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Passeurs de la littérature des États-Unis en France, 1917-1967 (2)

“They paved the Atlantic with books”: William and Jenny Bradley, literary agents and cultural passeurs across borders

Laurence Cossu-Beaumont


Les archives de l’agence littéraire William A. Bradley permettent de retracer la carrière de William et Jenny Bradley, deux intermédiaires dans les échanges culturels franco-américains et offrent un accès privilégié à de multiples transactions transatlantiques dans la période de l’entre-deux-guerres et après la Seconde Guerre mondiale. Cet article vise en premier lieu à insérer ces deux agents littéraires dans le « circuit de communication » auquel s’intéresse l’histoire du livre et qui se déploie de l’auteur à l’éditeur puis au lecteur, tout particulièrement dans cette période d’internationalisation du marché du livre. Puis les développements se tournent vers les sociabilités liées à la participation des deux agents littéraires au monde des salons parisiens et analysent la construction de relations littéraires et intellectuelles dans un espace parisien vu comme transnational. Enfin, l’articulation des cultures au cœur du métier des agents littéraires vient nuancer la vision d’un « siècle américain » et d’une culture dominante qui s’impose de manière unilatérale pour observer des routes plus complexes d’une circulation à double sens. Cet article tire ses exemples et conclusions de l’ouvrage à paraître William et Jenny Bradley, agents littéraires : passeurs culturels et traversées transatlantiques dans le siècle américain (Cossu-Beaumont, 2023) et cherche à éclairer les trajectoires de William et Jenny Bradley comme passeurs culturels.

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  • 1 The Bradley Agency is considered the first literary agency in Paris although a few ventures had bee (...)

1William Aspenwall Bradley (1878-1939) and Jenny Serruys Bradley (1886-1983) founded the first literary agency in Paris in 1923.1 Its long list of clients on both sides of the Atlantic included Henry Miller, Theodore Dreiser, Anita Loos, William Faulkner, Raymond Chandler, Richard Wright and Gertrude Stein on the one hand, Colette, Paul Valéry, André Gide, André Malraux, Albert Camus and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry on the other, to name a few. But this list of names does not suffice to capture the many contributions of the two agents to literary and cultural history and to the French-American relationship.

2Born in Hartford, Connecticut to a patrician family and educated at Columbia University, William Bradley, an editor, translator, poet, and homme de lettres, crossed the Atlantic as a First World War Lieutenant and settled permanently in Paris in 1919. He married Jenny Serruys, a Belgian-French translator and anglophile whose family had ties with the Parisian literary and political elite through their amicable connections with, among others, writer Anatole France and statesman Georges Clemenceau.

  • 2 Janet Flanner refers to Bradley as “the leading agent and prophet here on transatlantic affairs” (6 (...)

3In the immediate aftermath of the First World War, William Bradley initially acted as a scout for the American publisher Harcourt, Brace and Howe (1920), and then for Macmillan (1921) and Knopf (1922). After 1923, the Bradleys quickly gained prominence, becoming the principal contacts for the main publishing houses in New York and Paris, and pillars of the Parisian social life for locals, expatriates, and visitors alike. The New Yorker’s chronicler Janet Flanner called William Bradley a “prophet” (Flanner 60-61) and later offered the image of a transatlantic route built by the couple who, she suggested, “paved the Atlantic with books.”2 Gertrude Stein described Bradley as the “friend and comforter” of artists in The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, the publication of which he secured with Harcourt in 1933 (Stein, 1933 298). William Bradley passed away in 1939 and Jenny Bradley, his spouse and business partner, successfully resumed the agency’s activities after the Second World War hiatus.

4The Bradley agencya bridge between France and the United Statesis a fascinating albeit neglected object of study. The exploration of the agency’s archival papers and correspondence helps trace a commercial, as well as intellectual route when it comes to literary and cultural exchanges. It also connects local spaces (the salons of the Left Bank or soirées on the Île Saint-Louis) to global dynamics (the Atlantic crossings of people, books, and ideas). Moreover, the archives shed light on these two key scouts, negotiators, fiscal advisors, translators, and on the many tasks taken on by William and Jenny Bradley, two cultural intermediaries who have remained hidden behind the scenes in the decades they acted as literary agents. The agency’s papers, including professional and personal correspondence, as well as contracts, located at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas in Austin, offer privileged access to an array of negotiations and translations that illustrate the role assumed by the Bradleys as cultural passeurs between France and the United States, in the interwar period and post-World War Two era.

5This article first introduces the careers and achievements of the literary agents William and Jenny Bradley with the aim of (re)inserting these intermediaries into the complex communications circuit that unfolds from writer to editor and on to reader, at a time when the circuit became more international. The perspective then shifts from editorial to social function and from the publishing arena to a more intellectual space. The Bradley correspondence crossed with other archival and biographical sources unveils the sociability rooted in the agents’ participation in the local world of Parisian salons that harbored transatlantic relationships. Finally, through this combined interest for a literary agency’s intermediation and for a scaled-up approach of cultural dynamics, literary agents like the Bradleys may be viewed as the makers of varied transnational cultural routes for books and authors. In sum, this article hopes to help redefine the time range and spatial trajectories of transatlantic literary exchanges by shedding light on the significance of William and Jenny Bradley, as Atlantic passeurs.

Intermediaries in the communications circuit

6William Faulkner is one of the American authors who contributed to a form of revolution in reading, writing and literary criticism in interwar French literary circles (Hamel). Jean-Paul Sartre is often credited with introducing Faulkner to a French audience. But other instigators and facilitators contributed as well; among them, Maurice Edgar Coindreau, a professor of French literature at Princeton University who served as a scout for Gaston Gallimard and convinced the latter to publish Faulkner’s novels (Pothier; Sapiro; Spill). French editions indeed appeared in the 1930s, with Coindreau translating As I Lay Dying as Tandis que j’agonise and with writers André Malraux and Valéry Larbaud respectively authoring prefaces for Sanctuary (Sanctuaire) in 1933 and Tandis que j’agonise in 1934. Literary agent William Bradley remained in the shadows of these celebrated enablers, although, importantly, he negotiated the contracts. While Coindreau first introduced Faulkner to Gallimard in a March 4, 1931 letter, Bradley is referred to as the intermediary as early as August 12, 1931 (Histoire d’un livre). Other letters show the dissatisfaction of Faulkner’s American publishers, Jonathan Cape and Harrison Smith, with the terms initially offered by Gallimard for Sanctuary (Sanctuaire, 1933). In his patient correspondence, Bradley successfully renegotiated the terms for the French translations of Light in August and The Sound and the Fury in 1935 and 1938. The continued collaboration with Gallimard, made possible by the work and support of Bradley, undoubtedly laid the ground for the reputation of Faulkner in France in later decades.

