Today marks the 140th anniversary of the birth of Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, the French novelist and performer who was, during her lifetime, hailed as France’s greatest female writer. She also had a particularly exciting love life, and a pretty stupendous life in general, and her sensual semi-autobiographical novels continue to delight readers to this day. To honor Colette’s birthday, we’ve put together a list of a few of the famous authors with the juiciest love lives, to inspire us all to love a little more extravagantly. And hey, Valentine’s Day is coming up. Read about them after the jump, and if we’ve forgotten your favorite tale of literary romance, add it to our list in the comments.
Ah, Colette. At age 20, she married a then-famous writer and music critic 15 years her senior, Henry Gauthier-Villars (a total hack, mind you), whom she called Willy — it was under his name that she published her first novels. Gauthier-Villars was Colette’s earliest literary mentor, but he was also a complete cad, and she eventually left the unfaithful, boring man after thirteen years of marriage. She went to go work in the Parisian music halls, where she had affairs with both men and women, including the masculine Mathilde de Morny, Marquise de Belbeuf, with whom she performed an act — de Morny as archaeologist, Colette as jewel-bra-clad mummy being unwrapped– that culminated in an onstage kiss at the Moulin Rouge, causing a veritable riot — the police had to be called in, and the show only lasted two performances. In 1912, when she was 39, Colette married Henri de Jouvenel, the editor of the newspaper Le Matin. They had a daughter together, but they divorced in 1924, after Colette had an affair with his 16-year-old stepson Bertrand de Jouvenel (Bertrand would go on to have another affair with Martha Gellhorn, lucky devil). In 1935, Colette married yet again, this time choosing Maurice Goudeket, who was 17 years her junior, and who published a book about her entitled Close to Colette: An Intimate Portrait of a Woman of Genius. She spent the last years of her life being pushed about in a wheelchair by this younger, handsome fellow, who doted on her, like the entirety of the country. Not a bad life.