Bibliothèque de SuZette
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(Brest 1850 - 1907?
Active 1890-1906)

Petite Fée, ill. R. de la Nézière, 1920 (Bibliothèque de Suzette 2nde série), 1939
Pauvre Charlotteill. (Paul Adolphe) Kauffmann, 1921, 1932

Marie Alexandrine d'Agon de la Contrie was the daughter of François Guillaume, and Pierre Louise Marie Fanélie Couppé du Portblanc.
Her mother was born in 1810 at  Petit Canal de la Grande Terre (Guadeloupe) into an old Breton family who had settled between Martinique and Guadeloupe at the end of the XVII Century.

Her father "un excellent homme"  [cfr. L. Chauvet (1) born in 1804 at Spire in the kingdom of Bavaria joined the Army as a volunteer in 1822 and ended his military career as  Chef de Bataillon. He met his wife during his posting in Guadeloupe (1837-1842). They married in Petit Canal the 1st October 1839. Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur in 1845. In 1842 D'Agon returned to France settling with his family in Brest. His own father Louis Bernard Antoine was a lawyer and jurist, author of the classic Ancien statuaire d'Alsace ou Recueil des actes de notoriété fournis en 1738 et 1739 à M. de Corberon... sur les statuts, us et coutumes locales de cette province, suivi d'une notice sur les emphytéoses, les colonges, les locatairies perpétuelles Colmar: impr. de J. H. Decker, 1825.

Marie, had an older brother, Edmond Joseph (b. Basse Terre, Guadeloupe 27 gen 1842-d.Toulouse 27 July 1901). He joined the Navy aged 19 and became a Navy administrative officer. In 1877-1879 he was in Sénégal as aide-commissaire de la Marine at the same time as the explorer Louis-Parfait Monteil and (as he was then) lieutenant Joseph Gallieni with whom he became close friend. In 1881 he was posted, like his father, to Guadeloupe where he met and married Aline Paul Dubois de la Saussais d'Estreban (b. ca 1849 - d. Toulouse 20 novembre 1903) descendant from a French Creole family. They had a daughter Jehanne. Subsequently he served in Cochincine and Réunion (1886-ca.1890).

Around 1852 Marie's father was posted to India with his family in what proved to be his last mission overseas. He died suddenly in 1853 just a few days before he was due to return to France.  Pierre-Louis-Honoré Chauvet in his L'Inde Française, Deux années sur la côte de Coromandel 1877 mentions his untimely death (1).

Marie Alexandrine was sent to La Maison d'Education de la Legion d'Honneur de Saint-Denis, a boarding institution founded by Napoleon to educate the female relatives of Légionnaires. The pupils entered the school between the age of six and twelve and left at eighteen; they were taught arithmetic, reading, writing, grammar, history, geography, cosmography, botany, dance (as a form of physical activity),  some domestic skills and according to their talent, received design and music lessons. Intensive religious education, prayers and daily masses were de rigueur.

After completing her education, in 1868, without any relatives in France to whom she could return, (her mother had also died) she remained at La Maison to become part of the staff, which was organized in dames postulantes au noviciat, dames novices, dames de 2me classe, dames de 1ère classe, dignitaires, under the direction of the Superintendante. The dames performed the task of teachers, supervisors, pharmacists, proctors, concierges, nurses. By 1871 Marie had reached the grade of dame novice with a stipend of 400fr/year.
By all accounts she would have remained all her life at St Denis, where no man was allowed to enter (with a few grand exceptions) but in 1872 she was asked in marriage by Commandant Brunot. The Ministry of War deemed  her credentials impeccable (daughter of a Légionnaire, grandaughter of an eminent jurist) and though her dowry was too modest for the future wife of a Navy officer it was considered sufficient to grant permission to marry. It was a marriage arranged in the close-knit milieu of the creole families, maybe with the input of her brother Edmond, but it proved to be a happy one.

Thanks to l'Abbé Bethleem, who so described her in the first edition of Romans à lire et à proscrire, Marie D'Agon has been  known to this day as " Brunot, femme du Commandant Brunot de l'Infanterie de Marine".

The elusive "commandant Brunot de l'infanterie de Marine" is Colonel-Lieutenant Napoléon François Ernest, born Fort-de-France, Martinique, in 1839. son of Jacques, Commandeur de la Legion d'Honneur, Military Commander-Governor of Martinique in 1853 and Marie Colombe Aglaé Goy. After un-promising beginnings in the Army owing to his strong-willed character, which earned him various disciplinary actions, Brunot performed a distinguished military service with the 2e Régiment d'Infanterie de Marine (RIMa). He took part to: two campaigns in Sénégal (1858-1862)  with the Bataillon de Tiralleurs Sénégalais, two in Cochinchine (1863-1865) the Prussian War 1870 with l'Armée du Rhin (he fought valiantly at the battle of Bazeilles). He was made prisoner in September 1870 at Sedan returning from captivity in 1871. Promoted Lieutenant-Colonel in 1876. Chevalier Légion d'Honneur in 1874.

The Brunots married in Saint-Denis on the 12th of Nov. 1872. They had four children  Georges Léon Jacques (b. 1874) who became a colonial civil servant, Jacques Edmond Paul Henri (b Brest, June 1876) who died aged two months, Marie Madeleine Juliette Fanélie, (b. Brest 1878 - d. Saint-Germain-en-Laye 1976) who in 1901 married Auguste Cornet, Paul (b.1881), Richard Edmond Maurice Edouard (b. 9 April 1883 Saint Ciers du Taillon - d.Aix les Bains 1958).
After their marriage they settled in Brest, 20. rue Dalgesiras. In 1879 Brunot was again in Indochina in Saigon returning to Brest in January 1880.

