Bonjour, mes amis. Puetetre vous etes pissed off at moi parce-que mon terrible francais et le non posting a la blog pour un long time.
I get it. I’m sorry. Unemployment, depression, employment again, busy again, commuting, 7th grade French. The usual story. Let’s move on.
Disclaimer: I’m like 2.5 glasses in, and I FEEL GREAT.
Today, we’re going to talk about a lady named Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette. But you might know her as the lady who wrote the novel on which the popular 1958 movie-musical starring Audrey Hepburn Gigi was based. Oh, no? You’re not a movie musical person? You didn’t grow up watching 1776 and The Music Man whenever you had a free minute after you finished all the homework you loved doing? No? Just us?
[And also LAUREN too, probably — she’s the Suggest a Scandal-er who’s getting a shout out today because of her Bad-A, spot on, and really, let’s be honest, inspiring suggestion.]
Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette was known, eventually, as “Colette.” Sort of like Madonna and Beyonce. She is an SBW* for many reasons, but (for me at least) the main one is this: She lived (as a functioning, conscious adult) in Paris during not just La Belle Epoch, not only the 20s, not merely the Vichy regime — but ALL THREE. She got to be one of an extremely limited number of people who died with memories of and significant cultural contributions to three at once uniquely beautiful, terrifying and distinct eras of French, NAY, European history. Pretty fricken cool if you ask me.
But not only did she live through and remember these time periods, she also had a boatload of sex during them. And isn’t that what’s important, after all?
We think so.
Let me just share with you the first four sections of her Wikipedia Index to give you a sense of the kind of charlatan (THAT WAS A HARD WORD FOR ME TO SPELL IN MY CURRENT STATE) we’re dealing with here.
- Early life and Marriage
- Music Hall** Career, and Affairs with Women
- Second Marriage, affair with Stepson
- Third Marriage
Not to copy Wikipedia’s format (which I so often do), but I think we should start with Marriage Numero Uno, which joined (legally speaking) the lady in question to a “literary…degenerate” who went by “Willy.” Colette wrote her first novel, Claudine, using “Willy” as a pen name. The novel was so shocking, so dirty, so scandalous that Willy started to earn his “degenerate” epithet. He was also sleeping with a lot of prostitutes, which helped, too.
Eventually, Colette started to tire of that, and left her husband for greener pastures. These pastures came in the form of the music halls** of le Belle Epoch Paris — you know, like, the Moulin Rouge, (that movie with Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, and Nicole whatsherface). Colette and a woman who went by the name of “Missy” (which is sort of saucy and erotic, for whatever reason) became a duo. And by duo, I mean they wrote and performed in an act that ended in a smooch, which caused a pandemonium that only police intervention could quell. They were practically the Amy and Tina of their time.
Oh, and they also were lovers who did it a lot and lived together. But after their riot-inducing performance at Paris’s most notorious house of sin, they weren’t able to live together openly. Even though it was Paris, Gerty and Alice hadn’t quite settled there, so them Boston marriages weren’t cool yet. But the two did still get busy widdit (and each other) off and on for about five more years, which is like an eternity in early 20th century Parisian leztime.
Meanwhile in 1912, Colette marries her second husband, Henri de Jouvenel, a newspaper editor. At this point (just to give you a little perspective) it’s the WW1 time frame and she is 39 years old. Henri has a really hot stepson named Bertrand, and they start to all live together (as a big, happy, effed up family) in 1920. It’s hard to imagine because it’s kind of a fat-kid name, but trust me, Bertrand was a looker, ‘specially when he was 16. (Yeah, I said it.) But it was at age 16 that he began a steamy, smoldering, super hot, hollywood movie-inspiring ro-MANCE (although I’m not sure one was every made) with none other than his 47 year old step mother. Many people believe that Colette’s famous novel Cherie (starring Michelle Pfeiffer and a hot guy whose name I don’t know) is based on her relationship with her stepson. BUT, it seems like they didn’t actually meet until about half of the novel was published already — so probably she was having a different affair with some other hot young thing when she was writing it. That’s the soundest logic there is.
Their affair was majorly on the DL due to the fact that Colette was married to the father of her lover. (Who vommed in their mouth a little just then? Whatever, get it, gurl.) But as soon as Henri found out that his son was boinking his wife (so the story goes) he packed his bags and left. It was a huge scandal in Paris — even the French, the inventors of fellatio were like, “Not cool, lady.” The scandal was over the 1920s equivalent of Page 6. But, I mean, think of the timeframe: this is when all the cool kids were there, so EVERYONE would have been talking about it in between the absinth binging and the trips to Gertrude Stein’s house. Colette was like, “Please don’t go. I ‘love’ you” to Henri. But despite that rock solid argument, he left anyway. A few hours later, Bertrand moved his fine ass into her house and they continued their affair.
Eventually that petered out, and Bertrand started shacking up with Martha Gellhourn (which marks the second time that Nicole Kidman has casually come up in this post so far. Coincidence? No. One. Will. Ever. Know.)
But I’ve focused too much on the scandalous things Colette has done. Well, I suppose that IS the point of the blog, so maybe I haven’t focused too much on it, but there are some aspects of Colette’s life that we need to honor and not just be entertained/turned on by. For starters, she left behind over 50 published works written over about a 50 year career as a writer and sex haver. Much of her work was autobiographical and dealt with much darker relationship/sexual issues than had ever been discussed in literature before — let alone by a woman. During the Vichy occupation of France, she was a baller at helping her Jewish friends, most notably husband number 3 who she hid in her attic Anne Frank-style throughout the war. And during the Great War, she converted her husband’s estate into a hospital and received the Legion of Honor in 1920 for her work there. OH, and did I mention that she discovered Audrey Hepburn? Like, literally, she just saw her walking through a hotel and was like, “She’s my Gigi.” So, I think it’s safe to say that we have her to thank for Breakfast at Tiffany’s (not to be confused with The Breakfast Club, which I ALWAYS do) and Sabrina. She was also the first woman in French history to receive a State funeral.
It’s women of the past like Colette who remind women of today to get out there and get what’s theirs. Even if it’s their hot, teenage stepson. AMIRIGHT, PEOPLE?
*Strong Black Woman, what have you never read this blog before?
