THE LADIES ALMANACK / by Caitlin Murray

DJUNA BARNES
1928

Natalie Clifford Barney (1876-1972) / 60 years of Fridays

Natalie Clifford Barney (1876-1972) / 60 years of Fridays

Introduction
Susan Sniader Lanser

If Djuna Barnes were still among us, it is not certain that a new edition of Ladies Alamanack would be seeing print. She claimed to have written it "in an idle hour," as a "jollity" for a "very special audience." Its first publication in 1928 was a private affair financed by friends, including the books own mock-heroine [Natalie Barney]; when its distributor Edward Titus backed out at the last moment, it was hawked by Barnes and her cohorts on Paris Streets. Forty years later, when Farrar, Straus issued her Selected Works, Barnes did not offer them Ladies Alamanack. To Natalie Clifford Barney, who repeatedly urged her old friend to "let that side of us" be memorialized, she wrote that the work was too "salacious" and "trifling" to be in print. 

[Ladies Alamanack] is mow recognized as a brilliant modernist achievement and the boldest of a body of writings produced by and about the lesbian society that flourished in Paris between the turn of the century and the Second World War. Apparently conceived to amuse Barnes's love Thelma Wood during an illness, the book has as its first readers its own cast of characters, women associated with the wealthy American Writer Natalie Barney, dubbed "l'Amazone" by the poet Remy de Gourmont, whose salon on the Rue Jacob was a center of both literary exchange and lesbian friendship for more than half a century. 

Patchin Place is a gated cul-de-sac located off of 10th Street between Greenwich Avenue and the Avenue of the Americas (Sixth Avenue) in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. Its ten 3-story[1] brick row houses, said to have been originally built as housing for the Basque staff of the nearby Brevoort House hotel, have been home to several famous writers, including Theodore Dreiser, E. E. Cummings, John Cowper Powys and Djuna Barnes, making it a stop on Greenwich Village walking tours. Today it is a popular location for psychotherapists' offices.

Patchin Place is a gated cul-de-sac located off of 10th Street between Greenwich Avenue and the Avenue of the Americas (Sixth Avenue) in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. Its ten 3-story[1] brick row houses, said to have been originally built as housing for the Basque staff of the nearby Brevoort House hotel, have been home to several famous writers, including Theodore Dreiser, E. E. Cummings, John Cowper Powys and Djuna Barnes, making it a stop on Greenwich Village walking tours. Today it is a popular location for psychotherapists' offices.

Barnes managed to publish only one work (the verse play The Antiphon in 1958) during the second half of her long life; she lived in poverty, seclusion, and ultimately great physical pain in a tiny apartment in New York's Patchin Place. 

Barnes goes to Paris around 1920. 

The picaresque her of Ladies Alamanack is the aristocratic Dame Evangeline Musset, her last name evoking the Romantic poet Alfred de Musset, celebrant of love who was also, disastrously, a lover of George Sand; her first name recalling both her American origins and her missionary zeal. 

The book is structured as a monthly chronicle...within the frame of the calendar, Ladies Almanack, embeds both a picaresque fable of Dame Musset's life from birth to death and a variety of "digressions" that appropriate Western traditions and rewrite patriarchal texts, as if anticipating Monique Wittg's call to women in Les Guerilleres to "remember, or failing that, invent." 

Monique Wittig (July 13, 1935 – January 3, 2003) was a French author and feminist theorist who wrote about overcoming socially enforced gender roles and who coined the phrase "heterosexual contract". She published her first novel, L'Opoponax, in 1964. Her second novel, Les Guérillères (1969), was a landmark in lesbian feminism.

Ms. Wittig's novel, ''Les Guérillères,'' appeared in 1969 in France and in 1971 in English. Sally Beauman in The Times Book Review called it ''perhaps the first epic celebration of women ever written.'' In that novel women live as guerrillas, fighting men and seeking a new age. They engage in bloody, victorious battles using knives, machine guns and rocket launchers. In one scene they win by baring their breasts, stopping men in their tracks.

