2 April 2017

Émilie de Putron in Foulon Cemetery, Guernsey

la mémoire

The importance of this grave is not only that Émilie de Putron was the fiancée of Victor Hugo's son François-Victor, but also that Victor Hugo wrote the inscription, which is unfortunately now virtually illegible. I found most of the inscription in a large and very informative fold-out leaflet at Hugo's Hauteville House, St Peter Port, Guernsey: 'Victor Hugo's Guernsey' by Gérard Pouchain and The Victor Hugo in Guernsey Society, and although some of that too is illegible, very kindly Dinah Bott, chairman of the society, has made a comment below, including a link to the content of Hugo's original words about Émilie. These words I include below, and interestingly they show that the inscription on the grave is a somewhat abbreviated version of what Hugo in fact wrote. Also interesting is that Hugo wrote the girl's forename in the English form 'Emily' as opposed to the French 'Émilie':

'Emily de Putron était le doux orgueil d’une respectable et patriarcale famille. Ses amis et ses proches avaient pour enchantement sa grâce, et pour fête son sourire. Elle était comme une fleur de joie épanouie dans la maison. Depuis le berceau, toutes les tendresses l’environnaient ; elle avait grandi heureuse, et, recevant du bonheur, elle en donnait ; aimée, elle aimait. Elle vient de s’en aller !

'Où s’en est-elle allée ? Dans l’ombre ? Non. C’est nous qui sommes dans l’ombre. Elle, elle est dans l’aurore.

'Elle est dans le rayonnement, dans la vérité, dans la réalité, dans la récompense. Ces jeunes mortes qui n’ont fait aucun mal dans la vie sont les bienvenues du tombeau, et leur tête monte doucement hors de la fosse vers une mystérieuse couronne. Emily de Putron est allée chercher là-haut la sérénité suprême, complément des existences innocentes. Elle s’en est allée, jeunesse, vers l’éternité ; beauté, vers l’idéal ; espérance, vers la certitude ; amour, vers l’infini ; perle, vers l’océan ; esprit, vers Dieu.

'Va, âme !'

Dinah Bott mentions that the founder of The Victor Hugo in Guernsey Society, Dr Gregory Stevens Cox, states that Victor Hugo's son François-Victor – whose project was to translate Shakespeare – arrived in Guernsey in 1855, found Emily de Putron to help him, and fell in love with her. They were engaged, although in January 1865, on near completion of the project, Emily died from tuberculosis.

Hugo's full text is here .

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Tony, thanks for flagging up this important part of Guernsey history. Emilie, a throroughly Guernsey girl, and François-Victor Hugo had been 'courting' for nine years. She was a well educated and bookish girl who helped him with his magisterial translation of Shakespeare into French. She died of tuberculosis, and he left the island with his mother the day before her funeral. Emily's parents, Matthew and Martha de Putron, had asked VH to deliver an oration in memoriam to her at her funeral. VH stepped out of the crowd and delivered one of his most beautiful and poignant speeches, which became celebrated for its allusions to the survival of the soul. He sent a copy of the speech to his son, by then in Brussels and promised him that it would be engraved on the stone, as he had promised her parents. VH visited the grave every 14 January and sent a handful of grass from it to François-Victor, as there were no wildflowers to pick. Juliette Drouet continued to dine with Emilie's parents every week; they had become Hugo family friends; François-Victor asked his father to thank her for looking after the family who, he said, had treated him virtually like an adopted son for nine years.
On behalf of The Victor Hugo in Guernsey Society I can say am very pleased to read that you found our map useful. We are intending if we can raise the funds to completely restore the stone. Hugo's funeral oration for Emilie was published in Actes et Paroles and can be found here https://www.atramenta.net/lire/oeuvre5658-chapitre-62.html. Please do pop in to the Priaulx Library and say hello next time you come to Guernsey.