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Title: Madame de Staël - Famous Women Series
Author: Duffy, Bella
Language: English
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Famous Women.


      *      *      *      *      *      *

_Already published_:

  GEORGE ELIOT. By Miss Blind.
  EMILY BRONTË. By Miss Robinson.
  GEORGE SAND. By Miss Thomas.
  MARY LAMB. By Mrs. Gilchrist.
  MARGARET FULLER. By Julia Ward Howe.
  MARIA EDGEWORTH. By Miss Zimmern.
  ELIZABETH FRY. By Mrs. E. R. Pitman.
  HARRIET MARTINEAU. By Mrs. F. Fenwick Miller.
  RACHEL. By Mrs. Nina H. Kennard.
  MADAME ROLAND. By Mathilde Blind.
  SUSANNA WESLEY. By Eliza Clarke.
  MRS. SIDDONS. By Mrs. Nina H. Kennard.
  MADAME DE STAËL. By Bella Duffy.

      *      *      *      *      *      *





Roberts Brothers.

Copyright, 1887,
By Roberts Brothers.

University Press:
John Wilson and Son, Cambridge.


Unpublished correspondence—that delight of the eager biographer—is not
to be had in the case of Madame de Staël, for, as is well known, the De
Broglie family either destroyed or successfully hid all the papers which
might have revealed any facts not already in possession of the world.

The writer of the present brief memoir has, consequently, had to fall
back upon the following well-known works:

The _Correspondance_ of the Abbé Galiani, of Mme. Du Deffand, of
Rahel Varnhagen, and of Schiller; the _Memoirs_ of Marmontel, of Mme.
D’Arblay, of Mme. de Rémusat, of Mme. d’Abrantè, of Bourrienne, and of
the Comte de Montlosier; Ticknor’s _Letters_; Châteaubriand’s _Mémoires
d’Outre Tombe_; De Goncourt’s _Histoire de la Société Française
pendant la Révolution_, and _Histoire de la Société Française pendant
le Directoire_; Lacretelle’s _Dix Années d’Épreuve_; Michelet’s _Le
Directoire_, _Le Dix-huit Brumaire_, and _Jusqu’à Waterloo_; _Le Salon de
Madame Necker_, by Vicomte d’Haussonville; _Studies of the Eighteenth
Century in Italy_, by Vernon Lee; Byron’s _Letters_; Benjamin Constant’s
_Letters to Mme. Récamier_; _Coppet and Weimar_; _Les Correspondants de
Joubert_, by Paul Raynal; _Les Causeries du Lundi_, and other studies by
Ste. Beuve; Droz’ _Histoire du Règne de Louis XVI._; Villemain’s _Cours
de Littérature Française_; the fragments from Constant’s _Journals_,
recently published in the _Revue Internationale_; Sismondi’s _Journals_
and _letters_; and sundry old articles in the _Revue des Deux Mondes_;
besides various other volumes, of which the list would be long and
wearisome to detail.

                                                             BELLA DUFFY.


    Chap.                                       Page.

       I.—THE MOTHER                               1

      II.—GERMAINE                                 9

     III.—GIRLHOOD AND MARRIAGE                   20

      IV.—NECKER’S SHORT-LIVED TRIUMPH            34

            FOR HER FRIENDS                       51

      VI.—RETURNS TO COPPET                       69

     VII.—THE TRANSFORMED CAPITAL                 78


      IX.—NEW FACES AT COPPET                    108


            SCHLEGEL AT ROME                     141


    XIII.—ENGLAND AGAIN                          180

     XIV.—CLOSING SCENES                         196

      XV.—HER WORKS                              207




“My dear friend having the same tastes as myself, would certainly wish
always for my chair, and, like his little daughter, would beat me to make
me give it up to him. To keep peace between our hearts, I send a chair
for him also. The two are of suitable height and their lightness renders
them easy to carry. They are made of the most simple material, and were
bought at the sale of Philemon and Baucis.”

Thus wrote Madame Geoffrin to Madame Necker when the intimacy between
them had reached such a pitch as to warrant the introduction into the
Necker salons of the only sort of chair in which the little old lady
cared to sit.

The “dear friend” was M. Necker, and the “little daughter” of the house
must then have been about four or five years old, for it was in the
very year of her birth (1766) that Madame Geoffrin took her celebrated
journey to Poland, and it was some little time after her return that she
became intimate with Germaine Necker’s parents.

They were still in the Rue de Cléry. M. Necker’s elevation to the
Contrôle Général was in the future and had probably not been foreseen; it
is possible that even the _Éloge de Colbert_, which betrayed his desire
for power, had not yet appeared; nevertheless, he was already a great
man. His controversy with the Abbé Morellet, on the subject of the East
India Company, had brought him very much into notice; and, although his
arguments in favor of that monopoly had not saved it from extinction,
they had caused his name to be in everybody’s mouth.

His position as Minister for the Republic of Geneva gave him the entry to
the Court of Versailles, and brought him into contact with illustrious
personages, who otherwise might have disdained a mere wealthy foreigner,
neither a noble nor a Catholic. His well-filled purse completed his
popularity, for it was not seldom at the service of abject place-hunters
and needy literati. Moreover, he had been fortunate in his choice of a

By the time that the King of Poland’s _bonne maman_ wrote that little
note to Madame Necker, the wife of the Genevese banker had founded a
salon as brilliant and crowded as Madame Geoffrin’s own. She had achieved
this in a few years, whereas Madame Geoffrin for the same task, and in
spite of her wealth and generosity, had required a quarter of a century.

But Madame Necker, besides being young, rich and handsome, was bitten
with the prevailing craze for literature, could listen unweariedly
for hours to the most labored _portraits_ and _éloges_, and, although
herself the purest and most austere of women, would open her salon to any
reprobate, provided only he were witty.

Madame Necker, first known to us as Suzanne Curchod, was the daughter of
a Swiss pastor, and saw the light in the Presbytery of Crassier in the
Pays de Vaud. The simple white house, with its green shutters, is still
to be seen, separated from the road by a little garden planted with fruit
trees. The Curchods were an ancient and respectable family whom Madame
Necker (it was one of her weaknesses) would fain have proved entitled
to patents of nobility. Some Curchods or Curchodis are found mentioned
in old chronicles as fighting beneath the banners of Savoy, and it was
from these that Madame Necker sought vainly to trace her descent. She
held a secret consultation for this cherished object with the Sieur
Chérin, genealogist to the King; but his decision disappointed her.
Chagrined, but not convinced—for her opinions were not easily shaken—she
carried home the precious papers and locked them up without erasing the
endorsement, _Titres de noblesse de la famille Curchod_, which she had
written with her own hand.

M. Curchod took pains to give his only daughter an unusually thorough and
liberal education. She knew Latin and a little Greek, “swept with extreme
flounce the circle of the sciences,” and was accomplished enough in every
way to attract the admiration, very often even the love, of sundry grave
and learned personages.

Mixed with her severe charm there must have been some coquetry, for at a
very early age she began making conquests among the young ministers who
arrived on Sundays at Crassier, ostensibly to assist M. Curchod in his
duties; and a voluminous correspondence, somewhat high-flown, as was the
fashion of the day, is extant, to prove that Suzanne possessed the art
of keeping her numerous admirers simultaneously well in hand. Verses,
occasionally slightly Voltairian in tone, were also addressed to her; and
later in life Madame Necker reproached herself for her placid acceptance
of the homage thus expressed, and owned that had she understood it better
she would have liked it less.

Suzanne’s parents, proud, no doubt, of their daughter’s talents and
accomplishments, took her after a while to Lausanne. That pleasant city,
since giving up its own political ideals and falling under the sway of
Berne, had lapsed into easy-going, intellectual ways, and even professed
a discreet and modified form of Voltairianism. Ever since the author
of the “Henriade” had dazzled it with his presence, it had been on the
look-out for illustrious personalities, and welcomed all foreigners who
showed any promise of literary distinction.

What with her pretensions to be a _bel-esprit_, her youth and beauty,
Mademoiselle Curchod captivated the town at once, and very soon had the
proud joy of founding an _Académie de la Poudrière_, and being elected
to preside over it under the fantastic name of Thémire. The members
of this intellectual society were of both sexes and all young. Their
duties consisted in writing _portraits_ of one another, and essays or
odes on subjects in general. Combined with these profound pursuits there
seems to have been a good deal of flirtation, and, doubtless, both the
scholasticism and the sentiment were equally to Suzanne Curchod’s taste.

