corrupt readers.

Anderson has called Ulysses “the prose masterpiece of my generation.” She and Heap want the defense to be that it is great literature and should not be suppressed.

Quinn will have none of that. He has already told Anderson that the case is unwinnable and he has no intention of appealing a guilty verdict. And he doesn’t think they should have published such material in a magazine anyway, because it is sent through the mails. Quinn has been trying to convince Joyce to agree to a privately published book, which couldn’t possibly be prosecuted.

Playing to the three-judge panel, Quinn seizes on the anger of the lead prosecutor:

There is my best exhibit. There is proof that Ulysses does not corrupt or fill people full of lascivious thoughts. Look at him! He is mad all over. He wants to hit somebody. He doesn’t want to love anybody. He wants somebody to be punished. He’s mad. He’s angry. His face is distorted with anger, not with love. That’s what Joyce does. That’s what Ulysses does. It makes people angry. They want to break something. They want somebody to be convicted. They feel like prosecuting everybody connected with it, even if they don’t know how to pronounce the name Ulysses. But it doesn’t tend to drive them to the arms of some siren.”

Anderson feels that the whole scene is surreal. When the prosecutor is about to read out one of the main offending passages from Ulysses’ “Nausicaa” section, one of the judges actually says that Anderson (ignoring Heap) should be excused from the room as she is a young woman. Quinn points out that she is the one who published that passage. The judge says that she can’t possibly understand the significance of what she is publishing.

Oh, yes I do, thinks Margaret.

Court is recessed for one week so the judges can read the full “Nausicaa” episode.

*****

In another New York City courtroom, American self-published poet and general drifter Robert McAlmon, 25, is marrying English writer Annie Winifred Ellerman, 26, known by her adopted name, Bryher.

Newlyweds Bryher and Robert McAlmon

The couple met through friends at a Greenwich Village party just recently. Bryher explained to McAlmon that she is from a very well-to-do British family. But they are holding on to her rightful inheritance until she gets married.

So, if they get married, they can take the money and move to Paris! McAlmon figures this sounds like a pretty good deal.

“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 print or e-book formats. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

This summer I will be talking about The Literary 1920s in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute programs 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 in both print and e-book versions. Later this month I will be talking about Perkins, Fitzgerald and Hemingway in the OLLI program at CMU.

 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, December, 1920, Greenwich Village, New York City, New York

The most recent issue of The Little Review—the September-December number, just out now—is finally on the desk of the publisher Margaret Anderson, 34.

September-December 1920 issue of The Little Review

Anderson is proud of the mix of the 90 pages of content:  Work by emerging American talents such as Man Ray, 30; Ben Hecht, 27; Djuna Barnes, 28; Robert McAlmon, 25. Five pages of poems by the German avant-garde artist Else von Freytag-Loringhoven, 46. Several reviews and discussions of recent literature.

The jewel in the crown is the 11-page excerpt from Episode XIV of Ulysses, the ongoing novel by Irishman James Joyce, 38, living in Paris and submitting his work via The Little Review’s foreign editor, Ezra Pound, 35, in London.

But there are two long essays in the front of the magazine of which Anderson is particularly proud:  The lead article, “The Art of Law,” by Jane Heap, 37, the magazine’s editor—and Anderson’s partner; and her own piece defending their publication of sections of Ulysses. Anderson remembers that she was so exasperated when she was finishing the essay, she titled it “An Obvious Statement (for the millionth time).”

Margaret Anderson’s editorial

Jane is much better at being witty and pithy. She makes the points that the courts are not qualified to judge works of art, and that the real problem is that sex education is almost unheard of for the “young girls” who are supposedly being protected by the censors, the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice [NYSSV].

In her own piece, Anderson describes her and Heap’s recent arrest and preliminary hearing on obscenity charges. She then alerts the reader to their upcoming trial, scheduled for the early part of next year. Anderson states,

I know practically everything that will be said in court, both by the prosecution and the defense. I disagree with practically everything that will be said by both. I do not admit that the issue [of obscenity] is debatable.

“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.

