Péguy, Charles

Péguy, Charles

(shärl pāgē`), 1873–1914, French poet and writer. Of a poor, working family, he won scholarships and made a brilliant record as a student. He left the École normale supérieure to devote himself to the cause of socialism. He was, however, individual in his views, and he broke with the socialist party. In 1900 he founded the Cahiers de la quinzaine, a periodical in which he published his own works and those of other young writers. Through his life he worked passionately for justice, truth, and the good of the common person and the world. He was the outstanding Roman Catholic supporter of Dreyfus in the Dreyfus Affair, and his polemics against injustice were fiery. Though formally he was often at odds with the church, he is among the foremost modern Catholic writers. He sought to infuse spirituality into every aspect of life. His great poem Le Mystère de la charité de Jeanne d'Arc (1910, tr. by Julian Green 1950) expresses his ideal of the spiritual in action. His repetitive chantlike verse has great power. Others of his long works are Le Porche du mystère de la deuxième vertu (1911) and Eve (1913). He was killed at the battle of the Marne in World War I. Translations of his works appear in Basic Verities (1943) and Men and Saints (1944), both translated by Ann and Julian Green; Julian Green also translated some of Péguy's religious poetry in God Speaks (1945).


See studies by M. Villiers (1965), N. Jussem-Wilson (1965), H. A. Schmitt (1967), and G. Hill (1984).

Péguy, Charles


Born Jan. 7, 1873, in Orléans; died Sept. 5, 1914, near Villeroy, Seine-et-Marne. French poet and journalist.

Péguy joined the Socialist Party in 1894. From 1900 to 1914 he edited the journal Cahiers de la Quinzaine, whose contributors included J. Jaurès and R. Rolland. Péguy’s journalistic articles, such as “On the Socialist City” (1897) and “The Triumph of the Republic” (1900), were typical of “emotional socialism,” which condemned capitalism in the name of a patriarchal republic with a peasant handicraft base.

While sympathizing with the Paris Commune of 1871, Péguy attempted to reconcile democratic and patriotic principles with traditional Catholic religiosity; these views are found in the collection of articles Our Native Land (1905) and the narrative poems The Mystery of the Charity of Joan of Arc (1910) and Eve (1913). In time, the patriotism expressed in Péguy’s journalism acquired a nationalistic coloration, as in the pamphlet Our Young People (1910).


Oeuvres complètes, vols. 1–20. Paris, 1916–55.


Istoriia frantsuzskoi literatury, vol. 3. Moscow, 1959.
Rolland, R. Ch. Péguy, vols. 1–2. Paris, 1944. (Excerpt published in Russian translation in R. Rolland, Sobr. soch, vol. 14. Moscow, 1958.
Pages 635–705.) Perche, C. Essai sur Ch. Péguy, 2nd ed. [Paris, 1965.]