Gertrude Stein Views Life and Politics, by Lansing Warren

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Gertrude Stein Views Life and Politics, by Lansing Warren

Postby admin » Wed Nov 27, 2013 9:28 am

Gertrude Stein Views Life and Politics -- The Cryptic Author, At Home in Paris, Sees No Good in Modern "Chinese Walls" Or In Rule By Intellectuals
by Lansing Warren



New York Times Magazine, May 6, 1934

A visit to Miss Gertrude Stein in her studio in the Rue de Fleurus is like consulting a Grecian sibyl. But, as Miss Stein says of Avila and Barcelona in her opera, there is a difference. Many of Miss Stein's statements have an irrefutable terseness, though that terseness may conceal mystifying ambiguity such as characterized the sibylline utterances Hiere, culled from an hour's conversation with Miss Stein, are some sample dicta to guide the young Aeneas who would descend today into the realms of politics, art, science or literature:

"Building a Chinese wall is always bad."

"Hitler should have received the Nobel Peace Prize."

"Intellectuals are not suited to directing of government. They are deterred by a mental obliquity."

"Government does not matter. It is competition, interest, struggle and activity that counts."

"The best rulers are those who govern by instinct, not by theory."

"The French are just tired -- worn out by this process of making and spending money."

"Don't think you can't be senile at the age of 22."

But, again unlike the sibyl, Miss Stein is ready to elucidate. "I say these things," said she, "not from any secret knowledge of what is going on. I speak only from my knowledge of people and what I know about my friends and neighbors."


The path to Miss Stein's studio is as worn as ever was that to a sibyl's cavern. A host of men and women, some of them now famous, began going to hear what Miss Stein had to say many years before she acquired her present popularity. Miss Stein is not difficult of access, for she receives whoever interests her. The success of her autobiography of Alice B. Toklas and of her opera, "Four Saints," had greatly increased the numbers of her callers. It is possible to obtain audience, too, through the intercession of Miss Toklas, her friend and life companion, who is a very real and efficient personality, despite the doubts that were expressed as to her existence when the autobiography appeared.

Miss Toklas does not, however, as is often the habit of the friends of celebrities, assume the role of manager. She is always self-effacive, remaining in the background, and signs herself Secretary. This signature has lately got her in for vastly increased duties, for she is obliged to take care of the mail, arriving in ever growing quantities.

One approaches the studio in the Rue de Fleurua through the usual portal of a large, modern Left Bank apartment house, and is directed by the concierge to the interior courtyard. Across that court is a low building, the upper story of which is constructed entirely of glass, suggesting a greenhouse or what it actually is, a workshop for artists who must have light. Miss Stein's door itself is partly of clouded glass, and is opened by an Oriental servant in a white jacket. The entry again is that of a workshop, through which is visible on one side the kitchen, leaving one all the more unprepared when ushered to the other side into the studio.

It is not an eccentric studio such as one imagines, and too often discovers, in typical Parisian bohemian life, with overturned easels and paint-pots mingling with unwashed dishes and cast-off clothing. In fact, there is nothing about the studio, or about Miss Stein herself, with the exception of the phrasing of some of her writings, to suggest the exotic, the bizarre. The whole impression is, on the contrary, one of quiet comfort, neatness and order.

A wide sofa backed to a broad table, of equal length, plenty of comfortable armchairs and rows and piles of well-dusted books are the first things that catch the eye. The next things remarked are the paintings. They cover the whole of the upper part of the high walls of the studio, which rises to the top of the two-story building. These pictures are mainly the work of Miss Stein's cosmopolitan painter friends, noted and unknown, who have been her confidants or her protegee.

Again, the impression is not of wild, exaggerated tendencies and aberrations. There are indeed paintings that would be called modernistic, futuristic and even unintelliglbe, but they do not predominate. They are mingled with examples of all schools of art, and the gallery (for it is a veritable art gallery) conveys the idea of reflective taste. This effect is heightened by the absence of pretentious frames.

Finally the feeling of order and of sanity is confirmed by the presence of Miss Stein herself. Her white poodle, Basket, jumps up from beside her on the couch and makes a great show of what is rather friendly hostility. "Basket is a great watch-dog," she observes, "when he thinks about it. But he doesn't always remember, and so he has to be all the more demonstrative when he does."


Miss Stein's appearance is striking, especially in her calm, self-possessed carriage and in her unusual head. The most remarkable touch is her thick hair, close cropped, which must give strong resistance to a comb. It was black, but is mingled almost equally throughout with gray, and the result intensifies distinction. It also makes her seem masculine, an impression confirmed by her low-pitched voice, her decided features and her energetic manner. Her eyes are dark and large and there is in their forceful expression something of the ascetic, suggesting years of meditation.

She wears a woolen skirt of medium length, a silk overjacket of mixed tone and what would be termed sensible shoes. When she laughs, as she often does at the mental confusion produced in her auditor by many of her remarks, her face and body become mobile, and there is something impish in her expression.

"I say that Hitler ought to have the peace prize," she says, "because he is removing all elements of contest and of struggle from Germany. By driving out the Jews and the democratic and Left elements, he is driving out everything that conduces to activity. That means peace."

Her speech is steady, natural and marked by a strong feeling for the values and the niceties of words. It is the Gertrude Stein of the Toklas biography who is talking. You cannot find the faintest trace of "Tender Buttons." That is her experimental, her provocative side, and it does not appear in her everyday life.

Having been absorbed most of her days in psychology, in poetry and in the interpretation and development of art, she looks upon words as materials. She has studied them so long that for her they have come to have character, to have each its individuality quite irrespective of the significance that any distinct combination of words may give. Perhaps some comprehension of this regard for words, which she obviously feels much more strongly than a person of limited vocabulary, may be gained from her explanation of the difference between the French and the American attitude of mind.

"The French," she says, "Are simply tired out. They not only have had the war but they have been through this long period of Americanization, or modernization, if you will -- the making and spending of money. They've been forced into doing it, and it doesn't interest them. It wears them out. Americans take their pleasure in physical activity, in rushing about, in getting more and more money, in finding new and exciting ways of spending it. That doesn't interest the French. They are interested in excitement, too. But it isn't physical excitement that they like. It is the exciting sensation of a new idea.

"They want the money question settled and decided as soon as possible in their lives and then put aside for good and all. They don't want to hear about it any more. And then they are ready for the fireworks. Intellectual fireworks are what excite them and what they enjoy. They don't think ever of putting their ideas into practical life as we are continually doing. The practical side does not attract them. That is what they are trying to escape."

Miss Stein as an intellectual, and one who has had a long residence in France, has undoubtedly imbibed something of this mental cast which she perceives in the French. It would seem to explain her experiments with words. She gains mental excitement from examining them in unaccustomed situations, from turning them this way and that and viewing them from the standpoint of their individualities.

But she would not think, any more than the French with their intellectual gymnastics, of putting her word-play into practical application. She would not think of conversing with the first person who came along, her concierge, her butcher or the servant who cooks her meals, after the fashion of the Saints in her opera. She might do it once for an experiment, and some day language may become enlarged and take on new meaning so that her word combinations will become usual. But she wouldn't dream of attempting to make such things general today.

Such things are not for practical life. They are for excitement. Other people may get their excitement by speeding in automobiles, by doing barrel rolls in the stratosphere. Miss Stein's stratosphere is the abstract realm of the written word.


This separation of the practical from the intellectual sheds considerable light on many of Miss Stein's otherwise cryptic opinions. Though decidedly an intellectual herself, she has a poor opinion of intellectuals who intervene in practical affairs.

"I always say that intellectuals are not suited to be the directors of government," said Miss Stein. "They have a mental obliquity. By that I mean that they are diverted by their intellects, by their ideas and their theories, from responding to the instincts which ought to guide practical rule. The best governors are always the men who respond to instinct, and in democracies this is more necessary than anywhere else. There really are only two wholly sincere democracies, and those are the American and the French.

"The Saxon element is always destined to be dominated. The Germans have no gift at organizing. They can only obey. And obedience is not organization. Organization comes from community of will as well as community of action. And in America our democracy has been based on community of will and effort.

"When I say government does not matter, I do not mean that it cannot have bad effects. I mean that any form of government may be good, and any form of government may be bad. What matters is competition, struggle, interest, activity that keeps a people alive and excited in accordance with the instincts which best provide excitement for the individual people.

