Issue 47, Summer 1969
In his various reminiscences about the early twenties Hemingway recalls with grim satisfaction how difficult it was to get his stories accepted. One persistent memory was associated with the rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs, where he lived when he returned to Paris from Canada in 1924 after quitting his newspaper job. In Green Hills of Africa, he remembers “all of the stories back in the mail that came in through a slit in the sawmill door, with notes of rejection that would never call them stories, but always anecdotes, sketches, contes, etc. They did not want them, and we lived on poireaux and drank cahors and water.” After the success of The Sun Also Rises in 1926, his stories were suddenly in demand by Scribner’s, the Atlantic, New Republic, and LaNouvelle Revue Française. But before that he had his fill of being ignored by commercial publishers and magazines that paid. Edward J. O’Brien had singled him out by dedicating The Best Short Stories of 1923 to Ernest Hemenway, but he had misspelled his name and reprinted “My Old Man,” a story that might have been written by Sherwood Anderson. Scott Fitzgerald had recognized Hemingway’s worth and written to Maxwell Perkins at Scribner’s, “This is to tell you about a young man named Ernest Hemingway, who lives in Paris (an American), writes for the Transatlantic Review and has a brilliant future.” He urged Perkins to “look him up right away. He’s the real thing.” But Perkins was slow to move, and American publishers seemed dishearteningly unresponsive to a young man in a hurry to get his stories published.
Hemingway’s experiences were typical. An unknown writer or one who was the slightest bit avant-garde had a hard time catching the eye of the popular magazines and established publishers. His only recourse was to write for literary magazines like those in which Hemingway’s early stories first appeared. Hemingway was more fortunate than most. He had the backing of that great apostle of the little magazine, Ezra Pound, the foreign editor of The Little Review, a founder of the Transatlantic Review, the patron saint of This Quarter. When Hemingway returned to Paris, Pound introduced him to Ford Madox Ford, who put him to work as an assistant editor of Transatlantic. At that time Paris was the center of the non profit publishing industry. Besides the little magazines there was Robert McAlmon’s Contact Publishing Company and William Bird’s Three Mountains Press, both established in 1922. Between them they published Hemingway’s first two books—pamphlets, really—which otherwise would not have appeared in print.
Hemingway had the example of Joyce to show him how fortunate he was and how easily he succeeded. Joyce, the greatest living writer to most Americans of Hemingway’s generation, had to struggle all his life to get his works in to print and had to be subsidized so that he could go on writing. His cause was taken up by a succession of dedicated women who were not only perceptive enough but determined that Joyce would get published regardless of obstacles. Two of them were Americans—Margaret Anderson who ran Ulysses serially in The Little Review and as a result had to fight the censors for three years, and Sylvia Beach who became a publisher with the sole purpose of bringing the book into the world. Thus Ulysses appeared in Paris under the imprint of Shakespeare and Company a dozen years before it could be published legally in any English-speaking country.
Publishers like Shakespeare and Company were rare, but little magazines were a common phenomenon. Most of them were ephemeral, appearing at irregular intervals for four or five issues until funds ran out. Chronically short of capital,they paid contributors little besides the satisfaction of being displayed before a small, intelligent audience. (The Transatlantic Review, This Quarter, and Transition, which had better financial backing than most, all paid thirty francs a page at a time when the franc was averaging twenty-five to the dollar; many little magazines paid nothing.) They usually published the same authors, and their editors often reappeared on one magazine after another, a circumstance which led William Carlos Williams to say that there was just one continuous little magazine under different names. The Little Review was an exception,lasting from 1914 to 1929, but its character changed several times during that period, depending on Margaret Anderson’s changing interests as she moved from Chicago to New York to Paris.
