Jonathan Keates

Sappho’s Priestesses

Wild Girls: Paris, Sappho and Art - The Lives and Loves of Natalie Barney and Romaine Brooks

By

Weidenfeld & Nicolson 224pp £18.99 order from our bookshop

If there had been a lesbian map of the world in the first half of the twentieth century, the twin poles would have been located, not at icy regions to north and south, but at a Greek island and a French city. Lesbos itself, where Sappho had first given utterance to the sexual desire of one woman for another, was a place of pilgrimage, despite its primitive tourist infrastructure and the bemused or frankly hostile attitude of its inhabitants towards those who came to commune with the spirit of the classical poetess. Lesbianism’s true nirvana, however, lay beside the Seine rather than the Aegean. Paris, orientated towards the female in everything from haute couture to the grandes horizontales became, sometime around 1890, the paradise of sapphists, especially those with time and money at their disposal.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • The mystery of Jack the Ripper's identity has long been agonised over. But what do we know about his victims?… ,
    • A piece of Literary Review history from way back in 1983: John Haffenden talks to the great Iris Murdoch. ,
    • Britain’s only travelling lit fest, the Garden Museum Literary Festival is heading to Houghton Hall, Norfolk, for a… ,
    • 'The 19th-century German sage is not my idea of a pleasant travel companion' goes hiking with Friedr… ,
    • If you want ideas about what to read next, sign up to our free email newsletter, and get book reviews, archive mate… ,
    • 'The heroic male nude could not, I think, be used today to signify civic pride and glory', as Michelangelo’s 'David… ,
    • 'Munch’s later works show us a man liberated from the torments that gave rise to some of the best-known early works… ,