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Sophie-Jeanne Soymonof Swetchine

Writer, b. at Moscow, Nov. 22, 1782; d. in Paris, Sept. 10, 1857

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* Published by Encyclopedia Press, 1913.


Swetchine, SOPHIE-JEANNE SOYMONOF, writer, b. at Moscow, November 22, 1782; d. in Paris, September 10, 1857. She was a member of a noble family, and became associated with French literature through her correspondence and other writings. Impressed by her precocious intelligence, her father gave her a very careful education in everything except religion, which he ignored. At fourteen she was appointed maid of honor to the empress. At seventeen she was married to General Swetchine who was forty-two. By birth she belonged to the Greek, or Orthodox Church, but from the time that her trials, her reading, and her own reflections had made her a Christian, she felt the necessity of following to the end the path which was leading her to the truth, and she became a Catholic, despite the anguish of her heart. "My Faith," she said afterwards, "is to me what Benjamin was to Rachel, the child of my sorrow." At the time of her conversion she was thirty-three years old. She had already left the court, her husband having been disgraced, with his father, as the result of a plot of which he was the victim. Thenceforth she had to leave even her country, since as an avowed Catholic she could not remain at St. Petersburg. With her husband she went to reside at Paris at the beginning of the Restoration. She had been preceded by a letter from Joseph de Maistre, who wrote to Bonald: "In a short time you will see at Paris a Russian lady whom I especially commend to you. Never will you see such moral strength, wit, and learning joined to such goodness." In her salon in the Rue Saint Dominique, open from three to six, and from to nine to midnight, she saw all the most distinguished men of the period: Chateaubriand, Bonals, Cuvier, Cousin, Donoso Cortoes, and among her intimates were Augustin Cochin, Tocqueville, Falloux, who wrote her biography, Lacordaire, and Montalembert, who were like her spiritual sons. Her influence was incontestable. She died as a devout Christian in 1857 at the age of seventy-five.

She was remarkable more for the beauty of her soul than that of her countenance. Her intellect was lofty, quick, and penetrating. She read a great deal, and always with her pen in hand. She was pious to the verge of mysticism, and although constantly ill—for she was one of those who never pass a day without suffering—she was resigned to the will of Providence. While kind to all she was an incomparable friend. True modesty prevented her from publishing anything, but at her death she left enough to fill many volumes. De Falloux collected extracts from her manuscripts which were published: "Mme. Swetchine, sa vie, ses oeuvres" (2 vols., 1860). There have since appeared: "Lettres de Mme. Swetchine" (1861); "Journal de sa conversion" (1863); "Correspondance du Pere Lacordaire et de Mme. Swetchine" (1864); and "Nouvelles lettres de Mme. Swetchine" (1875). Although a Russian Mme. Swetchine wrote well in French; her style is delicate and original, even studied.

GEORGES BERTIN


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