Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
No Cover Image

Adventures of the Mind: The Memoirs of Natalie Clifford Barney

Translated with annotations by John Spalding Gatton
Copyright Date: 1992
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 248
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Adventures of the Mind
    Book Description:

    Every Friday, for half a decade beginning in 1909, whenever she was in Paris, Natalie Clifford Barney hosted the one of the most brilliant international salons of its day. Barney received in her home such literary, artistic, musical and intellectual beacons of the 20th century as James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, Colette, Isadora Duncan, Auguste Rodin, Romaine Brooks, William Carlos Williams, Paul Valery, Renee Vivian, Edna St. Vincent Millay and Truman Capote. In 1929, she shared her life, in and out of the salon, through the publication of the first of three volumes of reminiscences. Here Barney explores her family tree, chronicles her friendships and associations through reprinted correspondence and recreated conversations, and evokes the golden age of her salon in a gallery of literary portraits. The first half of the volume features a baker's dozen of the male writers she kneow, from Oscar Wilde, whom she literally ran into at the age of five, to Pierre Louys, who encouraged her fledgling writing career and Paul Valery, an "Immortal" in the Academie Francaise. Barney dedicated the latter half of her diary to the Academie des Femmes, which she founded in 1927, as a counterpart to the male bastion of the French Academy. The book preserves the proceedings of meetings between such figures as Lucie Delarue-Mardrus, Colette, Gertrude Stein, Djuna Barnes and Mina Loy, in the distinctive voices of their speakers.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-2507-8
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Karla Jay

    Despite the efforts of lesbian and feminist publishing houses and a few university presses, the bulk of the most important lesbian works has traditionally been available only from rare book dealers, in a few university libraries, or in gay and lesbian archives. This series intends to make representative examples of this neglected and insufficiently known literature available to a broader audience by reissuing selected classics and by putting into print for the first time lesbian novels, diaries, letters, and memoirs that have special interest and significance, but which have moldered in libraries and private collections for decades or even centuries,...

  5. A Note on the Translation
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)
    Karla Jay

    Natalie Clifford Barney would not want me or anyone else to introduceAdventures of the Mind. She knew that “presenting something or someone accurately and without damaging his charm is perhaps what is most difficult in our human commerce” (128).¹ Barney was possibly forecasting her own fate, for the portraits of her, whether in words or oils, have tended to flatten her out by emphasizing her physical allure and charisma while devaluing her accomplishments. Without a doubt she was glamorous in an unusual way, with hair so blond that her friends swore she seemed to be always “covered in moonlight,”...

  7. 1. Forewarning
    (pp. 19-28)

    “What are you preparing?”

    I’m always startled when someone asks me this question, because I’m not preparing anything. Things prepare themselves slowly within me. I have no more desire to read than to write, but I allow this little bit of writing to trace, on bare skin, a unique tattoo.

    Every ten years, I force myself to empty my notebooks, the drawers of my writing desk. What they contain becomes books, almost without my knowing.

    This current work is a debt of conscience to a public which is at least as interested as I in my correspondence. On its behalf...

  8. Part One

    • 2. First Adventure: Oscar Wilde in the United States
      (pp. 31-31)

      My first adventure of the mind took place in a resort near the Atlantic, when I, hardly out of diapers, ran across a hotel room to escape a pack of vacationing children. Among the empty chairs awaiting an event there was but a single figure. He lifted me out of my terrified course to his considerable height. I was reassured by his eyes which had sympathetically witnessed my flight, by his hair which was as long as mine, and especially by his voice which swept me into a story.

      As the two of us sat together on a raised throne...

    • 3. Pierre Louÿs circa 1900: Literary Beginnings
      (pp. 32-44)

      His hand with its beautiful penmanship had just given usAphrodite(which I read while still a child beside a swimming pool in Bar Harbor).² This book, complete with illustrations, was left in our hands by our hostess, the mother of three sons. We learned that the edition had been seized upon its arrival in New York. A short time after returning to France, I discovered theChansons de Bilitis(Songs of Bilitis). I had returned with a manuscript of verses in one hand and a manuscript of prose in the other. The book of verse found a publisher, Ollendorff,...

    • 4. Anatole France: Among the Amazons
      (pp. 45-48)

      Not knowing to whom to address my condolences, I send them to you, you were closer than his near relations. Your kinship of mind with this writer—whom hoards of gnats seize, trying to rival corporeal decomposition (if France was not a hero to his valet, perhaps it is the valet’s fault)—your opinion, your memories of him, are the only things that can still convey him intact to us; he hid himself with so much irony. Because of you I saw him well and knew him better. You seemed to put him in touch with himself; as soon as...

