Marceline Desbordes-Valmore was born at Douai to a family where her father was an armorial
painter but whose livelihood was destroyed by the revolution and who thereupon sought poorly
paid work as an innkeeper.
At age 15, Marceline left France for Guadeloupe in the forlorn hope of financial assistance from an
elder cousin. Her mother succumbed shortly afterwards to yellow fever, however, and Marceline
returned to France where she became an actress. She achieved success as an opera singer in Paris
where she created the role of Rosina in Le Barbier de Séville.
She lived with Henri de Latouche by whom she bore a son who, however, died in 1816 aged 5yrs. She
then married the impecunious actor Prosper Lanchantin, known as Valmore, in 1817 and resumed her
theatrical career. She bore four further children, two of whom died in childhood. Her daughter,
Hyacinthe, also a poet, died at age 31.
Marceline wrote several collections of poetry beginning publication with Élégies et Romances in 1819
ending with Bouquets et prières in 1843 but she continued acting until 1832 after which she
concentrated on writing including 'Tales' for children.
Her poetry was of a highly lyrical, romantic and elegiac style expressing deep emotion and
melancholy. It was highly acclaimed by, amongst others, Balzac; but she fell from popularity after
her death from cancer in Paris. She was recognized by Verlaine as a poetess of genius, however,
and was highly regarded by Baudelaire and Sainte Beuve.
Her works have been set to music by several great composers of the 19th century as well as by those
of more recent decades.