  • 3 In the late 1930s, among the Bradley agency’s clients, Dashiell Hammett’s, Sinclair Lewis’s, J. T. (...)

7Throughout the 1930s, the sales of Faulkner in France can also be measured in the account statements displaying the royalties Bradley received from Gallimard to be transferred to the author, minus his commission, a ten to twenty percent fee (Bradley), although Faulkner was not the recipient of the highest royalties among Gallimard’s impressive roster of American authors in the 1930s.3 In that respect, the archives of literary agents interestingly contain traces of the processes pertaining to the making of a successful novel, the building of an editorial market for an author or a genre, and the mapping of international cultural exchanges. Yet literary agents have been neglected as objects of study for book history as well as for literary or cultural history. This section first seeks to address this “dearth of scholarship” (Cottenet, 2017b 9) from a book history perspective and goes on to argue that the study of literary agents like the Bradleys can help understand the modernization of the editorial profession and industry, as well as the internationalization of the market in the early twentieth century.

  • 4 In this article, I use “book history,” or “history of the book” as usually translated from the Fren (...)

8Pioneers of book history on both sides of the Atlantic have pointed to the importance of studying the circulation of books themselves and the ideas they convey (Chartier and Martin, 1983 8). Studies in the history of the book, in the French tradition, were launched by Lucien Febvre and Roger Chartier and then followed in the English-speaking world with, among others, the pioneering mapping by Robert Darnton of a “communications circuit.” These scholars have identified a number of agents for their mediating or transformative power in the production and circulation of print (Febvre and Martin; Chartier, 1990; Darnton, 1982).4 While printers or libraries were first given a key role in the eighteenth-century diffusion of knowledge and revolutionary ideas (Eisenstein; Chartier, 1992), publishers became a source of interest for the nineteenth century (Mollier, 1988; Casper and Groves). Studies in the field of book history, generally speaking, have tended to focus on the conditions of production and printing (materiality), or on the practice of reading (diffusion of ideas), more than on the facilitation of or on the obstacles to book circulation (Juratic 44). Gradually, however, the various enablers came to include literary agents whose very profession interestingly relied on sometimes innovative business methods and opened new spaces of negotiation and transaction in a communications circuit that was reconfigured to take into account these neglected intermediaries (Darnton, 2007 499). Thus, literary agents have only fairly recently garnered interest when it comes to the contemporary period (Thompson; Murray) while studies had previously covered their rise in nineteenth-century Britain (Hepburn; Gillies). The international perimeters of such an intermediation in the twentieth century still remain unexplored, with a few exceptions (Cottenet 2017b).

9Bradley’s intermediation served to consolidate the financial base of relatively young firms like Grasset, while simultaneously contributing to the business of American publishing houses. This took place in the context of the rise of recently established houses, founded at the beginning of the new century, such as Grasset (1907) and Gallimard (1911), that ushered in the era of best sellersor in the words of Grasset “the era of the hundred thousand” copies (Mollier 2021). While Grasset’s access to recognition is remembered as being associated with his publishing of the scandalous French adultery narrated in Le Diable au corps by Raymond Radiguet (1923), the young publisher had, shortly before, engineered a publicity stunt with the publication of the French Canadian narrative of Maria Chapdelaine : récit du Canada français by Louis Hémon (1921), a posthumous novel and unexpected best-seller for Grasset (Mollier, 2015 309). Hémon is one of the French authors William Bradley brought to his business partner, Macmillan, who published an English translation of Maria Chapdelaine the same year. In 1924, Macmillan subsequently published The Journal of Louis Hémon, negotiated and translated by William Bradley himself. In other words, the Bradley agency pioneered the institutionalization of a new intermediary in the author-publisher relation during the interwar period, at a time when the book industry was undergoing significant changes pertaining to the increased circulation of books in the French market.

  • 5 The Librairie Arthème Fayard or Fayard had long been established in France (1857) but by the turn o (...)

10This went hand-in-hand with more professionalization and the sales volumes increased in the interwar years thanks to better coordination amongst publishing companies (with purchasing centers and coordinated circuits of distribution) and a heightened competition between them (Chartier and Martin, 1986; Mollier, 2008). In this context, several Parisian publishing houses, eager to find new authors, developed editorial collections devoted to foreign literature, notably those then managed by younger and more innovative heads such as Fayard and Stock.5 Unsurprisingly, the Bradley agency accompanied these fresh ventures into English-speaking literature as the literary agent’s business gradually took on a larger scope. As of the early 1930s, Bradley acted not only as a scout for American publishers but just as much as an intermediary for the French publishers. The agency thus negotiated most of the significant transactions for collections such as Gallimard’s “Du monde entier” (1931), Fayard’s “Univers” (1931) and Stock’s “Cabinet Cosmopolite” (1921). With more companies in the French environment, more foreign literature published and along with it, more authors to be attended to and more translations to be supervised, the intermediation of a literary agency like the Bradleys’ became more legitimate. Fayard’s “Univers” series was launched with two masterpieces, Thomas Mann’s Der Zauberberg (translated as La Montagne magique in 1931) and Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy (translated as Une tragédie américaine in 1932). While the former would become the Bradley agency’s client only after the Second World War, the latter signed an exclusivity contract with William Bradley in 1932, whereby the agent received ten percent of his client’s revenues. The Paris agent secured a four-book contract for Dreiser with Fayard, a deal hitherto unheard of, and a sizable 10,000 francs advance for An American Tragedy (Bradley). With Fayard, Bradley also negotiated Sinclair Lewis’s Elmer Gantry (1932), this time obtaining 6,000 francs.

  • 6 Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was first refused by Fayard in a 1926 letter to Bradley. The agent then su (...)

