“Such Friends”: The Reviews Are In!

We interrupt our usual chronicling of what was happening in the literary 1920s to report on the early response to the first book of these blogs, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s, Volume I—1920, by your blog host, Kathleen Dixon Donnelly, published three months ago today.

I love it…Your voice carried over a number of pages sequentially is very effective and idiosyncratic. When they are read together they have a presence…You’ve invented a new genre—vignettes with verve!…I continue to pick up “Such Friends“ regularly and just start reading…I read a few and then think “Well, time to do something else.” And then I want to turn the pages and read a few more. You have invented a new sort of page turner. Collectively, they are also giving me a feel for the time.”—New York Academic Fan

Thanks to all of you who have passed on to me your positive thoughts about “Such Friends.”

Cover design by Lisa Thomson

I really like the format. The small vignettes are great for a quick read and even sharing with friends and students. I also love Lady Gregory’s famous beech tree on the cover!”—Ohio Academic Fan

You’ve made some excellent suggestions [and corrections—Oops!] which will be incorporated into the upcoming volumes.

A chronological journey through the most extraordinary of years…Fun to pick up on any page and travel back in time.”—Connecticut The Great Gatsby fan

If you’re following this “Such Friends” blog you’ve been reading the postings that will become Volume II—1921, hopefully available before the end of this year.

The book looks great and although I planned to read a couple of pages to get the flavor of the text, I ended up reading page after page after page—delightful, fascinating, lively anecdotes, information and graphics!”—Bloomsbury Group Fan

“Such Friends” can be an ideal gift for any of your literary “such friends.” You know they like to read, but how can you avoid buying them a book they’ve already read?! With “Such Friends” you are giving them the gift of great gossip about their favorite early 20th century writers.

Kind of fun and light. It’s a reminder that geniuses are still just people…These are highly revered writers we don’t get to meet personally. We also get a good sense that politically and socially nothing is new under the sun.”—Former College Roomie Fan

So get your copies now! Both print and e-book formats are available on Amazon.

It’s like meeting them in person. I studied them in school so reading your book brings them back, but with a personal feel…It put us in the room with them. You brought them to life.”—South Florida Writer Fan

And if you are in Pittsburgh, and easily accessible by bus, I will hand deliver your personally signed copy!

I am still enjoying dipping into “Such Friends,” rationing it like a box of chocolates…I tend to read a page or two before I sleep—I think it enhances the quality of my dreams.—Irish in London Playwright Fan

Any questions, just email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

I’m trying to resist reading your individual “Such Friends” blog pieces in order to read them all in the 1921 book at the end of the year, I enjoyed the most recent one so much.”—Galway Playwright Fan

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 Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolfe, is also 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, end of November, 1920, 1230 North State Street, Chicago, Illinois

On Sunday, the following ad appeared in the ”Wanted—Male Help” section of the Chicago Sunday Tribune:



Prominent Chicago advertising agency offers unusual opportunity to men capable of expressing themselves clearly and entertainingly in writing. A real opportunity to enter the advertising profession and be promoted as rapidly as ability warrants. State age, education, experience, if any, whether married or single, what you have been earning and, in fact, anything or everything which will give us a correct line on you. All communications considered strictly confidential. Address C122 Tribune.”

Front page of the Chicago Sunday Tribune, November 28, 1920

Ernest Hemingway, 21, composes this response:

No attempt will be made to write a trick letter in an effort to plunge you into such a paroxysm of laughter that you will weakly push over to me the position advertised in Sunday’s Tribune.

You would probably rather have what facts there are and judge the quality of the writing from published signed articles that I can bring you.

I am twenty-four years old, have been a reporter on the Kansas City Star and a feature writer for the Toronto Star, and the Toronto Sunday World.

Am chronically unmarried.

War records are a drug on the market of course but to explain my lack of a job during 1918—served with the Italian Army because of inability to pass the US physical exams. Was wounded July 8 on the Piave River—decorated twice and commissioned. Not that it makes any difference.

At present I am doing feature stuff at a cent and a half a word and they want five columns a week. Sunday stuff mostly.

I am very anxious to get out of the newspaper business and into the copy writing end of advertising. If you desire I can bring clippings of my work on the Toronto Star and Toronto Sunday World and you can judge the quality of the writing from them. I can also furnish whatever business and character references you wish.

