VIELÉ, TERESA GRIFFIN (1831–1906). Teresa Griffin Vielé, writer, was born on January 27, 1831, the daughter of Francis and Mary (Sands) Griffin. Her father was a prominent New York City lawyer, and her mother was a minor writer. A precocious and temperamental child, Teresa was dubbed "cette terrible Teresa" by family, friends, and servants. She was educated at Pelham Priory, an exclusive girls' finishing school, made her debut in New York City, and was honored in a poem by Longfellow. She was described by a biographer as a young woman of "beauty, intelligence, fortune, but also an indomitable character." On June 3, 1850, Teresa married West Point graduate Egbert Ludovicus Vielé. After several months of recruiting duty in Burlington, Vermont, Vielé was ordered to Ringgold Barracks, Texas, where the couple remained until 1852, when Vielé resigned his commission and opened a successful engineering consulting firm in New York City. He returned to military service during the Civil War and was brevetted brigadier general of volunteers and served as military governor of Norfolk, Virginia. After the war, the Vielés returned to New York City, but within a few years Teresa's temper and constant bickering drove Egbert to seek "spiritual solace and sympathy" in the arms of another woman, Juliette Dana, whom he later married. When Teresa discovered the affair, she publicly denounced the pair and filed for divorce, naming Dana as correspondent. After the divorce in 1872, Teresa took her youngest son, Egbert, to Paris, where she presided over a literary salon and sponsored the education and career of her son, renamed Francis Vielé-Griffin, who became a leading poet and writer of the French symbolist school. Teresa made at least two brief visits to the United States: one about 1873 to kidnap her youngest daughter, Emily, from the Vielé home near Poughkeepsie; and a second about 1893 to lecture on Islam.
Teresa loved literature and poetry and aspired to a literary career. In 1858 she published "Following the Drum": A Glimpse of Frontier Life, a vivid and often critical memoir of the Vielés' Texas years. Her account of life at Ringgold Barracks comments on everything from travel and landscape, flora and fauna, and food "flavored with red ants [that] tasted something like caraway seed," to Mexican neighbors, Comanche raiders, and José María Jesús Carbajal and the Merchants War. Like her contemporary Jane M. Cazneauqv, Teresa Vielé was fascinated by the life and politics of the period. She interspersed her narrative with long historical passages and her opinions on American policy in regard to the army, the Indians, and the Mexicans. She hinted strongly that the forces assigned to the frontier were inadequate and suggested that the Americans should take a more direct role in Mexican affairs. Although her comments about Indian life and customs clearly reflect common misconceptions and prejudices, she expressed an interest in the Indians and tried to understand their viewpoint, concluding that even the "bloody, brutal, licentious" Comanches had been "driven from their rightful possessions, and [one] can see, in their ignorance, many excuses for their tiger-like ferocity." Although less inclined to be sympathetic toward the Mexicans, she was curious about them, visited in their homes, and expressed concern for the Mexican "Red Man" or peón. Teresa Vielé died in Paris and was buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery in Montmartre on October 23, 1906. Although her only known published work is "Following the Drum," her literary ambitions were fulfilled in her children and grandchildren. Of the five of her eight children to reach adulthood, four were published authors: Francis; Kathlyne, a genealogist and historian; Herman, a novelist, playwright, and artist; and Emily, a poet and novelist. Emily's daughter, Elise Strother-Tuckerman, was also a published author.
New York Times, April 23, 1902. Kathlyne K. Vielé, Vielé Records, 1613–1913 (New York: Wright, 1913).
Sandra L. Myres
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