"Building a Chinese wall is always bad. Protection, paternalism and suppression of natural activity and competition lead to dullness and stagnation. It is true in politics, in literature, in art. Everything in life needs constant stimulation. It needs activity, new blood. To the young people who, wanting to become writers, ask me for advice, I always say, 'Don't think it isn't possible to be senile at 22.' It is even very difficult to keep from becoming senile in youth. It is hard to keep one's self open and receptive to stimulation. Doing what other people tell you and being protect from this and from that is not so good, is not stimulating. You must face life and struggle. Satisfaction comes from overcoming opposition and sometimes from enduring things that are not supposed to be good for one.

"That is the reason why I do not approve of the stringent immigration laws in America today. We need the stimulation of new blood. It is best to favor healthy competition.

There is no reason why we should not select our immigrants with greater care, nor why we should not bar certain peoples and preserve the color line, for instance. But if we shut down on immigration completely we shall become stagnant. The French may not like the competition of foreigners, but they let them in. They accept the challenge and derive the stimulus. I am surprised that there is not more discussion of immigration in the United States than there is. We have got rid of prohibition restrictions, and it seems to me the next thing we should do is to relax the severity of immigration restrictions."


Miss Stein is engaged in writing a book on four Americans, Washington, Wilbur Wright, Grant and Henry James, in which many of her ideas about government and American democracy will be expounded. She promises that the new book will not be difficult to read, which seems to mean that the style she has chosen is less in the manner of "Capitols Capitols" and more on the order of the "Autobiography."

It is from writing this book that Miss Stein today derives the excitement she considers so important. Otherwise her life is quiet and uneventful, as, in her opinion, practical life should be. She rises late in the morning, pays close attention to the quality and variety of her meals and the good order of her surroundings. She works each day a little, not too much, and promenades the poodle, Basket, morning and evening. Between times her time and that of Miss Toklas is taken up with answering innumerable letters and in conversation. Miss Stein's studio is dedicated to discussions with her friends, and she likes to talk with strangers, too.

About the future Miss Stein declines to make predictions. But she has confidence in the future both of America and France.

"The French are bewildered now," she says, referring to the Stavisky affair and the crisis of the governmental regime. "They have never before had a political boss, and they don't know what to do about it.

"They are like a person who has been living for years in a house he thinks he owns and suddenly discovers that through trickery somebody else has become the proprietor. But I don't think their democracy is dead. They are going to clean it up and go through with it, the way we shall do in America."
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Re: Gertrude Stein Views Life and Politics, by Lansing Warre

Postby admin » Mon Jul 01, 2019 10:46 pm

Gertrude Stein
by Wikipedia

"I say that Hitler ought to have the peace prize, because he is removing all the elements of contest and of struggle from Germany. By driving out the Jews and the democratic and Left element, he is driving out everything that conduces to activity. That means peace ... By suppressing Jews ... he was ending struggle in Germany."

-- Gertrude Stein Views Life and Politics -- The Cryptic Author, At Home in Paris, Sees No Good in Modern "Chinese Walls" Or In Rule By Intellectuals, by Lansing Warren

Gertrude Stein, photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1935
Born February 3, 1874 (1874-02-03)
Allegheny, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
Died July 27, 1946 (1946-07-27) (aged 72)
Neuilly-sur-Seine, France
Occupation writer, poet
Nationality American
Literary movement Modernist literature

Gertrude Stein (February 3, 1874 – July 27, 1946) was an American writer and thinker who spent most of her life in France.[1] She was well known due to her writing, art collection and the many people (some of whom were, or became, famous) who visited her Paris salon.

Her adult life featured two main personal relationships. The first was her working relationship with her brother Leo Stein, from 1874 to 1914, and the second was her romantic relationship with Alice B. Toklas, from 1907 until Stein's death in 1946. Stein shared her salon at 27 rue de Fleurus, Paris, first with Leo and then with Alice. Throughout her lifetime, Stein also had significant relationships with avant garde artists and literary people. She was friends with young artists Matisse and Picasso during the early 1900s, authors Thornton Wilder and Ernest Hemingway during the 1920s. She is credited with coining the term Lost Generation as description of her many expatriate acquaintances in France and Italy during the 1920s and 1930s.

Early life

Gertrude Stein's birthplace and childhood home in Allegheny West

Gertrude Stein, the youngest of a family of five children, was born in 1874 in Allegheny, Pennsylvania (merged with Pittsburgh in 1907)[3], to well-educated German-Jewish immigrant parents. Her father, Daniel Stein, was an executive with a railroad, whose prudent investments in streetcar lines and real estate had made the family wealthy. When Gertrude was three years old, the Steins relocated for business reasons first to Vienna and then to Paris. Her family returned to America in 1878, settling in Oakland, California, where she attended First Hebrew Congregation of Oakland's Sabbath school.[2]

In 1888, Amelia Stein (Gertrude's mother) died, and in 1891 Daniel Stein (Gertrude's father) died. Afterward, Michael Stein (her eldest brother) managed the family business holdings, and made wise business decisions and arranged the affairs of his siblings. During most of her life, Gertrude lived on a trust income from funds her brother Michael very capably stewarded and invested.

Michael Stein arranged for Gertrude, and another sister Bertha, to live with their mother's family in Baltimore after the deaths of their parents. (Mellow, 1974, pp. 25–28). In 1892 she lived with her uncle David Bachrach.[3] It was in Baltimore that Gertrude met Claribel Cone and Etta Cone who held Saturday evening salons which Gertrude would later emulate in Paris, who shared an appreciation for art and conversation about it, and who modeled a domestic division of labor that Gertrude was later to replicate in her relationship with Alice B. Toklas. (Ibid. pp. 41–42).

Stein attended Radcliffe College from 1893 to 1897, and was a student of psychologist William James. With James's supervision, Stein and another student named Leon Mendez Solomons[4][5][6][7][8][9][10] performed experiments on Normal Motor Automatism, a phenomenon hypothesized to occur in people when their attention is divided between two simultaneous intelligent activities, like writing and speaking. These experiments yielded examples of writing that appeared to represent "stream of consciousness," a psychological theory often attributed to James, which became the term used to describe the style of modernist authors like Virginia Woolf and James Joyce. In 1934, behavioral psychologist, B.F. Skinner in fact interpreted Stein's notoriously difficult poem, Tender Buttons, as an example of the "normal motor automatism" Stein had written about for the experiment at Radcliffe.[11] According to a letter Stein wrote during the 1930s, however, she had never really accepted the theory of automatic writing, explaining: "there can be automatic movements, but not automatic writing. Writing for the normal person is too complicated an activity to be indulged in automatically."[12] At Radcliffe, she began a lifelong friendship with Mabel Foote Weeks, whose correspondence traces much of the progression of Gertrude's life. In 1897, Gertrude spent the summer in Woods Hole, Massachusetts studying embryology at the Marine Biological Laboratory, succeeded by two years at Johns Hopkins Medical School. In 1901, she left Johns Hopkins without obtaining a degree.[13]

During the long reign of Queen Victoria and her son Prince Edward Albert (later King Edward VII), American collaborators of the Fabian circles, typified by William James (1842-1910), developed intimate relations with British Fabian institutions including the "Cambridge Apostles", the Royal Colonial Institute and its associated Scottish Rite Freemasonic Lodge (now the Chatham House Royal Institute of International Affairs), the Society for Psychical Research, the H.G. Wells-allied New Republic magazine, and others.

As the founding chairman of Harvard University's Psychology Department, James helped launch a new dimension of religious insanity, beyond the earlier episodic "Great Awakenings." In a famous series of lectures at Edinburgh University, published under the title Varieties of Religious Experience, he proposed that Edwards' type of terror-induced "religious experience" be enhanced with drugs. "Borderland insanity, crankiness, insane temperament, loss of mental balance, psychopathic degeneration," he argued, were necessary for creative thought, including a sense of the spiritual. He pointed out that drunkenness has been traditionally the best way to "get religion," but added the suggestion that nitrous oxide, ether, and other drugs ought also to be used.

In these lectures, James also promoted the British oligarchy-sponsored occultist Theosophical movement of Madame Blatvatsky and Annie Besant, and other strange religions which had been promoted to prominence after the Civil War.

-- The CCF and the God of Thunder Cult, by Stanley Ezrol & Jeffrey Steinberg

Paris, 1903–1914

From 1903 to 1914 Gertrude lived in Paris with her brother Leo Stein, an art critic. It was during this period that she became well-known.

