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"My much desired Sam, my beloved master, I am yours to die of love for, I am yours unto madness. This evening I will see you… I slept, but badly. My lips ring a wake-up kiss for you, your Sarah."

Sarah Bernhardt, 1878

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The Diva and Doctor God

Caroline de CostaFrancesca Miller


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They met first in the Latin Quarter of Paris—he a student at the University’s Faculty of Medicine and she an actress just beginning her ascent to stardom. The sexual attraction was mutual, immediate and overwhelming and would burn for ten years. They would remain dedicated to each other until death separated them. Co-authors Caroline de Costa and Francesca Miller explore their story in The Diva and Doctor God: Letters from Sarah Bernhardt to Doctor Samuel Pozzi.


French actress Sarah Bernhardt, the first international ‘superstar’, died nearly one hundred years ago, but she continues to fascinate an audience around the world. While biographies keep appearing and the internet does a brisk trade in photos of Sarah in her many roles, little that is new has been published about her life in at least twenty years. Doctor Samuel Pozzi is often mentioned in passing by her biographers, as a friend and physician to the star, but scant attention has been paid to his relationship with her throughout their lives.


Bernhardt and Pozzi were lovers for the ten years from 1869, and their sexual liaison then morphed into a deep and sincere friendship lasting until his death in 1918. He was perhaps her oldest and closest friend. In writing The Diva and Doctor God, the authors have had access to more than one hundred letters and telegrams from Sarah Bernhardt to Samuel Pozzi, from the private archives in Paris of Pozzi’s great-grandson Nicolas Bourdet—most of which have never been published. While many are very short notes, the sense of the close relationship between the two across almost fifty years is clearly conveyed. Around these letters, the little- known story of Bernhardt and Pozzi is woven, which has allowed the authors to recount the most interesting aspects of Pozzi’s life as well as the enormous contribution he made to improving women’s reproductive health.

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