Rose and Salomon Reinach and that Certain Special Something (Part 2 of 4)

Part 1, Part 3, Part 4

by Norman Simms (June 2018)

Title Unknown, Auguste Chabaud

Diseases of the Body and Metaphors of the Soul           

The brain of man is subject to short and strange snatches of sleep. A cloud seals the city of reason or rests upon the sea of imagination; a dream that darkens as much, whether it is a nightmare of atheism or a day-dream of idolatry. And just as we have all sprung from sleep with a start and found ourselves saying some sentence that has no meaning, save in the mad tongues of the midnight, so the human mind starts from its trances of stupidity with some complete phrase upon its lips: a complete phrase which is a complete folly.—G.K. Chesterton[1]

Having diabetes affects much more than a person’s diet—it can impact every aspect of their life, including their sexual health. Similarly, it is not just the physical side effects of diabetes that cause problems. Diabetes can have an impact on a person’s mental health, their sex drive, and their self-esteem.[2]

From such descriptions of the symptoms associated with diabetes by modern medical experts we may be justified in extrapolating motivations for and explanations of certain peculiarities in Salomon Reinach’s personality. In the days before treatment by insulin was available, there was little to control his private suffering. As we shall see, at certain intervals in his life Salomon was struck by acute mental pains and humiliations whose character exceeded a merely emotional sensitivity or psychological causation. It may help explain his childlessness, his close attachment to Rose through times of social and professional stress, and his eccentric interest in courtesans, lesbians and other women out of his and his brothers’ normal circle of acquaintances. Diabetes is not an affliction generally visible to others, except in its secondary manifestation as behavioural peculiarities.

Unlike diabetes, with its very singular effects and hidden presence,

. . . smallpox is tremendously, terribly, terrifyingly painful . . . it often produces lifelong scarring, disfiguring and blindness, and these in turn spread the fear of it and terror. And so the very word smallpox has a particular resonance in popular imagination, associated with dread.[3]

This disease cannot be hidden, leaves lasting marks of its ravage, and has a deep impact on the personality because of the fear it arouses and the disgust it causes. Like leprosy and syphilis, smallpox isolates the sufferer from the community, an outcast, and sometimes a pariah; and in this way can mirror the way the Jew is treated by society—even after the most obvious suppurating pustules have dried up and vanished, there are always tell-tale signs, perhaps the more off-putting because not always at first noticed.

When I first mooted writing a study about Salomon Reinach’s emotional life as a professional scholar and as a Jew, I also began to wonder about Salomon’s wife—was she more than she seemed to be in the very few places where she was mentioned at all as a polite but unobtrusive hausfrau. Most of the time she is not even dignified with a name other than Madam Reinach, with neither a first name nor a pre-marital family name, let alone a place of birth, parents, education or career.[4] Occasionally, Salomon slipped into controversies, made mistakes which were blown out of proportion, and made him somewhat of a laughing stock among other men working in museums, art galleries, academic associations and Jewish organizations. Then, after a few years of tracking down the professional career of Salomon, which seemed to consist mostly of long lists of books and articles, book reviews and obituaries which he seemed to write in great profusion, little by little there appeared a circle of friends he associated with, institutional positions and honours he accrued, places he visited and people he met; and yet always, it seemed at best, with his wife somewhere in the background, out of focus, silent.

Then came a breakthrough. His wife gained a name, a background and a career of her own. I even found descriptions of her. She at last had become a person in her own right. At that point I could ask the important question about whether she and her husband were more like the special couple in the way Alfred and Lucie Dreyfus were, bound to each other in a mutually supportive and deep intellectual as well as emotional relationship, so different from the more usual philandering husbands, flighty wives, elegant but separate individuals. I don’t have all the answers yet but let me tell you what I now know, and therefore what can be extrapolated and even intuited from these facts. It would be nice if there were personal letters or private journal entries, intimate reminiscences by family members and friends. Absent these, it is necessary to read between the lines, take what is said by the main parties and others symptomatically, set up tentative scenarios to be tested against the few facts known—the proof will be in the pudding. Where social scientists seek to generate repeatable paradigms that can be tested under varying conditions, my search is for the unique, the eccentric and the seemingly trivial and irrelevant detail without which all else falls apart.

The Life of Rose Reinach

Dr. Rose Margoulieff Reinach (1865-1933)[5]

The plaque on the door on the Reinach residence in Saint-Germaine-en-Laye announced the doctor’s surgery within.

Mlle Margoulieff
Cabinet de consultations
Maladies des deux sexes
De trois à cinq heures 

The daughter of Itzhak Ber Megouleff and Dvoira Segalla Margouleff, Rose was born in Odessa (Oblast, Ukraine) on 11 August 1865. A puzzle here is that her father’s dates are given as “estimated between 1800 and 1860”, which makes it hard to believe he was actually dead five years when she was born. But if one wonders why there might be confused memories of life in Odessa around the time of Rose’s birth, as well as why her family would agree to her going Paris to study medicine, here is an account of what happened in the city during the 1905 pogrom, which is perhaps similar to what was going on during the 1859 and 1871 anti-Jewish campaigns between which she was born.[6] The report is cited by Alan Woods in an anonymous Wikiwand entry:

The Bolshevik Piatnitsky who was in Odessa at the time recalls what happened: “There I saw the following scene: a gang of young men, between 25 and 20 years old, among whom there were plain-clothes policemen and members of the Okhrana, were rounding up anyone who looked like a Jew—men, women and children—stripping them naked and beating them mercilessly… We immediately organised a group of revolutionaries armed with revolvers . . . we ran up to them and fired at them. They ran away. But suddenly between us and the pogromists there appeared a solid wall of soldiers, armed to the teeth and facing us. We retreated. The soldiers went away, and the pogromists came out again. This happened a few times. It became clear to us that the pogromists were acting together with the military.”[7]