[Editor’s note: MRG here. Finals are over and we’re alive (barely), but that doesn’t mean that you have to suffer through our sexy historical stylings just yet. You may have noticed that I’m the only one NOT to have given a dear friend the opportunity, NAY, privilege of writing his or her very own post. JAF bestowed the honor upon CHR, as did LHB upon KAB before her. WELL not only is it my turn, IT’S ALSO CHRISTMASTIME, BITCHES. My heart’s grown 10 sizes bigger, I’ve been visited by spirits in the night who have shown me the errors of my past, present, and future ways, and that annoying little kid told me that bell rings/angel wings shit. So my dear, sweet friend SMA, who is super hip and artsy and wears fedoras a lot but in a I’m-just-a-cool-person-who-wears-hats way, not in a trying-too-hard way, generously agreed to write about scandalous sex had by equally artsy people back in the history. Don’t ever say we don’t keep the spirit of Christmas alive here at For Shame. Don’t do it. And don’t blame SMA for the photos. Those are mine.]
If I say Bohemian I’m sure two things come to mind. There’s the Urban Outfitters faux boho style that proliferates the lower east side of Manhattan in obnoxious ‘Navajo’ patterns (will I get Siouxed for that?! get it? GET IT? I’m done) but those of us that are culturally inclined know that Bohemian is actually the term ‘Ameericans’ used to describe anything remotely unconventional and artsy in the early 20th century. See, there’s this little thing called immigration and while the US of A was all over that shit, it’s never been very good at the whole “accepting other cultures” thing without making some misconstrued stereotypes. So when the French looked at the lifestyle of Romani gypsies and thought “That’s pretty freakin’ economical. I’m going to live wherever I want. Have endless sex and dance to my hearts content in flowy colorful fabric” they didn’t realize that Americans would catch on without questioning one bit of their logic (because Americans think anything and errthing French is so damn artsy). Its pretty fucked up actually. I’m sure your waiting for me to get funny. It might happen. It might not. We’ll see where this goes.Anyways, so now that we know a little somethin somethin about the Bohemian culture, lets talk about the art scene shall we? Artists thought it was cool to change their names. Kind of like when your little and you think you look like Princess Jasmine so you request everyone refer to you as Princess Jasmine and some people (mostly the kids in the playground that want in on your Lisa Frank stickers) think your so damn cool so they call you Princess Jasmine; yeah that’s exactly what the Bohemian artists were like.
Manny meets Kiki in Montparnasse in 1921 and he falls in love. He does some hangle dangling with Salvador Dali and that bunch and then makes so much art starring Kiki. So much. What he probably didn’t know is that little Kiki is a big big star in ol’ Paris for showing her goodies. Literally. Like literally showing her goodies. All of them. As her good friend Hemingway (and most likely bed buddy) said Kiki was “about as close as people get nowadays to being a Queen but that, of course, is very different from being a lady.” Kiki, born Alice Prin, was a working class girl in Châtillon-sur-Seine, Côte d’Or. Wikipedia kindly defines her as “an illegitimate child.” Not sure how I feel about that. Anyways, little Alice lives with Grandma Prin until she’s twelve and starts working early on in Patisseries and stuff after having dropped out of school. She lands her first real job at a book binding company. Sounds classy, right? WRONG. Little Alice is not binding the Bible but the Sex Bible. That’s right. The Kama Sutra is flying through Alice’s grubby little hands like nobodies business. By fourteen she starts to dabble in the classy work of modelling for painters and sculptors, which doesn’t fare well with Mama Prin who is trying to make a good girl of little Alice. Now Alice was always a little ball of fire. She got fired from a few jobs for reportedly using the charcoal from the baking ovens to color her eyebrows in. True story. She stole food to supplement for her haphazard lifestyle and has to bathe in cafe’s and stuff. She’s a regular Liza Minelli (Though I’m 99% sure that Liza is a little bit of a Kikiphile. Just rewatch Cabaret with a photo of Kiki in one hand. Your welcome) and knew she wanted to make it big. So while freshening up in one of these hip cafes, Kiki makes nice with some artsy fartsy types in Montparnasse.
Soutine is the first to take on little Alice and dub her Kiki. It’s at this point that I would venture to say that when Kiki isn’t posing for Soutine, she’s teaching him all about how to bind the Kama Sutra or something like that…you know what I mean. Do I have to say it? So Kiki realizes that her curvaceous sassy look are a commodity in the Bohemian circle and starts struttin her stuff with iPascin, Derain and Óscar Dominguez, Moise Kisling, Per Krogh and finally Man Ray. Kiki’s face (and ass) is all over Montparnasse and she is in demand by the time Man Ray makes his infamous Le Violon D’Ingres. They have a fling for six years, but now without some scandal. Man Ray literally thinks of Kiki as his muse and recreates the darling. He goes as far as shaving off her eyebrows, repainting them and making up her face himself for each photo/film/painting. Kiki however can’t be the perfect muse and hates to be caged in (you go Kiki!). Apparently, Man Ray is barely keeping little (not really) Kiki’s head above water (and out of the pokey). When she gets into one last bar fight, he realizes its time to call it quits (Though, he is feeling a little hot and bothered by a new beau/photographer friend. That’s another story for another time. Back to Kiki). Kiki doesn’t take it well. But she’s resilient. She hurls a few plates in his general direction and moves on.
Kiki is very careful to keep the line between business and pleasure by taking her ‘talents’ to the (my favorite!!!!!) Burlesques of Montparnasse. So now she’s got a respectable career going and starts Chez Kiki (I like to imagine this when I think of Kiki owning her own Burlesque). So in 1927 she starts showing her amateur paintings and drawings (which are actually pretty descent and telling of her free-spirited lifestyle). I would say this little foray into the arts his Kiki’s own way of telling Man Ray to suck it. Rumours swirl about Kiki’s sexual lifestyle as more and more paintings, photos and films surface and she becomes more famous. See if Kiki hadn’t landed in the laps (literally) of so many famous artists, then her promiscuity would not have raised so many questions. My favorite is the one about her pubes. People actually had discussions about whether she could grow some or if they were painted on. It’s hilarious. Rather than fighting the rumours, her next logical step is to write an autobiography. But not just any autobiography, but a memoir that is banned in America for being rated x (she probably talks a lot about her pubes there). The Education of a French Model is published around 1929 and after moving in with Henri Broca. In the same year, she is named Queen of Montparnasse. Its a big year for Kiki, but its also the end of an era. Things quickly spiral downhill when she’s forced out of her native Paris to avoid the German occupation and all that jazz (damn war).
So what have we learned? There’s a distinct difference between being a lady of the night and being a lady of the night who gets her goodies painted. Really though, Kiki saw a light at the end of the nasty tunnel she was born in and fought her way through it. She lived every bit of the Bohemian aesthetic without trying to make it look glamorous. In a time where women were meant to be seen and not heard, Kiki got out there and strut her stuff like nobodies business and captured a few hearts (and a whole lotta peen) on her way up. Did Kiki know she would be a Bohemian Avant Garde icon? Hellz Yeah! and she worked every minute of it.
