“She had remarkable eyes, very large and lively, the kind that seem to send off sparks, that sometimes look glowing with an inner fire.”
Alice B. Toklas, born on April 30, 1877, is remembered for two things: being Gertrude Stein’s great love and writing her unusual, revered memoir-disguised-as-cookbook chronicling their life together. On September 8, 1907, her first day as an American expat in Paris, Toklas met Stein. The two fell instantly in love and remained together for the next 39 years, until Stein’s death. Stein often referred to Toklas as her “wifey” and addressed her as “baby precious.” Writing late into the night, the author liked to leave notes next to the pillow for Alice to find in the morning, signed “Y.D,” short for “Your Darling.” In an ideal, civilized world of human rights and equality, theirs would have been a marriage — and it would have been one of the happiest and most exemplary in literary history.
In her memoir, What Is Remembered (public library), Alice relays the fateful encounter, conveying with admirably few words the immense, intense mesmerism of their relationship:
It was Gertrude Stein who held my complete attention, as she did for all the many years I knew her. I knew her until her death, and all these empty ones since then. She was a golden brown presence, burned by the Tuscan sun and with a golden glint in her warm brown hair. She was dressed in a warm brown corduroy suit. She wore a large round coral brooch and when she talked, very little, or laughed, a good deal, I thought her voice came from this brooch. It was unlike anyone else’s voice — deep, full, velvety, like a great contralto’s, like two voices.