We were, in these days as I look back at them, constantly seeing people.
It is a confused memory those first years after the war and very difficult to think back and remember what happened before or after something else. Picasso once said, I have already told, when Gertrude Stein and he were discussing dates, you forget that when we were young an awful lot happened in a year. During the years just after the war as I look in order to refresh my memory over the bibliography of Gertrude Stein’s work, I am astonished when I realise how many things happened in a year. Perhaps we were not so young then but there were a great many young in the world and perhaps that comes to the same thing.
The old crowd had disappeared. Matisse was now permanently in Nice and in any case although Gertrude Stein and he were perfectly good friends when they met, they practically never met. This was the time when Gertrude Stein and Picasso were not seeing each other. They always talked with the tenderest friendship about each other to any one who had known them both but they did not see each other. Guillaume Apollinaire was dead. Braque and his wife we saw from time to time, he and Picasso by this time were fairly bitterly on the outs. I remember one evening Man Ray brought a photograph that he had made of Picasso to the house and Braque happened to be there. The photograph was being passed around and when it came to Braque he looked at it and said, I ought to know who that gentleman is, je dois connaître ce monsieur. It was a period this and a very considerable time afterward that Gertrude Stein celebrated under the title, Of Having for a Long Time Not Continued to be Friends.
Juan Gris was ill and discouraged. He had been very ill and was never really well again. Privation and discouragement had had their effect. Kahnweiler came back to Paris fairly early after the war but all his old crowd with the exception of Juan were too successful to have need of him. Mildred Aldrich had had her tremendous success with the Hilltop on the Marne, in Mildred’s way she had spent royally all she had earned royally and was now still spending and enjoying it although getting a little uneasy. We used to go out and see her about once a month, in fact all the rest of her life we always managed to get out to see her regularly. Even in the days of her very greatest glory she loved a visit from Gertrude Stein better than a visit from anybody else. In fact it was largely to please Mildred that Gertrude Stein tried to get the Atlantic Monthly to print something of hers. Mildred always felt and said that it would be a blue ribbon if the Atlantic Monthly consented, which of course it never did. Another thing used to annoy Mildred dreadfully. Gertrude Stein’s name was never in Who’s Who in America. As a matter of fact it was in english authors’ bibliographies before it ever entered an american one. This troubled Mildred very much. I hate to look at Who’s Who in America, she said to me, when I see all those insignificant people and Gertrude’s name not in. And then she would say, I know it’s alright but I wish Gertrude were not so outlawed. Poor Mildred. And now just this year for reasons best known to themselves Who’s Who has added Gertrude Stein’s name to their list. The Atlantic Monthly needless to say has not.
The Atlantic Monthly story is rather funny.
As I said Gertrude Stein sent the Atlantic Monthly some manuscripts, not with any hope of their accepting them, but if by any miracle they should, she would be pleased and Mildred delighted. An answer came back, a long and rather argumentative answer from the editorial office. Gertrude Stein thinking that some Boston woman in the editorial office had written, answered the arguments lengthily to Miss Ellen Sedgwick. She received an almost immediate answer meeting all her arguments and at the same time admitting that the matter was not without interest but that of course Atlantic Monthly readers could not be affronted by having these manuscripts presented in the review, but it might be possible to have them introduced by somebody in the part of the magazine, if I remember rightly, called the Contributors’ Club. The letter ended by saying that the writer was not Ellen but Ellery Sedgwick.
Gertrude Stein of course was delighted with its being Ellery and not Ellen and accepted being printed in the Contributors’ Club, but equally of course the manuscripts did not appear even in the part called Contributors’ Club.
We began to meet new people all the time.
Some one told us, I have forgotten who, that an american woman had started a lending library of english books in our quarter. We had in those days of economy given up Mu-die’s, but there was the American Library which supplied us a little, but Gertrude Stein wanted more. We investigated and we found Sylvia Beach. Sylvia Beach was very enthusiastic about Gertrude Stein and they became friends. She was Sylvia Beach’s first annual subscriber and Sylvia Beach was proportionately proud and grateful. Her little place was in a little street near the Ecole de Médecine. It was not then much frequented by americans. There was the author of Beebie the Beebeist and there was the niece of Marcel Schwob and there were a few stray irish poets. We saw a good deal of Sylvia those days, she used to come to the house and also go out into the country with us in the old car. We met Adrienne Monnier and she brought Valéry Larbaud to the house and they were all very interested in Three Lives and Valéry Larbaud, so we understood, meditated translating it. It was at this time that Tristan Tzara first appeared in Paris. Adrienne Monnier was much excited by his advent. Picabia had found him in Switzerland during the war and they had together created dadaism, and out of dadaism, with a great deal of struggle and quarrelling came surréalisme.
Tzara came to the house, I imagine Picabia brought him but I am not quite certain. I have always found it very difficult to understand the stories of his violence and his wickedness, at least I found it difficult then because Tzara when he came to the house sat beside me at the tea table and talked to me like a pleasant and not very exciting cousin.
Adrienne Monnier wanted Sylvia to move to the rue de l’Odéon and Sylvia hesitated but finally she did so and as a matter of fact we did not see her very often afterward. They gave a party just after Sylvia moved in and we went and there Gertrude Stein first discovered that she had a young Oxford following. There were several young Oxford men there and they were awfully pleased to meet her and they asked her to give them some manuscripts and they published them that year nineteen twenty, in the Oxford Magazine.
Sylvia Beach from time to time brought groups of people to the house, groups of young writers and some older women with them. It was at that time that Ezra Pound came, no that was brought about in another way. She later ceased coming to the house but she sent word that Sherwood Anderson had come to Paris and wanted to see Gertrude Stein and might he come. Gertrude Stein sent back word that she would be very pleased and he came with his wife and Rosenfeld, the musical critic.
For some reason or other I was not present on this occasion, some domestic complication in all probability, at any rate when I did come home Gertrude Stein was moved and pleased as she has very rarely been. Gertrude Stein was in those days a little bitter, all her unpublished manuscripts, and no hope of publication or serious recognition. Sherwood Anderson came and quite simply and directly as is his way told her what he thought of her work and what it had meant to him in his development. He told it to her then and what was even rarer he told it in print immediately after. Gertrude Stein and Sherwood Anderson have always been the best of friends but I do not believe even he realises how much his visit meant to her. It was he who thereupon wrote the introduction to Geography and Plays.
In those days you met anybody anywhere. The Jewetts were an american couple who owned a tenth century chateau near Perpignan. We had met them there during the war and when they came to Paris we went to see them. There we met first Man Ray and later Robert Coates, how either of them happened to get there I do not know.
There were a lot of people in the room when we came in and soon Gertrude Stein was talking to a little man who sat in the corner. As we went out she made an engagement with him. She said he was a photographer and seemed interesting, and reminded me that Jeanne Cook, William Cook’s wife, wanted her picture taken to send to Cook’s people in America. We all three went to Man Ray’s hotel. It was one of the little, tiny hotels in the rue Delambre and Man Ray had one of the small rooms, but I have never seen any space, not even a ship’s cabin, with so many things in it and the things so admirably disposed. He had a bed, he had three large cameras, he had several kinds of lighting, he had a window screen, and in a little closet he did all his developing. He showed us pictures of Marcel Duchamp and a lot of other people and he asked if he might come and take photographs of the studio and of Gertrude Stein. He did and he also took some of me and we were very pleased with the result. He has at intervals taken pictures of Gertrude Stein and she is always fascinated with his way of using lights. She always comes home very pleased. One day she told him that she liked his photographs of her better than any that had ever been taken except one snap shot I had taken of her recently. This seemed to bother Man Ray. In a little while he asked her to come and pose and she did. He said, move all you like, your eyes, your head, it is to be a pose but it is to have in it all the qualities of a snap shot. The poses were very long, she, as he requested, moved, and the result, the last photographs he made of her, are extraordinarily interesting.
Robert Coates we also met at the Jewetts’ in those early days just after the war. I remember the day very well. It was a cold, dark day, on an upper floor of a hotel. There were a number of young men there and suddenly Gertrude Stein said she had forgotten to put the light on her car and she did not want another fine, we had just had one because I had blown the klaxon at a policeman trying to get him out of our way and she had received one by going the wrong way around a post. Alright, said a red-haired young man and immediately he was down and back. The light is on, he announced. How did you know which my car was, asked Gertrude Stein. Oh I knew, said Coates. We always liked Coates. It is extraordinary in wandering about Paris how very few people you know you meet, but we often met Coates hatless and red-headed in the most unexpected places. This was just about the time of Broom, about which I will tell very soon, and Gertrude Stein took a very deep interest in Coates’ work as soon as he showed it to her. She said he was the one young man who had an individual rhythm, his words made a sound to the eyes, most people’s words do not. We also liked Coates’ address, the City Hotel, on the island, and we liked all his ways.
Gertrude Stein was delighted with the scheme of study that he prepared for the Guggenheim prize. Unfortunately, the scheme of study, which was a most charming little novel, with Gertrude Stein as a backer, did not win a prize.
As I have said there was Broom.
Before the war we had known a young fellow, not known him much but a little; Elmer Harden, who was in Paris studying music. During the war we heard that Elmer Harden had joined the french army and had been badly wounded. It was rather an amazing story. Elmer Harden had been nursing french wounded in the american hospital and one of his patients, a captain with an arm fairly disabled, was going back to the front. Elmer Harden could not content himself any longer nursing. He said to Captain Peter, I am going with you. But it is impossible, said Captain Peter. But I am, said Elmer stubbornly. So they took a taxi and they went to the war office and to a dentist and I don’t know where else, but by the end of the week Captain Peter had rejoined and Elmer Harden was in his regiment as a soldier. He fought well and was wounded. After the war we met him again and then we met often. He and the lovely flowers he used to send us were a great comfort in those days just after the peace. He and I always say that he and I will be the last people of our generation to remember the war. I am afraid we both of us have already forgotten it a little. Only the other day though Elmer announced that he had had a great triumph, he had made Captain Peter and Captain Peter is a breton admit that it was a nice war. Up to this time when he had said to Captain Peter, it was a nice war, Captain Peter had not answered, but this time when Elmer said, it was a nice war, Captain Peter said, yes Elmer, it was a nice war.
Kate Buss came from the same town as Elmer, from Medford, Mass. She was in Paris and she came to see us. I do not think Elmer introduced her but she did come to see us. She was much interested in the writings of Gertrude Stein and owned everything that up to that time could be bought. She brought Kreymborg to see us. Kreymborg had come to Paris with Harold Loeb to start Broom. Kreymborg and his wife came to the house frequently. He wanted very mum to run The Long Gay Book, the thing Gertrude Stein had written just after The Making of Americans, as a serial. Of course Harold Loeb would not consent to that. Kreymborg used to read out the sentences from this book with great gusto. He and Gertrude Stein had a bond of union beside their mutual liking because the Grafton Press that had printed Three Lives had printed his first book and about the same time.
Kate Buss brought lots of people to the house. She brought Djuna Barnes and Mina Loy and they had wanted to bring James Joyce but they didn’t. We were glad to see Mina whom we had known in Florence as Mina Haweis. Mina brought Glenway Wescott on his first trip to Europe. Glen-way impressed us greatly by his english accent. Hemingway explained. He said, when you matriculate at the University of Chicago you write down just what accent you will have and they give it to you when you graduate. You can have a sixteenth century or modern, whatever you like. Glenway left behind him a silk cigarette case with his initials, we kept it until he came back again and then gave it to him.
Mina also brought Robert McAlmon. McAlmon was very nice in those days, very mature and very good-looking. It was much later that he published The Making of Americans in the Contact press and that everybody quarrelled. But that is Paris, except that as a matter of fact Gertrude Stein and he never became friends again.
