Henry Miller and his Bedmates - Poets & Storytellers - Part II
05-09-2018    110 times
Henry Miller Bedmates

In 1930, Henry moved to Paris unaccompanied. There he met Richard Osborn, who wanted to be a writer, but was employed as a lawyer at the Paris office of the National City bank. After Osborn came to know about Miller’s interest in DH Lawrence, he told Miller that, Anais Nin, wife of his colleague Hugh Guiler, had written a study of Lawrence. Miller obtained a copy of her study about Lawrence’s  ‘Lady Chatterley’ that resonates with her very own questions about love and sexuality. After going through it, Henry Miller asked Osborn to introduce him with the lady. Thus, started a great literary relationship between Henry Miller and Anais Nan, which stretching the sexual boundaries moved into an intense romance that lasted for decades.

Anais Nin and Miller
Anais Nin and Miller

Anais Nin was of Spanish decent, the daughter of a famous Spanish concert pianist, Joaquin Nin and a Cuban mother. She studied psychology in Paris. Her father deserted the family when she was eleven, and Nin wrote him a longing letter that became the first entry in her diary. She used the diary to explore her inner life and to record the dramas of her numerous love affairs with sexually detailed passages. Apart from Henry Miller, Nin was a friend, and in some cases lover, of many literary figures, including John Steinbeck and Lawrence Durrell.

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Though she was married to Hugh Parker Guiler, Anais Nin famously had a passionate love affair with Henry Miller, living with him in Paris in the 1930s. She helped Miller to publish his famous creation ‘Tropic of Cancer’, as she took the initiative to send the manuscript to an agent, who in his turn, placed it with Jack Kahane, an Englishman, who were publishing erotic literature through Obelisk Press. But, Kahane hesitated, citing financial difficulties. However, without any hesitation, Nin borrowed $330 from another lover, the psychiatrist Otto Rank, to pay the printing costs and also co-wrote the preface to the book with Miller.

At the onset of the Great War, Nin and her husband returned to New York. Miller followed them and after a short stay in Greece with his friend Lawrence Durrell, Miller asked Nin to divorce Hugo and marry him. But, Nin was practical enough to contemplate that, neither she nor Miller had any inclination to take a job for a living. On the other hand, she could depend on Hugo, who was content to tolerate her numerous romantic affairs. Nevertheless, they stayed in touch through letters and continued their relationship after they both moved to Los Angeles.

Anais Nin, 1940's
Anais Nin, 1940's
Anais Nin and Henry Miller 1945
Anais Nin and Henry Miller 1945

Her passionate affair with Miller helped Anaïs Nin to free herself from the religious and social constraints. Both of them were advocates of free love and sexual liberation and their letters added extra fuel to their strong erotic and ardent declarations. Anais later confessed that, Henry was the centre and the passion of her life and she belonged to him through a vital, burning, creative and intellectual link. In August of 1934, Anais gave birth to a stillborn girl and later revealed that the baby had really been Henry's. Probably the couple had the most torrid passionate relationship in the history of literature and when their romance ends in the early 1940s, they remain friendly partners and inspirational muses to each other. Later she confessed that Henry Miller was very passionate and physical.

Henry Miller

In the meantime, as soon as June got the wind of their affair, she came to Paris to intervene. While visiting Henry, June met Anais in Louveciennes, in the suburbs of Paris, where she was leading a quiet marital life. June became instantly obsessed with her and probably they became involved in a lesbian relationship. But June realized that Nin had replaced her as Miller’s muse and emotional support. She returned to New York, and divorced Miller by proxy in Mexico, after the publication of ‘Tropic of Cancer’ in Paris in 1934. Subsequently, she married Stratford Corbett, one of her admirers. However, after she was abandoned by her second husband, she became completely destitute, living in New York on a skimpy welfare payment. When Miller learned about it, he sent her small sums of money and through his friends in New York helped her to rebuild her life. Subsequently, in a letter he expressed his shock at June’s terrible appearance, as she had by then drastically degenerated both physically and mentally.

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The day, on which 'Tropic of Cancer' was published, Henry moved into 18 Villa Seurat, where his neighbours included artists like Salvador Dali. During his stay in the villa, he began a short affair with Betty Ryan, a great cook, which was very important to Henry.

