Arthur Moss
1889 - 1969
Author, Editor, Publisher, Journalist
Promoter of the Arts

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The Lost (and found) Generation
 By Edward Snyder                                         11/18/08

     As the old cliché goes, 'when you least expect it'. I was a business man all my adult life. Thats all I thought about everyday of my life, until one day, strictly by accident, I ran across a brief reference to a man who had been dead for twenty five years. If I had to put it in just one word what, exactly, intrigued me about his story was that he was referred to as an expatriate. The whole concept of how anyone could leave America, the land of so much opportunity and (too much) freedom. The term ex-pat expresses to me the giving up citizenship for some fanatic, misguided idealism, or some kind of 'ism', that brainwashes somebody into believing they hate their country. I must admit, I am prejudice about my country. No matter how frustrated we get, we were blessed to have been born here. My initial reaction to the term ex-pat was very condescending. Then I came to realize it had nothing to do with patriotism why certain people flocked to Europe, especially France, during peace-time. There was no threat to venture to the other side of the globe as there is today, and for these 'intrepids' - there was no such thing as borders. For them it wasn't about leaving their country, that wasn't a factor. Oh! sure, there's always that one or two trying to shuffle their cash around to avoid taxes or to chase a guru into a wilderness, but, for these adventurers it was like a trip to the Grand Canyon, or Disney as a child. They just followed their passion. They had no shackles, but, they had a devotion. For the most part, they were driven by overwhelming passion to contribute the product of their genius to society for all time. I'm still a little jealous, but, aren't we all grateful? The likes of Hemingway and Fitzgerald...what we would have missed out on if they had been more 'practical', or limited in their scope.

     Then there are the (ones) who are just as much a part of the equation that delivered the end product to us as the artists themselves. While I wasn't able to be there in the back rooms or privy to know of conversations in the corner of the Jockey Club, one thing rang out for certain the more I investigated who was Arthur Moss. He was not a hustler in terms of monetary gain or notoriety for himself, but, he was definitely a hustler; a 'wheeler-dealer', of sorts, to get into those back rooms and acquire knowledge of art and artists of every field.

     Arthur Moss wrote columns and reported for New Yorker, New York Times and 'Paris' Herald; but, he also published and edited three magazines of his own. In 1917 he started the Quill in Greenwich Village, N.Y., until 1921 when he and Florence Gilliam(second wife) went to Paris and published Gargoyle. Later, in 1927, he published Boulevardier; all three were not only to entertain and inform, but, their most specific goal was to acknowledge art and literature from some of the most renowned artists in history.

               For list of Arthur Moss' work

     Many times I've wondered what it was like in 1921 when Arthur Moss and Florence Gilliam first went to Paris. They were among the 'first wave' of artists to arrive in the 'Left Bank' of the river, a stone throw from Notre Dame Cathedral. Imagine hanging out in Shakespeare and Company bookshop in the company of Sinclaire Lewis or Malcolm Cowley, discussing the weather or the latest news. You are sitting in the Jockey Club (more of a pub) in the afternoon, having a beer with Henri Matisse, when Pablo Picasso walks in and [maybe Derain] cracks a joke about his latest work. Of coarse, we don't know for a fact Derain thought Pablo's work was 'silly', but, you get the idea. What an atmosphere it must have been, on a daily basis, to always be around the most popular actors of the time, or discussing the latest controversial writings of one genius to another.
       The thing that kept me intrigued about Arthur Moss was the lack of information readily available regarding a man of such apparent importance in cultural history. Aside from the fact that he authored several books of his own, two of which biographies I thought were done very well, Arthur spent most of his time making sure other peoples works were given recognition. Arthur didn't just tell of the accomplishments, and ride you through the events in the lives of Henry Murger and Jacques Offenbach. He got into their souls. He painted a picture of what they thought and why they thought it. Everyone who knew Arthur knew he was thorough. Even in his columns he didn't dare throw just anything on paper to bring attention, rather, he was known for doing his research.  He published the earliest writings of Ernest Hemingway in his magazine Gargoyle in 1922, long before Robert McAlmon published his first novel, Sun Also Rises, in 1925.   

