“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago, end of October, 1922, Italy; Germany; and Ireland

In Rome, National Fascist Party leader Benito Mussolini, 39, wearing a black shirt and trousers and a bowler hat, arrives to form a government and become the youngest Prime Minister in Italy’s history, at the request of King Victor Emmanuel III, 52.

Benito Mussolini

In Florence, American ex-pat art historian Bernard Berenson, 57, tells a visiting friend,

These Fascists are the same people who requisitioned my most precious wines three years ago in the name of the Florentine Soviet Committee; then they were Communists. They don’t know what they are. The only lucky Italians are the ones who live abroad. I’ve lived here for 32 years and I’ve never seen a government and that’s their way of governing, like their police, who lie low during strikes. When the government comes up against some difficulty they disappear; when everything is settled by the nature of things, they reappear, triumphant. But nevertheless everything works in this country. That’s because Italy isn’t a nation; it’s a civilization.”

Bernard Berenson

*****

In Berlin, journalist Count Harry Kessler, 54, president of the German Peace Society, writes in his diary,

Perhaps [Mussolini] will usher in a period of fresh European disorders and wars…This may turn out to be a black day for Italy and Europe.”

Count Harry Kessler

*****

In Dublin, poet and playwright William Butler Yeats, 57, admires Mussolini’s “burst of powerful personality.”

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volumes I through III, covering 1920 through 1922 are available as signed copies at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA, and on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk in print and e-book formats. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

Early next year I will be talking about the centenary of the publication of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Pittsburgh, and about The Literary 1920s in Paris and New York City at 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 also available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk in both print and e-book versions.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago, October 21, 1922, 82 Merrion Square, Dublin

Poet, playwright, and Abbey Theatre co-founder William Butler Yeats, 57, writes to a friend from his new family home,

I think what I say of Ireland, at least, may interest you. I think things are coming right [for the new country] slowly but very slowly; we have had years now of murder and arson in which both nations have shared impartially. In my own neighborhood [of Thoor Ballylee, in the west of Ireland] the Black and Tans dragged two young men tied alive to a lorry by their heels, till their bodies were rent in pieces.

The British Black and Tans 

‘There was nothing for the mother but the head,’ said a countryman and the head he spoke of was found on the road side. The one enlivening Truth that starts out of it all is that we may learn charity after mutual contempt. There is a no longer a virtuous nation and the best of us live by candlelight…

I am working at present at the project of getting the Abbey Theatre adopted as the Irish State Theatre and I think I may succeed.”

The author with the Abbey Theatre logo at the Abbey pub in Boston, Massachusetts

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volumes I through III, covering 1920 through 1922 are available as signed copies at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA, and on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk in print and e-book formats. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

Early next year I will be talking about the centenary of the publication of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Pittsburgh, and about The Literary 1920s in Paris and New York City at 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 also available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk in both print and e-book versions.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago, late September, early October, 1922, 82 Merrion Square, Dublin; and Great Neck, Long Island, New York

Georgie Yeats, 29, is relieved to be settling into her new home in Merrion Square, Dublin, with her family—her husband, poet William Butler Yeats, 57, and their two children, Anne, 3, and Michael, 13 months.

She bought this posh row house just a few months ago, with her own family money. But they have been living out in the west of Ireland, in the tower Willie bought and named Thoor Ballylee.

Willie has been optimistic about how the newly independent Irish Free State is progressing. Despite the ongoing civil war, the Parliament elected in June has taken their seats and chosen W. T. Cosgrave, 42, as their President.

However, at the beginning of this month Republican soldiers came to the door of Thoor Ballylee and told Georgie that they were going to blow up the bridge over the stream that runs by the tower. She should move the family upstairs. Big of them to give notice.

They ignited the fuses; a Republican told her there would be two explosions. She writes to a friend: 

After two minutes, two roars came & then a hail of falling masonry & gravel & then the same man shouted up ‘All right now’ & cleared off.”

No one was injured. When the Yeats family left for Dublin the stream had poured two feet of water in the downstairs dining room.