11This is only a sample of the transactions conducted by, or involving the Bradley agency during the interwar period within the competitive context of the domestic expansion of book markets and of the further acceleration of transatlantic literary exchanges (Kaestle and Radway). The Bradley archives also reflect the positioning of Paris as an international capital for English-speaking artists. Expatriates James Joyce, Gertrude Stein and Henry Miller were indeed assisted and backed by the Bradleys for the writing of Ulysses (1922), The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1933) and Tropic of Cancer (1934). The Bradleys’ support included comforting letters, regular visits or the reading of draft versions. The agency subsequently conducted the negotiations for the publication of the masterpieces in Englishwith Paris publishers for Joyce (Sylvia Beach) and Miller (Obelisk). Popular literature also came to be distributed through these new collaborative networks with Anita Loos’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes being sold to Gallimard by Bradley on behalf of the Curtis Brown Agency.6 With bilingual negotiations came a rising number of partners, such as the author’s original agent and publisher interacting with their counterparts abroad, and the translator(s); and more complex money transfers and fiscal returns emerged. As a result, the need for a single and competent middleman became pressing and Bradley was both readily available and proactive. He was a scout, a translator, then a co-agentthat is to say representing publishers. He gradually turned into a sub-agentthat is to say liaising for foreign agencies such as Curtis Brown in London and New Yorkand ultimately an agent for writers he represented as his own clients. Bradley’s agency thus grew into a sizable business in the 1920s with little competition at home until Michel Hoffman founded his own agency in Paris in 1934 (Cottenet, 2017b). Existing studies about literary agents and the networks they participated in show that the rise of the profession in nineteenth-century Britain responded to conditions of modernization and internationalization of the publishing industry similar to those that echo Bradley’s own trajectory and environment in interwar Paris (Barnes; Gillies; Joseph).

12Literary agents seem to have undergone a parallel struggle to attract the recognition of their contemporaries and the attention of scholars. They often had to elbow their way into the publishing industry. Indeed, while their intermediation was welcome when it came to solving intricate copyright issues, or boosting a publisher’s list of authors, they were also often met with hostility and viewed as “parasites” who represented a threat to the publisher-writer relationship and cut the revenues with their fees. In research, literary agents are not unpopular of course, but little visible, perhaps an effect of the enduring “silence cloaking their profession” (McGrath 351). Difficult access to historical sources may be another reason why, although scholars of the contemporary period are now able to turn to interviews and digital data to redefine the contours of the agents’ mediation in the conglomerated publishing world (McGrath; Sinykin). Such opportunities are welcome because the intermediation agents engage(d) in is not solely of interest to book history. The William A. Bradley Literary Agency Records at the Harry Ransom Center and their 245 boxes spanning from 1923 to 1982 provide many research possibilities beyond the mediating role of the agents as professional intercessors in a publishing world that was opening to new Atlantic spaces (Cossu-Beaumont, 2020). Turning to new perimeters, the next section seeks to observe and discuss intermediation and sociability in cosmopolitan Paris society in the interwar decades and postwar years.

Literary agents in the “world of salons”

  • 7 Georges Hugnet was one of the founders of the Éditions de la Montagne. He translated and published (...)

13In addition to their professional venture in the international publishing business, William and Jenny Bradley became leading figures in the smaller perimeter of Parisian salons. In a 1970 interview for a documentary on Gertrude Stein, Jenny Bradley is featured vividly recalling the early 1920s and Saturdays at Alice Toklas and Gertrude Stein’s, as well as her own soirées on the Île Saint-Louis on Fridays (Gertrude Stein, When This You See, Remember me). She evokes Ernest Hemingway’s preposterous gaucherie in her chic salon, his hairy chest and open shirt, his “enormous feet” and heavy hiking boots on her coffee table. Along with Janet Flanner or French surrealist poet and publisher Georges Hugnet,7 who also appear in the documentary, Jenny Bradley gives life to the ambiance at Gertrude Stein’s rue de Fleurus: Alice Toklas’s embroidered chairs uniquely designed by Picasso, Toklas’s exquisite sandwiches and most importantly the encounter between Stein and Hemingway. There were some epic fights such as when, Jenny Bradley recounts, Stein telephoned William Bradley in the middle of the night so he would reach out to Hemingway on her behalf after she kicked him out. Nevertheless, the yet unpublished novelist was forever inspired by Stein (Hemingway 1964). In return, working as an assistant editor for Ford Madox Ford, founder of the Transatlantic Review, Hemingway pushed for the publication of extracts from Stein’s The Making of Americans in the journal (Stein, 1933 261-264). Ford, a longtime friend of William Bradley’s, had set up shop on the Île Saint-Louis, 29 quai d’Anjou, at the same address as two other Paris-based English language publishing ventures: Contact Press, founded by Robert McAlmon and Three Mountains Press, founded by William Bird. The former printed Hemingway’s very first publication, Three Stories and Ten Poems (1923), and the latter printed and published his collection In Our Time (1924). Hemingway’s narratives thus circulated in Paris, before Boni Liveright issued an augmented volume of the short stories in 1925 for the American market. Stein had also been supported by McAlmon who published her The Making of Americans (1925) and by William Bradley in her attempt to establish her own publishing house, Plain Editions, as an outlet for her œuvre. The hardships of Gertrude Stein, who, in the 1920s, was only published within these Parisian modernist circles, would end in 1933 when William Bradley convinced Harcourt to publish The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. The narrative became a best-seller that opened a path to stardom for Stein in her home country (Bradley).

14This overview of the interconnections that articulated social life, personal friendships and publishing endeavors on the Left Bank bears testimony to the personal, professional and international networks within the modernist circles or within the Lost Generation. Social events and soirées at Stein’s and at the Bradleys’ formed, in the intimate perimeters of their homes, private spaces whose dynamics was actually transatlantic. This sheds new light on Paris as an international capital of letters and depicts the city as a place, not just of inspiration and prestige, but also where publishing undertakings and concrete channels of such achievements can be scrutinized (Casanova; Mollier, 2014).

15The Bradleys thus not only served as intercessors for publishers in the transatlantic business and as go-betweens for other literary agencies; they were also the architects of social and artistic connections. The Bradleys positioned themselves at the center of many different artistic, literary and publishing networks and yet their role has been overlooked and their presence is invisible in the history of American expatriates and of modernist Paris in the interwar period. As such a central figure, William Bradley can be viewed as an homme double, a figure identified by Christophe Charle for the nineteenth-century intermediaries in the literary, theatre or art world. Their occupation as writers, critics, contributors and founders of reviews, theater directors, editorial directors, Charle argues, was a needed interface between the artistic sphere and the public (Charle, 1992). More than just utilitarian professionals and negotiators within the industry, they served as mediators allowing the boundary between the art world and the rest of society to be crossed. In that sense, they can be regarded as figures central for cultural history as well as social agents in their time. It may be argued that, although literary agents in France became relevant only in the next century and without stepping into the light, they too can be regarded as holding a professional and a cultural/social double role. Indeed, the specific unfolding of Bradley’s career through Parisian sociability articulates a social function along with his more technical contributions to the editorial business. In addition, Bradley’s concrete achievements in the circulating of foreign books and the reaching of new readers for them is an invitation to view him as an intermediary between cultures. This increased circulation blurred the borders of a national publishing sector and of national literature. The dynamics of such an homme frontière, in-between cultures, a figure deemed dual in its professional and social roles and transnational in its scope, has been discussed by Laurent Jeanpierre for interwar literary Anglo-American modernism and, here, the concept can aptly be transferred to the observation of the literary agent (Jeanpierre).