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. Early next year I will be talking about Perkins, Fitzgerald and Hemingway in the Osher Lifelong Learning program at 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.

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, December, 1920, Greenwich Village, New York City, New York

Robert McAlmon, 25, met Dr. William Carlos Williams, 37, at a lower East Side party shortly after re-locating here to New York from Chicago earlier this year. They are both having some of their poetry accepted in small magazines, but have decided that the best way to get published is to start their own.

Dr. William Carlos Williams

They have just finished producing their first issue of Contact. Mimeographed on paper donated by Bill’s father-in-law; filled with typos; no table of contents or advertising. They’ve lined up about 200 subscribers to provide some income. Dr. Williams, of course, is still earning money in his medical practice during the day and working on the publication in the evenings.

McAlmon, on the other hand, has been scraping along doing some nude modelling for art classes at nearby Cooper Union.

Their manifesto in this first issue states,

We are here because of our faith in the existence of native artists who are capable of having, comprehending and recording extraordinary experience…We are interested in the writings of such individuals as are capable of putting a sense of contact, and of definite personal realization into their work.”

Robert McAlmon

Contact includes the first bibliography of all the “little mags” that have been published in the US in the new century.

Williams and McAlmon feel strongly that American writers need a publication such as Contact, as there are plenty of opportunities for writers from abroad, like The Little Review.

“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.

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. Early next year I will be talking about Perkins, Fitzgerald and Hemingway in the Osher Lifelong Learning program at 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.

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’ Bloomsbury Walk, Part 3: Fitzroy Square

A few months ago, I was thrilled to be asked by the Charleston Farmhouse to lead my walk through Bloomsbury for a group attending their Bloomsbury Revisited event in London. You can download a shorter version from the Voicemap.me website. But, if you’re not able to walk around London listening to me on headphones, I have posted the text of the walk here with photos, so you can follow along from anywhere. There are three parts, Tavistock Square, Gordon Square and Fitzroy Square. Here is Part 3:

  1. Grafton Way near Tottenham Court Road

Welcome back! But for those of you just joining us, I’m Dr. Kathleen Dixon Donnelly and I am your guide for this walk.

My research was about writers and artists who ‘hung out’ together in salons in the early part of the last century, on either side of World War I. The four groups are Irish poet William Butler Yeats and his friends who founded the Abbey Theatre; Virginia Woolf and Bloomsbury, of course; Gertrude Stein and the American writers in Paris, and Dorothy Parker and the Algonquin Round Table.

Yeats ended his poem, The Municipal Gallery Revisited, with the lines:

Think where man’s glory most begins and ends,

and say my glory was I had such friends.’

so I have used ‘Such Friends’ as the title for all my work about ‘my’ writers and artists.

Here we are in the heart of Bloomsbury, heading towards Fitzroy Square where Virginia lived with her brother Adrian, when they were in their 20s. The Northumberland Arms pub across the street is a great spot for a pint.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Northumberland Arms pub, Grafton Way and Tottenham Court Road

Let’s talk about one of the other Bloomsberries, writer and publisher Leonard Woolf.

After graduating from Cambridge University, Leonard joined the Colonial Service and was assigned to represent the crown in Jaffna, Ceylon, now Sri Lanka. He realized the absurdity of a 25-year-old with no experience taking charge of an entire country. Leonard spent seven years there, and, ironically, while Virginia’s brother Thoby Stephen died from a misdiagnosis of typhoid in London, Leonard was successfully treated for it in the jungle.

Leonard was not happy in the post, and in 1911 he applied to come back to England on leave. He had kept in touch with his university friends—many of whom were, like him, members of the Cambridge association, the Apostles.

Although the Apostles were then a ‘secret’ society by invitation only, they became less secret in the 1950s when it was revealed that British spies Guy Burgess and Kim Philby had been members when they were recruited by the Communist Party.

Leonard had met Virginia and Vanessa Stephen years before when they had come to visit Thoby at Cambridge. Later, Leonard wrote of his first impression of the sisters:

Their beauty literally took one’s breath away…One stopped astonished…It was almost impossible for a man not to fall in love with them and I think that I did at once.’

