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Love in Greenwich Village

by Floyd Dell

new material in this book copyright © 2022

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America’s First Bohemia

Greenwich Village became America’s first Bohemia around 1910, attracting artists and sculptors, novelists and poets, anarchists and socialists because the rents were low. This book is the best evocation of the spirit of that time, written by someone who was there.

Floyd Dell came to New York in 1913 to write stories, novels and poetry. On his first day in Greenwich Village, he met a girl who introduced him to the pet alligator she kept in her bathtub by having him hold out his little finger for the alligator to nip.

Within a day, he had met Harriet Rodman, who had broken the Liberal Club apart by claiming that women’s equality meant an equal right to have extramarital affairs and whose own marriage was a ménage à trois. Those who were scandalized by her remained at the Liberal Club uptown, and those who supported her formed a new Liberal Club on Macdougal St., which became the most popular gathering place for Village Bohemians.

One of his early stories, “Hallelujah, I’m a Bum,” was published in The Masses, the most influential radical magazine of the time.

One day, the volunteers who ran The Masses were meeting and decided they needed a new editor. One of them saw Dell passing by outside, ran out, pulled him in, and offered him the job at $25 a week, saying “You’ll be the only one getting paid. It means you’ll do the work.” A year after taking the job, Dell and others from The Masses were tried twice for conspiracy because they opposed World War I.

But despite this political work, Dell said, “to me, art is more important than the destinies of nations.”

At the center of both the artistic and political worlds of the Village, Floyd Dell was perfectly positioned to write this nostalgic evocation of the spirit of youth, free love, and artistic creativity of our first Bohemia.