  • 8 The general significance of salons in French history is well documented. Antoine Lilti’s World of S (...)

16The Bradleys crossed borders that may interest social history through the sociability they fostered, bringing together, in their Paris home, individuals otherwise unlikely to meet and interact.8 André Gide was a regular guest at the Bradleys’ receptions on Fridays and one of the earliest authors the literary agency had translated and published in the United States in 1924, through its partnership with Knopf (Gide). Here the crossing of sources unveils little known connections with American figures. While the success of African American literature in France is often noted, the role played by specific intermediaries promoting African American and activist pieces in the French press and editorial world is insufficiently explored. It takes the reading of Gide’s papers at the Bibliothèque Jacques Doucet in Paris, and of the Knopf and Bradley papers at the Harry Ransom Center in Austin, to map the network that allowed NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) activist Walter White to meet and socialize with William Bradley on a 1927 visit to Paris, through his acquaintance with Gide. Bradley and White had dinner on the Île Saint-Louis, and drinks at the agent’s home, with Isadora Duncan dancing to a record by Paul Robeson (White 92). Bradley subsequently negotiated on behalf of White for the appearance of a piece on the lynching of African Americans in the Southern states, in the French magazine Vu in 1930, as is documented in the correspondence at the Institut Mémoires de l’édition contemporaine (IMEC). The particular ties of African American artists and intellectuals with Paris, an ongoing trend known as Paris Noir (Fabre, 1991; Stovall), are not only manifested in visits but also in such publications. Other experiences related through the Bradley papers, such as Nella Larsen’s 1931 testimony, may contribute to adding the Bradleys to the complex and fascinating history of Harlem-sur-Seine. Larsen, a writer and figure of the Harlem Renaissance, the first African American recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship, found herself invited to a Friday soirée at the Bradleys while in Paris. She writes to Carl Van Vechten:

I never felt so stupid and uncomfortable in my life. I knew who he [Bradley] was—or is—a very important person but honest to God! I had no more idea what he did than an octopus. However they were very nice to me and I guess I managed well enough because I’ve been invited again. (Hutchinson 386 n106)

17In addition, while living in France, Claude McKay and James Baldwin both benefited from the Bradleys’ financial support and from the agency’s decisive work on their behalfthis publishing history also needs to be told.

  • 9 Jenny Bradley was a renowned hostess and a central participant at Stein’s and at Natalie Barney’s s (...)
  • 10 The couple is said to have been a model for Proust’s characters of writer Bergotte and salon hostes (...)
  • 11 “Le Sagittaire” had been initially run by André Malraux and was then continued by Philippe Soupault (...)

18The figure of Jenny Bradley suggests a connection between the interwar sociability she helped foster in her home,9 and the Belle Époque era that preceded the First World War. At the time, aristocratic and bourgeois salons flourished as did literary salons. Jenny Bradley’s wealthy French-Belgian family, the Serruys, not only received in their Île Saint-Louis dwelling when they resided in Paris for the season, but were also close to Anatole France whose mistress, Mme de Cavaillet, hosted a leading literary salon at the turn of the century.10 This sociability, deemed typical of how French culture has consistently relied on various forms of interactions between the literary and political worlds (Ferguson), met the more business-minded transatlantic ties William Bradley brought into the marriage and enterprise. William Bradley was thus solicited by his contact at Scribner’s, Max Perkins, to introduce a young and impressed Francis Scott Fitzgerald to luminary Anatole France. But it was Jenny Bradley who took Fitzgerald to the French writer’s Avenue Foch residence in the early 1920s. Fitzgerald was so honored and impressed that he arrived drunk and launched into endless chatter throughout, inflicting on Jenny Bradley the awkward experience of acting as the interpreter and leaving her with an exceptional memory to tell journalist Thomas Curtiss decades later (Bradley; Curtiss). The Bradley agency had The Great Gatsby published by Simon Kra in 1926 in the collection “Le Sagittaire.”11

  • 12 Madeleine Boyd, the wife of former Knopf editor Ernest Boyd, was a translator of Roger Martin du Ga (...)

19The marriage of Jenny Serruys and William Bradley, and the collaborative management of their literary agency, along with the aggregation of their respective networks, articulated a unique space, both in line with enduring sociability traditions, and also quite novel in its transnational and even color-blind perimeters. While Jenny Bradley has been presented as the time-honored figure of the French salonière (Steegmuller), she was also a business partner in her own right, a femme double. Her salon was not just the classic epitome of upper-class sociability and of France’s literary culture, it also participated in the rise of a new profession and its specific work practices. The Bradley papers abound with invitations and post-party discussions about who was met and which opportunities should be pursued. William Bradley attempted to train Madeleine Boyd, a New York sub-agent for their Paris agency, insisting she must adopt a more thorough approach to make the most of the social events she attended: every informal conversation, Bradley wrote to Boyd, was to be followed by a letter and she was to report back to him to strive to transform every opportunity (Bradley).12

20Jenny Bradley embraced the same work ethic and dedication to the agency’s business, working alongside her husband in a room of her own in the family apartment and office on the Île Saint-Louis. Her signature appears more and more often in the interwar correspondence when she developed a privileged relationship with American publisher Blanche Knopf. Their letters offer a unique mix of business considerations and more intimate issues, such as the death of the Bradleys’ daughter, Blanche’s frustration at being sidelined in the Knopf firm, and finally the death of William Bradley in 1939, after a long illness. After the Second World War, Jenny Bradley took over the agency and resumed her occupation as a major French-American liaison in the literary world, with Blanche Knopf still a privileged partner. Their correspondence, yet another form of sociability, cultivates an original space for their friendship and professional rise, and reflects their contribution to the building of a realm for literary exchanges between France and the United States. For instance, the Jenny Bradley-Blanche Knopf collaboration opened a path for the publication in the United States of Sartre, Beauvoir and Camus, under the exclusive contract Jenny Bradley had obtained from Gallimard for Sartre and Camus in December 1944 and thanks to the enthusiasm of her American publisher friend. After reviewing the development of the agent profession and presenting their distinctive sociability, a combination of professional and intimate interactions, this article will turn to the specific itineraries of cultural exchanges across the Atlantic.