Even in Ceylon, Leonard had corresponded with Cambridge friends, such as Lytton Strachey, who wrote him letters about the lovely evenings he would spend in conversation with Virginia, Vanessa, Duncan Grant, Clive Bell and Maynard Keynes. So when Leonard came home, he couldn’t wait to get back in to the cultural and social life of his friends. He and Virginia became re-acquainted when he came to dinner one summer night at Gordon Square in 1911.

In the Bloomsbury group, I identified Leonard as the ‘Sponsor.’ He might not have been the most witty, or social, or rich, but he served as an administrator with Roger Fry’s art exhibits and, with Virginia’s help, bought the printing press to start Hogarth Press. The Sponsor in each group either had the money or resources—like Edward Martyn, the philanthropist behind the Abbey Theatre and other Irish institutions, or Robert McAlmon, an independent publisher in Paris—or got the money—like Leonard, or Harold Ross the founder of The New Yorker magazine.

Let’s walk down to Fitzroy Square.

  1. Fitzroy Square

Approaching Fitzroy Square, the newer building on your left is the Indian YMCA. This is one of your tips on where to eat cheap in London; they have a lovely cafeteria with great curries.

Indian YMCA Fitzroy Square

Indian YMCA, Fitzroy Square

A few years ago I attended a travel writing workshop here. It was advertised in the Guardian newspaper, and I figured it was a good omen that it was in Bloomsbury.

The writer who taught the daylong session gave us an assignment for our lunch break. When he announced what it was, I couldn’t believe my ears. He wanted us to

write about this neighbourhood.’

Seriously. I had been in training for that assignment for more than twenty years!

Fitzroy Square

Fitzroy Square

Like many sections of Bloomsbury, Fitzroy Square has a colourful history. Lytton’s parents had a house here in the 19th century. In the Edwardian era, Augustus John had a studio in Number 8, where Vanessa and Duncan had studios and parties in the 1920s. Painter Walter Sickert had a studio in Number 19. Vanessa studied with Sickert, and you might have read that American crime writer Patricia Cromwell has fingered him as Jack the Ripper.

Duncan and Maynard lived here together in Number 21, and in World War I, Belgian refugees were held here. None of these have plaques.

We’ll walk over to Number 29, Virginia and her brother Adrian’s house. There’s a bench if you want to sit.

  1. Number 29 Fitzroy Square

Number 29 Fitzroy Square is the one with two plaques. George Bernard Shaw’s Irish family lived here in the late 19th century.

29 Fitzroy Square and me

Your intrepid tour guide at Number 29 Fitzroy Square

In 1907 when Virginia moved in, she was 25 and living with her brother. While her married painter sister decorated Gordon Square with the latest in cubist art, Virginia and Adrian kept their interior simple. Adrian had a study full of books that looked out here onto the square.

To avoid competition, the sisters would alternate the at-homes on Thursday nights between the two locations; sometimes the guests would walk from one to the other, like we just did.

In her own home, hosting her own salons, Virginia’s confidence grew. She and Vanessa slowly realized why their brother’s friends weren’t interested in them as women—most were gay. The evenings were for conversation, and as Virginia wrote later, she would

stumble off to bed feeling that something very important had happened. It had been proved that beauty was—or beauty was not—for I have never been quite sure which—part of a picture.’

Now with

a room of her own,’

she began her first novel, Melymbrosia, eventually published in 1915 as The Voyage Out. She remembered later that she had the luxury of writing

in comparative splendour—[with] a maid, carpet, fires…’

Great parties were also held here, including one where Maynard and a topless Vanessa allegedly copulated on the floor.

But not all the evenings were a success. Virginia remembered that one had ended thus:

Adrian stalked off to his room, I to mine in complete silence.’

By the time Leonard showed up, in 1911, the lease on Fitzroy Square was up, so Virginia and Adrian were planning to move to a more communal arrangement with Duncan, Maynard and others, in Brunswick Square. They asked Leonard to join them.