Thoor Ballylee flooded

*****

As she got off the train at Great Neck, Long Island, Zelda Fitzgerald, 22, carrying her daughter Scottie, 11 months, took one look at the nanny that her husband, hit novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, just turned 26, had hired—and fired her.

Scott and Zelda have recently rented a house in this suburb, only a 45-minute drive from Manhattan, and, while Zelda went back to St. Paul, Minnesota, to pick up Scottie from Fitzgerald’s parents, Scott had botched things up as usual.

Scottie and Zelda Fitzgerald

They had come back to New York at the beginning of the month to start a life with less booze and more work on Scott’s next novel and a play he’s writing. But they made the mistake of staying in their favorite place for partying, the Plaza Hotel, and the partying came back too.

A few weeks ago, Scott invited his old Princeton University buddy, critic and managing editor of Vanity Fair, Edmund “Bunny” Wilson, 27, over to the Plaza for an impromptu lunch—lobster croquettes and top shelf illegal liquor. Also joining them were novelists John Dos Passos, 26, and Sherwood Anderson, 46, who was looking a bit scruffy. The bootlegger’s bartender mixed Bronx cocktails (gin, vermouth and orange juice) and the men sat around drinking and whining about how their publishers didn’t promote their books enough.

Dos Passos and Zelda started teasing each other and Anderson, who had only come to be polite, left early.

John Dos Passos

Scott mentioned that, now that he had published two successful novels and just brought out his second short story collection, Tales of the Jazz Age, he and Zelda had decided to rent a house out on Long Island where they could raise their daughter.

So the slightly tipsy Fitzgeralds and Dos Passos got in a chauffeured red touring car and took off to meet up with a real estate agent in Great Neck. None of the houses interested them so they decided to pay a call on their friend, humor writer Ring Lardner, 37, at his home on East Shore Road looking out over Manhasset Bay.

Ring was already drunker than they were, so after only a few more drinks the group headed back to the Plaza. Zelda insisted on stopping at an amusement park along the way so she could ride the Ferris Wheel, and Scott stayed in the car drinking from a bottle that he had hidden there. Dos Passos decided his new friends were going to have a hard time adjusting to strictly domestic life.

After several other house-hunting trips, the Fitzgeralds finally found this lovely home at 6 Gateway Drive, in the leafy confines of Great Neck Estates:  A circular driveway; red-tiled roof; great big pine tree in the front yard; and a room above the garage where Scott can write in peace.

6 Gateway Drive, Great Neck

Zelda took off to retrieve Scottie in St. Paul, leaving Fitzgerald to hire servants and a baby nurse. He sure has screwed that up.

Despite his recent writing success, and encouragement from his publisher, Scott really isn’t making enough to afford the rent, the servants, the laundress, the nurse, the country club, the theatre tickets, the restaurant bills, and the Rolls Royce (second hand) that living in Great Neck requires.

Zelda doesn’t care. The finances are his problem.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volumes I through III, covering 1920 through 1922 are available at Thoor Ballylee in Co. Galway, and as signed copies at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA. They are also available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk in print and e-book formats. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

Later in the year I will be talking about the centenary of the publication of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes at Carnegie-Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.

Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is also available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk 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”:  The Literary 1920s, Volume III—1922 is now available!

The blog postings about 1922, 100 years ago, continue here. But now you can skip ahead to the end of this landmark year with “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s, Volume III—1922 available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk in both print and e-book formats.

Cover design by Lisa Thomson

Bookended by the publication of James Joyce’s Ulysses in February, and T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land in the autumn, 1922 is often thought of as, not just the most important year in “the literary 1920s,” but the most important year in modernism.

For this reason, Volume III is 30% longer than the first two volumes—almost 130 vignettes full of great gossip about your favorite writers. There’s a beheading, a public suicide, and a celebrity sighting.

Volume III has the same informal layout as the first two, allowing you to dip in and dip out of this story-filled year, or start on January 1st and discover how it develops over 12 months. All three volumes are available on Amazon as print and e-books.

Example of layout

Designed by Lisa Thomson [LisaT2@comcast.net] and created on Amazon by Loral and Seth Pepoon of Selah Press Publishing, Volume III will soon also be available at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA, and at Thoor Ballylee, William Butler Yeats’ home in Co. Galway in the west of Ireland.