Hoping that I have in a measure overcome your sales resistance—

very sincerely

1230 N. State Street

Chicago Illinois”

“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 Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolfe, is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle. Early in 2021 I will be talking about Perkins, Fitzgerald and Hemingway in the Osher Lifelong Learning programs 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 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’: May, 1925

In England…

Virginia Woolf, 43, is anticipating the reviews for her fourth novel, Mrs. Dalloway, which she and her husband Leonard, 44, have just published at their own Hogarth Press, with another cover by her sister, Vanessa Bell, 45.

mrs dalloway original cover

She has been working on it for the past three years, building on short stories she had written, and experimenting with stream of consciousness. The beginning of this year was spent on the rewriting, which, she had confided to her diary, was

‘the dullest part…most depressing & exacting.’

Leonard is enthusiastic. He feels it is Virginia’s best work. But he has to think that, doesn’t he?

Last month, the Woolfs had brought out a collection of her critical essays, The Common Reader, also with a Vanessa cover. Virginia had worried that it would receive

‘a dull chill depressing reception [and be] a complete failure.’

Actually, there have been good reviews in the Manchester Guardian and the Observer newspapers, and sales are beginning to pick up a bit.

The-Common-Reader- cover 1st ed

The ten-year-old Hogarth Press is doing quite well, having survived a succession of different assistants. They had published 16 titles the previous year and are on schedule for more this year. In addition to writing their most successful works, Virginia has been closely involved with the choice of manuscripts among those submitted by eager novelists and poets, as well as setting the type. She finds it calming.

Despite the stress of a new publication, physically Virginia is feeling quite well. She and Leonard have been busy in London with Hogarth, but also getting out and about with family and friends. Fellow writer Lytton Strachey, 45, had praised The Common Reader, but thinks that Mrs. Dalloway is just

‘a satire of a shallow woman.’

Virginia noted in her diary,

‘It’s odd that when…the others (several of them) say it is a masterpiece, I am not much exalted; when Lytton picks holes, I get back into my working fighting mood.’

Virginia’s literary competition with Lytton—he has always outsold her—is motivating her to get to work on her next major novel. She’s thinking of writing about her childhood, and the summers the family spent on the Cornish coast.

In France…

Ernest Hemingway, 25, is regretting having snapped up the offer from the first publisher he’d heard from, Boni & Liveright. He’d been so thrilled to get their letter when he was skiing in Austria that he’d accepted the next day. His first collection of stories and poems, in our time, had been published last year by Three Mountains Press, a small company operating on Paris’ Left Bank. But Boni & Liveright was a major American publisher who wanted to bring it out as In Our Time and have first shot at his next work.


When he’d returned with his wife, Hadley, 33, to their Paris apartment there were wonderful letters waiting for him from Maxwell Perkins, 40, senior editor at rival publisher Scribner’s.

In addition, Ernest has just met one of Scribner’s top authors, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 28, who had recommended him to Perkins as long as a year ago. Fitzgerald was happy to share with Hemingway his inside info about the world of New York publishing, telling him that Scribner’s would be a much better choice than Boni & Liveright.

However, that first meeting with Fitzgerald in the Le Dingo bar hadn’t impressed Ernest much. Scott had been wearing Brooks Brothers and drinking champagne, but he kept praising the poems and stories of Hemingway’s that he had read, to the point where it was embarrassing. Then he asked Ernest whether he had slept with Hadley before they got married, turned white, and passed out. Ernest and his friends had rolled Scott into a taxi.

But on their second meeting, at Closerie des Lilas, Fitzgerald was fine. Intelligent. Witty. Interested in the Hemingways’ living conditions—in a rundown apartment without water or electricity above a sawmill on rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs. Ernest decides it might be alright to take his new friend to the salon he frequents at the home of another American writer, Gertrude Stein, 51, and her partner, Alice B. Toklas, 48, on rue de Fleurus, near the Luxembourg Gardens. Gertrude hates drunks.

Scott had asked Ernest to come along on a trip to Lyon to recover a Renault he had had to leave at a garage there, and Hemingway is thinking of going. After all, Fitzgerald says he’ll cover all the expenses.

His latest novel, The Great Gatsby, published by Scribner’s just last month, is not doing as well as Scott and his wife Zelda, 24, had hoped. Selling out the first print run of almost 21,000 copies would cancel his debt to his publisher, but they are hoping for four times that.

great gatsby original cover

He has discovered that Perkins’ cable to him claiming that the early reviews are good had been a bit optimistic, and sales aren’t going great.