Gertrude and Leo Stein's modern art gallery

Much of Gertrude Stein's fame derives from a private modern art gallery she assembled, from 1904 to 1913, with her brother Leo Stein. Carl Van Vechten (music critic for the New York Times and then drama critic for the New York Press), and Henry McBride (art critic for the New York Sun), did much to increase Stein's fame in the USA. (Mellow, 1974, pp. 197, 192). Both had wide-circulation newspaper article series in which they frequently exposed Gertude's name to the public. Of the art collection at 27 Rue de Fleurus, McBride commented: "in proportion to its size and quality ... [it is] just about the most potent of any that I have ever heard of in history." (Ibid. p. 193). McBride also made the observation that Gertrude "collected geniuses rather than masterpieces. She recognized them a long way off." (Ibid.) The collection soon had a worldwide reputation.

Leo Stein's acquaintances and study of modern art eventually resulted in the famous Stein art collections. Bernard Berenson hosted Gertrude and Leo in his English country house in 1902, and suggested they visit Paul Cézanne and Ambroise Vollard's art gallery.[14]

The joint collection of Gertrude and Leo Stein began in late 1904, when Michael Stein announced that their trust account had accumulated a balance of 8,000 francs. They spent this at Vollard's Gallery, buying Gauguin's Sunflowers[15] and Three Tahitians,[16] Cézanne's Bathers,[17] and two Renoirs.[18]

The art collection increased and the walls at Rue de Fleurus were rearranged continuously to make way for new acquisitions.[19] In "the first half of 1905" the Steins acquired Cézanne's Portrait of Mme Cézanne and Delacroix's Perseus and Andromeda.[20] Shortly after the opening of the Paris Autumn Salon of 1905 (on October 18, 1905), the Steins acquired Matisse's Woman with the Hat[21] and Picasso's Young Girl with Basket of Flowers.[22]

By early 1906, Leo and Gertrude Stein's studio had many paintings by Henri Manguin, Pierre Bonnard, Pablo Picasso, Paul Cézanne, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Honoré Daumier, Henri Matisse, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.[23] Their collection was representative of two famous art exhibitions that took place during their residence together in Paris, and to which they contributed, either by lending their art, or by patronizing the featured artists.[24] The Steins' elder brother, Michael, and sister-in-law Sarah (Sally) acquired a large number of Henri Matisse paintings; Gertrude's friends from Baltimore, Claribel and Etta Cone, collected similarly, eventually donating their art collection, virtually intact, to the Baltimore Museum of Art.

While numerous artists visited the Stein salon, many of these artists were not represented among the paintings on the walls at 27 Rue de Fleurus. Where Renoir, Cézanne, Matisse, and Picasso's works dominated Leo and Gertrude's collection, Sarah Stein's collection emphasized on Matisse.[25]

Contemporaries of Leo and Gertrude, Matisse and Picasso became part of their social circle, and were a part of the early Saturday evenings at 27 Rue de Fleurus. Gertrude attributed the beginnings of the Saturday evening salons to Matisse, as

“ [m]ore and more frequently, people began visiting to see the Matisse paintings-- and the Cézannes: "Matisse brought people, everybody brought somebody, and they came at any time and it began to be a nuisance, and it was in this way that Saturday evenings began."[26] ”

Among Picasso's acquaintances who frequented the Saturday evenings were: Fernande Olivier (Picasso's mistress), Georges Braque (artist), André Derain (artist), Max Jacob (poet), Guillaume Apollinaire (poet), Marie Laurencin (Apollinaire's mistress and an artist in her own right), Henri Rousseau (painter), and Joseph Stella.[27]

Pablo Picasso, Portrait of Gertrude Stein, 1906, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City. When someone commented that Stein didn't look like her portrait, Picasso replied, "She will".[28]

In April 1914, when Leo relocated to Settignano, Italy, near Florence, and the art collection was divided. The division of their art collection was described in a letter by Leo, by which he stated:

“ The Cézanne apples have a unique importance to me that nothing can replace. The Picasso landscape is not important in any such sense. We are, as it seems to me on the whole, both so well off now that we needn't repine. The Cézanne's had to be divided. I am willing to leave you the Picasso oeuvre, as you left me the Renoir, and you can have everything except that. I want to keep the few drawings that I have. This leaves no string for me, it is financially equable either way for estimates are only rough & ready methods, & I'm afraid you'll have to look upon the loss of the apples as an act of God. I have been anxious above all things that each should have in reason all that he wanted, and just as I was glad that Renoir was sufficiently indifferent to you so that you were ready to give them up, so I am glad that Pablo is sufficiently indifferent to me that I am willing to let you have all you want of it.[29] ”

The Steins' holdings were dispersed eventually, by various methods and for various reasons.[30]

After Stein's and Leo's households separated in 1914, she continued to collect examples of Picasso's art which had turned to Cubism. At her death, Gertrude's remaining collection emphasized the artwork of Picasso and Juan Gris, having sold most of her other pictures.[31]


While living in Paris, Gertrude began writing for publication. Her earliest writings were mainly retellings of her college experiences. Her first critically acclaimed publication was "Three Lives."

In 1911 Mildred Aldrich introduced Gertrude to Mabel Dodge Luhan and they began a short-lived but fruitful friendship during which a wealthy Mabel Dodge promoted Gertrude's legend in the United States. Mabel was enthusiastic about Gertrude's sprawling publication The Makings of Americans and, at a time when Gertrude had much difficulty selling her writing to publishers, privately published 300 copies of Portrait of Mabel Dodge at Villa Curonia, (ibid.) a copy of which was valued at $25,000 in 2007 (James S. Jaffee Rare Books). Dodge was also involved in the publicity and planning of the 69th Armory Show in 1913, "the first avant-garde art exhibition in America." (Ibid.) In addition, she wrote the first critical analysis of Gertrude's writing to appear in America, in "Speculations, or Post-Impressionists in Prose", published in a special March 1913 publication of Arts and Decoration. (Mellow, 1974, at 170). Foreshadowing Gertrude's later critical reception, Mabel wrote in "Speculations":

“ In Gertrude Stein's writing every word lives and, apart from concept, it is so exquisitely rhythmical and cadenced that if we read it aloud and receive it as pure sound, it is like a kind of sensuous music. Just as one may stop, for once, in a way, before a canvas of Picasso, and, letting one's reason sleep for an instant, may exclaim: "It is a fine pattern!" so, listening to Gertrude Steins' words and forgetting to try to understand what they mean, one submits to their gradual charm. (Ibid) ”

Mabel attributed the end of their friendship to an exchange in the autumn of 1912 when, during lunch, Gertrude sent her "such a good strong look over the table that it seemed to cut across the air to me in a band of electrified steel -- a smile traveling across on it -- powerful -- Heavens!" (Kellner, 1988, pp. 220–21.) Alice interpreted the look as a flirtation and left the room (ibid., p. 222), prompting Gertrude to follow, and when Gertrude returned, she said, "[Alice] doesn't want to come lunch ... She feels the heat today." (Mellow, 1974, p. 180).

Q.E.D. (Not published until after her death)

Gertrude completed Q.E.D. (Quod Erat Demonstrandum) on October 24, 1903. (Ibid., pp. 53–58). This piece is discussed more completely later in this article at Relationship with Alice B. Toklas and its precursors

Fernhurst (written 1904)

In 1904 Stein began this fictional account of a scandalous three-person romantic affair involving a dean (M. Carey Thomas) and a faculty member (Mary Gwinn) from Bryn Mawr College and a Harvard graduate (Alfred Hodder). (Mellow, 1974, pp. 65–68). Mellow asserts that Fernhurst "is a decidedly minor and awkward piece of writing." (Ibid, p. 67). It includes some commentary that Gertrude mentioned in her autobiography when she discussed the "fateful twenty-ninth year" (ibid.) during which:

“ all the forces that have been engaged through the years of childhood, adolescence and youth in confused and ferocious combat range themselves in ordered ranks (and during which) the straight and narrow gateway of maturity, and life which was all uproar and confusion narrows down to form and purpose, and we exchange a great dim possibility for a small hard reality.

Also in our American life where there is no coercion in custom and it is our right to change our vocation so often as we have desire and opportunity, it is a common experience that our youth extends through the whole first twenty-nine years of our life and it is not till we reach thirty that we find at last that vocation for which we feel ourselves fit and to which we willingly devote continued labor. (Ibid, p. 67-68)

Mellow observes that, in 1904, 30-year-old Gertrude "had evidently determined that the 'small hard reality' of her life would be writing". (Ibid., p. 68)

Three Lives (written, 1905–06)

Among the paintings was a portrait of Madame Cézanne which provided Gertrude with inspiration as she began to write, and which she credited with her evolving writing style illustrated by her early work, Three Lives:

“ Gertrude claimed that the stylistic method of (Three Lives) had been influenced by the Cézanne portrait under which she sat writing. The portrait of Madame Cézanne is one of the monumental examples of the artist's method, each exacting, carefully negotiated plane -- from the suave reds of the armchair and the gray blues of the sitter's jacket to the vaguely figured wallpaper of the background -- having been structured into existence, seeming to fix the subject for all eternity. So it was with Gertrude's repetitive sentences, each one building up, phrase by phrase, the substance of her characters. (Mellow, 1974, p. 71). ”

She began her novel Three Lives during the spring of 1905, and finished it the following year. (Mellow, 1974, p. 77).

