Letter 22 - Rose of Meudon

Miss Maitland Bristow
14 Bathurst Mews

16 December 1902

Dearest Maisie,

I do not know the most fitting way to begin.

Eduard has been so entrenched in his work of late. Most days he is with Auguste Rodin, a new enthusiast of Eduard's work, and a famous sculptor in his own right. My days are, once more, increasingly spent with Monsieur Rousseau--who is eager as a school girl to know all the fine points of my relationship with Eduard. I was rather reserved at first, but have found myself welcoming Rousseau as a confidant. He seems genuinely engaged in our afternoon chats. You can only imagine my delight when Eduard walked in unannounced one afternoon and told me that Rodin was to hold a dinner party in his honor to help to further his career in photography. He explained that Rodin is helping to shape his image to the world, so that the masses will receive him as a respectable artist. The only seemingly odd part was that the party was to be held that very evening! Employing his usual charm, he extended an invitation to Rousseau, as well--who was visibly giddy to be welcomed back into Eduard's now more elite circle of friends. Eduard seemed very rushed and, bestowing a quick peck on my cheek, said he would be back at six o'clock. Monsieur Rousseau cut our lesson short and scurried off to get himself in order for the soiree. I was all too quickly alone in the library. Surely this friend of Eduard's had been planning his dinner party for some time. Why would Eduard wait until now to tell me? Perhaps Rodin planned it in the spirit of a surprise for Eduard.

Madame Fifi was quite put out at the prospect of sending me out in a gown I had already worn, but what choice did she have, really? Eduard came to fetch me, and did not have much to say: "Ah, the blue one." On our way to Rodin's country estate in Meudon, Eduard spoke of nothing but Rodin. I, in turn, inquired about Rodin's family; his wife, and children. Now, Maisie, this was a bit underhanded on my part. You see, Russeau still has many acquaintances in common with Eduard, and has told me on several occasions that Rodin has been with the mother of his son for many years--but has yet to marry her. He also said it is quite well-known that this elderly sculptor is known for his seductive nature and fascination with women. I was beginning to wonder just how much of an influence Rodin was having on Eduard. Eduard paused before answering my question, then, "Well, there is Rose, who is quite dedicated to Auguste. They've been together for years and years and they have a son together. There is also Camille, the young woman he is absolutely enamoured with in Paris." I knew I had to choose my next words carefully, "Poor Rose." Eduard replied nonchalantly, "Oh, Rose is very accustomed to the expressions of an artist, and his need to enliven his imaginations." There was a brief silence. He took my hand, "I am ever so happy to have you, Adeline."

Rodin himself greeted us at the door. He wore a long, dark beard and, like Eduard, took great care in his appearance. His home was simple and unadorned--not as I had pictured it. The table was set beautifully, and it was Rose who tended to all the guests. Rousseau arrived soon after, and was wholly pleased that the number of women at the table rather awkwardly overwhelmed the number of men. Once all the guests were seated, Rodin made the introductions. There was of course Rose, then myself, Eduard to my right. On Eduard’s other side was an utter beauty, Claire, then Genevieve, Marie, Monsieur Rousseau, Camille ... the names began to fade from my consciousness after Camille was named. She was young--about eighteen. Had Rodin actually brought his mistress into his own home? I was appalled and shocked and so many other things. I could hardly imagine the state Rose must have been in! I glanced to my left, at Rose. She was perfectly at ease. She laughed at all the right points in the conversation. She even poured Camille's soup--and did not intentionally spill it in her lap! To say I was disturbed at what I was experiencing is an understatement. I had to calm myself. I recounted the recent conversations Eduard and I had had about marriage, and children. I drew in a slow breath and reminded myself of Eduard's loyalty to me despite his growing notoriety. I smiled, and reached down to find Eduard’s hand beneath the table linens. I needed to feel his soft, warm hand in mine. Maisie, as I looked down I saw Claire's hand, placed neatly on Mr. Steichen's knee. I felt my gut wrench in pain. I became dizzy with embarrassment--I looked about the room--did everyone know but me? I felt faint. It was quite clear I was not enough to enliven Eduard's imaginations any further. I turned to Eduard and said softly, "I will not be your Rose." I quietly slid back my chair and walked to the end of the table to whisper in Rousseau's ear, "You will take me home immediately." He instantly got to his feet and together we walked out. Eduard stood and called, "Adeline!" On the way home, Rousseau was a kind friend, "Tell me every detail ..."

Suffice it to say, I am weary. Eduard has not once tried to contact me. There are rumors he is planning to return to America. I wish I had some brighter news for you in Ambleside. I wish that I could use my wit to help you to decode Stuart Hill's strange way of getting your attention. My mind is nothing short of useless; all I do is think of Eduard. I cannot sleep. Madame Fifi has said she will be calling on the doctor tomorrow. I will write again soon.



23 rue Saint Paul

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