In the twenties a number of little magazines were published in Europe, where printing was cheaper, and edited from Montparnasse, where the editors and writers were most likely to meet. Several like Broom and Secession self-consciously presented the “exile” point of view for a time, until their editors lost interest or quarreled or went home. These two, although published in Rome, Berlin, Vienna, New York any where but Paris were originally launched from Montparnasse,where their editors consorted during the early twenties:Harold Loeb, Alfred Kreymborg, Slater Brown, Gorham Munson, Matthew Josephson, and Malcolm Cowley.
During the twenties at least eight literary magazines were published by Americans in Paris. Four of them were very little indeed: Gargoyle (1921-22) and The Boulevardier (1927), both edited by Arthur Moss and Florence Gilliam; Larus, edited by Sherry Mangan in America with the collaboration of Virgil Thomson in Paris, 1927-28; and Harold Salemson’s bilingual Tambour, 1929-30. Three were among the most influential:The Little Review which appeared more and more erratically after 1923, when Margaret Anderson moved to Paris; the Transatlantic Review, which lasted only one year, 1924; and Transition, which lasted longest in Paris, 1927-38. This Quarter (1925-32) was between the largest and the smallest in circulation and published some of the best writing.
The little magazines played an indispensable role in launching new writers and spreading movements like dada and surrealism. None of the editors were infallible, and in their desire to encourage all that was new and experimental they often published inferior work. But they were zealous in the cause of literature and fought the good fight in the avant-garde. Their great hope was always to discover a new genius like Joyce and they were willing to take chances. On the whole they succeeded, for most important writers of this period first appeared in magazines.
Hemingway is a good example. His first book published in America was In Our Time, a collection of stories set off by short transitional passages of factual reporting. Though it seems highly integrated. In Our Time was written and published piecemeal. In fact the book could be called Hemingway’s collected works, 1921-25, for it contains nearly all the serious prose he completed during that period. All but four of the thirty-one individual pieces of In Our Time first appeared in little magazines or subsidized volumes.
Hemingway’s work on the Transatlantic Review also help to make his name, for during its brief existence Transatlantic was one of the most important literary magazines. Its editor Ford Madox Ford was an old hand, having edited The English Review with remarkable success before the war. Well connected in British and French literary circles, he wanted to establish an international review that would represent the best work being produced by young Americans as well, and he chose Paris as the ideal location for such an enterprise. As it turned out, the American contributors outnumbered all the others, a fact which led Ford to ruminate about the great literary movement that was getting under way in the Middle West. To Ford, an amiable my tho maniac, geographical accuracy was less important than dramatic effect, and “Middle Westishness” was a quality that could be found in Parisians or Londoners.
The Paris Review, as Transatlantic was originally named,borrowed the city’s seal and motto (Fluctuat nee mergitur—It bobs up and down but does not sink), prudently limiting it self to the first word of the motto until time should prove the rest. Fluctuate it did from the start, beset by vicissitudes even before the first number appeared in January 1924, and although it managed to keep afloat for twelve monthly issues, it was more than once in danger of going under. Ford, as he readily admitted, was not a business man, and everything went wrong. His chief backer, John Quinn, the New York lawyer who had defended The Little Review against obscenity charges for publishing Ulysses, was ailing and died at the end of July. Hemingway, who was left in charge while Ford went to New York to see Quinn, saved the magazine by finding another patron,Krebs Friend, a shell-shocked war veteran who had married a rich woman forty years older than himself. Friend had not a lent, but his wife had hopes that writing would rehabilitate him. The three ended up bickering with Ford, who had decided to let the magazine die anyhow at the end of the year.
Hemingway, who presents an uncomplimentary portrait of Ford in A Moveable Feast, found him a trying person to deal with; he complained bitterly in letters to Get rude Stein, and sarcastically challenged the editor’s literary tastes in the columns of Transatlantic. Hemingway had no patience with Ford’s poses and knew he could run the magazine more efficiently himself McAlmon confirmed this in his memoirs, saying that Ford left the editing to others. But what Hemingway regarded as megalomania was merely Ford’s incurable habit of fictionalizing his own past, particularly his collaboration with Joseph Conrad and his war record; and while Ford’s past was authentic enough, his embellishments and his personality irritated Hemingway. The difference between them was partly one of temperament, partly one of age. Ford being twice as old as Hemingway and an over sized walrus in appearance. But plenty of other Americans appreciated Ford: Dos Passos admired him greatly, Allen Tate respected him as “the last great European man of letters,” and other poets enjoyed Ford’s soirees, where they competed in writing limericks and sonnets.
