Queer Places:
Villa Siracusa, Via Bernardino Rota, 44, 80067 Sorrento NA
Campo Cestio Rome, Città Metropolitana di Roma Capitale, Lazio, Italy

Mimì Franchetti and Helene Baby SoldatenkovElena Vasilievna "Baby" Soldatenkova (1902 - April 1, 1988) was the daughter of Elena Konstantinovna Gorchakova Soldatenkova, A fictional character in Extraordinary Women by Compton Mackenzie. Most lesbian travellers would call on the Principessa Helène Soldatenkov, who had been living for many years at the Villa Siracusa, across the sound in Sorrento, waited on by an all-female staff. Her many lovers were ‘governesses’ to her daughter, who was also called Helène but known as ‘Baby’. Mimì Franchetti succeeded in seducing the previously heterosexual Baby Soldatenkov, a matter which gave her mother, too, great satisfaction. (Compton Mackenzie wrote about them all in Extraordinary Women.)

When Baby was a beautiful, if somewhat doll-like, girl of seventeen, to her mother’s displeasure she fell in love with Luigi Gargiulo, the good-looking son of the local barber. In order to separate them the Princess sent Baby over to Capri with her governess ‘Missi’, to stay in the Quisisana and, she hoped, recover from Luigi.

Baby Soldatenkov, described by one of the set as ‘jeune fille … fourbe, mais au fond innocente’ – the imputation of innocence reduced her to tears – was soon conquered by Mimì Franchetti. Baby’s affair with Mimì was warmly encouraged by her mother who felt that ‘it struck as hard at the whole male sex as it had at one presumptuous youth’. Baby, however, soon got tired of Mimì and took up with another boy. Mimì then found herself burdened with far too much of the Princess’s company. In the autumn they returned to Sorrento, where Baby joined a group of young people who passed the time in playing poker, drinking cocktails and making love. All this reduced ‘Missi’ to a breakdown and she was sent on a long holiday. Her place as governess was taken by the ‘Baroness Drenka Vidakovich’, ‘a handsome young woman of about thirty with a hard mouth, coarse hands and bright bitter eyes which always seemed to be looking as if she had not been given the correct change’; the Princess was confident that her daughter would learn something of the world from the Baroness.

Baby Soldatenkova married Luigi Gargiulo, but they divorced.


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