    • 5. Remy de Gourmont: The Amazon’s Friend
      (pp. 49-56)

      To those who are surprised that Remy de Gourmont does not play a larger role in these adventures of the mind, shall I reply as I did to several indiscreet journalists?

      Not feeling up to the task, I was perhaps wrong to leave it to them. One of them did not hesitate to act in his usual perfectly childish fashion, uttering trenchant clichés about the memories that I had imprudently confided in him. Another acquitted himself with more imagination. Perhaps with too much imagination in comparing me to Horace Walpole and Gourmont to Mme du Deffand!²

      Besides, Rouveyre had such...

    • 6. Marcel Proust
      (pp. 57-67)

      “What has become of you, Miss Barney? I haven’t seen you in ages. Marcel Proust has spoken to me of you. He is very curious about you and would like to meet you. Something ought to be arranged, but he is so ill.”

      Paul Morand, whose conversation seems to be made up of the platitudes he excludes or erases from his books, spoke thus to me about his friend Proust at theBal des Petits Lits blancs.¹ As this beginning promised no particular attraction, I spoke to him about a common friend, a woman I had recognized in hisTendres...

    • 7. Rainer Maria Rilke: Belated Appreciation
      (pp. 68-74)

      Through his tribute to the Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke,* Jaloux suggested to me an understanding for which I should have taken the initiative.² He garnered the friendship that I did not seize. No doubt my mind was elsewhere. Our adventure did not take place.

      Isn’t one of the traits of laziness—which so greatly delights me—that someone else undertakes the task of writing, of living, or of loving in my stead?

      Kundry’s laugh, awakened from its depths, pierces me to the soul.³

      To my shame I will admit that I understood nothing of Rilke, that I did not...

    • 8. Fleg, Then Zangwill, Then Fleg
      (pp. 75-78)

      There is nothing like a small cream cheese. A quarter-century ago, Fleg looked like one—all tidy, plump, and blonde.¹

      It was surprising not to see a luge cord in the mitten of this good little boy. His scarf thrown back, we set out on the short wintery stroll from Neuilly-Saint-James to Paris. The icy air quickened our minds. ThenJulius Caesar, heard from the back of a lower box at the Odéon, excited him. From his shadowy corner Fleg whispered: “How beautiful it is! How beautiful it is!” The strength of his excitement prompted me to ask him why...

    • 9. Gabriele D’Annunzio: At Home
      (pp. 79-85)

      Beautiful but hardly democratic manners seem definitely to have passed from France to Italy where, finding a setting adequate to their development, they have remained. How sad thatesprit, that other endowment of Latin civilization, has not followed them! France and Italy, each deprived of an essential characteristic, share with each other the hesitation of foreigners, who, preferring, as I do, conversation to climate, and wit to a cordial welcome, nevertheless miss that courtesy which, despite what I had been led to fear, I found perfect beyond the Alps. A clean, respectable, orderly country, with electric trains, and garden chairs...

    • 10. Max Jacob
      (pp. 86-91)

      Must one regret being less naïve than that old compatriot who received this declaration from Marcel Proust and accepted it without suspicion or humility and replied in kind: “With what profound emotion I reread this sentence from his last letter, written the day after my last evening with him and by which he sent me his last remembrance: ‘And you are the image to which I always return, you who are probably the being I love most in the world’; because he knew that he was dying, he knew that these words, the last dispatch of a deep friendship, would...

    • 11. Doctor Jésus-Christ Mardrus
      (pp. 92-95)

      Doctor Jésus-Christ Mardrus is the only man whom I address with the familiartu, because for twenty-five years he has never failed for even an instant to respect me, and therefore deserves, for this and for many other reasons, this distinction.

      My father, man of a single world—his own—my less discerning father, having driven me as far as Point-du-Jour where the Mardrus’ then lived,² watching the doctor welcome me, his oriental eyes seemingly underlined with kohl behind his pincenez, hesitated to leave me at the “Roseraie,” even while he drove through the Bois. He found me again with...

    • 12. The Critical State of André Rouveyre
      (pp. 96-101)

      André Rouveyre follows his lights with as much fervor as a medieval monk (or a modern scholar!).

      All three serve what they believe to be their vocation.

      All three would suffer martyrdom for their statements: one for his faith, the others for their good faith.

      And it is no less courageous to rely only on oneself.

      To have as one’s own a base so solid as to dispense with that of others demands an examination of conscience more rigorous than the confessional could ever inflict.

      I cannot imagine a more arduous road than that of Brother André, that unbelieving pilgrim...

