Biography of Charles Péguy
Charles Péguy was a noted French poet, essayist, and editor. 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, widowed when he was an infant, mended chairs for a living. In 1894, benefitting from republican school reform, he was received in the École Normale Supérieure, and 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.
From his earliest years, he was influenced by socialism. 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.
He died in battle, shot in the forehead, in Villeroy, Seine-et-Marne during World War I, on the day before the beginning of the Battle of the Marne.
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.
At the end of Graham Greene's novel Brighton Rock (1938), the unnamed Frenchman the old priest tells Rose about, who never took the sacraments but who some think was a saint, is obviously Péguy.
In 1983, Geoffrey Hill published a long poem with the title The Mystery of the Charity of Charles Péguy.
Charles Péguy's Works:
Jeanne d' Arc (1897)
Notre Patrie (1905)
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)
Le Porche du mystère de la deuxième vertu (1912)
Le Mystère des saints Innocents (1912)
La Tapisserie de sainte Geneviève et de Jeanne d'Arc (1913)
La Tapisserie de Notre-Dame (1913)
Note sur M. Bergson (1914)
Charles Peguy: Basic Verities, Prose and Poetry Transated by Ann and Julien Green (1943) Pantheon Books, New York
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Charles Péguy Poems
When you love someone, you love him as he is.
I alone am perfect.
It is probably for that reason
That I know what perfection is