Совместная биографическая статья о судьбах Натали Клиффорд Барни и Рене Вивьен (на английском языке)

Natalie Clifford Barney – Early life, Renée Vivien, Poetry and plays, Salon, Epigrams and novel, Major relationships

Hostess and writer, born in Dayton, Ohio, USA. Born into a wealthy family (her grandfather made railroad cars), she was educated at a French boarding school, becoming completely bilingual. She finished her schooling at a private school for girls in New York City (1894), then was introduced into society in Washington, DC. Her beauty, wealth, artistic talents, and personal charm led to several engagements but, finding herself attracted to her own sex, she went to Paris in 1898. She soon became one of the most notable lesbians of her time, and while she wrote poetry, plays, fiction, and epigrams, she was mostly admired for the support she gave to other women writers and for her various love affairs with women. Her international salon at her home on rue Jacob attracted the cultivated and artistic from several lands for some 60 years and inspired much of her own writing. Remy de Goncourt addressed his Lettres à l’Amazone (1912–13) to her, and one of her volumes of epigrams was called Pensées d’une Amazone. Her most enduring relationship (1915–70) was with the American painter, Romaine Brooks. Her memoirs, including Souvenirs indiscrets (1960) and Traits et portraits (1963), provide an invaluable testimony to the world she inhabited.

Natalie Clifford Barney

Natalie Clifford Barney, painted in 1905 by her mother Alice Pike Barney.
Born: 31 October 1876
Dayton, Ohio
Died: 2 February 1972
Paris, France
Occupation(s): writer and salonist
Nationality: American

Natalie Clifford Barney (31 October 1876 – 2 February 1972) was an American expatriate who lived, wrote, and hosted a literary salon in Paris.

Her salon, held at her home on Paris’s Left Bank for more than 60 years, brought together writers and artists from around the world, including many of the leading figures in French literature as well as the American and British Modernists of the Lost Generation. She worked to promote writing by women, forming a “Women’s Academy” in response to the all-male French Academy, while also providing support and inspiration to male writers from Remy de Gourmont to Truman Capote.

She was openly lesbian and began publishing love poems to women under her own name as early as 1900, considering scandal “the best way of getting rid of nuisances”. She opposed monogamy and had many overlapping long- and short-term relationships, including an on-and-off romance with poet Renée Vivien and a 50-year relationship with painter Romaine Brooks. Her life and love affairs served as inspiration for many novels, ranging from the salacious French bestseller Sapphic Idyll to The Well of Loneliness, arguably the most famous lesbian novel of the 20th century.

Early life

Natalie Barney was born in 1876 to Albert Clifford Barney, son of a wealthy manufacturer of railway cars in Dayton, Ohio, and Alice Pike Barney. The next day he joined Barney and her mother on the beach;

Like many girls of her time, Barney had a haphazard education. Later she and her younger sister Laura Clifford Barney attended Les Ruches, a French boarding school founded by feminist Marie Souvestre. she made her home in Paris, and nearly all her published works were written in French.

When she was ten, her family moved from Ohio to Washington, D.C., spending summers in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Barney said she knew by age 12 that she was lesbian, and was determined to “live openly, without hiding anything”. In 1899, after seeing the courtesan Liane de Pougy at a dance hall in Paris, she presented herself at de Pougy’s residence in a page costume and announced that she was a “page of love” sent by Sappho. Although de Pougy was one of the most famous women in France, constantly sought after by wealthy and titled men, Barney’s audacity charmed her. Published in 1901, the book became the talk of Paris and was reprinted at least 69 times in its first year; soon it was well known that Barney was the model for one of the characters. By that time, however, the two had already broken up, after quarreling repeatedly over Barney’s desire to “rescue” de Pougy from her life as a courtesan.