As a single young woman, Rose may have come to Paris on her own, which would have been unusual, despite her desperation to leave Odessa before the next pogrom broke out; perhaps she had friends and family organized by her parents back in Odessa who promised to look after her. Somehow, perhaps by these pre-arranged connections, she met with Salomon Reinach. In 1933, following Salomon’s death, Abraham Margoulieff is listed as the nephew[8] and executor, and it is he who arranges for 173 sealed boxes of letters and documents to be donated to the University of Lyons Library and not to be opened until 1 January 2000.[9] It is further known that Abraham, by then an elderly gentleman then residing in Neuilly-sur-Seine, was one of the art collectors whose works were seized by the infamous Einsatzstab Reichsletter Rosenberg (ERR) during the Occupation of Paris. However, it is not yet clear whether a branch of the Margoulieff family[10] had settled in Paris prior to Rose’s arrival sometime perhaps in the early 1880s and consequently were the people who welcomed and looked after her, just as we do not know when exactly she migrated, how long she intended to stay in France, and whether they introduced her to Salomon Reinach.[11]

Another complication is that if she came to Paris already in contact with the officials of the Faculty of Medicine then, like other young women from the Russian Empire, the Czar’s government would have approved of her departure only if she provided proof that she had converted to the Orthodox faith. There seems no evidence for this but if she had, then as too often happened in Jewish history, the baptism would have been perfunctory and the convert would hope to return to Judaism as soon as possible.[12] Nevertheless, such an experience would have been humiliating. As she was already practicing medicine for a number of years prior to her marriage, she does not seem to have had any intention of returning to Odessa to open a medical practice there as most foreign students did or to re-join her family. She consequently may have moved to France to complete a preliminary degree before seeking to enrol in the School of Medicine at the Sorbonne.

If, as has been suggested, the marriage was an arranged one between Salomon and Rose, it would be important to know if there was a marriage broker[13] and who were the negotiators for each family, and particularly who represented Rose’s interests. However, despite having access to private letters and documents filed in the Reinach Archives in Lyon, Duchesne has very little to say about these crucial matters. He points to two factors which also may have influenced the decision to marry. In one, prior to the arrangements of the engagement, Salomon went through a second mental crisis—the first one was when he was still an adolescent—subsequent to the deaths of friends and mentors. In the other, partly as a result of the professional losses caused by these disappearances of close associates and their wives, whatever programme he had set out to follow seemed interrupted or put aside forever.

Because of their interest in and activity on behalf of the Dreyfus family during the Affair, the Reinachs gained a new circle of friends and eventually the two families, including those on Lucie Hadamard’s side, began to inter-marry. Rose attended the Medical Faculty of the University of Paris, obtaining a medical degree in 1889 at the age of twenty-four with a thesis entitled Variole contractée par le fœtus dans la cavité uterine. At the same time, Robert Proust, Marcel’s younger brother, gained his medical degree with a doctoral thesis De la prostatectomie périnéale totale (1900), and four years later, showing the concerns he expressed for his mother’s sufferings, he published Chirurgie de l’appareil génital de la femme (Paris: Masson, 1904). Subsequently, when at the Hôpital Broca, he worked as an assistant to Dr. Samuel Pozzi, a lover, long-time friend, and medical consultant to Sarah Bernhardt.

On 27 January 1891 Le Petit Paris: Journal Quotidien du Soir announced that Salomon Reinach, brother to the deputy of the Basses-Alpes, Joseph Reinach, was engaged to marry a young Russian woman, Mlle Rose Margoulieff.

Cette jeune fille est venue à Paris étudier la médicine et passer ses examens de doctorat, afin de pouvoir à son retour à Odessa, contribuer par son travail à l’entretien de sa famille.

This young woman came to Paris to study medicine and to pass her doctoral examinations, in order, upon her return to Odessa, to contribute to the support of her family.

Odessa was also known in 1905 for the uprising of the sailors of the Potemkin, a battle ship of the Imperial Czarist fleet berthed in the city’s harbour, and event memorialized in Sergei Eisenstein’s 1925 silent film. The famous scene of massacre with bodies and carriages tumbling down the steps (Primorsky or Potemkin Stairs) between the harbour and the central city occurs in a place Rose may well have recalled. Though fictionalized and transformed into cinematic illusion, the tensions in 1905 would also be the kind that were already evident a quarter of a century earlier when the Margoulieffs felt increasingly unsafe and prepared to send their brilliant young daughter to Paris. This memory of tension and violence from the pogroms may, as we have said, explain why Rose seemed so excitable to her brother-in-law Joseph Reinach.

The columnist for the newspaper finds, not a little condescendingly, her motives honourable in leaving home and her behaviour in the big city praiseworthy, implying that she was not rebellious and not seeking to abandon her family or her modest role as a young female:

Si le respect et l’estime doivent aller quelque part, c’est, assurément à une personne aussi courageuse, aussi méritable.

If respect and esteem must be given anywhere, it is assuredly to a female person so courageous and so meritorious.

However, it was then necessary to report that those noble plans are to be changed and the young lady doctor would be remaining in Paris to live with her future husband. The newspaper received a lithographed copy of a notice mailed out to many hundreds of people in the Paris region. The journalist does not point out that it is the bride and not the groom who makes the formal announcement of the impending change in her marital status and of her professional address or that her formal title is masculine, docteur-medicine:

Mlle Margoulieff, docteur-médicine de la Faculté de Paris, a l’honneur de prévenir sa clientèle que, par suite de son prochain mariage avec M. Salomon Reinach, elle a transporté son cabinet de consultations rue Murillo, 26; maladies des deux sexes; de trois à cinq heures.

Mademoiselle Margoulieff, doctor of medicine, of the Faculty of Medicine in Paris, has the honour to announce to her clientele that, immediately following her marriage to M. Salomon Reinach, she is moving her surgery to 26 rue Murillo; treatment offered to both sexes; office hours from 3 to 5 in the afternoon.

