Women Writing Decadence: An Introduction


  • Melanie Hawthorne


There was a time when the fin de siècle seemed to be an all-male club. The dandies, Decadents, dukes, drug-addled dreamers, and sundry other down-and-outs lolled or strutted across the pages of turn-of-the-century literature and the literary history of that period, and if women entered the story, they figured only as muses, unattainable visions, or regrettably available resources who licensed men’s most vicious failings, such as prostitutes. As the explosion of interest in women writers and women’s writing shone a light on the neglected corners and forgotten by-ways of the literature of yesteryear, it was allowed with grudging reluctance that maybe there had been one or two women Decadents. In France, the name of Rachilde (Marguerite Eymery Vallette, 1860-1953) would often come up in this context, for example, as though the concession proved the general truth. Such women were still presented as an exception, however, and the paradigm remained unchanged.