Renée Vivien, born Pauline Mary Tarn, was born on June 11, 1877, in London, United Kingdom, to John and Mary Tarn. Her father had inherited a fortune from the family merchant trade. They lived mainly in Paris, France until the death of her father in 1886, when Mary brought Pauline and her little sister Antoinette back to England.
Pauline, a highly-strung, sensitive girl, was devastated by both the loss of her father and the loss of her country, for she considered herself French and hated what she felt to be the emotional coldness of England. It didn't help that her mother never gave her much affection, preferring her younger daughter. Isolated from childhood friends, Pauline withdrew into the world of literature and began to envision for herself a future as a writer - in Paris. Her early poems and journals have been preserved, attesting to her remarkably precocious ambition and talent.