“Such Friends”: 100 Years Ago, Summer, 1920, Lindsey House, 100 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, London

She is not going to give up.

Playwright and co-founder of the Abbey Theatre, Lady Augusta Gregory, 68, is determined that the extensive art collection owned by her nephew, the late Sir Hugh Lane, only 39 when he went down on the RMS Lusitania, will go to the city of Dublin.

Picture 384

Sir Hugh Lane

To show his anger at the Dublin City Corporation for making it so difficult for him to create a gallery to hold his collection, Lane had withdrawn his offer and changed his will to bequeath the art to the National Gallery in London.

However, just before he boarded the Lusitania in New York City, back in May of 1915, he had a change of heart and wrote out a codicil to the will, giving the paintings to Dublin. He carefully initialled each page, but neglected to have the document witnessed.

And so the battle wages on between Dublin and London. With Augusta in the middle.

She has enlisted the support of her fellow founder of the Abbey, poet and playwright W B Yeats, 55. A few years ago, Willie had written a poem, “To a Shade,” chastising the Dublin newspaper owner who was leading the assault against this generous gift from a generous man:

“And insult heaped upon him for his pains,

And for his open-handedness, disgrace;

Your enemy, an old foul mouth, had set

The pack upon him.”

The critics point out that living conditions in Dublin tenements are appalling; why should money be spent for rich men’s art?

In the poem Yeats counters by pointing out that art in a public gallery will give the Irish

“…loftier thought,

Sweeter emotion, working in their veins.”

But by now, even Yeats is ready to give up the fight.

Not Augusta.

This summer, staying in Lane’s London flat in Cheyne Walk, she is corresponding with anyone who can possibly help. In June alone she has written to Irish painters and sculptors who would want to have their work included in a Dublin gallery alongside the major French Impressionists Lane specialized in.

100 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea

Lady Gregory has even written to blatant unionists like Sir Edward Henry Carson, 66, head of the Irish Unionist Party, hoping he could serve as a go-between. She has heard back from museum curators, aristocrats, trustees of the London National Gallery, and even the recent UK Chief Minister for Ireland Ian MacPherson, 40.

No progress.

Having just two years ago lost her only son, Robert, 36, when he was shot down by friendly fire in Italy, Augusta is not ready to give up on the last wishes of her favorite nephew.

Not yet. Not ever.

“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.

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 the PICT Classical 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.

This fall I will be talking about writers’ salons in Ireland, England, France and America before and after the Great War in the Osher Lifelong Learning programs at the University of Pittsburgh and 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 Kindle versions.

“Such Friends”: 100 Years Ago, late August, 1920, Ogunquit, Maine

Irish-American art collector and supporter of the arts John Quinn, 50, is finally able to relax.

Earlier this summer he had rented this cottage on the Maine coast, for his sister, Julia Quinn Anderson, in her mid-thirties [but not her damned husband!]; her daughter, Mary, 13; the French couple who serve as Quinn’s house servants; and a professional nurse to care for Julia.

Main Street, Ogunquit, Maine

Julia is recuperating from a bout of illness, and Quinn had planned to stay with them up here for this whole month. But work in his busy Manhattan law firm had kept him in the city until just last week. He’s hoping they can all stay here well in to September.

Before leaving for this vacation, Quinn had made a point of getting caught up on all his correspondence:

To English painter and writer Wyndham Lewis, 37, he wrote complaining about his disappointment with the Welsh painter Augustus John, 42: 

“I responded for years to his calls for advance of money, and he promised me the first chance at his best work, but he constantly broke his word…So I finally broke with him.”

Augustus John, self-portrait, 1920

To his friend, Irish poet William Butler Yeats, 55, he wrote,

“Much as I admire the work of modern French painters, they sometimes seem to me to carry their simplification, their abhorrence of a story, of a complete scene, too far and to go on too much for flowers and fruit and still-lifes and simplification of design that, seen by themselves, are satisfying, but they would become monotonous if seen in a large group of the same kind…Now I must write to…[Abbey Theatre director] Lady Gregory, 68, to whom I regret to say I have not written in some months. I hope that when writing to her…you told her how busy and overworked I have been.”

To novelist Joseph Conrad, 62, whose manuscripts Quinn has been buying, he wrote praising his latest work, and then added a cautionary note: 

“…[I have] learned by bitter experience what it is to overwork and to drive one’s body more than it can stand…[For the past 25 years, I have] worked hard, had made some money, and spent it or given it away without thought…”

Now Quinn needs a rest. Here, with his only family.

