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(b. Ploërmel Morbihan (56) 21 sett.1829 - d. Reuil-en-Brie (77) 17 May 1885)
La Rouche Parisienne,
n180, 7 apr. 1860

Pseudonym of Eugénie-Caroline Saffray; other pseudonyms: Eugénie-Caroline Dame Chervet, Marie David, M.S. David, Louis Manuel, R. N.
Raoul de Navéry "qui n'était ni noble ni homme" historical, romance and travel writer is one of the many pseudonyms used by Eugénie-Caroline Saffray, born Rue Noire, Ploërmel, the 21st of September 1829, daughter of Pierre Clair François Saffray, Receveur Controleur à cheval des contributions indirectes and Marie Jeanne Raoul des Essarts, daughter of Pierre Gilles Raoul Vicomte des Essarts, a lawyer, Counsel at the Parlement de Bretagne (court of justice with its seat in Rennes) and the Parlement de Paris.
Saffray's maternal grandfather was Sébastien François Elias, mayor of Rennes in September 1793, killed by the Chouans the 11th August 1794. His daughter Marie Aimée Perrine married Pierre Gilles Raoul des Essarts in Rennes the 23 Messidor An VI Républicain.
Eugénie had an older sister Marie Adèle born 28 May 1828, and a younger brother Charles Clair Marie (b. Ploërmel 16 Feb.1832-17 Feb.1890).

Charles became a Doctor of Medicine (professor of physiology) and a Doctor of Literature graduating at Université de Paris. He was a celebrity in his own right in the fields of medicine, botany (he studied the medical properties of plants) and phisiology. He was referred to as "Dr Saffray" tout-court.
He was also a great traveler, one of the first explorers of Colombia (then New Grenade) where he lived between 1860 and 1862.
From Colombia he went to Panama and from there to New York where he arrived in 1864. In 1865 he worked as an Assistant Physician in the Lunatic Asylum of the Corporation of New York. He returned to Colombia around 1869. In 1870 he was in Louisville (Kentucky) where he became Professor in the local Medical College and Professor of French at the Louisville Female College. His reputation was such that in February 1871 he was proposed by the U.S. Representative E. W. Shore to Ulysses Grant personally as Professor of French in the Military Academy of West Point to fill the chair made vacant by the death of the incumbent. In 1876 he attended the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia.
Fluent in Spanish and Portuguese he was a translator and wrote near to sixty books, almost as many as his sister. Was made Officier de l'Instruction Publique.
Returned to France around 1880. In February 1885 he married Marie (Martiale) Molin de Teyssieu widow of Guillaume de Roberthie and a cherished friend of Pierre Loti. Dr Saffray died at home in Paris Avenue des Ternes 102 (XIV) the 17th Febr.1890.

Eugénie Saffray was educated by the Dames du Sacré-Coeur in Vannes: large part of the school curriculum was taken by history and classical literature. Eugénie showed a literary talent from an early age which was encouraged and nurtured by her teachers. Her quiet demeanour hid a strong willed personalitiy, but she enjoyed the convent years and later declared they had been the best of her life. She did very well in her studies receiving many prizes, which she kept with books and girlish trinkets in an old trunk.
Upon her father's promotion to the position of Receveur Principal and Entreposeur des Tabacs, the family moved to to Argentan (61) rue du College. There on the 23rd of November 1846, to escape her oppressive domineering mother, de Navéry consented to marry Eugène Jean Baptiste Chervet, rédacteur à la Prefecture d'Ile et Vilaine, born in Paris (IX) 15th January 1815.
Saffray starts her career as a poet with Le Testament de Jésus poème évangélique, by Mme Eugénie Chervet 16 pages printed in 1850 by Imprimérie Julllien, Falaise, and available in Argentan chez M. Pesnel and chez Mme Lefoyer, libraires. This was most certainly printed at her own expenses.

Afterwards she used the names S. David, Marie David and Marie Saffray; in 1853 the lyrics for a sérénade Si tu m'aimais are signed Mme Marie Saffray, musique de F. Ponchard.
Followed Les Marguerites, poésies, par Mme Marie Saffray, E. Dentu, 1854. Though she continued to write poetry receiving many mentions and winning a Carnation and (1875) a Violette d'Argent in Jeux Florals de Toulouse for her poem La Saisie, poetry was not bringing in any money and around 1860 she switched to the historical travel genre which made her famous under the name Raoul de Navéry. For the next twenty years her books will be constantly, regularly and immediately reviewed by the Parisian and provincial press.
Saffray separated from her husband (who died 14 July 1871 in Rennes) and apparently took refuge in the Convent of the Sacré-Coeur in Metz. She was there In 1856-1857 where she published Souvenirs du pensionnat. Drames et mystères dédiés aux élèves des maisons du Sacré-Coeur, by Marie David, C. Douniol, 1857. This is not the story of her convent life but a collection of plays.
She spent some time (1861) at la Prieuré de Basses Loges Fontainebelau-Avon, at the time a private country house where she composed Le Chemin du Paradis
But to become somebody one has to be in the capital "[ ...]...Il fallait courir à Paris, forcer l'admiration, enlever le succés ...; il fallait défier l'indifférence , la jalousie, voir le monstre en face [....] "(in La Clé de la cassette, feuilleton Le Mémorial d'Aix, 1883)