The routes and directions of cultural circulation

21Standing by Albert Camus every step of his path to international recognition and to the Nobel Prize in Literature (1957) was Blanche Knopf. She had pursued her interest in Albert Camus through her friend and business partner Jenny Bradley who had originally pushed her to read L’Étranger (Claridge 234). The publisher who had left Europe on the brink of war in the summer of 1939 was so eager to resume her yearly professional and personal shopping sprees that she obtained an official mission with the War Department to be allowed back into Europe as early as June 1945 (Claridge 233). On this particular 1945 trip, she was introduced to Jean-Paul Sartre whom she signed for Knopf through Jenny Bradley. Just a few months earlier, Knopf had also made good on her friend’s reading advice: “Buy Camus” reads her March 15, 1945 telegram to the Île Saint-Louis agency (Henderson and Oliphant). Knopf then fought for Camus’s publication and relentlessly circumvented negative reviewers and her own board’s lukewarm reception (Claridge 243). The Stranger finally came out under the Knopf imprint (1946) and Blanche Knopf had the French author come to New York for a promotion trip (Henderson and Oram). The Plague followed in 1947. Camus’s itinerary from France to the United States paralleled the previous trajectories of US authors eastward, across the Atlantic, such as Faulkner’s in the early 1930s, which the Bradleys contributed to circulating. It has been suggested that Faulkner, among others, greatly influenced Camus’s generation in its approach to literature, style, and engagement (Pothier 372). In the 1940s, a new French literature was now celebrated in the United States and internationally, and the mediation of such enablers as Bradley or Knopf appears as both enduring and transformed. Camus’s route to world consecration was indeed traced by his American publisher who lobbied the Nobel academy on behalf of the French writer and, in December 1957, personally accompanied Camus to Stockholm by way of Paris.

22The reading of Camus’s trajectory, and the exploration of the Bradley and Knopf papers, both housed at the Harry Ransom Center, are probably facilitated by the transnational turn in history and its call to “juggle with the variables of time and space” (Bender 9). In that frame, the French-American circulation can be understood beyond the one-way trip of a single milestone novel or prominent author in the interwar period or in the post-war era. It can be inscribed in the longue durée and in a wider perspective, mapping a complex web of ongoing reciprocal exchanges and pointing to outcomes more durable than just the sales fostered and revenues secured for writers, publishers and agents. The long-established collaboration between the indefatigable Blanche Knopf and a more discrete but shrewd Jenny Bradley reminds us that the literary agency was also in the business of building actual routes across cultures, as this section intends to further illustrate.

23More multidirectional transactions and translations are observable through the agency’s industrious work and may be inscribed within the dynamics of cultural mobility (Clifford). Scaling up of national spaces points back to the experience of African American artists and intellectuals in Paris, many of whom encountered the Bradleys. True, Langston Hughes has left rather bitter accounts of his travails through hunger and poverty in 1920s Paris and nuanced the tales of a liberating and inspiring Parisian space for African Americans (Rampersad; Hughes, 1945). In Paris, Hughes met the American philosopher Alain Locke, patron of the Harlem Renaissance and editor of The New Negro, and René Maran, the French Caribbean author who had received the Prix Goncourt in 1921 for his novel Batouala (Locke; Maran). The two men were themselves close and these encounters speak for the transnational dialogue between the New Negro and the francophone movement of Négritude (Fabre, 1975). In addition, the Knopf-Bradley papers unveil an unknown side of this interaction. Langston Hughes was a Knopf author and Blanche Knopf tried to use such bonds to circulate her “important young” author beyond the American shores, notably the connection through René Maran by way of the Bradley agency:

Do you know whether the negro newspaper Les Continents, edited by René Maran, is still in existence? If it is can you tell me where they are as we are publishing a very entertaining book of verse by an important young Negro, Langston Hughes, and I should like to get in touch with Maran about it. (Letter from Blanche Knopf to William Bradley, 2 December 1925, Bradley)

24Jenny Bradley later conceded that the endeavor to reach out to Maran failed. Gallimard turned down Hughes’s collection of short stories The Ways of White Folks in 1934, which the Bradley agency managed to push through Éditions Rieder (Hughes, 1934). The Knopf-Bradley duo did not yield and ultimately had Hughes translated after the Second World War and published by Éditions de Minuit and Seghers.

25In that sense, the archived correspondence pivoting around agents gives access to intellectual and cultural routes established by artists and intellectuals in their travels and exchanges. They offer corroborating or fresh evidence to document the channels of cultural transfers, here in the case of the cross-fertilization in the Black Atlantic and of the wider opportunities for scholarship on Paris Noir viewed as a transnational space and not just a local haven (Gilroy; Charle, 2019). Michel Espagne further suggests that book circulation represents a fruitful opportunity to map possible cultural transfers in so far as their material production and concrete circulation may be traced, particularly when scholars have access to the intercession of the mediators who intervened along the way. Following Espagne’s declared interest in mediators, but possibly going further than the observation of the routes travelled by foreign books being circulated outside of their homeland and the analysis of their reception abroad once translated (Espagne, 2009 202), scholars may reflect on prior stages of the communications circuit and show the agency of international mediators, as early as the inception of a book and its initial publication, in a cross-border dynamics.

26Before the war, Claude McKay had been close to the Bradleys when he lived in France. Their editorial collaboration further testifies to the complex roots and routes of canonical African American pieces such as Banjo and to a mediation that took more than one form for the literary agent. In that instance, William Bradley was not just instrumental in bringing a book or series of books to a new audience and in organizing the contracts, translation and promotion for the author outside of his linguistic and national orbit. The itinerary of a celebrated Harlem Renaissance novel like Banjo started in Marseille, as its genesis and publishing history reveal. Indeed, Bradley was insistent that McKay should do away with his project of a collection of short stories to focus on a novel. McKay subsequently turned one of the early short stories he had drafted into a full novel, Banjo, upon the strategic recommendation of his literary agent who was primarily concerned with his client’s contract opportunities with Harper and deeply prejudiced against the profitability of a collection of short-stories. The professional exchanges that ensued throughout 1927 and 1928 are part of the cross-border and cross-cultural meaning of Banjo. Bradley travelled South on numerous occasions to meet McKay and offered feedback on early versions, while securing a generous deal with Eugene Saxton at Harper. The transnational dimension of Banjo’s narrative has been explored by literary scholars because of the encounters of African American and Caribbean characters on the shores of Marseille in the narrative. But the Bradley-McKay correspondence further situates McKay’s 1920s œuvre within a mediating process that contributed to building publication trajectories across borders and cultures. Banjo, a book that was published by a leading American publisher, a novel that has come to embody the Harlem Renaissance, was devised in the South of France, away from the roots of the movement, through the close cooperation of a self-doubting and destitute writer and a confident and business-minded literary agent. In that sense, the Harry Ransom archival papers and the individual agency of William Bradley bring a new dimension to the “cultures in motion” that book history can also contribute to mapping (Rodgers et al.).