Other details deserve to be remarked in this wedding announcement. Rose already has been practicing her profession and has a clientele, thus suggesting that whatever her real intentions were on completing her medical degree in 1889, two years later she had still not returned to Odessa. Cautionary letters from her parents on the likelihood of more pogroms in that city may have led to a decision not to leave Paris yet, especially if, as it seems, she may have already begun a relationship with Solomon. She will also work under her own Russian family name, and she will not specialize in women’s disorders, but see both male and female patients. As to what she may wish to do before 3’oclock in the afternoon—hours when Salomon would be engaged in the Museum and attending to his scholarly researches, might be making rounds in hospital, carrying on research of her own, or visiting with her own friends and colleagues—how she passed the evenings, whether making house calls, as doctors used to do, or relaxing with her husband or paying calls on with him to his relatives, we do not know. In two places, the anonymous author of the French Wikipedia entry for Salomon suggests that Rose worked as an assistant before she married Reinach and might have been a collaborator on some his projects later. In 1893, receiving the post of Assistant Curator in Saint Germaine-en-Laye, he moved into the house at 38 rue de Lisbonne “avec son assistante après avoir épousé cell-ci” (with his assistant after having married her) and suggests how they may have met, when he travelled to Odessa earlier that year “mener une campaigne de fouilles sur les traces des colonies grècoscythiques du Pont-Euxin” (to lead a campaign digging at the traces of Greco-Scythique colonies on the Black Sea). Another hint comes in the fact that when Reinach visited Saint Petersburg he met the young man who became the executor of his will and seems to have been a nephew.

The first hint at who this nephew could be comes in an article Salomon Reinach published on “Un manuscript de la Bibliothèque de Phillippe le Bon à Saint-Petersbourg.”[14] Reinach acknowledges that he was aided in gaining access to this medieval manuscript by “un jeune ingénieur de Saint-Petersbourg, M. Abram Margoulieff.” If this young engineer is the same person who later became his nephew and then his executor, the engineer may have been related to his Rose Margoulieff. He might have arranged to see her when she travelled to Russia with Salomon as his research assistant. However, at this point one can only speculate that this young man (1) may have originated in Odessa and then studied engineering in St. Petersburg, (2) was helped to Paris by Reinach or one of his brothers whether or not he was already in touch with other branches of the Margoulieff family in France, and (3) became close enough to Salomon and Rose to be chosen as an executor some thirty years later. He may also have been successful enough in his profession to become an art collector. Throughout the article, Reinach emphases the three aspects of art history that most interest him: (1) identifying persons, places, things and events within the painting or miniature; (2) establishing the attribution of the artist and his patron; (3) following the provenance from the making through the sale and further movements of the work of art. His remarks on the aesthetic quality of the objet d’art are minimal, but this may be because he has several complaints about the lack of detailed photographs and missing the time when in St Petersburg to examine the miniatures more closely. If Abram Margoulieff helped to process the photographing of the objects, something complicated by the bad lighting of the city in winter—these were the times without adequate electrical lighting—and the lack of local expertise in the new techniques of mechanical reproduction (or perhaps just willingness to cooperate), the experience helping his uncle may have stimulated the young man’s interest in art.

Another hint at the way Rose and Salomon came to know one another is found in an interesting book on classical art. That same year (1893) another Dr. Margoulieff published a monograph on ancient depictions of childbirth. The author is identified as “J. Margoulieff, Directeur en médicine de la Faculté de Paris, Moniteur à la Clinque d’accouchements de la Faculté” (Director of the Medical Faculty of Paris and Fellow of the Birth Clinic of the Faculty) The family name is the same as Rose Reinach’s maiden name used for her published thesis five years earlier. The academic affiliation suggests that this Dr. Margoulieff may have known her or been instrumental in aiding her enrollment as a medical student at the Faculty. The title offers two more clues as to links with Salomon and Rose Reinach: first, the historical interest in ancient monuments which would suggest an association with Salomon’s work in museum and scholarly studies of classical culture; second, the topic of birth and midwifery are close to Rose’s research into the relationship between fœtus, uterus, and contagion before and after birth. The connection is confirmed in the acknowledgment by the author of this book on depictions of ancient birthing of the help given to him in locating material for discussion by Salomon Reinach, “conservateur adjoint des musées nationaux,”Associate Curator of the national Museums (p. 8). Salomon is the only authority thanked in this way who is not a member of the medical faculty. A longer citation on an example described by Reinach (pp. 72-73) indicates further acquaintance by Margoulieff with his work that may be based on personal conversation and thus perhaps a collegial relationship or even a friendship between the two men, as well as a more personal connection to Rose. 

We do know for sure what the married couple did during the weekends, though, she would be at home with Salomon to entertain guests at one of their famous Sunday salons. What she did in her own leisure time is hinted at in a brief mention in one of the early numbers of a drama magazine Comoedia for 14 January 1907: it is announced that Mlle Margoulieff would be playing one of the minor parts in an upcoming production of a play. Note it says Mlle Margoulieff, not Madam Reinach or Docteur-Medicine.

Meanwhile, Le Figaro of the same date also reports that Mlle Margoulieff had sent out a similar notice to various journals around Paris, especially the most widely-read and respected. While these announcements might have been important to drum up business for herself now that she decided not to go back to Russia, they are also a way of alerting Salomon Reinach’s wide circle of friends and colleagues to the forthcoming marriage. Even if the large number of newspaper notices and lithographed cards were mailed out at his instigation, it is important to see that he puts his own name forward only in relation to his wife whose profession he seems respectful and proud of. That was not exactly commonplace in the fin-de-siècle.

