From the Archives: Letter from Alice Toklas on the death of Gertrude Stein | Westword
When Alice B. Toklas met Gertrude Stein, she heard bells ring. Picasso was poached in wine and butter, following the advice of Alice's aunt, Alice's status in their relationship: "My Life with the Great," "Wives of Geniuses I. “The Marriage of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein” is a play not by whether the real Toklas, who was no softy, saw her life as a problem that. Occupying that special invisible area historically reserved for homosexual partnerships, Gertrude Stein's relationship with her “companion,”.
Picasso, though impressed by the beauty of the fish, said that it should have been made for Matisse, not for him. Nevertheless, he rewarded Alice's artistry with a needlepoint pattern, which she used to make tapestries for two Louis XVI chairs.
And of course Alice, in the classic role of an artist's lover, served as Gertrude's muse. But given that Gertrude's art was not of the classic genre, this could take the form of not-so-classic endeavors. One guest remembers watching Gertrude instruct Alice to bat a -- what else? At some point, Gertrude suggested that Alice write an autobiography.
Alice B. Toklas (): Gertrude Stein’s lover | Svetlana Kitto
Her suggested titles illustrate her ideas about Alice's status in their relationship: Here she is, writing as "Alice": I am a pretty good housekeeper and a pretty good gardener and a pretty good needlewoman and a pretty good secretary and a pretty good vet for dogs and I have to do them all at once and I found it difficult to add being a pretty good author.
About six weeks ago Gertrude Stein said, it does not look to me as if you were ever going to write that autobiography. You know what I am going to do.
I am going to write it for you. I'm going to write it as simply as Dafoe did the autobiography of Robinson Crusoe. And she has and this is it.
Gertrude and Alice
For Gertrude to write the autobiography of Alice in Alice's "voice" could be construed as sheer hubris. And the novel, which begins with their first meeting and ends with Gertrude's decision to write the autobiography, certainly implies that Alice's life begins and ends with Gertrude.
But it is also a love poem of the deepest kind -- an attempt to literally become her lover. For what it's worth, friends who knew them both say that Gertrude faithfully reproduced Alice's verbal tics and quirks.
Besides, there is evidence that Alice had quite a bit of power herself, albeit power of the sneakier, passive-aggressive variety. She served as Gertrude's amanuensis and editor. She typed all of Gertrude's manuscripts, making editorial suggestions, and -- since she made the astonishing claim that she read Gertrude's writing better than Gertrude -- perhaps rewrote entire passages. In the published version of the autobiography, "Alice" says about Gertrude's "The Making of Americans": It was over a thousand pages long.
It was over a thousand pages long and I loved every minute of it.
Alice B. Toklas
He writes in "A Moveable Feast" about a conversation he overheard between the two women which took place shortly before he severed contact with the Stein-Toklas household.
First, Alice was heard talking in menacing tones: Stein's voice came pleading and begging saying, "Don't pussy. I'll do anything pussy but please don't do it. He says of Gertrude: Aside from their identity as a committed couple in the world of avante-garde art and literature, Gertrude and Alice were in many ways deeply conventional, even chauvinistic. Quite a few Parisian lesbians balked at various aspects of Gertrude and Alice's marriage.
Natalie Barney, the writer who held one of the most famous lesbian salons in Paris, believed that her own promiscuity was preferable to their stodgy domestic existence.
Gertrude and Alice in turn, could be smug about their own commitment in the face of the musical-chair romances that governed the bedrooms of Barney, Picasso and Hemingway. And author Djuna Barnes was furious when Gertrude, rather than commenting on her writing, said she had beautiful legs.
Any woman who dared stray into the men's conversation was soon dragooned by Alice into the kitchen, or forced to comment on some small household object.
Alice B. Toklas - Wikipedia
As for children, Gertrude and Alice adopted many. They took in impressionable young modernist writers -- like Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Sherwood Anderson and Paul Bowles Gertrude suggested that "Freddy" was a better name for him and refused to address him by any other name.
They also had dogs, who mostly sat on the lap of Mount Gertrude. Gertrude claimed that the rhythm of her dog Basket's breathing taught her the difference between sentences and paragraphs. The menagerie of canines, little and large, included Polype, a hound who enjoyed eating his own excrement nearly as much as he enjoyed smelling flowers; Byron, named for his sexual interest in his mother and sisters; Pepe; and Basket the First, whom Gertrude insisted be bathed in sulfur water each day.
She also insisted that Paul Bowles put on a pair of lederhosen and run the dog dry while Gertrude called out the third-story bathroom window, "Faster, Freddy, faster!
With their closest friends, Gertrude and Alice created small nuclear families, at least through the terms which they chose to address them.
With Carl Van Vechten, the famous photographer and not-so-famous writer, they formed the Woojums family: As commonplace as Gertrude and Alice's marriage was in its general outline, the detail was, obviously, remarkable. Perhaps the most extraordinary part was the fame.
Gertrude and Alice became famous. Dear Donald and Gilberte, Thank you so much for your letter -- it touched me deeply because Gertrude was very fond of you both. She had so much enjoyed your letter and had taken it and your manuscript to the country with her -- not yet six weeks ago -- to write you a long letter and now she is gone.
And Basket and I are alone here where we stay on with no desire but to stay on. You are very sweet to ask me to stay with you in your house or to do anything for me but there is nothing I need if there is at any time it is something I will not forget. I count upon seeing you next summer. It will be a comfort to me.
If you will allow me I will keep the manuscript to read and I will send it to you early next month.
I hope you are both well and happy as I am sure you are. Ever affectionately Alice Toklas According to Auraria archivist Rosemary Evetts, the manuscript that Toklas describes may have been Sutherland's play Coming and Going, given the timing of his writing and Stein's death.
Basket is probably Basket II, the second poodle of the same name in Toklas's life; there would ultimately be three Baskets. As if that letter weren't sad enough, things seem to have gone further downhill for Toklas after Stein willed much of her estate, including her world-renowned art collection, to Toklas, but Stein's family soon had everything locked in a vault, leaving Toklas to survive on her writing and help from friends, as her relationship to Stein had no legal standing.
She was eventually evicted from the home they shared on Rue Christine in Paris, ailing and destitute; she died in and was buried next to Stein.
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Though Toklas is more famous for her relationship to Stein and their long-running Parisian salons, there is one cultural contribution for which many should be thankful: