Marceline Desbordes-Valmore

Portrait of Marceline Desbordes-Valmore

Marceline Desbordes-Valmore was a French Romantic poet and novelist and actress. She was born on 20thJune 1786 in Douai, France and died on 23rd July 1859 in Paris, France aged 73.

Major Works

Élégies et Romances” (1819)
L’Atelier d’un Peintre” (A Painter’s Studio), “Les Pleurs” (The Tears) (1833)
Pauvres Fleurs”(Poor Flowers) (1839)
Bouquets et Prières” (Bouquets and Prayers) (1843)

Biography Timeline

Marceline Desbordes-Valmore was born on 20th June 1786 in Douai, France. In 1789 her father’s business was ruined due to the French Revolution and she is sent with her mother to the French colony of Guadeloupe to ask for money from a relative. Her mother sadly died there of yellow fever and somehow the young girl makes her way back to France.

1798: At the age of sixteen she is back in Douai and then moves on to Paris to support herself in a stage career acting at the Opéra-Comique and the Odéon. Later she becomes famous for the role of Rosine in Beuaumarchais’s “Le Barbier de Seville” (The Barber of Seville) which she performs at the Theatre de la Monnaie in Brussels.

1817: She marries a minor actor called Prosper Lanchantin-Valmore.

1819: She publishes her first poetic work called “Élégies et Romances” which establishes her as one of the founders of French Romantic poetry. 

1821: She publishes the collection of stories called “Veillées des Antilles” (Antilles Vigils) which includes the short work “Sarah” about a slave.

1823: Illness threatens her speaking voice and she retires from the stage and takes up writing full time.

1825: She publishes “Élégies et Poésies Nouvelles”.

1833: She writes the poem “Les Pleurs” (The Tears) and the autobiographical work “L’Atelier d’un Peintre” (A Painter’s Studio).

1839: She publishes the poetry “Pauvres Fleurs” (Poor Flowers). The poet Charles Baudelaire praises her writing.

1843: She publishes “Bouquets et Prières” (Bouquets and Prayers). She becomes friends with the novelist Honore de Balzac who suggests she is the inspiration for the main character in his 1846 novel “La Cousine Bette” (My Cousin Bette).

1845: Her friendship with the writer Louise Crombach ends when Crombach is prosecuted for lesbianism.

Marceline Desbordes-Valmore died on 23rd July 1859 in Paris, France. She was buried in the Montmartre Cemetery, Paris.