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Barnes, Djuna)

Book of Jade, The.

Book

To Barnes From Her Husband:
One Of The Few Surviving Documents Of The Marriage
[Barnes, Djuna] The Book of Jade. New York: Doxey's, (1901).
12mo.; black cloth, lightly scuffed and bumped. In a specially made cloth slipcase.
First edition of this collection of poetry; limited to 600 hand-numbered copies (this is copy #474). Likely one of the spoils of Barnes' short-lived, little-known marriage to Courtenay Lemon; Barnes has cribbed a gift inscription to herself from her husband by writing in: to Djuna, below his ownership stamp on the front endpaper.
The existence of a husband in Barnes's pre-expatriate life is as difficult to document as it is surprising, and suggests that her later emergence in Paris as a prominent lesbian was the result of a lengthy evolutionary process. Field describes Lemon as a heavy drinker with a nice-guy demeanor and an occasionally flaring temper. A journalist paying his rent with work for The New American and The New York Times, Lemon exposed his Socialist leanings in pamphlets and articles such as "Free Speech in the U.S." and "The Class Struggle in Municipal Principal Politics"-articles which Field assesses as "boring and cliché-ridden" (Djuna: The Life and Times of Djuna Barnes, by Andrew Field, New York: Putnam's, 1983, p. 57). Lemon's primary pursuit was a monumental philosophy of criticism on which he had already labored seven years when he and Barnes took up their relationship, and which he never completed.
Most of the evidence of the Barnes-Lemon relationship is anecdotal, derived from the journals of Edmund Wilson and the memoirs of Maurice Sterne. (Sterne was first in a short string of male lovers Barnes took after her break from Lemon, before her move to Paris.) The couple lived together, either in legal or common law marriage, from 1916-1919 at 86 Greenwich Avenue, sharing "a quiet but mordant wit," journalistic professions, and substantial literary aspirations. The boarding house where they resided was then the center of artistic and intellectual life in Greenwich Village, visited by or lived in by some of the most prominent names who did not migrate to Paris, such as Wilson and Sterne. (It is now a movie theatre with a plaque naming it Clemenceau Cottage, for George Clemenceau, a resident in 1871.) Barnes explained to Wilson that she was first attracted to Lemon by the breadth and strength of his intellect; why they parted company is unclear. An ambiguous, undated letter from Lemon suggests that the end of the relationship was painful for both, but only hints at the reasons for it:
…Please do not blame yourself-it is all simply an unfortunate accident, for which fate is more to blame than you or I. After all, what's the difference-I simply don't exist any more-and there's an end to it. Try to regard it simply as if I had been run over by a trolley-car…Forgive me and forget-or remember only the happinesses you gave me before I returned to the nothingness where we must all go soon anyway. I no longer blame you for anything-you did not and could not know-and I wrecked everything by no making sufficient allowances. I love and bless you and trust to your strength of intellect to pull you through to the interesting and fruitful life that this false start should not be allowed to blight. (ibid., p. 58)
This slim volume of turn-of-the-century anonymously published poetry, clearly appropriated by Barnes from Lemon's library, is a rare memento from a formative experience.
(#1311)

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