The controversial journalist composed this warm and long letter to the mother of his deceased friend, Alan Osgood. Osgood, a fellow Harvard graduate and “Harvard Lampoon” author, lived with Reed in Greenwich Village after graduation in 1910, and with another Harvard alum, poet Alan Seeger (1888-1916, also Pete Seeger’s uncle). Reed wrote “The Day in Bohemia” in 1912, the same year Osgood died. The book was privately published the following year.
Reed explains to Osgood’s mother that, “I wanted to send you a copy of this book of mine, which was written last year, about the crowd of us who lived in Forty-Two [Washington Square], and of which I spoke to Mr. Osgood when I last saw him. I never changed this book from the way I wrote it. You’ll see that I treated Alan in just the way I always treated him. After he was gone, I thought that I would simply leave the manuscript unchanged, so as to keep him living. This book was to be a sort of little memorial from me to Alan; and that is how I published it.”
Reed mentions another friend also referred to in “The Day in Bohemia,” Sam McCoy who he had asked for Mrs. Osgood’s address as a fire “burned most of my letters, and particularly my address book.” Referring to all of the friends he lived with, “All the fellows… speak to me of the highly exaggerated accounts of our life together… are glad that I wrote it in this doggerel, absurd way. I hope it won’t offend you – I wrote it as much for Alan as for the rest.”
Reed specifically discusses a trip he had hoped to take with Osgood. “My plan of going to China is rather in the air. Since my father’s death… I don’t want to go far away from my mother….” Reed’s father died in 1912. He continues, “Alan and I were going to ship before the mast on a sailing ship and go around the Cape of Good Hope to the Far East….” Reed ends the letter noting that Osgood’s mother’s interest in, “my welfare touches me very deeply. I hope with all my heart to be able soon to see you….” Signed, “John Reed.”.
In New York after college, Reed worked at “The American Magazine,” a job he got through Lincoln Steffens. A talented writer, he sold articles to the “Saturday Evening Post,” “Colliers,” and “The Century Magazine, ” and in 1913 joined the staff of “The Masse.” Based on our research, this letter is unpublished. [Provenance: from the Paul Richards Collection].