“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago, late December, 1922, Montmartre, Paris; and West End, London

In Paris, the Ballets Russes is performing Parade, which they premiered here five years ago with music by Erik Satie, 56, and a scenario written by Jean Cocteau, 33. The scenery, curtains and costumes are all created in a Cubist style by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso, 41, who gets his own ovation when the audience stands up to cheer, and faces the box he is seated in.

A costume for Parade designed by Pablo Picasso

But the big success of the season is Cocteau’s production of Antigone, his “contraction” of Sophocles’ original, as Cocteau calls it.

Picasso also received a round of cheers during the rehearsals for the play, when Cocteau brought him to an almost bare set, with just some masks and a violet-blue and white backdrop, and told the painter to create a hot, sunny day.

Picasso paced the stage. Picked up a piece of red chalk. Rubbed the white boards with it until they looked like marble. Dipped a brush in a bottle of ink. Drew some lines on the background and blackened in a few spaces.

Three Doric columns appeared. All those watching applauded.

Cocteau also persuaded Coco Chanel, 39, to design the heavy Scotch woolen costumes for Oedipus’s daughters.

Antigone is packing them in at the 100-year-old Théâtre de l’Atelier, owned by the actor and drama teacher Charles Dullin, 37, who directed the production and appears in it as well. Dullin’s mother pawned the family’s furniture and silverware to get enough money for Charles to buy and renovate this theatre.

Théâtre de l’Atelier,

Cocteau himself is playing the part of the Chorus, and also in the cast is one of Dullin’s students, Antonin Artaud, 26. The music for the play has been written by Swiss composer Arthur Honegger, 30, and the lead is played by a Romanian dancer, Génica Athanasiou, 25, who speaks so little French she had to learn her lines syllable by syllable. As a reward for her efforts, Cocteau has dedicated the production to her.

Génica Athanasiou by Man Ray

Each evening begins with a short curtain-raiser by Italian playwright Luigi Pirandello, 55, who had success last year with his Six Characters in Search of an Author.

The names Picasso, Chanel and Pirandello are what initially drew the crowds. However, now that Antigone is a big hit, Cocteau is becoming a cult figure among young men who show up in large groups to applaud each night. Some have even been hanging around outside Cocteau’s house and climbing up the lamp post just to get a look at him.

Jean Cocteau by Man Ray


In London’s West End, German Count Harry Kessler, 54, is enjoying theatre while visiting the city for the first time since the Great War broke out. He confides his impressions to his diary,

Not much change in the shops. They are as good class and as elegant as they used to be. But there is no longer the astounding amount of hustle and luxury as in 1914 and which is still to be met in Paris. It can be sensed that the country has become poorer and the shoppers rarer…[At the theatre] to my astonishment, at least half the men in the stalls were in lounge suits, the rest in dinner jackets, and only five or six in tails. A real revolution or, more accurately, the symptom of such.”

A West End theatre audience

“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 d on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk in both print and e-book versions.

“Such Friends”:  100 years ago, December, 1921, Richmond; and West End, London

Virginia, 39, and Leonard Woolf, 41, owners and operators of the Hogarth Press in Richmond, are quite pleased with the sales of their friend’s book, Twelve Original Woodcuts by Roger Fry, just turned 55, which they hand-printed, bound and published themselves. The original press run sold out in two days!

Self-portrait by Roger Fry

Not the same for Poems, by their brother-in-law Clive Bell, 40. The art critic is thrilled that anyone wants to publish these 17 poems, written over the past 12 years, including “To Lopokova Dancing,” an ode to the star of the Ballets Russes, Russian ballerina Lydia Lopokova, 30.


In the West End of London, another one of the Woolfs’ friends, economist John Maynard Keynes, 38, is returning to the Alhambra Theatre in Leicester Square. Since early November he has not missed a performance of the Ballets Russes’ The Sleeping Princess with Lopokova as Aurora.

The production itself has gotten terrible reviews; one calling it a “gorgeous calamity.” And Keynes’ friends in Bloomsbury, once so enamored of the ballet company for its avant-garde choices, have been turned off by this traditional re-staging of a three-act ballet from the end of the last century. They have even soured on Lopokova.

Lydia Lopokova in The Sleeping Princess

Serge Diaghilev, 49, impresario of the Ballets Russes, is losing his shirt on this one. After a disastrous first night he was seen to break down in tears. He received a huge advance against box office income from the Alhambra Company to mount this spectacle. Hardly anyone is coming and it has to run the full three months.