    • 13. Paul Valéry: The Dawn of an Academician: An Attempt at Clarification
      (pp. 102-123)

      Initiated, as one of Valéry’s followers, at the evening with M Teste at a time when this famous evening had no morning after, I, along with others, deplored that this poet, contrary to the practices of the world of letters, constantly fathered children but never poems.² He had just announced anew the birth of a “little maiden girl.”³ This prolific paternity—which, combined with his parsimony as a writer, seemed to destine him to double poverty—caused his friends more alarm than was warranted.

      With them he became, if not an habitué, at least an intimate of my home.


    • 14. Legends and Anecdotes, Translators and Detractors
      (pp. 124-130)

      The great men who are fashionable—and whom another style may find very petty—are all the more sought after because a momentary pause seems to have taken possession of their intelligence so that everyone can grasp it.

      The time of magnesium photographs is not a happy time for writing.

      With a certain comfort I think of other writers who are less set in their glory and who defend themselves from the plaster mask as best they can.

      André Gide acknowledged to me one day that he was translated in Japan, but that as yet he had hardly appeared in...

  9. Part Two

    • 15. An Academy of Women: Foreword
      (pp. 133-140)

      If, in the second part of this book, An Academy of Women, I sketch too summarily, along with some well-known Parisian ladies, certainForeign Figuresliving in France,² it is because, out of courtesy to them, I would not like to push them further forward or invite them to be seated before a possibly inattentive audience, but would only like to arouse attention to them as they pass. If these evocations, and the extracts that I give from their works, predispose the reader, for him will I produce portraits and a more detailed study.

      This explanation is perhaps an excuse...

    • 16. Lucie Delarue-Mardrus, President
      (pp. 141-143)

      When her turn came, Lucie Delarue-Mardrus chose two young men to introduce her.

      Jean Dars,² judicious youth with a surprising mastery, sets limits to her whom he wishes to define too well.

      With a dramatic coldness he outlines her in sharp sentences, like a carnival idol surrounded by knives. While the youngest of them all, Philippe Crouzet,³ creates such an eddy that no image can stand out…. In incensing their goddess, these disciples succeed in concealing rather than revealing her. This jealous attention is perhaps instinctive with most men. Isn’t that the reason a woman will preside at a celebration...

    • 17. English Bohemian Life and Anna Wickham
      (pp. 144-150)

      Her lungs filled with country air, Anna Wickham came to mingle with the bohemians of London.

      She brings more health to it than she takes poison from it.

      The pubs, these cafés across the Channel, have always attracted poets.

      From the “Cheshire Cheese,” a restaurant that preserves a slightly ostentatious and obsolete prestige in Fleet Street in the middle of commercial London, and where Dr. Johnson sat down to table;² to the “Mermaid Tavern,” where John Keats, drunk with despair and deep in his cups, took refuge against the double incomprehension of his family and his beloved,³ the artists fall...

    • 18. Colette
      (pp. 151-152)

      For many of us foreigners who wanted to see her up close (because women of letters scarcely know one another, except sometimes by name, I was prompted to make these mutual introductions), Colette gave several scenes from herVagabondeat my home before acting them in the theatre.² Paul Poiret made his debut with prestige and drollery in the role of Brack, and Moreno, who enhances all roles, in that of the old lady friend.³ Colette, a vagabond indeed, a walking pedestal padded with a small triangle, has well-subdued plumpness and the color of a Dumaspère, the mien of...

    • 19. Rachilde
      (pp. 153-154)

      Rachilde, so discreet looking when you first meet her, beneath her small cap decorated with strawberry flowers, has, behind her veil which is the color of distances (veil from rendezvous long since forgotten),² mermaid’s eyes shielded by two rows of steely eyelashes, which prevent humanity from entering too far into the realm of their folly.

      Rachilde, hale enough to have spanned the epoque of black magic à la Huysmans—and thatfin de siècleof the “unnatural”—finds them once more perched at the fore of this new century.³

      Rachilde, who slashes a crowd with her sarcasm, is gentle toward...

    • 20. Aurel: Festival in Return
      (pp. 155-157)

      Aurel—implacable Roman matron—presents her classic profile at public gatherings and seeks to please the masses, who do not understand anything about her mind, which is suited to an elite that does not understand anything about it either.

      Yet her work is full of splendid finds that she hides, like her beauty, under trappings ugly enough to be the work of a tasteless petty seamstress.

      What difficulty I had in introducing her outside her own setting, in introducing her well, despite the warrior she chose for this apotheosis,² who, wishing to crown her with superlatives, smothered her with them!...

