To act as a muse for one great author is a remarkable, but to inspire two. You have to have a certain kind of charisma and charm that can intoxicate those surrounding you. June Miller was one such addictive muse.
Born Juliet Edith Smerth on 7th January 1902 in Burkovina, Romania. Her family changed their name to Smith once they settled in New York in 1907. Aged 15 June dropped out of school to join the Wilson’s Dance Academy, she would use the alias’ of June Smith and June Mansfield. In 1923, June meet the man who would change the course of her life forever. Henry Miller. He was 31, she 21. So besotted was Miller with June that he left his first wife Beatrice Wickens and his child. They wed on 1st June 1924.
Some might claim that contentedness breeds dull art. Since the works of Miller are unparalleled in their rioting frisson, one could assume that the relationship between June and Miller was fiery and tempestuous. Miller’s early works ‘Crazy Cock’ and ‘Moloch’ were greatly inspired by his relationship with the restless live wire that was June. With such beauty, charisma and a hunger for pleasure; monogamy was not in June’s repertoire. Her earliest known was with Jean Kronski, a 21 year old artist. Far from hiding her amourous encounters from her husband, June moved her lover in with her and Miller. At one point both Kronski and June left Miller behind while they visited Paris in Paris 1927. By July the affair was over and June returned to Miller. June’s seductive appeal worked on men and women, being bisexual. Her magnetism would ensnare another Paris based writer. Anais Nin. Upon seeing June, Nin noted in her diary “I saw for the first time in the most beautiful woman on Earth”. As to whether their relationship was ever consummated is still up for debate. In ‘Tropic of Cancer’ the character of Mona was said to based on June. Nin was working on ‘House of Incest’ at the same time as Miller for ‘Tropic of Cancer’ and June’s influence is felt in both works.
Most people would not appreciate their spouse playing away from home, nor being so public with their indiscretion. Miller may not have enjoyed June’s activities, but since their travelling to Europe was funded by a generous beau of June’s. One would imagine Miller making the best of the opportunity given to him. However it should be noted that while no one can be sure if June and Nin were intimate, Miller and Nin did become lovers.
To inspire two such noted authors would be a proud achievement for most. June on the other hand, disliked both Nin and Miller portrayal of her. She finally left them both for good in 1932. Though Miller and Nin still drank from the well of inspiration that was June. Back in New York, June’s life is less clear. Marrying and subsequently divorcing a military officer. Apparently suffering with mentally maladies during the 1950’s. June did recover sufficiently to work as a social worker in Queens, New York.
June Miller died on 1st February 1979 aged 77. 1990 saw the release of the biopic ‘Henry and June’, Uma Thurman in one of her early roles, played June. With Fred Ward and Maria de Medeiros as Miller and Nin.
June Miller was a woman who had great potential. What that potential was, I am not sure. She appeared to possess a kind of magic that enchanted those who with artist inclinations. It is alleged that June did hope to pen her own memoir, sadly she never did. I for one would have like to see June’s opinion of these literary Titans who fell under her spell and show them in a new light.