Rupert Pole

Bigamous husband of Anaïs Nin
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The Independent Online

Rupert Pole, actor, forest ranger, teacher and editor: born Los Angeles 18 February 1919; married first Jane Lloyd-Jones (marriage dissolved), second 1955 Anaïs Nin (died 1977; marriage annulled 1966); died Los Angeles 5 July 2006.

It is unusual for the death of a forest ranger turned school science teacher, handsome as he might be, to echo around the world. Rupert Pole, however, was caught up in the soap opera of 20th-century literature, and his life with Anaïs Nin was wilder than any pitch a scriptwriter could reasonably hope to get past the most ratings- hungry producer.

As exotic as her looks was Nin's prose style which, in hundreds of diary volumes, chronicled a life which had taken wing with a move to Paris in the Thirties. She was then in her late twenties and been married for 10 years to a banker and aspirant avant-garde film-maker Hugo Guiler, a marriage she now augmented with a variety of liaisons: whether the one with her father was more appetising than that with the writer Henry Miller is all a matter of taste.

By the end of the Second World War, with "stories about exquisite women told by an exquisite woman", as Edmund Wilson described them, she had found a limited market for such books, some self-published, as The House of Incest (1936), Under a Glass Bell (1944) and Winter of Artifice (1939). Thus, she was one of those at a Manhattan party given by Hazel Guggenheim McKinley in February 1947. The story has it that she met Rupert Pole in the lift; certainly, she spent most of the party with this shy man, 16 years younger than her.

Pole's diffidence meant that, despite his handsome features and a degree in music from Harvard, his hopes of a movie career had come to naught, and were little bolstered by a stint as an entertainer aboard a cruise ship with his cousin Jane Lloyd-Jones; they had been married but were now divorced. Nin brightened at the news that he was available, and, during Guiler's absence on business, Pole proved so congenial that she turned down invitations from the five men with whom she had slept earlier in the week.

Pole was then appearing in a Broadway production of The Duchess of Malfi but hankered for the West where he had been born in 1919, the son of Reginald Pole and Helen Taggart, both actors (upon divorce, his mother had married a son of the architect Frank Lloyd Wright). Nin was beguiled by Pole's tales of the simple life to which he now aspired - a contrast with the sophisticated circles enjoyed by Guiler, whose lavish tastes had included the subsidy of his wife's work but who, during the coming decades, was to find that his increasingly inept investments regularly brought a brush with penury.

Meanwhile, after spinning Guiler another yarn and not disabusing Pole of his illusion that she was divorced, Nin drove across country with him and reached Los Angeles, where he began the forestry studies which continued at Berkeley and led to work in Sierra Madre. There, the authorities, in their naïvety, provided the couple with married quarters.

To picture Anaïs Nin in such a setting is boggling, and, indeed, it was not one to which she entirely took. Every six weeks she would return East after giving Pole reasons for her departure as fanciful as those Guiler duly heard when it was time to kick the Manhattan dust from her heels. One was told of meetings with publishers and magazine work; the other of rest cures and Hollywood possibilities.

Perversely stimulating as such an edifice of wild lies may have been, it was hardly conducive to that great calm from which creative work springs - that is, unless one takes the tenable line that Anaïs Nin put her talent into her life: as Gore Vidal noted, "By the end, I don't think that even Anaïs knew who was who and what was what as opposed to how she was currently reinventing everyone." Stories are legion of panicked visits to the psychiatrist she and Guiler shared, of Pole's telephone calls to the Manhattan apartment which she assured Guiler were from crazy fans.

By now, Pole was rather hoping that they could marry. Of all the quandaries which Nin brought upon herself, this was the greatest. She was undaunted. After all, what is bigamy after a spot of incest? And so it was that, on the way back from a 1955 motor tour of Mexico, they were married in the small Arizona town of Quartzsite by a justice of the peace oblivious to the crime beneath his very nose. While it is possible that both husbands knew about, and acquiesed in her bi-coastal existence, it is probable that Guiler never learned of the bigamy - something which would also have been frowned upon by Pole's new employers at the Thomas Starr King Middle School in Los Angeles, where he taught science until retirement, and was well regarded by his pupils.

So might the double marriage have gone on, but salted away in a bank vault were Nin's copious diaries, which she now began to work over and refashion. With their publication in the mid- Sixties, she became more than a cult. Solipsistic as she was, she had often been alarmed by publicity, and there was now the dread possibility that the news would come to wider attention of a domestic set-up which was, in any case, common knowledge in Hollywood.

She confessed all to Pole. He was unfazed, his good nature even accepting the fact that she had to support the hapless Guiler in return for the vital contribution he had made early in her career. The marriage to Pole was annulled, but life continued as before, until the three-year struggle with cancer which killed her in 1977. Both men were to enjoy sex beyond the grave, for the volumes of erotica which she had written for a collector were soon published as Delta of Venus (1977) and Little Birds (1979) and became far and away Nin's biggest sellers. With the death in 1985 of Guiler, all references to whom had been cut from the published diary, Pole oversaw the issue of a revised, unexpurgated version.

Christopher Hawtree

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