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Appendix B  Ten Interesting Facts about la Comtesse

In researching the life and works of Comtesse de Ségur, I came across many interesting facts, not all of which fell into the scope of this document. For the reader’s pleasure and curiosity, I am providing some of the remaining facts here.

1. Comtesse de Ségur suffered many illnesses such as migraines, loss of her voice for a while, and so on. Her illnesses were due to the numerous births that she had. Her eldest son, Monseigneur Gaston de Ségur, remembered “de longues, de dures et très dures souffrances” that forced his mother to lie “sur un lit de douleur” for thirteen years, but always having “une douceur inaltérable”. Her youngest daughter, Olga, also had sweet memories of her dear mother who always suffered but who was always good, loving and cheerful, except the days of her migraines when “les Nouettes devenaient une succursale de la Trappe pour le silence” [Mar99, pg. 9]. Her works were written under this constant suffering, and were inspired from her little world, in other words, her big family.

2. La comtesse educated her daughters herself. She taught them mainly from books. However, she also created her own teaching material, such as this amusing little poem she wrote to teach her daughters good spelling [Duf00, pg. 273]:

Si j’étais roi, disait Gros-Jean à Pierre,
Si j’étais roi, voici ce que je ferais, moi :
J’aurais un cheval avec deux panaches
Pour mieux garder mes moutons et mes vaches,
Si j’étais roi, si j’étais roi.

Si j’étais roi, lui répondit Gros-Pierre,
Si j’étais roi, voici ce que je ferais, moi :
J’adoucirais le sort de mon vieux père,
Je donnerais du pain blanc à ma mère,
Si j’étais roi, si j’étais roi.

3. The highway Paris-Cherbourg passed in front of castle Les Nouettes (alias castle Fleurville from the trilogy). The castle’s façade was full of orange trees where la comtesse’s children and grandchildren often hid, just like the little girls from the stories of the trilogy.

4. La comtesse’s butcher, Hurel from Aube, appeared in the story called Les Petites Filles modèles. In adding that little real detail, la comtesse showed how much respect and love she held not only for her family, but also for her acquaintances.

5. In Aube nowadays, there is a primary school named after Comtesse de Ségur, and there is also a museum in her celebration, and the castle Les Nouettes in which la comtesse spent most of her adult life was transformed in an orphanage, something that might remind us of L’Auberge de l’Ange Gardien or even le château de Fleurville.

6. When Paul told the story of his capture after the shipwreck, he used the authentic words of a poem written by Anatole, Sophie’s second son: “[…] je sautai aussi pour leur tenir compagnie et je me mis à chanter à tue-tête : Te souviens-tu, brave enfant de la France, etc. que chantaient souvent nos pauvres marins de la Sibylle” [dS90c, pg. 451].

7. In some respect, général Dourakine—who appeared in L’Auberge de l’Ange Gardien and Le Général Dourakine—resembled his author, la comtesse, as described especially in one of the paragraphs from Le Général Dourakine. La comtesse actually said the following sentence, and the sentences before and after were stated by one of her acquaintances: “[…] comme vous êtes drôle ! Vous avez tant d’esprit !” / Vraiment ! c’est drôle ce que j’ai dit ? Je ne croyais pas avoir tant d’esprit. / […] vous êtes si modeste ! vous ne connaissez pas la moitié, le quart de vos vertus et de vos qualités !” [dS90a, pg. 661–662].

8. The decorations that général Dourakine held were similar to those that Comte Rostopchine, Sophie’s father, wore when in service: “Grande tenue de lieutenant général, uniforme brodé d’or, culotte blanche, bottes vernies, le grand cordon de Sainte-Anne et de Saint-Alexandre” [dS90a, pg. 626–627].

9. La comtesse’s style of writing was very personal, direct and childish, which made her unique in the world of children’s writing. Even the objects in her stories were personified by the projection of the character on the thing itself: “Mes noisettes, mes pauvres noisettes !” says Marguerite [dS90c, pg. 244].

10. Luce Fillol wrote this moving little poem in the memory of Comtesse de Ségur [Fil81, back cover]:

C’était une petite fille russe,
descendante de Gengis Khân.
Elle devint une châtelaine française
mère d’une des dames d’honneur de l’impèratrice Eugénie.
Cela ressemble à un conte de fées.
La vie de la comtesse de Ségur,
née Rostopchine ne fut pourtant pas un conte de fée.
Marquée dès l’enfance,
et jusqu’à la fin de sa vie,
de déceptions, de tristesses, d’angoisses,
elle fut aussi faite d’amour, de finesse et d’enthousiasme.
Et c’est parce que ses livres furent élaborés
à partir de ces trois qualités,
qu’ils firent et qu’ils feront —
malgré leurs limites et leurs contradictions —
la joie de milliers de lectuers du monde entier.
Je fus une de ces jeunes lectrices,
Il y a très longtemps.
C’est pour cela que j’ai voulu connaître la personalité
de cette femme attachante
et les ressorts psychologiques d’une oeuvre
que l’on ne peut juger uniquement à la lumière de notre temps.

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