Thus three years later, in 1864, Marie is in Paris where she will live all her life. She reinvents herself as Raoul de Navéry (1) soon becoming a feature in the Parisian society. It is a tiring carousel of receptions, balls, concerts, theaters, matinées littéraires, soirées de musique, «cinq à sept», dinners weddings and funerals, culminating with the opening of Exposition de Beaux Arts, knwon as "Le Salon" (Raoul de Navéry writes Le Salon de 1868).
La Presse (10 May 1864) reports her presence vetue en écossaise at a reception given by Mme O'Connell (2) together with Nadar the photographer and "l'élite de la littérature feminine" which included Comtesse Dash (3) .
August 1865: le beau monde littéraire is "en masse" in Ems, watering-place in the Prussian province of Hesse- Nassau, for the opening of Valse et Minuet opera by Méry et Deffès; the musical and critical Tout-Paris is there: Armand de Pontmartin, Raoul de Navéry, Houssaye, Frédéric Béchard and "un parterre des princesses: 3rd December 1868: dinner Société des Gens de Lettres ("la très aimable Mme de Navéry" was wearing a "robe de moire bleu); 23 November 1872: Théâtre Parisien opening of Les Fils aînés de la République, drame en 5 actes et 9 tableaux, par MM. Michel Masson et Raoul de Navéry; May 1881: annual meeting of La Societé d'Encouragement au Bien; January 1882: osbèques de Mme Michel Masson in Batignolles. Then there are her comings and goings to and from "les vacances: in the last years of her life she spends a lot of time at the château de Rueil which at the time belonged to the Baron de Fleigny.

In 1864 E. Dentu published anonimously in Paris the saucy Mémoires d'une femme de chambre, avec Portrait photographié de l'Auteur (4) , a chronicle of the amourous adventures of a society lady. The critics were unanimous in attributing the book to Marie David and, as such, it appeared in some bibliographies as late as 1868. She never denied nor confirmed but the company Mme de Navéry kept in her first Parisian years was decidedly beyond the pale for a Catholic writer. ( see 2 & 3). Indeed it may have been her inspiration.

Many periodicals made specific reference to de Navéry's authorship. To quote just one, between 1864 and 1865 Journal pour toutes wrote:
"Une femme d'ésprit qui pourrait bien être pour quelque chose dans la rédaction des Mémoires d'une Femme de Chambre, Mme Raoul de Navery a été recemment couronnée pas la Societé d'Encouragement au bien. On connaissait de cet auteur des poésies habilement tournées qui ne lui eussent pas valu le prix de vertu. Les Baisers Lesbiens, La Grappe et les Oiseaux, à la picorée, sont au dire des connaisseurs du genre risqué des chefs-d'oeuvre d'audace. Sans doute Mme de Navery commence sa seconde manière et MM de l'Encouragement au Bien ont pu dès lors la couronner" ( 1864-1865 pag 368)
".... Après ça, de nos jours, qu'est ce qui n'a pas son roman ou ses mémoires des sommités sociales à la loge du portier? Telle s'est inspiré du boudoir, telle autre de l'antichambre; demandez à Mme de Navéry" (1864-1865 pag 527) (5)

Portrait photographié de l'Auteur.
Is this woman really Marie David?

Possibly by Nadar (1820-1910), whose name appears frequently at the same social functions de Navéry attended.

Twenty years later La Presse was still wondering at the audacity of some of her writing in their issue n143 (1881) they wrote : "la vue de cette dame maintenenant d'âge respectable, (she was 49!) fait faire des reflexions amusantes. Mme de Navéry a publié des livres et des vers d'une morale austère et c'est à juste titre si on en a recompensé l'auteur ; mais elle a publié des choses excessivement erotiques et osées...étrange!..."