Ernest Hemingway was a real fucking man. He was a mustachioed man-steak not seen on this earth for generations, and maybe that’s for the best. One Hemingway was enough to tear his way through big and small game from the heart of North America to deepest darkest Africa. One Hemingway was enough to pen some of the greatest, primally emotional and brilliantly simplistic prose in the English language. One Hemingway was enough to sweat his way through countless hours of biddy boning and genuine-honest-to-God-death-defying-love-making with ladies across multiple decades and continents, siring suitably fucked-up kids along the way.
I know I’ll never get to sip Cafe Americano in a hipper than fuck Parisian coffee house, nor go swig for swig on a bottle of bottom-shelf gin at one in the morning on the darkened steps of some great French architectural marvel. I’ll never talk smack about the Fitzgeralds with him, then dine with them later that night, nor read his thought-to-pen words before anyone gets a chance to sully their manly-as-balls truth. I’ll never share a Bolshevik roll-up with him, nor earn his ‘admiration’ or ‘respect,’ but every day and in every way, I am trying and trying to live The Ernest Hemingway. As should you, dear reader, so get off your ass (not yet, sit down, finish reading) and get fucking sloshed, then kill something or nail somebody. Preferably all three.
Any hipster worth his salt wants Hemingway’s life of chauvinistic ‘authenticity,’ whether they know it or not, and since ‘Hipster’ was my second major at my mid-sized east-coast liberal-arts college, of course I wish I lived in Paris in the 20s and did the shit he did. So prepare for a loving-ass word-portrait, dear reader, in which I make it painfully clear that all I want to do is spend the rest of my God-given days between the sheets with Ernest Hemingway.
Born in 1899 to a fairly wealthy mid-western family, from an early age Ernest was taught to use such ‘fine and good’ language in his part-time journalistic pursuits as would characterize his later writing. He believed in the merits of experience and hard liquor. He learned to fish, hunt and camp, and developed a love of solitude and nature. I mean, come on. He’s prefect.
Ernest’s relationships with women were precisely as complex as they should have been for a man who
ate pink tacos faster than McRibs constantly created and redefined the literary ‘ideal woman’ for the four decades of his career. To go through all his wives, lovers and
female friends could fill a book, but none the less, I’ll do my best to not skip any sex-having.
Reportedly, Ernest hated his mom, but (thankfully)(?) since he wasn’t banging her, that Freudian bit of trivia need only be mentioned as highly formative, then set aside in favor of graphic, colloquial terms for vagina.
In 1918, Ernest volunteered as an ambulance driver and was sent to Italy. He managed to get himself blown (up) within a couple of days and was shipped off to a recovery hospital so as to not let his mangled, shrapnel-ridden legs depress anybody at the front, since everything was all so hunky-dory before that. Upon arriving in Milan, he fell mad in lust with a sweet slice toting a nursing license and an unfortunate name, Agnes von Kurowsky. The two apparently agreed to marry, but when Ernest was sent back to America after the war, he got a Dear John that said, “Oh yeah, hey, oops, I’m
banging engaged to this Italian guy now. Kthaxbi.” From that day, truly, Ernest was fucked (but not). He continually searched for a bangmaid with Agnes’ nurturing characteristics, imperviousness to danger/sense of adventure, and most importantly, an American who loved Europe. F. Scotty Fitz thought he needed a new woman for every book, and Ernest certainly made enough eviscerating/sanctifying portraits in fiction of his favorite (and in fact, all) sausage-wallets that I’m inclined to believe him. But as Billy Faulks, his greatest literary rival
astutely sneered, “Hemingway thought he had to marry all of them.” Ah, the folly of youth.
Ernest got over Agnes by getting a quickie marriage to the American Hadley Richardson in ’22. They were a good match, despite her being 8 years older (cougar territory, rawr), and since she was an accomplished pianist and financially independent outdoorswoman with half a brain and a nickle’s worth of imagination, she was ready to gtfo of Illinois. They moved to Paris where Ernest got work as a foreign consultant, and the couple soon became friends with like-minded ex-pats:
-Sylvia Beach- who ran Shakespeare & Company, and who apparently met Ernest when he walked into her store, five years before he ever published anything other than a newspaper article, and declared “I’m Ernest Hemingway,” then proceeded to tell her stories about the War, and showed her his scars.
-James Joyce- with whom Ernest used to have massive benders which would often involve Joyce picking a fight with someone he didn’t like, then making Ernest fight them, yelling “Take care of him, Hemingway!”
–Ezra Pound– who Ernest revered as a sort of saint, and attempted to have released after he was committed to an insane asylum.
Pound saw talent in Ernest and brought him to Gertrude Stein, thus beginning the Hemingway’s relationships with the greatest fucking drunks in Paris.
Ernest and Hadley traveled extensively with the literary jetset, including annual trips to Pamplona for The Running
of the Bulls. Hadley got up the duff and for some ungodly reason the Hemingways moved to Toronto for the birth of their son, John. But after realizing that being in the cultural capital of Canada is almost—butnotquite—the same as the cultural capital of the planet, they soon moved back to Paris and reunited with their friends. I can only assume that around this juncture Ernest found himself knee-deep in snatch, because upon his return, shit starts to get real. This was during the period of writing and revising The Sun Also Rises, which had been inspired by one of the Hemingways’ trips to Pamplona, accompanied, among others, by Harold Loeb and his foxxy lover, Lady Duff Twysden. Ernest wanted to bang Duff, and strangle Harold, but was disappointed on both counts. Reeling from this rejection (which seems to have been his first serious poon interest– poonterest, if you will– outside his marriage to Hadley), he pursued Pauline Pfeiffer (and her sister. I get it Ernest, better odds, I totally get it), a fellow journalist, beginning in the summer of ’25. He proceeded to take Pauline on various trips with Hadley and John. Including Christmas vacation. Hoping against hope for a threesome. Well hey, he was blinded by the secks, what can you do.
Hadley dumped him in ’26, and divorced him by ’27, and Ernest put a ring on Pauline within the month. She soon pooped him out two more sons, Patrick and Gregory, and since Pauline was loaded, they left Paris in ’28 and moved to Key West, where Ernest would keep a permanent house for the rest of his life, and do some of his most notable writing. And have a shitload of cats.
During the 13 or so years of their marriage, Ernest pursued countless woman on his numerous trips between America and Europe. He drank profusely, hunted and fished constantly, and wrote his best work while he was married to Pauline (I in part attribute that to the fact she sort of let him do whatever the fuck he wanted while she stayed at home with the kids. It’s probably why their marriage lasted so long. Depressing.). He was an established writer thanks to the huge success of The Sun Also Rises and Farewell to Arms, and had decided to grow the most resplendent lip-scarf that ever graced the face of a mortal man, so of course he played those cards to the hilt.
