Poems Without Frontiers

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Elisa Mercoeur 1809- 1835

Elisa was born in Nantes but was abandoned by her mother and taken into care as a foundling. Her forename was given by her mother but her surname was a gift of the registration authority. Her mother, Adèlaïde (ou Adèle) Aumand, reclaimed the child, however, after 21 months. Both mother and the putative father, Jules-François Barré, a solicitor, were each from middle class families. The death of the father in 1825, who had cared for both mother and daughter, placed the family in straitened circumstances, however; but a family friend paid for Elisa's education wherein she excelled from an early age.

At age 16, she wrote an ode to a celebrated singer upon the latter's appearance at Nantes. It was greeted with acclamation when published in the press, who named her the Muse Amoricaine after the regional newspaper in which it appeared. She was then able to publish a collection of verse aided by local subscription. Her fame quickly spread throughout France and she was awarded a pension by the Minister of the Interior.

She moved to Paris in order to write her play, Boabdil, but the revolution of 1830 not only closed opportunities but also led to the cancellation of her pension until the intervention of Delavigne secured another. She, meanwhile, turned to journalism for her living; and she was welcomed at salons frequented by several leading literary figures.

Although her play later passed the theatre assessors of new works, a performance was judged unsuitable by the manager. Deeply distressed, she declined in health and died of a pulmonary infection.