Guérin, Eugénie de (1805–1848)
Guérin, Eugénie de (1805–1848)
French poet and diarist. Name variations: Eugenie Guerin. Born on January 11(?), 1805, at Château du Cayla, near Albi, in southern France; died on May 31, 1848, in Languedoc; sister of Georges Maurice de Guérin (1810–1839, a poet); never married; no children.
Diarist Eugénie de Guérin was born in 1805 at the Château du Cayla, near Albi, in southern France, into an old family of high standing. Despite their distinguished pedigree, Eugénie and her three siblings were poor and lived a simple life. Although Eugénie enjoyed close relationships with her sister and older brother, she was intensely devoted to her younger brother, Maurice de Guérin, who showed a great deal of poetic promise and encouraged Eugénie in her own writing. After the death of their mother, Eugénie took on the role of mother to Maurice, being especially concerned about his salvation. Her own life was so consumed by his that her diary addressed him as the intended audience; although Maurice had a great deal of affection for his sister, he did not return her love with the same zeal.
When Maurice left Château du Cayla to embark on a religious and, later, a literary vocation, Eugénie spent long hours praying for him. He married in 1837, but by then was near death due to tuberculosis. He returned to his boyhood home with his wife, where he died at age 29. Maurice was a talented and creative poet, but published nothing during his lifetime. He may be best known for a prose poem "Le Centaure" he wrote in 1835, which was published after he died. For the nine years between Maurice's death and Eugénie's, she labored constantly to see his work published and continued writing her journal to him well after his death. Her own work, Reliquiae d'Eugénie de Guérin, was published in 1855 for private circulation and G.S. Trébutien edited Journal et Fragments d'Eugénie de Guérin in 1862.
Eugénie de Guérin never married, although there is a hint of desire in her writings for home and family. After Maurice's death, when his child was about to be born, Eugénie expressed a longing to have a child to mother and nurse. On the whole, she shunned society, preferring to remain at one with nature and God. Her sense of the world was one of disdain, feeling it was frivolous and unproductive. She did, however, have a weakness for literature. She said that writing was almost a necessity to her, and she used her creative talents as an outlet for her trials and passions. However, she came into conflict with her own religious ideals over her desire to write and publish. On one occasion, she consulted her priest, fearing it was unseemly to want to write, and he assured her it would do no harm. When she consulted Maurice on the subject, he told her to worry less about her conscience and just write. Her writing is creative, showing a natural talent as a poet; Saint-Beuve considered her to have superior talent to her brother. Eugénie de Guérin died in Languedoc in 1848, several years before her journals were published.
Bradford, Gamaliel. Portraits of Women. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1916.
Judith C. Reveal , freelance writer, Greensboro, Maryland