My thanks to the Historical Society of Wells and Ogunquit for their help in researching this post.

“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.

To register for free to attend my webinar “Such Friends”: The Founding of the Abbey Theatre, this Friday, August 28, 2020, from 2 to 3 pm EDT, click here, My previous webinar, “Such Friends”:  Dorothy Parker and the Algonquin Round Table, is available to view on the website of PICT Classic Theatre. The program begins at the 11 minute mark, and my presentation at 16 minutes.This fall I will be talking about writers’ salons in Ireland, England, France and America before and after the Great War in the Osher Lifelong Learning programs at the University of Pittsburgh and 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 Kindle 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 2, 1920, Abbey Theatre, Lower Abbey Street, Dublin, Ireland

Opening night.

Sara Allgood, 40, is ready. She has played the title character in Cathleen ni Houlihan many times, but not for a few years now. The play, billed as being by the poet William Butler Yeats, 55—but everyone knows that his fellow Abbey co-founder Lady Augusta Gregory, 68, wrote most of it—has become the Abbey’s signature piece.

Sara-Allgood younger

Sara Allgood

Premiered back in 1902, before the theatre even had this building on Abbey Street, the star then was Yeats’ love, English-Irish activist Maud Gonne, now 53, and the play caused quite a stir for its nationalistic themes. Some critics said Gonne was just playing herself.

The theatre has staged Cathleen many times, including for its own opening night as the Abbey, during the Christmas holidays in 1904, when Sara played a smaller part.

The seven performances this week—including the Saturday matinee—are the first time it’s been performed at the Abbey since St. Patrick’s Day last year. On the infamous night when Lady Gregory herself stepped into the lead role when the scheduled actress was taken ill.

So no pressure there, Sara.

original abbey theatre

Abbey Theatre, Lower Abbey Street, Dublin

After this run, she jumps next week right in to the lead in the late John Millington Synge’s masterpiece, Riders to the Sea. Just three performances for that gem, about a widow who loses all her sons to the sea. For a one-act, it’s an emotional roller coaster.

Later in the month, she’s scheduled to star in some of the smaller plays the Abbey is known for. She’s looking forward to working again with one of their new stars, Barry Fitzgerald, 32, who had his breakthrough just last year in Lady Gregory’s The Dragon.

A widow herself, having lost her husband to the Spanish flu two years ago, Sara is proud that she has been able to have a career as a full-time actress for the past fifteen years.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the book, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s, to be published by K. Donnelly Communications. For more information, email me at kaydee@gpysyteacher.com.

This fall I will be talking about writers’ salons in Ireland, England, France and America before and after the Great War in the Osher Lifelong Learning programs at University of Pittsburgh and 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 Kindle versions.

My presentation, “Such Friends”:  Dorothy Parker and the Algonquin Round Table, is available to view on the website of PICT Classic Theatre. The program begins at the 11 minute mark, and my presentation at 16 minutes.

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, June 19, 1920, Hotel Elysee, 3 rue de Beaune, Paris

About ten days ago, when American poet Ezra Pound, 34, was still in Italy, he had met for the first time the Irish writer whom he had been corresponding with and encouraging for seven years, James Joyce, 38.

Joyce 1918

James Joyce

He had convinced Joyce to move the entire Joyce family to Paris in the next few months. Pound promised he will pave the way with the proper introductions.

Today he is writing to the American patron of the arts and artists, lawyer John Quinn, 50, back in New York, describing his first impressions of Joyce:

Dear John Quinn:

I came out of Italy on a tram-car [because of a rail strike] & reckon the next man will come out in a cab.

Joyce finally got to Sirmione [Italy]; dont [sic] know yet whether he has got back to Trieste…

Joyce pleasing; after the first shell of cantankerous Irishman…

A concentration & absorption passing [W B Yeats, 55]; Yeats has never taken on anything requiring the condensation of Ulysses.

—Also gt. exhaustion, but more constitution than I had expected, & apparently good recovery from eye operation.

He is coming up here later; long reasons but justified in taking a rest from Trieste.

He is of course as stubborn as a mule or an Irishman, but I failed to find him at all unreasonable:  Thank god he has been stubborn enough to know his job & stick to it…

He is also dead right in refusing to interrupt his stuff by writing stray articles for cash. Better in the end, even from practical point of view…

In the stories of his early eccentricities in Dublin I have always thought people neglected the poignant feature:  i.e. that his “outrageous” remarks were usually so.

