1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Guérin du Cayla, Georges Maurice de

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GUÉRIN DU CAYLA, GEORGES MAURICE DE (1810–1839), French poet, descended from a noble but poor family, was born at the chateau of Le Cayla in Languedoc, on the 4th of August 1810. He was educated for the church at a religious seminary at Toulouse, and then at the Collège Stanislas, Paris, after which he entered the society at La Chesnaye in Brittany, founded by Lamennais. It was only after great hesitation, and without being satisfied as to his religious vocation, that under the influence of Lamennais he joined the new religious order in the autumn of 1832; and when, in September of the next year, Lamennais, who had come under the displeasure of Rome, severed connexion with the society, Maurice de Guérin soon followed his example. Early in the following year he went to Paris, where he was for a short time a teacher at the College Stanislas. In November 1838 he married a Creole lady of some fortune; but a few months afterwards he was attacked by consumption and died on the 19th of July 1839. In the Revue des deux mondes for May 15th, 1840, there appeared a notice of Maurice de Guérin by George Sand, to which she added two fragments of his writings—one a composition in prose entitled the Centaur, and the other a short poem. His Reliquiae (2 vols., 1861), including the Centaur, his journal, a number of his letters and several poems, was edited by G. S. Trébutien, and accompanied with a biographical and critical notice by Sainte-Beuve; a new edition, with the title Journal, lettres et poèmes, followed in 1862; and an English translation of it was published at New York in 1867. Though he was essentially a poet, his prose is more striking and original than his poetry. Its peculiar and unique charm arises from his strong and absorbing passion for nature, a passion whose intensity reached almost to adoration and worship, but in which the pagan was more prominent than the moral element. According to Sainte-Beuve, “no French poet or painter has rendered so well the feeling for nature—the feeling not so much for details as for the ensemble and the divine universality, the feeling for the origin of things and the sovereign principle of life.”

The name of Eugénie de Guérin (1805–1848), the sister of Maurice, cannot be omitted from any notice of him. Her Journals (1861, Eng. trans., 1865) and her Lettres (1864, Eng. trans., 1865) indicated the possession of gifts of as rare an order as those of her brother, though of a somewhat different kind. In her case mysticism assumed a form more strictly religious, and she continued to mourn her brother’s loss of his early Catholic faith. Five years older than he, she cherished a love for him which was blended with a somewhat motherly anxiety. After his death she began the collection and publication of the scattered fragments of his writings. She died, however, on the 31st of May 1848, before her task was completed.

See the notices by George Sand and Sainte-Beuve referred to above; Sainte-Beuve, Causeries du lundi (vol. xii.) and Nouveaux Lundis (vol. iii.); G. Merlet, Causeries sur les femmes et les livres (Paris, 1865); Selden, L’Esprit des femmes de notre temps (Paris, 1864); Marelle, Eugénie et Maurice de Guérin (Berlin, 1869); Harriet Parr, M. and E. de Guérin, a monograph (London, 1870); and Matthew Arnold’s essays on Maurice and Eugénie de Guérin, in his Essays in Criticism.