Among many, he did his best to slam the society staple and Truman Capote muse, Slim Keith. He took her on hunting trips and oggled her fierce diva duds, but never managed to tap dat since she was head-over-ladybits for Howard Hawkes, the movie maven.
Ernest also had it bad for Marlene Deitrich, dimepiece to the stars, though both denied they ever bumped uglies (in Marlene’s case, he’s like the only one who didn’t ring her devil’s doorbell). Ernest described them as “victims of unsynchronized passion,” which, as presh as that sounds, is a little less poetic in light of the rull graphic letters he wrote her.
He had his way between the fertile loins of Jane Kendall Mason, an attractive and wealthy woman who could, in fact, go shot for shot, and ‘fished’ with him whenever he wanted off the coast of Florida. She was energetic but high-strung and “wild-assed,” with a third husband on the way out and shopping for another. While Ernest lived in Havana they kept a house, but he was still mentally committed to his marriage with Pauline, and eventually Jane left because he kept bringing his kids around (and used her as the model for an adulterous bitch in one of his books, but that one’s up in the air as far as wet-blanketing goes). I’ll say a lot for, and a lot against the man (but mostly for), but he was always devoted to his children.
He had an affair with Sara Murphey, the wife of his friend Gerald, but it gets weird and stuff because both of her sons died the winter after he strolled down her ovary hallway. And then, since all his Paris friends knew them too, they all kind of knew Ernest was banging Sara, and he got really involved with cheering up her dying children even after they broke up, and blahblahfuckingblah, it got uncomfortable, lets move on.
Ernest had formed a friendship with the Baron Bror Blixon (oh those wacky Swedes and their alluringly alliterative appelations), who had once been married to Karen Blixon, who we all know as burnette Meryl Streep from Out of Africa. When Bror knew Ernest, he was on his third Baroness, Eva, who was twenty-something years younger, a former race-car driver and liked to walk around half naked a lot. The Blixons, the Hemingways and a couple of other friends from the Paris days, stayed on Ernest’s boat for most of the summer of ’35, and Ernest stayed in Eva’s cabin. I have no idea how Bror and Pauline were cool with this, but it’s not for me to paint you ’emotion’ portraits, now is it.
This was also around the time rumors of Ernest being into dudes started to seriously circulate (Zelda Fitzgerald had in fact accused her husband of playing Hemingway’s rusty trombone, but come on, she was obvi just jeal). When once criticized about his overt displays of masculinity by the writer Max Eastman (“Come out from behind that false hair on your chest, Ernest, we all know you.”), Ernest ripped open his shirt to display his chesthair, then punched Eastman in the face. That’s how you prove you don’t touch any dick but your own.
In 1937 Ernest went to Spain to cover/fight in the Civil War. While there he was ostensibly contacted to write a film script for an anti-facist propaganda movie, and met his soon-to-be third wife, Martha Gellhorn. She was a tough-as-beef-jerky, respected war correspondent, and it was clear she was going to bag him from the minute they met if he was the last thing she sank her proverbial whore talons into. They traveled around the world together as journalists, covering the start of the Second World War, and lived the rest of the time together in Havana. When Pauline gave in and divorced him in 1940, his and Martha’s relationship only lasted through the end of the War because he was such an asshat (in ’45 he made her cross the Atlantic in a boat full of explosives because he refused to do her the favor of getting her an airplane press pass) and she was such a SBW (she told him he was a bully and that her jukebox was no longer accepting his quarters), that without the excitement and constant threat of death that generally goes along with war, neither of them could stand the other after the bullets stopped flying. She was, in fact, the only of his wives to start divorce proceedings, and by all accounts, Hem didn’t really know how to take that. I imagine though he dealt with it the way he dealt with most things- with excessive alcohol, sex and blood-sport. Their complex relationship of mutual respect, competition, and sexual whizzbang is given the wonderfully tawdry treatment only the Home Box Office could provide in the classic Hemingway and Shithorn. Do yourself a favor and seek it out, like Scott Fitzgerald to gin.
SUPER BONUS FUN FACT- during the post D-Day retaking of France, Ernest was riding in a jeep with some resistance fighters and they got caught in machine-gun cross-fire, so they jumped into a ditch were Ernest proceeded to offer around a thermos of pre-mixed martinis. It’s good, it’s too good.
In Spring of ’46, Ernest married his final wife, Mary Welsh, who stuck around partially through sheer tenacity until his death, and partially because he’d adopted a ‘cheaper to keep her’ mentality about the marriage. They’d met during the War, and while he was still married to Martha, Ernie smoothly asked Mary to be his wife on their third date. They spent much of their marriage hunting in Africa or formerly-glacial America, and survived two plane crashes, an affair with the 19-year old ‘ethnically beautiful’ Adriana Ivancich, another with Ernest’s secretary, Nita Jensen (whose own parents thought was a floozy and who he first seduced by asking on the dock by his boat, “Has anyone ever made really good love to you?” TRUTHFACT.), and perhaps most trying of all, a Nobel Prize. Ernest had health problems in the last decade of his life, which, along with legal troubles, the deaths of most his friends, and an alarming and escalating daily alcohol intake, contributed to the depression which would make him kill himself in 1961. But first he finished his Parisian memoirs, A Movable Feast, which is his best and truest pieces of writing, and, in essence, a love letter to the city, the art of writing, his (ex-)biffle, Scott Fitzgerry, and his first wife, Hadley. I’m not even gonna joke about that, because my throat is too tight.
So, am I over-romanticizing an alcoholic, paranoid, womanizing, all-around-sonovabitch? Probably, but then again it was a romantic-fucking time, when there was no word for depression so you were called ‘artistic;’ when men were real men, and when woman didn’t spread those legs unless they were goddamn wooed apart. I can forgive a whole lot when it comes to brilliant and talented men. Remember that, Marcus Mumford
[Ed. Note: You’re about to read something very special. So unzip your pants and unscrew your favorite flask because For Shame! is bringing you, FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME (like a virgin, in case that wasn’t clear), a post by a guest writer! That’s right, it’s our very first guest post and we couldn’t be more excited. Let this be a lesson to all you scandal-lovers that if you’re funny and are amused by sex that happened a long time ago, you too could one day write for this very blog. I’m just saying, dream big, ok? Dream big. Without further ado, a guest post by KAB.]