Kate Buss brought Ernest Walsh, he was very young then and very feverish and she was very worried about him. We met him later with Hemingway and then in Belley, but we never knew him very well.
We met Ezra Pound at Grace Lounsbery’s house, he came home to dinner with us and he stayed and he talked about japanese prints among other things. Gertrude Stein liked him but did not find him amusing. She said he was a village explainer, excellent if you were a village, but if you were not, not. Ezra also talked about T. S. Eliot. It was the first time any one had talked about T.S. at the house. Pretty soon everybody talked about T.S. Kitty Buss talked about him and much later Hemingway talked about him as the Major. Considerably later Lady Rothermere talked about him and invited Gertrude Stein to come and meet him. They were founding the Criterion. We had met Lady Rothermera through Muriel Draper whom we had seen again for the first time after many years. Gertrude Stein was not particularly anxious to go to Lady Rothermere’s and meet T. S. Eliot, but we all insisted she should, and she gave a doubtful yes. I had no evening dress to wear for this occasion and started to make one. The bell rang and in walked Lady Rothermere and T.S.
Eliot and Gertrude Stein had a solemn conversation, mostly about split infinitives and other grammatical solecisms and why Gertrude Stein used them. Finally Lady Rothermere and Eliot rose to go and Eliot said that if he printed anything of Gertrude Stein’s in the Criterion it would have to be her very latest thing. They left and Gertrude Stein said, don’t bother to finish your dress, now we don’t have to go, and she began to write a portrait of T. S. Eliot and called it the fifteenth of November, that being this day and so there could be no doubt but that it was her latest thing. It was all about wool is wool and silk is silk or wool is woollen and silk is silken. She sent it to T. S. Eliot and he accepted it but naturally he did not print it.
Then began a long correspondence, not between Gertrude Stein and T. S. Eliot, but between T. S. Eliot’s secretary and myself. We each addressed the other as Sir, I signing myself A. B. Toklas and she signing initials. It was only considerably afterwards that I found out that his secretary was not a young man. I don’t know whether she ever found out that I was not.
In spite of all this correspondence nothing happened and Gertrude Stein mischievously told the story to all the english people coming to the house and at that moment there were a great many english coming in and out. At any rate finally there was a note, it was now early spring, from the Criterion asking would Miss Stein mind if her contribution appeared in the October number. She replied that nothing could be more suitable than the fifteenth of November on the fifteenth of October.
Once more a long silence and then this time came proof of the article. We were surprised but returned the proof promptly. Apparently a young man had sent it without authority because very shortly came an apologetic letter saying that there had been a mistake, the article was not to be printed just yet. This was also told to the passing english with the result that after all it was printed. Thereafter it was reprinted in the Georgian Stories. Gertrude Stein was delighted when later she was told that Eliot had said in Cambridge that the work of Gertrude Stein was very fine but not for us.
But to come back to Ezra. Ezra did come back and he came back with the editor of The Dial. This time it was worse than japanese prints, it was much more violent. In his surprise at the violence Ezra fell out of Gertrude Stein’s favourite little armchair, the one I have since tapestried with Picasso designs, and Gertrude Stein was furious. Finally Ezra and the editor of The Dial left, nobody too well pleased. Gertrude Stein did not want to see Ezra again. Ezra did not quite see why. He met Gertrude Stein one day near the Luxembourg gardens and said, but I do want to come to see you. I am so sorry, answered Gertrude Stein, but Miss Toklas has a bad tooth and beside we are busy picking wild flowers. All of which was literally true, like all of Gertrude Stein’s literature, but it upset Ezra, and we never saw him again.
During these months after the war we were one day going down a little street and saw a man looking in at a window and going backwards and forwards and right and left and otherwise behaving strangely. Lipschitz, said Gertrude Stein. Yes, said Lipschitz, I am buying an iron cock. Where is it, we asked. Why in there, he said, and in there it was. Gertrude Stein had known Lipschitz very slightly at one time but this incident made them friends and soon he asked her to pose. He had just finished a bust of Jean Cocteau and he wanted to do her. She never minds posing, she likes the calm of it and although she does not like sculpture and told Lipschitz so, she began to pose. I remember it was a very hot spring and Lipschitz’s studio was appallingly hot and they spent hours there.
Lipschitz is an excellent gossip and Gertrude Stein adores the beginning and middle and end of a story and Lipschitz was able to supply several missing parts of several stories.
And then they talked about art, and Gertrude Stein rather liked her portrait and they were very good friends and the sittings were over.
One day we were across town at a picture show and somebody came up to Gertrude Stein and said something. She said, wiping her forehead, it is hot. He said he was a friend of Lipschitz and she answered, yes it was hot there. Lipschitz was to bring her some photographs of the head he had done but he did not and we were awfully busy and Gertrude Stein sometimes wondered why Lipschitz did not come. Somebody wanted the photos so she wrote to him to bring them. He came. She said why did you not come before. He said he did not come before because he had been told by some one to whom she had said it, that she was bored sitting for him. Oh hell, she said, listen I am fairly well known for saying things about any one and anything, I say them about people, I say them to people, I say them when I please and how I please but as I mostly say what I think, the least that you or anybody else can do is to rest content with what I say to you. He seemed very content and they talked happily and pleasantly and they said a bientôt, we will meet soon. Lipschitz left and we did not see him for several years.
Then Jane Heap turned up and wanted to take some of Lipschitz’s things to America and she wanted Gertrude Stein to come and choose them. But how can I, said Gertrude Stein, when Lipschitz is very evidently angry, I am sure I have not the slightest idea why or how but he is. Jane Heap said that Lipschitz said that he was fonder of Gertrude Stein than he was of almost anybody and was heart broken at not seeing her. Oh, said Gertrude Stein, I am very fond of him. Sure I will go with you. She went, they embraced tenderly and had a happy time and her only revenge was in parting to say to Lipschitz, a très bientôt. And Lipschitz said, comme vous êtes méchante. They have been excellent friends ever since and Gertrude Stein has done of Lipschitz one of her most lovely portraits but they have never spoken of the quarrel and if he knows what happened the second time she does not.
It was through Lipschitz that Gertrude Stein again met Jean Cocteau. Lipschitz had told Gertrude Stein a thing which she did not know, that Cocteau in his Potomak had spoken of and quoted The Portrait of Mabel Dodge. She was naturally very pleased as Cocteau was the first french writer to speak of her work. They met once or twice and began a friendship that consists in their writing to each other quite often and liking each other immensely and havlng many young and old friends in common, but not in meeting.
Jo Davidson too sculptured Gertrude Stein at this time. There, all was peaceful, Jo was witty and amusing and he pleased Gertrude Stein. I cannot remember who came in and out, whether they were real or whether they were sculptured but there were a great many. There were among others Lincoln Steffens and in some queer way he is associated with the beginning of our seeing a good deal of Janet Scudder but I do not well remember just what happened.
I do however remember very well the first time I ever heard Janet Scudder’s voice. It was way back when I first came to Paris and my friend and I had a little apartment in the rue Notre–Dame-des-Champs. My friend in the enthusiasm of seeing other people enthusiastic had bought a Matisse and it had just been hung on the wall. Mildred Aldrich was calling on us, it was a warm spring afternoon and Mildred was leaning out of the window. I suddenly heard her say, Janet, Janet come up here. What is it, said a very lovely drawling voice. I want you to come up here and meet my friends Harriet and Mice and I want you to come up and see their new apartment. Oh, said the voice. And then Mildred said, and they have a new big Matisse. Come up and see it. I don’t think so, said the voice.
Janet did later see a great deal of Matisse when he lived out in Clamart. And Gertrude Stein and she had always been friends, at least ever since the period when they first began to see a good deal of each other.
Like Doctor Claribel Cone, Janet, always insisting that she understands none of it, reads and feels Gertrude Stein’s work and reads it aloud understandingly.
We were going to the valley of the Rhône for the first time since the war and Janet and a friend in a duplicate Godiva were to come too. I will tell about this very soon.
During all these restless months we were also trying to get Mildred Aldrich the legion of honour. After the war was over a great many war-workers were given the legion of honour but they were all members of organisations and Mildred Aldrich was not. Gertrude Stein was very anxious that Mildred Aldrich should have it. In the first place she thought she ought, no one else had done as much propaganda for France as she had by her books which everybody in America read, and beside she knew Mildred would like it. So we began the campaign. It was not a very easy thing to accomplish as naturally the organisations had the most influence. We started different people going. We began to get lists of prominent americans and asked them to sign. They did not refuse, but a list in itself helps, but does not accomplish results. Mr. Jaccacci who had a great admiration for Miss Aldrich was very helpful but all the people that he knew wanted things for themselves first. We got the American Legion interested at least two of the colonels, but they also had other names that had to pass first. We had seen and talked to and interested everybody and everybody promised and nothing happened. Finally we met a senator. He would be helpful but then senators were busy and then one afternoon we met the senator’s secretary. Gertrude Stein drove the senator’s secretary home in Godiva.
As it turned out the senator’s secretary had tried to learn to drive a car and had not succeeded. The way in which Gertrude Stein made her way through Paris traffic with the ease and indifference of a chauffeur, and was at the same time a well known author impressed her immensely. She said she would get Mildred Aldrich’s papers out of the pigeon hole in which they were probably reposing and she did. Very shortly after the mayor of Mildred’s village called upon her one morning on official business. He presented her with the preliminary papers to be signed for the legion of honour. He said to her, you must remember, Mademoiselle, these matters often start but do not get themselves accomplished. So you must be prepared for disappointment. Mildred answered quietly, monsieur le maire, if my friends have started a matter of this kind they will see to it that it is accomplished. And it was. When we arrived at Avignon on our way to Saint-Rémy there was a telegram telling us that Mildred had her decoration. We were delighted and Mildred Aldrich to the day of her death never lost her pride and pleasure in her honour.
During these early restless years after the war Gertrude Stein worked a great deal. Not as in the old days, night after night, but anywhere, in between visits, in the automobile while she was waiting in the street while I did errands, while posing. She was particularly fond in these days of working in the automobile while it stood in the crowded streets.
It was then that she wrote. Finer Than Melanctha as a joke. Harold Loeb, at that time editing Broom all by himself, said he would like to have something of hers that would be as fine as Melanctha, her early negro story in Three Lives.
She was much influenced by the sound of the streets and the movement of the automobiles. She also liked then to set a sentence for herself as a sort of tuning fork and metronome and then write to that time and tune. Mildred’s Thoughts, published in The American Caravan, was one of these experiments she thought most successful. The Birthplace of Bonnes, published in The Little Review, was another one. Moral Tales of 1920–1921, American Biography, and One Hundred Prominent Men, when as she said she created out of her imagination one hundred men equally men and all equally prominent were written then. These two were later printed in Useful Knowledge.
It was also about this time that Harry Gibb came back to Paris for a short while. He was very anxious that Gertrude Stein should publish a book of her work showing what she had been doing in those years. Not a little book, he kept saying, a big book, something they can get their teeth into. You must do it, he used to say. But no publisher will look at it now that John Lane is no longer active, she said. It makes no difference, said Harry Gibb violently, it is the essence of the thing, that they must see and you must have a lot of things printed, and then turning to me he said, Alice you do it. I knew he was right and that it had to be done. But how.
I talked to Kate Buss about it and she suggested the Four Seas Company who had done a little book for her. I began a correspondence with Mr. Brown, Honest to God Brown as Gertrude Stein called him in imitation of William Cook’s phrase when everything was going particularly wrong. The arrangements with Honest to God having finally been made we left for the south in July, nineteen twenty-two.
We started off in Godiva, the runabout ford and followed by Janet Scudder in a second Godiva accompanied by Mrs. Lane. They were going to Grasse to buy themselves a home, they finally bought one near Aix-en-Provence. And we were going to Saint-Rémy to visit in peace the country we had loved during the war.
