Ernest Legouvé was born into an affluent family in Paris where both his father and grandfather were
respected poets. His mother died when he was only three years old, however, and his father, a
member of the Académie française, when Ernest was only five having been admitted to an asylum
suffering from remorse at her death.
He was privately tutored with an emphasis on literature and turned early to poetry winning an
Académie française prize at the age of 22. Further poetry followed as well as numerous novels.
He also wrote for the stage principally Adrienne Lecouvreur (jointly with Scribe) and Médée.
Legouvé was better known as a supporter of female emancipation, however, his several lectures on the
subject being collected and published in 1848 and further developed, in several publications, in the
following decades. This work led to his appointment as inspector general of female education.
He was elected to the Académie française in 1855 becoming doyen (father, ie longest serving
member) in 1888 having meanwhile been awarded the Legion d'Honneur in 1887. He died in Paris.
Legouvé first met Berlioz in 1832 in Italy with whom he was a lifelong friend. He assisted Berlioz
financially with two loans each of 1000 francs (both promptly repaid from the latter's Paganini
earnings). Berlioz set La Mort d'Ophélie to piano in 1842 and, in 1848, to orchestra.