When you think about the 1920’s, some pretty fly people come to mind: Velma Kelly, Al Capone, Albert Einstein, fucking George Gershwin. But I hope you know that I speak from the bottom of my heart when I say all of these bitches were tame compared to F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Sayre. Said Lillian Gish, just one of their beautiful dirty rich friends, “They didn’t make the 20’s, they were the 20’s.”
Scott wrote a little number called The Great Gatsby, now forever populating Facebook favorite quotes and Tumblr accounts alike. He also had a bromance with Hemingway (to rival Tommy & Ezra’s, I think), peaced the fuck out of Princeton to join the army, and had a dope-ass haircut. Did I mention he lit cigars with 5 dolla bills? Ain’t no thang.
Now let’s talk about Zelda. In an era of (illegally) drunk bitches running around smoking and wearing obscene amounts of fringe, Zelda set the trend. I’m pretty sure they were all little monsters to her Gaga. With their forces combined, Scott and Zelda formed one of the most scandalous, mythified, and seriously fucked up romances of all time. These guys lived fast, drank hard, and were quite possibly the worst sinners since Adam and Eve.
Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? Scott and Zelda met when he was stationed at Camp Sheridan during his I-want-to-be-a-war-hero stint. They hit it off at a little country dance (read: underground Alabama club scene), and Scott immediately has a hard-on. He said that he “fell in love with a whirlwind.” Such a way with words.
And let’s be honest, this chick’s name is Zelda. Tell me I’m wrong, but she has one of the biggest legends of all time. Not to mention girl was voted “Prettiest” and “Most Attractive” in her high school class. Legit as fuck.
So after a brief courtship and at least a dozen handles of gin, Scott built up the courage to ask for her hand in marriage. Zelda was interested in Scott for sure, but at this point Scott was not super successful. I’m not saying she was a gold digger, but she wanted a bit more financial stability to lead her ideal life of sex, drugs, glamour, and a dash of alcohol.
Scott was pretty keen on snatching up this bitch for life, so he hauled ass to St. Paul, wrote This Side of Paradise, and had it published by Scribner’s in a year. This Side of Paradise made critics AND readers blow their loads, so around this point Zelda caved and agreed to marriage. For the wedding, Zelda wore a midnight blue suit and matching hat with leather ribbons and buckles. She had an orchid bouquet. There were no photographs. Jazz age SWANK.
Here’s where the fun starts. Scott was on fire after This Side of Paradise; every post-WWI kid felt like Scott just understood him. What do we do with ourselves after this time of destruction, war, and existential crises? Get shitfaced, obvs.
The Fitzgeralds were the anti-Brangelina of their time. Instead of adopting babies and trying to save the world, they were just hedonistic hot hip things that lived like kings. Everyone wanted to know what they were doing, what they were wearing, how much they were drinking, and what the fuck they did while drunk, which included:
- Jumping into the Plaza Hotel’s fountain fully clothed.
- Riding an open car through the streets of New York City (probs more scandalous than it sounds).
- Getting thrown out of their honeymoon suite for rowdiness. I guess that’s why Scott would later describe their behavior as “sexual recklessness.” Was the kama sutra a thing in the ‘20s? Either way, I’m sure lots o’ blowies were involved. (See LHB? I used blowies!)
And then, outta the blue, Zelda’s knocked up! They go to Europe because they feel like it––EXPATS EY OH. They start in England, but they thought it was boring, so they moved to Italy, which they didn’t like, and were finally satisfied with living on the goddamn French Riviera. When their daughter (Frances Scott “Scottie” Fitzgerald, talk about living in Daddy’s shadow) is born, Scott writes down Zelda’s first drugged words after giving birth: “Goofo, I’m drunk. Mark Twain. Isn’t she smart––she has the hiccups. I hope it’s beautiful and a fool––a beautiful little fool.”
Then the dynamic duo and their new baby side-kick returned to the good ole USA where they rented a place in Great Neck, Long Island (English major side-note: the place that would inspire West Egg in Gatsby! Cool story, bro!). You think you’ve been to some crazy ragers in your time? Think again. The Fitzgeralds would have house rules, like asking their guests not to break down doors in search for liquor even if Scott and Zelda, in a drunken stupor, told them to do it. Another rule was a safeguard against guests spending the night even if Scott and Zelda, still in a drunken stupor, told them they were welcome.
Bored again with the USA, they returned to the French Riviera. Scott was busy with his whole writing gig, and Zelda was bored as shit so she found herself a French pilot, Edouard Jozan, to toy around with on the beach. Supposedly the relationship was unconsummated, but that’s boring, and Zelda was not a boring bitch. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions with that one. This is around the same time Zelda called Scott a fairy and accused him of having an affair with Hemingway. To prove her wrong, Scott called up a female prostitute and had sex with her. Why Scott couldn’t have just had sex with Zelda? Good question. Another good question: What the fuck was Scottie doing this whole time?
Scott and Zelda went on a violent streak, and not in the sexily deviant way. While vacationing in the Mediterranean, Zelda threw herself under their car and dared Scott to run her over. Rumor has it that Scott actually started the car. (In all honesty, it would have saved him a headache later.)
Shit gets even shittier. At a party in St. Paul, Scott casually hits on this dancer chick Isadora Duncan. Scott def keeps his dick in his pants, but either way Zelda is not a happy camper. This slut Isadora goes a bit too far, strokes Scott’s hair, and calls him her “centurion.”
And, in what is perhaps an overreaction, Zelda throws herself down a staircase for attention. When the hosts find her, they actually think she might be dead. Thankfully, she recovers to continue a string of mild overreactions to Scott’s flirtatious tendencies, including:
- Stealing all the bling from her rich-ass party guests, putting them in a boiling pot of water, and pretending to make soup.
- Throwing her platinum watch off of a moving train.
- Setting fire to her clothes in a bathtub. (Zelda actually causes two separate fires––one of which burns down an entire building––and then she ends up dying in a hospital fire. Sorry, but crazy had it coming.)
At this point, everyone’s kinda wondering what the fuck is going on with Zelda. She starts to obsessively practice ballet––we’re talking 10 hours a day. Bitch wanted to be perfect (but probably not as much as Nina, amirite?). Zelda was taking dance lessons in Paris and once ran out of her taxi through through traffic in a tutu to make it to her class on time. She also started to burst into inexplicable bouts laughter at meals. Scott and their flapper friends are reasonably concerned.
In 1930, she’s checked into Malmaison clinic outside of Paris, and from then on is in and out of hospitals for the rest of her life. At this point, Scott and Zelda are kind of calling it quits. She writes him letters from the hospital of happier days, he continues to support her financially, but they’re pretty much caput.
