Gotham Book Mart Party for Sir Osbert & Dame Edith Sitwell14 July 2011
Source: Stuart Wright Collection – Randall Jarrell Papers # 1169-005.7.f
Staff Person: Professor Jonathan Dembo, PhD
This photograph, taken on 9 November 1948, by Life Magazine photographer Lisa Larsen, captured some of the assembled guests at possibly the most famous literary party in American history. The scene was the Gotham Book Mart — New York City’s most famous bookstore. The occasion was to welcome the poets, Sir S.W. Osbert Sitwell and his sister, Dame Edith Sitwell, to the United States to do a series of readings. Seen in this image are some of the most famous figures in 20th century literature: Front row: William Rose Benet, Charles Ford, Delmore Schwartz, Randall Jarrell; Middle row: Stephen Spender, Sir Osbert and Dame Edith Sitwell, Marianne Moore, Elizabeth Bishop; Back row: Marya Zaturenska, Horace Gregory, Tennessee Williams, Richard Eberhart, Gore Vidal, Jose Garcia Via, and W. H. Auden. One of the guests, the noted poet Randall Jarrell, preserved this copy of the print among his papers now in the Stuart Wright Collection. On the verso Jarrell commented: “I thought you’d want this for the eyebrows. Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop are just behind me, Auden on the ladder, Spender sitting table to far left. What could have possessed me to cut off so much of the moustache? That isn’t Medusa in middle with snakes, but that awful creature Edith Sitwell.” The photograph has appeared in various publications over the years, including in an article by the party’s hostess, Frances Steloff, entitled, “In Touch With Genius”, in Journal of Modern Literature, Vol. 4, No. 4 (April 1975), pp. 749-882. Among the literati who attended the party but who did not appear in the photograph were: Benet Cerf, Jim Farrell, Kreymborg, Mary McGrory, William Saroyan, Carl Van Vechten, William Carlos Williams, Lincoln Kirstein, among many others.
Posted by Jonathan Dembo under East Carolina Manuscript Collection, Format, Repository, Stuart Wright Collection, photographs and Tags: bookstores, Charles Ford, Dame Edith Sitwell, Delmore Schwartz, Elizabeth Bishop, Frances Steloff, Gore Vidal, Gotham Book Mart, Horace Gregory, Jose Garcia Via, Journal of Modern Literature, Lisa Larsen, Literature, Marianne Moore, Marya Zaturenska, New York, novelists, Parties, Photographers, poets, Randall Jarrell, Richard Ghormley Eberhart, Sir S. W. Osbert Sitwell, Stephen Spender, Tennessee Williams, W. H. Auden, William Rose Benet, writers