Cover image for Baby precious always shines : selected love notes between Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas
Baby precious always shines : selected love notes between Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas
Stein, Gertrude, 1874-1946.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
165 pages : illustrations ; 20 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3537.T323 Z465 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Off and on, during the entire period they were together, Gertrude and Alice wrote each other little love notes. Calling her "wifey" and most often addressing her as "baby precious," Stein scribbled her love for Toklas in quick moments of unselfconscious desire, notes that are small but significant testimonies to her long-lived love. And on occasion, Toklas penned or typed letters back to her "husband."

These notes are brief, mantra-like enticements: tender, beseeching, caring and confessing, funny and game, sexually-charged and sincere, quotidian and queer, but always passionate. Each one marks the pleasures--infrequently, the pains--of married love. When fitted together, the notes create a tantalizing mosaic of a marriage between two women that was built to last.

Author Notes

Famous writer Gertrude Stein was born on February 3, 1874 in Allegheny, PA and was educated at Radcliffe College and Johns Hopkins medical school.

Stein wrote Three Lives, The Making of Americans, and Tender Buttons, all of which were considered difficult for the average reader. She is most famous for her opera Four Saints in Three Acts and The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, which was actually an autobiography of Stein herself. With her companion Alice B. Toklas, Stein received the French government's Medaille de la Reconnaissance Francaise for theory work with the American fund for French Wounded in World War I.

Gertrude Stein died in Neuilly-ser-Seine, France on July 27, 1946.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Before she retired after a long night of writing, American modernist Gertrude Stein often scribbled tender notes to her longtime companion, Alice B. Toklas. The two met in Paris in 1907 and lived together until Stein's death in 1946. These poetic missives, published with nine of Toklas's replies, reveal a loving pair sharing a private language of endearments. While intimate correspondence often doesn't galvanize those outside the relationship, Stein's incantations demonstrate her playful language and liberal use of double entendres. Too often, however, they sink into mere repetition: a few rounds of "Baby precious [Stein's nickname for Toklas], oh dear baby so precious, sweet kissed baby so precious" will drive more than a few readers to distraction. The only new facet of Stein's personality to come to the fore, highlighted by Turner's introduction, is Stein's obsession with Toklas's bodily functions. Apparently, Stein's many references to "having a cow" ("As a Wife Has a Cow a Love Story," etc.) have a meaning other than the orgasmic connotations that many Stein scholars have attached to themÄindeed, they are Stein's imprecations for Toklas to have a bowel movement. Those scholars and readers who have focused on the butch/femme identities of this famous lesbian couple may be shocked to discover that Stein's theories of "bottom nature" may boil down to those who are regular and those who are not. Illustrations. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

While at first glance this collection of undated love notes may appear ephemeral, fans and scholars will greet them with the enthusiasm of an anthropologist discovering the ledgerbooks of a lost tribe. The majority are from Stein to Toklas, written late at night when Stein had finished her other writing and Toklas was already asleep. Some are apologies, some cryptic sexual flirtations. The collection comes to us by accidentÄToklas sent off a box to Yale with Stein's official papers, demanded them back when she realized the mistake, and eventually agreed to relinquish themÄand some readers may feel discomfort at looking through these most intimate of papers. But Stein's relationship with her life partner was indisputably central to her literary achievement, and these behind-the-scenes materials reveal a relationship much more complex than an imitation heterosexual marriage. Turner, a lesbian folklorist and Stein scholar, provides an excellentÄindeed, revelatoryÄessay deciphering the notes and teasing meanings that illuminate Stein's oeuvre. For all academic literature collections.ÄDouglas McClemont, New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.