Poet. She received notoriety as a British-born poet who wrote exclusively in French in a rigid verse form during the early decades in the 20 th century. Born Pauline Mary Tarn, she was of Scottish and American heritage, educated in England, but starting at the age of twenty-one, lived the rest of her life in France. She was a talented writer, a beautiful woman, inheritably rich with a fine home, and famous, yet she appeared to be unhappy most of her life. Of the many things that influenced her poetry were her travels to Norway, Turkey, and Spain and her lifestyle of being a lesbian. Her childhood friend, Violet Shilleto, was mentioned in her poems using the word violet or purple. She had a longtime personal relationship with Natalie Barney, who inspired her to write. Her relationship painfully ended with Barney shortly after the sudden death of Shilleto in 1901; these were only two of her many lifetime losses that caused an unresolved grief, depression, a lack of appetite with weight loss along with the abuse of alcohol and drugs, in an attempt to find relief from her physiological pain. She would dress in 18 th century men's clothing. A prolific writer, her principal published books of verse are “Cendres et Poussières” in 1902, “La Vénus des aveugles” in 1903, “A l'heure des mains jointes” in 1906, “Flambeaux éteints” in 1907, “Sillages” in 1908, “Poèmes en Prose” an “Dans un coin de violettes” in 1909, and “Haillons” in 1910. She wrote mainly under the pseudonym of Renee Vivien but also Paule Riversdale. Very few of her books have been translated to English. She seem to have found peace shortly before dying when she converted to the Roman Catholic Church. She died of “lung congestion,” which may have been pneumonia secondary to drug abuse and anorexia nervosa; her weight at her death was 70 pounds. In 1934 a complete collection of her writings from 1901 to 1910 was published in 12 volumes.
Bio by: Linda Davis
Natalie Clifford Barney