Yet the matter had been settled once and forever, without mincing words , in 1866 by La Revue du XIX Siêcle (pag 294, tome III): "Mme Raoul DE NAVERY est poëte, journaliste, romancière profane et romancière sacrée"
Thus de Navéry could be the character depicted by Josephin Péladan (he of the Rose+Croix) in Femmes Honnètes, 1888, in the short story Edelburge-Nina (he does manages to include a réference to de Navéry, who had been dead for three years). It is the portrait of a Jekyll-Hyde authoress who writes saintly books as Edelburge and pornography as Nina sometimes mixing by mistake the two genres in the same book.
An example of such an occurrence can be found in de Navéry's L'Autel et le foyer, Dillet (6), 1860 a novel about the New World. In the introduction de Navéry stresses and laments the shortage of suitable chaste and moral books for young girls describing the habits of the Indians of the New World. chastising even the famous Atala by Chateaubriand "qui porte les traces ineffaçables d'un esprit maladif et d'une âme inassouvie".
She then writes (absent-mindedly?) that the saintly heroine, a nun, is wearing a floating robe "dont les manches très larges laissaient voir un bras d'un galbe parfait" Later on "Le capitaine [.....] avait étendu un lambeau de voile sur la jeune femme. Il la regardait comme Des Grieux dut regarder Manon à l'heure où la mort la couchait dans sa fosse de sable" What kind of inopportune curiosities are these two people going to arouse in the minds of innocents virgins?
Mme de Navéry must have mended her literary ways enough to become a member of La Societé d'Encouragement au Bien and be crowned with its medals. In 1873 Dame Patronesse (cinquième section: Mme Raoul de Navéry publiciste) at the Exposition Universelle, in 1879 she received Les Palmes Académiques awarded to those who had made major contributions to French education and culture. She was also a member de la Société des Gens de Lettres.

We are in 1870 annus horribilis in the history of France. Paris is under siege. Many families and society ladies transformed their hotel particuliers in ambulances that is field-hospitals: women of all walk of life worked infaticably to tend the wounded; de Navéry was a nurse in the field hospital set up by doctor Centomani in the foyer of the Théâtre Italien. During la Commune (of 1871) she was in charge of the general field hospital rue Condorcet (IX), the street where she lived at n°59. She gave proof of great courage saving some Army Officers from the prisons of La Commune.
Saffray travelled extensively visiting Switzerland, Germany, Italy Spain, all countries which became the background for some of her stories. In 1876 she was in Spain: the painting of San Francis of Assisi in the Cathedral of Toledo (at the time attributed erroneously to Alfonso Cano) inspired her 'Le pardon du moine' a fictional history of Cano's life. A best selling book it went through ten French and one American edition: The monk's pardon. A historical romance of the time of Philip IV. of Spain. New York, Benziger brothers, 1883.

Navéry was a great admirer of the very unconventional George Sand ( qui avait l'indulgence moins facile pour les debutantes que pour les debutants). They certainly knew each other; they were both members of Societe des Gens de Lettres and they had many friends in common: Gonzales, Claretie, Pontmartin, H: Malot, et als.
An extremely attractive woman in her youth, in her dotage de Navéry used to dress either with a peplum or a pourpoint.

She wrote about 100 novels, and was also a prolific playwriter, but her enduring work is the PATIRA trilogy (Patira, Blériot 1874, Le Trésor de l'Abbaye, Blériot, 1876 Jean Canada, Blériot, 1877) a fiction inspired by the adventures of the powerful Breton family de Coëtquen which has gone through prints and re-prints to our day.
She contributed to Les Vieillées des Chaumières. L'Ouvrier, La Patrie, La Ruche Parisienne, La France, La Revue de Paris, Gazette des Etrangers, Gazette du Dimanche (Editor) Les veillées Chretiennes Illustrées (Editor-in-chief), Magazine des Demoiselles, Le Mémorial d'Aix (La Main quii se cache, feuilleton 1867; La Clé de la Cassette, feuileton 1883) La Semaine des Familles, La Petite Revue, Le Rabelais, La France illustrée, Salons de Paris, Messager de la Semaine (rédacteur) Polybiblion (from 1875) and many many others magazines. She was translated in English and Italian. : Idols (1882), Captain Roscoff (1899) The queen confessions (1900) Father Fitzroy(s.d.) The English translations increased after her death.
De Navery died in 1885 aged 57 at the Château de Reuil-en-Brie (Seine-et-Marne) near La Ferté-sous-Jouarre. Her funeral service was held in Paris on the 19th of May in the parish of Notre Dame de Lorette (IX). She was buried at the Cimetière de Montparnasse.

