Colette, Sidonie-Gabrielle-Claudine

BORN 28 Jan 1873, St.-Sauveur-en-Puisaye, Yonne - DIED 3 Aug 1954, Paris: Palais Royal
GRAVE LOCATION Paris: Père Lachaise, Rue du Repos 16 (division 04, ligne 01)

Sidonie Colette was the daughter of Jules-Joseph Colette, a retired army captain who worked as a tax collector. She grew up in a rural environment and in 1893 she married author and music critic Henri Gauthier-Villars, who was 15 years her senior and is now known as Mr. Willy.

She started writing under her husband's pen name Willy and between 1900 and 1903 she published four novels about the teenage girl Claudine. Claudine was an instant succes, but at the same time she had a shop that went bankrupt.

In 1906 she divorced her husband and she started a career in music halls, baring one breast on the stage. She was accompanied by her Missy de Morny, a niece of Napoleon III who was her friend and manager and probably her lover as well. She also befriended Nathalie Barney, the famous lesbian who was probably her lover as well. She wrote about this period in "La Vagabonde" (1910), the first work she published under the name of Colette.

In 1912 she married the newspaper editor Henri de Jouvenel des Ursins, with whom she had a daughter, Colette Renée de Jouvenal, who had been conceived before they were married. Colette wrote for his paper Le Matin. During the First World War she started and managed a hospital and she received the title of Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur in 1920. Around this time Claire Boas, the former wife of her husband, introduced her to their sixteen year old son Bertrand. During the next summer Colette, who was 47 years old at the time, started an affair with him. After her husband found out about her affair with his son they divorced in 1924.

During the 1920s her books were much wanted and her fame had risen. In 1930 she was elected to the Royal Academy of Belgium. In 1935 she married Maurice Goudaket, a Jewish pearl dealer who was 15 years her junior and had to go in hiding after the nazis occupied France.

Colette continued to write and she was 72 when "Gigi" was published in 1945. In 1949 she was elected president of the l'Académie Goncourt and in 1953 she became grand officier de la légion d'honneur. After her death in 1954 thousands came to her state funeral at the Père Lachaise cemetery.

• Husband: Gauthiers-Villars, Henri (1893-1910) (divorce or separation)

Related persons
• was a friend of Barney, Natalie Clifford
• visited Berriau, Simone
• was a friend of Bibesco, Anna, Comtesse de Noailles
• was a friend of Hall, Radclyffe
• knew Laurencin, Marie
• was a friend of Pozzi, Catherine
• was a friend of Rachilde
• had work translated by Troubridge, Una

3/1/1907Riot in the Moulin Rouge after a dancing act by Colette. Colette had danced before in daring clothes. This time the piece that was performed was "Le Rêve D'Egypte". It was edited by her lesbian friend Missy de Morny and she also appeared under the name of 'Yssim'. In the audience was a large group of Bonapartists who considered the performance to be scandalous. When at the end of the play Missy kissed Colette on the mouth in a fiery manner an uproar broke out and the performance was stopped. Afterwards the police prefect Louis Lépine decided to change the title to "Songe d'Orient" and Missy was no longer allowed to participateand was replaced by George Wague. But the outcry persisted and the play was banned in Paris two days later. [Gauthiers-Villars, Henri]
2/6/1932Colette opens a beauty salon in Paris. Because of the economic crisis and because she was fed up with writing, Colette decided that she needed a new source of income. With funding by the Pasha of Marrakesh and the Princess de Polignac she introduced a product line and she opened a salon at 6, Rue de Miromesnil in Paris. In 1933 she returned to writing and the salon was closed. 


The grave of Colette at Père Lachaise, Paris.
Picture by Androom (19 Nov 2006)


• Culbertson, Judi & Tom Randall, Permanent Parisians, Robson Books, London, 1991
• Phelps, Robert, Belles Saisons, A Colette Scrapbook, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 1975
Scandale au Moulin-Rouge en 1907 : Colette y embrasse goulûment son amante

Collard, Charles Lukey

Published: 30 Sep 2007
Last update: 26 Jan 2022