During her stay in Lausanne she fascinated Gibbon, and, for the first
time in her career of conquest, fell in love herself. So profound was her
passion—or so profound, in her self-tormenting way, did she imagine it to
be—that she remained constant to her engagement during the four years of
Gibbon’s absence in England, and wrote him agitated, abject letters of
reproach, when he, alleging his father’s invincible objections, broke off
the engagement. Her devoted friend, Moulton, who appears to have loved
her all his life, was so touched by her despair, that, with Suzanne’s
own consent, he sought the mediation of Rousseau in order to bring the
recreant lover back to his allegiance. But the attempt was vain. Gibbon
showed himself as heartless as Mademoiselle Curchod had proved indulgent,
and when the lady, as a last resource, proposed that they should at least
remain friends, he declined the amiable offer as being “dangerous for
both.” Nevertheless, when they met again in Paris, some years later,
Mademoiselle Curchod, then married, welcomed Gibbon with kindness,
and even wrote him notes containing, here and there, allusions to the
past. For the age was evidently sentimental, and to cherish memories of
vanished joys, and make passing, pathetic reference to them, was a luxury
of which Madame Necker would have been the last to deprive herself.

On the death of her parents, Suzanne found herself obliged to seek for a
situation as governess, or companion. All her life, fortunate in making
and keeping the most devoted friends, she found plenty anxious to help
her in carrying out her plans. Among her sincerest admirers was the
charming Duchess d’Enville, whose sweetness, grace, and naïf enthusiasm
for Switzerland (as a kind of romantic republic, all shepherds and
shepherdesses, toy-châlets, natural sentiments and stage liberty) were so
characteristic of the age, and so admiringly celebrated in Bonstetten’s
letters. It was, in all probability, through her introduction at Geneva
that Suzanne became acquainted with Madame de Vermenoux, a rich Parisian
widow, who fell immediately under the young orphan’s charm, and, engaging
her as a companion, took her back to Paris. In that intellectual
centre—the promised land of all her thoughts—Suzanne speedily came into
contact with several interesting people, among others the delightful
Bonstetten, then still young in years, destined to be always young in
heart, and whom, in the course of this work, we shall often see among the
band of fervent admirers surrounding Madame de Staël.

Another frequent visitor at Madame de Vermenoux’s house was M. Necker, at
that time a partner in Thellusson’s bank, and already possessed of ample
means. He was a rejected suitor of the hostess, but continued on very
good terms with her, and perhaps was expected to propose a second time.
If such were the widow’s ideas, they were doomed to disappointment; for
very soon after Necker’s introduction to Suzanne he made a transfer of
his affections to her. He left, however, for Geneva, without declaring
his sentiments; and Mademoiselle Curchod, once again in love, and once
again in despair, poured out her feelings in a long letter to Moulton.
That ever faithful friend did his best to bring things to a happy
termination, by taking care that M. Necker, during his sojourn in Geneva,
should hear nothing but praise of Suzanne. The device, if needed, was
most successful; for the banker returned to Paris with his mind made up.
He proposed without loss of time, and it is, perhaps, not too much to
say, that Mademoiselle Curchod jumped into his arms.

All the friends of the bride elect were delighted, and even Madame de
Vermenoux proclaimed her pleasure at the turn which affairs had taken.
Some little subsequent coolness, however, she must have manifested, for
the date fixed for the wedding was kept a secret from her. When the day
dawned, Suzanne stole out quietly and met M. Necker at the church door.

In what form the news was broken to the widow is not known; but any
annoyance she may have felt was not of long duration, for in after years
we find Madame de Vermenoux a frequent guest of the Neckers, and the
little daughter, born on the 22nd April, 1766, was named Germaine after



When Germaine was about six years old, M. Necker retired from the bank,
and devoted himself to the study of administrative questions. This was
in preparation for the career to which he felt himself called. For
years past his wealth had come frequently to the aid of a spendthrift
Government and an exhausted exchequer; and it was natural that he should
seek his reward in power. In his _Éloge de Colbert_, published in 1773,
he was at no pains to conceal that he was thinking of himself when
drawing the portrait of an ideal Minister of Finance; and some annoyance
at Turgot’s appointment is thought to have added force to his attacks on
the latter’s theories concerning free trade in corn.

Madame Necker, profiting by her husband’s growing importance, quickly
attained the summit of her ambition in becoming the presiding genius of a
salon thronged with intellectual celebrities. Buffon and Thomas were her
most trusted friends, but, austere though she was, she did not disdain
to admit to a certain intimacy men like Marmontel, the Abbé Galiani, St.
Lambert, and Diderot. They all flattered her outrageously to her face,
while some of them, Marmontel especially, sneered at her behind her
back. All made love to her, and, misled by the studied warmth of pompous
eloquence with which she proclaimed her delight in their society, they
not rarely persuaded themselves that they had added her to the list of
their conquests, and were chagrined and not a little disgusted later to
discover that the only man she cared for was her husband. Indeed, she
bored everybody with praise of M. Necker, composing and reading aloud in
her own salon a preposterous _portrait_ of him, in which she compared
him to most things in heaven and earth and the waters under the earth,
from an angel to a polypus. Her rigidity, her self-consciousness, her
want of charm, and absence of humor, were a fruitful theme of ridicule
to the witty and heartless parasites who crowded her drawing-rooms and
made raids on her husband’s purse. And yet such was the native force of
goodness in her that, sooner or later, in every instance, detraction
turned to praise. The bitter Madame de Genlis, who detested the Neckers,
and ridiculed them unsparingly, admits that the wife was a model of
virtue; and Diderot paid her the greatest compliment which she, perhaps,
ever received, when declaring that had he known her sooner, much that he
had written would never have seen the light.

Grimm was another frequenter of the Necker salons; and the mistress of
the house being no less prodigal of gracious encouragement towards him
than towards everybody else, he also eventually declared his sentiments
of friendship and admiration, with as much warmth as his manners allowed
of. Like Voltaire, he called her “Hypatie”; and testified the genuineness
of his regard by scolding her about her religious opinions. Needless
to say these were not infidel, but they were, in Grimm’s opinion,
disastrously illogical; and, his fine taste in such matters being
offended, he expressed his displeasure on one occasion in no measured
terms. Madame Necker retorted, for she loved a discussion too fervently
ever to be meek; but apparently Grimm was too much for her. Either his
arguments were irrefragable, or his manner was irritating; the result
was that Madame Necker—to the polite consternation of her numerous
guests—dissolved into tears.

Humiliated, on reflection, at having made such a scene, with
characteristic ardor, she seized the opportunity to write Grimm a
high-flown apology; and an interchange of letters followed in which the
philosopher compared the lady to Venus completed by Minerva, and Madame
Necker ransacked the universe for metaphors wherewith to express her
admiration of the gentleman’s sensibility.

As the Neckers spent their summer at St. Ouen—not the historic Château
associated with Louis XVIII., but another in the neighborhood, and of the
same name—the proximity to Paris enabled them to continue unbroken their
series of dinners, suppers and receptions, twice a week.

Many of the guests were notable personages, and most of them types
which vanished forever a few years later—engulphed by the storm-wave
of the Revolution. There was the Abbé Morellet, clear-headed, gravely
ironical, with as much tact in concealing as in displaying the range of
his knowledge and the depth of his insight; St. Lambert, a little cold,
but full of exquisite politeness, supremely elegant in expression, and,
without being lively himself, possessed of the delicate art of never
quenching liveliness in others; D’Alembert, charming, if frigid, and
destined soon to be an object of sentimental interest, because of his
inconsolable grief for Mlle. L’Espinasse; the Abbé Raynal, doubtless
enchanted to pour into Madame Necker’s respectful ears the floods of
eloquence for which Frederick the Great laughed at him; these, with
Marmontel and Thomas, were almost always present.

A few years earlier the Abbé Galiani, delightful and incorrigible, would
also have been seen. This extraordinary little man, political economist,
archæologist, mineralogist, diplomatist and pulcinello, was one of Madame
Necker’s professed adorers. Everybody liked and admired him; Diderot
described him as “a treasure on a rainy day”; Marmontel as “the prettiest
little harlequin,” with “the head of Macchiavelli”; while, for Madame
Geoffrin, he was her _petite chose_. After so much praise, and from such
people, Madame Necker must certainly have accepted him unconditionally;
but it would be interesting to know exactly with what air she listened
to his impassioned declarations. When eventually restored to his native
land—or, as he expressed it, exiled from Paris—he wrote her impudent and
characteristic epistles, in which reproaches at her virtue, intimate
interrogations regarding her health, and envy of M. Necker’s happiness,
mingled with inquiries after everybody in the beloved capital, and wails
of inconsolable grief at his own departure. “_Quel désert que cinquante
mille Napolitains!_” he exclaims.

Madame Du Deffand was also for a time an intimate guest at the Neckers’.
The friendship did not last long. The marquise, by this time infinitely
weary of men and things, appears soon to have tired of Madame Necker’s
declamations and M. Necker’s superiority. Her final judgment on the wife
was very severe, rather ill-tempered, and therefore unjust. Madame Necker
was, she says, “stiff and frigid, full of self-consciousness, but an
upright woman.” Her liking for the husband held out longer, but finally
succumbed to the discovery that, while very intelligent, he failed to
elicit wit from others. “One felt oneself more stupid in his company than
when with other people or alone.”