Joseph Reinach, the Older Brother

During the Dreyfus Affair (1894-1906) in the late 1890s, when Zola had sprung open the case by his J’accuse public letter on the front page of L’Aurore against the government, the oldest of the three Reinach brothers, Joseph or Jo, the politician[15] was not only testy about Salomon’s somewhat naïve enthusiasms, but he was even more angry with Rose’s behaviour. According to Ruth Harris,

In fact, he [Joseph Reinach] lost the election [to the National Assembly in October 1897] but carried on optimistically, continuing to give his brother orders and using shame and hyperbole when he thought it necessary, during the struggle. Joseph thought Salomon’s Russian wife was becoming dangerously “excited” and sent off a sharp letter to get her back into line. He wrote that because she was “physically at the change of life” she was susceptible to unnecessary outbursts that revealed her ‘fundamentally nihilist and rebellious nature. The letter does not say exactly what Rose had done, but Joseph instructed his brother to deal with it quickly. If not, Salomon would be personally responsible for the apocalyptic consequence: allowing the outbursts to continue to continue would be “a disaster for everyone, including the [Dreyfus] children [Pierre and Jeanne], for her relations in Russia, for the Dreyfus Affair . . .[16]

If anyone sounds hysterical here it is Joseph Reinach. To accuse Rose, who was still only in her mid-thirties, of being in a midlife crisis or suffering from menopause, reveals his character—backed up probably by rumours of what was going on at the Salpêtrière Hospital where the illustrious Dr. Jean-Martin Charcot was displaying hysterical young women in his afternoon public lectures, sessions attended by Sigmund Freud on the cusp of his transformation from neurologist to psychoanalyst.

It seems that Salomon was bullied by his two older brothers, even after he was married. When, for instance, the brothers gathered at Theodore’s classic-style mansion Kérylos,[17] they would carry on loud conversations in ancient Greek to exclude the wives, or so it seemed. It was Joseph and Theodore who had that as a motive, whereas Salomon (Lolo) was intimidated into joining in, as he always had been since boyhood.[18] How Rose felt about such antics can only be guessed. It seems, though, that Salomon was used to being treated poorly for his enthusiasms and dealt with ungenerously by those who ought to have showed gratitude in return for his help, which does not mean he stepped back from his principles or gave up the fight.[19] Meanwhile, Rose, as a woman who had to fight for recognition as a medical student and a practicing physician, she probably knew how to bite her tongue and, when needed, to speak in biting sarcasm.

Salomon and Rose Reinach did not have any children. We do not know if this was by choice—a choice not so easy to make in the days before contracepive devices and pills, a choice that would have to be based on abstinence or as a result of the one or the other of them being sterile. There is no evidence of the couple refraining from coitus but, if Salomon suffered from diabetes since adolescence, then he may have suffered some of the main symptoms of dysfunctional virility: impotence, retrograde ejaculation, low testosterone and decreased sex drive. This may explain why he had no children and yet he and Rose remained in a warm, close and perhaps intimate relationship throughout their marriage. Rose, if she were fertile, may have been reluctant to have children or to be overly active in conjugal relations as a consequence of trauma in her early childhood related to the constant anxieties over pogroms, anti-Jewish riots that included rape, torture and murder of females; for though she may neither have experienced or witnessed such indecencies, she could have absorbed the toxic feelings from her mother and other women in her immediate circle of family and friends in Odessa. She and Salomon may have reached an agreement on how to live and love one another outside the usual paradigms of late nineteenth-century marriage and ignoring the cultural ideals of romantic love and family life.

Nevertheless, Salomon seems to have had a lively interest in the phenomenon of lesbianism, certainly something fashionable in bohemian circles of the time, which manifest in several ways: first, he studied and wrote about Renée Vivien (1877-1909, born Pauline Mary Tarn) and her group of saphist poets, his collection of annotated books by these writers later deposited in the Bibliothèque Nationale “to be made available to scholars and other readers in the year 2000.”[20] Salomon was not part of the avant garde of artists and writers in his time, but he did take them seriously, and second, he also had an interest, as a classicist, in women of this type. Not least among them was his aging neighbour in St Germaine-en-Laye, Liane de Pougy, whom he visited often to chat about her friends and activities in the days when she was an active mistress. Her journal-like letters to Max Jacob[21] record many interesting details about these conversations and her opinions about the things Salomon Reinach told her. Oddly, he almost never invited Liane to his house, but would wander over to speak with her, perhaps when Rose was having her surgery or, when she grew older and weaker, taking afternoon naps. There seems nothing erotic in the relationship with Liane and the friendship appears to indicate a man, perhaps rare in the early part of the twentieth century, who enjoyed female companionship and conversation for their own sake. For her part, Liane de Pougy was no intellectual and was often at best bemused by Salomon’s comments on his work at the museum, puzzled by the controversies he experienced because of his unconventional or increasingly out-of-date ideas, and generally curious about this strange elderly Jewish man who chose to spend so much time with her between his own professional and domestic duties. It is unlikely that Salomon, so much in need of comfort and conversation, realized how disdainful Liane was towards him and mocked him behind his back,[22] although he had a small inkling, which all makes his comments to her all the more pathetic. He probably didn’t know she called him “the night moth” for flitting about and her “Dear old learned one!” who, though he spoke of so many things she could not understand, often made silly mistakes when trying to discuss her interests, as when he said “The Baroness Clauzel is wearing a superb bison coat,” and she sniffers because he meant to say vison (mink) not bison (an American buffalo).[23]

The closest we come to an intimate description of Rose Reinach is given by Liane de Pougy

She has ravishing white hair, a gold snake around her waist, a hat made of blue birds, a red coat, a black dress, silk stockings embroidered in royal blue, a swollen ankle, wit, a magnificent pearl necklace, sky blue eyes. She remembered meeting me in Switzerland reading and loving l’Insaissable, seeing me when I was ill at Oberthurst, my son’s death. In short, she had followed my career. It is time that we knew each other. She took tea and congratulated me on being me . . . I called Salomon “maître” and “Monsieur Reinach,” and he was pleased with me.[24]

Note how Liane slips into the catalogue of anatomical and fashionable attributes the term “wit,” as this was some superficial accessory she could show or not show when needed, rather than, as we suspect, a defining quality in her personality, the one she shared with Salomon in their most private lives. But the Princess Ghika has slipped back into her courtesan voice for a moment when she gives this description, and she is in the midst of a conversation with one of her old friends and fellow “horizontals,” Nathalie Barney, here using one of her several noms-du-lit Flossie (alias Harmony and Amazon). The note for 10 October 1921 in her Cahiers bleu (which Salomon had recommended she write, with the title resonant with “blue stories” and “blue jokes”)

Salomon, after going round and round it, tells me: “Flossie plans to visit you on Monday, with a charming friend who wants to make your acquaintance because she admires your books so much,”—“?”—“Now, I shall be coming to fetch them, though I shall be too busy to come down with them” —?”—“I want to ask you something.”—“?”—“Don’t be nasty to me in front of Madame R.” I roared with laughter. “All right—but you are preaching hypocrisy, you know.”