The Making of Americans (written, 1906–08)

Gertrude Stein stated the date for her writing of The Making of Americans was 1906-1908. Her biographer has uncovered evidence that it actually began in 1902 and did not end until 1911. (Mellow, 1974, p. 114-22). Stein compared her work to James Joyce's Ulysses and to Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time. Her critics were less enthusiastic about it. (Ibid., p. 122).

First publication in Alfred Stieglitz's Camera Work (August 1912)

Gertrude's Matisse and Picasso descriptive essays appeared in Alfred Stieglitz's August 1912 edition of Camera Work, a special edition devoted to Picasso and Matisse, and represented her very first publication (Kellner, 1988, p. 266). Of this publication, Gertrude said, "[h]e was the first one that ever printed anything that I had done. And you can imagine what that meant to me or to any one." (Ibid.)

Word Portraits (written, 1908–1913)

Gertrude's descriptive essays apparently began with her essay of Alice B. Toklas, "a little prose vignette, a kind of happy inspiration that had detached itself from the torrential prose of The Making of Americans". (Mellow, 1974, p. 129). Gertrude's early efforts at word portraits are catalogued in Mellow, 1974, p. 129-37 and under individual's names in Kellner, 1988. Matisse and Picasso were subjects of early essays (Mellow, 1974, 154-55, 157-58), later collected and published in Geography and Plays (published 1922) and Portraits and Prayers (published 1934). (Kellner, 1988, pp. 34–35 and 56-57). The Matisse and Picasso portraits were reprinted in MoMA, 1970, pp. 99–102.

Her subjects included several ultimately famous personages, and her subjects provided a description of what she observed in her Saturday salons at 27 Rue de Fleurus: "Ada" (Alice B. Toklas), "Two Women" (The Cone Sisters) (Claribel Cone and Etta Cone), Miss Furr and Miss Skeene (Ethel Mars and Maud Hunt Squire), "Men" (Hutchins Hapgood, Peter David Edstrom, Maurice Sterne), "Matisse" (1909) (Henri Matisse), "Picasso" (1909) (Pablo Picasso), "Portrait of Mabel Dodge at the Villa Curonia" (1911) (Mabel Dodge Luhan), and "Guillaume Apollinaire" (1913).

Tender Buttons (written, 1912)

Tender Buttons is the best known of Gertrude Stein's "hermetic" works. It is a small book separated into three sections -- Food, Objects and Rooms each containing prose under subtitles. (Kellner, 1988, p. 61-62). Its publication in 1914 caused a great dispute between Mabel Dodge Luhan and Gertrude, because Mabel had been working to have it published by another publisher. (Mellow, 1974, p. 178). Mabel wrote at length about the bad choice of publishing it with the press Gertrude selected. (Ibid.) Evans wrote Gertrude:

Claire Marie Press ... is absolutely third rate, & in bad odor here, being called for the most part 'decadent" and Broadwayish and that sort of thing. . . . I think it would be a pity to publish with [Claire Marie Press] if it will emphasize the idea in the opinion of the public, that there is something degenerate & effete & decadent about the whole of the cubist movement which they all connect you with, because, hang it all, as long as they don't understand a thing they think all sorts of things. My feeling in this is quite strong.

(Ibid.) Stein ignored Mabel's exhortations, and eventually Mabel, and published 1,000 copies of the book, in 1914. (An antiquarian copy was valued at over $1,200 in 2007). It is currently in print.

Stein's poems in Tender Buttons are very stylised and hermetic, as she preferred for sound rather than sense.

Alice B. Toklas, 1907–1946

Stein met her long-time romantic partner, Alice B. Toklas[32] on September 8, 1907 on Toklas's first day in Paris, at Sarah and Michael Stein's apartment. (Mellow, 1974, at 107) On meeting Stein, Toklas wrote:

“ She was a golden brown presence, burned by the Tuscan sun and with a golden glint in her warm brown hair. She was dressed in a warm brown corduroy suit. She wore a large round coral brooch and when she talked, very little, or laughed, a good deal, I thought her voice came from this brooch. It was unlike anyone else's voice-- deep, full, velvety, like a great contralto's, like two voices.[33][34] ”

Soon thereafter, Stein introduced Toklas to Pablo Picasso at his studio, where he was at work on Les Demoiselles d'Avignon. Les Demoiselles d'Avignon was a painting that "marked the beginning of the end of Leo's support for Picasso."[35]

In 1908, they summered in Fiesole, Italy, Toklas staying with Harriet Lane Levy, the companion of her trip from the United States, and her housemate until Alice relocated in with Stein and Leo in 1910. That summer, Stein stayed with Michael and Sarah Stein, their son Allan, and Leo in a nearby villa. (Ibid.) Gertrude and Alice's summer of 1908 is memorialized in images of the two of them in Venice, at the piazza in front of Saint Mark's.[36]

Toklas arrived in 1907 with Harriet Levy, with Toklas maintaining living arrangements with Levy until she moved to 27 Rue de Fleurus in 1910. In an essay written at the time, Stein discussed the complex efforts humorously, involving much letter writing and Victorian niceties, to extricate Levy from Toklas' living arrangements.[37] In "Harriet", Stein considers Levy's nonexistent plans for the summer, following her nonexistent plans for the winter:

“ She said she did not have any plans for the summer. No one was interested in this thing in whether she had any plans for the summer. That is not the complete history of this thing, some were interested in this thing in her not having any plans for the summer..... Some who were not interested in her not having made plans for the summer were interested in her not having made plans for the following winter. She had not made plans for the summer and she had not made plans for the following winter.... There was then coming to be the end of the summer and she was then not answering anything when any one asked her what were her plans for the winter.[38] ”

World War I

Stein in 1913

Juan Gris

During the early summer of 1914, Gertrude bought three paintings by Juan Gris: Roses, Glass and Bottle, and Book and Glasses. Soon after she purchased them from Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler's gallery (Mellow, 1974, at 209), the Great War began, Kahnweiler's stock was confiscated and he was not allowed to return to Paris. Gris, who before the war had entered a binding contract with Kahnweiler for his output, was left without income. Gertrude attempted to enter an ancillary arrangement in which she would forward Gris living expenses in exchange for future pictures.

Great Britain

Stein and Toklas had plans to visit England to sign a contract for the publication of Three Lives, to spend a few weeks, and journey then to Spain. They left Paris on July 6, 1914 and returned on October 17. [Ibid., 210-15]. When Britain declared war on Germany, Stein and Toklas were visiting Alfred North Whitehead in England. After a supposed three-week trip to England that endured for three months due to the War, they returned to France, where they spent the first winter of the war.

Majorca, Spain

With money acquired from the sale of Stein's last Matisse Woman with a Hat[39] to her brother Michael, she and Toklas vacationed in Spain from May 1915, through the spring of 1916.[40] During their interlude in Majorca, Spain, Gertrude continued her correspondence with Mildred Aldrich who kept her apprised of the War's progression, and eventually inspired Gertrude and Alice to return to France to join the war effort.[41]


Toklas and Stein returned to Paris in June 1916 and acquired a Ford with the help of associates in the United States; Gertrude learned to drive it with the help of her friend William Edwards Cook. (Ibid., at 226-27). Gertrude and Alice then volunteered to drive supplies to French hospitals, in the Ford they named Auntie, "after Gertrude's aunt Pauline, 'who always behaved admirably in emergencies and behaved fairly well most times if she was flattered.'" (Ibid., at 228)

1920s and 1930s

Gertrude Stein with Ernest Hemingway's son, Jack Hemingway in 1924. Stein is credited with bringing the term "Lost Generation" into use.

During the 1920s, her salon at 27 Rue de Fleurus, with walls covered by avant-garde paintings, attracted many of the great writers of the time, including Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, Thornton Wilder, and Sherwood Anderson. While she has been credited with inventing the term "Lost Generation" for some of these expatriate American writers, at least three versions of the story that led to the phrase are on record, two by Ernest Hemingway and one by Gertrude Stein (Mellow, 1974, pp. 273–74). During the 1920s, she became friends with writer Mina Loy, and the two would remain lifelong friends. Extremely charming, eloquent, and cheerful, she had many friends and promoted herself often. Her judgments of literature and art were influential. She was Ernest Hemingway's mentor, and upon the birth of his son he asked her to be the godmother of his child. During the summer of 1931, Stein advised the young composer and writer Paul Bowles to go to Tangier, where she and Alice had vacationed.


