Deshoulières, Antoinette (1638–1694)

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Deshoulières, Antoinette (1638–1694)

French poet. Name variations: Des Houlières, Deshoulieres. Pronunciation: DAY-zoo-LYAIR. Born Antoinette du Ligier de la Garde in Paris, France, on January 1, 1638 (some sources cite 1637); died of cancer in Paris on February 17, 1694; daughter of Melchior du Ligier, sieur de la Garde, maître d'hôtel to the queens Marie de Medici and Anne of Austria (1601–1666); married Guillaume de Boisguérin, seigneur Deshoulières, in 1651; children: daughter Antoinette Thérèse Deshoulières (1662–1718).

Born in Paris in 1638, Antoinette Deshoulières was given a thorough education, including Latin, Spanish and Italian, and was instructed in poetry by the poet Jean Hesnault. At 13, she married Guillaume de Boisguérin, Lord Deshoulières; about a year after the marriage, he followed the prince of Condé to Flanders as lieutenant-colonel of one of his regiments. Returned for a time to her parents' house, Madame Deshoulières wrote poetry and studied the philosophy of Pierre Gassendi. She joined her husband at Rocroi, near Brussels, where she became the object of embarrassing attentions on the part of the prince of Condé. Having annoyed the government by her urgent demand for the arrears of her husband's pay, she was imprisoned in the château of Wilworden. She was freed by her husband a few months later when he attacked the château, leading a small band of soldiers. An amnesty was proclaimed, and they returned to France.

Deshoulières, who soon became highly visible at the court of Louis XIV and in literary society, won the friendship and admiration of the most eminent literary women and men of her age. Some of her more devout flatterers went so far as to style her the tenth muse and the French Calliope. Her numerous poems included examples of almost all the minor forms, odes, eclogues, idylls, elegies, chansons, ballads, and madrigals. Of these, only the idylls—especially "The Sheep," "The Flowers," and "The Birds"—have endured. Voltaire pronounced Deshoulières the best of women French poets, and her reputation with her contemporaries is indicated by her election as a member of the Academy of the Ricovrati of Padua and of the Academy of Arles. In 1688, her long-standing poverty was relieved by a pension of 2,000 livres bestowed upon her by the king. But she had been battling cancer for the last 12 years of her life, and she died in Paris on February 17,

1694. Complete editions of her works were published at Paris in 1695 and 1747. These include a few poems by her daughter, Antoinette Thérèse Deshoulières , who inherited her talent for writing.

suggested reading:

Buck, Claire, ed. The Bloomsbury Guide to Women's Literature. NY: Prentice Hall, 1992.

Perkins, W. "Mme Deshoulières," in Newsletter of the Society for French Seventeenth-Century Studies. 1983, pp. 125–133.