Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Chatelain, Clara de

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CHATELAIN, CLARA de, née de Pontigny (1807–1876), musical composer and author, was born in London on 31 July 1807, being the daughter of M. de Pontigny, a French gentleman, descendant of the Comte de Pontigny, who married an Englishwoman. While residing in France in 1826 she published, on the death of the famous painter David, an elegy entitled 'Le Tombeau du Proscrit,' which attracted much notice. Having returned to England in 1827, she wrote in rapid succession, under the pseudonym of Leopold Wray, a number of fugitive pieces in English. Baronne Cornélie de B., Rosalia Santa Croce, and Leopoldine Ziska are also names attached to her writings. She was connected with 'Reynolds's Miscellany,' 'London Society,' 'The Queen,' 'Chambers's Journal,' 'Le Courrier de l'Europe,' and with most of the periodicals which saw the light after 1830. On 13 April 1843 she married, in London, J. B. F. Ernest de Chatelain [see below]. The marriage proved most happy. On 19 July 1855 she received a flitch of bacon from William Harrison Ainsworth in the Windmill Field, Dunmow [see Ainsworth, William Harrison]; she then stated that during more than twelve years her husband and herself had never had the least disagreement. They were energetic pedestrians, walking thirty miles a day, and in their tours visited the New Forest for thirty-three consecutive years. While staying in Jersey and Guernsey they became intimate with Victor Hugo and his family. During the earlier part of her married life Madame de Chatelain wrote, composed, and sang many beautiful ballads. In 1850 she published 'A Handbook of the Four Elements of Vocalisation,' a work which was highly commended by Giulia Grisi. Among her prose writings are 'The Silver Swan,' a fairy tale, 1847; 'The Sedan Chair,' 1866; and 'Truly Noble,' 1870. She also produced in 'Reynolds's Miscellany,' under the signature of Leopold Wray, 'The Man of many Daughters.' For the musical houses of Wessell, Myers, Schott, and others she translated upwards of four hundred songs, and her name and her assumed names are attached to a hundred and forty original tales, fifty fairy tales, and sixteen handbooks. One of her last works was the translation into English of the Italian libretto of 'Lucia di Lammermoor' for the English stage. Excessive literary labour affected her brain. She died insane in London on 30 June 1876, and was buried at Lyndhurst, Hampshire, on 7 July. She left numerous unpublished works, including a novel called 'The Queen of the Spa,' and a tale, 'Our New Governors.'

Jean-Baptiste François Ernest De Chatelain, her husband, was born in Paris on 19 Jan. 1801, and educated at the Collège des Ecossais and at the Lycée Charlemagne. On coming to England he commenced a weekly paper in London, called 'Le Petit Mercure,' the name of which he changed to 'Le Mercure de Londres' in 1826. In the following year he went on foot from Paris to Rome, to study the sayings and doings of Pope Leo XII. At Bordeaux, in 1830, he was employed in editing 'Le Propagateur de la Gironde,' an employment which led to his being condemned to six months' imprisonment and a fine of 1,320 francs on 5 May 1831. Between 1833 and 1838 he published many works in Paris, and was rewarded by receiving the Prussian order of Civil Merit in 1835. He returned to England in 1842 (where he was naturalised on 6 June 1848), and resided continuously in the neighbourhood of London for nearly forty years, during which period he published upwards of fifty works. His best known book is entitled 'Beautés de la Poésie Anglaise,' in 5 vols. 1860–72, containing over one thousand translations of selections from Chaucer to Tennyson. His ‘Rambles through Rome,’ brought out in 1852, also attracted some attention. His opinions were entirely republican; and in ‘Ronces et Chardons,’ 1869, he strongly denounced the Emperor Napoleon under the title of Chenapan III. He died at Castelnau Lodge, 20 Warwick Crescent, Regent’s Park, London, on 15 Aug. 1881, and was buried in Lyndhurst churchyard on 22 Aug.

[In Memoriam of Clara de Chatelain, with a Catalogue of her Works, 1876; Fleurs et Fruits. souvenirs de feu Madame C. de Chatelain, 1877, with portrait; Andrews's History of the Dunmow Flitch, 1877, pp. 18, 27–31; Catalogue des Ouvrages du Chevalier de Chatelain, 1875.]

G. C. B.