If it seems like Salomon acts the part of a lap-dog by running errands for Liane and indulging her whims, what he gets out of it are the little anecdotes she tells him about the old days when she was still the talk of Paris and an illusion of what it might mean to have been part of the “gay society” when he was establishing his professional reputation and career path.

Reinach le Candide

My old friend, the late Salomon Reinach . . . whom the great ladies of Paris that one used to meet in his Sunday drawing-rooms called “Salomon le Candide” because of his ingenious attitude to all sex problems . . . [25]

While the primary meaning in French of candide is artless, clueless, innocent, naïve or foolish, as in Voltaire’s title character in his 1747 novella of that name, the Latin root in candidus (white or pure) can also veer towards trustworthy, frank, impartial, sincere and on to secretive, hidden, self-effacing, as in “candid camera”. As for a candidate, Wikidictionary tells us:

From Latin candidatus (“a person who is standing for public office”), the perfect passive participle of candidare, from candidus (“candid, white” ), in reference to Roman candidates wearing bleached white togas as a symbol of purity at a public forum.

Given the bad odour politicians have had over the years, the transition from pure intentions and honesty creeps easily towards that “ingenious” Salomon Reinach perceived by the ladies who chattered away to one another to be lurking in the salons, even his own, to gather the secrets of these Belle Epoque courtesans and their patriarchal masters. But Robert Eisler’s sharing of such scurrilous rumours may tell us more about this strange psychoanalyst and student of the places where the wild things rage and stomp in the night than about the portly gentleman curious about what “they” did “back then.” When the end did finally come, Salomon did not go easily into that dark night, nor did he accept with total equanimity the need to cultivate his own garden, as Voltaire’s Candide counselled.

About the end of Salomon, however, little is said. The French Wikipedia entry, which seems to be by or at least depends on the research of Hervé Duchêsne, gives the following details, beginning with the cause of his passing, then the conditions of his final months, and then the specifics of the death:

Diabétique depuis l’âge de cinquante ans et insomniaque ruinant sa santé par ses travaux sédentaires depuis l’adolescence, souffrant d’artérite au point de ne plus se déplacer depuis avril 1932 qu’en fauteuil roulant, refusant les thérapeutiques innovantes proposées, Salomon Reinach demande à regret sa mise à la retraite pour le 1er janvier 1933. Deux mois avant cette échéance, il meurt des suites d’une pneumonie 16 avenue Victor Hugo actuelle avenue Robert Schumann à Boulogne, près de Paris, dans une vaste villa du parc des Princes appelée l’Etrier et située à l’angle de la rue du Châlet, voie qui porte aujourd’hui son nom, où, voisin du peintre Jules de Gaultier et du sculpteur Joseph Bernard puis du pastorien René Dujarric, il habitait non loin de son jeune ami Paul Landowski.[26]

Diabetic since the age of fifty and an insomniac ruining his health by his sedentary work since adolescence, suffering from inflammation of the arteries to the point where he could no longer move about, since 1932 requiring a wheelchair, refusing innovative therapies offered to him, Salomon Reinach reluctantly requested retirement to begin on 1 January 1933. Two months before that date, he died following a bout of pneumonia at 16 Victor Hugo Avenue, today Robert Schumann Avenue, near Paris, in a vast villa on the Park of the Princes called the Etrier (Stirrup or Loop)  and situated at an angle with the Street of the Chalet, a road that today bears his name, where, a neighbour of the painter Jules de Gaultier and the sculptor Joseph Bernard and then René Dujarric of the Pasteur Institute, he was also close to his young friend Paul Landowski.

We have suggested, however, that Salomon first showed signs of diabetes in his early years and therefore, not only insomnia marked his usual condition, but also those sexual debilities characteristic of the illness. It is probable, as well, that he needed more than wheelchair to get about, but also some sort of pulley to help him in and out of bed, chairs, and other difficult manoeuvres in the house, including negotiating stairs. As to modern treatments which he baulked at, it is likely that Rose, as a doctor and as a wife-nurse in the household, tried to deal reasonably with him, but was well aware of his stubborn ways and accepted his refusal as a wish to die soon. Almost to the end, before becoming unable to walk down the street to Liane de Pougy’s home to gossip with her, complain about ill health and the state of the world, he found it easier to speak to this ex-courtesan than to Rose. Unlike the wife who would be constantly nagging him to take care of his health, the woman friend, so often obtuse in her observations of other people’s feelings, would listen as she always did, with a sort of condescending and ironic smile. Though these last months, weeks and days, Madame Reinach seems to have become stoical and accepting of his bad moods and suffering. It may be that because of the awkward arrangement of the house he lived in for so many years near the Museum of Anthropology, he had to shift to another structure far more convenient for an invalid, yet one close to some of his male friends. Whether these friends—all painters and sculptors, with one microbiologist—ever visited the ailing Salomon is left open. We do know that Liane visited at least once to inquire about her “dear old friend” and showed curiosity about the mechanical device he needed to move about.

