Queer Places:
10 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, London
Brookwood Cemetery Brookwood, Woking Borough, Surrey, England

Emily Sargent, c.1877 - John Singer Sargent - WikiArt.orgEmily Sargent (January 29, 1857 - May 22, 1936) was the unmarried sister of John Singer Sargent.

Emily Sargent was born in Rome, to Fitzwilliam Sargent and Mary Newbold. Among her sisters there was Violet Sargent Ormond.

Emily and Violet were close friends with Henry James. They lived just doors away from James’s flat at 21 Carlyle Mansions, Cheyne Walk. Emily, who resided at #10, had been the writer’s helpful neighbor ever since he signed the lease for his perch in Chelsea in 1912, and she frequently asked him to join her (and often her brother) for tea or an evening’s repast. When he gladly accepted one these invites in 1914, James couldn’t help saying, “it seems to me that at this rate it’s you and John who give all my dinners!” The author’s amanuensis, Theodora Bosanquet, noted in her diary that the two sisters came to stay with James the night after he collapsed from his second stroke, and they were seldom away from his residence in the weeks to come. Always the provider, some days later Emily “came round with jellies and oysters,” and then sent ice cream (“after hearing that was the only sort of food H.J. would look at”). She was present at the hour of the author’s death, and all three Sargents sat with Mrs. William James (Henry James' sister-in-law) and her daughter Peggy in the front pew at his funeral. When that service was ended, Emily and Violet accompanied the Jameses to the outlying crematorium at Golders Green (at the farthest fringe of Hampstead Heath), where, following the instructions in his last will and testament, Henry James’s body was to be reduced to ashes.

When John Singer Sargent's pupil, and possible more, Wilfrid de Glehn married in the United States, Sargent felt like he was bertrayed. The painter’s fears about de Glehn’s desertion were ill-founded, as he and Jane Emmet returned to London and took up residence at #73, just steps away from the flat at #10 where Sargent had installed his mother and devoted sister Emily, and still within easy walking distance of his own studio in Tite Street. (Sargent’s other sister Violet Ormond and her children were there, too—at #94) The intimate friendship among all of them would continue unabated until Sargent’s death in 1925, when Wilfrid de Glehn was named executor of his mentor’s artistic estate.

Emily Sargent, c.1877 - John Singer Sargent - WikiArt.org
by John Singer Sargent

After Mary Sargent died in 1906, in her place John’s sister Emily became “his soi-disant wife”—“a perfect match, for both of them” (which lasted until the end of his life), “uncluttered by the ferocity of sex.” In 1891 the Sargents’ younger sister, Violet, had married a man, Francis Ormond, who, after fathering six children, abandoned his family to indulge his homosexual proclivity in foreign parts. Writing of her sister, Emily Sargent told Vernon Lee, “She says she has long since accepted the fact that he is abnormal, & she thinks he has too, now. The pity is that he has it in his power to cloud so many lives!” Emily Sargent to Vernon Lee.

Emily Sargent died in Zurich in 1936.

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