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Christine de Pisan

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A French poetess and historiographer, born at Venice, 1363; died in France, 1430. Although an Italian by birth, she was French at heart as well as in education and fame. When she was five years old she went to Paris with her father, Thomas de Pisan, who had been appointed astrologer and secretary to King Charles V. She was reared at the court, and educated in the ancient languages and literatures. At the age of fourteen she married a nobleman from Picardy, Etienne du Castel. When her husband died she was only twenty-five years old. Her father and her protector, King Charles, having died several years before, she found herself in straitened circumstances, with three children to provide for. Henry IV, King of England, and Galeazzo Visconti, Tyrant of Milan, each invited her to come and live at his court, but she refused to leave France, where she had been so well treated, and resolved to making a living with her pen. Her writings in prose and verse soon gained her great renown. Her contemporaries compared her eloquence with that of Cicero and her wisdom with that of Cato. Prompted by necessity she wrote incessantly. She declares herself that "in the short space of six years, between 1397 and 1403, she wrote fifteen important books, without mentioning minor essays, which, compiled, make seventy large copy-books." Among her works in prose we may cite: "Le Livre des Faitz et bonnes Moeurs du Saige Roy Charles", an elaborate biography, written at the solicitation of Philip of Burgundy, who was rearing her eldest son as his own child; this book is full of moral lessons, but its merit is somewhat impaired by a useless display of erudition and a diffuse style; "Le Livre de Paix", a treatise dealing with the education of princes, who, according to the author, should be trained in honesty "Trésor de la Cité des Dames" and "Lettre à Isabeau de Bavière", in which she endeavours to rehabilitate the character of a woman who had been defamed by the "Roman de la Rose".

Her poetical works consist mostly of long poems, such as "Le Livre des Mutations de Fortune", "Le Chemin de Longue Etude", "Le Livre des cent Histoires de Troie", etc. These are ambitious and heavy compositions. Her ballades, rondeaux, and lesser poems are more commendable; they are clear and graceful. As a complete edition of Christine's works is being made, her talent will no longer be judged from extracts and separate poems. Though she is by no means a great poetess, she is mentioned with praise eighty years after he death by Marot. She is superior to Eustache Deschamps, her master.


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