For all his self-glorification. Ford was genuinely devoted to the cause of publishing new talent. Although a poor man, he put more money into Transatlantic than anyone else. He bore no grudges and was if anything too patient in the face of adversity. As he wrote to Gertrude Stein when Hemingway threatened to withdraw The Making of Americans from Transatlantic, claiming that she had been offered “real money” by Eliot’s Criterion, ”... I really exist as a sort of halfway house between non-publishable youth and real money a sort of green baize swing door that everyone kicks both on enter ing and on leaving.” Gertrude Stein, who was a shareholder as well as an author, replied that she was content: “I like the magazine and I like your editing. I am sincerely attached to both so suppose we go on as we are going.”
Such squabbles were part of the history of every little magazine. Whatever their differences. Ford commended Hemingway’s critical judgment when he entrusted him with the August number and only reproached him with the mildest editorial banter when Hemingway proceded to eliminate English authors, including Ford, in favor of Americans, and later when Hemingway insulted Eliot gratuitously in the supplement published on the occasion of Conrad’s death.(Hemingway wrote: “It is agreed by most of the people I know that Conrad is a bad writer just as it is agreed that T. S. Eliot is a good writer. If I knew that by grinding Mr. Eliot into a fine dry powder and sprinkling that powder over Mr. Conrad’s grave Mr. Conrad would shortly appear, looking very annoyed at the forced return and commence writing I would leave for London early tomorrow morning with a sausage grinder.”) In later years Ford always regarded Hemingway with avuncular indulgence in his introduction to the Modern Library edition of A Farewell to Arms, for instance, and in his fictionalized memoirs about the early twenties. It Was the Nightingale and liked to think of Hemingway one of the authors he had discovered.
Actually the Transatlantic could claim no major discoveries,but it did much to further the cause of American writing. The first number opened with four poems by E. E. Cummings and sustained the experimental note with two of Ezra Pound’s cantos; later issues included poems by Hilda Doolittle, William Carlos Williams, Natalie Barney (a shareholder, like Gertrude Stein), and Hemingway’s friend Evan Shipman. Besides Hemingway, the young fiction writers of the Middle West included Robert McAlmon, Djuna Barnes, John Dos Passos, and Hemingway’s friend Donald Ogden Stewart. Most noteworthy was the April number, with the opening chapter of The Making of Americans and the first selection to appear in print of a new work by Joyce, christened “Work in Progress” by Ford and destined to bear that title for fifteen years until published as Finnegans Wake. That number also made publishing history with the first story of the Hemingway canon to appear in any magazine.
Al though Ford tried to maintain its international character. Transatlantic was dominated by American work, with distinctly less of British, French, and other nationalities. The magazine featured art and music as well as literature, with supplements devoted to Picasso drawings from the Gertrude Stein collection and Ezra Pound’s vigorous promotion of George Antheil’s musical career. The chief criticism of Transatlantic was that it was too heavily freighted with serials. Besides The Making of Americans, which ran from April through December, there were always three others running, except in the number edited by Hemingway. Ford used the magazine to serialize his own works in progress: literary criticism under the pseudonym Daniel Chaucer, part of the first volume of his great war novel, and in the later issues selections from his book about Conrad. He was an incredibly prolific writer who could have filled the entire review by himself.