Then we are told about Reinach’s burial, not about any funeral or Jewish rituals for the dead. Though he was always sceptical of such rites and prayers, Rose may have felt an inner need to perform some of the traditional customs, such as the family sitting shiva, washing the body, and lighting memorial candles; if not for herself, then for any older relatives left on his and her side.

Il est inhumé dans le carré juif du cimetière de Montmartre. Contre l’usage mais conformément à sa volonté expresse, il l’est sans discours.  Elle même malade, sa femme, qui fut aussi sa collaboratrice, l’y rejoint deux mois plus tard. Par testament, il léguait sa prodigieuse bibliothèque personnelle à l’université de Lyon, ville qui donne en 1934 son nom à une des rues de La Guillotière.[27]

He was buried in the Jewish section of the cemetery at Montmartre. Contrary to custom but conforming to his own express request, it was conducted without formal speeches. She herself ill, his wife who was also his collaborator, joined him two months later. In his will, he donated his prodigious personal library to the University of Lyon, the city where in 1934 his name was given to one of the streets in La Guillotière.

The usage referred to here is not any religious or specifically rabbinical custom, but to the secular society in France which offered distinguished friends and guests an opportunity to farewell the deceased, often following a flower-laden cortege through the streets of Paris, and then repeated a few months later by the unveiling of a memorial stone in the person’s honour. Rather than just modesty on Salomon’s part, this wish to be buried without ceremony or public praise may indicate a latent sense of Jewishness, a passive withdrawal from both Republican and Christian customs. Rose herself, who had been suffering from heart problems for many years, at this point may not have been strong enough to attend the funeral (if there had been one) or the inhumation of the body. Yet in the intervening months before her own passing, she was able to oversee—probably with the aid of the executor of Salomon’s last will and testament—the formal handing over of Reinach’s private archives in Lyon, the rest of his professional documents, books and articles remaining in the Museum.

One point stands out. By identifying Rose as collaboratrice (female collaborator), the Wikipedia entry suggests a continuation of her professional relationship begun before they were married when she “assisted” (which here suggests more than accompanied as a travelling companion or minder: she participated in his research) Salomon on his research trips abroad. It may have been during one or two of these early voyages abroad that they cemented a relationship that would lead to marriage and that, continuing throughout their lives, led to a professional relationship that was always interwoven with their emotional bonds, however unromantic they may have been, and with whatever shared Jewishness their differing backgrounds allowed. Unlike the marriages entered into by his older and younger brothers, Salomon’s bonding with Rose seemed out of synch with the others’ more traditional and fashionable patriarchal model; it was more respectful, patient and mutually beneficial in terms of character-formation. If we find it difficult to pin down, not least because the few references by others are either too vague or too snide, there is a variation of that elusive certain something special we found in Lucie and Alfred Dreyfus.

Salomon Reinach’s interest in feminist themes and ideas throughout most of his career, what he termed parthenologie, took several other forms than his peculiar curiosity about lesbians, courtesans, female artists and writers. He also gave popular lectures to women on art and archaeology (Apollo), prepared introductory textbooks in the proper usage of French, as Sidonie, or Le français sans peine (1913) and to instruct girls in the classical languages of Greek (Eulalie, ou Le grec sans larmes, 1911) and Latin (Cornélie, ou Le latin sans pleurs, 1912) and cultures, particularly the two Lettres à Zoe sur l’histoire des philosophies (both published in 1926) and supported moves by feminists for civil equality and justice.

Recent re-edition of Salomon Reinach’s book for young French readers.

It is difficult at times to imagine not only what went on in the Reinach household in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, who attended his Sunday salons, who visited at other times to receive his grace and favour in pursuit of their careers, what furniture adorned the public and private rooms of a man well-known for his collections of art and artefacts, prehistorical and modern, and how he performed his herculean tasks of compiling lists and synthesizing a wide variety of scholarship. Whatever his ingenious attitude to all “sex problems” might have been, and it seems to be a tolerant acceptance of all so-called perversions, which he viewed dispassionately as some sort of compensation for his own libidinal weaknesses, another feature of his diabetes and the limited treatments available during most of his lifetime, was his need to restrict his diet severely to a level of abstemiousness. This would have curtailed his social participation in anything but formal banquets and avoidance of drinking sessions with his masculine colleagues. Salomon also would have found his mobility increasingly difficult due to the diabetes he had to deal with. We catch a glimpse of that debilitation twice, once when he was taken down the muddy hillside to the site of the burial chambers at Glozel propped up in an ox-drawn farm wagon, a rather indecorous and undignified posture to be seen in; and second, when Liane de Pougy writes of her curiosity about the “lift” installed in the Reinach household during Salomon’s last illness. It would have been some mechanical device to help him negotiate the stairs in the house or to help him get in and out of bed, some device Rose prevented Liane from examining because it would have been too humiliating for her husband to be seen dependent upon.

It is hard to reconcile his seemingly dry-as-dust old fashioned professional life as seen by his contemporaries with his familiarity with women of dubious reputations such as Liane de Pougy, his apparently warm but childless and long marriage to Dr. Rose Reinach his physician wife, and his often-times quirky crusades on behalf of noble but lost causes. Yet it is not hard to switch perspectives and see husband and wife as collaborators in many mutual projects, deeply loyal and committed marital partners, compensating as it were for lack of children, in public and private charities and scholarly enterprises.

I suggested in Part 1 of this essay that Rose had learned to take Salomon’s melancholy moods and his propensity to kvetch when he felt pain or frustration in her stride. Perhaps she knew his sense of humour too, something that Liane de Pougy was deaf to. In the opening pages of Reinach’s book on Glozel, he tells a joke that runs something like this:

Two hobos, during a rain storm seek shelter under a bridge. One of them, seated on a stone bench, holds his head in his hands and moans. “What’s the matter, old man,” asks his companion, “you seem in torment.” “Oy,” said the first, “don’t you know? It’s the Glozel Affair!”

