9 November 2014

Élisa Mercœur: Cimetière du Père-Lachaise #1


This grave has been in a bad state of repair for some time. The poet Élisa Mercœur (1809–35) was abandoned as a three-day-old child and left at the entrance to the orphans' home in Nantes, with an anonymous note saying that her name was Élisa and her birth unregistered, adding that her parents at the time hadn't the means to care for her. She was given the surname Mercœur.

Almost two years later Adélaïde (or Adèle) Aumand, Élisa's mother, claimed her back from the orphanage.  She was unmarried and originally from a professional family background who worked as an embroiderer. The father – who didn't live with the mother and the child – was most probably the lawyer Jules-François Barré, who died in 1925. 

At the age of twelve she was a child prodigy and could teach children of her own age several subjects, including history, English and French. her first poems were published when she was sixteen. Soon, with the help of an enthusiastic publisher and sufficient subscribers, she had published her first volume of poems. And it wasn't long before she was known throughout the country.

Élisa Mercœur dreamed of great fame and glory but unfortunately died of a pulmonary infection at the age of twenty-five. Poets mourned her, and Chateaubriand – who was present at the funeral ceremony – wrote an elegy.

My other Élisa Mercœur post:

Élisa Mercœur in the 7th arrondissement

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