Faugeres, Margaretta V. (Bleecker)
FAUGERES, Margaretta V. (Bleecker)
Daughter of John J. and Ann Eliza Schuyler Bleecker; married Peter Faugeres, 1792
Margaretta V. Faugeres was an heiress to both the wealth and the intellectual traditions of two of the most respected families in New York. Against her father's wishes, she married a French physician, Peter Faugeres. Called an "infidel," Faugeres was actually a member of the popular Jacobin circles. Margaretta was an enthusiastic supporter of what she took to be the new millenium of human freedom; her choice of Bastille Day as marriage day shows the whole bent of her alliance; she was marrying a movement rather than a man. Unfortunately, her husband abused her and quickly ran through the fortune left to her by her father. Faugeres and her infant daughter were reduced to living in a granary for some time in 1796. Her husband died of yellow fever in 1798, and Faugeres thereafter supported herself by teaching school in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and Brooklyn, New York. Broken in health and spirit, she was only twenty-nine years old when she died.
The majority of Faugeres's work was produced before she was twenty. In 1793, Faugeres prepared The Posthumous Works of Ann Eliza Bleecker, a collection of her mother's work supplemented with Faugeres's own poetry and prose, including an affecting "Memoir." After 1795, she wrote some pieces for the New York Monthly Magazine and the American Museum and, in 1797, published "The Ghost of John Young," but her literary output was hampered by her family problems.
Her tendency towards sentimental melancholy, the sadness sincere, is expressed in highly artificial language in the early poems included in The Posthumous Works. Although rendered fairly obscure by an abundance of private references, her poetic language is very formal, with few naturalist touches. There is an excessive use of the infelicitous neoclassical poetical devices: "fleecy tribe" is substituted for sheep, birds are the "feather'd choir," personifications are overabundant. The unhappy and short life of her mother, acting upon an immature imagination, to which the pose of melancholy seemed the height of human delicacy, contributed to the themes that would now seem morbid for an eighteen-year-old girl.
Supplementing these sad strains are several lively patriotic poems. Faugeres was genuinely convinced of the noble renewal of human liberty embodied by the American and French revolutions. In her long topographical poem, "The Hudson" (1793), one of the few pieces in which she employs natural description, Faugeres's primary purpose is to give an account of the political history of the Hudson River during the American Revolution.
In 1795 she offered Belisarius: A Tragedy to the John Street Theatre. It was refused, but published by subscription the same year. Written simply and tastefully in blank verse, the message of pacifism, antimaterialism, and the vanity of power is extraordinary for the times. In a clear analogy with French politics, Belisarius is the just man caught between corrupt courtiers on the one hand, and heartless and cruel revolutionists on the other. Belisarius represents uncompromising human values. The play quietly exposes the vanity of fame and pomp and maintains the sacredness of ordinary human life.
The further development of Faugeres's maturity of mind and political opinion can be seen in "The Ghost of John Young," a monody opposing capital punishment, "shewing how inconsistent sanguinary Laws are, in a Country which boasts of her Freedom and Happiness."
Faugeres appears to have been an extraordinarily fair and good woman, "a favorite among her literary acquaintances" whose life of early genius and promise so quickly disintegrated into ruin. Her political idealism is typical of many talented women of this era; so is the personal tragedy that prevented many of them, Faugeres included, from living long enough to develop maturity of literary judgement and production.
Bleecker, A. E.,The Posthumous Works of Ann Eliza Bleeker in Prose and Verse to Which is Added a Collection of Essays, Prose and Poetical (1993).
Biographie Universelle, M. Michaud (1855). CAL (article on Ann Eliza Bleecker, 1877). FPA. NAW (article on Ann Eliza Bleecker by L. Leary). Nouvelle Biographie Generale, J. C. F. Hoefer (1958).
—L. W. KOENGETER