Commandant Brunot retired in 1881. After a spell in Marseille (July 1881), the family moved to 8, Place du Commerce Paris-Grenelle (1882) then to Saint Ciers  du Taillon Charente Inferieure (1882-1886) then to Le Bouscat nr. Bordeaux (1886-1891) returning to Brest in 1891, rue du Chateau. They moved to Versailles in 1894, rue de la Bonne Aventure 24bis. Their next-door neighbours were the Petitjeans de la Rosière, whose daughter Marie Jeanne Henriette became known in literature as Delly. It is quite possible that d'Agon knew of Marie Petitjean's literary ambitions and may have introduced her to Henri Gautier, the publisher of Delly's Dans les ruines in 1903.

D'Agon divided her time between the social obligations of a military wife and the care of her family (which during their time in Marseille included her father-in-law who died aged 84 in 1883) with the help of just one maid who in 1901 was one Reine Le Sergeant. Though she had been for many years a very popular writer, one of Blériot flagships, she appears as "sans profession" in the 1901 census, a clear indication of how in her time female writers, receiving little recognition, did not consider their activity to be a profession.

Owing to her family commitments d'Agon started writing late in life, after her chidren began their secondary education. She immediately established herself as a successful writer: she won the prize of the Société d'Encouragement au Bien for Les Colères du bouillant Achille. Her first  books Reconnaissance ed. Société française d'éditions d'art. and Marjolaine, ed. May & Mantoux, were published in 1890.

She dedicated some of her books to grandaugthers, nieces and children of family friends.

Miss Bengali: "A ma petite-fille, Jeanne Cornet. Ce livre a été terminé le jour même de ta naissance ! Quand tu seras assez grande pour le lire, tu ne seras pas plus chérie que tu ne l'es à cette première heure de ta vie par ta grand'mère, M. D'Agon de la Contrie à Versailles, le 22 Novembre 1901".

Le fils du cordier: 9 Éd. Imp. 37, rue Gandon, Paris, 1902 "A Marie la Prairie, Je t'offre ce livre, ma chère petite fille, parce qu'on y parle de ton pays natal; parce que tu y verras que les enfants de marsouins sont bons et généreux; et puis, surtout, parce que je t'aime très maternellement, Versailles, le 6 Janvier 1902" (Gabrielle Sophie Marie la Prairie, born in Brest 1888, was the daughter of Brunot fellow officer Paul La Prairie, Lt Colonel 2e RIMa. She died in 1976).

Fraternité, Société française d'éditions d'Art, 1900 : "A Marie-Louise Accary - je t'offre ce livre ma chère enfant parceque je sais que l'on t'apprend à aimer les malheureux" (Born in Versailles in 1885, Marie Louise Charlotte was the daughter of  Léon Accary Controleur Générale de l'Armée).

Contributions: Mon Journal, Les Veillées des Chaumieres (es. La Dette de Noëlle, 1907), L'Ouvrier, Semaine de Suzette, Le Journal de la Jeunesse.

She wrote also under the name Mme Brunot: La Revanche de François Talence, 1905 and Les Victoires de mademoiselle Laurence, 1904 both published by Librairie nationale d'éducation et de récréation.

D'Agon shared with Roger Dombre the honour of launching La Semaine. The first episode of her novel Pauvre Charlotte — which takes place in Guadeloupe — opened La Semaine de Suzette  n. 1, February 1905.
The author was thus introduced by the publisher: "... cet écrivain qui depuis des longues années, exploite au profit de la jeunesse les trésors d'une imagination féconde et colorée et qui mieux que personne, sait glisser le bon précepte sous les attraits de l'action captivante."

The Brunot moved once more, this time to 5 rue La Boëtie Périgueux in Dordogne where the Commandant died  on 29 July 1908. Between 1904 and 1906 she was a member of the École felibréenne du Périgord the literary society for the diffusion and knowledge of occitan and published three short articles in its monthly bulletin Lou Bournat.

The family connection with the colonies continued with the next generations: Richard Brunot, a Law graduate, entered the colonial administration and became Gouverneur général des Colonies, Senator for Mauritania at the Assemblée Nationale, Conseiller de la République de Mauritanie 1946-1948.
As late as the Fifties the Cornets were still in West Africa; in 1976 two male descendants Jean-Luc, Marie, Léon Cornet, b. 15 Aug. 1954 at Kaya (Haute-Volta ), and Jean- Michel, Georges, Marie Cornet, b. 12 sept. 1956 at Versailles applied to have the surname d'Agon de la Contrie added to Cornet.

(1)  "Le commandant d'Agon de la Contrie attendait le passage du prochain paquebot anglais pour rentrer en France avec sa famille. Il s'entendit avec son ami F., auquel il céda la maison qu'il avait encore plusieurs mois à occuper. Mais, l'avant-veille du jour fixé pour le départ, le pauvre commandant mourut subitement: le départ de la famille fut retardé par cet événement, et F., pressé de mettre sa lune de miel dans ses meubles, pria la veuve d'aller s'installer ailleurs, ce qu'elle fît en se lamentant de l'impatience de son ami. Mais l'ami, pour l'empire du Grand Mogol, n'aurait pas voulu condamner sa jeune fiancée à passer la première nuit de ses noces à la belle étoile, ni retarder d'une heure son réengagement dans l'armée des maris". (from L'Inde Française, Deux années sur la côte de Coromandel  by Pierre-Louis-Honoré Chauvet, Challamel, 1877).


(sources: Abbé Bethléem, 1928 & Mnémosyne, & SedeSu & La guerre de 1870-71, L'armée de Chalons and Philippe Castel ENTRAIDE FDA78, with thanks to Jean Luc Buard for kindly supplying Brunot's military dossier).

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