His next work will go to the Dial [magazine]—but he shd. rest after Ulysses

yours ever

E. P.”

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the book, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s, to be published by K. Donnelly Communications. For more information, email me at kaydee@gpysyteacher.com.

In the fall of 2020 I will be talking about writers’ salons before and after the Great War in Ireland, England, France and America in the University of Pittsburgh’s Osher Lifelong Learning program.

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 Kindle versions.

“Such Friends”:  116 Years Ago, June 16, 1904, Dublin, Ireland

We interrupt our centenary remembrances with a trip back in time to celebrations of “Bloomsday,” the day on which James Joyce set his novel, Ulysses.

Below is a blog I wrote celebrating Bloomsday, way back in the beginning of this millennium. And it is still relevant today, I think.

Excerpts from the original blog series are contained in Gypsy Teacher, available as a blook on Amazon.

Every Wednesday…

The Journal of a Teacher in Search of a Classroom

By Kathleen Dixon Donnelly, June 16, 2003, Hollywood, Florida,

Happy “Bloomsday”!

99 years ago this week, James Joyce had his first date with the woman who was to become his wife, Nora Barnacle. He chose to immortalize the occasion in his epic, Ulysses, which covers every detail of one day in the life of Leopold Bloom, a Jew living in Dublin, in only 783 pages.

joyce and nora1904

James Joyce and Nora Barnacle

What this really means is that next year, Dublin will go fughin’ nuts.

I lived in Ireland for just short of a year, but I have never been there for Bloomsday celebrations. Maybe next year. [NB from the future, gentle reader:  I made it!]

Many think that June 16th is the date that Jimmy and Nora met, but indeed that was a week earlier. She coyly kept putting him off but finally agreed to go out with him. I’ve seen pictures of Nora and let’s just say, she had a wonderful personality.

On my second trip to Ireland, the minute I turned on to the street in Galway town with the house that Nora grew up in, my stomach recognized the site as looking just like where my mom grew up in Pittsburgh. If I showed you photos of the two, you might not see the similarity, but the “feel” was palpable. Small row houses, all looking the same, but with each door painted a different color.

Soon after they met, Joyce convinced Nora to come with him to Switzerland where he had accepted a teaching position. They had two children and went to visit Paris in 1920 for just a few weeks—but stayed for years. Paris has that effect on people. Even the Irish.

James and Nora never actually got around to getting married until their children were both grown. They just presented themselves as a married couple and were always accepted that way. Nobody Googled, looking for a marriage certificate.

Nora and James Joyce

Nora and James Joyce after their wedding

In Paris Joyce continued work on Ulysses and the writers living there knew that he was working on something big. He didn’t socialize in the writers’ salons in Paris at the time. He mostly drank alone, sometimes with others, breaking into song late at night in the cafes. The cab drivers would bring him home, where Nora would be waiting at the top of the stairs, arms akimbo, like a good Irish wife. “Jimmy,” she’d say, looking down on him lying in a drunken heap,

Your fans think you’re a genius but they should see you now.”

When Dorothy Parker visited the city in the twenties, she saw Joyce on the street but he didn’t speak to her. She reasoned,

Perhaps he thought he would drop a pearl.”

Excerpts from Ulysses began appearing in the Little Review in the States around 1918, causing quite a stir because of the language. The first obscenity case brought against the magazine was argued by Irish-American lawyer John Quinn, who didn’t win, but got the Little Review publishers off with a $100 fine.

Quinn is one of the true heroes of early 20th century literature and art. He helped William Butler Yeats and Lady Augusta Gregory found the Abbey Theatre in Dublin (and had an affair with Augusta later), bought up lots of Cubist and Post-Impressionist paintings in Paris, lent many of them to the 1913 Armory Show in New York, and argued a case for the organizers of that show that changed the customs law in the U.S.:  From that point on, works of art less than 100 years old would be free of tariffs as their classical cousins were.

Virginia and Leonard Woolf, operating their Hogarth Press in London, had rejected Ulysses. Reading it made Virginia feel, in the words of one biographer, that

someone had stolen her pen and scribbled on the privy wall.”

Sylvia Beach, the American who founded the bookstore Shakespeare & Co., the social center for the expatriate community in Paris, met Joyce at a party and soon offered to publish his novel. After being rejected by so many who weren’t adventurous enough to take it on, he was intrigued that this woman wanted his book.

