Natalia Ginzburg

1916 (Palermo, Sicily) – 1991 (Rome)

Ginzburg’s friendships with the writers Calvino, Pavese, Soldati and Levi all originated from their connections with the publisher Einaudi, in the years following WWII: Pavese had helped found the firm, and with Ginzburg turned down Levi’s first book (later republished by them). Levi nonetheless became a long-term friend.

Kenneth Koch

1925 (Cincinatti, Ohio) – 2002 (New York)

Koch met Ashbery at university, O’Hara following them to New York. De Kooning, Dine, Katz, Rivers, Saint Phalle, Porter and Grooms were among the artists and fellow-poets he mixed with. Mathews, Schuyler and Ashbery were his co-editors and founders of Locus Solus magazine. Padgett, taught by him, became a professional colleague, and with his close friend Brainard became another presence in New York circles. Koch challenged Ponge on his perceptions of the city’s appearance, deciding by his response that he was a genius. Ginsberg did his best to outdo Koch in rhyming.

John Gay

1685 (Barnstaple, England) – 1732 (London)

Gay’s good friend Swift suggested the idea for ‘The Beggar’s Opera’. Pope was the dedicatee of his first published work, and became a lifelong friend. Both Pope and Arbuthnot collaborated with him: Pope, Swift, Arbuthnot and Gay were mainstays of the ‘Scriblerus Club’. Congreve was unfailingly kind to him, while Montagu collaborated on some pieces with him and Pope that are mostly credited to her alone. He had studied with Handel, and was the principal librettist for ‘Acis and Galatea’ (Pope also contributing). Voltaire met him during his two years’ exile in England, and attended his ‘The Beggar’s Opera.’

John Dryden

1631 (Aldwinkle, England) – 1700 (London)

Purcell and Dryden collaborated more than once, and seem to have respected one another. Congreve was Dryden’s protégé then friend, and said he was “exceedingly humane and compassionate”. Addison also became a friend, after addressing a poem to the former poet laureate. Locke was known from schooldays, while Pope as a 12-year-old was taken to see the veteran Dryden, in the coffee-house where he held court and spent his evenings. Shadwell had been on friendly terms, Dryden contributing a prologue to one of his plays; Shadwell then satirised him in print, Dryden responding in kind.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

1749 (Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany) – 1832 (Weimar)

Goethe met Herder as a student, and visited Lavater in Switzerland ( a great correspondent, he helped Lavater with his magnum opus on physiognomy). Hummel like him was attached to the Weimar court, where Schopenhauer’s mother had a salon. Schiller approached him in admiration: they became friends and colleagues for life. Carlyle, Schelling, Schlegel, Byron, Hegel and Fichte were among intellectuals drawn across Europe to visit him (Manzoni and he just corresponded). Beethoven set several of his poems to music (though they did not get on personally), and the young Mendelssohn charmed the old man with his playing.

Jean Anouilh

1910 (Bordeaux) – 1987 (Lausanne, Switzerland)

Jolivet, Barrault (who had been at the same school, though a little younger) and Anouilh helped found a review. He met Prévert and Grimault while working at the same advertising agency as them. Vitrac described his protégé Anouilh (they were very fond of each other) as “my spiritual brother.” Milhaud wrote incidental music for one of his plays, ‘Le voyager sans bagage.’ As reclusive as he was prolific, he confided to Giraudoux, who had been a powerful formative influence, that he had no biography, and was very happy for that to be the case.

Dylan Thomas

1914 (Swansea, Wales) – 1953 (New York)

Eliot dithered over Thomas’s poems, but encouraged him and sent him money. Auden, Spender and MacNeice broadcast with him, Spender also raising money for him, and MacNeice attending his funeral. Miller met him while visiting an old friend in London; Ferlinghetti met him in Paris and drank with him in San Francisco. Chaplin threw him out for arriving drunk, Thomas retaliating by urinating on a plant on his doorstep. Stravinsky wrote to him just before he died, about collaborating on a post-apocalyptic opera, and composed a piece dedicated to his memory.

David Garrick

1717 (Hereford, England) – 1779 (London)

Garrick was a pupil at Johnson’s academy in Lichfield, before mentor and friend went to London together. He joined Johnson and Reynolds’ Literary Club, elected on sufferance with Boswell; Goldsmith was a fellow-member. He had a long, easy but never intimate friendship with Sterne. Goldsmith and Hume were guests when he hosted a supper for Rousseau. Adam improved Garrick’s house and designed a new facade for the Theatre Royal. Diderot and Grimm met him at d’Holbach’s; Grimm said he was the only actor to meet the imagination’s demands.

Bertolt Brecht

Bertold Brecht;Berthold Brecht

1898 (Augsburg, Germany) – 1956 (Berlin)

Feuchtwanger was a friend and mentor to Brecht, who sharpened his teeth in Reinhardt’s and Piscator’s theatres. Eisler (a lifelong friend) and Weill were among his most celebrated collaborators. Heartfield acknowledged his longtime friend’s influence, while Herzfelde published his work, and joined in setting up an anti-fascist publishing house in New York. Hindemith collaborated and quarreled with him, Grosz and Döblin were friends, Lenya one of his performers, Tretyakov a translator and populariser of his work, and Chaplin and Auden among those he met in America. Weigel married him, and ran the Berliner Ensemble after his death.