"And when she saw it was she who said what it was she had seen she was filled with a feeling.
A feeling a rose within her when she saw what it was she had seen.
What she had seen was a rose and what she felt was a feeling.
And when she saw what it was she was feeling she was filled with sadness.
What she had seen was a rose and what she had felt was a feeling.
A rose and her feelings for a rose."

-- "Waiting for the Moon," directed by Jill Godmilow

During the 1930s, Stein and Toklas became famous with the 1933 mass market publication of The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. She and Alice had an extended lecture tour in the United States during this decade. They also spent several summers in Bilignin, France, and doted on a famous poodle named "Basket" whose successor, "Basket II", comforted Alice in the years after Gertrude's death.

World War II and Postwar

With the outbreak of World War II, Stein and Toklas relocated to a country home that they had rented for many years previously in Bilignin, Ain, in the Rhône-Alpes region. Gertrude and Alice, who were both Jewish, escaped persecution probably because of their friendship to Bernard Faÿ who was a collaborator with the Vichy regime and had connections to the Gestapo. When Faÿ was sentenced to hard labor for life after the war, Gertrude and Alice campaigned for his release. Several years later, Toklas would contribute money to Faÿ's escape from prison.

After the war, Stein was visited by many young American soldiers.

Her preface written for a 1945 Paris exhibition for Spanish painter Francisco Riba-Rovira "is one of Gertrude Stein's last texts" on her vision of the painting art, approximately one year before her death. In it she expressed her opinions of Picasso, Cézanne, Matisse and Juan Gris as well as Riba-Rovira, a familiar artist of her salon at rue de Fleurus.[42]

The following is a translation from Stein's preface to the exhibition by Riba-Rovira at Roquepine Gallery in May 1945:

It is inevitable that when we really need someone we find him. The person you need attracts you like a magnet. I returned to Paris, after these long years spent in the countryside and I needed a young painter, a young painter who would awaken me. Paris was magnificent, but where was the young painter? I looked everywhere: at my contemporaries and their followers. I walked a lot, I looked everywhere, in all the galleries, but the young painter was not there. Yes, I walk a lot, a lot at the edge of the Seine where we fish, where we paint, where we walk dogs (I am of those who walk their dogs). Not a single young painter! One day, on the corner of a street, in one of these small streets in my district, I saw a man painting. I looked at him; at him and at his painting, as I always look at everybody who creates something I have an indefatigable curiosity to look and I was moved. Yes, a young painter! We began to speak, because we speak easily, as easily as in country roads, in the small streets of the district. His story was the sad story of the young people of our time .A young Spaniard who studied in fine arts in Barcelona: civil war; exile; a concentration camp; escape, Gestapo, another prison, another escape... Eight lost years! If they were lost, who knows? And now a little misery, but all the same the painting. Why did I find that it was him the young painter, why? I visited his drawings, his painting: we speak. I explained that for me, all modern painting is based on what Cézanne nearly made, instead of basing itself on what he almost managed to make. When he could not make a thing, he hijacked it and left it. He insisted on showing his incapacity: he spread his lack of success: showing what he could not do, became an obsession for him. People influenced by him were also obsessed by the things which they could not reach and they began the system of camouflage. It was natural to do so, even inevitable: that soon became an art, in peace and in war, and Matisse concealed and insisted at the same time on that Cézanne could not realize, and Picasso concealed, played and tormented all these things. The only one who wanted to insist on this problem, was Juan Gris. He persisted by deepening the things which Cézanne wanted to do, but it was too hard a task for him: it killed him. And now here we are, I find a young painter who does not follow the tendency to play with what Cézanne could not do, but who attacks any right the things which he tried to make, to create the objects which have to exist for and in themselves, and not in relation. This young painter has his weakness and his strength. His force will push him in this road. I am fascinated and that is why he is the young painter whose I needed. It is François (Francisco) Riba-Rovira. [43]


Stein died at the age of 72 from stomach cancer in Neuilly-sur-Seine on July 27, 1946, and was interred in Paris in the Père Lachaise cemetery.

In one account by Toklas, when Stein was being wheeled into the operating room for surgery on her stomach, she asked Toklas, "What is the answer?" When Toklas did not answer, Stein said, "In that case, what is the question?"[44]

Stein named writer and photographer Carl Van Vechten as her literary executor, and he helped to publish works of hers which remained unpublished at the time of her death. There is a monument to Stein on the Upper Terrace of Bryant Park, New York.

Relationship with Alice B. Toklas, and its precursors

Stein is the author of one of the earliest coming out stories, Q.E.D. (published in 1950 as Things as They Are), written in 1903 and suppressed by the author. The story, written during travels after ending college, is based on a three-person romantic affair she joined while studying at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. The affair was complicated, as Stein was less experienced with the social dynamics of romantic friendship as well as her own sexuality and any moral dilemmas regarding it. Stein maintained at the time that she detested "passion in its many disguised forms". The relationships of Stein's acquaintances Mabel Haynes and Grace Lounsbury ended as Haynes started one with Mary Bookstaver (also known as May Bookstaver). Stein became enamored of Bookstaver but was unsuccessful in advancing their relationship. Bookstaver, Haynes, and Lounsbury all later married men. (Blackmer 1995, p. 681-686)

Her growing awareness of her sexuality began to interfere with the bourgeois values implicit in her medical studies and would have put her at odds with contemporary feminist theory and opinion, and Q.E.D. may have assisted her with understanding her scholarly and romantic failure. However, Stein began to accept and define her pseudo-masculinity through the ideas of Otto Weininger's Sex and Character (1906). Weininger, though Jewish by birth, considered Jewish men effeminate and women as incapable of selfhood and genius, except for female homosexuals who may approximate masculinity. (ibid)

More positive affirmations of Stein's sexuality began with her relationship with Toklas. Ernest Hemingway describes how Alice was Gertrude's "wife" in that Stein rarely addressed his (Hemingway's) wife, and he treated Alice the same, leaving the two "wives" to chat. (Grahn 1989) Alice was 4'11" tall, and Gertrude was 5'1".

The more affirming essay "Miss Furr and Miss Skeene" is one of the first homosexual revelation stories to be published. The work, like Q.E.D., is informed by Stein's growing involvement with a homosexual community (Grahn 1989), though it is based on lesbian partners Maud Hunt Squire and Ethel Mars (Blackmer 1995). The work contains the word "gay" over one hundred times, perhaps the first published use of the word "gay" in reference to same-sex relationships and those who have them, (Blackmer 1995) and, as such, uninformed readers missed the lesbian content. A similar essay of homosexual men begins more obviously with the line "Sometimes men are kissing" but is less well known. (ibid)

Aye, Tide and the Moon in a Lesbian love,
Strange sisters that live in the law of great Jove.

-- The Fire Regained, by Sidney M. Hirsch

In Tender Buttons Stein comments on lesbian sexuality and the work abounds with "highly condensed layers of public and private meanings" created by wordplay including puns on the words "box", "cow", and in titles such as "tender buttons". (ibid)

Political views

Stein was politically conservative, though the nature of her opinions is debated. According to Janet Malcolm's Two Lives: Gertrude and Alice, Stein was a life-long Republican and vocal critic of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the New Deal.[45][46][47] She publicly endorsed Franco during the Spanish Civil War and admired Vichy leader Maréchal Pétain, translating some of the latter's speeches into English. These unpublished translations included a favorable introduction in which she compared him to George Washington.[45] Some have argued for a more nuanced view of Stein's collaborationist activity, arguing that it was rooted in her wartime predicament and status as a Jew in Nazi-occupied France.[48] Prior to World War II she made public her opinion that Adolf Hitler should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. "I say that Hitler ought to have the peace prize, because he is removing all the elements of contest and of struggle from Germany. By driving out the Jews and the democratic and Left element, he is driving out everything that conduces to activity. That means peace ... By suppressing Jews ... he was ending struggle in Germany" (New York Times Magazine, May 6, 1934).[49] Stein was later to comment on Hitler, Mussolini, and Roosevelt: "There is too much fathering going on just now and there is no doubt about it fathers are depressing" (Blackmer 1995).

About Stein's writings

Carl Van Vechten, Portrait of Gertrude Stein, 1934

Stein's writing appears on three different planes: her "hermetic" works that have gone largely unread, as best illustrated by Stein's The Making of Americans: The Hersland Family; her popularized writing in The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas which made her famous; and her speech writing and more accessible autobiographical writing of later years, of which Brewsie and Willie is a good example.