We were only a hundred or so kilometers from Paris when Janet Scudder tooted her horn which was the signal agreed upon for us to stop and wait. Janet came alongside. I think, said she solemnly, Gertrude Stein always called her The Doughboy, she always said there were only two perfectly solemn things on earth, the doughboy and Janet Scudder. Janet had also, Gertrude Stein always said, all the subtlety of the doughboy and all his nice ways and all his lonesomeness. Janet came alongside, I think, she said solemnly, we are not on the right road, it says Paris–Perpignan and I want to go to Grasse.
Anyway at the time we got no further than Lorne and there we suddenly realised how tired we were. We were just tired.
We suggested that the others should move on to Grasse but they said they too would wait and we all waited. It was the first time we had just stayed still since Palma de Mallorca, since 1916. Finally we moved slowly on to Saint-Rémy and they went further to Grasse and then came back. They asked us what we were going to do and we answered, nothing just stay here. So they went off again and bought a property in Aix-en-Provence.
Janet Scudder, as Gertrude Stein always said, had the real pioneer’s passion for buying useless real estate. In every little town we stopped on the way Janet would find a piece of property that she considered purchasable and Gertrude Stein, violently protesting, got her away. She wanted to buy property everywhere except in Grasse where she had gone to buy property. She finally did buy a house and grounds in Aix-en-Provence after insisting on Gertrude Stein’s seeing it who told her not to and telegraphed no and telephoned no. However Janet did buy it but luckily after a year she was able to get rid of it. During that year we stayed quietly in Saint-Rémy.
We had intended staying only a month or two but we stayed all winter. With the exception of an occasional interchange of visits with Janet Scudder we saw no one except the people of the country. We went to Avignon to shop, we went now and then into the country we had known so well but for the most part we wandered around Saint-Rémy, we went up into the Alpilles, the little hills that Gertrude Stein described over and over again in the writing of that winter, we watched the enormous flocks of sheep going up into the mountains led by the donkeys and their water bottles, we sat above the roman monuments and we went often to Les Baux. The hotel was not very comfortable but we stayed on. The valley of the Rhône was once more exercising its spell over us.
It was during this winter that Gertrude Stein meditated upon the use of grammar, poetical forms and what might be termed landscape plays.
It was at this time that she wrote Elucidation, printed in transition in nineteen twenty-seven. It was her first effort to state her problems of expression and her attempts to answer them. It was her first effort to realise clearly just what her writing meant and why it was as it was. Later on much later she wrote her treatises on grammar, sentences, paragraphs, vocabulary etcetera, which I have printed in Plain Edition under the title of How To Write.
It was in Saint-Rémy and during this winter that she wrote the poetry that has so greatly influenced the younger generation. Her Capital Capitals, Virgil Thomson has put to music. Lend a Hand or Four Religions has been printed in Useful Knowledge. This play has always interested her immensely, it was the first attempt that later made her Operas and Plays, the first conception of landscape as a play. She also at that time wrote the Valentine to Sherwood Anderson, also printed in the volume Useful Knowledge, Indian Boy, printed later in the Reviewer, (Carl Van Vechten sent Hunter Stagg to us a young Southerner as attractive as his name), and Saints In Seven, which she used to illustrate her work in her lectures at Oxford and Cambridge, and Talks to Saints in Saint-Rémy.
She worked in those days with slow care and concentration, and was very preoccupied.
Finally we received the first copies of Geography and Plays, the winter was over and we went back to Paris.
This long winter in Saint-Rémy broke the restlessness of the war and the after war. A great many things were to happen, there were to be friendships and there were to be enmities and there were to be a great many other things but there was not to be any restlessness.
Gertrude Stein always says that she only has two real distractions, pictures and automobiles. Perhaps she might now add dogs.
Immediately after the war her attention was attracted by the work of a young french painter, Fabre, who had a natural feeling for objects on a table and landscapes but he came to nothing. The next painter who attracted her attention was André Masson. Masson was at that time influenced by Juan Gris in whom Gertrude Stein’s interest was permanent and vital. She was interested in André Masson as a painter particularly as a painter of white and she was interested in his composition in the wandering line in his compositions. Soon Masson fell under the influence of the surréalistes.
The surréalistes are the vulgarisation of Picabia as Delaunay and his followers and the futurists were the vulgarisation of Picasso. Picabia had conceived and is struggling with the problem that a line should have the vibration of a musical sound and that this vibration should be the result of conceiving the human form and the human face in so tenuous a fashion that it would induce such vibration in the line forming it. It is his way of achieving the disembodied. It was this idea that conceived mathematically influenced Marcel Du-champ and produced his The Nude Descending the Staircase.
All his life Picabia has struggled to dominate and achieve this conception. Gertrude Stein thinks that perhaps he is now approaching the solution of his problem. The surréalistes taking the manner for the matter as is the way of the vulgarisers, accept the line as having become vibrant and as therefore able in itself to inspire them to higher flights. He who is going to be the creator of the vibrant line knows that it is not yet created and if it were it would not exist by itself, it would be dependent upon the emotion of the object which compels the vibration. So much for the creator and his followers.
Gertrude Stein, in her work, has always been possessed by the intellectual passion for exactitude in the description of inner and outer reality. She has produced a simplification by this concentration, and as a result the destruction of associational emotion in poetry and prose. She knows that beauty, music, decoration, the result of emotion should never be the cause, even events should not be the cause of emotion nor should they be the material of poetry and prose. Nor should emotion itself be the cause of poetry or prose. They should consist of an exact reproduction of either an outer or an inner reality.
It was this conception of exactitude that made the close understanding between Gertrude Stein and Juan Gris.
Juan Gris also conceived exactitude but in him exactitude had a mystical basis. As a mystic it was necessary for him to be exact. In Gertrude Stein the necessity was intellectual, a pure passion for exactitude. It is because of this that her work has often been compared to that of mathematicians and by a certain french critic to the work of Bach.
Picasso by nature the most endowed had less clarity of intellectual purpose. He was in his creative activity dominated by spanish ritual, later by negro ritual expressed in negro sculpture (which has an arab basis the basis also of spanish ritual) and later by russian ritual. His creative activity being tremendously dominant, he made these great rituals over into his own image.
Juan Gris was the only person whom Picasso wished away. The relation between them was just that.
In the days when the friendship between Gertrude Stein and Picasso had become if possible closer than before, (it was for his little boy, born February fourth to her February. third, that she wrote her birthday book with a line for each day in the year) in those days her intimacy with Juan Gris displeased him. Once after a show of Juan’s pictures at the Gallérie Simon he said to her with violence, tell me why you stand up for his work, you know you do not like it; and she did not answer him.
Later when Juan died and Gertrude Stein was heart broken Picasso came to the house and spent all day there. I do not know what was said but I do know that at one time Gertrude Stein said to him bitterly, you have no right to mourn, and he said, you have no right to say that to me. You never realised his meaning because you did not have it, she said angrily. You know very well I did, he replied.
The most moving thing Gertrude Stein has ever written is The Life and Death of Juan Gris. It was printed in transition and later on translated in german for his retrospective show in Berlin.
Picasso never wished Braque away. Picasso said once when he and Gertrude Stein were talking together, yes, Braque and James Joyce, they are the incomprehensibles whom anybody can understand. Les incompréhensibles que tout le monde peut comprendre.
The first thing that happened when we were back in Paris was Hemingway with a letter of introduction from Sherwood Anderson.
I remember very well the impression I had of Hemingway that first afternoon. He was an extraordinarily good-looking young man, twenty-three years old. It was not long after that that everybody was twenty-six. It became the period of being twenty-six. During the next two or three years all the young men were twenty-six years old. It was the right age apparently for that time and place. There were one or two under twenty, for example George Lynes but they did not count as Gertrude Stein carefully explained to them. If they were young men they were twenty-six. Later on, much later on they were twenty-one and twenty-two.
So Hemingway was twenty-three, rather foreign looking, with passionately interested, rather than interesting eyes. He sat in front of Gertrude Stein and listened and looked.
They talked then, and more and more, a great deal together. He asked her to come and spend an evening in their apartment and look at his work. Hemingway had then and has always a very good instinct for finding apartments in strange but pleasing localities and good femmes de ménage and good food. This his first apartment was just off the place du Tertre. We spent the evening there and he and Gertrude Stein went over all the writing he had done up to that time. He had begun the novel that it was inevitable he would begin and there were the little poems afterwards printed by McAlmon in the Contract Edition. Gertrude Stein rather liked the poems, they were direct, Kiplingesque, but the novel she found wanting. There is a great deal of description in this, she said, and not particularly good description. Begin over again and concentrate, she said.
Hemingway was at this time Paris correspondent for a canadian newspaper. He was obliged there to express what he called the canadian viewpoint.
He and Gertrude Stein used to walk together and talk together a great deal. One day she said to him, look here, you say you and your wife have a little money between you. Is it enough to live on if you live quietly. Yes, he said. Well, she said, then do it. If you keep on doing newspaper work you will never see things, you will only see words and that will not do, that is of course if you intend to be a writer. Hemingway said he undoubtedly intended to be a writer. He and his wife went away on a trip and shortly after Hemingway turned up alone. He came to the house about ten o’clock in the morning and he stayed, he stayed for lunch, he stayed all afternoon, he stayed for dinner and he stayed until about ten o’clock at night and then all of a sudden he announced that his wife was enceinte and then with great bitterness, and I, I am too young to be a father. We consoled him as best we could and sent him on his way.
When they came back Hemingway said that he had made up his mind. They would go back to America and he would work hard for a year and with what he would earn and what they had they would settle down and he would give up newspaper work and make himself a writer. They went away and well within the prescribed year they came back with a new born baby. Newspaper work was over.
The first thing to do when they came back was as they thought to get the baby baptised. They wanted Gertrude Stein and myself to be god-mothers and an english war comrade of Hemingway was to be god-father. We were all born of different religions and most of us were not practising any, so it was rather difficult to know in what church the baby could be baptised. We spent a great deal of time that winter, all of us, discussing the matter. Finally it was decided that it should be baptised episcopalian and episcopalian it Was. Just how it was managed with the assortment of godparents I am sure I do not know, but it was baptised in the episcopalian chapel.
Writer or painter god-parents are notoriously unreliable That is, there is certain before long to be a cooling of friendship. I know several cases of this, poor Paulot Picasso’s godparents have wandered out of sight and just as naturally it is a long time since any of us have seen or heard of our Hemingway god-child.
However in the beginning we were active god-parents, I particularly. I embroidered a little chair and I knitted a gay coloured garment for the god-child. In the meantime the god-child’s father was very earnestly at work making himself a writer.
Gertrude Stein never corrects any detail of anybody’s writing, she sticks strictly to general principles, the way of seeing what the writer chooses to see, and the relation between that vision and the way it gets down. When the vision is not complete the words are flat, it is very simple, there can be no mistake about it, so she insists. It was at this time that Hemingway began the short things that afterwards were printed in a volume called In Our Time.
One day Hemingway came in very excited about Ford Madox Ford and the Transatlantic. Ford Madox Ford had started the Transatlantic some months before. A good many years before, indeed before the war, we had met Ford Madox Ford who was at that time Ford Madox Hueffer. He was married to Violet Hunt and Violet Hunt and Gertrude Stein were next to each other at the tea table and talked a great deal together. I was next to Ford Madox Hueffer and I liked him very much and I liked his stories of Mistral and Tarascon and I liked his having been followed about in that land of the french royalist, on account of his resemblance to the Bourbon claimant. I had never seen the Bourbon claimant but Ford at that time undoubtedly might have been a Bourbon.
We had heard that Ford was in Paris, but we had not happened to meet. Gertrude Stein had however seen copies of the Transatlantic and found it interesting but had thought nothing further about it.