Free-lance writer Dr. Ann Kennedy Smith, recipient of the Women’s History Network Independent Researcher Award 2021-22, and author of the blog Cambridge Ladies’ Dining Society, 1890-1914, chose “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s, as one of her “Books of the Year,” saying that the series

presents colourful, diary-like snippets, skilfully woven together, from the daily lives of writers, poets and artists of the Irish Literary Renaissance, the Bloomsbury Group, the Americans in Paris, and the Algonquin Round Table in New York.”

So get your copy now—if you live near any Pittsburgh Regional Transit bus line, I’ll come sign it personally. Just email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

Two are just a coincidence—but three are a trend. Seven more to go!

Later in the year I will be talking about the centenary of the publication of Eliot’s The Waste Land at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes 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.com and Amazon.co.uk 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, August, 1922, New York City, New York; Dublin; and London

In America, Ireland and England, many are still working their way through Ulysses.

In the States, Gilbert Seldes, 29, writes in The Nation,

Today [James Joyce] has brought forth Ulysses…a monstrous and magnificent travesty, which makes him possibly the most interesting and the most formidable of our time….I think that Nietzsche would have cared for the tragic gaiety of Ulysses.”

Gilbert Seldes

*****

In Dublin, poet and artist AE [George Russell, 55] writes to his friend in New York City, Irish-American lawyer John Quinn, 52:  

I see the ability and mastery while not liking the mood…[Joyce is] very Irish…The Irish genius is coming out of its seclusion and [W. B.] Yeats, [John Millington] Synge, [George] Moore, [George Bernard] Shaw, Joyce and others are forerunners. The Irish imagination is virgin soil and virgin soil is immensely productive when cultivated. We are devotees of convention in normal circumstances and when we break away we outrage convention.”

George Russell, AE

Another Irish friend, novelist and poet James Stephens, 42, writes to Quinn that he didn’t even bother to try Ulysses.

It is too expensive to buy and too difficult to borrow, and too long to read, and, from what I have heard about it, altogether too difficult to talk about.”

*****

In London, novelist Virginia Woolf, 40, has been working on a short story, “Mrs. Dalloway in Bond Street” while still trying to get through Ulysses. She admits to her diary,

I should be reading Ulysses, & fabricating my case for & against. I have read 200 pages. So far—not a third; & have been amused, stimulated, charmed interested by the first two or three chapters–to the end of the Cemetery scene; & then puzzled, bored, irritated, & disillusioned as by a queasy undergraduate scratching his pimples. And Tom [American ex-pat poet T. S. Eliot], great Tom, thinks this on a par with War & Peace! An illiterate, underbred book it seems to me:  the book of a self-taught working man, & we all know how distressing they are, how egotistic, insistent, raw, striking, & ultimately nauseating. When 1 can have the cooked flesh, why have the raw? But I think if you are anemic, as Tom is, there is glory in blood. Being fairly normal myself I am soon ready for the classics again. I may revise this later. I do not compromise my critical sagacity. I plant a stick in the ground to mark page 200…I dislike Ulysses more & more–that is I think it more & more unimportant:  & don’t even trouble conscientiously to make out its meanings. Thank God, I need not write about it.”

But Virginia does write about it to her Bloomsbury friend, biographer and essayist Lytton Strachey, 42:  

Never did I read such tosh. As for the first two chapters we will let them pass, but the 3rd 4th 5th 6th–merely the scratching of pimples on the body of the bootboy at Claridges. Of course genius may blaze out on page 652 but I have my doubts. And this is what Eliot worships…”

Lytton Strachey and Virginia Woolf

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volumes I and II covering 1920 and 1921 are available as signed copies at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA, and also in print and e-book formats on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

Later in the year I will be talking about the centenary of the publication of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes 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 also available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk in both print and e-book versions.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago, July 30, 1922, Central Park West, New York City, New York

If Irish-American lawyer and patron of the arts John Quinn, 52, wants to get out of the city as planned to spend all of August with his sister and niece in the Adirondacks, he has a bit of correspondence to catch up on.