Then in this monograph Salomon begins his discussion of how the Dreyfus and Glozel affairs are related. The turmoil and controversy of Glozel, this was the first time in the history that the nation was split by a disagreement among scientists, and not about religion, politics, sports or women. In fact, however, as it turns out, the French press and public opinion divided again over the question of national identity, and therefore whom to believe—the establishment of politicians seeking to preserve their traditional interests, the professional scholars who ran the academies, institutes and universities and the regional upper-middle-class families who had to fight off the monarchists and the socialists; or the ordinary little people who believed they belonged to the soil where they laboured, the amateurs who followed science and philosophy where it led beyond the exclusive academic boundaries, and the great Jewish cultural elites seeking to disprove the view that they could never be real Frenchmen. Reinach developed his defence (or defensiveness) of Jewishness in the undercutting of the “Mirage of the East,” a variation of that elusive certain something special we found in Lucie and Alfred Dreyfus.

Il s’agissait de savoir, en 1926-27, si ce que nous avons appris à l’école touchant histoire primitive était, ou non, à retenir ; si la civilisation était, qui nous est commune avait suivi, a ses débuts, la marche du soleil ou la marche inverse. Questions passionnantes pour tout homme qui  pas seulement pour les savants de profession.[28]

It was a question of knowing, in 1926-27, if what we had learned at school concerning primitive history was or was not to be retained; if civilization, common to all of us, had followed, since its beginnings, the sun’s journey from east to west or instead went in the other direction. Passionate questions for all men, not only for the professional scholars.

To be continued in Part 3.

Read Part I here.


These annotations not only signal the authorities and authors being cited in the main text, but also provide supplemental information and speculations pertinent to the argument under construction.  Unlike a strictly academic article, this often uses fictional and poetic sources as points of entry to begin discussions and provide contexts to the facts offered. Just as in the main body of the text I enter illustrations to help imagine the situations and persons involved, so too in these end-notes I midrash (assuming that a midrash is already a process as well as a product of creative exegesis) the argument into enhanced qualitative regions of debate.

[1]  “The Priest of Spring” in Essays by G.K.Chesterton, selected with a preface by John Guest (London and Glasgow: Collins Clear-Type Press,  1939) p. 200.

[2] Suzanne Falck and Rachel Nall, “How does Diabetes Affect your Sex Life?”, Medical News Today (28 April 2017) online at

[3] Frank Snowden, “The History of Smallpox, ‘The Speckled Monster,’ from 1600-1977” Brewminate (2 January 2010) online at

[4] In her introduction to the letters between Salomon Reinach and Joseph Déchelette, Sandra Péré-Noguès hints that Salomon had a private life when saying the younger man was once invited to his domicile (private residence or home) of the Reinachs, but no hint of having a wife, let alone giving her a name. “From Roanne a Saint-Germaine-en-Laye: la correspondence entre Joseph Déchelette et Salomon Reinach” in HAL: Archives Ouverte : hal-01227537 (2015) HAL.Id at  In these letters, written with a mixture of formal conventions and informal attempts at friendship, Déchelette seems unable to understand why Reinach always pulls back from intimacy.  At one point in a letter dated 5 July 1898, the eager young museum director recalls how happy he was to meet “Madame Reinach” on, as he repeats later, one his “precious visits” (8 December 1898) to Saint-Germaine-en-Laye; hopes that she will be able to accompany her husband when he visits Roanne on museum business. Déchelette opens his letters to personal remarks often, but Salomon usually resists, though he does many favours over the years on behalf of the young man, helping him get published, offering him an editorial position, and introducing him to important men in France and England.  The only time they come close to calling each other friends (“Cher monsieur et ami”, 1 and 3 October 1903) happens when they argue over some small technical matters. The reason for Salomon’s hesitation n, however, rises almost to the surface in a letter dated 27 January 1904, when he refers to a response made by his brother Louis Jean Déchelette in regard to a controversy surrounding the Abbé Joseph Brugerette, who lost his teaching post for defending Dreyfus.  Louis Déchelette, a conservative priest who was  to become Auxiliary Bishop of Lyon soon after, not only spoke out against his fellow Catholic, but was a supporter of Pope Pius X, a strong opponent of “modernism”, which term included the kind of secularizing and mythologizing of the major religions Reinach was writing about in his books on Cultes, Mythes et Religions (in five volumes from 1905 to 1929).  While not accusing Joseph of identifying with his brother’s opinions or associating him with the strong criticisms of the Ultra-Montainists, Reinach would have been wary of too close a friendship with this family.  At some points in his communications with Salomon, hesitantly, speaks of his admiration for the older man’s scepticism and propensity to see religions as superstitious and mythical (10 January 1900). 

[5] The spelling of Rose’s family name varies from Margoulieff to Margouleff, depending how the Cyrillic is transliterated into French. It is likely that she grew up speaking Russian and Yiddish and, like many educated middle-class Jewish children in the Czarist Empire, also learned French as the language of science and culture. 

[6] On the Jewish background to life in Odessa during the late nineteenth century, se Edmund de Waal, The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance (London: Chatto & Windus, 2010). The Ephrussi family de Waal recalls were also in Paris at the time when Rose Margoulieff arrived to start medical studies.

[7]  The Wikiwand annotation refers to Alan Woods. Bolshevism: The Road to Revolution Archived 2007-09-30 at the Wayback Machine.. Part Two: The First Russian Revolution.

[8] Abram Margoulieff  could also have been related to Léon Abrami (1879-1939) who in 1909, married Helene Reinach, the oldest daughter of Théodore Reinach. Léon was born in Istambul, so that family background seems to be Sephardi. He served in the French Army of the East during the Great War under General Maurice-Paul-Emmanuel Sarrail (1856 1929) who became his political mentor when both were based in Salonika. Abrami was soon elected to the National Assembly as deputy in 1914-1928 and again in 1932-19346 so that he would have been naturalized as a French citizen.