Hemingway came in then very excited and said that Ford wanted something of Gertrude Stein’s for the next number and he, Hemingway, wanted The Making of Americans to be run in it as a serial and he had to have the first fifty pages at once. Gertrude Stein was of course quite overcome with her excitement at this idea, but there was no copy of the manuscript except the one that we had had bound. That makes no difference, said Hemingway, I will copy it. And he and I between us did copy it and it was printed in the next number of the Transatlantic. So for the first time a piece of the monumental work which was the beginning, really the beginning of modern writing, was printed, and we were very happy. Later on when things were difficult between Gertrude Stein and Hemingway, she always remembered with gratitude that after all it was Hemingway who first caused to be printed a piece of The Making of Americans. She always says, yes sure I have a weakness for Hemingway. After all he was the first of the young men to knock at my door and he did make Ford print the first piece of The Making of Americans.
I myself have not so much confidence that Hemingway did do this. I have never known what the story is but I have always been certain that there was some other story behind it all. That is the way I feel about it.
Gertrude Stein and Sherwood Anderson are very funny on the subject of Hemingway. The last time that Sherwood was in Paris they often talked about him. Hemingway had been formed by the two of them and they were both a little proud and a little ashamed of the work of their minds. Hemingway had at one moment, when he had repudiated Sherwood Anderson and all his works, written him a letter in the name of american literature which he, Hemingway, in company with his contemporaries was about to save, telling Sherwood just what he, Hemingway thought about Sherwood’s work, and, that thinking, was in no sense complimentary. When Sherwood came to Paris Hemingway naturally was afraid. Sherwood as naturally was not.
As I say he and Gertrude Stein were endlessly amusing on the subject. They admitted that Hemingway was yellow, he is, Gertrude Stein insisted, just like the flat-boat men on the Mississippi river as described by Mark Twain. But what a book, they both agreed, would be the real story of Hemingway, not those he writes but the confessions of the real Ernest Hemingway. It would be for another audience than the audience Hemingway now has but it would be very wonderful. And then they both agreed that they have a weakness for Hemingway because he is such a good pupil. He is a rotten pupil, I protested. You don’t understand, they both said, it is so flattering to have a pupil who does it without understanding it, in other words he takes training and anybody who takes training is a favourite pupil. They both admit it to be a weakness. Gertrude Stein added further, you see he is like Derain. You remember Monsieur de Tuille said, when I did not understand why Derain was having the success he was having that it was because he looks like a modern and he smells of the museums. And that is Hemingway, he looks like a modern and he smells of the museums. But what a story that of the real Hem, and one he should tell himself but alas he never will. After all, as he himself once murmured, there is the career, the career.
But to come back to the events that were happening. Hemingway did it all. He copied the manuscript and corrected the proof. Correcting proofs is, as I said before, like dusting, you learn the values of the thing as no reading suffices to teach it to you. In correcting these proofs Hemingway learned a great deal and he admired all that he learned. It was at this time that he wrote to Gertrude Stein saying that it was she who had done the work in writing The Making of Americans and he and all his had but to devote their lives to seeing that it was published.
He had hopes of being able to accomplish this. Some one, I think by the name of Sterne, said that he could place it with a publisher. Gertrude Stein and Hemingway believed that he could, but soon Hemingway reported that Sterne had entered into his period of unreliability. That was the end of that.
In the meantime and sometime before this Mina Loy had brought McAlmon to the house and he came from time to time and he brought his wife and brought William Carlos Williams. And finally he wanted to print The Making of Americans in the Contact Edition and finally he did. I will come to that.
In the meantime McAlmon had printed the three poems and ten stories of Hemingway and William Bird had printed In Our Time and Hemingway was getting to be known. He was coming to know Dos Passos and Fitzgerald and Bromfield and George Antheil and everybody else and Harold Loeb was once more in Paris. Hemingway had become a writer. He was also a shadow-boxer, thanks to Sherwood, and he heard about bull-fighting from me. I have always loved spanish dancing and spanish bull-fighting and I loved to show the photographs of bull-fighters and bull-fighting. I also loved to show the photograph where Gertrude Stein and I were in the front row and had our picture taken there accidentally. In these is Hemingway was teaching some young chap how to box. The boy did not know how, but by accident he knocked Hemingway out. I believe this sometimes happens. At any rate in these days Hemingway although a sportsman wasily tired. He used to get quite worn out walking fromis house to ours. But then he had been worn by the war. Even now he is, as Hélène says all men are, fragile. Recent a robust friend of his said to Gertrude Stein, Ernest is very fragile, whenever he does anything sporting somethir breaks, his arm, his leg, or his head.
In those early days Hemingway liked all his contemporaries except Cummings. He accused Cummings of having copied everything, not from anybody but from somebody. Gertrude Stein who hadeen much impressed by The Enormous Room said that Cummings did not copy, he was the natural heir of the New England tradition with its aridity and its sterility, but also with its individuality. They disagreed about this. They also disagreed about Sherwood Anderson. Gertrude Stein contended that Sherwood Anderson had a genius for using a sentence to convey a direct emotion, this was in the great american tradition, and that really except Sherwood there was no one in America who could write a clear and passionate sentence. Hemingway did not believe this, he did not like Sherwood’s taste. Taste has nothing to do with sentences, conteded Gertrude Stein. She also added that Fitzgerald was the only one of the younger writers who wrote naturally in sentences.
Gertrude Stein and Fitzgerald are very peculiar in their relation to each other. Gertrude Stein had been very much impressed by This Side c Paradise. She read it when it came out and before she knew any of the young american writers. She said of it that it wasthis book that really created for the public the new generation. She has never changed her opinion about this. She thinks this equally true of The Great Gatsby. She thinks Fitzg rald will be read when many of his well known contemporaries are forgotten. Fitzgerald always says that he thinks Gertrude Stein says these things just to annoy him by making him think that she means them, and he adds in his favourite way, and her doing it is the cruellest thing I ever heard. They always however have a very good time when they meet. And the last time they met they had a good time with themselves and Hemingway.
Then there was McAlmon. McAlmon had one quality that appealed to Gertrude Stein, abundance, he could go on writing, but she complained that it was dull.
There was also Glenway Wescott but Glenway Wescott at no time interested Gertrude Stein. He has a certain syrup but it does not pour.
So then Hemingway’s career was begun. For a little while we saw less of him and then he began to come again. He used to recount to Gertrude Stein the conversations that he afterwards used in The Sun Also Rises and they talked endlessly about the character of Harold Loeb. At this time Hemingway was preparing his volume of short stories to submit to publishers in America. One evening after we had not seen him for a while he turned up with Shipman. Shipman was an amusing boy who was to inherit a few thousand dollars when he came of age. He was not of age. He was to buy the Transatlantic Review when he came of age, so Hemingway said. He was to support a surrealist review when he came of age, André Masson said. He was to buy a house in the country when he came of age, Josette Gris said. As a matter of fact when he came of age nobody who had known him then seemed to know what he did do with his inheritance. Hemingway brought him with him to the house to talk about buying the Transatlantic and incidentally he brought the manuscript he intended sending to America. He handed it to Gertrude Stein. He had added to his stories a little story of meditations and in these he said that The Enormous Room was the greatest book he had ever read. It was then that Gertrude Stein said, Hemingway, remarks are not literature.
After this we did not see Hemingway for quite a while and then we went to see some one, just after The Making of Americans was printed, and Hemingway who was there came up to Gertrude Stein and began to explain why he would not be able to write a review of the book. Just then a heavy hand fell on his shoulder and Ford Madox Ford said, young man it is I who wish to speak to Gertrude Stein. Ford then said to her, I wish to ask your permission to dedicate my new book to you. May I. Gertrude Stein and I were both awfully pleased and touched.
For some years after this Gertrude Stein and Hemingway did not meet. And then we heard that he was back in Paris and telling a number of people how much he wanted to see her. Don’t you come home with Hemingway on your arm, I used to say when she went out for a walk. Sure enough one day she did come back bringing him with her.
They sat and talked a long time. Finally I heard her say, Hemingway, after all you are ninety percent Rotarian. Can’t you, he said, make it eighty percent. No, said she regretfully, I can’t. After all, as she always says, he did, and I may say, he does have moments of disinterestedness.
After that they met quite often. Gertrude Stein always says she likes to see him, he is so wonderful. And if he could only tell his own story. In their last conversation she accused him of having killed a great many of his rivals and put them under the sod. I never, said Hemingway, seriously killed anybody but one man and he was a bad man and, he deserved it, but if I killed anybody else I did it unknowingly, and so I am not responsible.
It was Ford who once said of Hemingway, he comes and sits at my feet and praises me. It makes me nervous. Hemingway also said once, I turn my flame which is a small one down and down and then suddenly there is a big explosion. If there were nothing but explosions my work would be so exciting nobody could bear it.
However, whatever I say, Gertrude Stein always says, yes I know but I have a weakness for Hemingway.
Jane Heap turned up one afternoon. The Little Review had printed the Birthplace of Bonnes and The Valentine to Sherwood Anderson. Jane Heap sat down and we began to talk. She stayed to dinner and she stayed the evening and by dawn the little ford, car Godiva which had been burning its lights all night waiting to be taken home could hardly start to take Jane home. Gertrude Stein then and always liked Jane Heap immensely, Margaret Anderson interested her much less.
It was now once more summer and this time we went to the Côte d’Azur and joined the Picassos at Antibes. It was there I first saw Picasso’s mother. Picasso looks extraordinarily like her. Gertrude Stein and Madame Picasso had difficulty in talking not having a common language but they talked enough to amuse themselves. They were talking about Picasso when Gertrude Stein first knew him. He was remarkably beautiful then, said Gertrude Stein, he was illuminated as if he wore a halo. Oh, said Madame Picasso, if you thought him beautiful then I assure you it was nothing compared to his looks when he was a boy. He was an angel and a devil in beauty, no one could cease looking at him. And now, said Picasso a little resentfully. Ah now, said they together, ah now there is no such beauty left. But, added his mother, you are very sweet and as a son very perfect. So he had to be satisfied with that.
It was at this time that Jean Cocteau who prides himself on being eternally thirty was writing a little biography of Picasso, and he sent him a telegram asking him to tell him the date of his birth. And yours, telegraphed back Picasso.
There are so many stories about Picasso and Jean Cocteau. Picasso like Gertrude Stein is easily upset if asked to do something suddenly and Jean Cocteau does this quite successfully. Picasso resents it and revenges himself at greater length. Not long ago there was a long story.
Picasso was in Spain, in Barcelona, and a friend of his youth who was editor of a paper printed, not in spanish but in catalan, interviewed him. Picasso knowing that the interview to be printed in Catalan was probably never going to be printed in spanish, thoroughly enjoyed himself. He said that Jean Cocteau was getting to be very popular in Paris, so popular that you could find his poems on the table of any smart coiffeur.
As I say he thoroughly enjoyed himself in giving this interview and then returned to Paris.
Some catalan in Barcelona sent the paper to some catalan friend in Paris and the catalan friend in Paris translated it to a french friend and the french friend printed the interview in a french paper.
Picasso and his wife told us the story together of what happened then. As soon as Jean saw the article, he tried to see Pablo. Pablo refused to see him, he told the maid to say that he was always out and for days they could not answer the telephone. Cocteau finally stated in an interview given to the french press that the interview which had wounded him so sorely had turned out to be an interview with Picabia and not an interview with Picasso, his friend. Picabia of course denied this. Cocteau implored Picasso to give a public denial. Picasso remained discreetly at home.
The first evening the Picassos went out they went to the theatre and there in front of them seated was Jean Cocteau’s mother. At the first intermission they went up to her, and surrounded by all their mutual friends she said, my dear, you cannot imagine the relief to me and to Jean to know that it was not you that gave out that vile interview, do tell me that it was not.