Actually, not true, they take one last hurrah vacation to Cuba, but all that’s not well, um, does not end well. Scott drinks his ass under the table and tries to break up a cock fight, and then gets the shit beat out of him. And that’s the last they saw of each other. Try not to swoon.
All right, so they loved each other for a while, then hated each other, then made each other’s lives miserable to the point of insanity, but isn’t that what love is all about? Come on. They even wrote thinly-veiled passive-aggressive accounts of their lives together in books published back to back before they died. That, my friends, is too cute to be forgotten.
Listen. I know. Be quiet. I get it. Our silence is getting old. And we’re sorry. And I promise these lags in posting will become less frequent and less prolonged, and eventually we won’t have to begin every post with an apology. How do you know that we’ll never wrong you again? Well, I guess you can’t know for sure. But just trust that bringing tales of scandalous and historical titty-touching and pepe-pleasuring directly to you is back at the top of our collective to-do lists. Let us begin.
Harry Crosby was born in Boston’s swank-ass Back Bay neighborhood (where I’m going to live when I grow up) in 1898 to kabillionaire parents who set him up with a nice little trust fund and sent him off to all the best schools for blue-blooded beantown boys. In order to escape the “horrors of Boston virgins,” Harry signed up for the Ambulance Corps during WW Uno and was shipped overseas to tote sickies around the Western Front. So in between the Sommes and Verdun, I’m sure he was able to score plenty of Belgian poon. He arrived home in 1919 with a fresh case of PTSD and that characteristic post-war melancholia that made people make art with lots of weird shapes, drink espresso, and fuck as many bitches as they could manage to roofie at the neighborhood speakeasy. Shortly after returning, he decided that what he really needed was some learnin’, so he entered into an accelerated veterans program at a little college called Hogwarts, I mean Harvard, where he cultivated his passion for literature and noncommittal coitus.
When he was 22, his mom arranged for a bunch of his friends and some suitable snatches, I mean matches, to go on an afternoon outing (because apparently in 1920 it was normal for parents to arrange playdates for their grown children.) Mama Croz asked her friend Mrs. Richard Peabody to keep everyone’s hormones under control as their chaperone. I worry about his mother’s judgement because Mary Phelps Jacob (aka Mrs. Richard Peabody) was only 6 years Harry’s senior and also happened to be the inventor of the bra. No big deal. Girlfriend had a huuuuge personality. And young Harold just could not take his eyes off of it. Within two weeks, their love affair had become the talk of Boston society.
It took him, like, a year, but eventually Harry managed to convince the well-endowed Mrs. Peabody to get a divorce from her husband, and he put a ring on it in 1922. Shortly after, they moved, along with Polly’s children, to Paris. Because Paris in the 1920s was a great place to raise a family. And by “great place to raise a family” what I mean is that Paris was where people went when drinking absinth and smoking salvia with a prostitute at an illegal bar in Manhattan wasn’t really doing it for them anymore. Paris was where people went when the bar in H – E – double hockey sticks had to close early because of too much sinning. Paris was where people went to find a sensitive-and-STD-ridden artist/writer/adventurer to inspire/become inspired by through constant sexhaving and cafe claches. Do you get it? Is it clear what I’m getting at? Paris was a motherfucking hotbed of sex, drugs, alcohol, jazz, sex, alcohol, fun, and sex, and more sex.
Luckily, child rearing wasn’t Mr and Mrs Cosby, I mean Crosby’s, primary concern. Instead, it was how many extramarital D/V wetting sessions they were able to fit in between dinner and breakfast Thursday through Sunday each week. They were both known for having a wide open marriage and Harry was known to have had one night trysts with young women who may or may not have been studying for their Bat Mitzvahs. Or taking 7th grade algebra. I’m uncomfortable.
Because of Harry’s charmingly irresponsible use of his trust fund, the loving spouses led an extravagant lifestyle that involved living in lavish apartments and holding “dinner parties” out of their giant bed. They also apparently hosted a party once that involved playing polo on donkeys, stick in one hand, a 40 in the other. (I almost typed “dolphins” and then I thought, “now, that would have been fucking cool.” If only they’d had a little more imagination.) Ernest Hemingway, the most famous alcoholic writer, like, ever, used to say that Harry Crosby could drink anyone under the table. I mean, if Hemingway is saying that, then Jesus fucking Christ, you have a problem, ok? I’ll say no more.
Except that’s not true at all BECAUSE I HAVEN’T EVEN SCANDALIZED YOU YET HAVE I?!?! Well listen the fuck up because it’s about to get all Prince Rudolph up in here, ifyouknowwhatimsayin??
Harry met a girl named Josephine Rotch in Venice while she was shopping for, get this, her wedding dress. (Who would have thought it? Bridal Salons. Great place to pick up chicks.) The two started a steamy affair which continued until her wedding later that year at which point, it stopped. JUST KIDDING. Within, like, 20 minutes, they were transatlantically sending each other depressing love poetry again. Plus Jo kept telegramming him, demanding that the next time he come stateside, he bed her immediately. Girlfriend knew what she wanted.
A consummate gentleman, Harry obliged. In December of 1929, the couple met at a friend’s studio apartment in Manhattan and the next thing you know, Harry is late to a pre-show dinner, his wife gets worried, his friend goes to check on him at the studio, has to break the door down because it’s locked from the inside, bada bing bada boom, Harry and Josephine are lying on the floor, clutched in each other’s arms, with matching bullet-holes in their temples. Awkward.
I know, shit’s whack. It came out that right before, the two had written a bunch of charming poetry to each other and in their diaries about death and love and marriage and dying and blah blah So the whole ordeal was looking like a suicide pact. BUT THEN the coroner’s report came back and it determined conclusively that Josephine had died, like, 2 hours earlier than Harry. Again, awkward. So, kind of up in the air on whether or not shit was consensual is all I’m saying. Needless to say, the suicide/murder-suicide speculations were plastered all over the tabloids – the press had a motherfucking field day with this shit. It was like when they figured out that they could make Brad and Angelina into one word. THAT BIG.
Even though my general tone towards Harry has been a little judgmental, his suicide is considered now to be sort of emblematic of the post-war Lost Generation. And that’s really sad. And makes my throat a little tight. Because while I do think that the expats had some whiny tendencies that I could do without, I have a pretty major hard on for interwar Europe and I actually think they were pretty brilliant people, expressing some very real and legitimate concerns about the world around them.
I know this post is getting ridiculously long, but I should add one thing about Harry’s contribution to interwar Modernism and Parisian art culture: When they weren’t partying til dawn and scamming on hot young things, the Crosbys were busy being the first to publish TS Elliot, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, and Ezra Pound – all before they were famous, in a publication that they founded called the Black Sun Press. It was and still is kind of a big deal.