SERIOUS NONSENSE

Renée Vivien, born Pauline Mary Tarn (11 June 1877 – 18 November 1909), was a British poet who wrote in French, in the style of the Symbolistes and the Parnassiens. A high-profile lesbian in the Paris of the Belle Époque, she was as notable for her lifestyle as for her work, which has received more attention following a recent revival of interest in Sapphic verse. Many of her poems are autobiographical, reflecting a life of extreme hedonism, leading to early death. She was the subject of a pen-portrait by her friend Colette.

Renée Vivien, born Pauline Mary Tarn (11 June 1877 – 18 November 1909), was a British poet who wrote in French, in the style of the Symbolistes and the Parnassiens. A high-profile lesbian in the Paris of the Belle Époque, she was as notable for her lifestyle as for her work, which has received more attention following a recent revival of interest in Sapphic verse. Many of her poems are autobiographical, reflecting a life of extreme hedonism, leading to early death. She was the subject of a pen-portrait by her friend Colette.

Radclyffe Hall  (12 August 1880 – 7 October 1943)   Having reached adulthood without a vocation, she spent much of her twenties pursuing women she eventually lost to marriage.  In 1907 at the Bad Homburg spa in Germany, Hall met Mabel Batten, a well-known amateur singer of lieder. Batten (nicknamed "Ladye") was 51 to Hall's 27, and was married with an adult daughter and grandchildren. They fell in love, and after Batten's husband died they set up residence together. Batten gave Hall the nickname John, which she used the rest of her life.  In 1915 Hall fell in love with Mabel Batten's cousin Una Troubridge (1887–1963), a sculptor who was the wife of Vice-Admiral Ernest Troubridge, and the mother of a young daughter. Batten died the following year, and in 1917 Radclyffe Hall and Una Troubridge began living together. From 1924 to 1929 they lived at 37 Holland Street, Kensington, London.  The relationship would last until Hall's death. In 1934 Hall fell in love with Russian émigrée Evguenia Souline and embarked upon a long-term affair with her, which Troubridge painfully tolerated. She became involved in affairs with other women throughout the years.

Radclyffe Hall (12 August 1880 – 7 October 1943) 

Having reached adulthood without a vocation, she spent much of her twenties pursuing women she eventually lost to marriage.

In 1907 at the Bad Homburg spa in Germany, Hall met Mabel Batten, a well-known amateur singer of lieder. Batten (nicknamed "Ladye") was 51 to Hall's 27, and was married with an adult daughter and grandchildren. They fell in love, and after Batten's husband died they set up residence together. Batten gave Hall the nickname John, which she used the rest of her life.

In 1915 Hall fell in love with Mabel Batten's cousin Una Troubridge (1887–1963), a sculptor who was the wife of Vice-Admiral Ernest Troubridge, and the mother of a young daughter. Batten died the following year, and in 1917 Radclyffe Hall and Una Troubridge began living together. From 1924 to 1929 they lived at 37 Holland Street, Kensington, London.

The relationship would last until Hall's death. In 1934 Hall fell in love with Russian émigrée Evguenia Souline and embarked upon a long-term affair with her, which Troubridge painfully tolerated. She became involved in affairs with other women throughout the years.

Natalie Clifford Barney and Romaine Brooks, ca. 1915, Brooks tolerated Barney's casual affairs well enough to tease her about them, and had a few of her own over the years. She 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 full-time. She disliked Paris, disdained Barney's friends, and hated the constant socializing on which Barney thrived. She felt most fully herself when alone. To accommodate Brooks's need for solitude, the women built a summer home consisting of two separate wings joined by a dining room, which they called Villa Trait d'Union, the "hyphenated villa". Brooks spent part of each year in Italy or traveling elsewhere in Europe, away from Barney. The relationship lasted for more than 50 years.

Natalie Clifford Barney and Romaine Brooks, ca. 1915, Brooks tolerated Barney's casual affairs well enough to tease her about them, and had a few of her own over the years. She 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 full-time. She disliked Paris, disdained Barney's friends, and hated the constant socializing on which Barney thrived. She felt most fully herself when alone. To accommodate Brooks's need for solitude, the women built a summer home consisting of two separate wings joined by a dining room, which they called Villa Trait d'Union, the "hyphenated villa". Brooks spent part of each year in Italy or traveling elsewhere in Europe, away from Barney. The relationship lasted for more than 50 years.