Joyce took longer to finish the work than they expected. So for the local artistic community, many of whom had subscribed in response to Beach’s mailing announcing the work, she held a reading on December 7th, 1921, in her shop. Gertrude Stein and her partner, Alice B. Toklas, didn’t come; they lived a few blocks away but were preparing for their annual Christmas party.

When Beach did publish Ulysses the following February, on Joyce’s 40th birthday, Alice promptly walked over to Shakespeare & Co and cancelled Gertrude’s subscription. They would brook no competitors for her title as greatest living writer in English.

JoyceUlysses2 cover

First cover of Ulysses

After publication, Ulysses was promptly banned in Boston, but a friend of Ernest Hemingway managed to smuggle a copy into the United States via Canada.

Joyce died in 1941 at the age of 59 of a duodenal ulcer. Nora lived another ten years.

Beach, who funded the publication of Ulysses on her own with the help of the paid subscriptions, never saw any profit or royalties from it. Her writer friends helped her keep the bookstore open, but when the Nazis occupied Paris during World War II she was interned for a few years. She wrote a lovely memoir called Shakespeare & Co. which was published in the mid-fifties.

During our marriage ceremony on Hollywood Beach last year, on St. Patrick’s Day, our friend performing the ceremony announced that Tony and I each wanted to say something that we’d written. We looked at each other, and Tony said,

You’re the writer. Go ahead.”

So I glanced at my scribbled notes and told him that I wouldn’t promise to solve his problems, but that I would help him to solve them. And that I wouldn’t promise to love everyone he loved, but that I would always respect those he loved.

I finished with Molly Bloom’s “Yes!” from the ending of Ulysses, but because I didn’t do the requisite fact-checking, I misquoted it. So here, for those of you who were at the wedding, and those who weren’t, is the correct ending for Molly and for me:

…and yes I said yes I will Yes.”

EPSON MFP image

Tony Dixon and Kathleen Dixon Donnelly, March 17, 2002

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the book, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s, to be published by K. Donnelly Communications. For more information, email me at kaydee@gpysyteacher.com.

This fall I will be talking about writers’ salons in Ireland, England, France and America before and after the Great War in the University of Pittsburgh’s Osher Lifelong Learning program.

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.

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, June 1, 1920, Sirmione, Lago di Garda, northern Italy

American poet Ezra Pound, 34, looking out on a lake in northern Italy, is writing to his benefactor, American lawyer and art collector, John Quinn, 50, in New York City.

He thanks Quinn for having negotiated a deal for Pound to serve as foreign editor for the American literary magazine, The Dial. He mentions that the magazine had already sent him a check for 2,050 lire, about $100, drawn on a Genoa bank. But no one in this part of the country wants to cash it.

Then he writes about their mutual friend, Irish poet William Butler Yeats, 54, recently returned from his third American lecture tour, which had problems with the tour promotion agency:

—Poor W. B. Y. perhaps he’ll now settle down & lead an honest life—Am sorry for his ill fortune but can’t feel he’s wholly spotless, he that went forth to gall the ignorant…Besides he’ll have made enough to buy a few shingles for his phallic symbol on the Bogs. Bally phallus or whatever he calls it with the river on the first floor.”

Thoor Ballylee flooded

Yeats’ tower in the west of Ireland, Thoor Ballylee, flooded

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the book, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s, to be published by K. Donnelly Communications. For more information, email me at kaydee@gpysyteacher.com.

In 2020 I will be talking about writers’ salons before and after the Great War in Ireland, England, France and America in the University of Pittsburgh’s Osher Lifelong Learning program.

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 and his relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions.

“Such Friends”: 100 Years Ago, May 22, 1920, on board the S. S. Megantic, Montreal, Canada

Irish poet William Butler Yeats, 54, and his wife, Georgie, 28, are just about to embark on their voyage back to Liverpool on the S. S. Megantic, part of the White Star Line.

What a great trip it has been.

Postcard of the S. S. Megantic

This was Yeats’ third American lecture tour, but the first with his wife. They had seen a lot of the big country. But most importantly, in New York City, they had had time to spend with his father, painter John Butler Yeats, 81.

Before boarding the ship, Yeats had sent back to their friend in New York, lawyer and art collector, John Quinn, 50, the key to his Central Park West apartment. He thanked Quinn for being such a gracious host, and for

never intrud[ing] irrelevancies…[providing] less argument and more sympathy and understanding [than any other Americans].”

Being away from home had made Yeats feel more strongly than ever about the future of his newly independent country. He and Georgie will spend some time visiting friends in and around London, but then they are eager to go home to Dublin.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the book, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s, to be published by K. Donnelly Communications. For more information, email me at kaydee@gpysyteacher.com.

