Walter Van Rensselaer Berry

Walter Van Rensselaer Berry (July 29, 1859 - 1927) was an American lawyer, diplomat, Francophile, and friend of several great writers.

Biography

Berry was born in Paris, a descendant of the Van Rensselaer family of New York. After attending St. Mark's School and Harvard, he took a law degree at Columbia University, practicing law in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Paris, where he pursued a career in international law and diplomacy. After serving as a judge at the International Tribunal of Egypt from 1908 to 1911, he settled in Paris for the remainder of his life and became a strong advocate of France, tirelessly promoting its cause in the United States when World War One broke out in 1914; he served as President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Paris from 1916 to 1923. After the war he vigorously opposed both Germany and the Soviet Union.Edel, Leon, "Walter Berry and the Novelists: Proust, James, and Edith Wharton," pp. 514-15.]

A close friend of Henry James and Edith Wharton, who called him "the love of my life," he met Marcel Proust in the summer of 1916, beginning "a friendship that was to be one of the most rewarding of Proust's final years."Carter, William C., "Marcel Proust: A Life," p. 638.]

Geoffrey Wolff in his life of Harry Crosby describes Berry as a fashion plate well over six feet tall. Caresse described him to me very much as she did in her careless memoirs—slimness, thinness, wearing a morning coat and striped trousers like a diplomat and highly polished button-shoes. His arms were long and like pipestems. He could be witty, if a little on the pedantic side. His manner with women (said Caresse) was "gallant and wicked." Something frigid and formidable about his countenance, very "sec".Edel, Leon, "Walter Berry and the Novelists: Proust, James, and Edith Wharton," pp. 515.]

He was a cousin of Harry Crosby, leaving him in his will "my entire library except such items as my good friend Edith Wharton may care to choose."Crosby, Caresse, "The Passionate Years" (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1968), p. 638.]

Notes

References

Carter, William C., "Marcel Proust: A Life" (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000).

Edel, Leon, "Walter Berry and the Novelists: Proust, James, and Edith Wharton," "Nineteenth-Century Fiction" 38 (1984):514-28.


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