But none of this bothers Maynard. He’s not coming back for the Tchaikovsky score, re-orchestrated by Igor Stravinsky, 39. Or the outlandish sets and costumes.

He returns every evening because he finds himself, much to his surprise and that of all his friends, absolutely entranced by Lydia.

To see Lydia Lopokova dancing a few years before, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BfIHu7b8J4k&fbclid=IwAR3u_4zsWC25sVavS6nO9byBJEcl97T795LcQjddIcuJxyVMHtZ72E9jf-Y

“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, Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA, and in print and e-book formats on Amazon. If you need gifts for Christmas, I’ll hand deliver them tomorrow anywhere on the Allegheny County Port Authority bus routes. Email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

Early in the new year I will be talking about the centenary of the publication of James Joyce’s Ulysses at 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 also available on Amazon in both print and e-book versions.

“Such Friends”: 100 Years Ago, Summer, 1920, London, Bishopsbourne, and East Sussex, England

At 74 Gloucester Place in Marylebone, London, publisher and editor Harriet Shaw Weaver, 43, is thrilled to have received a letter from the American owner of the Paris bookshop, Shakespeare & Co., Sylvia Beach, 33.

H Weaver

Harriet Shaw Weaver

Having just met Irish writer James Joyce, 38, Beach wants to buy as many books as she can from Weaver’s Egoist Press, which supports Joyce. Weaver is writing back to offer Shakespeare & Co. a 33% discount and free shipping. She knows this is going to be a good deal.

Later in the summer, Weaver uses an inheritance from her aunt to set up a trust to fund Joyce. She had submitted his latest work in progress, Ulysses, to many publishers, including London’s Hogarth Press, run by Virginia Woolf, 38, and her husband Leonard, 39, but no one wants to touch it.

A few stops east on the Metropolitan Railway, and a short walk from Euston Station, a luncheon is being held at 46 Gordon Square in Bloomsbury to honor art critic and painter Roger Fry, 53, on the occasion of his private showing of 81 paintings at London’s Independent Gallery. His Bloomsbury friend, fellow painter Duncan Grant, 35, had returned from his two-month trip to France and Italy with two cases of paintings that Fry had done while he was there.

Roger Fry c. 1910

Roger Fry

Fry appreciates his friends’ attempt to cheer him up because, despite fairly low prices for all his works, neither the reviews nor the sales are going well. Earlier in the summer he had written to a friend,

It’s almost impossible for an artist to live in England:  I feel so isolated.”

After an easy Underground ride from nearby Russell Square station, south on the Piccadilly Line to Leicester Square station, it’s a short walk to the New Theater. The first play by actor Noel Coward, 20, I’ll Leave It to You, is getting good reviews. Coward stars in his own play, which has just transferred to the West End from a successful run up north in Manchester.


Noel Coward

The London Times is excited:

It is a remarkable piece of work from so young a head–spontaneous, light, and always ‘brainy.’”

And the Observer predicts:

Mr Coward…has a sense of comedy, and if he can overcome a tendency to smartness, he will probably produce a good play one of these days.”

But this one closes after only 37 performances.

London tube map 1921

London Underground map

From Leicester Square station, heading south down the Hampstead Line, changing to go east on the District Line, the Cannon Street station is in the heart of the City, the financial capital of the country. At the Cannon Street Hotel, a group of radical socialists have gathered for the first Congress of their newly formed Communist Party of Great Britain.

The publisher and editor of the socialist Worker’s Dreadnought newspaper, Sylvia Pankhurst, 38, and one of her reporters, Jamaican Claude McKay, 30, both attend. But Sylvia decides the Communists are way too right wing for her taste, and votes against affiliating with the Labour Party.

Communist Unity Convention 1920

Communist Unity Convention, Summer 1920

Farther south down the District Line, near the West Kensington station, poet Ezra Pound, 34, is back in London after spending time in Europe specifically to introduce his new find, James Joyce, to the literary society of Paris. Pound gives a brown paper package with old clothing and shoes to his friends, poet T. S. Eliot, 31, and painter and writer Wyndham Lewis, 37, to pass on to Joyce on their upcoming trip to Paris.

Farther south, the District line terminates in Richmond. A few blocks from the station in Hogarth House on Paradise Road, the Woolfs are feeling overwhelmed by the success of their Hogarth Press.

The sales flooding in up until now have been primarily from word of mouth among their Bloomsbury friends. Who also send along their manuscripts for the Woolfs to publish.

