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September 23, 2011

The Sufferings of Lamartine

Filed under: People,Places — Tags: , — Mary @ 22:27


Objets inanimés, avez vous donc une âme qui s’attache à notre âme et la force d’ aimer ?  - Milly ou la terre natale 1826

Lamartine was the first of the romantic poets. In many ways his life and work mirrors that of Wordsworth, born 20 years later, who was the first of the English romantic poets. His work is studied by most schoolchildren in France.

He was not only a poet but he became one of the most well known politicians in Europe. He was instrumental in abolishing slavery and the death penalty, and encouraged the working class revolution by promoting the right to work.  He set up and declared the 2nd Republic. However as a political idealist he was unpopular with the bourgeoisie and his support rapidly waned.  Bonaparte, later Napoleon III, trounced him and replaced Lamartine as President in 1848. Lamartine retired a broken man and devoted himself to writing in a hopeless effort to pay off his debts.

Lamartine lived for most of his life in the area between Cluny and Mâcon. To understand more about him  we have visited most of the places on the Lamartine Trail, namely the chateaux at St Point, Berzé and Pierreclos. And the house in Mâcon where he was born which is now the Lamartine museum.

Lamartine's house at Milly

Lamartine's house at Milly

We have gradually pieced together some notion of his work and significance. But none of these other places gave us as much insight into Lamartine’s life as the house where he spent his youth at Milly-Lamartine. We were shown round by M. Sornay who is a descendant of the family that acquired the house in 1861.

Owner of the house M. Sornay

Owner of the house M. Sornay

This house is the keystone to Lamartine’s life. It had been built in 1705 by his great grandfather and it was surrounded by extensive vineyards. The family moved there when Lamartine was just four years old. Lamartine’s mother was devoutly Catholic and she doted on him, an only son with five younger sisters.

Lamartine wrote “There is a woman at the beginning of all great things.

She was a stickler for accuracy and when she read ‘La Vigne et la Maison’ she saw that Lamartine had described the house as being covered with ivy. As it wasn’t she promply planted ivy to save him from any criticism. She used to walk through the garden reading her breviary and Lamartine acquired from her his love of nature.

Lamartine led a tortured life. He struggled with religion. Although he was strongly influenced by the Catholicism of his mother and his Jesuit teachers he turned to Pantheism, the belief that God is not a personality but is manifested in Nature. “God is everything and everything is God”.

Lamartine’s story is one of obsession, despair and loss. To my mind he was overly attached to his childhood home and his mother. His mother died in an accident in 1929 and he became obsessed with keeping her memory alive.

St Point where Lamartine lived when he married

He had several unhappy love affairs. He wrote endlessly of his obsession for Antoniella, a peasant girl, who became ‘Graziella’ in his poems. In 1816 he fell in love with Julie Charles at a sanatorium in Aix-les-Bains. He had arranged to meet her a year later  by the lake but she was not there and he was devastated when he found she had died. He wrote of his yearning for her in  ‘Le Lac’, probably the most famous of all his poems.

By 1820 success with his poetry enabled him to marry Mary Birch, an English woman related to the Churchill family. But life was a series of tragedies as he lost a son in infancy and in 1832 his daughter died at the age of ten during a trip abroad. He and Mary seem to have remained close despite their later poverty and Lamartine’s continuing anguish about earlier relationships which he expressed in his poems.

Lamartine inherited the house in 1830 and he felt guilty because he was the only male heir and all the family property went to him. So he spent his life supporting the five sisters, so much so that he was driven into debt and was forced to sell the house in 1860. This broke his heart and it was  downhill from then. His wife died of a painful illness in 1863. Lamartine suffered some sort of attack and lay semi-conscious for more than a year before his death in 1869. He ended his life forgotten and in poverty.

Cormatin chateau

Cormatin chateau

There is a connection with Cormatin as Lamartine was a regular visitor to the Chateau as he used to visit the daughter of the owner. Later, when she married, he became good friends with her husband and he continued to visit them both.

September 22, 2011

Beware Jonathan Keegan

Filed under: People — Tags: — Mary @ 14:25

I am actually preparing a blog about Lamartine but I am having to think about it. Though not to the the extent of Lamartine himself who used to agonize about a poem for twenty years before he wrote it.

Anyway, just a quickie. I seem to have set myself up as an authority on the subject of scams in general and Jonathan Keegan in particular. I talked about this scam in the ‘Lay my Hat’ forum which is where gite and B&B owners compare notes and have a good moan. Since then I have had numerous emails and phone calls from all over Europe from people who have heard from him and want to be reassured that it is a scam.

Curiously, last week I even had an email from the money laundering department of Attica Bank in Greece asking me for any further information. I know only as much as the next person.

All I could say was that Jonathan Keegan asks for a three week booking for a film crew of four and wants to know how much it will be ‘at your establishment’. If you reply he will want to pay the whole amount up front plus a lot more to pay for numerous agents. He then asks you to pay these people and, surprise surprise, after a few weeks your bank will tell you the cheque he sent was a dud.