27From these personal encounters and publishing trajectories, emerges the fresh and hitherto neglected angle of transnational editorial processes and negotiations that is needed to overcome the shortcomings of a comparative approach. The literary agency surfaces as the very contact zone sought by crossed history (l’histoire croisée) to observe the complex workings of the circulation of artists and intellectuals, of ideas and of goods, here through the prism of books (Werner and Zimmermann). In addition to the hybridization at stake in the literary Black Atlantic perceptible in the Bradleys’ work on behalf of Langston Hughes, in their support of Claude McKay, and later after the Second World War in their collaboration with Richard Wright and James Baldwin, viewing the literary agency as a locus for such reciprocal dynamics helps nuance or counter the vision of a unidirectional flow of culture from America to Europe.

28While the tidal wave of American literature reaching Europe after the Second World War is undeniable, it may be inserted into a more complex environment where mediators selected, prepared and presented the authors and genres that were to represent an American culture that was, in a way, curated. Gallimard’s successful 1945 collection, La Série Noire, is a case in point. Literary scholars have shown that a genre of American crime fiction was veritably formed in France through the collection and its head Marcel Duhamel (Lhommeau and Cerisier). Yet the most archetypal romans noirs, enthusiastically embraced by French readers as the quintessence of America, were actually written by two British writers, Peter Cheyney and James Hadley Chase who authored the first novels issued by the Série Noire in 1945 and 1946. Marcel Duhamel’s selective choice and his translations of these early volumes thus successfully fabricated an American genre. Next came Raymond Chandler’s Lady in the Lake (translated by Boris and Michèle Vian) and Farewell My Lovely (the translation was supervised by Duhamel), and later Dashiell Hammett and Chester Himes. In this unprecedented cultural transfer, along with Gallimard, Duhamel and translators, literary agents were also key mediators. The success of the Série Noire required a constant supply of authors and flow of novels which Parisian literary agents Michel Hoffman and Jenny Bradley readily provided in a context of fierce competition (Cottenet, 2017a). The Bradley agency acted on behalf of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett who were in the Knopf roster, but also worked for the Série Noire author James Hadley Chase. Literary agents handled the sizeable amount of legal and administrative tasks attached to such international contracts with multiple authors attached to various publishers and sometimes foreign co-agents and lifted the obstacles to royalty distribution and monetary circulation in the post-war era. The iconic American culture many French readers became familiar with, and supposedly connoisseurs of, did not simply come from cultural artifacts that landed en masse upon European soil. The pioneering works of Richard Pells and Rob Kroes have established the complexities of cultural transformations and appropriations, though they admittedly remain difficult to identify and locate. As they are not only the outcome of imaginings and representations, the concrete part played by literary agents as well as the processes their archives shed light on may provide opportunities for new approaches of such cultural transformations and appropriations viewed as reciprocal and multidimensional (Kroes; Pells).


29There is no such thing as “Agent Studies” within the larger scope of book history, perhaps because of the difficultly in accessing remote archives and in exploiting the untapped mine of their papers when they are available. Future scholarship on literary agents might bring a fresh perspective on how book history, in its very epistemology, attempts to seize books as objects representing “a cultural transaction, a literary text, and a material artefact.” Depending on the scholarly angle, agent studies might strike conversations with literary studies, translation studies, cultural history, studies of material culture, the sociology of professions, to name but a few (Howsam 4).

30Beyond their commercial undertakings and participation in the book market’s transformations, agents contributed to artistic and literary production as partners of writers. These intermediaries, such as the Bradleys, were also primary mediators in charge of facilitating the cross-border circulation of books, of fostering more translations of their clients abroad and of lifting legal, monetary and fiscal obstacles. The larger Atlantic space finds itself scaled down by the networks apparent in the Paris salons, also transnational spaces in their own right, as was the Bradley agency itself. On these varied scales and in these different lieux, many encounters, exchanges and transactions took place. They contributed to the building of complex routes for the circulation of culture with the agents serving as passeurs in all these instances.

31The Bradley archives may also encourage a revision of the usual time frame narrative. The relentless work of the literary agents in the interwar period serves as a prelude to the post-Second World War frenzy for American culture in Europe. The Libération is sometimes viewed as the starting point of American hegemony, whereas books already travelled well and in both directions in the interwar period, such flows defying the Great Depression and resuming after the war (Grazia). The war may have halted the circulation of people and the shipping of books, but transnational reading certainly continued, as evidenced by the royalties collected from Gallimard by the Bradley agency on behalf of Margaret Mitchell whose Autant en emporte le vent never ceased to sell in spite of the war censorship. Beyond commerce, the conversation lived on, not linear, sometimes unbalanced, but somewhat uninterrupted.

32The Bradley papers also testify to the sustained coexistence of highbrow and lowbrow literature in the French-American conversation: from the early years, the Bradleys’ clients include André Gide as well as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the books received from abroad include Anita Loos’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, as well as Dreiser’s An American Tragedy. After the war, Raymond Chandler, Patricia Highsmith, Truman Capote, Joseph Kessel, Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir were equally promoted by the agency.

33The Bradleys’ lifework thus fascinatingly articulates cultures, French and American, high and low, in ways that defy the simplified vision of a unidirectional flux in what has been suggested to be an “American Century” of popular cultural dominance and of unilateral influence. Their archives allow a scholarship in cultural history that grasps literary and commercial endeavors and hopes to probe the intricate workings of transnational cultural circulation and conversation. Historian Raymond Williams reminds us of one of the challenges therein by reminiscing on his war experience in France where he participated in the D-Day operations and on the comment of a fellow soldier about the French: “The fact is, they just don’t speak the same language” (Williams 9). The literary agent and the transnational historian join forces in their attempt to overcome this linguistic and cultural challenge at the core of their respective missions.

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Histoire d’un livre : Sanctuaire et Tandis que j’agonise de William Faulkner. “Entretiens et documents.” Accessed 9 June 2023.