On that note, what have we learned? Having a lot of affairs and being on a lot of drugs all the time might make you kind of unstable and lead to your tragic, yet super famous, demise? Yeah, I don’t know either. Those interwar motherfuckers are so goddam ambiguous.
LHB (with some much appreciated guidance and collaboration and title-writing from JAF)
“Art is a lie that makes us realize a truth.” Pablo Picasso said that once. Maybe twice, who knows. Anyway, sounds fucking insightful as shit.
James Abbott McNeill Whistler (what a deliciously pretentious set of middle names) was a mid-to-late nineteenth century expatriate artist who found out a legitimately inconvenient truth through his BFF Gustave Courbet’s painting. Why, you ask, is the story of a boring stupid painting being told on For Shame, the interweb’s most salacious and sexified historical blog? WELL I’M SO GLAD YOU ASKED.
I’ll show you the painting in roughly five paragraphs, but for now let’s just say that it makes Dejeneur sur l’herbe look like La lecture, am I right? (LOLz nothing’s funnier than getting a useless degree in art history.)
James Abbott McNeill Whistler (should I call him by his full Christian name for the rest of the post?) had a relatively scandalous career. You probably know him from this painting of a bitchin’ girl’s night in:
But during his career, he was just as well known for his innovation in technique and style. See, he didn’t call his works “paintings” (soo pedestrian) but rather “nocturnes,” “arrangements,” or “harmonies” (much more challenging). And one of them, Nocturne in Black and Gold, or The Falling Rocket sparked a high-profile sassfest between Whistler and John Ruskin, a badass art and architecture critic (he was sort of a douche during the trial but I’ve got a little boner for his criticisms if I’m being honest). Also, not to steal LHB’s early-twentieth century thunder, but Whistler was sort of a huge hipster. He was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, but told people he was born in St. Petersburg because it was more exotic, saying “I shall be born where and when I want, and I do not choose to be born in Lowell.” He dyed white streaks in his hair. He had a huge circle of intellectual pals, including Oscar Wilde, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Manet, Monet, and Courbet, and they gave themselves a name – the Aestheticists. And then he was sort of an asshole to all of those friends. Wilde actually based Basil Hallward, the artist who is murdered in The Picture of Dorian Gray on Whistler, so…ouch. But then Whistler publicly called out Wilde for his homosexuality. You guys!
What I’m getting at in a very roundabout way is that Whistler was a popular and controversial man, and underneath/on top of every controversial man is an equally controversial woman.
In Whistler’s case, that woman was Joanna Hiffernan. She was an Irish model working in Paris, getting painted by all kinds of horny artists. But Joanna was a classy bitch. And she was hot. I mean A LOT of men saw her naked for hours and hours at a time, yet in that swirling cesspool of intellectual lust, she was only romantically linked to two artists. Her most lasting relationship was with our dear friend James. Mr. Hiffernan, Joanna’s father, even went so far as to refer to Whistler as “me dear son-in-law,” so you know shit was getting real.
They met in London, and shortly after she modeled for his painting Symphony in White No. 1: The White Girl (yeah, the painting titles don’t get any less ridiculous) which won Whistler a lot of critical acclaim. I’m not ignoring the fact that it’s called The White Girl. I could make a race joke here, but I won’t. I’m better than that. You deserve better than that. So instead I’ll talk about Joanna’s snatch.
Like I said, Jo was making bank as an artist’s model. Everyone wanted to paint her, and a lot of people did, including Gustave Courbet, one of Whistler’s best hipster friends and a great Realist painter in his own right. He was known for depicting gritty, quotidian scenes, and more relevant for us, realistic nudes. And boy, did shit get real when Hiffernan posed for Courbet in 1866.
Now would be the time to get any children or immature young men away from the screen. Because this is ART, dammit. It’s not a joke.
HAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHA just kidding that’s a vagina HAHAHAHAHHA.
Specifically, it’s Joanna Hiffernan’s vagina. A vagina that separated two friends forever.
Basically, a crazy Turkish collector of erotic paintings had just moved to gay Paris and wanted to flesh out his collection (GET IT?!), so he commissioned the work. Courbet wanted to take realism to its limits and paint something that was so real that illicited (GET IT?!) feelings of shame and disgust and shock and blah blah blah he did that by painting a huge vajayjay.
Problem was that this particular vajayjay was attached to his best friend Whistler’s main slampiece
and lover, Joanna. And young James was decidedly pissed that a) his girl’s box was on full display in some creepy Turkish man’s home and b) Courbet stared at said box for hours and hours while he was painting it.
Whenever I think about this story, I just imagine a conversation over dinner between Jo and James:
JAMW: Hey babigurl, how was your day? How’s my bro Gustave?
JH: Omigod Jim he’s so sweeeeet, he’s like almost finished with the painting which is awesome and he never says anything weird or creepy or whatever which is so great because he’s like super close to my vagina and he has to look at it a lot and like I don’t know some people might be weird about that but Gus is so sweet and so nice!
JAMW: Haha I thought you said vagina. Yeah no the guy’s a fucking great dude.
JH: Hahaha I did say vagina.
So given this short imagined dialogue and Whistler’s sassy, hipsterish tendencies, L’Origine du monde came out and fucked shit up big time between Whistler and Courbet. And hey, remember when I said that Jo was only romantically linked to two painters? Guess who the other one was. Yup, Ol’ Gus got his bone on too. So Whistler was sort of feeling a little duped, and shortly after the painting was finished, they had a nasty, public (or pubic) falling out and never spoke again. And Whistler’s relationship with Joanna also fizzled. Don’t feel too bad for him, though, because he banged a lot of other models over the course of his career.
My favorite thing about this story is that a lot of contemporary critics and collectors disputed who the model for the painting actually was because Joanna had red hair (like a true Irish bitch) and the pubic hair in the painting is dark. Really. I just picture a bunch of artsy French grandpas smoking pipes and eating macaroons, standing in front of a painting of a vagina and arguing about who it could be based on hair color. Hilarious.
And that vagina painting has really stuck around. It’s still provocative as shit. Get ready for some timeline fun:
1866 – Finished and displayed and caused uproar and whatnot.
1889 – It was found in an antique store by a French art critic after the Turkish guy’s death. It was hidden behind a lame painting of a castle and trees and shit, inside the same frame.
1966 – Marcel Duchamp based his last work, this little number on it. I’ve seen it in person. My mom didn’t get it. “Why is there a door? Why is the viewfinder so small? Stupid.” And she went to art school.