After moving to Paris in 1903, she started to write in earnest: novels, plays, stories, libretti and poems. Increasingly, she developed her own highly idiosyncratic, playful, sometimes repetitive and sometimes humorous style. Typical quotes are: "Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose"; "Out of kindness comes redness and out of rudeness comes rapid same question, out of an eye comes research, out of selection comes painful cattle"; about Oakland, "There is no there there"; and "The change of color is likely and a difference a very little difference is prepared. Sugar is not a vegetable."

These stream-of-consciousness experiments, rhythmical essays or "portraits", were designed to evoke "the excitingness of pure being" and can be seen as an answer to Cubism, plasticity and/or collage, in literature. Many of the experimental works such as Tender Buttons have since been interpreted by critics as a feminist reworking of patriarchal language. These works were loved by the avant garde, but mainstream success initially remained elusive. Despite Stein's work on automatic writing with William James it is clear Stein did not see her own work as automatic, more as a 'excess of consciousness'.

Judy Grahn lists the following principles behind Stein's work: 1) Commonality, 2) Essence, 3) Value, 4) Grounding the Continuous present, 5) Play, and 6) Transformation

Though Gertrude collected cubist paintings (primarily by Picasso until she could no longer afford them), the biggest visual or painterly influence on Stein's work is that of Cézanne, specifically in her idea of equality, what Judy Grahn terms commonality, distinguishing from universality or equality: "the whole field of the canvas is important" (p. 8). Rather than a figure/ground relationship, "Stein in her work with words used the entire text as a field in which every element mattered as much as any other." It is a subjective relationship that includes more than one viewpoint, to quote Stein: "The important thing is that you must have deep down as the deepest thing in you a sense of equality."

Grahn ascribes much of the repetition of Stein's work to her search for descriptions of the "bottom nature" of her characters, such as in The Making of Americans where even the narrator's essence is described through the repetition of narrative phrases such as "As I was saying" and "There will be now a history of her". Grahn: "Using the idea of everything belonging to a whole field and mattering equally, as well as each being having an essence of its own, she inevitably wrote patterns rather than linear sequences." (p. 13)

Grahn means value in the sense of overall lightness or darkness of a painting. Stein used many Anglo-Saxon words and few Latin-based words: blood instead of sanguine. She also avoided words with "too much association". "One consequence of developing value and essence as the basis of her work, rather than social themes, dramatic imagery or linear plots, is that she developed a remarkable objective voice. To an uncanny degree at times, social judgment is absent in her author's voice, as the reader is left the power to decide how to think and feel about the writing." Grahn continues, "Anxiety, fear and anger are not played upon, and this alone sets her apart from most modern authors. Her work is harmonic and integrative, not alienated; at the same time it is grounded useful, not wistful and fantastic." (p. 15)

Stein predominantly used the present tense, "ing", creating a continuous present in her work, which Grahn argues is a consequence of the previous principles, especially commonality and centeredness. Grahn describes play as the granting of autonomy and agency to the readers or audience, "rather than the emotional manipulation that is a characteristic of linear writing, Stein uses play." (p. 18) In addition Stein's work is funny, and multilayered, allowing a variety of interpretations and engagements. Lastly Grahn argues that one must "insterstand ... engage with the work, to mix with it in an active engagement, rather than 'figuring it out.' Figure it in." (p. 21)

Gertrude Stein wrote in longhand, typically about half an hour per day. Alice B. Toklas would collect the pages, type the words and deal with the publishing and was generally helpful while Leo Stein criticized his sister's work publicly. Indeed, Toklas initiated the publisher "Plain Editions" to distribute Stein's work. Today, most manuscripts are kept in the Beinecke Library at Yale University.[50]

In 1932, using an accessible style to accommodate the ordinary reading public, she wrote The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas; the book would become her first best-seller. Despite the title, it was really her own autobiography. She described herself as extremely confident, one might even say arrogant, always convinced that she was a genius. She was disdainful of mundane tasks and Alice Toklas managed everyday affairs.

The style of the autobiography was quite similar to that of The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook, which was actually written by Alice and contains several unusual recipes such as one for Hashish Fudge (also called Alice B. Toklas brownies), submitted by Brion Gysin.

Image Image

[Toklas] A letter from my sister. She sent along a picture of my father.
[Stein] The old man of the mountain!
[Toklas] The old man of the mountain.
[Stein] He was a stern man who loved his flowers.
[Toklas] I don’t think I ever really knew him.
[Stein] Is that so uncommon?
[Toklas] It may be the most common thing in the world.

-- "Waiting for the Moon," directed by Jill Godmilow

Several of Stein's writings have been set by composers, including Virgil Thomson's operas Four Saints in Three Acts and The Mother of Us All, and James Tenney's skillful if short setting of Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose as a canon dedicated to Philip Corner, beginning with "a" on an upbeat and continuing so that each repetition shuffles the words, e.g. "a/rose is a rose/is a rose is/a rose is a/rose."


Sherwood Anderson in his public introduction to Stein's 1922 publication of Geography and Plays wrote:

“ For me the work of Gertrude Stein consists in a rebuilding, an entirely new recasting of life, in the city of words. Here is one artist who has been able to accept ridicule, who has even forgone the privilege of writing the great American novel, uplifting our English speaking stage, and wearing the bays of the great poets to go live among the little housekeeping words, the swaggering bullying street-corner words, the honest working, money saving words and all the other forgotten and neglected citizens of the sacred and half forgotten city. ”

In a private letter to his brother Karl, Anderson said,

As for Stein, I do not think her too important. I do think she had an important thing to do, not for the public, but for the artist who happens to work with words as his material.

(Mellow, 1974 at p. 260)

F. W. Dupee (1990, p. IX) defines "Steinese" as "gnomic, repetitive, illogical, sparsely punctuated...a scandal and a delight, lending itself equally to derisory parody and fierce denunciation.

Though Stein perhaps influenced authors such as Ernest Hemingway and Richard Wright, as hinted above, her work has often been misunderstood. Composer Constant Lambert (1936) naively compares Stravinsky's choice of "the drabbest and least significant phrases" in L'Histoire du Soldat to Gertrude Stein's in "Helen Furr and Georgine Skeene" (1922), specifically: "[E]veryday they were gay there, they were regularly gay there everyday", of which he contends that the "effect would be equally appreciated by someone with no knowledge of English whatsoever", apparently entirely missing the pun frequently employed by Stein.

Perhaps James Thurber understands all too well:

“Anyone who reads at all diversely during these bizarre 1920s cannot escape the conclusion that a number of crazy men and women are writing stuff which remarkably passes for important composition among certain persons who should know better. Stuart P. Sherman, however, refused to be numbered among those who stand in awe and admiration of one of the most eminent of the idiots, Gertrude Stein. He reviews her Geography and Plays in the August 11 issue of the Literary Review of the New York Evening Post and arrives at the conviction that it is a marvellous and painstaking achievement in setting down approximately 80,000 words which mean nothing at all.”

(From Collecting Himself, Michael Rosen, ed.)


• "I do want to get rich, but I never want to do what there is to do to get rich."
• "A writer should write with his eyes and a painter paint with his ears".
"Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense".
• "Hemingway, remarks are not literature".
• "I've been rich and I've been poor. It's better to be rich".
• "America is my country, but Paris is my hometown".
• "You are all a lost generation".
• "It is extraordinary that whole populations have no projects for the future, none at all. It certainly is extraordinary, but it is certainly true".
• "A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose".
• "To write is to write is to write is to write is to write is to write is to write".
• "Out of kindness comes redness and out of rudeness comes rapid same question, out of an eye comes research, out of selection comes painful cattle".
• "There is no there there." [re: Oakland, CA]
• "I really do not know that anything has ever been more exciting than diagramming sentences."
• "I have made it [white electric light] but have I a soul to pay for it."
• "Affectations can be dangerous."
• "Everything is so dangerous that nothing is really very frightening."
• "If it can be done, why do it?"
• "It is natural to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes to that siren until she allures us to our death."