There is no trace of any variation in the friendship between Madame
Necker and Madame Geoffrin. Perhaps the latter, with her habitual gentle
“_Voilà, qui est bien_,” called her young friend to order, and early
repressed the emphatic praises which could not but have wearied her.

We are told that she hated exaggeration in everything; and how could
Madame Necker’s heavy flattery have found favor in her eyes? Her delicate
_savoir-vivre_, too, that preternaturally subtle sense which supplied the
place in her of brilliancy and learning and early education, must have
been vexed at Madame Necker’s innocent but everlasting pedantry. We can
fancy, however, that she managed, in her imperceptible, noiseless way,
to elude all these disturbing manifestations; and then she was doubtless
pleased at Madame Necker’s good-humored patience with her scoldings. All
Madame Geoffrin’s friends, as we know, had to submit to be scolded;
but probably few showed under the infliction the magnanimity of Madame
Necker, who must have possessed all the power of submission peculiar to
self-questioning souls. The calm old lady, ensconced in her own peculiar
chair, whether in Paris or at St. Ouen, in the midst of the sparkling
society to which she had perseveringly fought her way, was disturbed in
her serenity by no presage of misfortune.

In point of reputation the most illustrious, and in point of romantic
ardor the most fervent, of all Madame Necker’s friends, was Buffon. He
wrote her some eighty letters full of fervid flatter and genuine, almost
passionate affection, to which she responded in the terms of adulation
that the old man still held dear. Such incense had once been offered
to him in nauseating abundance; now that he was old and lonely it had
diminished, and this fact, joined to his unquestionable admiration for
Madame Necker, made him all the more easily intoxicated by her praise.
Mixed with her high esteem for his genius was a womanly compassion for
his bodily sufferings that rendered the tie uniting their two minds
a very sweet and charming one. On hearing that his end was near, she
hastened to Montbard, where he was residing, and established herself by
his bedside, remaining there five days, and courageously soothing the
paroxysms of pain that it tortured her own sensitive nature to see.

Perhaps her strong and unconcealed desire that the philosopher should
make a Christian end, lent her fortitude to continue the self-imposed
task. There is no proof that she directly influenced him in that final
declaration of faith by which he scandalised a free-thinking community;
but she had often discussed religious questions with him, and deplored
his want of a definite creed; consequently, it is possible that her mere
presence may have had some effect upon him at the last.

On the brink of the irrevocable, even the pride of controversy may come
to be a little thing; and Buffon’s wearied spirit perhaps recoiled from
further speculation on the eternal problem of futurity. And to be at one,
in that supreme moment, with the pitying woman who had come to solace his
final agony, may have weighed with him above the praise and blame over
which the grave was to triumph forever.

Madame Necker delighted in making herself miserable, and the melancholia
natural to him probably caused Thomas to be the most thoroughly congenial
to her of all her friends. The author of the _Petréide_ and the foe
of the Encyclopædists, he enjoyed during his life a celebrity which
posterity has not confirmed. He was the originator of the unhappy style
of writing in which Madame Necker so delighted that she modelled her
own upon it. For the rest, he was a man of extremely austere and simple
life, as well as of very honest character. Passion was unknown to him,
unless, indeed, the profound and sentimental esteem which he felt for
Madame Necker was of a nature under more favorable treatment to have
developed into love. If so, she found the way in his case, as in all, to
restrain his feelings within platonic bounds, and indulged him chiefly
with affecting promises not to forget him when she should be translated
to heaven.

Madame Necker may be said to have touched the zenith of social
distinction the day on which the Maréchale de Luxembourg entered her
salon. This charming old lady and exquisite _grande dame_, the arbiter
of politeness and fine manners, was felicitously and untranslatably
described by Madame du Deffand, in one delightful phrase, as “_Chatte
Rose!_” Upon all those who met her at this period (when she was already
nearly seventy), she seems to have produced the same impression of
softness and elegance, of fine malice and caressing, irresistible ways.

Madame de Souza—that sweet little woman round whose name the perfume
of her own roses still seems to cling—drew a portrait of the Maréchale
in her novel _Eugénie de Rothelin_, under the name of the Maréchale
de’Estouteville; nor did she, as Ste. Beuve tells us, forget to
introduce, by way of contrast, in the person of Madame de Rieny, the
pretty and winning Duchess de Lauzun, grand-niece of the Maréchale, and
another flower of Madame Necker’s salon.

This little Duchess, “_joli petit oiseau à l’air effarouché_” (to quote
Madame du Deffand once again), was so devoted an admirer of M. Necker,
that, hearing somebody in the Tuileries Gardens blame him, she slapped
the speaker’s face. Apart from this one outburst, which saves her from
seeming too meek, she flits shadowy, sweet and pathetic, across the
pages of her contemporaries. The record of her life, as we know it, is
brief and touching. She kept herself unspotted from a most depraved
world; loved a very unworthy husband and died, during the Terror, on the

Another friend, and apparently a very sincere one, of Madame Necker, was
Madame d’Houdetôt. Madame Necker seems to have accepted that interesting
woman just as she was, including her relations with St. Lambert, whom the
letters exchanged between the two ladies mention quite naturally. The
affection which she felt for the mother was extended by Madame D’Houdetôt
to the little daughter, and there are letters of hers extant describing
visits which she had paid to Germaine, while Madame Necker was at Spa or
Mont Doré for her health.

They were written to relieve the natural pain of absence on the parents’
part, and are full of praises of the child, of her engaging ways, her air
of health, and her magnificent eyes.



In the brilliant world in which she awoke, Germaine very soon found her
place. It is a very familiar little picture that which we have of her,
seated on a low stool beside her mother at the receptions, and fixing on
one speaker after another her great, astonished eyes.

Soon, very soon, she began to join in the conversation herself, and by
the time she was ten or eleven years old she had grown into a person
whose opinion was quite seriously consulted. Some of the friends of the
house, Marmontel, Raynal and others, enchanted to have a new shrine in
the same temple at which to worship, talked to her, wrote verses to her,
and laid at her young feet some of the homage up to then exclusively
devoted to Madame Necker.

That lady began by being enchanted at Germaine’s amazing powers, and set
to work to educate her with characteristic thoroughness and pedantry.
Everything that was strongest in her, family pride, the sense of maternal
authority, the love of personal influence, the passion for training,
seemed to find their opportunity in the surprising daughter whom Heaven
had given her. She drove the child to study with unrelenting ardor,
teaching her things beyond her age, and encouraging her at the same time
further to exercise her intelligence by listening to conversations on
all sorts of subjects. The consequence was that at eleven Germaine’s
conversational powers were already stupendous. On being introduced to a
child of her own age, a little Mademoiselle Hüber, who was her cousin,
she amazed her new acquaintance by the questions she put to her. She
asked what were her favorite lessons; if she knew any foreign languages;
if she often went to the theatre. The little cousin confessing to having
profited but rarely by such an amusement, Germaine was horror-stricken,
but promised that henceforward the deficiency should be remedied, adding
that on their return from the theatre they should both proceed to write
down the subject of the pieces performed, with suitable reflections;
that being, she said, her own habit. In the evening of this first day’s
acquaintance, Mademoiselle Hüber, already sufficiently awe-struck, one
must think, was further a witness to the attention paid to Germaine by
her mother’s most distinguished guests.

“Everybody addressed her with a compliment or a pleasantry. She answered
everything with ease and grace.… The cleverest men were those who took
most pleasure in making her talk. They asked what she was reading,
recommended new books to her and … talked to her of what she knew, or of
what she had yet to learn.”

From her tenderest years Germaine wrote _portraits_ and _éloges_. At
fifteen she made extracts from the _Esprit de Lois_, with annotations,
and about the same time the Abbé Raynal was very anxious that she should
contribute to his great work an article on the Revolution of the Edict of

But before this, when she was only twelve, the effects of such premature
training had made themselves visible. Her feelings had been as
unnaturally developed as her mind. Already that rich, abundant nature, so
impetuous, generous, and fervid, which was at once the highest gift and
deepest curse, had begun to reveal itself in an exaggerated sensibility.
Praise of her parents moved her to tears; for the little cousin she had
an affection amounting to passion; and the mere sight of celebrated
people gave her palpitation of the heart. She did not care to be amused.
What pleased her best was what pained her most, and her imagination was
fed upon the “Clarissa Harlowe” school of novels.