With Janina Martha Lepska
With Janina Martha Lepska

After a short romance, Henry married a Polish, Janina Marthe Lepska in 1944. She was a student of philosophy and thirty years his junior. She bore him two children - a son, Tony, and a daughter, Val. It was Lepska's duty to cook and entertain Henry's guests. But, Henry found it difficult to adjust with Lepska. She always complained and started constant arguments over the children, the arrival of guests, and their different points of view concerning life. Finally, it all ended after quarrels over child rearing and Henry's realization that she was a disciplinarian like his mother. Lepska left him in 1951 and subsequently, they divorced in 1952.

With Eve McClure
With Eve McClure

In the next year, he married artist Eve McClure, who was 37 years his junior. But, the cloud of uncertainties again shrouded the fate of the marriage, as in 1959, Henry had an affair with Caryll Hill, which hurt Eve deeply and worsened her habit of alcohol abuse. In 1960, they divorced and she died in 1966, probably due to excess alcoholism.

Tutorial at home
Tutorial at home

In 1960, Henry took off again for Europe to be a judge at the Cannes Film Festival, and there began a passionate affair with Renate Gerhardt, an assistant of his German publisher. But Renate proved to be unavailable, not wanting to give up her life in Europe to move with Henry.

Miller playing Table Tennis with one of his nude muses
Miller playing Table Tennis with one of his nude muses

During that time, American literature was just opening up. In 1958, Nabokov's 'Lolita' appeared from Putnam and shot up to the top of the bestseller's list. D.H. Lawrence's 'Lady Chatterley's Lover' also showed up on the American bookshelves. And finally, the Grove Press published the first legal American edition of 'Tropic of Cancer' on June 24, 1961. It sold 68,000 copies in its first week.

Miller with Hoki Tokuda
Miller with Hoki Tokuda

Despite everything, Henry found himself alone in the world and was attracted to a 27 year old Japanese beauty, a cabaret singer named, Hiroko Tokuda. Unfortunately, once again, he was in love with an unavailable woman, who would come and go mysteriously.  Yet, he married her in1967, but probably Hoki looked at Henry as a grandfather figure and seemed to have married him for her green card. She left the country by 1974 and was found running a club called Tropic of Cancer in Tokyo.

Twinka Thiebaud - as a model
Twinka Thiebaud - as a model

During 1968, Miller used to throw dinner parties for the artistic and literary figures of the time. At that time, his cook and caretaker was a young writer and model, Twinka Thiebaud. She was the daughter of a prominent American painter, Wayne Thiebaud. Miller got involved with her and subsequently, she wrote a book sharing her experiences of three years with Henry Miller and capturing the rich and numerous dinner conversations of Miller and his circle of friends.

Henry Miller

All through his life, Henry Miller had a strange fascination for young women. Even in his last years, he continued to fall in love and had a close relationship with a graceful actress. During the last four years of his life, he wrote over 1,500 letters, covering more than 4,000 erotic pages to his muse, a beautiful Native American actress and dancer, a young ‘Playboy playmate’, named Brenda Venus.

Miller and Brenda Venus
Miller and Brenda Venus

The death of Henry Miller in 1980 marked the end of one of the most extraordinary romances ever conceived in the history of literature. It was the fairy tale of a romance between the impassioned heart of a man nearly 90, admittedly a physical ruin, blind in one eye and partially paralyzed and the good graces of a young beauty, an actress, aptly named Brenda Venus, in the prime of her life. Anybody in that physical condition might have taken to bed and wasted away. Instead, Miller fell hopelessly, shamelessly in love and spilled it out in letters to his dear Brenda. He used to eagerly wait for those Thursday nights when she would appear at his door, take him by his arm and drive him for dinner at his favourite Japanese restaurant in the Hollywood Hills. One stormy night, to save him from the embarrassment of stumbling and staggering through the puddles in the parking lot, she simply carried him upstairs to the entrance.

Henry Miller with Brenda Venus
Henry Miller with Brenda Venus

Throughout his life and literature, Henry Miller never followed any moral code and always wrote in his bold style, challenging and raising questions about the American morals and values. Throughout the world of literature, he had influenced an entire generation of writers. He gave a tremendous blow to the old and orthodox censorship rulings in the United States. Along with D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover and William Burroughs's The Naked Lunch, Miller's works helped to push back the boundaries of censorship in the 1950s. He also influenced the Beat Movement writers. He died on June 7, 1980.

Henry Miller with Brenda Venus
Henry Miller with Brenda Venus
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Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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