URFE, Honore d'

(1567-1627)
Honore d'Urfe, who lived during the tumultuous reigns of Henri III and Henri IV amid the Catholic-Huguenot wars, wrote the pastoral novel L'Astrée, an epic romance inspired in part by some of the events of his own life. Born in 1567, d'Urfe was raised in his grandfather's chateau in Forez, a cultural center located in Lyon, which encouraged him to learn. Later he attended the Jesuit College de Tournon, where he received a humanist education. In addition, he studied the Gospels, philosophy, and ancient and French history and there commenced his writing career.
Upon his return from the university, d'Urfe found that his older brother Anne had married a woman named Diane de Chateaumorand, but was unable to con­summate the marriage due to impotency. Honore fell in love with Diane, who reciprocated his feelings, much to the dismay of his family, who sent him away.
During this period, Honore, along with his brother Anne, joined the Catholic League, a group of Catholics dedicated to fighting Protestantism. The group mobilized in order to attempt to prevent the accession of the Protestant Henri IV to the throne. Lyon, near the d'Urfe home, became a center of opposition to Henri, and Honore especially played a significant leadership role, continuing to oppose the king even after his ascension to the throne and his conversion to Catholicism. This leadership twice led to his incarceration in 1595, once by his political enemies and once by a friend's betrayal. At this same time, both An­toine, his younger brother, and the duke of Nemours, d'Urfe's best friend and fellow leader of the Catholic League, died, causing him great grief. In 1596 d'Urfe was freed and subsequently was forced into virtual exile; he stayed in Savoy until 1599. Back in France, he lived in Chateauneuf and in a chateau in Virieu-le-Grand that he had inherited. There he pursued literary subjects, joining the Academie Florimontane, a society of learned individuals. That same year, his brother Anne's marriage to Diane was annulled, and d'Urfe married Diane the following year. Ironically, the marriage was an unhappy one punctuated by quarrels and separation.
In addition to his writing, d'Urfe's diplomatic career was growing. He was reconciled to Henri IV in 1602, and in 1610 the regent Queen Marie de Medicis sent him on a mission to Savoy. His efforts there were successful and led to the closer alliance between the two lands. In 1625 d'Urfe fought in the conflict between the French and Spanish over the Val Telline; however, in June of that year he died, probably from a case of pneumonia, leaving his novel L'Astreée incomplete.
Technically of the pastoral genre, the book, which was probably written in the late 1580s, was published in parts, but never finished. To a great extent, his relationship with Diane provided the inspiration for L'Astreée, which explores themes of human love and passion and draws on mythological, romantic, and chivalric traditions. In addition to L'Astrée, d'Urfe wrote a pastoral play called La Silvanire, completed in 1625, and several pastoral poems. His works also include a collection of his letters, Epistres morales, composed during his im­prisonment, which explore both his grief and his hope for the future.
Bibliography
L. Horowitz, Honore d'Urfe, 1984.
Erin Sadlack

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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