Charles Péguy  

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Charles Péguy (January 7, 1873 - September 5, 1914) was a noted French poet, essayist, and editor. His two main philosophies were socialism and nationalism, but by 1908 at the latest, he had become a devout but non-practicing Roman Catholic. From that time, Catholicism strongly influenced his works.



Péguy was born to poverty. His mother, widowed when he was an infant, mended chairs for a living. In 1894, benefitting from republican school reform, he was received in the École Normale Supérieure, and attended notably the lectures of Henri Bergson and Romain Rolland, whom he befriended. He formally left the École Normale, without graduating, in 1897, even though he continued attending some lectures in 1898. Influenced by Lucien Herr (librarian of the École Normale), he became an ardent Dreyfusard.

From his earliest years, he was influenced by socialism. From 1900 to his death in 1914, he was the main contributor and the editor of the literary magazine Les Cahiers de la Quinzaine, which first supported the Socialist Party director Jean Jaurès. Péguy ultimately ended his support after he began viewing Jaurès as a traitor to the nation and to socialism. In the Cahiers, Péguy published not only his own essays and poetry, but also works by important contemporary authors such as Romain Rolland.

His free verse poem, "Portico of the Mystery of the Second Virtue", has gone through more than 60 editions in France. It was a favorite book of Charles de Gaulle.

He died in battle, shot in the forehead, in Villeroy, Seine-et-Marne during World War I, on the day before the beginning of the Battle of the Marne.


Benito Mussolini referred to Péguy as a "source" for Fascism. But, according to Zaretsky in The Virginia Quarterly Review, Péguy would have likely been horrified by this appropriation.

In 1983, Geoffrey Hill published a long poem with the title The Mystery of the Charity of Charles Péguy.

Famous quotations

"The sinner is at the very heart of Christianity. Nobody is so competent as the sinner in matters of Christianity. Nobody, except the saint."

"It will never be known what acts of cowardice have been committed for fear of not looking sufficiently progressive." (Notre Patrie, 1905).

"Tyranny is always better organised than freedom".

"It has never been given to a man to attain at once his happiness and his salvation."

"Homer is new and fresh this morning, and nothing, perhaps, is so old and tired as today's newspaper."

"Surrender is essentially an operation by means of which we set out explaining instead of acting."

"He who does not bellow the truth when he knows the truth makes himself the accomplice of liars and forgers."

"A word is not the same with one writer as with another. One tears it from his guts. The other pulls it out of his overcoat pocket."

"How maddening, says God, it will be when there are no longer any Frenchmen";

"There will be things that I do that no one will be left to understand." (Le Mystère des saints Innocents)

"It is impossible to write ancient history because we do not have enough sources, and impossible to write modern history because we have too many". (Clio, 1909)


  • Jeanne d' Arc (1897)
  • Notre Patrie (1905)
  • Situations (1907–1908)
  • Notre Jeunesse (1909) - Recollections of the campaign for Alfred Dreyfus.
  • Clio, dialogue de l'histoire et de l'âme païenne (1909–1912)
  • Le Mystère de la charité de Jeanne d'Arc (1910)
  • Victor-Marie, comte Hugo (1911)
  • L'Argent (1912)
  • Le Porche du mystère de la deuxième vertu (1912)

(translated into English as The Portal of the Mystery of Hope)

  • Le Mystère des saints Innocents (1912)
  • La Tapisserie de sainte Geneviève et de Jeanne d'Arc (1913)
  • La Tapisserie de Notre-Dame (1913)
  • Ève (1913)
  • Note sur M. Bergson (1914)
  • Cahiers

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