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Name of two French literary figures

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Guerin, (I) EUGENIE DE, a French writer; b. at the chateau of Le Cayla, in Languedoc, January 15, 1805; d. there June 5, 1848. The Guerins were descended from an old noble family, originally from Venice, which has lived for centuries in Southern France. Among their ancestors, they counted crusaders, a bishop, several cardinals, and Grand Masters of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. In spite of their noble origin, they were in very moderate circumstances at the beginning of the nineteenth century. M. de Guerin, the father, had lost his wife when Eugenie was thirteen years old, and was left with four children, Eugenie, Marie, Eremberg, and Maurice. Upon her deathbed, the mother, more deeply attached to Maurice than to any of the others, because of his beauty and his delicate health, commended him to the care and solicitude of Eugenie, who loved him dearly. In fact, her whole life was devoted to her brother. Had she been free to follow her own desires, she would have entered a convent; but she remained in the world for the sake of Maurice. Her life was spent entirely in the loneliness of the old home-stead, which she left only once, for a few months, in 1838, when she went to Paris to attend the wedding of her brother. Her way of living was simple and eminently Christian. After she had discharged her house-hold duties, she would indulge in reading. The lives of the saints, Bossuet’s sermons, and other religious works were her favorite reading. She interested herself also in literature, and her “Journal” shows that she had read Homer, Virgil, Shakespeare, Dante, Scott, Goldsmith, not to mention all the great masters of French literature. Speaking of her reading, she said: “I read, not to become learned, but to raise my soul.” Her main concern, however, was for her brother. From the day when he left home to go to school, and afterwards, especially when he was at La Chenaie and in Paris, she frequently wrote long letters to him, most of which unfortunately are lost. In 1834 she began a “Journal” or diary of events, which was sent to her brother from time to time. Both in her letters and “Journal”, she related the insignificant facts of her lonely life, her impressions of nature, her innermost thoughts, and, above all, spoke to him of his soul. During the unfortunate period when he renounced his Faith, she became more tender and loving, in order that her advice might be more surely listened to. Her devotion was rewarded; for, a few months before his death, he returned to the fold. She survived him only eight years, seeking for no other relief to her bereavement than prayer. Her “Journal” had been written for Maurice only, and was not intended for publication. It was, however, printed under the title of “Reliquiae” (Caen, 1855), first for private circulation. Seven years later a public edition entitled “Journal et lettres d’Eugenie de Guerin” (Paris, 1862), met with considerable success and has been reprinted many times. Together with her devotion to her brother, and her piety, we admire the simple and vivid style of the writer. She loves to depict the scenic beauties that surrounded her, and her descriptions are charming and free from that tinge of pantheism which is so often noticeable in admirers of nature.

(2) GEORGES-MAURICE DE, a French poet, brother of Eugenie; b. at the chateau of Le Cayla, in Languedoc, August 5, 1810; d. there, July 19, 1839. At the age of thirteen he went to the preparatory seminary of Toulouse, and two years later to the College Stanislas, at Paris. He then thought of becoming a priest. In 1832 he went to La Chenaie, where Lamennais had established a school of higher religious studies. He met there pious and learned men, among whom must be mentioned the Abbe Gerbet, afterwards a bishop, and the Abbe de Cazales, whose philosophical and theological discussions he related in his journal. He remained at La Chenaie a little more than a year, and it seems that Lamennais did not pay much attention to him. In the month of February, 1834, he was in Paris, trying to find a position. He was soon imbued with the ideas of the world, and lost his faith. He hoped for a time to enter the College of Juilly as instructor, but was disappointed and obliged to accept a position as substitute in the College Stanislas. He occasionally contributed articles to a magazine, “La France Catholique”. His life was saddened by his naturally dreamy disposition and a vague regret for his lost faith. Though surrounded by a choice circle of friends, in which he had ample opportunity to display his brilliant qualities, he suffered from constant weariness and poor health. Towards the end of 1838 he married a young Indian girl, whom Eugenie describes as a “charming and refined creature”. A few months later, yielding to his sister’s entreaties, he returned to Le Cayla, and at the same time came back to the Faith of his childhood, and died piously in 1839. His fame as a writer began only one year after his death, when his poem “Le Centaure” appeared in the “Revue des Deux Mondes”, together with an enthusiastic article from the pen of George Sand. He then ranked among the great poets of France, though it may be said that this pantheistic composition was praised a little beyond its real value. The remainder of his works were published for the first time, twenty years later, by Trebutien (2 vols., Caen, 1860). By far the more interesting part is the “Journal”, which was written day by day to be sent to his sister. His complete works have been published under the title of “Journal, Lettres et Poemes”. A joint edition of Maurice and Eugenie’s works has been given in three vols. (Paris, 1869).


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