By degrees her health began to fail, and at fourteen the collapse was
so complete as to cause the most serious alarm. Tronchin was consulted,
and prescribed absolute rest from study. This was a cruel blow to Madame
Necker. A nature allowed to develop spontaneously, a mind virgin of
the pruning-hook, were objects of as much horror to her as if they had
been forbidden by Heaven. That her daughter, just at the final moment,
when what was doubtless the mere preliminary course of study had been
traversed, should be released from bondage and abandoned to her own
impetuosity, was well-nigh insupportable. She had no alternative but to
resign herself, and therefore, silently and coldly, as was her wont,
she accepted the situation. Nevertheless, she was neither reconciled
to it, nor felt the same interest in Germaine again. Years afterwards,
the bitterness that she had hoarded in her soul betrayed itself in one
little phrase. Madame Necker de Sausanne was congratulating her on her
daughter’s astonishing powers. “She is nothing,” said Madame Necker,
coldly, “nothing to that which I would have made her.”

Despatched from Paris to the pure air of St. Ouen, and ordered to do
nothing but enjoy herself, the young girl quickly recovered her vivacity,
and developed a charming joyousness. This new mood of hers, while
gradually estranging her from her mother, drew her closer to her father.
M. Necker, who detested literary women, had looked with but scanty favor
on his daughter’s passion for writing, and it is probable that, as long
as she was exclusively under Madame Necker’s rule, he did not feel
for her more than the commonplace sort of affection which a busy and
serious-minded father bestows on a little girl.

During her childhood Germaine herself lavished all her warmest affection
on her mother, being apparently drawn to her by the subtle attraction
which a very deep and reserved nature exercises on an excitable one.
Madame Necker, pale, subdued in manner, restrained in gesture, surrounded
with respectful adorers, revered by her husband, and flattered by her
friends, seems to have filled her observant, imaginative little daughter
with a feeling bordering on awe. Very sensitive, yet very submissive, and
quite incapable of resentment, Germaine threw herself with characteristic
passionate ardor into the task of winning her mother’s praise. How
complacently Madame Necker must have accepted the homage implied in
these efforts, it is easy to imagine. A little contempt for the child’s
impetuosity helped to give her the firmness necessary for moulding,
according to her own notions, the nature so plastic, yet so vital, thus
placed within her grasp. A good, nay, a noble woman, yet essentially a
self-righteous one, she could comprehend perfection in nothing that
did not, to a certain degree, resemble herself. _Her_ ideas, _her_
principles, _her_ will, were, she conceived, to shape and fashion,
restrain and re-create, this thing of fire and intellect, this creature
all spirit, instinct and insight, that she named her child. Germaine,
predestined all her life to struggle, to consume herself to ashes—like
the Arabian princess who fought with the _djinn_—succumbed for the
time to her mother’s will, by the annihilation of everything that was
inalienably _herself_. The spell lasted as long as the tyranny which had
created it; but once freed from the thraldom, wandering with her young
cousin through the avenues of St. Ouen, drinking in the freshness of the
shadowy glades, and acting innocent little dramas, Germaine became more
natural and, in her mother’s eyes, more commonplace. Madame Necker lost
interest in her, drew frigidly away from her, and even began to feel some
jealousy of the new-born affection between the father and child.

When Germaine was fifteen, M. Necker fell from power. A few months
previously he had published his _Compte Rendu_, and roused the enthusiasm
of France. He had been the idol of the hour, and his name was in
everybody’s mouth. From all sides, from nobles and bourgeois alike,
letters of praise and congratulation poured in upon him. Among these was
an anonymous epistle, written by Germaine, and immediately recognized by
her father, who knew the author’s style.

She was transported with joy and triumph, and probably understood her
father’s achievements better than two-thirds of the people who applauded
them. For she was endowed with a marvellous quickness and completeness
of comprehension, and, where she loved, her sympathy was flawless. She
was always willing to welcome and adopt the thought of another, and
never seemed to guess how much of force and brilliancy it owed to the
illuminating power of her own vivid intellect.

On M. Necker’s retirement from the Ministry of Finance he came to St.
Ouen, followed in his retreat by the pity and praise of the best and
brightest minds of France. His daughter, seeing more of him than ever,
now, in the greater leisure which he enjoyed, and regarding him as the
heroic victim of an infamous political cabal, soon conceived for him an
affection that amounted to idolatry. On his side he was enchanted with
her humorous gayety, and lent himself to her playfulness in the not rare
moments when Germaine’s small sum of years got the better of her large
amount of intelligence.

One day Madame Necker had been called from the dining-room, during meal
time, on some domestic or other business. Returning unexpectedly, she
heard a good deal of noise, and, opening the door, stood transfixed with
amazement on seeing her husband and daughter capering about, with their
table-napkins twisted round their heads like turbans. Both culprits
looked rather ashamed of themselves when detected, and their spirits fell
to zero beneath the lady’s frozen glance.

The Neckers, in spite of the ex-minister’s so-called “disgrace,”
continued surrounded with friends, so that from fifteen to twenty, at
which latter age she married, Germaine’s days were one long intellectual

Her _portraits_ read aloud to the guests, were eagerly received and
enthusiastically applauded. She wrote one of her father, in competition
with her mother; but when Monsieur Necker was appealed to on the
respective merits of the two compositions, he wisely declined to
pronounce any opinion. His daughter, however, divined his thoughts: “He
admires Mamma’s portrait,” she said, “but mine flatters him more.”

Her own merits inspired the wits surrounding her in their turn. A
_portrait_ by Guibert described her as a priestess of Apollo, with dark
eyes illumined by genius, black, floating curls, and marked features,
expressive of a destiny superior to that of most women. This was an
ornamental way of saying that Germaine was not beautiful. She was, in
fact, very plain, strangely so, considering that she had magnificent
eyes, fine shoulders and arms, and abundant hair. What spoilt her was the
total want of grace. When talking, she was much too prodigal of grimace
and gesture, and, if eloquent and convincing, was also overpowering.

She felt too much on every subject, and carried other people’s small
stream of platitudes along in the rushing tide of her own emotions,
till her hearers were left exhausted and admiring, but also a little
resentful. She disconcerted the very persons whom she most revered by
only pausing long enough in her talk to grasp their meaning, and feed her
own thought with it till that glowed more consumingly than ever, while
all the time what _she_ felt, what _they_ felt, and what _she_ imagined
that _they_ meant to say was proclaimed in loud, harsh accents, most
trying to sensitive nerves.

All this time she was busily writing, and her father, who nicknamed her
Mademoiselle de Ste. Ecritoire, could not correct the tendency, even by
his unceasing raillery. In a comedy entitled _Sophie, ou les Sentiments
Secrets_, she scandalized Madame Necker, by selecting for a subject the
struggles of a young orphan against the passion inspired in her by her
guardian, a married man. To this period belong also _Jane Grey_ and
_Montmorency_, both tragedies, and various novelettes.

When Germaine was nearing twenty, the question of her marriage came under
discussion; and serious consideration was then, for the first time,
accorded to a suitor whom her large fortune had long attracted.

This was the Baron de Staël Holstein, Secretary to the Swedish Embassy.
He seems to have been one of the elegant and amiable diplomatists whom
the Courts of Europe in those days turned out by the score. He had wit
and good manners, as he had also the golden key of the Court Chamberlain;
otherwise, his personality was insignificant in the extreme.

He was fortunate, however, in serving under a very popular ambassador,
the Count de Creutz; and in representing a king who, both for political
and personal reasons, was anxious to keep on good terms with France.
Gustavus III. of Sweden adored Paris, and was in continual correspondence
with Madame de la Mark, Madame d’Egmont, Madame de Boufflers, and anybody
who would keep him conversant with the gossip of the Tuileries and
Versailles. The Count de Creutz having the intention of shortly retiring,
it was understood that the Baron de Staël Holstein was to be his
successor. That gentleman, who comprehended his own interests, and was
head-over-ears in debt, lost no opportunity of persuading the Swedish
King’s trio of witty correspondents, who in their turn were careful to
impress on Gustavus, as well as on Louis XVI. and his Queen, that the
next Swedish ambassador must be endowed with a splendid fortune.

A grand marriage was, of course, to be the means of achieving this; and
Mademoiselle Germaine Necker, an heiress and a Protestant, was fixed upon
for the bride.

The delicate negotiations lasted for some considerable time, during
which period the prize the Baron sought was disputed by two formidable
rivals—William Pitt and Prince George Augustus of Mecklenburg, brother of
the reigning Duke. Madame Necker warmly supported Pitt’s suit, and showed
great displeasure at being unable to overcome her daughter’s obstinate
aversion to it. Seeing how distinguished the Englishman already was, and
how brilliant his future career promised to be, one wonders a little at
Germaine’s rejection of him. Probably the secret of her determination
lay in the passionate adoration which she had now begun to feel for her
father, on whom—as all his friends and partisans assured her—the eyes of
misery-stricken France were fixed as on a savior.