Scott is worried that he is reaching his peak already.

In America…

Perkins is writing to Fitzgerald,

‘It is too bad about Hemingway,’

regretting losing a promising novelist to a rival.

But he’s even more concerned about the mixed reviews for Fitzgerald’s Gatsby. The New York Times has called it

‘a long short story’;

the Herald Tribune,

‘an uncurbed melodrama’;

and the World,

‘a dud,’

in the headline no less. Even H L Mencken, 44, who can usually be relied on for some insight in the Chicago Tribune, has dismissed it as a

‘glorified anecdote.’

Chicago Tribune May 24 1925

And FPA [Franklin Pierce Adams, 43], the most widely read columnist in Manhattan, says it is just a

‘dull tayle’

about rich and famous drunks.

However, FPA is not known for fulsome praise. Back in February he had prepared the readers of his Conning Tower column for the launch of a new magazine, The New Yorker, by saying that

‘most of it seemed too frothy for my liking.’

He didn’t mention that he had written some of the froth to help out his friends who were starting the publication. For the past couple months he’s been going weekly into the magazine’s shabby office to choose the poetry. There have been some funny pieces by one of his own discoveries, Dorothy Parker, 31, but he doesn’t give it much hope of lasting.

The New Yorker cover may 9 1925

By now, sales of The New Yorker have gone from an initially respectable 15,000 to about half that. And the founder-editor, Harold Ross, 31, has had to cut the size to only 24 pages to save money.

But FPA can’t be bothered worrying about his friends’ losing business ventures. After finishing off a bad marriage earlier this year, he’s getting married!

Parker, Ross and all the others who gather for lunch at the midtown Algonquin Hotel daily, and for poker there weekly, have ventured out to Connecticut for the wedding.

Just yesterday, Ross’s chief investors decided to pull the plug on the magazine. Why throw good money after bad?

But, discussing their decision at the wedding, Ross and his main funder, Raoul Fleischmann, 39, start thinking that it may be too early to give up. Raoul says he’ll cough up enough to keep The New Yorker going through the summer, and then they can decide.

At the end of the day, FPA and his bride head back to the city, and he goes, as usual, to his Saturday night poker game and loses the money saved up for their honeymoon.

Donald Brace, 43, co-founder of Harcourt, Brace & Co., isn’t worried about funding, but he is anticipating reviews of two books he has just published:  Virginia Woolf’s essays, The Common Reader, and novel, Mrs. Dalloway.

Mrs. D Harcourt Brace cover

They have had success with Woolf before, but this is the first time that publication is simultaneous in the US and the UK.

The New York Times has raved about both Mrs. Dalloway and The Common Reader, comparing Woolf’s essay style to that of Lytton’s.

The Saturday Review of Literature calls the novel

‘coherent, lucid, and enthralling’

and wants her to write a piece for them about American fiction.

Virginia and Leonard will be pleased.



In Juan-les-Pins, on the French Riviera, in February, 1926…


…novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, 29, is reassured by his editor at Scribner’s, Maxwell Perkins, 41, that there is great hope for his newest book, All the Sad Young Men, a collection of short stories, most of which have been published in the Saturday Evening Post.

Fitzgerald had written to Perkins that he was worried the book wouldn’t sell even 5000 copies. But Perkins responded that he felt the stories were not only commercial, but also literary. One, “Absolution,” was the beginning of what became Scott’s third novel, The Great Gatsby. Published last year, Gatsby has been well received critically, but Fitzgerald is disappointed with the sales. Perkins likes to bring out a short story collection soon after publishing a novel, to capitalize on the author’ popularity.

All the sad young men

Original cover, 1926

In a few months, Fitzgerald is able to write to Charles Scribner, 71, the president of the publishing company,

For the first time in over four years, I am no longer in financial debt to you—or rather I won’t be when the money from my short story book becomes due me. But in another sense I shall always be in your debt—for your unfailing kindness and confidence and obligingness to me in all my exigencies during that time. Never once was I reminded of my obligations which were sometime as high at $4000, with no book in sight.

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.

Manager as Muse explores Perkins’ work with Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe and is available on Amazon.

To walk with me and the ‘Such Friends’ through Bloomsbury, download the Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group audio walking tour from VoiceMap. Look for our upcoming walking tour about the Paris ‘such friends.’