Adelsward Fersen, Baron Jacques D' (EoH)

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Adelsward Fersen, Baron Jacques D' (1880-1923)

French aristocrat and writer. Descended from Marie Antoinette's lover Axel Fersen, the wealthy young baron wrote several volumes of poetry and fiction in the first decade of the century, including Hyrnnaire d'Adonis, Chansons l~g&reLs,o rd Lyllian, and Une jeunesse. In addition, he edited and contributed to twelve monthly numbers of a literary periodical, Akademos (1909). At the age of twenty-three he was arrested for taking photographs of naked Parisian schoolboys, but was allowed to go into exile on the island of Capri for several years, later returning to France after having visited Sri Lanka and China. The great love of his life was the boy Nino Cesarini, who lived with him in the Villa Lysis on Capri, which was filled with statues of naked youths and which is now overrun by weeds and stray cats. Adelswiird Fersen also wrote poems to a thirteen-year-old Eton schoolboy. He was the model for Baron Robert Marsac Lagerstrbm in Compton Mackenzie's amusing novel Vestal Fire (1927)) and was the hero of Roger Peyrefitte's historical fiction L'exil de Capri (1959). He died of a drug overdose in 1923, having for years been an opium and cocaine addict. He had modeled his life on that of Count Robert de Montesquiou, but the latter refused to have anything to do with him, for even in Capri Adelswiird Fersen had caused scandals. He was even associated with Essebac (as the novelist Achille BBcasse was known), Norman Douglas, and Baron von Gloeden. The story of his sexual life is to be found in his own books, in the works of NormanDouglas, and inPeyrefittels novel, which is spoiled by a mixture of fact and fiction.


Bruce Chatwin, "Self-Love Among the Ruins," Vanity Fair, 47:4 (April 1984), 46-55, 102-6.

Stephen Wayne Foster

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