And as Picasso’s wife said, I as a mother could not let a mother suffer and I said of course it was not Picasso and Picasso said, yes yes of course it was not, and so the public retraction was given.
It was this summer that Gertrude Stein, delighting in the movement of the tiny waves on the Antibes shore, wrote the Completed Portrait of Picasso, the Second Portrait of Carl Van Vechten, and The Book of Concluding With As A Wife Has A Cow A Love Story this afterwards beautifully illustrated by Juan Gris.
Robert McAlmon had definitely decided to publish The Making of Americans, and we were to correct proofs that summer. The summer before we had intended as usual to meet the Picassos at Antibes. I had been reading the Guide des Gourmets and I had found among other places where one ate well, Pernollet’s Hôtel in the town of Belley. Belley is its name and Belley is its nature, as Gertrude Stein’s elder brother remarked. We arrived there about the middle of August. On the map it looked as if it were high up in the mountains and Gertrude Stein does not like precipices and as we drove through the gorge I was nervous and she protesting, but finally the country opened out delightfully and we arrived in Belley. It was a pleasant hotel although it had no garden and we had intended that it should have a garden. We stayed on for several days.
Then Madame Pernollet, a pleasant round faced woman said to us that since we were evidently staying on why did we not make rates by the day or by the week. We said we would. In the meanwhile the Picassos wanted to know what had become of us. We replied that we were in Belley. We found that Belley was the birthplace of Brillat–Savarin. We now in Bilignin are enjoying using the furniture from the house of Brillat–Savarin which house belongs to the owner of this house.
We also found that Lamartine had been at school in Belley and Gertrude Stein says that wherever Lamartine stayed any length of time one eats well. Madame Récamier also comes from this region and the place is full of descendants of her husband’s family. All these things we found out gradually but for the moment we were comfortable and we stayed on and left late. The following summer we were to correct proofs of The Making of Americans and so we left Paris early and came again to Belley. What a summer it was.
The Making of Americans is a book one thousand pages long, closely printed on large pages. Darantière has told me it has five hundred and sixty-five thousand words. It was written in nineteen hundred and six to nineteen hundred a eight, and except for the sections printed in Transatlantic it was all still in manuscript.
The sentences as the book goes on get longer and longer they are sometimes pages long and the compositors wer french, and when they made mistakes and left out a line the effort of getting it back again was terrific.
We used to leave the hotel in the morning with camp chairs, lunch and proof, and all day we struggled with the errors of French compositors. Proof had to be corrected most of it four times and finally I broke my glasses, my eyes gave out, and Gertrude Stein finished alone.
We used to change the scene of our labours and we foun lovely spots but there were always to accompany us those endless pages of printers’ errors. One of our favourite hillocks where we could see Mont Blanc in the distance we called Madame Mont Blanc.
Another place we went to often was near a little pool made by a small stream near a country cross-road. This was quite like the middle ages, so many things used to happen, there, in a very simple middle age way. I remember once a country-man came up to us leading his oxen. Very politely he said, ladies is there anything the matter with me. Why yes, we replied, your face is covered with blood. Oh, he said, you see my oxen were slipping down the hill and I held them back and I too slipped and I wondered if anything had happened to me. We helped him wash the blood off and he went on.
It was during this summer that Gertrude Stein began two long things, A Novel and the Phenomena of Nature which was to lead later to the whole series of meditations on grammar and sentences.
It led first to An Acquaintance With Description, afterwards printed by the Seizin Press. She began at this time to describe landscape as if anything she saw was a natural phenomenon, a thing existent in itself, and she found it, this exercise, very interesting and it finally led her to the later series of Operas and Plays. I am trying to be as commonplace as I can be, she used to say to me. And then sometimes a little worried, it is not too commonplace. The last thing that she had finished, Stanzas of Meditation, and which I am now typewriting, she considers her real achievement of the commonplace.
But to go back. We returned to Paris, the proofs almost done, and Jane Heap was there. She was very excited. She had a wonderful plan, I have now quite forgotten what it was, but Gertrude Stein was enormously pleased with it. It had something to do with a plan for another edition of The Making of Americans in America.
At any rate in the various complications connected with this matter McAlmon became very angry and not without reason, and The Making of Americans appeared but McAlmon and Gertrude Stein were no longer friends.
When Gertrude Stein was quite young her brother once remarked to her, that she, having been born in February, was very like George Washington, she was impulsive and slow-minded. Undoubtedly a great many complications have been the result.
One day in this same spring we were going to visit a new spring salon. Jane Heap had been telling us of a young russian in whose work she was interested. As we were crossing a bridge in Godiva we saw Jane Heap and the young russian. We saw his pictures and Gertrude Stein too was interested. He of course came to see us.
In How To Write Gertrude Stein makes this sentence, Painting now after its great period has come back to be a minor art.
She was very interested to know who was to be the leader of this art.
This is the story.
The young russian was interesting. He was painting, so he said, colour that was no colour, he was painting blue pictures and he was painting three heads in one. Picasso had been drawing three heads in one. Soon the russian was painting three figures in one. Was he the only one. In a way he was although there was a group of them. This group, very shortly after Gertrude Stein knew the russian, had a show at one of the art galleries, Druet’s I think. The group then consisted of the russian, a frenchman, a very young dutchman, and two russian brothers. All of them except the dutchman about twenty-six years old.
At this show Gertrude Stein met George Antheil who asked to come to see her and when he came he brought with him Virgil Thomson. Gertrude Stein had not found George Antheil particularly interesting although she liked him, but Virgil Thomson she found very interesting although I did not like him.
However all this I will tell about later. To go back now to painting.
The russian Tchelitchev’s work was the most vigorous of the group and the most mature and the most interesting. He had already then a passionate enmity against the frenchman whom they called Bébé Bérard and whose name was Christian Bérard and whom Tchelitchev said copied everything.
René Crevel had been the friend of all these painters. Some time later one of them was to have a one man show at the Gallérie Pierre. We were going to it and on the way we met René. We all stopped, he was exhilarated with exasperation. He talked with his characteristic brilliant violence. These painters, he said, sell their pictures for several thousand francs apiece and they have the pretentiousness which comes from being valued in terms of money, and we writers who have twice their quality and infinitely greater vitality cannot earn a living and have to beg and intrigue to induce publishers to publish us; but the time will come, and René became prophetic, when these same painters will come to us to re-create them and then we will contemplate them with indifference.
René was then and has remained ever since a devout surréaliste. He needs and needed, being a frenchman, an intellectual as well as a basal justification for the passionate exaltation in him. This he could not find, being of the immediate postwar generation, in either religion or patriotism, the war having destroyed for his generation, both patriotism and religion as a passion. Surréalisme has been his justification. It has clarified for him the confused negation in which he lived and loved. This he alone of his generation has really succeeded in expressing, a little in his earlier books, and in his last book, The Clavecin of Diderot very adequately and with the brilliant violence that is his quality.
Gertrude Stein was at first not interested in this group of painters as a group but only in the russian. This interest gradually increased and then she was bothered. Granted, she used to say, that the influences which make a new movement in art and literature have continued and are making a new movement in art and literature; in order to seize these influences and create as well as re-create them there needs a very dominating creative power. This the russian manifestly did not have. Still there was a distinctly new creative idea. Where had it come from. Gertrude Stein always says to the young painters when they complain that she changes her mind about their work, it is not I that change my mind about the pictures, but the paintings disappear into the wall, I do not see them any more and then they go out of the door naturally.
In the meantime as I have said George Antheil had brought Virgil Thomson to the house and Virgil Thomson and Gertrude Stein became friends and saw each other a great deal. Virgil Thomson had put a number of Gertrude Stein’s things to music, Susie Asado, Preciosilla and Capital Capitals. Gertrude Stein was very much interested in Virgil Thomson’s music. He had understood Satie undoubtedly and he had a comprehension quite his own of prosody. He understood a great deal of Gertrude Stein’s work, he used to dream at night that there was something there that he did not understand, but on the whole he was very well content with that which he did understand. She delighted in listening to her words framed by his music. They saw a great deal of each other.
Virgil had in his room a great many pictures by Christian Bérard and Gertrude Stein used to look at them a great deal. She could not find out at all what she thought about them.
She and Virgil Thomson used to talk about them endlessly. Virgil said he knew nothing about pictures but he thought these wonderful. Gertrude Stein told him about her perplexity about the new movement and that the creative power behind it was not the russian. Virgil said that there he quite agreed with her and he was convinced that it was Bébé Bérard, baptised Christian. She said that perhaps that was the answer but she was very doubtful. She used to say of Bérard’s pictures, they are almost something and then they are just not. As she used to explain to Virgil, the Catholic Church makes a very sharp distinction between a hysteric and a saint. The same thing holds true in the art world. There is the sensitiveness of the hysteric which has all the appearance of creation, but actual creation has an individual force which is an entirely different thing. Gertrude Stein was inclined to believe that artistically Bérard was more hysteric than saint. At this time she had come back to portrait writing with renewed vigour and she, to clarify her mind, as she said, did portraits of the russian and of the frenchman. In the meantime, through Virgil Thomson, she had met a young frenchman named Georges Hugnet. He and Gertrude Stein became very devoted to one another. He liked the sound of her writing and then he liked the sense and he liked the sentences.
At his home were a great many portraits of himself painted by his friends. Among others one by one of the two russian brothers and one by a young englishman. Gertrude Stein was not particularly interested in any of these portraits. There was however a painting of a hand by this young englishman which she did not like but which she remembered.
Every one began at this time to be very occupied, with their own affairs. Virgil Thomson had asked Gertrude Stein to write an opera for him. Among the saints there were two saints whom she had always liked better than any others, Saint Theresa of Avila and Ignatius Loyola, and she said she would write him an opera about these two saints. She began this and worked very hard at it all that spring and finally finished Four Saints and gave it to Virgil Thomson to put to music. He did. And it is a completely interesting opera both as to words and music.
All these summers we had continued to go to the hotel in Belley. We now had become so fond of this country, always the valley of the Rhône, and of the people of the country, and the trees of the country, and the oxen of the country, that we began looking for a house. One day we saw the house of our dreams across a valley. Go and ask the farmer there whose house that is, Gertrude Stein said to me. I said, nonsense it is an important house and it is occupied. Go and ask him, she said. Very reluctantly I did. He said, well yes, perhaps it is for rent, it belongs to a little girl, all her people are dead and I think there is a lieutenant of the regiment stationed in Belley living there now, but I understand they were to leave. You might go and see the agent of the property. We did. He was a kindly old farmer who always told us allez doucement, go slowly. We did. We had the promise of the house, which we never saw any nearer than across the valley, as soon as the lieutenant should leave. Finally three years ago the lieutenant went to Morocco and we took the house still only having seen it from across the valley and we have liked it always more.
While we were still staying at the hotel, Natalie Barney came one day and lunched there bringing some friends, among them, the Duchess of Clermont–Tonnerre. Gertrude Stein and she were delighted with one another and the meeting led to many pleasant consequences, but of that later.
To return to the painters. Just after the opera was finished and before leaving Paris we happened to go to a show of pictures at the Gallérie Bonjean. There we met one of the russian brothers, Genia Berman, and Gertrude Stein was not uninterested in his pictures. She went with him to his studio and looked at everything he had ever painted. He seemed to have a purer intelligence than the other two painters who certainly had not created the modern movement, perhaps the idea had been originally his. She asked him, telling her story as she was fond of telling it at that time to any one who would listen, had he originated the idea. He said with an intelligent inner smile that he thought he had. She was not at all sure that he was not right. He came down to Bilignin to see us and she slowly concluded that though he was a very good painter he was too bad a painter to have been the creator of an idea. So once more the search began.