 Paris Info: Click on map, then click on British flag at top of page for English...

           Todays journalists have so many more resources available to them just sitting in front of a computer. In the early to mid twentieth century they only had legwork, and if they wanted to continue a reputation with their subjects they better get it straight. Arthur apparently not only kept his writings and reporting 'straight', but, he had a devoted concern for the truth and the well being of his subjects and their art. Arthur certainly had the resources and the contacts to promote his own work, but that wasn't what (drove) him. He had a passion for revealing the talents of artists he admired and respected.

       As I continued my research on Arthur Moss, I became frustrated from time to time with the blatant disregard for the facts and omission of relevancy. I would read of a passing comment or incident which implied something to the general reader, then find a dead end again. Through constant persistence and crossing data I was able to piece together enough information to reveal a different perspective than what was originally implied. The inaccuracy of book listings alone would tend to provoke a (re-direct) away from the attention given to who Arthur Moss was really. I have submitted dozens of requests to correct entries in book listings. Some were accommodating and some were not; most were major entities. What seems important to some, is insignificant to others, of coarse, but, some jobs are reliant to detail. It would seem to most, listing and accrediting literary accomplishments would be one of them.

       One of my incorrect assumptions would be that places and people in Paris would be the best resource for a wealth of information. On the contrary, after speaking directly with curators and shop owners and library directors I found Paris was the last place to seek info. My most anticipated communique would be with the American Library in Paris. When I learned Sylvia Beach (proprietor of Shakespeare & Co.) had donated her entire collection to the library upon the closing of her bookshop in 1941, I thought there was not enough time left in my life to read all the material they must have on Arthur. Much to my dismay, Simon Gallo, the so-called collector for the library, did not know who Arthur Moss was and didn't seem to care. Mr. Gallo stated the library had no material on Arthur Moss- Editor and publisher of two magazines promoting the artists which placed Paris on the artistic community map; wrote all his books there and most of them were about Paris and its culture. I was in a confused sort of bewilderment. Maybe Mr. Gallo was in a hurry and 'type-Oed' his 'query' in the search field. After attempting their database myself, it is easy to understand that something could be 'lost in translation'.

       Perhaps, the most troubling issue of my research mission was when I was looking for signed copies of Arthur's books. I found one of his last books published while he was alive, Tale of Twelve Cities and Other Poems(1963) on sale in a popular American bookseller website by Simon Gallo, the collector for the library which has NOTHING by Arthur Moss. I was outraged at the atrocity of: 1) what he was doing to the public who would never see that book, and 2) the horrific conflict of interest given his position as Collector. We made several attempts to acquire a comment from both Mr. Gallo and the director of the library, Mr. Trueheart, with no response from either. We later learned Mr. Gallo has over 1,700 rare and/or signed books for sale. So far, every one we checked is not in the library.

        The biggest collection of Arthur (Harold) Moss' works including the mags and periodicals, in the world, appears to be in the library at University of Texas, in Austin, of all places. Between people not doing their job correctly, and people mishandling their job, or greed, there are a lot of people in history who go unnoticed; just as the ones who get misguided notoriety due to the mishandling of the facts or lack of values in determining what makes history, or doesn't. It was no wonder to me why they refer to the artists of the early - mid twentieth century Parisian scene as The Lost Generation

We thought we would share these short videos with you. It kind of gives me a feeling of the era. Sylvia Beach closed the original bookstore in 1941. George Whitman reopened it right next to the river, across from Notre Dame, in 1951. It is now run by his daughter, Sylvia Beach Whitman, named after the original proprietor. Scroll through the several choices and you will hear from the current owner. Another follows George Whitman himself through a day. Enjoy! 

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View our entire "Lost Generation" photo album

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