Rachilde was the nom de plume of Marguerite Vallette-Eymery (February 11, 1860 – April 4, 1953), a French author who was born near Périgueux, Dordogne, Aquitaine, France during the Second French Empire.
Dubbed “Mademoiselle Baudelaire” by Maurice Barres and called a distinguished pornographer by Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly, Rachilde is one of the most complex literary figures to emerge at the tipping point between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Her most famous work includes the fictional novels Monsieur Vénus/Monsieur Venus (1884) and La Jongleuse/The Juggler (1900, rev. 1925), and a nonfictional work called Pourquoi je ne suis pas féministe/ Why I am not a feminist (1928) in which she famously claims, “I have never had any confidence in women since the eternal feminine first betrayed me in maternal guise.” Scandalous in her youth, reviled by moralists as well as early feminists, her work ignored or forgotten in the years after her death, Rachilde balances between decadence and literary modernism, and between a virulent misogyny and deeply held belief in her own feminine worth.
Marguerite Eymery was born in February 1860, the only child of her parents’ largely unhappy marriage. A voracious reader from a young age, a lack of parental supervision gave her the run of her grandfather’s library, much of which would have been considered unfit for a young girl’s consumption at the time. Available juvenilia show her to be an avid writer since age twelve, keeping a cahier de style and publishing her first short stories in a local paper. These display a preoccupation with sexual identity and question extant gender scripts, themes that surface time and again in her mature works. She was not yet sixteen when she began writing commissioned pieces of fiction and non-fiction for local presses using the pseudonym, ‘Rachilde’.
Adult Life and the Move to Paris
In 1878, she left for Paris against her father’s will but accompanied by her mother as chaperone. The 1880s were a literary golden age in Paris as climbing levels of general literacy, advances in printing press technology and the Haussmannisation of the city combined to create an atmosphere in which more than fifty daily papers and many small literary journals were published.
Rachilde and her husband, Alfred Vallette, founded and worked at one such, the Mercure de France, where her earliest reviews and essays also appeared. Moving to Paris also allowed Rachilde, for the first time, to become part of a group of artists whose sensibilities matched her own. Her first novel Monsieur de la Nouveauté was published in 1880 with an introduction by Arsène Houssaye, followed shortly afterwards by the development of a literary circle of decadents. From inside this circle, Rachilde saw herself as a werewolf: iconoclastic, impatient of petty bourgeois concerns, and disdainful of “the imbecilic crowd” which, to her, was always against the individual (Face à la peur, 1942).
In 1884, faced with penury, Rachilde wrote and published Monsieur Venus, the story of a cross-dressing noblewoman who takes an impecunious flower-maker for her lover but slowly and surely turns his masculine characteristics into ones that are feminine. The conclusion of the story, where both the gender divide and distinctions between human and nonhuman become blurred, remains extremely disturbing and almost prescient in terms of recent debates around embodiment
Her significant works include:
- 1884, Monsieur Vénus (Brussels: Auguste Brancart, 1884 in two "first" editions; Paris: Flammarion, 1977)
- 1885, Queue de poisson (Brussels: Auguste Brancart, 1885)
- 1885, Nono (Paris: Mercure de France, 1997)
- 1887, La Marquise de Sade (Paris: Mercure de France, 1981)
- 1892, L'Araignée de Cristal
- 1893, L'animale (Paris: Mercure de France, 1993)
- 1899, La tour d'amour (Paris: Mercure de France, 1994)
- 1900, La Jongleuse (Paris: Des femmes, 1982)
- 1934, Mon étrange plaisir (Paris: Éditions Joëlle Losfeld, 1993)
- Katharina M. Wilson, Katharina J. Wilson: An encyclopedia of continental women writers, Taylor & Francis, 1991, ISBN 0-8240-8547-7
- Melanie Hawthorne: Rachilde and French Women's Authorship: From Decadence to Modernism, University of Nebraska Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8032-2402-8
- Diana Holmes: Rachilde: Decadence, Gender and the Woman Writer, New York, Berg, 2001, ISBN 1-85973-555-X 
- Julie Lokis: Deadly Desires: Widowhood and Perverse Female Sexuality in Rachilde's Fiction (PhD Thesis, RHUL), 2008
- Fisher, Dominique D. (Spring-Summer 2003). "A propos du "Rachildisme" ou Rachilde et les lesbiennes". Nineteenth-Century French Studies (University of Nebraska Press) 31 (3&4): 297–310. doi:10.1353/ncf.2003.0014. ISSN 0146-7891.
- Chiara Cretella, Rachilde, su http://www.enciclopediadelledonne.it/index.php?azione=pagina&id=220
- Lukacher, Maryline. Maternal Fictions: Stendhal, Sand, Rachilde, and Bataille. Durham: Duke UP, 1994. Print.
- Works by Rachilde at Project Gutenberg
- More details
- Brief details
- Monsieur Venus (English translation) at Google Books