• In March 2008, a new musical entitled "27, rue de Fleurus" by Ted Sod and Lisa Koch, which is told from the perspective of Alice B. Toklas and featuring Gertrude Stein, will premiere at Urban Stages in NYC
• The Lynne Truss book, Eats, Shoots and Leaves, makes several references to Stein's writings, specifically Stein's vendetta against most punctuation.
In the musical The Drowsy Chaperone, the song "Bride's Lament" references her with the line "Gertrude Stein, she gave me a rose."
• In 2005, playwright/actor Jade Esteban Estrada portrayed Stein in the solo musical ICONS: The Lesbian and Gay History of the World, Vol. 1 at Princeton University.
• In the 2006 motion picture The Devil Wears Prada, the character Christian Thompson, played by Simon Baker, attributes the statement "America is my country, but Paris is my hometown" to Gertrude Stein.
• In the 1995 motion picture Sabrina, the character Sabrina, played by Julia Ormond says, upon readying to depart to Paris, "Gertrude Stein once said 'America is my country, but Paris is my hometown.'"
• Chuck Coleman, jazz-popular music singer/songwriter, sings about Stein in the track "Me And Gertrude Stein" from his album, "People, Places, and Flings."
• Scottish rock music band Idlewild released a single called Roseability in 2000 from the album 100 Broken Windows. This is apparently a reference to Stein's observation that "Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose". The song also includes the refrain, "Gertrude Stein says that's enough."
• The phrase 'a rose is a rose...' occurs in the musical 'Singing in the Rain', when Gene Kelly is receiving elocution lessons to allow him to move from silent films to talkies. He sings it with Donald O'Connor.
• In the Latino literary classic "Yo-Yo Boing!," novelist Giannina Braschi pays homage to Gertrude Stein as an imaginary mentor.
• In an episode of the television series The X-Files called "Bad Blood", the character Fox Mulder, played by David Duchovny, warns his partner, Dana Scully, played by Gillian Anderson, that if she goes to prison, "your cellmate's nickname is gonna be Large Marge, she's gonna read a lot of Gertrude Stein."
• In "La Vie Boheme", a song of the musical Rent, a toast is made to Gertrude Stein.
• The Elephant 6 band Olivia Tremor Control mentions Stein in their song "Define a Transparent Dream".
• In Anastasia (1997 film), Gertrude Stein is seen in a car singing "Where a rose is a rose!" during a musical number, "Paris Holds The Key to Your Heart".
In The Rutles' song "Another Day", a reference to her is made: "A glass of wine with Gertrude Stein,/I know I'll never share,/but I don't mind. That's just the kind/of cross each man must bear./I'm on my way,/I cannot stay another day."
• In the Marvel comic Runaways, one character is named Gertrude Yorkes, while her boyfriend's name is Chase Stein.
• Loving Repeating is a musical by Stephen Flaherty based on the writings of Gertrude Stein and is unified through a 1934 speech that Stein delivered at the University of Chicago. Stein and Alice B. Toklas are both characters in the eight person show.
• In the Swedish film "The Adventures of Picasso" ("Picassos Äventyr") Bernard Cribbins plays a hilarious Gertrude Stein, who among other things dresses up as a pirate in a masquerade held by Henry Rousseau, almost cutting the head of Picasso with her sword, by accident. Wilfrid Brambell plays Alice B Toklas.
• In Mame, a stage and film musical, the character Vera Charles declares in the song lyrics of "Bosom Buddies", "... but sweetie, I'll always be Alice Toklas if you'll be Gertrude Stein."
• In the movie "Corrina, Corrina", Whoopi Goldberg quotes Gertrude Stein with "There is no there there", though she (Goldberg) is referring to a romantic relationship while Stein was describing the search for her childhood home in Oakland, California.
• The artist Poe, wrote the song "A Rose is A Rose" for the album Lounge-a-palooza, and makes several references to Gertrude Stein and lesbian sexuality.
• The musical band Le Tigre reference Gertrude Stein in their song "Hot Topic" from their 1999 self-titled album.
• The band The Butchies include a song named Gertrude + Stein on their album Population 1975.
• The Wilde Stein Alliance for Sexual Diversity, one of the first LGBT student organizations in the United States, is named in part after Gertrude Stein.
• The cartoon series "Animaniacs" references Gertrude Stein in the episode entitled "Baloney & Kids." The Warners are forced to make faces on paper plates, Dot Warner choosing to make a charicature of Gertrude Stein.
• The movie I Love You, Alice B. Toklas is a 1968 comedy film starring Peter Sellers. It featured a song of the same title by Harpers Bizarre.


Selected Works

• Three Lives (The Grafton Press, 1909)
• White Wines, (1913)
• Tender buttons: objects, food, rooms (1914) online version
• An Exercise in Analysis (1917)
• A Circular Play (1920)
• Geography and Plays (1922)
• The Making of Americans: Being a History of a Family's Progress (written 1906-1908, published 1925)
• Four Saints in Three Acts (libretto, 1929: music by Virgil Thomson, 1934)
• Useful Knowledge (1929)
• How to Write (1931)
• They must. Be Wedded. To Their Wife (1931)
• Operas and Plays (1932)
• The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1933)
• Lectures in America (1935)
• The Geographical History of America or the Relation of Human Nature to the Human Mind (1936)
• Everybody's Autobiography (1937)
• Picasso (1938)
• Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights (1938)
• Paris France (1940)
• Ida: A Novel (1941)
• Three Sisters Who Are Not Sisters (1943)
• Wars I Have Seen (1945)
• Reflections on the Atom Bomb (1946) online version
• Brewsie and Willie (1946)
• The Mother of Us All (libretto, 1946: music by Virgil Thompson 1947)
• Last Operas and Plays (1949)
• The Things as They Are (written as Q.E.D. in 1903, published 1950)
• Patriarchal Poetry (1953)
• Alphabets and Birthdays (1957)

Primary sources

• "A LA RECHERCHE D'UN JEUNE PEINTRE" Gertrude Stein /Yale University/U.S.A. "Looking for a young paintor" (Riba-Rovira)
• Burns, Edward, ed., Gertrude Stein on Picasso (New York: Liveright Publishing Corp., 1970). ISBN 0-87140-513-X
• ---. The Letters of Gertrude Stein and Carl Van Vechten, 1913-1946, 2 v. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986). ISBN 0-231-06308-3, ISBN 978-0-231-06308-1
• ---. The Letters of Gertrude Stein and Thornton Wilder, co-ed. with Ulla Dydo (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996). ISBN 978-0-300-06774-3
• ---. Staying on Alone: Letters of Alice B. Toklas (New York: Liveright, 1973). ISBN 0-87140-569-5
• Chessman, Harriet and Stimpson, Catharine R., eds. Gertrude Stein, Writings 1903-1932 (Library of America, 1998). ISBN 978-1-883011-40-6
• ---. Gertrude Stein, Writings 1932-1946 (Library of America, 1998). ISBN 978-1-883011-41-3
Grahn, Judy, ed. Really Reading Gertrude Stein: A Selected Anthology with Essays by Judy Grahn (Crossing Press, 1989). ISBN 0-89594-380-8
• Stein, Gertrude. 1922. Geography and Plays. Mineola, NY: Dover, 1999. ISBN 048640874
• ---. 1932. Operas and Plays. Barrytown NY: Station Hill Arts, 1998. ISBN 1-886449-16-3
---. 1934. Portraits and Prayers. New York: Random House, 1934. ISBN 978-1-135-76198-1 ISBN 113576198
---. 1946. Gertrude Stein on Picasso (London, B.T. Batsford, Ltd. (1946) ISBN 978-0-87140-513-5, ISBN 0-87140-513-X
• ---. 1949. Last Operas and Plays. Ed. Carl van Vechten. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995. ISBN 0-8018-4985-3
• Vechten, Carl Van, ed. (1990). Selected Writings of Gertrude Stein. ISBN 0-679-72464-8

