| Arthur Miller with Agnes Barley and (below) with Marilyn Monroe
Calcutta, March 29: “Oh, are you interested in theatre.... Well, the person I was in love with was Arthur Miller.”
Arthur Miller' As in Arthur Death of a Salesman Miller'
“Yes,” said Agnes Barley, gazing at New Market but looking beyond ' and not into the future.
Barley would have been the fourth wife of Miller, the 20th century’s greatest playwright and the “man who had all the luck”. He was once married to Marilyn Monroe.
At the time Miller’s health problems started early last year, there was talk that the 89-year-old playwright was planning to marry Barley, who was 34 then.
Instead of saying the marriage vows, Miller breathed his last with Barley at his side in February 2005 on the 350-acre farm in Roxbury, Connecticut, which he had bought in 1958 when he was married to Monroe.
Barley had then been his girlfriend ' she prefers the word partner ' for about four years, the two having met at a dinner with friends several months after the death of Miller’s third wife Inge Morath, to whom he had been married for 40 years.
In those days, she was quoted as saying that there was “a sparkle between us” the moment they met.
On a two-month holiday in India, the American painter, sitting at a rooftop bar in Sudder Street, said in a soft voice: “Since the person I fell in love with died, I have not really engaged with the outside world much. It has been a very hard year'”
Barley, who now lives on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, passed through town last weekend. Face flushed with the March heat and humidity, the brunette in a dark strappy top went on wistfully: “We met at a dinner party of mutual friends. Of course I had heard of Arthur, but I wasn’t a dedicated theatre fan or anything. We just got along very well. He actually got me into theatre in a big way.”
As she got him into dabbling in painting.
In media reports of the time, which said Miller “grows old romantically”, Barley was quoted as admitting that when she met the author of the Death of a Salesman and The Crucible ' two of his most famous works ' she was surprised to find he was still alive.
“I know that to many it must seem pretty strange a woman of my age wanting to go out with an old man, but he was the best companion ever. I had a short but amazing time with Arthur.”
Great writers and painters having relationships with women far younger is not unusual. Picasso was 46 years older than his second wife Jacqueline Roque. Between Miller and Barley the gap was wider ' 55 years.
“We got to know each other a lot better over time, to the point where it became romantic and I moved to be with him in Connecticut, where I had simply the happiest time. Arthur was just the best conversationalist,” she said drifting back into her memories.
Barley, whose painting is described as “abstract, minimalist”, quietly left town for Varanasi the next afternoon. She didn’t say that only a few days after Miller’s death, his daughter Rebecca (actor, filmmaker and married to Daniel Day-Lewis) ordered her to leave the Connecticut estate.
She also left unsaid that she had decided to lose herself in India maybe to find herself by coming to terms with life without her “best companion ever”.
Some say you can find Barley in Miller’s last play Finishing the Picture. It features a difficult actress, Kitty, thought to be Monroe. Her kind-hearted secretary is believed to be modelled on Barley. Miller had dismissed the interpretation.
But then he had also brushed aside suggestions that the self-destructive character Maggie in the play After the Fall, an autobiographical work, was a mirror of Monroe.