Ford has described the quarters Transatlantic shared with the Three Mountains Press at 29 Quai d’Anjou. “We printed and published in a domed wine-vault, exceedingly old and cramped, on the He St. Louis with a grey view of the Seine below the Quais.” Their host was William Bird, to whom Ford dedicated No More Parades, begun during that year. “Publisher Bird printed his books beautifully at a great old seventeenth-century press and we all took hands at pulling its immense levers about. I ’edited’ in a gallery like a birdcage at the top of the vault. It was so low that I could never stand up.“Hemingway preferred to read manuscripts out on the quai. Conveniently nearby was Madame Leconte’s Rendezvous des Mariniers discovered by Dos Passos during the war, when he rented a room upstairs.
When Ford decided to give Thursday teas for his contributors “after the time-honoured fashion of editors in Paris,“the Transatlantic Review became a social as well as a literary enterprise. Ford liked parties and fancied himself in the role of host as well as editor encouraging the young. When the teas proved more social than literary and the Americans tended to stretch the French Thursday into an English weekend. Ford decided to change it to a Friday night dance at a bal musette in the rue Cardinal Lemoine, where Hemingway had lived when he first came to Paris. Both Madame Leconte’s restaurant and the bal musette appear in The Sun Also Rises, as does the Negrede Toulouse, the restaurant of Monsieur Lavigne on the Boulevard Montparnasse, where Ford and his friends had reserved tables in the back room. Burton Rascoe, who visited Paris in the latter days of the Transatlantic, had dinner with Ford and was taken to the bal musette afterward. “Hemingway was there, but he and Ford were not speaking,” he reported.“After Ford had asked my wife and me and Mrs. Hemingway to sit at a table with him, Hemingway said to Mrs. Hemingway, ’Pay for your own drinks, do you hear! Don’t let him[nodding toward Ford] buy you anything.’ ” According to Rascoe, Hemingway had angrily resigned from the Transatlantic and stopped speaking to Ford over his mild editorial about Hemingway’s attack on Eliot.
William Bird’s place on the Quai d’Anjou was, as Ford said,the center of the whole Middle Western literary movement. Not only the Three Mountains Press and the Transatlantic Review but the Contact Publishing Company used the obliging printer’s premises. William Bird was a newspaperman who had come to Paris in 1920 as European manager of his own press service. He combined his two avocations, fine wine sand fine printing, in publishing his own book, A Practical Guide to French Wines. He had already acquired his ancient hand press on the Ile Saint-Louis in the spring of 1922, when he met Hemingway as a fellow journalist. Bird was looking for books to print, so Hemingway introduced him to Pound,who undertook to commission and edit a series of six contemporary prose works, including Pound’s Indiscretions, Ford’s Women and Men, Williams’ The Great American Novel, and Hemingway’s in our time. These Bird printed slowly in limited editions—too slowly for Hemingway, who was impatient to appear in print and whose book was the last of the series,announced for 1923, but not published until March 1924. It was Bird’s idea to print the title in lower case, Hemingway explained in a letter to Edmund “Wilson, and since “that was all the fun he was getting out of it I thought he could go ahead and be a damn fool in his own way if it pleased him.” Bird was also responsible for the lower case heading of the Transatlantic Review, but in that instance. Bird has explained, it was necessary to fit the long title on a single line. The practice was later imitated by other little magazines, notably transition.
Hemingway also introduced Robert McAlmon to Bird in 1922. McAlmon had married the daughter of one of England’s wealthiest shipping magnates the previous year and encouraged his in-laws to distribute their patronage in Montparnasse. His mother-in-law Lady Ellerman presented a bust of Shakespeare to Sylvia Beach’s bookshop and subsidized the American composer George Antheil for two years. McAlmon, who had started a little magazine called Contact with William Carlos Williams in Greenwich Village, now founded the Contact Publishing Company in Paris. He only published one book in 1922, his own collection of stories, A Hasty Bunch,the title suggested by Joyce, who was amused by McAlmon’s American idiom. In 1923, when his father-in-law gave him £14,ooo, McAlmon became the publisher of Montparnasse; he joined forces with Bird, and engaged Darantiere of Dijon,who had printed Ulysses, to do his Contact Editions.