Again just before leaving Paris at this same picture gallery she saw a picture of a poet sitting by a waterfall. Who did that, she said. A young englishman, Francis Rose, was the reply. Oh yes I am not interested in his work. How much is that picture, she said: It cost very little. Gertrude Stein says a picture is either worth three hundred francs or three hundred thousand francs. She bought this for three hundred and we went away for the summer.
Georges Hugnet had decided to become an editor and he began editing the Editions de la Montagne. Actually it was George Maratier, everybody’s friend who began this edition, but he decided to go to America and become an american and Georges Hugnet inherited it. The first book to appear was sixty pages in french of The Making of Americans. Gertrude Stein and Georges Hugnet translated them together and she was very happy about it. This was later followed by a volume of Ten Portraits written by Gertrude Stein and illustrated by portraits of the artists of themselves, and of the others drawn by them, Virgil Thomson by Bérard and a drawing of Bérard by himself, a portrait of Tchelitchev by himself, a portrait of Picasso by himself and one of Guillaume Apollinaire and one of Erik Satie by Picasso, one of Kristians Tonny the young dutchman by himself and one of Bernard Faÿ by Tonny. These volumes were very well received and everybody was pleased.
Once more everybody went away.
Gertrude Stein in winter takes her white poodle Basket to be bathed at a vet’s and she used to go to the picture gallery where she had bought the englishman’s romantic picture and wait for Basket to dry. Every time she came home she brought more pictures by the englishman. She did not talk much about it but they accumulated. Several people began to tell her about this young man and offered to introduce him. Gertrude Stein declined. She said no she had had enough of knowing young painters, she now would content herself with knowing young painting.
In the meantime Georges Hugnet wrote a poem called Enfance. Gertrude Stein offered to translate it for him but instead she wrote a poem about it. This at first pleased Georges Hugnet too much and then did not please him at all. Gertrude Stein then called the poem Before The Flowers Of Friendship Faded Friendship Faded. Everybody mixed themselves up in all this. The group broke up. Gertrude Stein was very upset and then consoled herself by telling all about it in a delightful short story called From Left to Right and which was printed in the London Harper’s Bazaar.
It was not long after this that one day Gertrude Stein called in the concierge and asked him to hang up all the Francis Rose pictures, by this time there were some thirty odd. Gertrude Stein was very much upset while she was having this done. I asked her why she was doing it if it upset her so much. She said she could not help it, that she felt that way about it but to change the whole aspect of the room by adding these thirty pictures was very upsetting. There the matter rested for some time.
To go back again to those days just after the publication of The Making of Americans. There was at that time a review of Gertrude Stein’s book Geography and Plays in the Athenaeum signed Edith Sitwell. The review was long and a little condescending but I liked it. Gertrude Stein had not cared for it. A year later in the London Vogue was an article again by Edith Sitwell saying that since writing her article in the Athenaeum she had spent the year reading nothing but Geography and Plays and she wished to say how important and beautiful a book she had found it to be.
One afternoon at Elmer Harden’s we met Miss Todd the editor of the London Vogue. She said that Edith Sitwell was to be shortly in Paris and wanted very much to meet Gertrude Stein. She said that Edith Sitwell was very shy and hesitant about coming. Elmer Harden said he would act as escort.
I remember so well my first impression of her, an impression which indeed has never changed. Very tall, bending slightly, withdrawing and hesitatingly advancing, and beautiful with the most distinguished nose I have ever seen on any human being. At that time and in conversation between Gertrude Stein and herself afterwards, I delighted in the delicacy and completeness of her understanding of poetry. She and Gertrude Stein became friends at once. This friendship like all friendships has had its difficulties but I am convinced that fundamentally Gertrude Stein and Edith Sitwell are friends and enjoy being friends.
We saw a great deal of Edith Sitwell at this time and then she went back to London. In the autumn of that year nineteen twenty-five Gertrude Stein had a letter from the president of the literary society of Cambridge asking her to speak before them in the early spring. Gertrude Stein quite completely upset at the very idea quite promptly answered no. Immediately came a letter from Edith Sitwell saying that the no must be changed to yes. That it was of the first importance that Gertrude Steln should deliver this address and that moreover Oxford was waiting for the yes to be given to Cambridge to ask her to do the same at Oxford.
There was very evidently nothing to do but to say yes and so Gertrude Stein said yes.
She was very upset at the prospect, peace, she said, had much greater terrors than war. Precipices even were nothing to this. She was very low in her mind. Luckily early in January the ford car began to have everything the matter with it. The better garages would not pay much attention to aged fords and Gertrude Stein used to take hers out to a shed in Montrouge where the mechanics worked at it while she sat. If she were to leave it there there would most likely have been nothing left of it to drive away.
One cold dark afternoon she went out to sit with her ford car and while she sat on the steps of another battered ford watching her own being taken to pieces and put together again, she began to write. She stayed there several hours and when she came back chilled, with the ford repaired, she had written the whole of Composition As Explanation.
Once the lecture written the next trouble was the reading of it. Everybody gave her advice. She read it to anybody who came to the house and some of them read it to her. Prichard happened to be in Paris just then and he and Emily Chadbourne between them gave advice and were an audience. Prichard showed her how to read it in the english manner but Emily Chadbourne was all for the american manner and Gertrude Stein was too worried to have any manner. We went one afternoon to Natalie Barney’s. There there was a very aged and a very charming french professor of history. Natalie Barney asked him to tell Gertrude Stein how to lecture. Talk as quickly as you can and never look up, was his advice. Prichard had said talk as slowly as possible and never look down. At any rate I ordered a new dress and a new hat for Gertrude Stein and early in the spring we went to London.
This was the spring of twenty-six and England was still very strict about passports. We had ours alright but Gertrude Stein hates to answer questions from officials, it always worries her and she was already none too happy at the prospect of lecturing.
So taking both passports I went down stairs to see the officials. Ah, said one of them, and where is Miss Gertrude Stein. She is on deck, I replied, and she doe& not care to come down. She does not care to come down, he repeated, yes that is quite right, she does not care to come down, and he affixed the required signatures. So then we arrived in London. Edith Sitwell gave a party for us and so did her brother Osbert. Osbert was a great comfort to Gertrude Stein. He so thoroughly understood every possible way in which one could be nervous that as he sat beside her in the hotel telling her all the kinds of ways that he and she could suffer from stage fright she was quite soothed. She was always very fond of Osbert. She always said he was like an uncle of a king. He had that pleasant kindly irresponsible agitated calm that an uncle of an english king always must have.
Finally we arrived in Cambridge in the afternoon, were given tea and then dined with the president of the society and some of his friends. It was very pleasant and after dinner we went to the lecture room. It was a varied audience, men and women. Gertrude Stein was soon at her ease, the lecture went off very well, the men afterwards asked a great many questions and were very enthusiastic. The women said nothing. Gertrude Stein wondered whether they were supposed not to or just did not.
The day after we went to Oxford. There we lunched with young Acton and then went in to the lecture. Gertrude Stein was feeling more comfortable as a lecturer and this time she had a wonderful time. As she remarked afterwards, I felt just like a prima donna.
The lecture room was full, many standing in the back, and the discussion, after the lecture, lasted over an hour and no one left. It was very exciting. They asked all sorts of questions, they wanted to know most often why Gertrude Stein thought she was right in doing the kind of writing she did. She answered that it was not a question of what any one thought but after all she had been doing as she did for about twenty years and now they wanted to hear her lecture. This did not mean of course that they were coming to think that her way was a possible way, it proved nothing, but on the other hand it did possibly indicate something. They laughed. Then up jumped one man, it turned out afterwards that he was a dean, and he said that in the Saints in Seven he had been very interested in the sentence about the ring around the moon, about the ring following the moon. He admitted that the sentence was one of the most beautifully balanced sentences he had ever heard, but still did the ring follow the moon. Gertrude Stein said, when you look at the moon and there is a ring around the moon and the moon moves does not the ring follow the moon. Perhaps it seems to, he replied. Well, in that case how, she said, do you know that it does not; he sat down. Another man, a don, next to him jumped up and asked something else. They did this several times, the two of them, jumping up one after the other. Then the first man jumped up and said, you say that everything being the same everything is always different, how can that be so. Consider, she replied, the two of you, you jump up one after the other, that is the same thing and surely you admit that the two of you are always different. Touché, he said and the meeting was over. One of the men was so moved that he confided to me as we went out that the lecture had been his greatest experience since he had read Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason.
Edith Sitwell, Osbert and Sacheverell were all present and were all delighted. They were delighted with the lecture and they were delighted with the good humoured way in which Gertrude Stein had gotten the best of the hecklers. Edith Sitwell said that Sache chuckled about it all the way home.
The next day we returned to Paris. The Sitwells wanted us to stay and be interviewed and generally go on with it but Gertrude Stein felt that she had had enough of glory and excitement. Not, as she always explains, that she could ever have enough of glory. After all, as she always contends, no artist needs criticism, he only needs appreciation. If he needs criticism he is no artist.
Leonard Woolf some months after this published Composition As Explanation in the Hogarth Essay Series. It was also printed in The Dial.
Mildred Aldrich was awfully pleased at Gertrude Stein’s english success. She was a good new englander and to her, recognition by Oxford and Cambridge, was even more important than recognition by the Atlantic Monthly. We went out to see her on our return and she had to have the lecture read to her again and to hear every detail of the whole experience.
Mildred Aldrich was falling upon bad days. Her annuity suddenly ceased and for a long time we did not know it. One day Dawson Johnston, the librarian of the American Library, told Gertrude Stein that Miss Aldrich had written to him to come out and get all her books as she would soon be leaving her home. We went out immediately and Mildred told us that her annuity had been stopped. It seems it was an annuity given by a woman who had fallen into her dotage and she one morning told her lawyer to cut off all the annuities that she had given for many years to a number of people. Gertrude Stein told Mildred not to worry. The Carnegie Fund, approached by Kate Buss, sent five hundred dollars, William Cook gave Gertrude Stein a blank cheque to supply all deficiencies, another friend of Mildred’s from Providence Rhode Island came forward generously and the Atlantic Monthly started a fund. Very soon Mildred Aldrich was safe. She said ruefully to Gertrude Stein, you would not let me go elegantly to the poorhouse and I would have gone elegantly, but you have turned this into a poorhouse and I am the sole inmate. Gertrude Stein comforted her and said that she could be just as elegant in her solitary state. After all, Gertrude Stein used to say to her, Mildred nobody can say that you have not had a good run for your money. Mildred Aldrich’s last years were safe.
William Cook after the war had been in Russia, in Tiflis, for three years in connection with Red Cross distribution there. One evening he and Gertrude Stein had been out to see Mildred, it was during her last illness and they were coming home one foggy evening. Cook had a small open car but a powerful searchlight, strong enough to pierce the fog. Just behind them was another small car which kept an even pace with them, when Cook drove faster, they drove faster, and when he slowed down, they slowed down. Gertrude Stein said to him, it is lucky for them that you have such a bright light, their lanterns are poor and they are having the benefit of yours. Yes, said Cook, rather curiously, I have been saying that to myself, but you know after three years of Soviet Russia and the Cheka, even I, an american, have gotten to feel a little queer, and I have to talk to myself about it, to be sure that the car behind us is not the car of the secret police.
I said that René Crevel came to the house. Of all the young men who came to the house I think I liked René the best. He had french charm, which when it is at its most charming is more charming even than american charm, charming as that can be. Marcel Duchamp and René Crevel are perhaps the most complete examples of this french charm. We were very fond of René. He was young and violent and ill and revolutionary and sweet and tender. Gertrude Stein and René are very fond of each other, he writes her most delightful english letters, and she scolds him a great deal. It was he who, in early days, first talked to us of Bernard Faÿ. He said he was a young professor in the University of Clermont–Ferrand and he wanted to take us to his house. One afternoon he did take us there. Bernard Faÿ was not at all what Gertrude Stein expected and he and she had nothing in particular to say to each other.