The idea of quitting France in such a crisis, at the dawn, so to speak,
of her father’s apotheosis, would naturally be intensely repugnant to
her; and possibly for that very reason Madame Necker, always a little
jealous of the sympathy between her husband and her daughter, warmly
advocated Pitt’s claims. A painful coldness ensued between mother and
daughter, and lasted until the former happened to fall dangerously ill.
Then Germaine’s feelings underwent a revulsion of passionate tenderness;
and in the touching reconciliation which ensued between parent and child,
Mr. Pitt and his suit were forgotten.

Prince George Augustus of Mecklenburg was even less fortunate, being
refused by both Monsieur and Madame Necker, with a promptitude which he
fully deserved. For he had nothing to recommend him but his conspicuous
position, and had very impudently avowed that he sought Mademoiselle
Necker’s hand only for the sake of her enormous dower.

The ground being thus cleared for Madame de Bouffler’s protégé, that
energetic lady set to work to obtain from Gustavus a promise not to
remove the Baron, now ambassador, from France for a specified long term
of years.

This assurance that they would not be parted from their daughter having
been given to the Neckers, and formally embodied in a clause of the
marriage settlement, the document was signed by the King and Queen of
France, and several other illustrious personages, and the wedding
celebrated on the 14th January, 1776.

The first few days after her marriage, Madame de Staël, according to the
custom of the time, passed under her father’s roof; and among her letters
is a sweet and affectionate one, which she addressed to her mother on the
last day of her sojourn with her parents.

“Perhaps I have not always acted rightly towards you, Mamma,” she
writes. “At this moment, as in that of death, all my deeds are present
to my mind, and I fear that I may not leave in you the regret that I
desire. But deign to believe that the phantoms of imagination have often
fascinated my eyes, and often come between you and me so as to render
me unrecognizable. But the very depth of my tenderness makes me feel at
this moment that it has always been the same. It is part of my life, and
I am entirely shaken and unhinged in this hour of separation from you.
To-night … I shall not have in my house the angel that guaranteed it from
thunder and fire. I shall not have her who would protect me if I were
dying, and would enfold me, before God, with the rays of her sublime
soul. I shall not have at every moment news of your health. I foresee
regrets at every instant.… I pray that I may be worthy of you. Happiness
may come later, at intervals or never. The end of life terminates
everything, and you are so sure that there is another life as to leave no
doubt in my heart.… Accept, Mamma, my dear Mamma, my profound respect and
boundless tenderness.”

Perhaps when Madame Necker read this letter she felt in part consoled for
the real or fancied pain which her brilliant and unaccountable daughter
had given her.

And in spite of passing dissensions with her mother, Germaine’s twenty
years of girlhood had been essentially happy, for they had been tenderly
and watchfully sheltered from blight or harm.



Some spiteful ridicule awaited the young ambassadress on her first
entrance into official life, and, strangely enough, among these
detractors was Madame de Boufflers herself, who wrote to Gustavus III.:
“She has been virtuously brought up, but has no knowledge of the world
or its usages … and has a degree of assurance that I never saw equalled
at her age, or in any position. If she were less spoilt by the incense
offered up to her, I should have tried to give her a little advice.”
Another courtier’s soul was vexed because Madame de Staël, when presented
on her marriage, tore her flounce, and thus spoilt her third curtsey.
As much scandal was caused by this _gaucherie_ as if it had been some
newly-invented sin; but the delinquent herself, when the heinousness
of her conduct was communicated to her, simply laughed. She could,
indeed, afford to despise all such censure, for, if too obstreperously
intellectual and ardent for artificial circles, she soon attained to
immense influence among all the thinking and quasi-thinking minds of

Politics were now beginning to be the one absorbing subject whose
paramount importance dwarfed every other; and Madame de Staël, always in
the vanguard of ideas, threw herself with characteristic enthusiasm into
the questions of the day. To talk about the glorious future of humanity
was the fashionable cant of the hour, but Madame de Staël really believed
in the regeneration about which others affectedly maundered; and at all
social gatherings in the Rue Bergère, or at St. Ouen (where her presence
was as frequent as of yore), she held forth on this subject to the crowd
of dazzled listeners, whom she partially convinced and wholly overpowered.

She had been married but little more than a year when the first shadow
of coming events dimmed the lustre of her new existence. In a speech
pronounced at the Assembly of Notables in April 1787, M. de Calonne
impugned the accuracy of the famous _Compte Rendu_. M. Necker indignantly
demanded from the King the permission to hold a public debate on the
subject, in the presence of the Assembly before which he had been
accused. Louis XVI. refused; and M. Necker then immediately published a
memoir of self-justification. The result was a _lettre de cachet_ which
exiled him to within forty leagues of Paris. The order, conveyed by Le
Noir, the Minister of Police, reached M. Necker in the evening, when he
was sitting in his wife’s salon, surrounded by his daughter and some
friends. The liveliness of Madame de Staël’s indignation may be imagined.
She has described it herself in her _Considérations sur la Révolution
Française_, and declared that the King’s decision appeared to her an
unexampled act of despotism. Its parallel would not have been far to
seek, and acts a thousand times worse disgrace every page of the annals
of France. But Madame de Staël, always incapable of judging where the
“pure and noble” interests of her father were concerned, can be pardoned
for her exaggeration in this instance, as she had half France to share
it. “All Paris,” she says, “came to visit M. Necker in the twenty-four
hours that preceded his departure. Even the Archbishop of Toulouse,
already practically designated for M. de Calonne’s successor, was not
afraid to make his bow.”

Offers of shelter poured in upon M. Necker, and the best châteaux in
France were placed at his disposal. He finally elected the Châteaux de
Marolles, near Fontainebleau, although not, as he naïvely confesses in a
letter to his daughter, without some secret misgivings as to “the decided
taste in all things good and bad of dear mamma.”

Thither Madame de Staël hastened to join him, and to console by her
unfailing sympathy, her constant applause, and inexhaustible admiration,
a misfortune which, after all, had been singularly mitigated. M. Necker
accepted all this homage as his due, and his magnanimous wish, that
the Archbishop of Toulouse might serve the State and King better than
he would have done, is recorded by his daughter with the unction of a
true devotee. There is something adorably simple and genuine in all her
utterances about this time. In a letter to her husband (who apparently
never objected to play second fiddle to M. and Madame Necker) she
directs him exactly how to behave at Court, so as to bring home with
dignity, yet force, to their Majesties the wickedness of their conduct
towards so great and good a man; and she adds that but for her position
as Ambassadress she would never again set foot within the precincts
of Versailles. This she wrote even after the _lettre de cachet_ was
cancelled. A few months later a reparation was offered to her father with
which even his own sense of his worth and the idolatry of his family
should have been satisfied; for he was recalled to power—unwillingly
recalled, it is true. The King’s hand was forced. His present sentiments
to M. Necker, if not hostile, were cold; while those of the Queen had
changed to aversion. But the Marquis de Mirabeau had defined the position
of France as “a game of blind-man’s buff which must lead to a general
upset”; consternation had invaded even the densest intelligences; and
the voice of the public clamored for its savior. This time, again, the
title given to M. Necker was Director-General of Finance; but, on the
other hand, the coveted entry into the Royal Council was accorded him. It
was the first instance, since the days of Sully, of such an honor being
granted to a Protestant; it was given at a moment when the suggestion to
restore civil rights to those of alien faith had been bitterly resented
by the French clergy; and it was one of the many signs (for those who had
eyes to see) that the last hour of the old régime had struck.

The nomination was hailed with a burst of applause from one end of France
to the other. Madame de Staël hurried to St. Ouen with the news, but she
found her father the reverse of elated. Fifteen months previously—the
fifteen months wasted by the ineptitude of Brienne—he said he might have
done something; now it was too late.

Madame de Staël was far from sharing these feelings. When anything had to
be accomplished by her father, she was of the opinion of Calonne, in his
celebrated answer to Marie Antoinette—“_Si c’est possible, c’est fait;
si c’est impossible, cela se fera._” And undoubtedly M. Necker did his
best on returning to power; but, in spite of his honesty, good faith, and
unquestionable abilities, he was not the man for the hour.

Very likely, as his friends, and especially his daughter, asserted, no
Minister, however gifted, could have succeeded entirely in such a crisis;
and doubtless he was as far as any merely pure-minded man could be from
deserving the storm of execration with which the Court party eventually
overwhelmed him. We have said that he did his best; his mistake was that
he did his best for everybody. In a moment, when an unhesitating choice
had become imperative, he was divided between sympathy with the people
and pity for the King.

