"COLETTE" (pseudonym of Sidonie-Cabrielle Colette) (January 18, 1873-August 3, 1954), French novelist and memoir-writer, was born in the Burgundian village of Saint-Sauveur-en-Puisaye (Yonne), the "Montigny" of her semi-fictionalized reminiscences. Her father, Jules-Joseph, a retired army captain of the Zouaves who had lost a leg in the Italian wars, was a tax-collector with local political aspirations. He was, by Colette's account, a picturesque character who loved his bottle and his arguments, wrote pamphlets on military matters, and harangued the bewildered peasants in the name of "natural history, physics, and elementary chemistry." Her mother, also named Sidonie (the "Sido" of her daughter's memoirs), an unconventional and lovable woman devoted to her pets, books, and garden, was Colette's well acknowledged tutor in the matters of village and country life. She was a precocious child, a voracious reader, and the star of her local school because of her fluent compositions, which came to her as easily as "frying eggs." She was to retain this fluency throughout her long life.
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Born into an unmonied family, I never learned a métier. I knew how to climb, whistle, and run, but no one ever suggested that I earn my living as a squirrel or a deer. The day necessity put a pen in my hand, and in return for my written pages I was given a little money, I realized that every day thereafter I would slowly, tractably, patiently have to write . . .