Further Reading on Natalie Clifford Barney

Books on Natalie

Suzanne Rodriguez, Wild Heart: A Life; Natalie Clifford Barney and the Decadence of Literary Paris
(New York, Harper-Collins Publishers, 2002).
The most recent and most balanced biography of Natalie. The author "ended up writing the biography because I wanted to know and understand Natalie"; she also created The World of Natalie Clifford Barney Website as "a way to post what I had learned." [This Website seems to have gone missing, so I've changed the links to reference a version archived by Internet Archive Wayback Machine.] "See also A Conversation with Suzanne Rodriguez and Natalie in Print, Film, and Art.
Chapter titles:
Beauty in the Blood
Child of Witches and Saints (1876-1890)
Adolescent and Debutante (1891-1898)
Natalie and the Courtesan (1899)
Natalie and the Virgin (1900)
Une Jeune Fille de la Société Future
The Heiress (1903-1908)
The Amazon (1910-1913)
The Great War (1914-1919)
Years of Glory: The Salon (The Twenties)
Years of Glory: The Amazon's Tribe (The Twenties)
The Pause (1930-1938)
War Redux (1939-1943)
The Amazon in Winter (1946-1960)
Slowly Comes the Night (1960-1972)

Shari Benstock, Women of the Left Bank: Paris, 1900-1940
(Austin: University of Texas Press, 1986).
A detailed study of many American women writers who lived in Paris; the chapter "Natalie Barney: Rue Jacob" explores the "Aesthetics of Barney's Sexual Ethics" and defines the difference of her art:

she loved and wrote as a woman. For Natalie Barney, as for Sappho, woman's art was the product of shared experience among women, a social and collective effort by a small group of extraordinary women who separated themselves from society in order to love and write literature. Literary effort was inseparable from love, inseparable from the occasion that provided the impetus: art was not separate from life but was defined by it. (p. 294)

Of related interest, Paris Was a Woman provides information on the 2001 film by that name produced by Frances Berrigan, Greta Schiller and Andrea eiss; the film includes commentary by Shari Benstock. Literary Women of the Left Bank by Paula DiTallo seems an ambitiously started but played-out Web site that uses part of the cover image from Women of the Left Bank as an icon and promises Natalie Barney as the host of an online salon.

Jean Chalon, Portrait of a Seductress: The World of Natalie Barney
(New York: Crown Publishers, 1979).
The first full length biography of Natalie, published in French in 1976. Chalon became a devoted friend of Natalie Barney during the last ten years of her life" and wrote "A subjective portrait if ever there was one" of "the first emancipated woman of her time" (p. 242) based on Natalie's reminiscences.
Chapter titles:
Natalie, Alice, Laura, and Olivia
Eva
Carmen
House of Women
Liane, 1899
Renée
Natalie, 1910
Remy, 1912
Romaine, 1914-18
Natalie, 1925
Natalie, 1930
Florence, 1940
Romaine, 1950
Gisèle, 1958
Scheherazade in November
Natalie, 1963-68
The New Owners
Romaine, 1970
Seductress in Exile
Gisèle, 1971
Natalie, 1972

George Wickes, The Amazon of Letters: The Life and Loves of Natalie Barney
(New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1976).
The first full length English biography of Natalie and the one most often referenced in books that make casual mention of her. In The Amazon and the Page, Karla Jay describes both Wickes' and Chalon's books as "commercially oriented works by male authors who show themselves to be far more interested in the titilating aspects" (p. 1) than in analyzing Barney's life and works. Wickes met Natalie in the final year of her life, and he does include interviews with others who knew her, saying "Interviews are fascinating in themselves and all the more so when they concern a subject like Natalie Barney, about whom there are so many conflicting opinions." (p. 209)
Chapter titles:
Part I: The Life of Natalie Barney
Origins
Beginnings
Liane de Pougy
Literary Debut
Renée Vivien
Renée's Side of the Story
Lucie Delarue-Mardrus
Theatricals
20 rue Jacob
Epigrams
Remy de Gourmont
The Legend of Lorély
Lily de Clermont-Tonnerre and Romaine Brooks
The Patroness of Letters
The Matron Saint of Lesbos
Dolly Wilde
Godless Nuns in Gardens Florentine
The No-Man's-Land of Old Age
The Last Love
Part II: Epilogue
Wickes' remarks on the biography project, including write ups of interviews with Natalie, Berthe Cleyregue, Janine Lahovary, Jean Chalon, Francois Chapon, and Cheryl Hughes
Part III: Other Points of View
samplings of remarks on Natalie by Eyre de Lanux, Virgil Thomson, Bettina Bergery, Truman Capote, and Janet Flanner

Books on Natalie and Others

Joan Shenkar, Truly Wilde: The Unsettling Story of Dolly Wilden, Oscar's Unusual Niece
(New York: Basic Books, 2000).
This book is especially notable in that its author knows French and was able to interview Bertha Cleyrergue, translate from Natalie Barney's works in French, and access Natalie's archives for the letters Dolly Wilde wrote to Natalie over the years. There's quite a bit of focus on Natalie, as when Shenkar says

The fact that Natalie barney was both the major seducer that her male biographers claimed her to be, and as 'politically' unresponsive as some female critics have suggested, must not obscure the much further-reaching fact of her life: Natalie Barney was the radical sustainer of an unprecedented community of art-making women in Paris who formed by their work and their relations with each other the only serious critique of Modernism as it was practiced by male artists in the twentieth century. (p. 169)

Whitney Chadwick, Amazons in the Drawing Room: The Art of Romaine Brooks
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000).
See also Lee Young-Soo's Romaine Brooks Web site.

Karla Jay, The Amazon and the Page: Natalie Clifford Barney and Renée Vivien
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988).
See also Renée Vivien.

Meryle Secrest, Between Me and Life: A Biography of Romaine Brooks
(New York: Doubleday & Company, 1974).

Diana Souhami, Wild Girls: Paris, Sappho, and Art: The Lives and Loves of Natalie Barney and Romaine Brooks
(New York: St. Martin's Press, 2004).
See this collection of reviews of Souhami's book.

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Last modified on December 11, 2016 by Kay Keys (kay@kaykeys.net)