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Marceline Desbordes-Valmore 1786- 1859

Marceline Desbordes-Valmore was born at Douai to a family where her father was an armorial painter but whose livelihood was destroyed by the revolution and who thereupon sought poorly paid work as an innkeeper.

At age 15, Marceline left France for Guadeloupe in the forlorn hope of financial assistance from an elder cousin. Her mother succumbed shortly afterwards to yellow fever, however, and Marceline returned to France where she became an actress. She achieved success as an opera singer in Paris where she created the role of Rosina in Le Barbier de Séville.

She lived with Henri de Latouche by whom she bore a son who, however, died in 1816 aged 5yrs. She then married the impecunious actor Prosper Lanchantin, known as Valmore, in 1817 and resumed her theatrical career. She bore four further children, two of whom died in childhood. Her daughter, Hyacinthe, also a poet, died at age 31.

Marceline wrote several collections of poetry beginning publication with Élégies et Romances in 1819 ending with Bouquets et prières in 1843 but she continued acting until 1832 after which she concentrated on writing including 'Tales' for children.

Her poetry was of a highly lyrical, romantic and elegiac style expressing deep emotion and melancholy. It was highly acclaimed by, amongst others, Balzac; but she fell from popularity after her death from cancer in Paris. She was recognized by Verlaine as a poetess of genius, however, and was highly regarded by Baudelaire and Sainte Beuve.

Her works have been set to music by several great composers of the 19th century as well as by those of more recent decades.