Cambridge Encyclopedia » Cambridge Encyclopedia Vol. 53

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

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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.

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