He returned to power without any plan of his own; but finding Louis
XVI. was pledged to assemble the States-General, he insisted that the
representation of the Tiers Etat should be doubled, so as to balance
the influence of the other two parties. Royalists affirm that this was
a fatal error, since from that hour the Revolution became inevitable.
Madame de Staël, jealous of her father’s reputation, maintains that
reasonable concessions on the part of the Court faction and the higher
clergy would have nullified the danger of the double representation. But
the point was that such an aristocracy and such a clergy were by nature
unteachable; and every moment wasted in attempting to persuade them was
an hour added to the long torture of oppressed and starving France.

The kind heart, liberal instincts, and administrative ability of Necker
taught him that without the double representation the voice of the people
might be lifted in vain. But the weakness of his character, and the awe
of his bourgeois soul for the time-honored fetich of monarchy, prevented
his understanding that the power he invoked could never again be laid
by any spell of his choosing. By seeking to arrange this or that, to
pare off something here and add something there—in a word, by trying to
be just all round, when nobody cared for mutual justice but himself,
he rendered a divided allegiance to his country and his King. If there
were no conscious duplicity in his character, there was abundance of it
in his opinions; and to say that nobody could have succeeded better is
to beg the question. In the face of the savage, inflexible arrogance of
the aristocrats and clergy, there was but one course open to a really
high-minded man, and that was to leave the Court to its own devices, and,
throwing himself with all of earnestness and wisdom that he possessed
into the popular cause, to be guided by it, and yet govern it by force of
sympathy and will.

He might have failed; in the light of later events, it can even be said
that he would have failed. But such a failure would have been grander,
more vital for good and sterile for harm, than the opprobrium which
eventually visited the honest Necker and pursued him to his grave.

Needless to say that opinions such as these never found their way into
Madame de Staël’s mind. On occasions—perhaps too frequently renewed—the
portals of that enchanted palace were guarded by her heart. In her view,
everything might yet be saved, were Necker only listened to and obeyed.
“Every day he will do something good and prevent something bad,” she
wrote to the reactionary and angry Gustavus, and thus betrayed that
preoccupation with the individual, his virtues or his crimes, which, for
all her intellect, blinded her not rarely to the essential significance
of things.

With breathless interest and varied feelings of sympathy and indignation
she watched the great events which now followed in rapid succession.
Her father was monarchical, and believed that a representative monarchy
on the English model was the true remedy for France. Madame de
Staël—incapable of differing with so great a man—endorsed this opinion at
the time, although eventually she became republican.

But nobody was republican then—that is in name; people had not yet
realized to what logical conclusions their opinions would carry them.
Madame de Staël, hating oppression, blamed the sightless obstinacy of
the nobles, but, on the other hand, was but little moved by the famous
_Serment du Jeu de Paume_. She deplored the rejection of Necker’s
plan—that happy medium which was to settle everything, and stigmatized
as it deserved the imbecility of the Court party, as illustrated by
confidence in foreign regiments and the Declaration of the 23d June.
Always optimist, and confident of the inevitable triumph of Right over
Might, she clung to the belief that a thoroughly pure character, in such
a crisis, was the one indispensable element of success.

The mysterious nature of Sièyes repelled her; she preferred the virtuous
Malouet to the titanic Mirabeau, and was almost as blind as her father
to the enormous electric force of the tribune’s undisciplined genius.
For if often prejudiced, she rarely was morbid, and false ideas did not
dazzle her. No splendor of achievement unaccompanied by loftiness of
principle could win her applause. But she failed to grasp the fact that
perfection of moral character, by its very scruples and hesitations, is
necessarily handicapped in any race with the velocity of public events.
No man can bring his entire self—very rarely can he even bring all that
is best of himself—into a struggle with warring forces and contradictory
individualities. In such a contest, swiftness of insight, power of
expression, and force of organic impulse are the only factors of value.
In supreme moments of action, men are greater than themselves—made so by
the sudden, unconscious contraction of their complex personality into one
flame-point of consuming will.

All this Madame de Staël seems never to have felt. If she loved unworthy
people (and how many she did love!), it was because she deceived herself
regarding them, as all her life she deceived herself about her father.
She was intolerant of any triumph but that of virtue, and was thus
rendered unjust to the great deeds of men who, imperfect and erring
themselves, can sympathize with the aspirations of the human heart
because its baseness is not unknown to them.

On the 11th of July, at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, M. Necker, who
had become a sort of Cassandra to the Court party and was detested in
proportion, received a letter from the King ordering him to quit Paris
and France, and to accomplish the departure with the utmost secrecy and
despatch. He was at table with some guests when this order was handed to
him; he read it, put it into his pocket, and continued his conversation
as though nothing had happened.

Dinner over, he took Madame Necker aside, and informed her what had
occurred. Nothing was communicated to Madame de Staël; probably her
father thought she would be too much excited. M. and Madame Necker
hastily ordered their carriage and, without bidding anybody farewell,
without even delaying to change their clothes, they had themselves
conveyed to the nearest station for post-horses. Thence they continued
their journey uninterruptedly, fleeing like culprits from the people
whose indignation was feared by the King.

Madame de Staël is lost in admiration of this single-minded conduct
of her father, and lays especial stress on the fact that, even during
the journey, he made no effort to win for himself the suffrages of the
multitude. “Where is another man,” she naïvely asks, “who would not have
had himself brought back in his own despite?”

Certainly an ambitious man might have adopted this theatrical plan; but
it is much more likely, under the actual circumstances, that an ambitious
man would never have left at all. M. Necker had only to announce his
disgrace to the people of Paris, and go over once for all to the popular
side, to have received an intoxicating ovation. As it was, the news of
his dismissal cast the capital into consternation. All the theatres were
closed, medals were struck in the fallen Minister’s honor, and the first
cockade worn was green—the color of his liveries. What a career might
then have been his if, instead of being an obedient subject, he had
chosen to be a leader!

Madame de Staël thought that it was to the last degree noble and
disinterested of him to vanish from the sight of an adoring multitude
rather than bring fresh difficulties on the master who had deserted him.
But the destinies of a nation are of higher value than the comfort of a
monarch, and there are certain responsibilities which no man who does
not feel himself incapable (and that was not Necker’s case) is justified
in declining. To throw back the love and influence offered him then for
the last time by France, to sympathize with the popular cause and yet to
abandon it, and to do all this out of obedience to the senseless caprice
of a faction and the arbitrary command of a king, was to behave like a
Court chamberlain, but in no sense like a statesman.

The taking of the Bastille, and the King’s declaration at the Hôtel de
Ville, followed immediately on Necker’s retirement. Madame de Staël
records these events in a very few words, and shows herself, at the
moment and henceforward through all the opening scenes of the Revolution,
more alive to the humiliation and dismay of the Royal Family than to the
apocalyptic grandeur of the catastrophe.

The acts committed, as one reads of them quietly now, are revolting in
their mingled grotesqueness and terror. To those who witnessed them, they
sickened where they did not deprave. The livid head of Foulon on the
pike; the greasy, filthy, partly drunken populace, who rose as from the
depths of the earth to invade the splendid privacy of royal Versailles;
the degraded women dragged from shameful obscurity and paraded in the
lurid glare of an indecent triumph; Madame de Lamballe’s monstrous and
dishonored death; Marat’s hellish accusations, and Robespierre’s diseased
suspicions, were things that must have destroyed in those who lived
through them all capacity for admiration.

The fact that Madame de Staël did not lose heart altogether remains
an abiding witness to her faith and courage. She was wounded in her
tenderest part by the Court’s ingratitude and the Assembly’s indifference
towards her father. Every natural and cultivated sentiment in her was
wounded by what she saw. Unlike Madame Roland, she had no traditions and
no past of her own to attach her, in spite of everything, to the people.
She was insensible to the merely physical infection of enthusiasm, and
never even for a moment possessed by the vertigo of the revolutionary
demon-dance. She remained, from first to last, an absolute stranger to
every act and every consideration that was not either manifest to her
intellect or strong in appeal to her heart; and yet such was her force of
mind and rectitude of insight that, under the Directory, we shall find
her no less interested in public events than under the Monarchy.

The grief that Madame de Staël undoubtedly experienced at her father’s
banishment was not destined to be of long duration. He had hardly reached
the Hôtel des Trois Rois at Bâle, when, to his great astonishment,
Madame de Polignac asked to speak to him. She was the last person
that he expected to see there; but surprise at her presence was soon
swallowed up in the far greater amazement excited by all she had to tell.
The taking of the Bastille; the massacre of Foulon and Berthier and
DeLaunay; the critical position of De Besenval, and the stampede of the
aristocrats—what a catalogue of events! He had never, his daughter says,
admitted the possibility of proscriptions, and he was a long while before
he could understand the motives which had induced Madame de Polignac
to depart. He had not much time to reflect on all he had heard before
letters from the King and from the Assembly arrived urging him to return.
He did so most unwillingly, according to Madame de Staël, for the murders
committed on the 14th July, although few in number, affrighted him, and
“he believed no longer in the success of a cause now blood-stained.” He
seems to have abandoned all sympathy with the people from this moment,
and to have returned avowedly with no intention than that of using his
popularity as a buckler with which to defend the royal authority.

