Pauline Tarn was a British poet born in 1877 who lived in France until her father died when she was nine years old. After that, her family moved to England. She disliked living in England as she considered herself to be French and thought that English people were too emotionally cold, whereas she was very sensitive and a romantic. No surprise then, that when she inherited her father’s fortune aged 21, she moved back to France. She became a poet, writing exclusively in French. To symbolise her new life and rebirth, she used the pen name ’Renée Vivien’
She was an open lesbian, and had a rather tempestuous relationship with the American writer Natalie Clifford Barney. Vivien desired monogamy, whereas Barney was more ‘liberated’ and continued having affairs with other women. Vivien found the jealousy too much to bear and eventually broke up with her, despite Barney begging her to reconsider. Once, in an attempt to win her back, Barney got one of her friends, who was an opera singer, to sing under her balcony while she threw a poem wrapped around a bouquet of flowers up to her.
She had a bit of a troubled life, however – her life was plagued with failed relationships, deaths and financial troubles and she ended up falling into depression, which she self-medicated with drugs and alcohol. She romanticised death, and in 1908 she attempted suicide by drinking laudanum and stretched out on her divan, clutching a bouquet of violets to her heart. The suicide failed, but she grew steadily weaker after that as a result of drug and alcohol abuse and deliberate fasting. By the summer of 1909, she walked with a cane. She eventually died on 18th November 1909, aged just 32. She weighed only 70lbs.
Bit of a downer really, but she was very beautiful, a lesbian in a time when it was difficult to be a woman and homosexual, and wrote some rather good poetry on top of that.