[9] Henri Lavagne, “Lettres inédites de Franz Cumont à Salomon Reinach” in Comptes rendu des séances de l’Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres 144 :2 (2000)  763.

[10] In the listing of Jews who had their collections stolen by the German occupiers during World War Two, there is an entry for a “J. Margoulieff”, but no further information seems available.

[11] Another possibility is tantalizing on the title page of a book under the title of Etude critique sur les monuments antiques réprésentant des scènes d’accouchements  (Paris: G. Steinheil, 1893), with the author given as “J. Margoulieff.”.

[12] There were many Jews, such as Max Jacob, who converted out of conviction or practicality, and assumed they would be safe from discrimination and  persecution, only to be caught up by the Gestapo and murdered on racial grounds.

[13] The traditional East European match-maker is known as a shadkhin.  According to http:// A0%D 7%A2%D7%9F  “Derivatives of shadkhnen: mshadekh zayn- to make a match; shadkhn

– a (male) matchmaker, marriage broker</em>; shadkhnte  – a (female) …” A shidach negiotiated in this way was not necessarily a marriage of convenience without the bride and groom knowing each other prior to the wedding ceremony, but a way for parents in separate cities or countries to ensure the bona fides of each other’s credentials as good, honest Jews; and for the couple themselves to feel comfortable in a social situation that was strange to them.  Both Salomon, with his diabetes and other ailments was not one to rush into a romantic liaison, and Rose, still anxious and nervous after escaping from the anti-Semitic Russian Empire and having had to confront the jibes and discriminatory attitudes against women in the medical school, may have been hesitant about committing themselves to a long-term emotional relationship.  Yet they met, bonded intellectually, and created a life-time loyalty to one another, each respectful of the other’s peculiarities.

[14] The article is found in Monuments et mémoires de la Fondation Eugène Piot  tome 11, fasicule 1-2 (1904) pp. 7-522 available through Persée online at piot_1148-6023_1904_num11_1_1217.

[15] Fabrice Reinach, “Le Rêve de Théodore Reinach: La vie à Kérylos de sa construction au Musée » Architecture du rêve, Actes du 3ème  Colloque de la Villa Kérylos à Beaulieu-sur-Mer les 29 & 30 octobre 1992. Paris : Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, 1994, pp. 25-34, (Cahiers de la Villa Kérylos, 3) online at g Fabrice Reinach is the grandson of Théodore Reinach. 

[16] Ruth Harris, Dreyfus: Politics, Emotion and the Scandal of the Century (London: Macmillan/Henry Holt & Co., 2010) p. 258.

[17] Named after a mythological bird in ancient Greece, “a swallow of the seas”, according to Fabrice Reinach, “Fabrice Reinach, “Le Rêve de Théodore Reinach” 26.

[18] But Thédore’s grandson recalls that in later years, after Joseph (Jo) passed away, and no longer dominated their get-togethers and lives, his father (Bébé) and Salomon (Lolo) would holiday together in the south of France on the Côte d’Azur in the villa Kérylos, dress in Greek robes, and speak softly in the classical languages. Fabrice Reinach, “Le Rêve de Théodore Reinach » 32.

[19] Another instance of ingratitude shows up in the relations between Berenson and Reinach in regard to the way a Japanese scholar Yashiro Yukio was introduced to the French savant around the time Apollo was published, but then he was left to fend for himself in Italy and even later in the USA, when Berenson’s tastes switched from Japanese to Chinese art.  See Carl Brandon Strelke, “Bernard Berenson and Asian Art: in Joseph Connors and Louis A. Waldman, eds., Bernard Berenson: Formation and Heritage, Villa I Tatti Series, 31 (Villa I Tatti: The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies, 2014) p. 227. Or again, we learn that when Berenson wanted to be introduced to Pierre Louÿs, author of the faked saphistic Songs to Bilitis, he approached Natalie Clifford Barney, one of the leading lesbian intellectuals of the day, the meeting was arranged for the home of Salomon Reinach (cp., Natalie Clifford Barney, Adventures of the Mind, trans. John Spalding Gatton [New York and London: NYU Press, 1992; originally Aventures de l’ésprit, 1929) p. 42 and note 38, p. 207. 

[20] Elaine Marks, “‘Sapho 1900’: Imaginary Renée Viviens and the Rear of the belle époqueYale French Studies 75 (1988) 176. 

[21] Jean Chalon and Paul Bernard, eds., Max Jacob, Lettres a Liane de Pougy (Paris : Plon, 1980).

[22] Louise Ebel, “Liane de Pougy, un Chef-d’Œuvre Libertin » Miss Pandora (19 March 2014) online at

[23] Liane de Pougy,  27 November 1921,  My Blue Note Books, p. 135.

[24] Liane de Pougy,  10 October 1921,  My Blue Note Books, p. 131.

[25] Robert Eisler, Man into Wolf: An Anthropological Interpretation of Sadism, Masochism and Lycanthropy (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1951), Appendix II, p. 259.

[26] “Salomon Reinach” at

[27] “Salomon Reinach” at

[28] Salomon Reinach, “Glozel”  (pp. 4-49) Wikisource at

Norman Simms
taught in New Zealand for more than forty years at the University of Waikato, with stints at the Nouvelle Sorbonne in Paris and Ben-Gurion University in Israel. He founded the interdisciplinary journal Mentalities/Mentalités in the early 1970s and saw it through nearly thirty years. Since retirement, he has published three books on Alfred and Lucie Dreyfus and a two-volume study of Jewish intellectuals and artists in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Western Europe, Jews in an Illusion of Paradise; Dust and Ashes, Comedians and Catastrophes, Volume I, and his newest book, Jews in an Illusion of Paradise: Dust and Ashes, Falling Out of Place and Into History, Volume II. Several further manuscripts in the same vein are currently being completed. Along with Nancy Hartvelt Kobrin, he is preparing a psychohistorical examination of why children terrorists kill other children.

More by Norman Simms here.

Follow NER on Twitter @NERIconoclast



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