1994 – Some French author wrote a novel that reproduced the painting on the cover, and police all over Europe demanded that bookstores remove it from their windows.
1995 – L’Origine du monde made it to its current home, the Musee d’Orsay in Paris. It’s the second most popular painting there, after this one by Renoir. I think we can all agree that while the Renoir is nice, it’s no vagina painting.
2009 – A Portuguese writer similarly put that vagina on her book’s cover, and because pornography is a felony in Portugal, things didn’t go so well for her.
2011 – An artist in Copenhagen made the painting his profile picture (establishing himself as an inspiration to bros everywhere) and Facebook censored it! In 2011! As in this year. As if we needed another reason to hate Mark Zuckerberg.
And now we come to the moral section of the post. If you’re a lady, you don’t let a sweaty Frenchman get too close to your vagina. If you’re that lady’s main squeeze, you don’t let your lady and your sweaty French friend talk to or look at each other, ever. If you’re a sweaty Frenchman, you fucking find a way to paint that snatch and not only do you get some, you’re famous forever.
Yes. I admit it, okay!? I’m taking an Irish history course and a lot of my posts (ok, just two of them now) have been inspired by class lecture. So there. Deal with it. Irish history: potatoes (or lack thereof), alcohol, oppression, and apparently a lot of sex.
Let’s set the scene, shall we? It’s turn of the century Ireland and instead of being all into political independence (overrated — am I right, Canada?) a lot of artists, writers, and intellectuals are all about reviving Gaelic culture. People are learning to speak Irish, they’re writing Irish poetry, they’re learning traditional Irish dance and theatre and art. They even re-popularized a Gaelic form of football. They were so alternative, so hip. If these people were around in the US today, they’d be living in DUMBO or Williamsburg. Do you catch my clove cigarette-induced drift? These people were the hipsters of 20th century Ireland and they knew it.
But let’s get to the good stuff. The dirty stuff. And to do that, we’re going to have to filter out the weak and get to the hippest of the hip. Yes, I’m talking about magical-society attending, over-sized scarf-toting, dark-rimmed glasses wearing, poetry-writing, espresso-sipping Maud Gonne and William Butler Yeats.
Maud Gonne was English, but she had lived in Ireland for a while and thought that the Irish were sort of being oppressed or whatever so she was like, “That sucks!” and then converted to Catholicism and became a hard-core Irish Nationalist. She moved to France and met a very sexy (married) politician named was Lucien Millevoye (sounds like LUCIUS MALFOY!!!) Even though he was married, separated at the time (but still!), Lucius Malfoy had to get what was his. So he left his wife for good (but not before he and Maud did it a bunch) and they were married. They had two children, but only one survived, the girl, Iseult who, just like mommy, became wrapped up in a couple of literary sex scandals herself. More on that later.
Yeats met Gonne in Paris (where else? so hip.) after her divorce from the mustached Lucien and he instantly fell in love with her. But the feeling wasn’t exactly mutual. He proposed to her at least 4 times in the first few years of their friendship and she coyly (I imagine) refused each time. To Yeats’ horror, Gonne married the Irish Nationalist (and world-class asshole) John MacBride who shortly after supposedly molested Gonne’s daughter, Iseult, then only 11 years old. They were already divorced in, like, 1905, a few years after their “I Do’s” so they weren’t really hanging out together much in 1916 when MacBride was hung for his role in the Easter Uprising of 1916 — and by hung, I mean executed, get your mind out of the gutter.
Yeats, with his ever perfect timing, swooped in right after MacBride’s execution and proposed to Gonne AGAIN! Smooth, Yeats. You don’t want to seem too desperate or anything. Especially since they had already had a brief affair in 1908 after which Gonne wrote him a really nice letter saying the early 20th century equivalent of “It’s not you, it’s me. Maybe we should just be friends.” So. Yeats. Apparently not such a good lay.
Well, maybe that was just what Maud thought. Because, guess what, here’s a little bonus factoid for everyone. Although, Yeats was pretty much in love with Maud for his entire life, for about a year, in the late 1890s, he had an affair with a woman named Olivia Shakespear (no, I didn’t spell it wrong, she only has the two e’s.) He knew this girl, Olivia, who was, you guessed it, married with children, who he thought was pretty hot and smart. So he was like, “Well, Maud’s not into me right now, I’ve already proposed to her 4 times, maybe I can get this Olivia chick to come out of town with me for a little bit and we can do it for a while until Maud comes around again.” But he was sort of pussy-footing around and was having sort of a rough time of it getting up the nerve to go make shit happen with her. (So sensitive. So hip.) But when he finally did get over to Olivia to ask her to go away with him, she was like, “Yeats! DUH! I’m totally in love with you, I’ll risk everything — my financial security, my children, my social standing, everything, just to do it with you, you LITERARY STALLION!” So she legally separated from her hubby, not a divorce, and they shacked up together for, like, a year.
But then Yeats went back to Ireland and Maud came back in town and he started to follow her around again with his beautiful, bespectacled, puppy-dog eyes. Olivia lived with her daughter, Dorothy, for most of the rest of her life. And then Dorothy married (drum roll please) Ezra Pound.
Which brings me to a final little tale that makes this story of sex and scandal inter-generational, motherfuckers!!
Gonne’s daughter, Iseult (remember her? I told you we’d come back to her) and had grown up in the Irish freedom fighting circle doing a bunch of badass shit, so it’s not really surprising that she PROPOSED to a 52 year old Yeats when she was just 15. Yeah! She proposed to him! What a badass! And then he turned around and proposed to her, because Yeats was a fucking gentleman, OK? But that whole thing didn’t end up working out because, you know it, it’s gross and he was, like, the only father figure she had throughout her life so it’d sort of be weird if she married him. And Maud wasn’t into it, understandably. But then Iseult had a steamy little affair with (drum roll please) Ezra Pound (!!) before settling down with a young Australian writer 6 years her junior. Her love letters to Yeats and Pound are published and now on my summer reading for fun list. (Holy crap balls! Just look at that link — the book costs $100! Bitch better be juicy.)
So, I don’t know if you noticed, but SHIT JUST WENT FULL CIRCLE.
Shall we review?
Maud Gonne (had an affair with/was proposed to multiple times by) WB Yeats (who had an affair with) Olivia Shakespear (whose daughter) Dorothy (married) Ezra Pound (who once had an affair with) Isuelt (Maud’s daughter, who proposed to) WB Yeats (who was in love with her mother) Maud Gonne.
That’s a lot of scandal for just 6 people. But that’s how bitches were rolllin’ in early 20th century Europe. They were sexy. They were smart. They were hip.
But perhaps most important for this blog, they were D. T. F.