Jacqua-Françoise Pautrard

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Entry by Gilles Banderier, 2004

The life of Jaqua-Françoise Pautrard remains largely a mystery. It is thought that she was the daughter of a Bathélemy Pautrard, who was brought to trial in 1584 for having "made use of texts considered suspect in matters of faith". He was the rector of the schools of Arbois in the Jura from 1588 to 1593, when he was dismissed by the municipal authorities, yet returned to the town as the college principal from 1597 to at least 1607. Between 1593 and 1597 he presumably left Arbois (which would explain why there is no trace of the siege of 1595 in his daughter's work) and exercised the functions of preceptor in the house of Claude de Vergy, governor of Franche-Comté. It is probable that Barthélemy Pautrard formed part of a circle of scholars and local authorities who met at Arbois at the invitation of the physician of Philip II, Jean Vuillemin (c. 1540-1606/7).

Françoise grew up in a particularly cultivated milieu. She demonstrated her capacity to write verse in French and in Latin, and she knew Greek and Italian, as well as the rudiments of Hebrew; a considerable achievement for a young woman from the provinces (and even for a Parisienne!) at the end of the sixteenth century. Probably, she acquired this learning from her father and the Jesuits of the college of Dôle who regularly preached in Arbois. It is thought that she spent her life confined to her native Jura amongst her books and in learned conversations, without ever marrying since she kept her father's surname. She probably did not live past 1622 or 1623.

An extremely talented poet, Françoise Pautrard composed an elegant Latin translation of the first day of Christofle de Gamon's Sepmaine (which appeared initially in 1609), adaptations of Greek, Latin and Italian poems (by Synesius of Cyrene, Gregory of Naziance, Seneca, Petrarch, Luca Pinelli and others), as well as numerous spiritual pieces. Without rendering her the exact equal of a Jean-Baptiste Chassignet or a Jean de Sponde, these works bear up well and link her to the contemporaneous mode of religious poetry which accompanied the Catholic Reformation. Less well-adapted to the humbler genres, such as French odes or Noëls, her poetic voice was better-suited to the higher register. She cultivated a marked predilection for shorter forms: gnomic poetry in couplets of moral quatrains, marital odes and transposed secular songs. This did not prevent her from excelling at longer compositions such as beautiful religious idylls or long burial poems. Her works, conserved in a single manuscript, are difficult to date, and for a number of the pieces the exact moment of composition will probably never be known. As learned as the famous Maréchale de Retz, praised by the authors of her time, Françoise Pautrard never knew celebrity except within a small circle. Unpublished during her lifetime, completely forgotten after her death, then rediscovered by chance in 1993, her work has been the subject of academic and editorial scrutiny since 2003.

(translated by Cathy McClive)


- 1584-1622? : plusieurs dizaines de poésies diverses copiées dans un manuscrit unique, sans doute non destiné à la publication, et dont la page de titre est ainsi tournée: Le premier Livre de la Semaine du sieur Christofle de Gamon contre celle de Guillaume de Salluste sieur Du Bartas traduict en vers Latins. Ensemble quelques autres Opuscules par la mesme, et versions tant grecques, latines, que françoises, inédit. Publication partielle dans Gilles Banderier, «Françoise Pautrard, femme et poète du premier XVIIe siècle», XVIIe Siècle, 218, janvier-mars 2003, p.117-159 et id., «Une femme poète en terre de Jura au temps de Henri IV et de Louis XIII», Travaux de la Société d'émulation du Jura, 2002 [2004], p.91-121.

Selected bibliography

- Banderier, Gilles. Articles cités supra.

- Banderier, Gilles. «Notes sur Christofle de Gamon». Bibliothèque d'Humanisme et Renaissance, 65, 2, 2003, p.323-329.

- Banderier, Gilles. «Un pétrarquisme féminin et dévot: Françoise Pautrard», in Jean Balsamo (dir.), Les Poètes français de la Renaissance et Pétrarque, Genève, Droz, 2004, p.465-470.

- Banderier, Gilles. «Une femme poète en terre de Jura au temps de Henri IV et de Louis XIII», Travaux de la Société d’Émulation du Jura (2003), 2004, p.91-121.

Jacqua-Françoise Pautrard
Birth date After 1500
Death Around 1623
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