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17.10.2013
In 1937, Henry Seidel Canby was succeeded as editor-in-chief of the Saturday Review of Literature by the historian and critic Bernard DeVoto, and one of the new editor-in-chiefa€™s decisions for remaking the magazine was to drop in 1938 Christopher Morleya€™s a€?Bowling Greena€? column of literary chitchat that had been part of the weekly since its creation in the mid-1920s. To remain connected with Manhattan literary life, and perhaps because he found it hard to work productively at home, Morley took an office atop a four-story walk-up at 46 West 47th Street, which he called 46W47. It was a pleasure to place a chapter of my historical novel Baker Street Irregular at 46W47, using that as the chaptera€™s title. That description in my novel was based on pictures of 46W47 in Steven Rothmana€™s The Standard Doyle Company, and on what Ia€™d been told about it in 1998 by Miriam a€?Deea€? Alexander, Edgar W. So it was a pleasure to discover, quite recently, an interview with Morley at 46W47 that appeared in the New York Times Book Review of November 15, 1942. My discovery of this Times Book Review article came just in time to mention in my latest BSI Archival History volume, Sources and Methods, which came out in late January this year.
The article is Robert van Gelder, a€?An Interview With Christopher Morley,a€? November 15, 1942.
It was in the same neighborhood (the SRL was over at 25 West 45th), little further away from Christ Cellaa€™s on East 45th, and just a few doors down the block from the Midtown branch of Billy the Oysterman, which would now increasingly eclipse Cellaa€™s as Morleya€™s watering hole and luncheon spot with Irregulars like Edgar W. My protagonist Woody Hazelbaker is summoned there cryptically by Morley on the afternoon of June 28, 1940, to be one of a small number of Irregulars to meet the equally real Canadian industrialist William Stephenson, whom Winston Churchill had just sent to New York to run the Secret Intelligence Service station there, and to undermine U.S.


Smitha€™s Irregular secretary at General Motors Overseas Operations during 1946-49: a€?I remember huffing and puffing up, up to the 4th floor walk-up Morley office with both Morley and Smith. I wish, though, that it had come to my attention years ago, in time to use one detail in it in my novel Baker Street Irregular, to which Sources and Methods is a companion volume. Rough bookcases lined the walls, but books and papers were everywhere, including the floor.
The a€?officea€™ was a dusty, musty, books-and-papers strewn room with an ancient sagging sofa.
They had been productive ones, including the writing of his greatest bestseller, Kitty Foyle, the story of an Irish Philly working girl versus Philadelphiaa€™s WASPish Main Line (where Morley had been born, in 1890 in Haverford). But by that time she had gone off to war as an officer in the WAVES, and would remain in the Navy after the war was over. The novel had been published in 1939, and turned into a movie in 1940 starring Ginger Rogers, who won the Academy Award for Best Actress for the role. The article startles us by stating that The Three Hours for Lunch Club a€?is now disbanded,a€? without elucidation; and of mention of The Baker Street Irregulars, there is none. William Stephenson in the 46W47 chapter of Baker Street Irregular, at that fateful hour in June 1940 when Britain stood alone against Hitler.


Now Morley was writing a new semi-autobiographical novel, Thorofare, and soon would go to work on his book for the BSIa€™s 1944 Trilogy event, Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson: A Textbook of Friendship. Dust was thick everywhere and hung in the smoky air where sunlight fell through unwashed windows. Smith were exchanging letters on BSI matters more or less every other day (see Irregular Records of the Early a€™Forties, p.
Smith, Elmer Davis, Fletcher Pratt (whoa€™d huffed and puffed up those stairs to Morleya€™s aerie with Woody Hazelbaker), Rex Stout, and Gene Tunney as an Irregular audience and amen chorus.
One was the big frame and boyish face of Gene Tunney, but the other was a stranger, short and thin with a freckled face, blue eyes, and brown hair going gray. At the far end, Rex Stout sat in a dilapidated armchair with his feet on a footstool, arms around his knees. Elmer [Davis] occupied a smaller chair nearby, and Edgar Smith perched between them on an upturned beer crate.



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