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This report is taken from PN Review 99, Volume 21 Number 1, September - October 1994.

La Patronne du Mercure David Arkell

Born in 1860 to an old Perigord family, Marguerite Eymery was a precocious girl. By the age of fifteen she had read Voltaire and the Marquis de Sade and was writing extraordinary stories for the local paper, L'Echo de la Dordogne. Unaware of this, her father used sometimes to read them aloud to the family, while skipping certain passages judged too sophisticated for his young daughter.

She was fond of animals like any young girl, but her tastes ranged far beyond ponies. She preferred creatures that were normally despised or feared such as rats and snakes and owls. This predilection was not a pose: it lasted all her life and, in 1940, she took with her on the exodus from Paris a couple of white mice she had saved from vivisection.

The only youthful photograph of her shows a pretty tomboy type of girl, not unlike the TV presenter Sarah Kennedy whom she also resembled for her liveliness and good humour. In fact she has sometimes been regarded a forerunner of her friend Victor Marguerite's La Garçonne.

When Perigord could no longer hold her, and L'Echo de la Dordogne was losing its glamour, she did something completely characteristic: this totally unknown girl wrote to the great Victor Hugo with an example of her work, asking if she should continue. When he replied 'CONGRATULATIONS AND COURAGE MADEMOISELLE' she caught the train to Paris… and caused a sensation. She was taken up by the writer ...


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