ABSTRACT

On the verge of pulling the financial plug on her expatriate, lesbian lifestyle, Natalie Clifford Barney’s (1876–1972) wealthy father, Albert Clifford Barney, had a heart attack in 1900. He had already bought the publisher’s plates of Quelques Portraits – Sonnets de Femmes (1900), 1 and destroyed them, ensuring that his daughter’s erotic poetry would not see a second printing. 2 From Paris, the Cincinnati heiress had, as she indicated, been studying translation and writing; what her father had not at first understood was that this distance also enabled her to live out the Sapphic relationships about which she had been reading and writing. Many Barney critics point to her father’s untimely death as in fact, being timely: the American expatriate would go on to establish herself as a writer, Left Bank salon hostess, Remy de Gourmont’s muse L’Amazone (1910–1915), 3 translator, patron to the arts, and woman-loving woman. Notwithstanding these accomplishments, Barney is not read or taught as part of the American Literary Canon: despite her American origins, the writer privileged Francophone expression, and the first translations of her works only appear in the 1990s, with increasing interest in reclaiming lesbian women’s writing. 4