In 2020 I will be talking about writers’ salons before and after the Great War in Ireland, England, France and America in the University of Pittsburgh’s Osher Lifelong Learning program.

Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins and his relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions.

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, 1920, Algonquin Hotel, 59 West 44th Street, Midtown Manhattan

Poet William Butler Yeats, 54, and his wife Georgie, 28, are settling into New York City. They have spent this whole year so far on Willie’s third American lecture tour. It’s been a big success, but they’re exhausted.

Their dear friend, Irish-American lawyer and supporter of the arts, John Quinn, just turned 50, really wants them to stay with him in his spacious Central Park West penthouse apartment. They will—but they decided that a few days at the Algonquin Hotel will be more restful.

They are only planning to be in New York for a couple of weeks before they head for Montreal to board the Mejantic back to England. Quinn has arranged all their tickets and transportation.

Alg lobby 2

Algonquin Hotel lobby

Someone has offered to record Yeats for

a new kind of moving picture—a picture that talks as well as moves,”

as he describes it.

Quinn says they might have the opportunity to meet an Irish politician also touring America. Eamon de Valera, 37, current self-proclaimed President of Dáil Éireann, the Parliament of the newly proclaimed Irish Republic, has asked to meet his country’s most famous poet. And Yeats is curious—is this former Irish rebel just all propaganda? Or is there a real human in there?

Éamon_de_Valera

Eamon de Valera

Mostly, they plan to spend more time with Willie’s father, painter John Butler Yeats, 81, whom Quinn has been keeping an eye on, ever since he moved from Dublin to Manhattan 13 years ago. He was supposed to stay just a few weeks!

The Yeats family had implored their father to come home to Ireland. But J B had written to Yeats that, as an American had pointed out,

In Dublin it is hopeless insolvency. Here it is hopeful insolvency.”

And so he stayed.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the book, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s, to be published by K. Donnelly Communications. For more information, email me at kaydee@gpysyteacher.com.

In 2020 I will be talking about writers’ salons before and after the Great War in Ireland, England, France and America in the University of Pittsburgh’s Osher Lifelong Learning program.

Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins and his relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions.

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”:  150 Years Ago, April 24, 1870, Tiffin, Ohio

Happy birthday, John Quinn!

We interrupt our usual posting of events that happened 100 years ago with a momentous event of 150 years ago.

Regular readers of this blog [you know who you are] will have wondered who this John Quinn fellow is, supporter of art and artists, who keeps popping up 100 years ago. Hosting Irish poet William Butler Yeats and his wife in New York. Writing and receiving letters to and from American ex-patriate poet Ezra Pound. Buying manuscripts of works by writers like Yeats, Joseph Conrad and James Joyce.

Below is a posting I wrote in 2003 about Quinn in my weekly blog, “Every Wednesday:  The Journal of a Teacher in Search of a Classroom,” chronicling my year of unemployment in south Florida. [#shamelessselfpromotion: Available in paperback on Lulu.com,  Or on Amazon combined with my other Gypsy Teacher blogs.]

“Every Wednesday:  I Want to Tell You About an Amazing Man”

When I was doing my research for my dissertation on early 20th century writers’ salons—W B Yeats and the Irish Literary Renaissance, Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group, Gertrude Stein and the American expatriates in Paris, and Dorothy Parker and the Algonquin Round Table—there was this character who kept popping up. Like Woody Allen’s Zelig he appeared in biographies, memoirs and letters of the time, as well as in group photos of people like Yeats, Picasso, Matisse, Ezra Pound, James Joyce. Who was this guy? He certainly had “such friends.”

pound_joyce_ford_quinn

James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Ford Madox Ford,  and John Quinn

When I first came across Quinn, I checked the bibliographies and saw that there was one biography about him, B. L. Reid’s The Man from New York:  John Quinn and His Friends (New York:  Oxford University Press, 1968). Earlier this year I began doing some research on the 1913 New York Armory Show to include in my work-in-progress about the writers’ salons, “Such Friends.” There was John Quinn again, buying art in Paris, organizing the first exhibition of international modern art in the United States, writing to Conrad and other struggling writers of the time.

Jealous that someone else had written the definitive history of this intriguing creature, I broke down and took the biography out of the library. I discovered that it’s not great—good research but not well-presented, hard to read. And, worst of all, the author makes this fascinating man’s life seem boring.

