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Constance Fenimore Woolson (Dossier by Jeannine Hayat)

Constance Fenimore Woolson (Dossier de Jeannine Hayat)

She was born in 1840, in Claremont, New Hampshire. She was educated first in Cleveland and then in New York. In 1869, when her father died, she was 29 years old, and she had to work to provide for her family. She began then to publish her first articles, novellas and poems. Her inspiration came from her travels through Ohio, Wisconsin and New England but she never forgot the beauty and the wildness of Mackinac Island, Michigan, where she spent several summer holidays as a young girl. In 1873, she moved to Florida with her mother and began to feel inspired by the South, reconstruction after the Civil War and the racial problem. When her mother died, Woolson left America for Europe, and she never returned to America. She spent her time in Europe half-traveling, half-staying in hotels or in different rented rooms. She kept all her possessions in order in a number of large suitcases. She discovered in Italy galleries and museums, and she wrote new kind of stories inspired by European art and new poems inspired by new landscapes. Her closest friend in Europe was Henry James, whom she met in Florence in 1880, for the first time. Their strange friendship was to last until 1894. They traveled together and they stayed at the same time in Florence, in Venice, in Paris, in Geneva. They often saw each other in England. But they never were lovers, although Henry James probably thought at one time of marrying his friend Fenimore, before giving up this strange idea. In the last months of her life, she stayed alone in Venice while Henry James was working in London. She died in Venice. Did she commit suicide or fall from a window by accident? Nobody knows. She left four novels, more than fifty short stories, several poems and travel writings.

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