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Barnes, Djuna.

Night Among the Horses, A.

Book

Inscribed to Natalie Barney
Barnes, Djuna. A Night Among The Horses. New York: Horace Liveright, 1929.
8vo.; orange paper-covered boards; black cloth spine, stamping lightly faded; blue pictorial dust-jacket illustrated with horse motif.
First edition, number of copies unknown: Messerli 5. A presentation copy, inscribed: To Natalie with love Djuna Barnes. Inspired, no doubt, by the fleeting success of Ryder the previous year, Liveright issued A Night Among The Horses, which reprinted the contents of A Book (a 1923 collection of drawings, stories, poems, and plays) minus the illustrations and with three new fictions: "Aller et Retour;" "A Little Girl Tells a Story to a Lady;" and "The Passion." Several of the pieces were later revised for Selected Works (1962) and Spillway (1962).
Natalie Clifford Barney was born in Dayton, Ohio in 1876 to a wealthy and prominent family: her father, Albert, inherited a railroad car company; her mother, Alice Pile, was a portrait painter and heiress to a whiskey fortune. Natalie toured Europe several times as a child and developed a love of French culture at an early age. In 1902 Albert died and Natalie and her sister each inherited $2,500,000; the fortune was compounded when their mother's death left them with $1,5000,000 more a piece. Months after Natalie came into her money she departed for Paris, her home for the next 60 years.
Barney chose Paris because of its reputation for openmindedness. "Paris has always seemed to be the only city in which one can express oneself as one pleases...In France thought, food, and love have remained a matter of personal taste and one's own business..." she would write many years later (Souvenirs Indiscrets, Paris: Flammarion, 1960, p.21). Once there, the beautiful, rich, and ostentatiously lesbian Barney quickly became one of the leading figures in the Parisian literary world. Her pivotal role as a hostess and patron of the arts is discussed in nearly every account of 20th century expatriate life. Visitors to the salon she founded in 1909 at 20 rue Jacob -"the oldest and finest expatriate salon of Paris," according to Andrew Field (Djuna: The Life And Times Of Djuna Barnes, New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1983, p.121)-included Andre Gide, Gertrude Stein, Marcel Schwob, Paul Valery, Colette, Pierre Louys, Paul Claudel, Jean Cocteau, Gabrielle D'Annunzio, Anatole France, Auguste Rodin, James Joyce, Ranier Maria Rilke, Isadora Duncan, Oscar Milosz, and Max Jacob. In 1927 Barney founded the Academie des Femmes, devoted to the work of women writers, who were then barred from the Academie Francaise. In addition to Djuna Barnes, regulars at the Academie des Femmes meetings included Colette, Gertrude Stein, Mina Loy, Rathchilde, and Lucie Delarue-Mardus.
Barney and Djuna Barnes first crossed paths in 1922, when Barnes left New York for Paris. The two had a brief, clandestine affair (Natalie was then involved with the painter Romaine Brooks, her lover for the next 50 years; their breakup, which came when each was in her late 80s, was due to Barney's constant philandering). While the romantic dimension of their relationship faded, Barnes and Barney remained close friends until the latter's death in 1972; Barney even provided Barnes with a monthly stipend during her destitute later years. In 1928 Barnes paid tribute to their friendship in Ladies Almanack, her privately printed spoof of expatriate life; the book, a raucous portrait of the Academie des Femmes circle, chronicles the adventures of heroine Dame Evangeline Musset (modeled on Barney) as she attempts to rescue women from the perils of heterosexuality. (Other characters in Ladies Almanack were based on Mina Loy, Mimi Franchetti, Dolly Wilde-Oscar's niece-, Janet Flanner, Solita Solano, Una Troubridge, and Radclyffe Hall, whose novel The Well Of Loneliness also contained a fictionalized portrait of Barney.) In 1929-the same year, perhaps incidentally, perhaps not, of A Night's publication-Barney returned the favor with an affectionate profile of her colleague:
...Djuna Barnes possesses a candor and a sense of humor which passes through Cervantes and goes back to Rabelais. She is a curious combination of characteristics for a woman only in her thirties. Her appearance is most singular: she has a nose as sharply angled as an Eversharp pencil; her mouth has an irresistable laugh, and she squeezes her auburn hair tightly under her hat in the manner of Manet, resembling one of his most attractive sketches...She is capable of great friendships and limits them to two or three people in whose company she is endlessly and with whom whe sometimes even forgets her fear of the rest of creation ("Djuna Barnes," by Natalie Barney, in Adventures De L'esprit, Paris: Emile-Paul Freres, 1929).
(#2017)

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