As I remember during that winter and the next we gave a great many parties. We gave a tea party for the Sitwells.
Carl Van Vechten sent us quantities of negroes beside there were the negroes of our neighbour Mrs. Regan who had brought Josephine Baker to Paris. Carl sent us Paul Robeson. Paul Robeson interested Gertrude Stein. He knew american values and american life as only one in it but not of it could know them. And yet as soon as any other person came into the room he became definitely a negro. Gertrude Stein did not like hearing him sing spirituals. They do not belong to you any more than anything else, so why claim them, she said. He did not answer.
Once a southern woman, a very charming southern woman, was there, and she said to him, where were you born, and he answered, in New Jersey and she said, not in the south, what a pity and he said, not for me.
Gertrude Stein concluded that negroes were not suffering from persecution, they were suffering from nothingness. She always contends that the african is not primitive, he has a very ancient but a very narrow culture and there it remains. Consequently nothing does or can happen.
Carl Van Vechten himself came over for the first time since those far away days of the pleated shirt. All those years he and Gertrude Stein had kept up a friendship and a correspondence. Now that he was actually coming Gertrude Stein was a little worried. When he came they were better friends than ever. Gertrude Stein told him that she had been worried. I wasn’t, said Carl.
Among the other young men who came to the house at the time when they came in such numbers was Bravig Imbs. We liked Bravig Imbs, even though as Gertrude Stein said, his aim was to please. It was he who brought Elliot Paul to the house and Elliot Paul brought transition.
We had liked Bravig Immbs but we liked Elliot Paul more. He was very interesting. Elliot Paul was a new englander but he was a saracen, a saracen such as you sometimes see in the villages of France where the strain from some Crusading ancestor’s dependents still survives. Elliot Paul was such a one. He had an element not of mystery but of evanescence, actually little by little he appeared and then as slowly he disappeared, and Eugene Jolas and Maria Jolas appeared. These once having appeared, stayed in their appearance.
Elliot Paul was at that time working on the Paris Chicago Tribune and he was there writing a series of articles on the work of Gertrude Stein, the first seriously popular estimation of her work. At the same time he was turning the young journalists and proof-readers into writers. He started Bravig Imbs on his first book, The Professor’s Wife, by stopping him suddenly in his talk and saying, you begin there. He did the same thing for others. He played the accordion as nobody else not native to the accordion could play it and he learned and played for Gertrude Stein accompanied on the violin by Bravig Imbs, Gertrude Stein’s favourite ditty, The Trail of the Lonesome Pine, My name is June and very very soon.
The Trail of the Lonesome Pine as a song made a lasting appeal to Gertrude Stein. Mildred Aldrich had it among her records and when we spent the afternoon with her at Huiry, Gertrude Stein inevitably would start The Trail of the Lonesome Pine on the phonograph and play it and play it. She liked it in itself and she had been fascinated during the war with the magic of the Trail of the Lonesome Pine as a book for the doughboy. How often when a doughboy in hospital had become particularly fond of her, he would say, I once read a great book, do you know it, it is called The Trail of the Lonesome Pine. They finally got a copy of it in the camp at Nîmes and it stayed by the bedside of every sick soldier. They did not read much of it, as far as she could make out sometimes only a paragraph, in the course of several days, but their voices were husky when they spoke of it, and when they were particularly devoted to her they would offer to lend her this very dirty and tattered copy.
She reads anything and naturally she read this and she was puzzled. It had practically no story to it and it was not exciting, or adventurous, and it was very well written and was mostly description of mountain scenery. Later on she came across some reminiscences of a southern woman who told how the mountaineers in the southern army during the civil war used to wait in turn to read Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, an equally astonishing thing for again there is not much of a story and a great deal of description. However Gertrude Stein admits that she loves the song of The Trail of the Lonesome Pine in the same way that the doughboy loved the book and Elliot Paul played it for her on the accordion.
One day Elliot Paul came in very excitedly, he usuall seemed to be feeling a great deal of excitement but neithe showed nor expressed it. This time however he did show it and express it. He said he wanted to ask Gertrude Stein’s advice. A proposition had been made to him to edit a magazine in Paris and he was hesitating whether he should undertake it. Gertrude Stein was naturally all for it. After all, as she said, we do want to be printed. One writes for oneself and strangers but with no adventurous publishers how can one come in contact with those same strangers.
However she was very fond of Elliot Paul and did not want him to take too much risk. No risk, said Elliot Paul, the money for it is guaranteed for a number of years. Well then, said Gertrude Stein, one thing is certain no one could be a better editor than you would be. You are not egotistical and you know what you feel.
Transition began and of course it meant a great deal to everybody. Elliot Paul chose with great care what he wanted to put into transition. He said he was afraid of its becoming too popular. If ever there are more than two thousand subscribers, I quit, he used to say.
He chose Elucidation Gertrude Stein’s first effort to explain herself, written in Saint-Rémy to put into the first number of transition. Later As A Wife Has A Cow A Love Story. He was always very enthusiastic about this story. He liked Made A Mile Away, a description of the pictures that Gertrude Stein has liked and later a novelette of desertion If He Thinks, for transition. He had a perfectly definite idea of gradually opening the eyes of the public to the work of the writers that interested him and as I say he chose what he wanted with great care. He was very interested in Picasso and he became very deeply interested in Juan Gris and after his death printed a translation of Juan Gris’ defence of painting which had already been printed in french in the Transatlantic Review, and he printed Gertrude Stein’s lament, The Life and Death of Juan Gris and her One Spaniard.
Elliot Paul slowly disappeared and Eugene and Maria Jolas appeared.
Transition grew more bulky. At Gertrude Stein’s request transition reprinted Tender Buttons, printed a bibliography of all her work up to date and later printed her opera, Four Saints. For these printings Gertrude Stein was very grateful. In the last numbers of transition nothing of hers appeared. Transition died.
Of all the little magazines which as Gertrude Stein loves to quote, have died to make verse free, perhaps the youngest and freshest was the Blues. Its editor Charles Henri Ford has come to Paris and he is young and fresh as his Blues and also honest which also is a pleasure. Gertrude Stein thinks that he and Robert Coates alone among the young men have an individual sense of words.
During this time Oxford and Cambridge men turned up from time to time at the rue de Fleurus. One of them brought with him Brewer, one of the firm of Payson and Clarke.
Brewer was interested in the work of Gertrude Steln and though he promised nothing he and she talked over the possibilities of his firm printing something of hers. She had just written a shortish novel called A Novel, and was at the time working at another shortish novel which was called Lucy Church Amiably and which she describes as a novel of romantic beauty and nature and which looks like an engraving. She at Brewer’s request wrote a summary of this book as an advertisement and he cabled his enthusiasm. However he wished first to commence with a collection of short things and she suggested in that case he should make it all the short things she had written about America and call it Useful Knowledge. This was done.
There are many Paris picture dealers who like adventure in their business, there are no publishers in America who like adventure in theirs. In Paris there are picture dealers like Durand–Ruel who went broke twice supporting the impressionists, Vollard for Cézanne, Sagot for Picasso and Kahnweiler for all the cubists. They make their money as they can and they keep on buying something for which there is no present sale and they do so persistently until they create its public. And these adventurers are adventurous because that is the way they feel about it. There are others who have not chosen as well and have gone entirely broke. It is the tradition among the more adventurous Paris picture dealers to adventure. I suppose there are a great many reasons why publishers do not. John Lane alone among publishers did. He perhaps did not die a very rich man but he lived well, and died a moderately rich one.
We had a hope that Brewer might be this kind of a publisher. He printed Useful Knowledge, his results were not all that he anticipated and instead of continuing and gradually creating a public for Gertrude Stein’s work he procrastinated and then said no. I suppose this was inevitable. However that was the matter as it was and as it continued to be.
I now myself began to think about publishing the work of Gertrude Stein. I asked her to invent a name for my edition and she laughed and said, call it Plain Edition. And Plain Edition it is.
All that I knew about what I would have to do was that I would have to get the book printed and then to get it distributed, that is sold.
I talked to everybody about how these two things were to be accomplished.
At first I thought I would associate some one with me but that soon did not please me and I decided to do it all by myself.
Gertrude Stein wanted the first book Lucy Church Amiably to look like a school book and to be bound in blue. Once having ordered my book to be printed my next problem was the problem of distribution. On this subject I received a great deal of advice. Some of the advice turned out to be good and some of it turned out to be bad. William A. Bradley, the friend and comforter of Paris authors, told me to subscribe to The Publishers’ Weekly. This was undoubtedly wise advice. This helped me to learn something of my new business, but the real difficulty was to get to the booksellers. Ralph Church, philosopher and friend, said stick to the booksellers, first and last. Excellent advice but how to get to the booksellers. At this moment a kind friend said that she could get me copied an old list of booksellers belonging to a publisher. This list was sent to me and I began sending out my circulars. The circular pleased me at first but I soon concluded that it was not quite right. However I did get orders from America and I was paid without much difficulty and I was encouraged.
The distribution in Paris was at once easier and more difficult. It was easy to get the book put in the window of all the booksellers in Paris that sold english books. This event gave Gertrude Stein a childish delight amounting almost to ecstasy. She had never seen a book of hers in a bookstore window before, except a french translation of The Ten Portraits, and she spent all her time in her wanderings about Paris looking at the copies of Lucy Church Amiably in the windows and coming back and telling me about it.
The books were sold too and then as I was away from Paris six months in the year I turned over the Paris work to a french agent. This worked very well at first but finally did not work well. However one must learn one’s trade.
I decided upon my next book How To Write and not being entirely satisfied with the get up of Lucy Church Amiably, although it did look like a school book, I decided to have the next book printed at Dijon and in the form of an Elzevir. Again the question of binding was a difficulty.
I went to work in the same way to sell How To Write, but I began to realise that my list of booksellers was out of date. Also I was told that I should write following up letters. Ellen du Pois helped me with these. I was told that I should have reviews. Ellen du Pois came to the rescue here too. And that I should advertise. Advertising would of necessity be too expensive; I had to keep my money to print my books, as my plans were getting more and more ambitious. Getting reviews was a difficulty, there are always plenty of humorous references to Gertrude Stein’s work, as Gertrude Stein always says to comfort herself, they do quote me, that means that my words and my sentences get under their skins although they do not know it. It was difficult to get serious reviews. There are many writers who write her letters of admiration but even when they are in a position to do so they do not write themselves down in book reviews. Gertrude Stein likes to quote Browning who at a dinner party met a famous literary man and this man came up to Browning and spoke to him at length and in a very laudatory way about his poems. Browning listened and then said, and are you going to print what you have just said. There was naturally no answer. In Gertrude Stein’s case there have been some notable exceptions, Sherwood Anderson, Edith Sitwell, Bernard Faÿ and Louis Bromfield.
I also printed an edition of one hundred copies, very beautifully done at Chartres, of the poem of Gertrude Stein Before The Flowers Of Friendship Faded Friendship Faded. These one hundred copies sold very easily.
I was better satisfied with the bookmaking of How To Write but there was always the question of binding the book. It is practically impossible to get a decent commercial binding in France, french publishers only cover their books in paper. I was very troubled about this.
One evening we went to an evening party at Georges Poupet’s, a gentle friend of authors. There I met Maurice Darantière. It was he who had printed The Making of Americans and he was always justly proud of it as a book and as bookmaking. He had left Dijon and had started printing books in the neighbourhood of Paris with a hand-press and he was printing very beautiful books. He is a kind man and I naturally began telling him my troubles. Listen, he said I have the solution. But I interrupted him, you must remember that I do not want to make these books expensive. After all Gertrude Stein’s readers are writers, university students, librarians and young people who have very little money. Germs trude Stein wants readers not collectors. In spite of herself her books have too often become collector’s books. They pay big prices for Tender Buttons and The Portrait of Mabel Dodge and that does not please her, she wants her books read not owned. Yes yes, he said, I understand. No this is what I propose. We will have your book set by monotype which is comparatively cheap, I will see to that, then I will handpull your books on good but not too expensive paper and they will be beautifully printed and instead of any covers I will have them bound in heavy paper like The Making of Americans, paper just like that, and I will have made little boxes in which they will fit perfectly, well made little boxes and there you are. And I will be able to sell them at a reasonable price. Yes you will see, he said.
