Friday, 21 November 2008


In, 1919, at the end of World War I, a group of New York writers gathered at the Algonquin Hotel, 59, W 44th Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues, for a lunchtime "roast" to celebrate the return of theater critic Alexander Woolcott from service as a war correspondent. Thus began a decade-long daily ritual for some of the era's most prominent artist-intellectuals. Dubbed "the Algonquin Round Table," regulars included Woolcott, writer, critic and acerbic wit Dorothy Parker, playwright George S Kaufman, actor and screenwriter Robert Brenchley, novelist Edna Ferber, performer Harpo Max and Harold Ross, founder of The New Yorker magazine.

Famous for their stinging wit and merciless criticism, Dorothy Parker called her lunch partners "the vicious circle," while Edna Ferber referred to them as "the poison squad." For example Dorothy Parker commenting on a new novel said "This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force." And acknowledging the inevitable consequences of her liking for alcohol penned:-

I like to have a martini,

Two at the very most.

After three I'm under the table,

after four I'm under my host.

The Algonquin Round Table in caricature by Al Hirschfeld. Seated at the table, clockwise from left: Dorothy Parker, Robert Brenchley, Alexander Woolcot, Heywood Broun, Marc Connelly, Franklin P. Adams, Edna Ferber, George S. Kaufman, Robert Sherwood. In back from left: frequent Algonquin guests Lynn Fontanne and Alfred Lunt, Vanity Fair editor Frank Crowninshield and Frank Case.

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