The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas Study Guide

The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas

The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein

The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas is a book by Gertrude Stein published in 1933. Written as a supposed autobiography by her lover, Alice B. Toklas, Stein's book follows her life in France, the United States and England before, during and after World War I. The book includes much about Stein and her relationship with her, as well as her friendships with famous artists such as Picasso and Matisse and writers like William James and Apollinaire.

The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas Book Summary

Before I came to Paris

Alice B. Toklas, as narrator of the work, says she was born into an affluent family in San Francisco. Later she met Gertrude Stein's sister-in-law during the fires in the aftermath of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, and decided to move to Paris in 1907.

My Arrival in Paris

Alice talks about the important role of Helene, Gertrude's housemaid, in their household in Paris. She mentions preparations for an art exhibition. She discusses Picasso and his mistress Fernande. Picasso and Fernande end their relationship, and Fernande moves to Montparnasse to teach French. Alice and Gertrude visit her there.

Gertrude Stein in Paris, 1903-1907

Alice tells of Gertrude and her brother Leo Stein buying paintings by Paul C├ęzanne and Henri Matisse from Ambroise Vollard. They subsequently all become friends. She next discusses spending the summer with Gertrude in Fiesole, Italy, while Picasso goes to Spain. Back in France, Gertrude falls out with Guillaume Apollinaire. Later, Picasso has an argument with Matisse.

Gertrude Stein before she came to Paris

Alice tells how Gertrude Stein was born in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, then moved to Vienna, to Passy, and finally to New York City and California. She attended Radcliffe College, where she was taught by William James. She decided to study for a Master's degree at Johns Hopkins University but dropped out because she was bored, then moved to London and was bored there too, returned to America, and eventually settled in Paris.


Alice tells stories about Matisse, Apollinaire, and many other Cubist artists. She recounts holidays in Italy and Spain with Gertrude. Finally, they move to England on the eve of World War I to meet with Gertrude's editor, leaving Mildred Aldrich alone in Paris.

The War

Gertrude and Alice begin the war years in England, and then go briefly to France to rescue Gertrude's writings. They then live in Spain for a while, and eventually move back to France. There, they do volunteer work for the American Fund for the French Wounded, driving around France to help the wounded and homeless. By the end of the war, Paris seems changed.

After the War, 1919-1932

Alice tells of Gertrude's argument with T. S. Eliot after he finds one of her writings inappropriate. She talks about her friendship with Sherwood Anderson and Ernest Hemingway, who helped with the publication of The Making of Americans . There the couple makes friends with a coterie of Russian artists, but they constitute no artistic movement. Later, Gertrude gives a lecture at Oxford University. Alice then mentions more parties with artists. Later, they abridge The Making of Americans to four hundred pages for commercial reasons and devise the idea of authoring an autobiography.

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