Madame de Staël, informed by letters from her father of his departure
from France and ultimate destination (which was Germany), had hastened
after him with her husband and overtook him first at Brussels. There the
party had separated momentarily, M. Necker hurrying forward with the
Baron de Staël, and Madame Necker, who was suffering in health, following
by slower stages with her daughter. The consequence was that Madame
de Staël arrived at Bâle after her father’s interview with Madame de
Polignac, and almost at the same time as he received the order to return.

In this way she had the profound joy of witnessing the enthusiasm which
greeted him on every step of his way. No such ovation, she truly says,
had ever before been bestowed upon an uncrowned head. Women fell on their
knees as the carriage passed; the leading citizens of the towns where
it stopped took the places of the postilions, and the populace finally
substituted themselves for the horses. They met numbers of aristocratic
fugitives on the journey, and M. Necker, at their request, showered on
them autograph letters to serve as passports and enable them to cross the
frontiers in safety.

Whenever the carriage stopped, the popular idol harangued the crowd and
impressed on them the necessity of respecting persons and property;
he entreated of them, as they professed so much love for him, to give
him the most striking proof that they could of it, by always doing
their duty. Madame de Staël says that her father was fully aware of
the fleeting nature of popularity; and, under these circumstances, one
wonders that he took the trouble, in such a crisis, to make so many
speeches. But it is probable that the intoxication of praise was a little
too much for him; and he had at all times the sacerdotal tendency to

At ten leagues from Paris, news was brought to the travellers that De
Besenval had been arrested by order of the Commune, and was to be taken
to the capital, where he would, said the pessimists, be infallibly torn
to pieces by the populace. M. Necker, entreated to intervene, took upon
himself to rescind the order of the Commune, and promised to obtain the
sanction of the authorities to his act.

On arriving in Paris, consequently, his first care was to proceed, in
company with his family, to the Hôtel de Ville. The streets, the roofs,
the windows of every house were densely thronged. Cries of “Vive
Necker!” rent the air, as the redeemer of the country appeared on a
balcony and began his discourse.

He demanded the amnesty of De Besenval and of all those who shared De
Besenval’s opinion. This extensive programme committed all those who
accepted it to a reactionary policy, since to pardon the people’s enemies
unconditionally was to condone, and in a measure to sanction their crimes.

But no such considerations presented themselves at that moment to impair
Necker’s triumph. The popular enthusiasm accorded him what he asked;
fresh thunders of applause broke forth, and Madame de Staël, overcome
with emotion, fainted.



Necker’s victory over the rage of the populace was a fleeting one. He
had, indeed, overstepped the prerogatives of a Minister in asking for the
amnesty. Misled by the elation of his gratified vanity and the impulse
of his benevolent heart, he, an ardent defender of order, forgot that in
placing himself between the Assembly and King on the one hand and the
people on the other, he practically recognized the right of a faction
to act without the consent of the Government. It was for the latter to
reverse the decree of the Commune and not for the electors of Paris.

His dream of smiling peace installed by his hand on the ruins of the
Revolution was rudely and rapidly dispelled. Madame de Staël sorrowfully
records that on the very evening of that glorious day the amnesty was
retracted, and ascribes this result in great part to the influence of
Mirabeau. But, in truth, a very little reflection must have sufficed
to convince anybody that the utopian demands of Necker were singularly
misplaced. The very electors who had acceded to them asserted that all
they had ever intended was to shield the arrested royalists from the
fury of the populace, but in no sense from the action of justice. The
Assembly confirmed this view, and from that moment Necker’s influence
was practically gone. It was proved to be a bubble; and his triumph,
respectable as were some of the motives which had urged him to invoke
it, became ludicrous when contrasted with the stern and tragic realities
of the moment. This Madame de Staël did not, could not see. She was fain
to console herself with the compassionate reflection that, after all, De
Besenval—an old man—was saved.

She narrates with dolorous pride the efforts honestly, courageously, and
to a certain degree successfully, made by her father, during fifteen
months, to avert the disaster of famine; and innocently appeals to them
against the failure as a statesman, to which she resolutely shuts her

One measure after another opposed by Necker was voted—the confiscation
of the property of the clergy, the suppression of titles of nobility,
and the emission of assignats. No popularity could have resisted such
successive blows; and Necker was popular no longer. Still, Madame de
Staël touchingly begs the world, in her writings, not to allow itself to
be turned from the paths of virtue by the spectacle of a good man so
persecuted by fate. She claims our admiration for a series of quixotic
acts, and is perpetually insisting on the amazing magnanimity which would
not allow her father to become base because he had ceased to be useful.

Thoroughly discouraged at last (perhaps partly convinced that to preach
kindness to savages, and self-abnegation to the vile, was a task to be
resumed in better times) Necker tendered his resignation, and had the
mortification of seeing it accepted with perfect indifference both by the
Assembly and the King.

Before leaving Paris forever, he deposited in the royal treasury two
millions of his own property. The exact object of this munificence is
not clear; even Madame de Staël failed to explain it on any practical
grounds. But she admired it extremely, and so may we.

The journey with the terrified and suffering Madame Necker to Switzerland
was a great contrast to the return in the previous year to Paris. Then
it had been “roses, roses all the way”; now it was nothing but insults.
At Arcis-sur-Aube the carriage was stopped by an infuriated crowd, who
accused M. Necker of having betrayed the cause of the people in the
interests of the emigrant nobles. The accusation was an absurd one, since
he had only endeavored to be superhumanly kind to everybody. He had
wished to preserve the people from crimes and starvation, the clergy from
ruin, and the emigrant nobles from detection, and this was the result.
It was hard, but inevitable, and as there were many worse fates than
M. Necker’s in those days one cannot quite free oneself from a feeling
of impatience at Madame de Staël’s perpetual lamentations over the
inconceivable hardships of her parent’s lot.

We now approach an episode in Madame de Staël’s life which it is
necessary to touch on with discretion. This is her connection with the
Count Louis de Narbonne. The stories circulated in regard to them are
familiar to all readers of Madame d’Arblay’s memoirs. Dr. Burney thought
himself in duty bound to warn his little Fanny against her growing
adoration for Necker’s great, but, according to him, not blameless
daughter, who, during her stay at Mickleham, exerted herself to win the
friendship of the author of _Cecilia_. Fanny, as we know, was at first
greatly shocked, and completely incredulous. She described Madame de
Staël as loving M. de Narbonne tenderly, but so openly, and in a manner
so devoid of coquetry, that friendship between two men, in her opinion,
could hardly be differently manifested. But the seed of suspicion once
cast in the little prude’s mind, quickly germinated, and led eventually
to a total cessation of her acquaintance with the woman whose brilliancy
and goodness had so fascinated her. This is not the place in which to
discuss Fanny’s conduct; but was the information on which she based it
correct? Who shall say? Madame de Staël was extremely imprudent, and she
seems to have been dangerously near to loving a number of men.

Miss Berry, in her memoirs, accuses her of a “passion” for Talleyrand,
and spoke as though concluding it to be a theme of common gossip. She
certainly liked to absorb a great deal of her friends’ affection, and
was avowedly displeased when they married. Her sentiments towards Baron
de Staël, full of a sweet and fresh cordiality at first, seems rapidly
to have changed to aversion. As far as it is possible to judge, she
unhesitatingly sacrificed him on all occasions to her filial love or her
intellectual aims. When he was in Paris she left him in order to console
M. Necker in his mournful retirement at Coppet. When he was at Coppet she
remained in Paris, there to form and electrify a constitutional salon.
Various anecdotes attest to the scandal uttered about her, and the truth
of some of these stories admits of little doubt. But, on the other hand,
it must be remembered that detraction is ever busiest with the greatest
names; that Madame de Staël, always preoccupied with her subject and
never with herself, irritated the nerves and stirred the bile of inferior
people who were proportionately gratified to hear her attacked; and that
she lived in the midst of a society where conjugal fidelity was rare
enough to be hardly believed in. Countless passages in her writings prove
how exalted was her ideal of family life; and if they also prove her
constant, restless yearning after some unattained, unattainable good,
there is at least no sign of the satiety of exhausted emotion in them.
Let us be content, then, that in many instances a veil should hide from
us the deeper recesses of Madame de Staël’s heart. Grant that there were
two Germaines—one her father’s daughter, lofty-minded, pure, catching
the infection of exalted feelings, and incapable of error; the other her
husband’s wife, thrust into the fiery circle of human passion, thence
to emerge a little scorched and harmed. The hidden centre of that dual
self cannot be revealed to us; but what we do know is sometimes so grand
and always so great that we can afford to be indulgent when reduced to

