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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Critical and Biographical Introduction

By Madame Augustus Craven (Pauline de la Ferronays) (1808–1891)

MADAME CRAVEN has told the story of her home life in ‘Récit d’une Sœur: Souvenirs de Famille’ (The Story of a Sister). She has given a charming idyllic picture of a Catholic French family—cultivated, simple-minded, and loving, and all animated by religious fervor. She has depicted with the strength of a personal experience the hopes and fears of those who see their dearest friends dying of consumption. She loves to show the gradual renunciation of life, the ennobling influence of sorrow, the triumph of faith over death and bereavement. Her affectionate nature, full of admiring enthusiasm for those she loved, led her to idealize real people as the characters of her books.

She was born at Paris, but had early advantages of travel unusual for a French girl. Her father was Ambassador to Berlin; the family were in Italy for a time; and after her marriage with Augustus Craven she lived a great deal in his native England. So the titles of her books reflect a certain cosmopolitan spirit. She was interested in English politics, and wrote a number of sketches on the subject. The lives of devout Catholic friends appealed to her strongly, and she wrote that of Sister Nathalie Narishkine of the Charity Saint Vincent de Paul, which was cordially indorsed by Cardinal Newman; and that of Lady Georgiana Fullerton.

Her ‘Reminiscences,’ recollections of England and Italy, show the same keenly sympathetic power of observation. She also translated from the Italian. But her most popular work has been stories. ‘The Story of a Sister’ (1866), a collection of memoirs, was enthusiastically admired by Catholic readers, and translated into English, was widely read in England and America. It was followed by several novels, of which the most popular have been ‘Anne Séverin,’ ‘Le Mot de l’Énigme’ (The Veil Withdrawn), and ‘Fleurange.’ These have all been translated into English, and the last especially has continued in favor for twenty years. Here, as in her other books, the author’s strongest desire is to bear witness to the helpful discipline of trouble and the satisfactions of religion. She treats simple problems of love and duty, depicts primitive emotion, and deals very little in the complex psychology of later fiction. In a strong, fluent, fervid style she demonstrates that religious ecstasy is the most perfect of all joy, and that in Catholicism alone all difficulties may find solution.