Quinn has been corresponding with his emissary in Paris, Henri-Pierre Roche, 43, about leaving his best French paintings to the government of France, to be cared for in the Louvre. Roche has been negotiating to have Quinn acquire The Circus by Georges Seurat. Roche wrote to him at the beginning of the month about a crazy day when he and Spanish painter Pablo Picasso, 40, went flying around Paris carrying a Cezanne landscape with them in a taxi, stopping at every shop to buy up all the suitable frames they could find.

The Circus by Georges Seurat

One of the writers Quinn supports, American T. S. Eliot, 33, living in London, has written to give him power of attorney when negotiating a contract with Boni and Liveright to publish his latest work, an untitled lengthy poem. They are not sure, however, if it will be lengthy enough to appear as a book. Eliot writes that he is planning to add some notes to make it fatter. Quinn is finally getting around to reading the typescript Eliot has sent and is turning it over to his office secretary to make a copy that can be submitted to Liveright.

Typescript of poem by T. S. Eliot

Quinn is finishing off a lengthy letter to one of his Irish friends, poet and painter AE (George Russell, 55). Their mutual friend, Lady Augusta Gregory, 70, had recently asked Quinn to recommend painters for inclusion in the Hugh Lane Gallery, which she is trying to establish in memory of her nephew who went down with the Lusitania seven years ago. Quinn reports to AE that he told her that of the dead ones he would rank, in order, Cezanne, Seurat (much better than Renoir), and Rousseau. He puts Gauguin and van Gogh a bit farther down.

Of living artists he would include Picasso, Georges Braque, 40; Andre Derain, 42; and Henri Matisse, 52; in the first tier. In the second, Raoul Dufy, 45; Constantin Brancusi, 46—whom he has become good friends with—and Georges Rouault, 51.

Quinn tells AE that he would add a third tier of the living:  Juan Gris, 35; Marie Laurencin, 39; and Jacques Villon, about to turn 47, among others.

The Winged Horse by AE

Quinn’s longest letter is to another Irish friend, poet and playwright, William Butler Yeats, 57. He brings Willie up to date on the recent funeral of his father, whom Quinn had taken care of during the past 15 years in New York City. The Yeats family decided it would be better for Dad to be buried in the States, and Quinn arranged a site in upstate New York: 

If you and your sisters could see the place, I am sure you would have approved of [our] selection. When Lady Gregory was here the last time, lecturing, she told me one day, half in earnest and half in fun, that if she died in this country she wanted to be buried where she died, unless she died in Pittsburgh. She refused to be buried in Pittsburgh…One day downtown, when I was having coffee after lunch with two or three men, one of them said:  ‘Times change. Now there is [famous actress] Lillian Russell. In the old days she was supposed to have had many lovers and she was married and divorced four or five times. But years go by, and she marries again, and settles down, and finally dies in the odor of—’

‘Pittsburgh,’ said I.

Lady Gregory refused to be buried in the odor of Pittsburgh.”

Quinn ends by congratulating Yeats on his honorary degree from Trinity College and asks that Willie’s wife send him some photos of their children and Thoor Ballylee, the tower they are living in.

Now he is ready to pack up and go on a well-earned vacation.

Pittsburgh, 1912, when Lady Gregory visited with The Abbey Theatre

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volumes I and II covering 1920 and 1921 are available as signed copies at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA, and also in print and e-book formats on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

Later in the year I will be talking about the centenary of the publication of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes 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 also available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk in both print and e-book versions.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago, June 28, 1922, Four Courts, Dublin and Thoor Ballylee, Co. Galway, Ireland; Munich and Berlin, Germany

In the general election almost two weeks ago, candidates supporting the Treaty recently negotiated with Britain won more seats in the Dail than those against. The sore losers, led by Eamon de Valera, 39, seized the Four Courts in Dublin.

Under pressure from the impatient British government, Michael Collins, 31, leader of the pro-Treaty side and now Commander-in-Chief of the National Army, drove them out today. The Battle for Dublin and the larger Irish Civil War has begun.

