The Seven Fears of Sarah Bernhardt

In 1905, an article in the Omaha Daily Bee titled, “The Seven Fears of Sarah Bernhardt” asserted that Bernhardt was in the process of overcoming or had already banished the major dreads that had haunted her throughout her life:

“The fear of being buried alive.
The fear that she would become thin again.
The fear that her son would cease to love her.
The fear that she would die rich, for she has always thought it a sin to have too much money and she has religiously squandered her money on this account.
The fear that she would lose her fascinating and almost uncanny beauty.
The fear that Victorien Sardou would think some other actress as great as she.
The fear that she would grow old on stage.”

Sarah was known to have slept in a coffin for a period, a practice which was explained as a method for her to get over her fear of premature burial. In 1879, fellow actress Mary Anderson touched on the subject of Sarah’s coffin as well as some other peculiarities about the star.

“…she slept in a coffin continually for three years. She does not do so now. I asked her why she gave up the habit. She said she had grown tired of it, as the coffin was uncomfortable. She said she also wished to familiarize herself with the thought of death. I saw her boudoir. The carpet was of black velvet, with flowers in silver, the furniture covered with black velvet, and the walls curiously decorated in the same fashion. A skeleton of a man who she said had died of love in Mantua hung before the mirror, with finger pointing at its own reflection. In large bowls about the room rose leaves were heaped, the fragrance that arose being overpowering. I could not remain in the room, it was so suggestive of horrible thoughts.”

While Sarah didn’t die until 1923 from uremia she had her tomb built many years before her demise in Paris’ Cimetière du Père Lachaise. Reports of the tomb existed as early as 1889.

“No, the ‘Divine Sarah’ isn’t dead, but she is getting old and she knows that the visit of the Grim Reaper must be an occurence of the not distant future.”

The Seven Fears of Sarah Bernhardt

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