Gertrude Stein, When This You See, Remember Me. Documentary directed and produced by Perry Miller Adato. Written by Marianna Norris. With Jenny Bradley, Bennett Cerf, Pierre Balmain, Janet Flanner, Georges Hugnet, Jacques Lipchitz, Virgil Thompson. United States, Contemporary Films/McGraw-Hill, 1970. Accessed 9 June 2023.

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BRADLEY, Jenny Serruys, and William Aspenwall BRADLEY. William A. Bradley Literary Agency: An Inventory of Its Records at the Harry Ransom Center. Austin: Harry Ransom Center. Accessed 9 June 2023.

CASANOVA, Pascale. The World Republic of Letters. Translated from the French by Malcolm B. DeBevoise. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007.

CASPER, Scott E., and Jeffrey D. GROVES, eds. A History of the Book in America. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007.

CHARLE, Christophe. “Le temps des hommes doubles.” Revue d’histoire moderne & contemporaine, vol. 39, no 1, 1992, p. 73‑85.

CHARLE, Christophe. “Paris: National, International, Transnational Cultural Capital City? (19th-20th Century).” The Practice of Global History: European Perspectives. Ed. Matthias Middell. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2019, p. 45-81.

CHARTIER, Roger, and Henri-Jean MARTIN, eds. Histoire de l’édition française. Tome : Le livre conquérant, du Moyen Âge au milieu du xviie siècle. Paris: Promodis, 1983.

CHARTIER, Roger, and Henri-Jean MARTIN, eds. Histoire de l’édition française. Tome iv : Le livre concurrencé, 1900-1950. Paris: Promodis, 1986.

CHARTIER, Roger. Les Origines culturelles de la Révolution française. Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1990.

CHARTIER, Roger. L’Ordre des livres. Lecteurs, auteurs, bibliothèques en Europe entre xive et xviiie siècle. Aix-en-Provence: Alinéa, 1992.

CLARIDGE, Laura P. The Lady with the Borzoi: Blanche Knopf, Literary Tastemaker Extraordinaire. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016.

CLIFFORD, James. Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997.

COSSU-BEAUMONT, Laurence. “L’agence littéraire Bradley ou le livre au service de l’histoire : nouvelles perspectives de recherche.” Revue Française d’Études Américaines, no 164, 2020, p. 115‑129.

COSSU-BEAUMONT, Laurence. Deux agents littéraires dans le siècle américain. William et Jenny Bradley, passeurs culturels transatlantiques. Lyon: ENS Éditions, 2023.

COTTENET, Cécile. “‘Fais pas ta rosière ! aux enchères’. Dans les coulisses de la Série Noire.” Temps Noir, 2017a, p. 4‑19.

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CRANMER, Helen. Helen Worden Erskine papers, 1860-1984. New York: Butler Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University. Accessed 9 June 2023.

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ESPAGNE, Michel. “Transferts culturels et histoire du livre.” Histoire et civilisation du livre, vol. 5, 2009, p. 201-218.

FABRE, Michel. “René Maran, The New Negro and Negritude.” Phylon, vol. 36, no 3, 1975, p. 340‑351.

FABRE, Michel. From Harlem to Paris: Black American Writers in France (1840-1980). Urbana: University of Chicago Press, 1991.

FEBVRE, Lucien, and Henri-Jean MARTIN. L’Apparition du livre. Paris: Albin Michel, 1958.

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HEPBURN, James G. The Author’s Empty Purse and the Rise of the Literary Agent. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1968.

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KROES, Rob. If You’ve Seen One, You’ve Seen the Mall. Europeans and American Mass Culture. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1996.

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LILTI, Antoine. The World of the Salons: Sociability and Worldliness in Eighteenth-Century Paris. Translated from the French by Lydia G. Cochrane. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.

LOCKE, Alain, ed. The New Negro. 1925. New York: Atheneum, 1970.

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Bradley Authors or Translations Cited

CAMUS, Albert. The Stranger. Translated from the French by Stuart Gilbert. New York: A. A. Knopf, 1946.

CAMUS, Albert. The Plague. Translated from the French by Stuart Gilbert. New York: A. A. Knopf, 1947.

CHANDLER, Raymond. Adieu ma jolie. Translated from the English by Geneviève de Genevraye and Marcel Duhamel. Paris: Gallimard, 1948.

CHANDLER, Raymond. La Dame du lac. Translated from the English by Boris Vian et Michèle Vian. Paris: Gallimard, 1948.

DREISER, Theodore. Une tragédie américaine. Translated from the English by Victor Llona. Paris: Fayard, 1932.

FAULKNER, William. Sanctuaire. Translated from the English by Henri Delgove and René-Noël Raimbault. Preface by André Malraux. Paris: Gallimard, 1933.

FAULKNER, William. Tandis que j’agonise. Translated from the English by Maurice Edgar Coindreau. Preface by Valery Larbaud. Paris: Gallimard, 1934.

FAULKNER, William. Lumière d’août. Translated from the English by Maurice Edgar Coindreau. Preface by Maurice Edgar Coindreau. Paris: Gallimard, 1935.

FAULKNER, William. Le Bruit et la fureur. Translated from the English by Maurice Edgar Coindreau. Preface by Maurice Edgar Coindreau. Paris: Gallimard, 1938.

FITZGERALD, Francis Scott. Gatsby le magnifique. Translated from the English by Victor Llona. Paris: Kra, 1926.

GIDE, André. Strait Is the Gate. Translated from the French by Dorothy Bussy. New York: A. A. Knopf, 1924.

HEMINGWAY, Ernest. Three Stories and Ten Poems. Paris: Robert MacAlmon Contact Publishing, 1923.

HEMINGWAY, Ernest. In Our Time. Paris: Three Mountain Press, 1924.

HEMINGWAY, Ernest. A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition. 1964. London: Arrow Books, 2009.

HEMON, Louis. Maria Chapdelaine : récit du Canada français. Paris: Grasset, 1921.

HEMON, Louis. Maria Chapdelaine: A Story of French Canada. Translated from the French by W. H. Blake. Toronto: Macmillan, 1921.

HEMON, Louis. The Journal of Louis Hémon. Translated from the French by William Aspenwall Bradley. New York: Macmillan, 1924.

HUGHES, Langston. Sandy. Translated from the English by Gabriel Beauroy. Paris: Éditions Rieder, 1934.

HUGHES, Langston. The Big Sea: An Autobiography. New York: Knopf, 1945.

JOYCE, James. Ulysses. Paris: Shakespeare and Co, 1922.

LEWIS, Sinclair. Elmer Gantry. Translated from the English by Régis Michaud. Paris: Fayard, 1932.