First day of the Battle of Dublin

*****

In his castle in the west of Ireland, William Butler Yeats, 57, poet and co-founder of the Abbey Theater, writes to a friend,

All is I think going well and the principal result of all this turmoil will be love of order in the people and a stability in the government not otherwise obtainable…”

*****

Four days ago in Munich, the rabble-rousing Adolph Hitler, 33, leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party, entered the Stadelheim prison to begin serving his 100-day sentence for assaulting a political rival to keep him from giving a public speech.

*****

Four days ago in Berlin, far-right terrorists assassinated liberal Jewish industrialist and politician Walther Rathenau, 54.

Friends inform last year’s Nobel Laureate in Physics, Albert Einstein, 43, that he is on the same terrorists’ hit list as Rathenau.

Albert decides that this would be a good time to embark on the numerous international trips he has been planning.

Albert Einstein and his second wife, Elsa

Thanks once again to Neil Weatherall, author of the play The Passion of the Playboy Riots, for his help in sorting out Irish history.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volumes I and II covering 1920 and 1921 are available as signed copies at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA, and also in print and e-book formats on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

In the fall, I will be talking about the centenary of The Waste Land in the Osher 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 also available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk in both print and e-book versions.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago, June 21, 1922, 31 Nassau Street, New York City, New York

About three years ago, New York lawyer John Quinn, 51, had helped to negotiate a contract for an American poet living in London, T. S. Eliot, then 30, with Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. for the publication of his Poems. Eliot had felt that the original contract advantaged the publisher more than the published. Quinn was glad to do it; he advised Eliot that he was well-known enough now to secure the services of a literary agent and hadn’t heard from him since.

Poems by T. S. Eliot, UK edition

Through their mutual friend, another American poet living abroad, Ezra Pound, 36, Quinn knows that Eliot is working on a “big” poem, probably his best work.

Today, Quinn receives a telegram from Eliot in London: 

DISSATISFIED LIVERIGHTS CONTRACT POEM

MAY I ASK YOUR ASSISTANCE APOLOGIES WRITING ELIOT”

Quinn cables back right away:

GLAD TO ASSIST EVERY WAY POSSIBLE YOUR CONTRACT”

The second cable he sends today is to his Irish friend, poet and playwright William Butler Yeats, just turned 57, who has written to ask if he may dedicate his memoirs to Quinn:

Yeats

Ballylee

Gort

County Galway

Ireland

GREATLY TOUCHED AND DELIGHTED YOUR SUGGESTION

DEDICATION MEMOIRS.

GLADLY ACCEPT THO PERSONALLY FEEL LADY GREGORY DESERVES

THAT HONOR MUCH MORE THAN I.

(Signed)

QUINN”

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volumes I and II covering 1920 and 1921 are available as signed copies at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA, and also in print and e-book formats on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

This month I am talking about the Stein family salons in Paris before and after The Great War at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Carnegie-Mellon University.

In the fall, I will be talking about the centenary of The Waste Land in the Osher programs at CMU 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 also available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk in both print and e-book versions.

“Such Friends”:  Five years ago, June, 2017, London

We interrupt the usual chronicle of what was happening 100 years ago to commemorate “Dalloway Day.”

Yes. Not “Bloomsday” which celebrates tomorrow, June 16th as the day on which James Joyce set his novel Ulysses [1922]. Virginia Woolf wasn’t specific about the date on which the events of Mrs. Dalloway [1925] take place beyond referring to it as a Wednesday in mid-June.

Below is a blog I wrote about the Dalloway Day events in London that I attended in 2017, when we were living in Birmingham UK. If you are interested in the celebrations being held this year, click here.

“Such Friends”: Dalloway Day, Blogging Woolf, and me

I said I would buy the lunch myself.

As I recommend to all my visiting American friends, when in the UK, time your train trip so you can take along some lunch from M&S Simply Food, ubiquitous in train stations here. My preference is carrot sticks with reduced fat humous and salmon pasta salad. Yum.

So I stocked up and took off for London a few Saturdays ago to take part in my first “Dalloway Day,” commemorating the day on which Virginia Woolf’s 1925 novel, Mrs. Dalloway, is set. The Irish all over the world have been celebrating “Bloomsday” based on James Joyce’s Ulysses for over 50 years. Now it’s Virginia’s turn.