Barney herself contributed a chapter to Idylle Saphique, in which she described reclining at de Pougy’s feet in a screened box at the theater, watching Sarah Bernhardt play Hamlet. During intermission Barney, as “Flossie”, compares Hamlet’s situation with that of women: “What is there for women who feel the passion for action when pitiless Destiny hold them in chains? She also wrote her own epistolary novel about the affair, Lettres à une Connue (Letters to a Woman I Have Known). Although she failed to find a publisher for the book, and later called it naive and clumsy, it is notable for its discussion of homosexuality, which Barney regarded as natural, comparing it to albinism.

Renée Vivien

In November 1899 Barney met the poet Pauline Tarn, better known by her pen name Renée Vivien. For Vivien it was love at first sight, while Barney became fascinated with Vivien after hearing her recite one of her poems, which she described as “haunted by the desire for death”. Barney provided a feminist theoretical framework that Vivien explored in her poetry. They adapted the imagery of the Symbolist poets and the conventions of courtly love to describe love between women, and found examples of heroic women in history and myth. they studied Greek in order to read the surviving fragments of her poetry in the original, and both wrote plays about her life.

Vivien saw Barney as a muse; as Barney put it, “she had found new inspiration through me, almost without knowing me.” Barney felt that Vivien had cast her as a femme fatale and that she wanted “to lose herself… Vivien also believed in fidelity, which Barney was unwilling to agree to. In 1901, while Barney was visiting her family in Washington, D.C., Vivien stopped answering her letters. Barney tried for years to get her back, at one point persuading a friend, the operatic mezzo-soprano Emma Calvé, to sing under Vivien’s window so that she could throw a poem, wrapped around a bouquet of flowers, up to her on her balcony.

In 1904 she wrote Je Me Souviens (I Remember), an intensely personal prose poem about their relationship, and presented a single handwritten copy to Vivien in an attempt to win her back. They reconciled and travelled together to Lesbos, where they lived happily together for a short time and talked about starting a school of poetry for women like the one that, according to tradition, Sappho had founded on Lesbos some 2,500 years before. She planned to meet Barney in Paris afterward, but instead she stayed with the Baroness.

In the following years Vivien’s health declined rapidly. In a memoir written fifty years later, Barney said “She could not be saved.

Poetry and plays

In 1900 Barney published her first book, a collection of poems entitled Quelques Portraits-Sonnets de Femmes (Some Portrait-Sonnets of Women). The poems used traditional French verse forms — Barney disapproved of free verse — and a formal, old-fashioned style. By publishing them, however, Barney became the first woman poet to openly write about love of women since Sappho.

Reviews were generally positive, glossing over the lesbian theme of the poems — or even misrepresenting it; the Washington Mirror said Barney “writes odes to men’s lips and eyes;

To escape her father’s notice, Barney published her next book, Cinq Petits Dialogues Grecs (Five Short Greek Dialogues, 1901), under the pseudonym Tryphé. Barney’s father’s death in 1902 left her with a substantial fortune, freeing her from any need to conceal the authorship of her books;

Je Me Souviens was published in 1910, after Vivien’s death. The same year, Barney published Actes et Entr’actes (Acts and Interludes), a collection of short plays and poems. The play incorporates quotations from Sappho’s fragments, with Barney’s own footnotes in Greek.

Barney did not take her poetry as seriously as Vivien did; After 1910 she primarily wrote the epigrams and memoirs for which she is better known. Barney asked Ezra Pound to edit the poems, but ignored the detailed recommendations he made.


For over 60 years, Barney hosted a literary salon — a weekly gathering at which people met to socialize and discuss literature, art, music, and any other topic of interest. Barney worked to feature women’s writing while also hosting some of the most prominent male writers of her time;

The salon evolved from the gatherings Barney held at her house in Neuilly in the early 1900s, where the entertainment included poetry readings, theatricals (in which Colette sometimes performed), and once, a dance performance by Mata Hari, who rode into the garden as Lady Godiva on a white horse harnessed with turquoise cloisonné.

