It was a most comfortable house to visit. Gertrude Stein liked it, she could stay in her room or in the garden as much as she liked without hearing too much conversation. The food was excellent, scotch food, delicious and fresh, and it was very amusing meeting all of the Cambridge dignitaries. We were taken into all the gardens and invited into many of the homes. It was lovely weather, quantities of roses, morris-dancing by all the students and girls and generally delightful. We were invited to lunch at Newnham, Miss Jane Harrison, who had been Hope Mirlees’ pet enthusiasm, was much interested in meeting Gertrude Stein. We sat up on the dais with the faculty and it was very awe inspiring. The conversation was not however particularly amusing. Miss Harrison and Gertrude Stein did not particularly interest each other.
We had been hearing a good deal about Doctor and Mrs. Whitehead. They no longer live in Cambridge. The year before Doctor Whitehead had left Cambridge to go to London University. They were to be in Cambridge shortly and they were to dine with the Mirlees’. They did and I met my third genius.
It was a pleasant dinner. I sat next to Housman, the Cambridge poet, and we talked about fishes and David Starr Jordan but all the time I was more interested in watching Doctor Whitehead.1
– Gertrude Stein
(The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. p. 145)2
And now for a note, for your amusement. On reading Toklas’ What is Remembered, one finds a different version:
The Mirrlees were giving dinner parties for Gertrude and at one of them I sat next to A.E Housman. He said to me, Since you are from California, tell me about your great ichthyologist, Dr. David Starr Jordan. Oh, I said, he was a friend of my grandfather. So I told him all I knew about the president of Leland Stanford University (83).
Also, Dr. Whitehead was not at that particular dinner, but at a later one. Doubtless, however, someone has already done a careful comparison of the differences in their accounts, so I will say no more.
The passage is remarkable in the prose of Gertrude Stein for its use of commas, on which:
He did however plead for commas. Gertrude Stein said commas were unnecessary, the sense should be intrinsic and not have to be explained by commas and otherwise commas were only a sign that one should pause and take breath but one should know of oneself when one wanted to pause and take breath. However, as she liked Haweis very much and he had given her a delightful painting for a fan, she gave him two commas. It must however be added that on rereading the manuscript she took the commas out (132).