Original cover of Mrs. Dalloway, designed by Vanessa Bell

This year, the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain is sponsoring this day, which includes a walk through some of the novel’s settings, a discussion of the book, and a 1920s party at the Bloomsbury Waterstones. I signed up for the whole package.

On one of the hottest days of the year, I took the train from Birmingham New Street to Euston station, and then the Underground to the appointed meeting place, outside the Regent’s Park Tube.

Waiting for the Underground lift, literally a breath of fresh air came wafting through. The woman next to me, about my age, said,

Oh! That feels great. It’s so hot.”

I nodded in agreement.

Watching her walk up the stairs in front of me, I realized she was wearing a blue flower print dress and lovely straw hat. Aha. Another Dalloway Day participant, I surmised.

As we reached the street at the top, we both laughed. Standing just a few feet away was a gaggle of Dalloway Day fans. About 20 women “of a certain age” in flowered dresses or skirts, straw hats—they all looked just like me! No trouble finding this group.

The walk was led by Jean Moorcroft Wilson, who obviously was a lot more familiar with the book and Virginia than I am, having read it years ago as part of my research. I actually have much more vivid memories of the Vanessa Redgrave film, which I’ve used in my presentations.

Jean was dressed in the full Dalloway, including a vintage dress and hat, complemented by darling low-heeled black shoes with straps. Very 1920s. She’d obviously done this many times before.

Jean pointed out that there is debate as to when Dalloway Day actually is. Whereas Joyce clearly set Ulysses on 16th June, 1904, the day of his first date with his eventual wife, Nora Barnacle, Woolf‘s novel says “mid-June.” However, by lining up events in the book with cricket games and the Ascot races, most scholars have settled on the third Wednesday in June. But—this year, it’s Saturday, 17th June. So more of us can come.

The unusually warm weather—it’s actually been hot; Miami hot, not just England hot—didn’t slow us down a bit. After a stop in Regent’s Park, Jeanne walked us over to Fitzroy Square, where Virginia lived from 1907 until 1911 with her brother Adrian. Their sister Vanessa had married art critic Clive Bell and kicked the siblings out when the newlyweds took over the Gordon Square house, where we headed next.

My own Bloomsbury walk actually takes the reverse route, starting in Gordon Square and then over to Fitzroy Square.

Your host leading a walk in Fitzroy Square where Virginia lived.

At Waterstone’s we sat in a circle, sipping refreshing flavoured ice water. Jean and Maggie Humm of the Woolf Society led us through an interesting discussion of the book. My research was on the relationships among the creative people in the Bloomsbury group, but wasn’t focused on their works—books, paintings, etc. This discussion brought new insights about the connections for me to incorporate into my future presentations.

And I learned that there is a website that maps all the walks of the characters in the book—Clarissa, Peter, Septimus and Rezia—showing how they interconnect.

For the 1920s party, I was planning to switch to Dorothy Parker mode, and so had tucked my red feather boa into my travel bag. But not many others were quite so dedicated to the flapper look, so I decided to stay in Bloomsbury garb.

*****

Just this past week, I had another tax-deductible reason to go to London. Paula Maggio, better known to many of you as “Blogging Woolf,” was visiting from the States to attend the 27th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf. We made plans to meet up and she wanted to try the Dalloway Terrace at the Bloomsbury Hotel. We had a fabulous lunch of pasta and prosecco, treated ourselves to dessert, and took a peek at the 1920s-style Bloomsbury Club downstairs.

Dalloway Terrace at the Bloomsbury Hotel, photo by Paula Maggio

Paula had also heard about a life-size statue of Virginia at Kings College, where Woolf had studied classics in her early days. A bit of Googling and walking led us to the Woolf Building. A sign said it was locked due to increased security, but when the guard saw our noses pressed against the glass, he let us in.

There she was, encased behind plexiglass, big as life, holding a copy of A Room of One’s Own, in a wardrobe that was, as Paula said, “a closet of her own.”

Surrounded by large quotes from Virginia’s works, and photos of her, it makes a fitting entrance for the College’s School of English.