It may have been the play Equivoque that led to her leaving Neuilly in 1909. In its new location the salon developed a more decorous outward face, focusing on poetry readings and conversation — in part because Barney had been told the pavillon’s floors would not hold up to large dancing parties.

During World War I, the salon became a haven for those opposed to the war. Henri Barbusse once gave a reading from his anti-war novel Under Fire, and Barney hosted a Women’s Congress for Peace at the Rue Jacob.

In the early 1920s, Ezra Pound was a frequent visitor and a close friend of Barney’s. Pound introduced Barney to the avant-garde composer George Antheil, and while her own taste in music leaned toward the traditional, she hosted premieres of Antheil’s Symphony for Five Instruments and First String Quartet at the Rue Jacob. It was also at Barney’s salon that Pound met his longtime mistress, the violinist Olga Rudge.

In 1927, Barney started an Académie des Femmes (Women’s Academy) to honor women writers — a response to the influential French Academy, founded in the 17th century by Louis XIII, whose 40 “immortals” included no women at the time.
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Other visitors to the salon during the 20s included French writers André Gide, Anatole France, Max Jacob, Louis Aragon, and Jean Cocteau;

Barney drew a diagram for her 1929 book Aventures de l’Esprit (Adventures of the Mind), crowding over a hundred names of people who had attended the salon into a crude map of the house, garden, and Temple of Friendship. The first half of the book contained reminiscences of 13 male writers she had known or met over the years; This gender-balanced structure was not reflected in the book’s packaging, which listed seven of the male writers included in the book, then added “…

In the late 20s, Radclyffe Hall drew a crowd;

Of the famous Modernist writers who spent time in Paris, Ernest Hemingway never made an appearance at the salon. Marcel Proust never attended a Friday, though he did come to 20, Rue Jacob once to talk to Barney about lesbian culture as research for In Search of Lost Time.


Epigrams and novel

Èparpillements (Scatterings, 1910) was Barney’s first collection of pensées — literally, thoughts. This literary form had been associated with salon culture in France since the 17th century, when the genre was perfected at the salon of Madame de Sablé. Barney’s pensées, like de Sablé’s own Maximes, were short, often one-line epigrams or bon mots such as “There are more evil ears than bad mouths” and “To be married is to be neither alone nor together.”

Her literary career got a boost after she sent a copy of Èparpillements to Remy de Gourmont, a French poet, literary critic, and philosopher who had become a recluse after contracting the disfiguring disease lupus vulgaris in his thirties. He died in 1915, but the nickname he gave her would stay with her all her life — even her tombstone identifies her as “the Amazon of Remy de Gourmont” — and his Letters to the Amazon left readers wanting to know more about the woman who had inspired them.

Barney obliged in 1920 with Pensées d’une Amazone (Thoughts of an Amazon), her most overtly political work. The epigrammatic form makes it difficult to determine the details of Barney’s views;

Another section of Pensées d’une Amazone, “Misunderstanding, or Sappho’s Lawsuit”, gathered historical writings about homosexuality along with her own commentary. She also covered topics such as alcohol, friendship, old age, and literature, writing “Novels are longer than life” and “Romanticism is a childhood ailment;

The One Who is Legion, or A.D.’s After-Life (1930) was Barney’s only book written entirely in English, as well as her only novel. Illustrated by Romaine Brooks, it concerns a suicide, known only as A.D., who is brought back to life as a hermaphroditic being and reads the book of her own life. This book-within-a-book, entitled The Love-Lives of A.D., is a collection of hymns, poems and epigrams, much like Barney’s own other writings.

Major relationships

Barney practiced, and advocated, what would today be called polyamory. in Èparpillements she wrote “One is unfaithful to those one loves in order that their charm does not become mere habit.”

Due in part to Jean Chalon’s early biography of her, published in English as Portrait of a Seductress, she has become more widely known for her many relationships — said to have numbered in the hundreds — than for her writing or her salon. Among the liaisons — the relationships that she considered most important — were Olive Custance, Renée Vivien, Elisabeth de Gramont, Romaine Brooks, and Dolly Wilde.