They’ve recently taken their first ads in national papers such as the Times and the Manchester Guardian and magazines such as the Nation and the New Statesman. Leonard is closing out the account for Eliot’s Poems, and finds they have made a small profit of £9.

This summer they are planning to bring out Reminiscences of Count Leo Tolstoi, by Maxim Gorky, 52, translated by their friend S. S. Koteliansky, 40.


Hogarth House, Richmond

This is quite a landmark for the Woolfs and their five-year-old company. Not only is it the first Russian translation they have published, with an initial run of 1,250 it is also the first time they have used an outside commercial printer from beginning to end. Up until now they have been setting type, printing and binding, all on their own in their home. Now they have become a true publishing house, not just a small press.

Virginia writes to a friend,

The Hogarth Press is growing like a beanstalk and [Leonard and I] think we must set up a shop and keep a clerk.”

Later in the summer she confides to her diary that Leonard is

on the verge of destruction. As a hobby, the Hogarth Press is clearly too lively & lusty to be carried on in this private way any longer. Moreover, the business part of it can’t be shared, owing to my incompetence. The future, therefore, needs consideration.”


About a two-hour drive southeast of Richmond is Bishopsbourne, Kent. At his house, Oswalds, Polish-born novelist Joseph Conrad, 62, is writing to his American benefactor, Irish-American lawyer, John Quinn, 50, in New York.

Oswalds Kent

Oswalds, Bishopsbourne, Kent

Quinn was not happy that Conrad went back on his promise to sell the manuscript of his latest novel to Quinn. But Conrad explained that he had hurriedly sold it to another collector to get cash quickly, and Quinn was understanding. Conrad writes, “

I am glad you take my arrangement as to the MSS. so well…I had many claims on me, and I have some still…—not to speak of my wife’s prolonged disablement.”

Conrad is comforted by the fact that after his death his copyrights will help support his wife Jessie, 46, and their two sons. One of whom is named for Quinn.

Quinn writes back to re-assure him,

You are far from the end of your time…You are one of the leading writers living in the world today and still producing work that is worthy of your best…There is no falling off there [in Conrad’s latest novel The Rescue]! It is a fine thing, one of your best things.”


Seventy miles farther south, in Rodmell, East Sussex, the Woolfs are spending the last half of the summer at their country home, Monk’s House, still worried about overworking at Hogarth.

monk's house from road

Monk’s House, Rodmell, Sussex

Their young friends, painter Dora Carrington, 27, and her lover Ralph Partridge, 26, have  come to stay for a weekend, and the Woolfs talk to Partridge about working for them. Virginia writes to Fry, back in Bloomsbury, that she and Leonard

now think of setting up a proper printing plant and doing all production ourselves—that is with a manager…[Or else close it] as we can’t go on with it as we’ve been doing.”

By the end of August the Hogarth Press has hired Partridge as a part-time assistant for £100 per year and 50% of their net profit.

A twenty-minute drive away, at Charleston Farmhouse, Virginia’s sister, painter Vanessa Bell, is hosting the usual summer assemblage of Bloomsbury creatives.

Charleston farmhouse_exterior_photo_credit_grace_towner better

Charleston Farmhouse, Firle, Sussex

Julian, 12, her son with her estranged husband, art critic Clive Bell, 38, has set off his airgun by mistake and a bullet has gotten stuck in a chair.

According to one of their friends, up in his room Clive is

pretending to read Stendhal.”

Down the hall, economist John Maynard Keynes, just turned 37, is working on his latest book, A Treatise on Probability while continuing to edit the Economic Journal.

Vanessa and her partner, Duncan Grant, are working on a huge project. Keynes has commissioned them to create new murals for his rooms at King’s College, Cambridge. They have decided to produce eight allegorical figures, alternating male and female, to fill almost a whole wall, representing Science, Political Economics, Music, Classics, Law, Mathematics, Philosophy and History. They are advising Maynard on every detail of the interior decoration of the sitting room, right down to the color of the curtains.

Duncan has just returned from a visit to his aging parents up in Kent, and is a bit concerned about his father’s welfare. He tells Vanessa that in the nursing home the Major, 63, is

spending most of his time alone and hardly ever speaking at meals.”

Duncan hopes Virginia and Leonard could make use of his father on some Hogarth Press project.

Overall, Duncan writes to a friend back in Bloomsbury,

Life here is very quiet.”

Studies for murals in Keynes rooms

Drawings for Vanessa and Duncan’s murals for Keynes’ Cambridge sitting room

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

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

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

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