Virginia Woolf statue, Kings College, photo by Paula Maggio

I would definitely add both of these places—Dalloway Terrace and the Kings College statue—to my Bloomsbury walk.

Heading back towards Euston station, Paula and I stopped by Woburn Walk, where the Irish poet William Butler Yeats lived at the same time that Virginia and her siblings were moving into Gordon Square, just a few blocks away.

These intersections of time, place and characters are what interest me most. I can picture an aerial view of north London in 1907, as the Irish poet walks past the Stephens sisters, on their way over to enjoy a stroll through Regent’s Park.

The usual blog series that appears here, “Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago…, is the basis for the book series, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volumes I and II covering 1920 and 1921 are available as signed copies at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA, and also in print and e-book formats on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

This month I am talking about the Stein family salons in Paris before and after The Great War at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Carnegie-Mellon University.

In the fall I will be talking about the centenary of the publication of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land in the Osher programs at CMU 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 also available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk in both print and e-book versions.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago, June, 1922, on the newsstands of America

The Dial magazine has “More Memories” by Irish playwright William Butler Yeats, just turned 57, and two line drawings by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso, 40. Its monthly columns include “Paris Letter” by American ex-pat poet Ezra Pound, 36, and “Dublin Letter” by the recently retired Head Librarian of the National Library of Ireland, John Eglinton, 54, actually writing from his home in Bournemouth, England. He reviews the new novel Ulysses by his fellow Dubliner, James Joyce, 40, living in Paris: 

The Dial, June 1922

I am by no means sure, however, that I have understood Mr. Joyce’s method, which is sufficiently puzzling even where he relates incidents in which I have myself taken a humble part…There is an effort and a strain in the composition of this book which makes one feel at times a concern for the author. But why should we half-kill ourselves to write masterpieces? There is a growing divergence between the literary ideals of our artists and the books which human beings want to read.”

The New York Times Book Review has a review of The Secret Adversary, the second novel from English writer Agatha Christie, 31: 

It is safe to assert that unless the reader peers into the last chapter or so of the tale, he will not know who this secret adversary is until the author chooses to reveal him…[Miss Christie] gives a sense of plausibility to the most preposterous situations and developments…[But she] has a clever prattling style that shifts easily into amusing dialogue and so aids the pleasure of the reader as he tears along with Tommy and Tuppence on the trail of the mysterious Mr. Brown. Many of the situations are a bit moth-eaten from frequent usage by other quarters, but at that Miss Christie manages to invest them with a new sense of individuality that renders them rather absorbing.”

The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie, US edition

Metropolitan magazine has a piece, “Eulogy for the Flapper” by Zelda Fitzgerald, 22, who is considered to be the original flapper, as created in the two recent hit novels by her husband, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 25: 

The flapper is deceased…They have won their case. They are blase…Flapperdom has become a game; it is no longer a philosophy.”

The Smart Set has a short story by Zelda’s husband, “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz”: 

[Percy Washington boasts that his father is] by far the richest man in the world and has a diamond bigger than the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.”

The Smart Set, June 1922

The Saturday Evening Post has two pieces by friends who lunch together regularly at the midtown Manhattan Algonquin Hotel:  “Men I’m Not Married To” by free-lance writer Dorothy Parker, 28, and “Women I’m Not Married To” by popular newspaper columnist FPA [Franklin Pierce Adams], 40.

Saturday Evening Post, June 1922

The Double Dealer, A National Magazine. from the South, true to its mission to publish new work by new writers has “Portrait,” a poem by recent University of Mississippi dropout, William Faulkner, 24, and “Ultimately,” a four-line poem by Toronto Star foreign correspondent Ernest Hemingway, 22, a Chicagoan currently living in Paris: 

He tried to spit out the truth

Dry-mouthed at first,

He drooled and slobbered in the end

Truth dribbling his chin.”

The Double Dealer magazine

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volumes I and II covering 1920 and 1921 are available as signed copies at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA, and also in print and e-book formats on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

This month I will be talking about the Stein family salons in Paris before and after The Great War at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Carnegie-Mellon University.

In the fall, I will be talking about the centenary of The Waste Land in the Osher programs at Carnegie-Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.

Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is also 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.