Jean-Marie Deguignet

Born in 1834 near Quimper, in Brittany, to landless farmers, the young JEAN-MARIE DÉGUIGNET was sent out several times a week to beg for the family's food. After spending some of his adolescent years as a cowherd and a domestic speaking only Breton, he left the province as a soldier, avid for knowledge of the vast world. He taught himself Latin, then French, then Italian and Spanish; he read history and philosophy and politics and literature. He was sent to fight in the Crimean war, to attend at Emperor Napoleon III's coronation ceremonies, to support Italy's liberation struggle, and to defend the hapless French puppet emperor Maximilian in Mexico; he came home to live as a model farmer, a tobacconist, falling back into dire poverty.