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Sidonie Gabrielle Colette was born in Saint-Sauveur-en-Puisaye in 1873. Her father was a tax inspector and retired army officer. Her mother had been married before and had two children from the previous marriage. However, the family had financial difficulties. Fortunately, her father was acquainted with Henry Gauthier-Villars, a critic, a journalist and writer, better known as Willy. Because of his notoriety as a womaniser, he probably could not expect a brilliant marriage and agreed to marry the eighteen-year old Colette. Things did not work out well. She was not happy in their flat in Paris, particularly when her husband started his womanising again. One of his sidelines was having people write for him and then to publish the writings under his name. He persuaded his wife to write down some of the stories from her childhood and encouraged her to spice them up. However, when he read them he cast them aside. However, looking over them two years later, he decided that they were worth publishing and they soon became successful. She was to produce more in the series.

She was not happy in her marriage but financially dependent on Willy, as he held the copyright to virtually all of her writings. When she left him in 1906, she went into the theatre, specifically as a mime. Disgusted with men, she also turned to lesbian relationships, including with Natalie Barney. She also wrote for the French newspaper Le Matin. There she met Henry de Jouvenel and they were married in 1912. Her only child, a daughter, was born later that year. She continued to write fiction, practice journalism and act as a mime. She also wrote the libretto for an opera. During World war I, she worked hard for the wounded and was later named a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur. Meanwhile, Jouvenel was, like his predecessor, having a number of affairs while Colette had an affair with her stepson, Bertrand. Colette and Jouvenel were divorced in 1924 and she married Maurice Goudeket in 1935. She was continuing to publish, in particular Chéri (Chéri) and Gigi, made into a successful film, and remained prolific. She died in 1954.

Books about Colette

Margaret Crosland: Colette – The Difficulty of Loving: A Biography
Judith Thurman: Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette

Other sites

Featured Author: Colette (1873-1954)
Colette (in French)
Biographie de Colette (1873-1954) (in French)
Colette à la recherche de l’Amour (in French)
Sur les pas des écrivains – Colette à Saint-Sauveur-en-Puisaye et Chatillon-sur-Loing (in French)
Société des Amis de Colette (in French)
Le Musée Colette (in French)


1900 Claudine à l’école (Claudine at School)
1901 Claudine à Paris (UK: Claudine in Paris; US: Young Lady of Paris)
1902 Claudine en ménage (The Indulgent Husband)
1903 Claudine s’en va (US: The Innocent Wife; UK: Claudine and Annie)
1904 Minne
1905 Sept dialogues de bêtes (originally published in magazine form as Dialogues de bêtes; later published as Douze dialogues de bêtes) (Creatures Great and Small: Creature Conversations; Barks and Purrs)
1905 Les Égarements de Minne
1905 Lettre de Claudine
1907 La retraite sentimentale (Retreat From Love)
1908 Les Vrilles de la vigne
1909 L’Ingénue libertine (Minne and Les Égarements de Minne) (The Gentle Libertine, later: Innocent Libertine)
1910 La vagabonde (UK: The Vagabond; US: Renée la vagabonde, later: La Vagabonde)
1913 Prrou, Poucette et quelques autres
1913 L’Envers du music-hall (Music-Hall Sidelights)
1913 L’Entrave (Recaptured; The Shackle)
1916 La Paix chez les bêtes
1917 Les Enfants dans les ruines
1917 Les heures longues
1918 Dans la foule
1919 Mitsou ou comment l’esprit vient aux filles (Mitsou or How Girls Grow Wise)
1920 Chéri (Chéri)
1921 La Chambre éclairée
1921 Celle qui en revient
1922 Le Voyage égoïste
1922 La maison du Claudine (My Mother’s House)
1923 Le blé en herbe (UK: Ripening Seed; US: The Ripening, later: Green Wheat)
1923 Rêverie de nouvel an
1924 La femme cachée (The Other Woman)
1924 Aventures quotidiennes
1925 L’Enfant et les Sortilègets (The Boy and the Magic)
1925 Quatre saisons
1926 La fin de Chéri (The Last of Chéri)
1928 La naissance du jour (UK: Morning Glory; US: A Lesson in Love, later: Break of Day)
1928 Le Voyage égoïste
1928 Renée Vivien
1929 La seconde (UK: Fanny and Jane; US: The Other One)
1929 Sido (Sido)
1929 Regarde
1930 Histoires pour Bel-Gazou
1931 Supplément à Don Juan
1932 Paradis terrestres (Earthly Paradise)
1932 Ces plaisirs (later: Le Pur et l’impur) (UK: These Pleasures; US: The Pure and the Impure)
1932 La Treille muscate
1932 Prisons et paradis
1933 La Chatte (Saha the Cat; The Cat)
1934 La Jumelle noire 1
1934 Duo (Duo)
1935 Chats
1935 Premier cahier de Colette
1935 Deuxième cahier de Colette
1935 Troisième cahier de Colette
1935 La Jumelle noire 2
1935 Là-haut
1936 Mes apprentissages: Ce que Claudine n’a pas dit
1936 Quatrième cahier de Colette
1936 Le vrai visage de Chéri
1937 Bella-Vista (Bella-Vista)
1937 La Jumelle noire 3
1937 Splendeur des papillons
1938 La Jumelle noire 4
1939 Le toutounier (Le toutounier)
1940 Chambre d’hôtel (Chance Acquaintances)
1940 La lune de pluie (The Rainy Moon)
1941 Julie de Carneilhan (Julie de Carneilhan)
1941 Mes Cahiers
1941 Journal à rebours (Looking Backwards – with De ma fenêtre (later: Paris de ma fenêtre))
1941 Le Pur et l’Impur
1942 De ma fenêtre (later: Paris de ma fenêtre) (Looking Backwards – with Journal à rebours)
1943 De la patte à l’aile
1943 Flore et Pomone
1943 Nudité
1943 Noces
1943 Le képi
1943 De la patte à l’aile
1944 Gigi et autres nouvelles (Gigi)
1944 Broderie ancienne
1944 Trois … six … neuf
1945 Belles Saisons
1946 L’Étoile vesper (The Evening Star)
1946 Florie
1948 Pour un herbier (For a Flower Album)
1949 Le fanal bleu (The Blue Lantern)
1949 Trait pour trait
1949 Journal intermittent
1949 La Fleur de l’âge
1949 En pays connu
1949 La Jumelle noire 5
1950 Chats de Colette
1950 Mélanges
1950 À portée de la main
1950 Autres bêtes
1954 Ces dames anciennes
1957 Chiens de Colette
1958 Bêtes libres et prisonnières
1958 Paysages et portraits
1958 Notes marocaines
1961 Découvertes
1970 Contes des mille et un matins (The Thousand and One Mornings)
1970 Places
1986 Flowers and Fruit
2003 The Collected Stories of Colette
2010 Colette journaliste: Chroniques et reportages (1893-1945)