I was getting more ambitious I wished now to begin a series of three, beginning with Operas and Plays, going on with Matisse, Picasso and Gertrude Stein and Two Shorter Stories, and then going on with Two Long Poems and Many Shorter Ones.
Maurice Darantière has been as good as his word. He has printed Operas and Plays and it is a beautiful book and reasonable in price and he is now printing the second book Matisse Picasso and Gertrude Stein and Two Shorter Stories. Now I have an up to date list of booksellers and I am once more on my way.
As I was saying after the return from England and lecturing we gave a great many parties, there were many occasions for parties, all the Sitwells came over, Carl Van Vechten came over, Sherwood Anderson came over again. And beside there were many other occasions for parties.
It was then that Gertrude Stein and Bernard Faÿ met again and this time they had a great deal to say to each other. Gertrude Stein found the contact with his mind stimulating and comforting. They were slowly coming to be friends.
I remember once coming into the room and hearing Bernard Fay say that the three people of first rate importance that he had met in his life were Picasso, Gertrude Stein and André Gide and Gertrude Stein inquired quite simply, that is quite right but why include Gide. A year or so later in referring to this conversation he said to her, and I am not sure you were not right.
Sherwood came to Paris that winter and he was a delight. He was enjoying himself and we enjoyed him. He was being lionised and I must say he was a very appearing and disappearing lion. I remember his being asked to the Pen Club. Natalie Barney and a long-bearded frenchman were to be his sponsors. He wanted Gertrude Stein to come too. She said she loved him very much but not the Pen Club. Natalie Barney came over to ask her. Gertrude Stein who was caught outside, walking her dog, pleaded illness. The next day Sherwood turned up. How was it, asked Gertrude Stein. Why, said he, it wasn’t a party for me, it was a party for a big woman, and she was just a derailed freight car.
We had installed electric radiators in the studio, we were as our Finnish servant would say getting modern. She finds it difficult to understand why we are not more modern. Gertrude Stein says that if you are way ahead with your head you naturally are old fashioned and regular in your daily life. And Picasso adds, do you suppose Michael Angelo would have been grateful for a gift of a piece of renaissance furniture, no he wanted a greek coin.
We did install electric radiators and Sherwood turned up and we gave him a Christmas party. The radiators smelled and it was terrifically hot but we were all pleased as it was a nice party. Sherwood looked as usual very handsome in one of his very latest scarf ties. Sherwood Anderson does dress well and his son John follows suit. John and his sister came over with their father. While Sherwood was still in Paris John the son was an awkward shy boy. The day after Sherwood left John turned up, sat easily on the arm of the sofa and was beautiful to look upon and he knew it. Nothing to the outward eye had changed but he had changed and he knew it.
It was during this visit that Gertrude Stein and Sherwood Anderson had all those amusing conversations about Hemingway. They enjoyed each other thoroughly. They found out that they both had had and continued to have Grant as their great american hero. They did not care so much about Lincoln either of them. They had always and still liked Grant. They even planned collaborating on a life of Grant. Gertrude Stein still likes to think about this possibility.
We did give a great many parties in those days and the Duchess of Clermont–Tonnerre came very often.
She and Gertrude Stein pleased one another. They were entirely different in life education and interests but they delighted in each other’s understanding. They were also the only two women whom they met who still had long hair. Gertrude Stein had always worn hers well on top of her head, an ancient fashion that she had never changed.
Madame de Clermont–Tonnerre came in very late to one of the parties, almost every one had gone, and her hair was cut. Do you like it, said Madame de Clermont–Tonnerre. I do, said Gertrude Stein. Well, said Madame de Clermont–Tonnerre, if you like it and my daughter likes it and she does like it I am satisfied. That night Gertrude Stein said to me, I guess I will have to too. Cut it off she said and I did.
I was still cutting the next evening, I had been cutting a little more all day and by this time it was only a cap of hair when Sherwood Anderson came in. Well, how do you like it, said I rather fearfully. I like it, he said, it makes her look like a monk.
As I have said, Picasso seeing it, was for a moment angry and said, and my portrait, but very soon added, after all it is all there.
We now had our country house, the one we had only seen across the valley and just before leaving we found the white poodle, Basket. He was a little puppy in a little neighbourhood dog-show and he had blue eyes, a pink nose and white hair and he jumped up into Gertrude Stein’s arms. A new puppy and a new ford we went off to our new house and we were thoroughly pleased with all three. Basket although now he is a large unwieldy poodle, still will get up on Gertrude Stein’s lap and stay there. She says that listening to the rhythm of his water drinking made her recognise the difference between sentences and paragraphs, that paragraphs are emotional and that sentences are not.
Bernard Faÿ came and stayed with us that summer. Gertrude Stein and he talked out in the garden about everything, about life, and America, and themselves and friendship. They then cemented the friendship that is one of the four permanent friendships of Gertrude Stein’s life. He even tolerated Basket for Gertrude Stein’s sake. Lately Picabia has given us a tiny mexican dog, we call Byron. Bernard Faÿ likes Byron for Byron’s own sake. Gertrude Stein teases him and says naturally he likes Byron best because Byron is an american while just as naturally she likes Basket best because Basket is a frenchman.
Bilignin brings me to a new old acquaintance. One day Gertrude Stein came home from a walk to the bank and bringing out a card from her pocket said, we are lunching to-morrow with the Bromfields. Way back in the Hemingway days Gertrude Stein had met Bromfield and his wife and then from time to time there had been a slight acquaintance, there had even been a slight acquaintance with Bromfield’s sister, and now suddenly we were lunching with the Bromfields. Why, I asked, because answered Gertrude Stein quite radiant, he knows all about gardens.
We lunched with the Bromfields and he does know all about gardens and all about flowers and all about soils. Gertrude Stein and he first liked each other as gardeners, then they liked each other as americans and then they liked each other as writers. Gertrude Stein says of him that he is as american as Janet Scudder, as american as a doughboy, but not as solemn.
One day the Jolases brought Furman the publisher to the house. He as have been many publishers was enthusiastic and enthusiastic about The Making of Americans. But it is terribly long, it’s a thousand pages, said Gertrude Stein. Well, can’t it be cut down, he said to about four -hundred. Yes, said Gertrude Stein, perhaps. Well cut it down and I will publish it, said Furman.
Gertrude Stein thought about it and then did it. She spent a part of the summer over it and Bradley as well as she and myself thought it alright.
In the meantime Gertrude Stein had told Elliot Paul about the proposition. It’s alright when he is over here, said Elliot Paul, but when he gets back the boys won’t let him. Who the boys are I do not know but they certainly did not let him. Elliot Paul was right. In spite of the efforts of Robert Coates and Bradley nothing happened.
In the meantime Gertrude Stein’s reputation among the french writers and readers was steadily growing. The trans lation of the fragments of the Making of Americans, and of the Ten Portraits interested them. It was at this time that Bernard Faÿ wrote his article about her work printed in the Revue Européenne. They also printed the only thing she has ever written in french a little film about the dog Basket.
They were very interested in her later work as well as her earlier work. Marcel Brion wrote a serious criticism of her work in Echange, comparing her work to Bach. Since then, in Les Nouvelles Littéraires, he has written of each of her books as they come out. He was particularly impressed by How To Write.
About this time too Bernard Faÿ was translating a fragment of Melanctha from Three Lives for the volume of Ten American Novelists, this to be introduced by his article printed in the Revue Européenne. He came to the house one afternoon and read his translation of Melanctha aloud to us. Madame de Clermont–Tonnerre was there and she was very impressed by his translation.
One day not long after she asked to come to the house as she wished to talk to Gertrude Stein. She came and she said, the time has now come when you must be made known to a larger public. I myself believe in a larger public. Gertrude Stein too believes in a larger public but the way has always been barred. No, said Madame de Clermont–Tonnerre, the way can be opened. Let us think.
She said it must come from the translation of a big book, an important book. Gertrude Stein suggested the Making of Americans and told her how it had been prepared for an American publisher to make about four hundred pages. That will do exactly, she said. And went away.
Finally and not after much delay, Monsieur Bouteleau of Stock saw Gertrude Stein and he decided to publish the book. There was some difficulty about finding a translator, but finally that was arranged. Bernard Faÿ aided by the Baronne Seillière undertook the translation, and it is this translation which is to appear this spring, and that this summer made Gertrude Stein say, I knew it was a wonderful book in english, but it is even, well, I cannot say almost really more wonderful but just as wonderful in french.
Last autumn the day we came back to Paris from Bilignin I was as usual very busy with a number of things and Gertrude Stein went out to buy some nails at the bazaar of the rue de Rennes. There she met Guevara, a chilean painter and his wife. They are our neighbours, and they said, come to tea to-morrow. Gertrude Stein said, but we are just home, wait a bit. Do come, said Méraude Guevara. And then added, there will be some one there you will like to see. Who is it, said Gertrude Stein with a never failing curiosity. Sir Francis Rose, they said. Alright, we’ll come, said Gertrude Stein. By this time she no longer objected to meeting Francis Rose. We met then and he of course immediately came back to the house with her. He was, as may be imagined, quite pink with emotion. And what, said he, did Picasso say when he saw my paintings. When he first saw them, Gertrude Stein answered, he said, at least they are less bêtes than the others. And since, he asked. And since he always goes into the corner and turns the canvas over to look at them but he says nothing.
Since then we have seen a great deal of Francis Rose but Gertrude Stein has not lost interest in the pictures. He has this summer painted the house from across the valley where we first saw it and the waterfall celebrated in Lucy Church Amiably. He has also painted her portrait. He likes it and I like it but she is not sure whether she does, but as she has just said, perhaps she does. We had a pleasant time this summer, Bernard Faÿ and. Francis Rose both charming guests.
A young man who first made Gertrude Stein’s acquaintance by writing engaging letters from America is Paul Frederick Bowles. Gertrude Stein says of him that he is delightful and sensible in summer but neither delightful nor sensible in the winter. Aaron Copland came to see us with Bowles in the summer and Gertrude Stein liked him immensely. Bowles told Gertrude Stein and it pleased her that Copland said threateningly to him when as usual in the winter he was neither delightful nor sensible, if you do not work now when you are twenty when you are thirty, nobody will love you.
For some time now many people, and publishers, have been asking Gertrude Stein to write her autobiography and she had always replied, not possibly.
She began to tease me and say that I should write my autobiography. Just think, she would say, what a lot of money you would make. She then began to invent titles for my autobiography. My Life With The Great, Wives of Geniuses I Have Sat With, My Twenty-five Years With Gertrude Stein.
Then she began to get serious and say, but really seriously you ought to write your autobiography. Finally I promised that if during the summer I could find time I would write my autobiography.
When Ford Madox Ford was editing the Transatlantic Review he once said to Gertrude Stein, I am a pretty good writer and a pretty good editor and a pretty good business man but I find it very difficult to be all three at once.
I am a pretty good housekeeper and a pretty good gardener and a pretty good needlewoman and a pretty good secretary and a pretty good editor and a pretty good vet for dogs and I have to do them all at once and I found it difficult to add being a pretty good author.
About six weeks ago Gertrude Stein said, it does not look to me as if you were ever going to write that autobiography. You know what I am going to do. I am going to write it for you. I am going to write it as simply as Defoe did the autobiography of Robinson Crusoe. And she has and this is it.
This web edition published by:
The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:13