You can’t talk about Margaret Anderson and Jane Heap apart from one another. Partners in business and love, an original femme and butch couple, the formidable founder of Little Review and her editor helped to shape our understanding of modernist literature – even if today European editor Ezra Pound is the most famous alumni of this forward-thinking and revolutionary journal.
Writing about Anderson and Heap in my series is a bit of a cheat, as both started their illustrious careers on the other side of the pond. But they spent a fair amount of time on the Left Bank and are included in Benstock’s Women of the Left Bank, so I think we can claim them.
Anderson was born in Indiana in 1886. A talented pianist, she moved to Chicago where she met Jane Heap in 1916 and the pair soon started collaborating on Little Review – moving it to New York after a brief sojourn publishing out of a cabin on the edge of Lake Michigan and a ranch in California’s Muir Woods.
I’m lucky enough to own a first edition of Anderson’s memoir of her years running Little Review. Called Thirty Years War, it’s a vital history of one of the most important literary and arts moments of the 20th Century, and by one of its most interesting and influential women. The memoir is packed with stories and anecdotes about some of the most exciting women of the teens and twenties of the last century, including Emma Goldman and the Dadaist and poet/artist Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, who some say was the real artist behind THAT urinal.
In her memoir, Anderson writes about the experience of meeting Heap in 1916. Through her recollection, you get a wonderful sense of the strength of attraction between the pair and the love that endured between them:
I felt in 1916 and feel to-day that Jane Heap is the world’s best talker.
It isn’t a question of words, facility, style. It isn’t a question of erudition. It isn’t even a question of truth. (Who knows whether what she says is true?) It is entirely a question of ideas. No one can find such interesting things to say on any subject. I have often I should my life over to talk-racing, with my money on Jane. No one else would ever win – you can’t win against magic.
From its new base in New York, Little Review became one of the most influential journals of the modernist period. With Pound as European editor, they published writers and artists as diverse as Gertrude Stein, Sherwood Anderson, T.S Eliot, William Carlos Williams, Ernest Hemingway, Amy Lowell and Mina Loy.
The publication of Ulysses owed a huge debt to Anderson and Heap. In 1918, Pound brought Heap a copy of Joyce’s novel and Little Review began to serialise it – continuing until 1921 when the US Post Office seized copies of the magazine and refused to distribute it due to its ‘obscene’ content.
Both Heap and Anderson were hauled up into the courts, charged with obscenity. They famously lost the case – having to pay a fine of $100 and Ulysses was banned in the US until 1934. During the trial, Heap defended their decision to publish Joyce’s most famous work. She said:
It was poet, the artist, who discovered love and created the lover, made sex everything that it is beyond a function. It is the Mr Sumners who have made it an obscenity.
I love this quote. You can see what Anderson means, can’t you, about how Jane Heap talks?
After the trial, the pair decamped to Paris (making them officially women of the Left Bank) and continued to publish Little Review there, until the journal closed in 1929.
I’m tempted to say that our cultural forgetfulness of Anderson and Heap, without whom one of the most influential modernist publications would simply not have existed, is down to sexism. After all, the other great tastemakers of the age are remembered. I do think there is a whiff of sexism in particular about the forgetting of the three women who made such a difference to Joyce’s publishing history – especially with Joyce’s betrayal of Sylvia Beach.
Without women like Heap and Anderson, journals like Little Review would not have been the first publishers of some of the century’s most famous and revered writers and artists. We should celebrate these women; we should remember their names. They helped shape literary and cultural history. They were loved and respected by their peers and contemporaries. Let’s not allow them to be forgotten.