Secondary sources

• Behrens, Roy R. COOK BOOK: Gertrude Stein, William Cook and Le Corbusier. Dysart, Iowa: Bobolink Books, 2005; ISBN 0-9713244-1-7.
• Blackmer, Corrine E. "Gertrude Stein" in Summers, Claude J. (1995). The Gay and Lesbian Literary Heritage. ISBN 0-8050-5009-4.
• Bowers, Jane Palatini. 1991. "They Watch Me as They Watch This":Gertrude Stein's Metadrama. Philadelphia: University of Pennstlvania Press. ISBN 0-8122-3057-4.
Dean, Gabrielle. "Grid Games: Gertrude Stein's Diagrams and Detectives" in Modernism/modernity 15:2 [4] April 2008), 317-41.
• Grahn, Judy (1989). Really Reading Gertrude Stein: A Selected Anthology with essays by Judy Grahn. Freedom, California: The Crossing Press. ISBN 0-89594-380-8.
• Hobhouse, Janet. Everybody Who Was Anybody: A Biography of Gertrude Stein New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1975. ISBN 978-1-199-83299-3.
• Kellner, Bruce, ed. A Gertrude Stein Companion: Content with the Example. New York, Westport, Connecticut, London: Greenwood Press, 1988. ISBN 0-313-25078-2.
• Malcolm, Janet. Two Lives: Gertrude and Alice, London: Yale University Press, 2007. ISBN 978-0-300-12551-1
• Malcom, Janet. Gertrude Stein's War, The New Yorker, June 2, 2003, p. 58-81
• ---. Strangers in Paradise, The New Yorker, November 13, 2006, p. 54-61.
• Mellow, James R. Charmed Circle: Gertrude Stein & Company. New York, Washington: Praeger Publishers, 1974. ISBN 0-395-47982-7
• Perelman, Bob. The Trouble with Genius: Reading Pound, Joyce, Stein, and Zukofsky. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1994.
• Rosenbaum, Fred, "San Francisco-Oakland: The Native Son", in Brinner, William M. & Rischin, Moses. Like All the Nations?: The Life and Legacy of Judah L. Magnes, State University of New York Press, 1987. ISBN 0-88706-507-4
• The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Four Americans in Paris: The Collections of Gertrude Stein and Her Family. New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1970. ISBN 078100674.
• Ryan, Betsy Alayne. 1984. Gertrude Stein's Theatre of the Absolute. Theater and Dramatic Studies Ser., 21. Ann Arbor and London: UMI Research Press. ISBN 0-8357-2021-7.
• Renate Stendhal, ed., Gertrude Stein In Words and Pictures: A Photobiography. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 1989. ISBN 0-945575-99-8; ISBN 978-0-945575-99-3.
• Truong, Monique. The book of salt, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003. A novel about a young Vietnamese cook who worked in Stein's Montparnasse-household.
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Re: Gertrude Stein Views Life and Politics, by Lansing Warre

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Alice B. Toklas
by Wikipedia



Alice B. Toklas, photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1949

Alice B. Toklas (April 30, 1877 – March 7, 1967) was an American-born member of the Parisian avant-garde of the early 20th Century.


Early life, relationship with Gertrude Stein

She was born Alice Babette Toklas in San Francisco, California into a middle-class Jewish family and attended schools in both San Francisco and Seattle. For a short time she also studied music at the University of Washington. She met Gertrude Stein in Paris on September 8, 1907 on the first day that she arrived. Together they hosted a salon that attracted expatriate American writers, such as Ernest Hemingway, Paul Bowles, Thornton Wilder and Sherwood Anderson, and avant-garde painters, including Picasso, Matisse and Braque.

Acting as Stein's confidante, lover, cook, secretary, muse, editor, critic, and general organizer, Toklas remained a background figure, chiefly living in the shadow of Stein, until Stein published her memoirs in 1933 under the teasing title The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. It became Stein's bestselling book. The two were a couple until Gertrude Stein's death in 1946.[1]

After Stein

After the death of Gertrude Stein, Toklas published her own literary memoir, a 1954 book that mixed reminiscences and recipes under the title The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook. The most famous recipe therein (actually contributed by her friend Brion Gysin) was called "Haschich Fudge," a mixture of fruit, nuts, spices, and "canibus [sic] sativa," or marijuana. Her name was later lent to the range of cannabis concoctions called Alice B. Toklas brownies. Some believe that the slang term toke, meaning to inhale marijuana, is derived from her last name, though it is more likely to originate in the Spanish verb tocar, meaning to touch or taste. The cookbook has been translated into numerous languages, most recently into Norwegian in 2007. A second cookbook followed in 1958 called Aromas and Flavors of Past and Present; however, Toklas did not approve of it as it had been heavily annotated by Poppy Cannon, an editor from House Beautiful magazine. She also wrote articles for several magazines and newspapers including The New Republic and the New York Times.

In 1963 she published her autobiography, What Is Remembered, which abruptly ends with Stein's death, leaving little doubt that Stein was the love of her lifetime.

Her later years were very difficult because of poor health and financial problems, aggravated by the fact that Stein's heirs took the priceless paintings (some of them Picassos) which Stein had willed to Toklas.

Toklas also became a Roman Catholic convert in her old age. Toklas died in poverty at the age of 89, and is buried next to Stein in Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, France; Toklas' name is engraved on the back of Stein's headstone.[2]

In modern culture

Brendan Behan ended his poem about Paris and Gertrude Stein with:

"I absolutely must decline
To dance in the streets with Gertrude Stein
And as for Alice B. Toklas,
I'd rather eat a box of Fucking chocolates."[3]

Both Toklas and Stein are referred to in both the stage play Mame and film version Auntie Mame. In a lyric of the song "Bosom Buddies", Vera Charles declares: "But sweetie, I'll always be Alice Toklas, if you'll be Gertrude Stein."

The 1968 Peter Sellers movie I Love You, Alice B. Toklas was named for Toklas' cannabis brownies, which play a significant role in the plot.

In 1969 on an episode of the ABC-TV variety show Hollywood Palace hosted by Diana Ross & The Supremes, member Mary Wilson tells Diana that show guest and comedian Soupy Sales has asked The Supremes to bake him a pie, to which Diana Ross replies to her group mates: "A pie, huh? Well, you better not use the recipe you got from Alice B. Toklas"!

A reference was made to Toklas in a 1969 episode of "Bewitched" called "Tabitha's Weekend". Endora (Agnes Moorehead) makes a joke about eating Mother Stephens (Mabel Albertson) raisin cookies when Tabitha asks if "Grandmama" would like one too. When offered one, Endora says "They're not by chance from an Alice B. Toklas recipe?" Mrs. Stephens says, "They're my recipe." To which Endora says "Then I think I'll pass."

The Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club, a political organization founded in 1971 in San Francisco, is a namesake of Toklas.

Samuel Steward, who met Toklas and Stein in the 1930s, edited Dear Sammy: Letters from Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas (1977), and wrote two mystery novels featuring Stein and Toklas as characters, Murder Is Murder Is Murder (1985) and The Caravaggio Shawl (1989).

Alice B. Toklas is pictured in the 1978 Swedish absurdist comedy film Picassos Äventyr (Adventures of Picasso), directed by Tage Danielsson. In this film she is played by Wilfrid Brambell, who was a star of the television series Steptoe and Son. A running gag is based on word play: Gertrude Stein often silences Alice B. Toklas with the phrase "Alice, be talkless."

Toklas is mentioned, along with Gertrude Stein, in Tim Curry's 1979 song I Do The Rock.

Toklas is played by Linda Hunt in the 1987 film Waiting for the Moon.[4]

Toklas appears in the book title and in one of the essays in Otto Friedrich's 1989 book "The Grave of Alice B. Toklas and Other Reports from the Past" (New York, Henry Holt). The chapter includes a sensitive interview with the elderly Alice.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted in 1989 to rename a block of Myrtle Street between Polk Street and Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco as Alice B. Toklas Place, since Toklas was born one block away on O'Farrell Street.[5][6]

The Toyes made mention of Toklas in their 1995 song "Monster Hash".

In certain California communities, female facial hair is an accepted form of self-expression and is referred to as a "Toklas-stache".

Toklas is mentioned in the Eric Schwartz song "Hattie and Mattie" on his 1999 That's How It's Gonna Be album. The song also appears on Holly Near's 2006 album Show Up.

In La Chuisa's "The Wild Party" the lesbian stripper Madelaine True mentions her in the song "Like Sally"

Bill Richardson's 2001 book Waiting for Gertrude makes reference to Toklas and Stein's relationship.

Vietnamese American writer Monique Truong developed a marginal character, Toklas' Indochinese cook, in her bestselling novel The Book of Salt, published in 2003. The novel contains substantial citations and relays several scenes taken from the Alice B. Toklas Cook Book.

Melissa Manchester wrote the song "When Paris Was A Woman" which appears on her 2004 album "When I Look Down That Road". The song is from the view point of Alice B. Toklas.


• Alice B. Toklas Life Stories, Books, & Links
• Linzie, Anna (2006), The true story of Alice B. Toklas: a study of three autobiographies, University of Iowa Press, ISBN 9780877459859,
• O'Sullivan, Michael (1997), Brendan Behan: a life, Blackwater Press, p. 249, ISBN 9780861216987
• Howe, Desson (1987-04-25), "Waiting for the Moon", Washington Post, ... a0b0ad.htm, retrieved 2009-11-08
• Herscher, Elaine (1998-07-01), "Paving the Way for Gays: S.F. may name street for lesbian Alice B. Toklas", San Francisco Chronicle,, retrieved 2009-11-08
• "Board of Supervisors : September 22, 1998". City and County of San Francisco. 1998-09-22. Retrieved 2009-11-08.
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