Camille de Morel

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Camille de Morel
Birth date 1547
Death Around 1611
Biographical entries in old dictionaries
Dictionnaire Pierre-Joseph Boudier de Villemert
Dictionnaire Fortunée Briquet

Entry by Philip Ford, 2003

Camille de Morel, the eldest daughter of Jean de Morel and Antoinette de Loynes, was born in Paris in 1547. Records from the church of Saint-André-des-Arts show she was baptized there on September 18th that year. Her father had studied with Erasmus, and her mother, the widow of the lawyer Lubin Dallier, had also received a good education. In 1557, Camille's parents hired a young tutor originally from Ghent, Charles Utenhove, to give her and her siblings, Isaac, Lucrèce, and Diane, a humanist education. Camille studied Latin, Greek, and Hebrew with Charles Utenhove, and she quickly earned something of a reputation thanks to her poetical compositions. Jean Dorat, lecteur royal in Greek since 1556, was much impressed with Camille's studiousness. He wrote her an ode asking her to become godmother to his son Charles, born in 1560. He also suggested that she was benefiting from his own lessons through her tutor: "Charles [Utenhove], your tutor, follows my lessons himself: through him, my voice reaches your ears."Manuscripts of Camille's Latin compositions circulated within the group of humanists and poets who were regular visitors to the Morel household in the rue Pavée, including, among others, Salmon Macrin, Du Bellay, Ronsard, George Buchanan, Michel de L'Hôpital, and Scévole de Sainte-Marthe.

Thanks to Charles Utenhove, who left his post as tutor to the Morel family in 1562 to go to England, Camille's reputation spread beyond the humanist circles she moved in in Paris. When Elizabeth I visited Cambridge University in 1564, she was presented with a collection of Latin compositions including an epigram by Camille. The only volume that Camille herself published was a Tumulus written in memory of her father who died in 1581, printed in 1583 by Frédéric de Morel. The work included poems in honor of her father, as well as her mother and her sister Lucrèce, who both predeceased Jean. It also features epigrams that are openly critical of some of her father's friends who had failed to reply to her request for a poem for the collection, including Ronsard, Charles Utenhove, and Scévole de Sainte-Marthe. Jean Dorat and Jean-Antoine de Baïf, on the other hand, did contribute poems to the collection. Camille de Morel's reputation seems to have faded after this publication, although the German Paul Melissus praises her in the second edition of his Schedismata poetica (Paris, 1586, I., p.194-196).

The exact date of her death is unknown. Although her work was frequently praised, she published relatively little, except for the Tumulus and a few pieces included in Charles Utenhove's works. Her poems are very similar to the Latin verse composed by her male contemporaries, but for the fact that she produced only occasional poetry and eulogies. Her style and opinions are expressed in a direct manner -almost peremptory in the case of some pieces in the Tumulus- which is rather surprising, given the boundaries within which women writers were expected to work at the time. She avoided "dubious" genres such as love poetry, which allowed her to safeguard her reputation as a chaste, scholarly maiden, who, as Jean Dorat wrote, "by practicing the virile arts became a man".

Changing fashions in the course of the seventeenth century and the growing influence of the Jesuits in the domain of neo-Latin literature meant that writers such as Camille de Morel, who were close to the Pléiade, fell out of favor. However, owing to a growing interest in sixteenth-century poetry and humanism in the twentieth century, her reputation was rediscovered, largely thanks to the work of Pierre de Nolhac. Following his example, other scholars, such as S.F. Will, have also praised her talent.

(translated by Susan Pickford)


- 1583 : V. C. Ioan. Morelli Ebredun. Consiliarij Oeconomiq; Regij, Moderatoris illustrissimi principis Henrici Engolismaei, magni Franciae Prioris, Tumulus, Paris, Frédéric Morel.
- Poésies diverses, in Charles Utenhove, Epitaphium in mortem Herrici Gallorum regis christianissimi, ejus nominis secundi, Paris, R. Estienne, 1560 -- Xenia seu ad illustrium aliquot europae hominum..., Bâle, 1568.

Selected bibliography

- Will, Samuel F. «Camille de Morel: A Prodigy of the Renaissance». Pub. of the Mod. Lang. Assoc., 51 (1936), p.83-121.
- Ford, Philip. «Camille de Morel: Female Erudition in the French Renaissance». In (Re)Inventing the Past: Essays on the French Renaissance in Honour of Ann Moss. Durham, Durham Modern Languages Series, à paraître (2003).


- «Tu n'es pas comme les autres fillettes nées mortelles: quand tu étais petite, ton enfance ne s'est pas écoulée au milieu d'objets communs, quenouilles, laines, aiguilles. Mais tu n'as pas, à la manière de la Camille qui t'a donné son nom, renié le sexe féminin -- honteuse prétention -- en poursuivant les bêtes sauvages dans les forêts profondes. Mais, menant une vie studieuse au milieu des livres de ton père, entourée des parfaits préceptes de ta mère, à force de pratiquer les arts virils, tu es devenue un homme (comme Iphis).» (Jean Dorat, Les Odes latines, texte présenté, éd. Geneviève Demerson, Clermont-Ferrand, Fac. des Lettres et Sciences humaines de l'Univ. de Clermont-Ferrand II, 1979, p.178).
- «Camille joue si bien avec les rythmes latins qu'on croirait que Camille est une écolière latine. Camille parle si bien le grec qu'on jurerait qu'Athènes même est moins attique. Et quant aux caractères hébraïques, Camille les forme aussi bien que les Latins formaient les leurs. Dans la langue de ses pères, Camille fait des vers que Ronsard lui-même pourrait envier. Au son de la lyre, Camille chante si bien que Phébus lui-même pourrait l'envier.» (Joachim Du Bellay, Epigrammata 62, in Oeuvres poétiques VII, éd. Geneviève Demerson, Paris, STFM, 1984, p.128).
- «Camille devint bientôt l'émule des femmes humanistes que l'Italie produisait depuis longtemps en grand nombre, et qui étaient encore assez rares en France.» (Pierre de Nolhac, Ronsard et l'humanisme, Paris, Champion, 1921, p.175).

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