The Gurdjieff Journal—Fourth Way Perspectives

Book Review
Notes of Jane Heap

Two Rivers Press


Privately published in 1983, this extraordinary document has now been reissued by A. L. Stavely, a student of Jane Heap's during World War II. Before speaking of the book, first a sketch of the life of this remarkable woman who in the Gurdjieff pantheon is in some ways most reminiscent of Vitvitskaia. Jane Heap was born in Topeka, Kansas, in 1887. Her father was the warden of a lunatic asylum. She experienced a deep sense of isolation and loneliness: "There were no books to read in this place except the great volumes in the Patients' Library and I had read them all," she remembers. "There was no one to ask about anything. There was no way to make a connection with 'life.' Out there in the world they were working and thinking; here we were still. Very early I had given up everyone except the Insane."

In such an atmosphere she found the one thing that could take her out of this world—art. "Who had made the Pictures, the books and the music in the world?... And how could you tell the makers from just people?" she asked herself in wonder. Later, inspired by Sarah Bernhardt, she resolved, "Some day I would go to Paris. Other people had got that far. I would go on living for that."

Meeting Margaret Anderson

Little is known of her education or early life, but in Chicago, 1916, at the age of thirty-six, Jane Heap's lifeline crossed with that of twenty-seven-year-old Margaret Anderson. An emotional woman of great beauty with a strong sense of independence, Margaret Anderson would say of herself—"I am no man's wife, no man's delightful mistress, and I will never, never, never, be a mother." In her Jane found a friend whose interests in art matched her own. "There is no one in the modern world whose conversation I haven't sampled, I believe," wrote Margaret Anderson fourteen years later, "except Picasso's. So I can't say that it isn't better than Jane Heap's. But I doubt it in spite of his reputation."

Margaret convinced Jane to help her with her two-year-old magazine The Little Review, which exalted the role of the artist as a creator and savior of culture. It became the literary magazine of its time publishing such writers as T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound and James Joyce. The two co-editors not only cut a unique image for the magazine but themselves as well. Margaret, being as one man put it, "one of the handsomest [women] I have ever seen, very high-spirited, very courageous and very fine." Jane, on the other hand, was mannish to an extreme. According to Margaret, she had "handsome features, strongly cut, rather like those of Oscar Wilde in his only beautiful photograph." Others put it less delicately. Said one: "She's a full-blown lesbian case." As Jane told C.S. Nott, "I'm not really a woman." It was a cause of much depression and thoughts of suicide.

In 1922 Margaret Anderson, no longer believing art as salvation, withdrew from active participation in The Little Review, and fell into a depression that led to a nervous breakdown. Meeting Georgette Leblanc, former mistress of Maurice Maeterlinck, the two formed a relationship and sought God.


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