    • 21. Mina Loy
      (pp. 158-160)

      Let us celebrate the so diversely excellent works of Elisabeth de Gramont and of the English poetess recognized chiefly in America (the country to which she owes both the success and the tragedy of her life): Mina Loy.

      The contrast between these two writers is well chosen to enhance the personality of each.

      For her own celebration the first arrived late with her court of satellites. One of them had forgotten the opening speech that was to have introduced her.

      Mina Loy, with a trainer such as boxers have, exercised and hardened in the solitude of my second floor. This...

    • 22. Elisabeth de Gramont
      (pp. 161-164)

      After excursions with this lunar guide, we were delighted to find ourselves in front of an abstract materiality: Tea—that perfume that one drinks, that connecting hyphen²—brought us back gently to theGood Things of France

      Their author, by dint of epicurianism and without clamoring against poetry, is such a poet in this book—well served at table in season—that her quintessence has escaped lesser poets.

      TheCaille(Quail) is a complete novel,⁴ and theNefle(Medlar), this “sorbet of autumn,” would force Francis Jammes back to his knees, that shepherd outside the flock who has become a...

    • 23. Djuna Barnes
      (pp. 165-170)

      To open the meeting dedicated to American women, all of whom, incidentally, swallowed a Bible in coming into the world, Doctor J.-C. Mardrus read a chapter he had just translated, on the creation of Eve.² According to his text, Eve was not created from only one of Adams ribs but from his entire side. He also read another chapter on Naomi and Ruth, likewise with relevance for American women who between them support each other as much as these two Biblical women.

      Ford Madox Ford founded theTransatlantic Reviewin France and often made the voyage to lecture over there...

    • 24. Gertrude Stein
      (pp. 171-179)

      —Mina Loy, also a friend of Djuna Barnes, introduced the woman who, they say, perhaps most influenced the young writers of our day:

      Gertrude Stein, here present, in her tiger cap and her sandals which are scarcely visible below a long khaki skirt. A brow that she uncovers and touches constantly and a gaze that makes others’ drop, toward a brooch from a reassuring era.

      Gertrude Stein has lived in France long enough to have known the mother of Marie Laurencin, and the beginnings of Picasso, whom she encouraged;² and the young Apollinaire belonged to her circle of friends; and...

    • 25. Romaine Brooks: The Case of a Great Painter of the Human Face
      (pp. 180-183)

      Romaine Brooks, for want of tolerable friends, has not had the enemies she deserves.

      One of them, believing that he described her unkindly, made this remark which seems to be a most heartening description: “She is a foreigner everywhere.”

      And, in fact, Romaine Brooks belongs to no time, to no country, to no milieu, to no school, to no tradition; nor is she in revolt against these institutions, but, rather, like Walt Whitman, neither for them nor against them—she does not know what they are. She is the epitome, the “flowery summit” of a civilization in decline, whose character...

    • 26. Renée Vivien
      (pp. 184-190)

      Salomon Reinach presided over this retrospective no doubt to prevent some rival from taking his place.² As a posthumous lover of the poetess—“who perhaps might not have approved of these compliments nor of his jealous cares,” as Anatole France remarked— he had a revelation to make to us: Renée Vivien had never loved anything except glory. He supported his thesis and convinced Professor Seignobos, proof in hand, not mentioning the contrary evidence, out of his hands and contained in a dozen other volumes. The convincing documents were there: “Vaincues”[sic], “Mes Victories”, etc., no more were needed.³

      A scholar’s...

    • 27. Retrospective of Marie Lenéru
      (pp. 191-196)
      Magdeleine Marx Paz

      Several days ago I received a letter from Natalie Barney, asking me to speak to you for five or six minutes today about Marie Lenéru. I put the letter down in front of me, and I felt dreadfully, cruelly embarrassed.

      To talk about Marie Lenéru, I who do not know how to talk, and to talk about her for several minutes when volumes could be written about her! How could it be done? First, to evoke her faithfully—she who so strongly felt the profound identity which exists between the physical being and the inner being—who so pursued, in...

    • 28. P.P.C.: Leave-Taking
      (pp. 197-198)

      So ends this account of these few representative women and these adventures of the mind that had as their setting these old gardens belonging to Racine,² this house, certain parts of which date back to the Directory, and this mysterious little Temple to Friendship surely built on the eve of the Revolution, an atmosphere of dilapidation which is indispensable to these “beyond the pale” who, like myself, return to their beginnings.

      The radio, publicity’s responsive nerve, asked me for a summary of these gatherings. My lack of curiosity will always be astonished by the curiosity of the outside world.


  10. Notes
    (pp. 199-268)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 269-278)
  12. Index
    (pp. 279-290)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 291-291)