|French literary history|
Charles Péguy (French: [ʃaʁl peɡi]; January 7, 1873 – September 4, 1914) was a noted French poet, essayist, and editor born in Orléans. His two main philosophies were socialism and nationalism, but by 1908 at the latest, after years of uneasy agnosticism, he had become a devout but non-practicing Roman Catholic. From that time, Catholicism strongly influenced his works.
Péguy was born to poverty. His mother Cécile, widowed when he was an infant, mended chairs for a living. His father, Désiré Péguy, was a cabinet maker, who died in 1874 as a result of combat wounds. He studied at the Lycée Lakanal in Sceaux, winning a scholarship at the École Normale Supérieure, where he attended notably the lectures of Henri Bergson and Romain Rolland, whom he befriended. He formally left the École Normale, without graduating, in 1897, even though he continued attending some lectures in 1898. Influenced by Lucien Herr (librarian of the École Normale), he became an ardent Dreyfusard.
In 1897, at age 24, Péguy married Charlotte-Françoise Baudoin; they had one daughter and three sons, one of whom was born after Péguy's death. Around 1910 he fell deeply in love with Blanche Raphael, a young Jewish friend, however he was faithful to his wife.
From his earliest years, he was influenced by socialism. In 1895 Péguy joined the Socialist Party. From 1900 to his death in 1914, he was the main contributor and the editor of the literary magazine Les Cahiers de la Quinzaine, which first supported the Socialist Party director Jean Jaurès. Péguy ultimately ended his support after he began viewing Jaurès as a traitor to the nation and to socialism. In the Cahiers, Péguy published not only his own essays and poetry, but also works by important contemporary authors such as Romain Rolland.
His free verse poem, "Portico of the Mystery of the Second Virtue", has gone through more than 60 editions in France. It was a favorite book of Charles de Gaulle.
Benito Mussolini referred to Péguy as a "source" for Fascism. But, according to Zaretsky in The Virginia Quarterly Review, Péguy would have likely been horrified by this appropriation. During World War II both supporters and opponents of Vichy France cited Péguy. Edmond Michelet was the first of many members of the French Resistance to quote Péguy; de Gaulle, familiar with Péguy's writing, quoted him a 1942 speech. Those who opposed Vichy's anti-Semitism laws often cited him. By contrast, Robert Brasillach praised Péguy as a "French National Socialist", and his sons Pierre and Marcel wrote that their father was an inspiration for Vichy's National Revolution ideology and "above all, a racist".
At the end of Graham Greene's novel Brighton Rock (1938), the unnamed, old French priest tells Rose about a man who never took the sacraments but who some think was a saint—an obvious reference to Péguy.
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"The sinner is at the very heart of Christianity. Nobody is so competent as the sinner in matters of Christianity. Nobody, except the saint."
"It will never be known what acts of cowardice have been committed for fear of not looking sufficiently progressive." (Notre Patrie, 1905).
"Tyranny is always better organised than freedom".
"It has never been given to a man to attain at once his happiness and his salvation."
"Kantianism has clean hands, but it has no hands."
"Homer is new and fresh this morning, and nothing, perhaps, is so old and tired as today's newspaper."
“Life holds only one tragedy, ultimately: not to have been a saint.”
"Surrender is essentially an operation by means of which we set out explaining instead of acting."
"He who does not bellow the truth when he knows the truth makes himself the accomplice of liars and forgers."
"A word is not the same with one writer as with another. One tears it from his guts. The other pulls it out of his overcoat pocket."
"How maddening, says God, it will be when there are no longer any Frenchmen";
"There will be things that I do that no one will be left to understand." (Le Mystère des saints Innocents)
"It is impossible to write ancient history because we do not have enough sources, and impossible to write modern history because we have too many". (Clio, 1909)
"Everything begins in mysticism and ends in politics." (Notre Jeunesse, 1909)
- Jeanne d' Arc (1897)
- Notre Patrie (1905)
- Situations (1907–1908)
- Notre Jeunesse (1909) - Recollections of the campaign for Alfred Dreyfus.
- Clio, dialogue de l'histoire et de l'âme païenne (1909–1912)
- Le Mystère de la charité de Jeanne d'Arc (1910)
- Victor-Marie, comte Hugo (1911)
- L'Argent (1912)
- Le Porche du mystère de la deuxième vertu (1912)
(translated into English as The Portal of the Mystery of Hope)
- Le Mystère des saints Innocents (1912)
- The Mystery of the Holy Innocents, English translation by Pansy Pakenham (London: The Harvill Press, 1956)
- La Tapisserie de sainte Geneviève et de Jeanne d'Arc (1913)
- La Tapisserie de Notre-Dame (1913)
- Ève (1913)
- Note sur M. Bergson (1914)
- Charles Peguy: Basic Verities, Prose and Poetry Transated by Ann and Julien Green (1943) Pantheon Books, New York
- Ralph McInerny. "Charles Péguy", 2005.
- "In France the classic type of the fervent but non-practising Catholic was probably best represented by Charles Péguy" (von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, p. 194).
- "Fascism: the Wrong Idea", The Virginia Quarterly Review, Robert Zaretsky, Winter 1996
- Jackson, Julian (2001). France: The Dark Years, 1940-1944. Oxford University Press. pp. 4–5. ISBN 0-19-820706-9.
- Hill, Geoffrey, Notes - Collected Poems, Penguin Books, London 1985.
- Anthony H. Newbury, Julien Green: Religion and Sensuality, Rodopi, 1986, p. 14.
- Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Liberty or Equality, Christendom Press, Front Royal, Virginia, 1993
- Romain Rolland, Péguy, A. Michel, Paris, 1944
- Roger Secrétain, Péguy, soldat de la liberté. Valiquette, Montréal, 1941
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