Elisabeth de Gramont

Elisabeth de Gramont, the Duchess of Clermont-Tonnerre, was a writer best known for her popular memoirs. She was married and had two daughters in 1910, when she met Natalie Barney; They eventually separated, and in 1918 she and Barney wrote up a marriage contract stating that “[n]o one union shall be so strong as this union, nor another joining so tender–nor relationship so lasting.”

De Gramont accepted Barney’s nonmonogamy — perhaps reluctantly at first — and went out of her way to be gracious to her other lovers, always including Romaine Brooks when she invited Barney to vacation in the country.

Romaine Brooks

Barney’s longest relationship was with the American painter Romaine Brooks, whom she met around 1914. During the 1920s she painted portraits of several members of Barney’s social circle, including de Gramont and Barney herself.

Brooks tolerated Barney’s casual affairs well enough to tease her about them, and had a few of her own over the years, but could become jealous when a new love became serious. Usually she simply left town, but at one point she gave Barney an ultimatum to choose between her and Dolly Wilde — relenting once Barney had given in. At the same time, while Brooks was devoted to Barney, she did not want to live with her as a full-time couple; she disliked Paris, disdained Barney’s friends, hated the constant socializing on which Barney thrived, and felt that she was fully herself only when alone. Brooks also spent much of the year in Italy or travelling elsewhere in Europe, away from Barney.

Dolly Wilde

Dolly Wilde was the niece of Oscar Wilde and the last of her family to bear the Wilde name. She did some work as a translator and was often supported by others, including Natalie Barney, whom she met in 1927.

Like Vivien, Wilde seemed bent on self-destruction. Barney financed detoxifications, which were never effective;

In 1939 she was diagnosed with breast cancer and refused surgery, seeking alternative treatments. The following year, World War II separated her from Barney; she fled Paris for England while Barney went to Italy with Brooks.

World War II and after

Barney’s attitudes during World War II have been controversial. In 1937, Una, Lady Troubridge had complained that Barney “talked a lot of half-baked nonsense about the tyranny of fascism”. Barney herself was one-eighth Jewish, and since she spent the war in Italy with Romaine Brooks, risked deportation to a concentration camp — a fate she avoided only by wiring her sister Laura for a notarized document attesting to her confirmation. An unpublished memoir she wrote during the war years is pro-Fascist and anti-Semitic, quoting speeches by Hitler apparently with approval.

It is possible that the anti-Semitic passages in her memoir were intended to be used as evidence that she was not Jewish;

Villa Trait d’Union was destroyed by bombing. After the war, Brooks declined to live with Barney in Paris; Their relationship remained monogamous until the mid-1950s, when Barney met her last new love, Janine Lahovary, the wife of a retired Romanian ambassador. Lahovary made a point of winning Romaine Brooks’s friendship, Barney reassured Brooks that their relationship still came first, and the triangle appeared to be stable.

The salon resumed in 1949 and continued to attract young writers for whom it was as much a piece of history as a place where literary reputations were made. he described the decor as “totally turn-of-the-century” and remembered that Barney introduced him to the models for several characters in Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. Fridays in the 1960s honored Mary McCarthy and Marguerite Yourcenar, who in 1980 — eight years after Barney’s death — became the first female member of the French Academy.

Barney did not return to writing epigrams, but did publish two volumes of memoirs about other writers she had known, Souvenirs Indiscrets (Indiscreet Memories, 1960) and Traits et Portraits (Traits and Portraits, 1963).

In the late 1960s Brooks became increasingly reclusive and paranoid; she sank into a depression and refused to see the doctors Barney sent. Bitter at Lahovary’s presence during their last years, which she had hoped they would spend alone together, she finally broke off contact with Barney. Barney continued to write to her, but received no replies. Brooks died in December 1970, and Barney on February 2, 1972.