May 21

This Day in History

Literary

May 21, 1910:

Serialization of Colette's The Vagabond begins

French author Colette (born Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette) begins to publish her novel The Vagabond in serial form.

Colette had already achieved success as a writer with her racy and popular series of novels about a young girl named Claudine, starting with Claudine at School (1900). However, she published these works under the name Willy, the pen name of her husband, Henri Gauthier-Villars.

During her marriage to Gauthier-Villars, when she was in her early 20s, Colette grew from a naÝve and provincial country girl to a sophisticated Parisienne. She took mime lessons in 1903 and began acting before she separated from her husband in 1906. The pair divorced in 1910, the same year Colette began to publish her novel The Vagabond, based partly on the failed marriage.

After the divorce, Colette supported herself as a music-hall actress. She also began publishing essays and articles, most notably in the newspaper Le Matin. She married the paper's editor, Henry de Jouvenel, in 1912. Her book Music-Hall Sidelights (1913) was based on her experiences as an actress. She began writing her best works in the 1920s, including Cheri (1920) and The Last of Cheri (1926), about a handsome young man who lives for pleasure and kills himself when he cannot recapture the joy of his first love affair.

Colette divorced Jouvenel in 1924 and later married the much younger Maurice Goudeket. She continued writing and won many awards and honors. Her novel Gigi (1944), the story of a girl raised to be a courtesan, was adapted for stage and screen, and included one of Colette's rare happy endings. Colette died in Paris in 1954.

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