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1885, a thursday in march Marriage and the Woman Writer In which Rachilde meets Alfred Vallette and marries him, despite some second thoughts Rachilde was once again “en travesti,” acting the part of George Sand, when she met her future husband, Alfred Vallette, on a Thursday evening in March 1885. Although their marriage was to be a long and stable one, no one would have predicted this from their first encounter at the Bal Bullier, a popular dance held at the Closerie des Lilas and painted by impressionists such as Renoir. Writing for visitors to the 1889 exhibition , Rodolphe Darzens nostalgically bewailed the way in which in the 1880s the Bal Bullier ceased to be a rendezvous for students: “Les vrais étudiants du bon vieux temps n’existent plus. L’étudiante pas davantage . La femelle actuelle de ces messieurs n’est qu’une poupée articulée et commerçante, sortant des fabriques les plus en progrès de la capitale” (Darzens 210). What he mostly seems to regret is how women changed from naive Mimi Pinson types to “articulated dolls” who look at men with haughtiness (“morgue”). It was precisely on this cusp between bohemian innocence and world-weary scorn that Rachilde was poised when she first met Alfred Vallette. She was still flirting with bohemia, searching for a literary identity, and flouting conventions. Vallette was a “serious man,” better equipped to serve literature as an editor and a publisher (as indeed he later became) than as an author (a profession he aspired to in the 1880s). This mismatch came to work almost in spite of Rachilde’s orientation as a writer. Juggling the paradoxes necessary to succeed in the literary marketplace required constant effort and ingenuity, and, tired of being the outcast, Rachilde began to search for a place in the established literary family. Having thrown herself into a muddy pond as an adolescent, Rachilde had thrown herself into a different kind of mire as an adult, that of bohemia, motivated this time by a similar combination of curiosity and an impulse toward self-destruction. Such a lifestyle was dangerous —more so for women than for men. Moreover, most women figured only marginally in bohemia. Few were able to move beyond the role of Mimi, the moribund and self-sacrificing innocent of Mürger’s classic novel Scènes de la vie de bohème. There was certainly no widely accepted female analogue to the bohemian man of letters, the position Rachilde aspired to occupy, yet she could learn from male acquaintances such as Willy, a member of the Chat Noir circle and the future husband of Colette, who used publicity so skillfully that he was nicknamed “Monsieur Réclamier” (Castillo 128). Through a manipulation of the conventions, Rachilde learned to market herself by exploiting paradox. In the preface to A mort, she described her infatuation with Catulle Mendès prior to writing Monsieur Vénus as the problem of The cover of Gisèle d’Estoc’s La Vierge-Réclame. Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris. “l’hystérie arrivée au paroxysme de la chasteté dans un milieu vicieux” (am xvii). Chastity would be Rachilde’s alibi while she lingered in the bohemian dens of vice, but marriage would have upset this delicate balance. Rachilde’s personal appropriation of the bohemian role involved combining social marginality with impeccable personal standards. For example, she would surprise her fellow artists at dinner by putting on white gloves to eat dessert (Colin 17). And she also claimed that she did not drink alcohol, only “pure water,” a habit that was much noted at the time and to which she drew attention at every opportunity. Such self-professed abstention did not, however, prevent her from endorsing Vin Mariani, a “tonic” wine at one time laced with cocaine created by “Angel” François Mariani in his Laboratoires du Vin Mariani —she even served it at her Tuesdays (Auriant, Souvenirs 9).1 As a publicity gimmick, the Mariani company published albums of portraits of those who endorsed their product. Fourteen such Albums de figures contemporaines appeared between 1894 and 1925, and Rachilde was featured in the fourth volume, in 1899. Beneath an engraved copy of a portrait by van Bever, she offered a poem reproduced in her own handwriting , entitled “L’Art des vers libres.”2 Although she does not claim to drink Vin Mariani herself in this poem, her endorsement of the product is in interesting contrast to her professed abstinence...


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