Happy to see that international friends of Proust have taken up our up-coming presentation on March 14th for the Proust Society. Looking forward to up dating Proust lore that has been circulating misinformation for years. By researching Romaine Brooks for over 45 years I have encountered snippets of information that researchers focusing exclusively on Proust and his subjects have not been privy to.
In the case of Natalie Barney, Lily de Gramont and Romaine Brooks and their circles we cast a wider net. The interactions among these gay people fleshes out what gay social life was like during the turn of the century and into the 20th century as modernism’s made their impacts felt throughout the social fabric.
The place of lesbians in modernism is a much under studied area and rich with heretofore unremarked upon opinions held by Natalie Barney and her circle. These include additional information contained in Francesco Rapazzini’s 700 page plus meticulously researched biography of Lily de Gramont. Her intimate relationship with Proust and the access she was able to grant him to the subjects he was interested in using as models for his 7 volume novel excursion into the life of the French mondain. Lily as a princess of the blood had intimate knowledge of the everyday goings-on behind the surface elegance of the upper-classes who had inherited their titles and were often short of money to support their illustrious lifestyles.
Here is where American heiresses including Winnaretta Singer, who was Romaine’s lover for 8 years come into play. Her Salon was among the most elegant and sought after of the era, and the most
forward-looking when it came to supporting musicians. Her marriage blanc to Prince Edmond de Polignac provided the perfect friendship for the two compatriots to pursue their individual interests and forward the modernist they supported.
So Marcel’s “implausible” Albertine and her friends will be a topic of discussion as well as Lily’s contributions to Marcel’s understanding of the Gratin and his eventual disillusionment with their superficial theater of operations.