So here is the John Quinn I discovered. I’m still working on some of the details.

He was born in Tiffin, Ohio, on this date in 1870 of Irish immigrant parents; his father was a baker. He grew up in middle-class Fostoria, Ohio, and attended the University of Michigan. A family friend who became Secretary of the Treasury under President Benjamin Harrison offered Quinn a job with him in Washington, D.C. While working full-time in the federal government, he went to Georgetown University law school at night. After receiving his law degree, he earned an advanced degree in international relations from Harvard University. Not bad for the son of a shanty-Irish baker.

Quinn then moved to New York City, which was to be his home for the rest of his life. He predictably got a job with a major New York law firm and worked on a lot of high profile corporate cases. During a two-year period there were a lot of deaths in his family—parents, sisters, etc.—and he began to explore his Irish roots.

Right after the turn of the century he went to Ireland and, while attending a Gaelic language festival in the west, near Galway, met Lady Augusta Gregory and other friends of Yeats involved in the Irish Literary Renaissance. While helping them found the Abbey Theatre, he started his own law firm in 1906. As you do.

His successful firm was supported by retainers from major corporations, and he became involved in New York’s Tammany Hall politics. But when his candidate didn’t get the nomination at the 1912 Democratic Party convention, he got disgusted with the whole system (go figure). After that he turned his considerable energies to art and literature.

Quinn did delegate a lot of the work in his law firm when he was away, but, like a true control freak, he was always unhappy with the way his employees handled everything. During the first two decades of the 20th century he managed to:

  • Help organize the Armory Show,
  • Fight Congress to have a tariff on contemporary art changed,
  • Bail out the Abbey Theatre after they were arrested for performing John Millington Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World in Philadelphia,
  • Have an affair with Lady Gregory and a number of other much younger women, some of whom he “shared” with Yeats,
  • Support Yeats’ father in New York City by buying his paintings and Yeats’ manuscripts,
  • Support James Joyce in Paris by buying his manuscripts as he wrote them,
  • Argue the original case to have excerpts of Ulysses published in the Little Review magazine in the United States, and
  • Amass an incredible collection of modern art, focused primarily on European painters.

During that time he kept up a detailed correspondence with all of the above as well as Maud Gonne, Augustus John and many other cultural luminaries of the early 20th century. Quite a guy. I get tired just thinking about all he accomplished.

Quinn died of intestinal cancer at the age of 54, and, having no children, was generous to his sister and niece, but willed that his art collection be sold off and dispersed among museums and collectors around the world. And it was.

Quinn and Yeats

John Quinn and William Butler Yeats

Yesterday I gave my first presentation about the Armory Show to a group of art collectors at the Boca Raton Museum of Art. I tried to communicate to them John Quinn’s enthusiasm for supporting the living artist as well as the art.

Currently I am doing more research about Quinn and plan to write an article about him. Eventually I would like to give him the decent biography he deserves. I’ll keep you posted.

See you next Wednesday.

Thanks for reading. You can e-mail me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the book, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s, to be published by K. Donnelly Communications. For more information, email me at kaydee@gpysyteacher.com.

In 2020 I will be talking about writers’ salons in Ireland, England, France and America before and after the Great War in the University of Pittsburgh’s Osher Lifelong Learning program.

Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins and his relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions.

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, March 22, 1920, First Congregational Church, Tacoma, Washington

Well in to his third American speaking tour, Irish poet William Butler Yeats, 54, is giving his second lecture in the state of Washington.

The Tacoma Daily Ledger, in addition to reporting the arrest of a top Seattle police officer for importing illegal booze from Canada, promotes Yeats’ talk by indicating he will discuss his experiences hypnotizing dogs and cows.

Yeats age 58

W B Yeats

Instead, Willie talks about his fellow founder of the Abbey Theatre, the late Irish playwright John Millington Synge, discusses the continuing achievements of the Abbey, and once again makes a plea for intimate theatre,

of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

The 400 or so attendees are delighted by the poet’s easy-going charm, particularly when Yeats follows his lecture by reading, as the paper reports the next day,

three whimsical little poems that delighted…The poet’s own personality was the dominant element in the lecture last night…He is an artist in feature, in dress and in gesture.”

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the book, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s, to be published by K. Donnelly Communications. For more information, email me at kaydee@gpysyteacher.com.

In 2020 I will be talking about writers’ salons in Ireland, England, France and America before and after the Great War in the University of Pittsburgh’s Osher Lifelong Learning program.

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 Maxwell Perkins and his relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions.