Yourcenar, Marguerite (1903–1987)
Yourcenar, Marguerite (1903–1987)
French novelist, poet, essayist, playwright, and translator who was the first female member of the Académie Française. Name variations: Marguerite de Crayencour. Born Marguerite Antoinette Jeanne Marie Ghislaine Cleenewercks de Crayencour in Brussels, Belgium, on June 8, 1903 (registered as a French citizen); died in Bar Harbor, Maine, on December 17, 1987; only child of Michel-René Cleenewercks de Crayencour and Fernande de Cartier de Marchienne; privately educated, passed her baccalauréat in Nice, France, 1919; never married; lived with Grace Frick (died November 18, 1979); no children.
Published first work, Le Jardin des Chimères (The Garden of Chimerae), under pen name Marguerite Yourcenar (1921); father died (1929); met Grace Frick in Paris (February 1937); became American citizen (1947); moved to Mount Desert Island, Maine, with Grace Frick (1950); awarded Prix Fémina for Memoirs of Hadrian (1952), and for The Work in Black (1968); elected to the Académie royale belge de Langue et de Littérature françaises (1971); awarded the Legion of Honor (France, 1971); received the Prix Littéraire de Monaco (1972); elected to the Académie Française (1980); received honorary doctorate, Harvard University (1981); elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1982); published first volume of her novelistic works in the Bibliothèque de la Pléiade series, Paris (1982); received Erasmus Prize (Belgium, 1983); friend and companion, Jerry Wilson, died of AIDS in Paris (February 8, 1986).
On June 7, 1903, Marguerite de Crayencour was born in an "opulent residence" on the Avenue Louise in Brussels, Belgium. Ten days later, her mother died of puerperal fever and peritonitis. Marguerite never missed the mother she never knew, and her 50-year old father, writes her biographer, "had fostered no sentimentality regarding her [mother's] absence." Michel-René de Crayencour was from an old French aristocratic family; he had a son by a previous marriage from whom he was estranged because the son disapproved of his father's wanderlust and "dissipated" lifestyle. Marguerite and her father, however, shared "a bond at once distant and strong that would truly forge her personality…. She would be an exten sion of him."
Marguerite's childhood was neither conventional nor settled. She evinced no interest in toys or dolls and never learned to embroider or sew that might prepare her for domestic married life. She and her father were not close, though he did realize that his daughter was a "remarkable child." For her part, Marguerite later wrote, "I don't know whether I loved that tall gentleman or not." But this unaffectionate, dissolute gambler "would help [her] become a free person." In 1912, Michel sold the family estate, Mont-Noir, and moved with his daughter to Paris where she began her studies with tutors. She never attended public schools where she would have been disciplined, taught obedience, and been forced to relate to other children. (All her life, Marguerite disliked children and was antipathetic to the idea of procreation.) Reading, visiting museums, and attending the classical theater augmented her traditional studies. Summers were spent at the Crayencour villa on the Belgian coast until the First World War drove them from the Continent to England in 1914. Marguerite loved London and considered England one of her "homelands." Here she studied English, which she always spoke with a heavy accent, and Latin. It was in London that she had her first lesbian experience and that she first saw a statue of the Roman emperor Hadrian who became the subject of her major work, Memoirs of Hadrian, 37 years later.
In September 1915, Marguerite and her father returned to Paris. From this time on, father and daughter lived increasingly separate lives. Marguerite continued her education, learning Greek and Italian, writing poetry, and reading books that scandalized the family (but not her father). By the age of 13, Marguerite was remarkably mature and self-sufficient. When her father asked if she wanted to be confirmed in the Catholic Church, she said no, and he accepted her decision. They moved to the south of France two years later and then to Monte Carlo in 1920. Marguerite took her degree in Greek and Latin in 1919, and informed her father she intended to be a writer. He encouraged her and paid to have her first two books of poetry published (in 1921 and 1922). With the first of her publications, Marguerite adopted the pen name Yourcenar, an almost perfect anagram of Crayencour. De Crayencour married for the third time in 1926, but this had no effect on Marguerite. She and her father did not interfere in other's affairs, and, moreover, the new Madame de Crayencour was not intelligent enough to be of any interest to Marguerite.
Yourcenar began working on a novel, most of which she discarded; the salvaged fragments and many of her early stories were later enlarged and revised. Accused of rewriting and remodeling characters and ideas, she claimed that she was "more inclined to deepen, develop, and nourish those beings with whom I was already in the habit of living, getting to know them better." Certainly she knew Hadrian better than she did her father, as she admitted. In Rome in 1924, she decided to write about Hadrian; two years later, she began work on a biography of the Greek lyric poet Pindar (published in 1934). Her first novel, Alexis or The Treatise of Vain Combat, was completed in 1928. Her choice of subject reveals her interest in homosexuality, a word she never used because she considered it "too medical." Alexis leaves his wife after informing her that he prefers men. Homosexuality was not considered an appropriate subject for a young woman to explore, but as Yourcenar later wrote, "one has to force a prudish or indifferent public to face what it does not want to look at or what … it can no longer see." Male homosexuals appealed to Yourcenar and would be a part of the fabric of her life, Josyane Savigneau insists, but she did not write about them "to conceal her love of women." Michel de Crayencour was not shocked when he read the manuscript of Alexis: "nothing human should be alien to us," he told Marguerite. It is doubtful whether she ever discussed her sexuality with him—there was no need. The publisher of Alexis did not know whether the author was male or female, for the novel was not a "woman's novel" nor did it exhibit a "feminine writing" style.
Marguerite Yourcenar could never be classed as a "woman writer" and was often pointedly criticized for her "virile" prose. The day she was paid by the publisher for her first book, she said, "I was conscious of being a writer … the only day of my life when that idea preoccupied me." And, as Savigneau states, the moment she became a writer, she also became "absolutely herself."
Yourcenar's father, from whom she inherited her "incurable nomadism," died of cancer in 1929. She mourned but, as she admitted, "after I shed tears over his death … I confess that I almost forgot him for nearly thirty years." During the 1930s, Marguerite traveled extensively in Europe, spending part of each year in Greece and in Paris. She had no permanent address which she preferred to being settled and sedentary. This was also a decade of amorous passions, "a certain dissipation," and increasing recognition as a writer. Her second novel, TheNew Eurydice (1931), was published by Grasset under the guidance of a young editor, André Fraigneau, with whom Marguerite fell in love. As in Alexis, this second novel deals with a homosexual husband whose wife loves and remains with him. Critics were not impressed; one reviewer wrote that the book lacked "those often charming weaknesses … by which one identifies a feminine pen." Yourcenar admitted, "I wrote a bad novel," and refused to have it republished. Her attraction to homosexual men was not confined to her fiction, but her love for Fraigneau was never reciprocated. He admired Marguerite's talent but described her as physically "rather ugly" and "the very epitome of a woman who loves women. Nonetheless, I soon realized that she dreamed of being the mistress of men who love men." Savigneau concurs that Yourcenar was determined "to have physical relations with men who are left sexually indifferent by women" because it indicates that one has been "'chosen': a behavior that is thoroughly in keeping with megalomaniacal tendencies, tendencies obvious in the case of Marguerite Yourcenar." Constantine Dimaras, with whom she worked on translations of Cavafy's poetry from Greek to French, respected her literary brilliance and recognized that "it was not only women she wanted to conquer." But conquer she did; in Greece, Yourcenar had "quite a long amorous liaison" with Dimaras' cousin, the beautiful Lucy Kyriakos .
In 1937, Yourcenar returned to Paris after a trip to London to consult with Virginia Woolf about translating the latter's book, The Waves, into French (published as Les Vagues, Paris, 1937). One evening in the bar of the Hotel Wagram, Marguerite met Grace Frick , an American academic, who became her companion, her "spouse," for the rest of Frick's life. Grace was not pretty, though Yourcenar had always placed great emphasis on the physical beauty of her female paramours. This chance encounter, however, "was a real case of love at first sight." What led to their sudden and passionate attraction will not be known until their correspondence is made available to scholars in the year 2037; during her own lifetime, Marguerite refused to divulge details of her intimate affairs. The winter of 1937–38 was spent with Frick in the United States (Frick was at Yale University). Marguerite returned to Europe alone the following spring, rented a villa on Capri, and wrote Coup de Grâce, "a symbolic settling of scores" with Fraigneau whom she still loved. She then moved on to Austria and Greece, resuming her affair with Lucy Kyriakos. One can assume that Grace Frick was unaware of Marguerite's liaison at this time and perhaps never knew of it.
When the Second World War broke out in September 1939, Yourcenar had to decide whether to stay in Europe—but where? she still did not have a permanent residence—or return to the United States for the winter as she had planned. She had refused to admit, even to herself, that war was imminent because, according to Savigneau, "Ever since childhood, Yourcenar had hated it when reality dared to come along and thwart the choices she had made." But in 1939, war was a reality, and Frick was waiting for her in America. These circumstances changed Yourcenar's life forever.
Marguerite arrived in New York in October and moved into Grace Frick's apartment. Before leaving Paris, she had negotiated a contract with Gallimard to publish Coup de Grâce; it would be 11 years before she took up another major work. André Fraigneau claimed that Yourcenar had "lost part of her talent as a writer 'because of her contact with all those leftists over there in America.'" Marguerite reluctantly accepted her "confinement" in the United States, but she did not like New York, a "mixture of puritanism and megalomania that typified this people without a civilization." Her isolation intensified as Frick discouraged her from having any contact with European intellectuals who sought refuge in New York during the war. Frick felt threatened by anyone from her lover's past. For the next decade, Yourcenar suffered from periodic depression, from living a mundane existence in a country "that would never be truly her own," having little money, and realizing that Europe was "off limits, mute, and devastated." She was a "captive" of war and of love, trying to survive in an alien culture. As she wrote in a notebook in 1940: "What helps you live in times of helplessness or horror? The necessity of earning, or kneading, the bread that you eat, sleeping, loving, putting on clean clothes, rereading an old book … the smell of ripe cranberries, and the memory of the Parthenon."
In 1941, she began giving courses, without pay, at Hartford Junior College in Connecticut where Frick was on the faculty. Later that year, Yourcenar took a part-time teaching position at Sarah Lawrence College in New York which she held until 1953. At the college, she never mingled with her colleagues, admitting, "I never established myself … in the American university milieu," and that she "would not recommend this type of life to anyone." To her students, whom she treated as adults, she was "singular and exotic" and "made you think of a monk."
Grace Frick dominated their daily lives and kept daybooks covering the minutia of their existence, especially their numerous minor ailments. Frick helped Yourcenar obtain her teaching position, found them a permanent home on Mount Desert Island, Maine (they called their house Petite Plaisance, Little Pleasure), and carefully protected their marriage. When the war ended in Europe in 1945, Yourcenar did not return to Europe; she did not choose America, she chose Frick. All that mattered to Marguerite—her language, her culture, her publishers—was in Europe, but she had come to realize that she could retain her identity as a European writer as long as she did not allow American culture, way of life, and language to influence her in any way. The United States would not be "her refuge, nor her country, but her base." Thus Marguerite Yourcenar remained a European even after becoming an American citizen in 1947. To her, nationality was unimportant, whereas language defined her as a writer and a European.
Yourcenar's literary hiatus came to an end in January 1949, when she received a trunk that she had left at the Hotel Maurice in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1939; it contained fragments of a work on the emperor Hadrian that she had begun in 1924. When she sent 124 pages of her new manuscript to Plon, a publisher in Paris, Yourcenar returned, writes Savigneau, "to the status of being a French writer." Editors at Plon were impressed with the manuscript but agreed it would appeal only to a "cultivated elite." At this same time, Yourcenar and Frick bought a house in a village on Mount Desert Island. Marguerite never made any attempt to integrate into the community as Frick wanted and was able to do. To Yourcenar, she had simply acquired a "base" in a country "where one finds oneself, by chance." Moreover, her critical assessment of America never altered; the United States was "quite simply a poorer, harsher Europe, devoid of all the refinements that make Europe what it is for us," she wrote to a fellow French expatriate. Despite this negative view, she would remain in America after Frick died.
Yourcenar and Frick returned to Europe in May 1951. While in Paris, Marguerite became embroiled in one of her numerous disputes with publishers. Though she was still under contract with Gallimard and Grasset, Yourcenar insisted that Plon secure the right to the Memoirs of Hadrian. As usual, she won the argument, and the book appeared in December. Sales far exceeded expectations, and the reviews were all laudatory; 821,870 copies would be sold by 1989. Critics remarked on Yourcenar's "virility of thought" and her "male style" of writing, noting that her subjects were "hardly feminine." Writes Savigneau: "This stupidity would hound Yourcenar throughout her life." Marguerite was surprised at the success of her novel. "I didn't expect more than ten people to read the book," she said, "for the simple reason that I don't think that the things that concern me are of interest to most people." The book won the Prix Femina in 1952.
Success brought demands for interviews, and Yourcenar agreed to do book signings and appear at receptions given in her honor. More important, she was being celebrated as a French writer, and she was home where everyone spoke her language. After 12 years in America, Yourcenar was savoring the attention of the French intellectual elite and the media, which irritated and annoyed Frick. In July, Grace and Marguerite had a quarrel; perhaps Yourcenar felt smothered by her everpresent companion. They did travel together in Italy and Spain, but when they were back in Paris, Grace was not always in attendance at receptions and dinners given for Marguerite. On their return to the States in August 1952, their relations were transformed into a "marriage of convenience," devoid of the passion that had characterized their earlier life together. There is little question that Yourcenar wanted to live in Europe, in France where she was known and admired, but Frick would not consider living abroad. However, Frick would have to accept that traveling to Europe for extended periods was a necessity for Yourcenar. Fame and financial security were slowly releasing Marguerite from "the meticulous, the indignant, the elusive" Frick.
Her pen aflame, her eye cold and keen, she relates the births, the vanities, the agonies, the madness of men. That is what a writer is.
A lecture tour in 1953 necessitated a return to Europe; once again Grace did not always accompany Marguerite, even to informal luncheons and gatherings with their friends. The following year, they were in Paris again where Yourcenar's play Electra was to be staged. Marguerite disapproved of the choice of the two lead actors and sued the director and the theater over control of casting. Two years later, she won her case, again. The play was not successful—"all in all, an absolute mess," one critic wrote. This simply confirmed to Marguerite that her appraisal of the actors had been correct. Yourcenar had insisted on spending the winter in France and had rented a house there. Frick was not pleased and made this obvious when she objected to the many guests who stayed too long, an attitude that she continued to display at Petite Plaisance.
On their return to Maine, Yourcenar began working on a major project, The Abyss, and made plans for another trip abroad. She disliked the snow and cold of Maine winters and wanted to spend time again in France. But after delivering a series of lectures in Belgium and spending only ten days in Paris, she and Frick cut short their stay and returned to the States. The reason for this is not known. Yourcenar spent the winter of 1956–57 revising some of her poetry, which "was not a genre in which she excelled," and writing The Abyss. Frick was not idle either, for she handled all domestic chores and, more important, translated Yourcenar's books into English for her American publisher. Marguerite lectured in Montreal and at Wellesley College near Boston, but did not go to Europe in 1957.
In early 1958, she and Frick spent several months in Rome. Yourcenar enjoyed an active social life there, but Frick appeared to resent having to share Yourcenar with others. And it was obvious that Frick was not well; in June 1958, she had a cancerous breast removed, but this did not prevent them from spending several months in Portugal and Spain the following year. On their return to Maine, Yourcenar wrote Render unto Caesar, a theatrical adaptation of her novel A Coin in Nine Hands, which she had completely rewritten in 1958. Yourcenar undertook a lecture tour in the southern United States which enabled her to gather materials for a book on African-American spirituals, Deep River, Dark River (1964). She later, in 1982, met James Baldwin, the African-American writer who lived permanently in France; she translated into French his play The Amen Corner.
Yourcenar and Frick were active in several civil-rights groups in the States, and during the 1960s would take part in anti-Vietnam war demonstrations in Maine. They also belonged and contributed to organizations concerned with preserving the global environment: "when they replace trees with pylons, one is looking at a world that is dying," Yourcenar wrote. While in Paris during the May 1968 student uprisings, she agreed with the students' revolt against the numbing materialism of modern life, "the civilization … of the station wagon and the washing machine," the equating of possessions with success, as Marguerite phrased it; she also could relate to one of their slogans, "Be realistic, demand the impossible."
During the turbulent 1960s, Yourcenar continued to write, to travel in Europe, and to receive honors and awards: an honorary doctorate from Smith College (1961), the Prix Combat (France, 1962) for her collection of essays, The Dark Brain of Piranesi, the Prix Femina (1968) for The Abyss, and election to Belgium's Académie royale (1969). Between 1961 and 1971, Yourcenar and Frick made five trips to Europe, visiting countries from Iceland to the Soviet Union, from Finland to Italy. Whenever she was unable to travel, Yourcenar felt isolated and restricted; "it is always a misfortune to be immobilized against one's wishes," she wrote to a friend. And soon Frick's illness would impose a deadening immobility on her "nomadic" companion. But in 1968, they went to Paris for the awarding of the Prix Femina. Marguerite had accomplished her life's goal—to be a successful writer, and "to be useful, to leave a trace, a proof that one has not lived in vain."
From 1971 until the end of the decade, Frick's fight with cancer dominated life at Petite Plaisance while her relations with Yourcenar became "strained and deteriorated," for she "could not bear the idea that Marguerite would outlive her." Moreover, Frick was no longer involved with Yourcenar's writing. As Frick's condition worsened, Marguerite's hypochondria became more evident and "more shocking," and she became "completely preoccupied with no one but herself," according to Savigneau. Yourcenar was able, however, to finish the first volume of her family trilogy, Dear Departed, and keep up an extensive correspondence with friends and journalists in France; she studied Japanese and translated Five Modern Nô Plays; she investigated "Oriental thought" and world religions, favoring Buddhism because it "goes a long way without reposing on a dogma," but she also called Christianity "the admirable sum of twenty centuries' experience, and one of the most beautiful of human dreams." She chose a Zen text as an epigraph for her Dear Departed: "What did your face look like before your father and mother met?"
Marguerite Yourcenar now inhabited two worlds, that of suffering and dying at Petite Plaisance, where Frick resented intrusions by the French media, and of Paris where she was being considered for membership in the exclusive and estimable Académie Française, founded in 1635; the Académie had awarded her the Grand Prix de littérature for her body of writings, and in 1978, Gallimard urged Yourcenar to submit her candidacy for the Académie. Others supported this move and further suggested that she establish residency in Paris by living there three months a year. Yourcenar refused to submit her name or live in Paris for a specified period, but said she would accept membership if it were offered. To Frick it appeared that "Europe was taking back the woman she revered" as she had feared it eventually would do. Moreover, Marguerite was openly chafing under the "imprisonment" she endured because of Frick's illness. But she continued to write and to welcome journalists at Petite Plaisance; she was obviously preparing for a life after Frick died, and there was no question that she would be able to survive for many more years. In May 1978, Yourcenar welcomed Jerry Wilson and Maurice Dumay who came to Maine with a French television crew; in February 1979, Marguerite gave a lengthy and candid interview to Matthieu Galey which resulted in the publication of his book With Open Eyes, that revealed "his fearsome abhorrence of women," Savigneau claims.
Yourcenar was at Frick's bedside when she died on the evening of November 18, 1979; Marguerite went to the window and opened it, explaining that "they say you have to let the spirit slip away freely." Now Yourcenar was also free. When later queried by journalists about her 40-year relationship with Frick, Yourcenar became irritated and bluntly stated, "it's very simple, first it was a passion, then it was a habit, then just one woman looking after another who was ill." Some people were shocked at her seemingly dismissive assessment of their lives together, but Yourcenar was not one to wallow in sentiment, to regret what could not be changed.
Meanwhile in Paris, Marguerite Yourcenar was the subject of a fierce debate regarding her possible election to the Académie Française. To many members of the Académie she had "one incontrovertible defect: she was a woman." Some argued that her "male talent" might qualify her, but to others her "virility" was an obstacle. Her sexual orientation, her alleged anti-Semitism (her American publisher Roger Straus, who was Jewish, adamantly denied this), and her American citizenship were widely discussed. While the pundits argued, Marguerite was on a pleasure cruise in the Caribbean with the young man who would be her traveling companion for the next six years; Jerry Wilson was a Frenchspeaking American from Arkansas, a homosexual, and a resident at Petite Plaisance—he now occupied Grace Frick's room. While Marguerite resumed her life of "suitcases, hotels, and wandering," the "Forty Immortals" of the Académie elected her as a member—the first woman ever—on March 6, 1980. Her election, Savigneau says, "was probably for Yourcenar the first site of confrontation with men…. [She] didn't even clash with men socially. She ignored them. And this they could never tolerate."