LOOS, Anita. Les Hommes préfèrent les blondes. Translated from the English by Lucie Saint-Elme and Harry Morgan. Paris: Gallimard, 1928.

LOOS, Anita. Mais ils épousent les brunes. Translated from the English by Pierre-Jean Robert. Paris: Gallimard, 1930.

MALRAUX, André. Man’s Fate. Translated from the French by Haakon M. Chevalier. New York: Harrison and Smith, 1934.

MANN, Thomas. La Montagne magique. Translated from the German by Maurice Bretz. Paris: Fayard, 1931.

MARAN, René. Batouala : véritable roman nègre. Paris: Albin Michel, 1921.

MARTIN DU GARD, Roger. The Thibaults. Translated from the French by Madeleine Boyd. New York: Boni and Liveright, 1926.

MILLER, Henry. Tropic of Cancer. Paris: The Obelisk Press, 1934.

MITCHELL, Margaret. Autant en emporte le vent. Translated from the English by Pierre-François Caillé. Paris: Gallimard, 1939.

PIERRE-QUINT, Léon. Marcel Proust: His Life and Work. Translated from the French by Hamish Miles et Sheila Miles. New York: A. A. Knopf, 1927.

RADIGUET, Raymond. Le Diable au corps. Paris: Grasset, 1923.

STEIN, Gertrude. The Making of Americans: Being A History of a Family’s Progress. Paris: Contact Editions, Three Mountains Press, 1925.

STEIN, Gertrude. La Fabrication des Américains : Histoire du progrès d’une famille. Translated from the English by Gertrude Stein and Georges Hugnet. Paris: Édition de la Montagne, 1929.

STEIN, Gertrude. Dix portraits. Translated from the English by Georges Hugnet and Virgil Thomson. Paris: Édition de la Montagne, 1930.

STEIN, Gertrude. The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1933.

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1 The Bradley Agency is considered the first literary agency in Paris although a few ventures had been launched in the nineteenth century such as the Agence générale de la Littérature started by George Sand’s secretary Émile Aucante. These were, however, short-lived and by no means international, and fell short of the Bradleys’ successful commercial endeavor (Mollier, 1988 411).

2 Janet Flanner refers to Bradley as “the leading agent and prophet here on transatlantic affairs” (60-61). Helen Worden Erskine Cranmer’s 1970s preparatory material for a biography of Jenny Bradley is archived at the Rare Book and Manuscript Butler Library of Columbia University, along with recorded interviews of Jenny Bradley. In her notes, Cranmer writes: “Says New Yorker’s Janet Flanner, ‘they literally paved the Atlantic with books’” (Cranmer).

3 In the late 1930s, among the Bradley agency’s clients, Dashiell Hammett’s, Sinclair Lewis’s, J. T. Farrell’s or Erskine Caldwell’s revenues from French sales exceeded Faulkner’s (Bradley).

4 In this article, I use “book history,” or “history of the book” as usually translated from the French “histoire du livre.” The field, however, is sometimes more broadly defined as “Print Culture” and, regardless of the chosen appellation, is viewed as including the history of publishing, of circulation and of reception and reading.

5 The Librairie Arthème Fayard or Fayard had long been established in France (1857) but by the turn of the century it was run by the publishing family’s second generation whose idea it was to start “Univers,” their foreign literature collection. Stock’s history was also rooted in eighteenth and nineteenth century acquisitions and family legacies, but the latest development in the interwar period was the 1921 purchase of the bankrupt house by Maurice Delamain and Jacques Boutelleau (known as Jacques Chardonne) who decisively turned to foreign literature with the collection “Cabinet Cosmopolite.”

6 Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was first refused by Fayard in a 1926 letter to Bradley. The agent then successfully sold the novel, on behalf of the Curtis Brown literary agency, to Gallimard for yet another collection, « Les Livres du Jour » (1928-1933), aimed at a more general public than Gallimard’s other highbrow series. The French translation, Les Hommes préfèrent les blondes (1928), remains the best-selling book in this collection. Robert Aron at Gallimard served as Bradley’s interlocutor for the 1927 negotiations of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and of its sequel But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes (Bradley).

7 Georges Hugnet was one of the founders of the Éditions de la Montagne. He translated and published Stein’s extracts from The Making of Americans (as La Fabrication des Américains, 1929) as well as Dix portraits (translated with Virgil Thomson in 1930).

8 The general significance of salons in French history is well documented. Antoine Lilti’s World of Salons, in particular, delineates a specific sociability, different from that of other spaces like the cafés. These distinctive features remained relevant in periods after the eighteenth-century Parisian institutions Lilti observes. The homely hospitality he identifies, the reliability of a weekly rendezvous, the mix of faithful attendees and exceptional guests, all point to a social function and possibly cross-cultural dimension also surfacing in the Bradley archival fund and correspondence.

9 Jenny Bradley was a renowned hostess and a central participant at Stein’s and at Natalie Barney’s salon, rue Jacob. Natalie Clifford Barney (1876-1972) was an American heiress, muse and patron of the arts. In her salon, Ezra Pound asked Jenny Serruys to translate Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist (she declined). Barney was a regular correspondent of the Bradleys and Jenny Bradley was one of only ten persons in her will.

10 The couple is said to have been a model for Proust’s characters of writer Bergotte and salon hostess Mme de Verdurin in À la recherche du temps perdu.

11 “Le Sagittaire” had been initially run by André Malraux and was then continued by Philippe Soupault and Léon Pierre-Quint, both figures of Surrealism. The Bradley agency had Pierre-Quint translated and published in the United States (Marcel Proust: His Life and Work, 1927) and handled Malraux’s rights in a number of European countries as well as in the United States (notably for Man’s Fate, 1934).

12 Madeleine Boyd, the wife of former Knopf editor Ernest Boyd, was a translator of Roger Martin du Gard’s Les Thibault, a transaction William Bradley conducted on behalf of Gallimard in the mid-1920s with Boni & Liveright (and later Viking for the last volumes). In the late 1920s, Boyd served as the Bradley agency’s sub-agent in New York but her careless work strained the relationship that ended in 1931, upon Boyd’s attempt to undercut Bradley on a Dreiser deal.

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Laurence Cossu-Beaumont, « “They paved the Atlantic with books”: William and Jenny Bradley, literary agents and cultural passeurs across borders »Transatlantica [En ligne], 1 | 2023, mis en ligne le 01 juin 2023, consulté le 02 octobre 2023. URL : ; DOI :

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Laurence Cossu-Beaumont

Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, CREW

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