Much popular, a beacon of Catholic rectitude and much respected, many French newpapers reported her death, headed by Les Veillées de Chaumières which published a long obituary praising her artistic and moral qualities.
However the majority (including the Figaro) used a press release which got her name half wrong calling her Marie de Saffron Dame Chervet. It was particularly dismissive in a short ten lines paragraph : "Une femme de lettres qui a beaucoup produit sous le pseudonyme de Raoul de Navéry et qui s'appellait de son vrai nom Marie de Saffron Dame Chervet .... Ecrivaine catholique Raoul de Navéry a eu pendant un certain nombre d'années une reputation de romancière de talent". The same week Victor Hugo was seriously ill and all the front pages were covering his illness. He died five days after de Navéry; by then the press had forgotten her.


(1) Raoul was her grandfather name but Raoul de Navéry is also the King's Page in the novel L'Épée de Suzanne, histoire du temps de François Ier, par Emmanuel Gonzalès - L. Hachette (Paris) - 1865.
Emmanuel Gonzales, a Frenchman of Spanish extraction, was a well-known novelist, president since 1863 of the Societé des Gens de Lettres founder of La Revue de France Director of Le Siècle. De Navery had known him since her arrival in Paris. She attended the funeral of his daughter Eva the 10th May 1883, who died in childbirth at 34, together with political an litérary personalities such as A Dumas, de Claretie, Tony-Robert Fleury, Hector Malot, Nadar and Dentu the publisher, Alphonse Daudet, and als.
Eva, Mme Henry Guerard had been a pupil of and a sitter for Edouard Manet.

(2) Mme Frédérique-Auguste O'Connell a fashionable portrait painter (portrait of Dumas fils, Rachel, the actress, Théophile Gautier & als) born in Berlin had married a man of Irish descent who workshipped her and fought many duels for her: she was part of the set of comtesse MacMahon who used to keep a salon under the reign of Louis Philippe. Comtesse MacMahon was very close (like sisters) to the writer Comtesse Dash. After a life of successes, ( she exhibited at the Salon ) triumphs and wealth following the end of a long love affair with a working class younger man Mme O'Connell lost the will to work , her mind and her considerable fortune and had to be committed to a mental institution. The last blow was, in 1870, the German siege of Paris, where she had lived all her life. She died in 1872.

(3) Comtesse Dash pseudonym of Gabrielle Anne de Cisterne de Courtiras viscountesse de Poilloüe de Saint-Mars (Poitiers 1804-Paris 1872). Wife of a Cavalry man she turned to writing after she separated from her husband, to support herself . A successuf prolific writer friend of Dumas, the real author of some of his books, friend of Gérard de Nerval and all the Parisian glitterati that counted. She chronicled society life from the First Empire through to the Second in Mémoires des autres published after her death (Paris: Calmann Lévy, 1895), According to Le Gaulois de Navéry recited her first poem as a child on the knees of Comtesse Dash
Countess Dash's love life was no less romanesque than O'Connell's. Aged forty she fell in love with Grégoire Sturdza (1821-1901) the young son of the hospodar of Moldavia , a youth half her age she had met in Paris and though she was still technically married, albeit living apart from her husband, she followed the prince to Moldavia where if not the forgiveness of the hospodar she obtained a local divorce and married the prince in 1845. They were exiled to Jassy by the hospodar and the marriage was promptly declared nul by the Othodox Metropolitan. Still she had the time to acquire a taste for all things Moldavian especially furs. Her temporary husband gave her one as a parting gift on her inevitable return to Paris in 1847. She cherished it to the end of her life. Surdza served in the Ottoman forces under the name of Mukhlis Pasha and died in 1901.

(4) Nouveau dictionnaire des ouvrages anonymes et pseudonymes, avec le nom des Auteurs et Editeurs Accompagné de notes historiques et critiques par Louis Charles J. de Manne, Conservateur Adj à la Bibliothèque Impériale, N Scheuring Libraire Editeur, MDCCCVXIII (1868) - Page 236
The book was later attributed to Henry Le Pène (1830-1888) journalist writer, founder of Le Gaulois
Not to be confused with Journal d'une femme de chambre by Octave Mirbeau, 1900.

(5) " ...this woman must have some skeletons in her sentimental closet..." (cit "The forgotten ones" by Rosemary Barr, Virgin Press, London 1985, ; out of print)

(6) Dillet (Constant-René), Libraire Imprimeur, Editeur, Passage Sainte-Maire, 2bis (in 1856) then rue de Sèvres, was bought by Henri Gautier ( in 1889?). In 1885 Gautier had bougjt Blériot's catalogue. Blériot was the major publisher of de Navéry religious literature, thus de Navéry became and is mainly known as a Blériot-Gautier author.

(source: Archives Departementales Ile et Vilaine & Archives de Paris & Dictionnaire des Romanciers de Bretagne by Bernard Le Nail, & Le Figaro, & various periodicals in Gallica2)
Special thanks for her contribution to Mme Françoise Godet Entraide FGW77

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