That autumn, Yourcenar, Wilson, and his friend Maurice Dumay left for England and the beginning of "a rather chaotic period" of her life; she was, Savigneau claims, simply "bowled over by Wilson," and "she may have felt an amorous passion" for him as well. In December, they were in Paris where Yourcenar was being outfitted by Yves Saint Laurent for her ceremonial induction into the Académie. She had refused to wear the traditional male uniform and tricorn hat from the Napoleonic era, or to carry a sword. Instead, this female who wrote "virile" prose would enter the hallowed, all-male enclave wearing "a long velvet dress of a sobriety and elegance that only Saint Laurent can achieve"; a shawl of white silk covered her head as she crossed the threshold of the Académie on January 22, 1981. (The shawl would be wrapped around the Indian basket which contained her ashes when she was buried in Maine.) Receptions, dinners, and a meeting with the French president, François Mitterand, meant that Wilson was often relegated to the background, which he resented as Frick had previously when Marguerite was being recognized and honored. From Paris, Yourcenar and Wilson traveled to Algeria, Morocco, and Spain before returning to the States. Their relations were often difficult, for neither one was "good-natured," but Marguerite was committed for she was "once again living a passion," she had a companion and could travel. On a trip to Egypt in early 1982, Yourcenar eagerly visited the famous monuments and museums and talked to local scholars. Wilson was often sullen and difficult; he too resented having to share her with anyone, "and learned conversations, perforce, left him out." Yourcenar was tired much of the time, and Wilson became verbally abusive when she had a dizzy spell during a dinner with friends. Despite his "fits of bad temper," they remained together. After each trip, they returned to Maine, and Yourcenar resumed her writing. However, her relations with Wilson were taking their toll on her emotionally. On their return from an almost year-long tour of Japan, Thailand, India, and Greece (1982–83), Yourcenar suffered from a lengthy bout of depression. Wilson was drinking heavily, and Marguerite feared that "he would hit her." This much-admired writer, the recipient of numerous honors and awards, "had become a pathetic character."
Yourcenar's secretary, Jeannie Lunt , tried to persuade Marguerite not to travel with Wilson any longer, but in October 1983, they left for Europe. In Belgium, Marguerite was awarded the Erasmus Prize, and in Paris her time was fully occupied with social and professional engagements. Yourcenar was also scheduled to give a lecture at the French Institute in Kenya. While in Nairobi, she was involved in a car accident, and she and Wilson spent the winter in Kenya. But it seemed nothing could deter Yourcenar from undertaking long, exhausting trips; in 1985, "a long, dark tale of horror with very few bright spots," as Yourcenar described it, she and Wilson, along with Wilson's new friend Daniel, made a disastrous trip to India. Wilson became seriously ill in Jaipur; he had contracted AIDS. Yourcenar had tried to talk to him about engaging in risky sexual behavior, but she "wasn't about to start moralizing." Despite Wilson's illness and Daniel's hounding her for money, Yourcenar began to work on the third volume of her family trilogy, "Quoi? L'Eternité" (What? Eternity).
On September 18, 1985, Marguerite suffered a heart attack at her home in Maine and underwent heart surgery two weeks later in Boston. Wilson came from Paris where he had been undergoing a new treatment for AIDS. He died in Paris in February 1986. To Yourcenar, his death was "more than an abandonment … it was a desertion," and she admitted she felt old, but, writes her biographer, "behind the woman overwhelmed by grief and age, there still lay an entire existence made up of tenacity, stubborn determination, and the certainty of being 'someone.'" And nothing would interfere with traveling and writing. She went to Belgium to meet a filmmaker interested in adapting The Abyss for the screen. In Paris, she had lunch with her publisher and the president of France. Her life of suitcases, hotels, and wandering about Europe suited her well, and everywhere she went she worked on "Quoi?" (which she never finished). Yourcenar had the incredible ability to concentrate, to write while on a train, a ship, in a hotel room in Paris or Algiers or Cairo, or at her desk at Petite Plaisance.
Marguerite Yourcenar suffered a stroke in November 1987, and died in a hospital in Bar Harbor, Maine, in December; she wrote that "one must not die unawares," and she wanted to die "with open eyes" like her Roman emperor Hadrian. She did, and a friend closed her eyes and opened the window "to let [her] spirit slip away freely."
Horn, Pierre L. Marguerite Yourcenar. Boston, MA: Twayne, 1985.
Savigneau, Josyane. Marguerite Yourcenar: Inventing a Life. Trans. by Joan E. Howard. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1993.
Farrell, C. Frederick, and Edith R. Farrell. Marguerite Yourcenar in Counterpoint, 1983.
Galey, Matthieu. With Open Eyes. Trans. by Arthur Goldhammer, 1984.
Kaiser, Walter. "The Achievement of Marguerite Yourcenar," in European Liberty: Four essays on the Occasion of the 25th Anniversary of the Erasmus Prize Foundation. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1983.
Sarde, Michele. Vous, Marguerite Yourcenar: la passion et ses masques. Paris: R. Laffont, 1995.
Shurr, Georgia Hooks. Marguerite Yourcenar: a reader's guide. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1987.
Yourcenar's papers are located at the Houghton Library, Harvard University. The files of personal correspondence are closed until 2037.
Jeanne A. Ojala , Professor Emerita, Department of History, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah