Letters from Colette by Robert Phelps (ed) - review by Simon Blow

Simon Blow

Pleasure & Desolation

Letters from Colette

By

Virago 214 pp £6.95 order from our bookshop
 

Colette is one of those rare writers for whom one has not only respect but a deep affection. Affection, because respect and admiration are not enough for a woman who determinedly remained a 'natural' and refused to sell herself in the literary market-place. Not for her the claustrophobic world of the salon littéraire, and writer scoring off writer, nor the jealousy and back-biting that all too frequently accompanies it. She made her life among the pleasures and desolations of the day-to-day, and preferred observing nature or watching the fishermen dance at Saint-Tropez to receiving admiring letters. Even to the end she dismissed her own fame, protesting to her daughter, 'If I were famous, I would know.'

It is this aspect of Colette that comes across most vividly in these letters, a selection drawn from the five volumes so far available in France, and the first to be published in England. The collection opens in 1902, during Colette's unhappy marriage to the notorious 'Willy', and we see

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