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Henriette Renié and Françoise des Varennes papers

Identifier: MSS 7778

Scope and Contents

This collection contains personal items that originally belonged to Henriette Renié, that were arranged by her goddaughter Françoise des Varennes for her biography about Renié. While a majority of the collection consists of correspondence and spiritual diaries, it also includes handwritten and typed documents by des Varennes in preparation for the biography. Materials include photographs, concert programs, published journals and news clippings, official documents, original artwork, and personal artifacts belonging to Renié. Some of these artifacts include hairpins, wallpaper from an apartment, and envelopes with hair from deceased friends. Materials date back to a few years after Renié's birth in 1875 and continue through her death (in 1956) to 1994 when the biography was finished.


  • 1875-1994


Conditions Governing Access

Open to public research.

Conditions Governing Use

It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances.

Permission to publish material from the Henriette Renié and Françoise des Varennes papers must be obtained from the Supervisor of Reference Services and/or the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Board of Curators.

Biographical History

Françoise des Varennes (1919-2004) was the goddaughter of Henriette Renié. She was a musically talented harpist but was more passionate about her writing. She wrote many poems, novels, and the biography on Renié.

From birth, Françoise des Varennes was a part of the Renié household. Her grandmother, Louise Regnier, was a close friend of Henriette Renié. Upon Regnier's death, des Varennes chose to stay with her godmother, Henriette Renié. Renié then raised her as her own daughter. Françoise had two passions in life: her literary and historical work, and preserving the memory of Renié and her work. des Varennes made many recordings of Renié playing and in 1975, the centennial of the birth of Henriette Renié, she contributed some of these recordings to the LP Henriette Renié Playing Her Own Works and Transcriptions. She also gave a biographical talk about Renié at the AHS Conference honoring the 200th anniversary. This later led to her book, Henriette Renié, La Harpe Vivante.

Biographical History

Henriette Renié (1875-1956) was a prominent French harpist. She significantly influenced the development of the harp as a solo concert instrument through her efforts in composition, transcription, pedagogy and performance.

At only age five, Henriette Renié knew exactly what she wanted to do. She attended a concert by Alphonse Hasselmanns and afterward said to her father, "That man is going to be my harp teacher." She then began to study the harp, and in 1887, at age eleven, Renié won the Premier Prix for harp at the Paris Conservatory. She eventually composed twenty-three works, such as Concerto en Ut Mineur, and Légende. She also produced twelve collections of transcriptions for solo harp and ninety-six for harp ensembles. Renié dedicated her life to teaching others. Her famous Méthode pour la harpe has helped her to teach some of the most prominent harpists, including Susann McDonald, Mildred Dilling, Marcel Grandjany, and Carlos Salzedo. She received the prestigious Legion of Honor and was one of the first women to receive this award. Renié never married, but cared for her mother Gabrielle, her brother François, her best friend Louise Regnier, and her goddaughter (Regnier's granddaughter) Françoise des Varennes. She helped to set up the Petite Caisse des Artistes, a non-profit organization which was dedicated to helping struggling musicians and artists anonymously. She made a mark on music and the culture of the early twentieth century, when a woman's role in society was generally to be a wife and mother. Throughout her years of teaching, composing, arranging, and performing, Renié gained the respect of Gabriel Fauré, Claude Debussy, Théodore Dubois, Camille Saint-Säens and others. She continued to perform despite persistent health problems until about six months before her death on March 1, 1956.


61 boxes (30.5 linear ft.)

Language of Materials



This collection is arranged into five series: I. Henriette Renié manuscripts arranged by Françoise des Varennes for Renié biography, 1875-1988. II. Françoise des Varennes research for Henriette Renié biography, 1881-1994. III. Henriette Renié correspondence and personal items arranged by Françoise des Varennes, 1976-1974. IV. Henriette Renié spiritual diaries, 1897-1965. V. Françoise des Varennes audio recordings of Henriette Renié, 1827-1958.

Items in the archive were arranged by Françoise des Varennes as she prepared materials for a biography about Henriette Renié. For the most part, des Varennes did not separate letters from other materials, but arranged them by year or association with like materials. In order to maintain provenance, the items have been stored with minimal arranging by the archivist.

Custodial History

The majority of the collection was collected by Henriette Renié and upon her death, given to her goddaughter, Françoise des Varennes. des Varennes arranged and added to the collection before donating it in 2002.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated; Françoise des Varennes; July 2002.


Prominent Harpists, (Section IV.a.i. International Harp Collection Development Policy January 2011).

Processing Information

Processed; Lynzi Phillips; March 2011.

Register of Henriette Renié and François des Varennes papers
Lynzi Phillips
2011 March 22
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English in Latin script.

Repository Details

Part of the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Repository

1130 HBLL
Brigham Young University
Provo Utah 84602 United States