Rachilde

Rachilde was the pen name of Marguerite Vallette-Eymery (February 11, 1860 – April 4, 1953), a French author.

Dubbed “Mademoiselle Baudelaire” by Maurice Barres and called a distinguished pornographer by Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly, Rachilde is one of the most complex literary figures to emerge at the tipping point between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Her most famous work includes the novels Monsieur Vénus/Mister Venus (1884) and La Jongleuse/The Juggler (1900, rev. 1925), and a nonfictional work called Pourquoi je ne suis pas féministe/ Why I am not a feminist (1928) in which she famously claims, “I have never had any confidence in women since the eternal feminine first betrayed me in maternal guise.”

Bisexual, irreverent and independent, her visiting cards read: “Rachilde – Man of Letters,” And according to Petra Dierkes-Thrun, a lecturer in Stamford’s Department of Comparative Literature, she played an overlooked role in shaping Oscar Wilde’s legacy. The Oscar Wilde we know today wouldn’t exist without Rachilde. At a time when Wilde was little more than a punch line, Rachilde wrote articles defending homosexual love, reviewed Wilde’s work and commissioned new translations of his novels and plays. Without Rachilde, who hosted one of the city’s premiere avant-garde salons and edited one of Europe’s most influential literary journals, the “Mercure de France,” Dierkes-Thrun said, Wilde’s legacy would look very different.

Scandalous in her youth, reviled by moralists as well as early feminists, her work ignored or forgotten in the years after her death, Rachilde balances between decadence and literary modernism, and between a virulent misogyny and deeply held belief in her own feminine worth.