Quote: The film organizers have concluded to use your facility; Arrival date: 8th October 2011, Departure date: 29th October 2011, and the film Producer has approved a bank certified cheque of 9,800 Euros, to cover all of our expenses which includes; the cost of our accommodation, car rentals, booking of flight tickets, meals and other logistics arrangements, required throughout our film shooting period.
The film authorities have decided, that you will receive that certified cheque payment of 9,800 Euros, then proceed with the deposit of the cheque into your bank account to get the clearance for the cash. On receiving the cash in your account, you are required to deduct your cost of services and wait for instructions on how to use the balance. This will not cost you any extra fees, because all the bank charges will be added in the cheque payment.

It’s just the usual scam. Anybody with a holiday property gets them all the time, usually from the Ivory Coast (are there any genuine holidaymakers in the Ivory Coast?). They have not a clue what property you have to offer. They ask for a period of a few weeks but they don’t mind when. The language ranges from funny to bad (who says the shooting is slated for….”?), they don’t spell their names the same way twice. The names they make up are most peculiar. They sometimes pretend to have an address in the UK but they don’t seem to learn the format of writing it. Perhaps I could earn a fortune by writing emails for scammers that actually sound like they come from a genuine English or French person.

Someone pointed out that perhaps Jonathan Keegan has a sense of humour as he sometimes uses an email address that includes ‘flomaxconservices’. Flomax is a drug to relieve men’s peeing problems.

Anyway our Jonathan Keegan is a most industrious scammer. He must get somebody to fall for it or he would have given up by now. But don’t let it be you.

Postscript: I haven’t got a photo of a scammer to hand so here is a preview of the next blog. A photo of the stone table  where Lamartine used to write poetry in his garden at Milly. 

Lamartine's garden at Milly

Lamartine's garden at Milly

September 17, 2011

Journées du Patrimoine 2011

Filed under: Events,Places — Tags: , , , , — Mary @ 17:02

There is a great enthusiasm here for the Journées du Patrimoine. This year sees the 28th year of the Heritage weekends. The scheme was started in 1984 by the French Ministry of Culture to ‘ensure the most important possible audience to our cultural heritage’. It has now extended to most countries in Europe.

The theme for 2011 is to highlight the influence of architects and artisans from neighbouring countries who influenced the construction and decoration of emblematic sites. For example the frescos which once decorated Cluny Abbey, like those still to be seen at Berzé-le-Chapelle, were painted in a Byzantine style by the many Italian artists employed at that time.

Part of a fresco at Berzé-le-Chapelle

Part of a fresco at Berzé-le-Chapelle

A network of labelled sites has since been instigated in an effort to protect France’s cultural heritage. One of the first three European Heritage plaques was presented to Cluny Abbey in 2007, along with the Pope’s palace in Avignon and Robert Schuman’s house in Lorraine.

Many of the places open to the public this weekend are private homes and sites not normally accessible, for example the childhood home of Lamartine at Milly-Lamartine. Others places which normally charge are free to the public. This morning we visited the museum in Cluny and the Abbey. We have been to both several times before but we appreciate them more with knowing more about Cluny and its history. We never tire of watching the 3D film representing Cluny Abbey as it was in the 13th century.

Cluny Abbey

Cluny Abbey

We met some neighbours this morning in Cluny who said they visited a different town every year. Tomorrow they are going to the Abbey at Paray-le-Monial. We will not go so far for our outing for tomorrow afternoon, perhaps to the walnut oil factory in Charnay-les-Macon, then to the Chateau d’Aine near Azé. Tomorrow is also the Journée du Cheval so it’s open day at the stables, and there’s a pony club competition in Cluny……. On verra.

September 12, 2011

Summer continues…..

Filed under: Events,People,Places,Village Life,Weather — Tags: , , , , — Mary @ 22:33

We keep thinking it ought to be autumn by now but it’s not yet autumn weather. It was nearly 30° at the weekend.  The tomatoes are continuing to ripen by the basketful and we are still eating raspberries and strawberries every day.

The market at Cluny

The market at Cluny

Most Saturdays we go to the market in Cluny. Not to buy the fruit and veg as we have plenty from the garden but to go and have a leisurely coffee at the Café du Nord where we meet friends and neighbours. Many of our friends live in far flung villages and Cluny is a central meeting point.

The Café du Nord

The Café du Nord by the Abbey

Yesterday we also met up with our friends from the pony club at Laizé as they performed their spectacular in the grounds of a ruined chateau at Charnay les Macon.

The Laizé pony club show

The Laizé pony club show

We passed by the wine villages of Azé, Igé, Verzé, Prissé and la Roche-Vineuse. The vendange is in full swing so at this time of the year you see huge trailers piled high with grapes on the way to the caves.

On the way back we called in at Azé to see an exhibition of artwork by one of our neighbours. Despite being hundreds of miles from the sea his work  has a seaside theme.

Artwork at Azé

Artwork at Azé

This afternoon we watched some horse racing at the Hippodrome in Cluny while we were waiting to pick up the car from the Renault garage; the hot weather prompted us to get the aircon recharged. It’s one of these things that you don’t miss if you don’t have but once you do they become indispensible.

So with the fine days it is difficult to settle down to autumn activities. I’m hoping that summer will continue for a few weeks yet as the grandchildren arrive for the last week of September.

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