However, shortly after they set up this friendly commune, Leonard decided that, instead of going back to Ceylon, he would propose to Virginia. After months of persuasion, she accepted. They married in August 1912 and moved to their own flat in Clifford’s Inn.

  1. Number 33 Fitzroy Square, the Omega Workshops

We’ll end our walk with the building to your left, Number 33.

Number 33 Fitzroy Square

Number 33 Fitzroy Square, currently undergoing refurbishment

Here we meet our last Bloomsbury, art critic Roger Fry, the ‘Link,’ where he opened the Omega Workshops.

Fry had had a studio in Fitzroy Square, but didn’t begin socializing with the others until a fateful day in 1910. He’d lost his job with the New York Metropolitan Museum, and had to commit his wife to an asylum. Fry was on the platform of the Cambridge railway station and recognized Vanessa and Clive Bell whom he’d met socially before. They chatted, and by the time they reached London, Roger was in the group!

At 43, Fry was older than the others, because each salon had a ‘Link,’ with better connections, who helped the younger ones become more mainstream. For the Irish, it was Lady Gregory, with the government connections to start a theatre; for the Americans in Paris it was Sherwood Anderson, already a successful novelist; and for the Round Table, FPA was the top New York columnist who publicized the others constantly.

Fry used inherited money to rent this building. In 1912 he opened the Omega Workshops with Vanessa and Duncan. Vanessa suggested having a Bloomsbury party to celebrate:

We should get all our disreputable and some of your aristocratic friends to come, and…there should be decorated furniture, painted walls, etc. There we should all get drunk and dance and kiss, orders would flow in, and the aristocrats would feel they were really in the thick of things.’

During these years, Vanessa and Roger carried on quite a torrid affair, in Bloomsbury and Sussex. At one point Clive asked his wife why Roger was around so often, but beyond that, he didn’t protest. He just got on with his own affairs.

The Omega was successful for five years, but was sold off in June 1919. Despite exhibitions and conferences and parties, the Workshops never covered their costs, and Roger, like all arts supporters, spent a lot of his time fund-raising.

Customers who had bought the fashionable handmade pottery and textiles included Yeats and Shaw, but also Ottoline Morrell, HG Wells, EM Forster, Rupert Brooke, Ezra Pound and Augustus John.

The workmen here tell me that, because this is a listed building, it is being renovated back to its original fittings, to be a private residence. There is a plaque, but it’s covered by the scaffolding now.

omega roger-fry-blue-plaque

Blue plaque on Number 33 Fitzroy Square

And how did the group end?

Let’s go back to Maynard. He went to work in the Treasury department during the early part of ‘The Great War.’ His Bloomsbury friends, who were famously pacifist, were not happy about this job, which eventually contributed to the point I identify as the break-up of the group.

In January of 1915, Keynes celebrated his new role by giving himself a party at the fabulous Café Royal, near Piccadilly Circus. In-between Vanessa and Duncan he sat the infamous editor Edward ‘Bunny’ Garnett, and soon after those three were living together in a boathouse in Sussex.

Around the same time, Virginia and Leonard decided to move to Richmond. On her 33rd birthday, 25th January, 1915, they went for tea and resolved to buy Hogarth House, which they had seen out in Richmond, buy a printing press, and get a bulldog named John. Never got the bulldog.

Once one or more of the key players withdraw, the groups dissipate. Yeats stopped working with the Abbey; Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas stopped inviting people to salons; and Robert Benchley left Dorothy Parker and friends to move to Hollywood to work in the movies.

Although the Bloomsberries still saw each other frequently, the days of wandering in and out of each others’ houses, staying up late drinking whisky and cocoa, were over. As Virginia remembered that time,

Talking, talking, talking,…as if everything could be talked—the soul itself slipped through the lips in thin silver discs which dissolve in young men’s minds like silver, like moonlight.’

Thanks for walking with me and our ‘Such Friends.’

If you missed the first two parts, you can search for ‘Such Friends’ Bloomsbury Walk, Part 1:  Tavistock Square and Part 2:  Gordon Square.

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.