In 1791, after having paid a visit of condolence to her father at
Coppet, Madame de Staël had returned to Paris, and made her salon the
rallying-point for the most distinguished Constitutionels. Conspicuous
among these, in principles although not in name, was De Narbonne,
described by Madame de Staël herself as “_Grand seigneur, homme d’esprit,
courtisan et philosophe_.” He was a brilliant, an enlightened, a
generous and charming man. His sympathies were liberal; it would have
been too much to expect from him that they should be subversive. He
had been brought up in the enervating atmosphere of the Court, yet had
adopted many of the new ideas. After having accomplished the difficult
and perilous enterprise of escorting the King’s aunts to Rome, and
establishing them under the roof of the Cardinal de Bernis, he returned
to Paris and ranged himself on the side of the Constitution. His
soldier-soul (he was an extremely gallant officer) would not allow of his
going any farther along the facile descent of change. The King’s abortive
attempt at escape and subsequent imprisonment in the Tuileries restored
to Narbonne all the fervor which his allegiance as a courtier might
originally have lacked. But he was a very intelligent man, so much so,
that Napoleon himself years later rendered justice to his sagacity. He
had serious tastes and a great love of knowledge, and was almost as witty
as Talleyrand himself. He was made Minister of War in December, 1791,
and the general impression prevailed that Madame de Staël’s influence
had contributed to his appointment. He was young and full of hope, and
proposed to himself the impossible task of encouraging the action of the
Assembly at the same time as he sought to reconstruct the popularity of
the King. He also exerted himself to prepare France for resistance to
the armies of foreign invaders; visited the frontier; reported the state
of things there to the Assembly; provisioned the forts; re-established
garrisons, and organized three armies. But what he could not do was to
inspire anybody with confidence in himself. “Too black for heaven, too
white for hell,” he could neither rise to the sublime ineptitude of
deluded royalism nor sink to the brutal logic of facts. Curtly dismissed
by the King, at the end of three months, on resigning the portfolio he
resumed the sword.

To defend his ungrateful sovereign was his religion, since, in spite
of his talents, he did not reach the point of perceiving that there
is a moment in the history of every nation when individuals must be
sacrificed to principles. Perhaps this preoccupation of minds, naturally
enlightened, with merely personal issues is the real key to all that
was tragically mysterious in the Revolution. Madame de Staël herself
deplored the fate of the King and Queen with precisely the same wealth
of compassion that she would have expressed on the occasion of some
catastrophe involving hundreds of obscure lives. It seemed as though
only such sanguinary monomaniacs as Robespierre or St. Just, only such
corrupt and colossal natures as Mirabeau or Danton, could look below the
accidental circumstances of an event to its enduring elements. All that
was morally and vitally, as distinguished from mentally and potentially,
best in France threw itself into passionate defence of persons; while all
that was strong, original, consistent, was drawn into the fatal policy of

A few months after Narbonne’s fall, Madame de Staël endeavored to
associate him in a plan which her pity had suggested to her for the
escape of the Royal Family. She wished to buy a property that was for
sale near Dieppe. Thus furnished with a pretext for visiting the coast,
she proposed to make three journeys thither. On the first two occasions
she was to be accompanied by her eldest son, who was the age of the
Dauphin, by a man resembling the King in height and general appearance,
and by two women sufficiently like the Queen and Madame Elisabeth. In her
third journey she would have left the original party behind and taken
with her the whole of the Royal Family. But the King and Queen refused
to co-operate in this romantic and courageous plan. Their motives were
not unselfish. Louis XVI. objected to Narbonne’s share in the scheme;
and Marie Antoinette, who regarded the double representation of the Tiers
Etat as the cause of all her woes, detested Necker’s daughter.

When the Tuileries was invaded by the mob, M. Necker, who was already
at Coppet, and knew that the Baron de Staël had been recalled to
Sweden, wrote urging his daughter to join him. But she was chained to
Paris, fascinated by the very scenes that revolted her, and anxious to
intervene if only to save. She assisted, with slender sympathy for the
revolutionaries, at the celebration of the 14th July in the Champs de
Mars, and was wrung with pity for the tear-stained countenance of the
Queen, whose magnificent toilet and dignified bearing contrasted with the
squalor of her cortège. Madame de Staël’s eyes were fixed with longing
compassion on the figure of the King as he ascended the steps of the
altar, there to swear for the second time to preserve the Constitution.
His powdered head, so lately desecrated by the _bonnet rouge_, and
gold-embroidered coat struck her imagination painfully as the vain
symbols of vanished ease and splendor.

Then came the terrible night of the 9th August, during which, from
midnight to morning, the tocsins never ceased sounding. “I was at my
window with some of my friends” (wrote Madame de Staël), “and every
fifteen minutes the volunteer patrol of the Constitutionels brought us
news. We were told that the faubourgs were advancing headed by Santerre
the brewer and Westermann.… Nobody could foresee what would happen the
next day, and nobody expected to survive it.… All at once (at 7 o’clock)
came the terrible sound of cannon. In this first combat the Swiss Guards
were victors.”

The tidings—partly false, as afterwards proved—were brought her of the
massacre of Lally Tollendal, Narbonne, Montmorency, and others of her
friends; and at once, regardless of peril, she went out in her carriage
to hear if the news were true. After two hours of fruitless efforts to
pass, she learnt that all those in whom she was most interested were
still alive, but in hiding; and, as soon as the evening came, she sallied
forth once more to visit them in the obscure houses where they had taken
refuge. Later, she came to have but one thought, which was to save as
many as she could of her friends. They were unwilling at first to take
shelter in her house as being too conspicuous; but she would listen to
no such objections. Two yielded to her persuasions, and one of these was
Narbonne. He was shut up with his companion in the safest room, while the
intrepid hostess established herself in the front apartments, and there,
in great anxiety, awaited a domiciliary visit from the authorities. They
were not long in coming and in demanding M. de Narbonne. To permit a
search was practically to deliver up the victim. Madame de Staël’s whole
mind was consequently bent on averting investigation.

The police agents were exceptionally ignorant, and of this fact she was
quick to take advantage. She began by instilling alarm into them as to
the violation of rights which they committed in invading the house of
an ambassador, and she followed this up by informing them that Sweden,
being on the frontier of France, would descend upon that offending land
immediately. She next passed to pleasantries, and succeeded so well
in cajoling her visitors that they finally allowed themselves to be
gracefully bowed out. Four days later a false passport supplied by a
friend of Madame de Staël allowed Narbonne to escape to England.

The Swedish ambassadress herself could easily have left France at any
moment, but she lingered on from day to day, unwilling to quit the
country while so many of her friends were in danger; and she was rewarded
at last by the opportunity of interfering to save Jaucourt, who had been
conveyed to the Abbaye—now aptly named “the Ante-chamber of Death.”
Madame de Staël knew none of the members of the Commune, but, with her
unfailing presence of mind, she remembered that one of them, Manuel,
the _procureur_, had some pretensions to be literary. These pretensions
being greater than his talent, Madame de Staël rightly concluded that he
possessed sufficient vanity to be moved by solicitation. She wrote to
ask for an interview, which was accorded her for the next morning at 7
o’clock in the official’s own house.

“The hour was democratic,” she remarks, but she was careful to be
punctual. Her eloquence achieved an easy victory over Manuel, who, unlike
so many of his colleagues, was no fanatic; and on the 1st of September he
made Madame de Staël happy by writing to inform her that, thanks to his
good offices, Jaucourt had been set at liberty.

She now, at last, determined to quit France the next day, but not alone.
Resolute to the end in risking her life for that of others, she consented
to take the Abbé de Montesquion with her in the disguise of a domestic,
and convey him safely into Switzerland. A passport obtained for one
of her servants was given to one of his, and a place on the high road
indicated as a rendezvous where the Abbé was to join her suite.

When the next morning dawned a fresh element of terror had invaded the
public mind. The news of the fall of Longwy and Verdun had arrived and
Paris was in effervescence. Again in all the sections the tocsin was
sounding; and everybody whose own life was his chief preoccupation kept
as quiet as possible. But Madame de Staël could not keep quiet—that
was impossible for her at all times—and at this moment the image
paramount in her mind was that of the poor Abbé waiting anxiously at
his rendezvous—perhaps only to be discovered if his generous deliverer

Turning a deaf ear to all remonstrance, she started in a
travelling-carriage drawn by six horses, and accompanied by her servants
in gala livery. This was an unfortunate inspiration. Instead of filling
the minds of the vulgar with awe, as she had vainly hoped, it aroused
their vigilant suspicions. The carriage had hardly passed under the
portals of the hotel before it was surrounded by a furious crowd of old
women, “risen from hell,” as Madame de Staël energetically expressed it,
who shrieked out that she was carrying away the gold of the nation. This
intelligent outcry brought a new contingent of exasperated patriots of
both sexes, who ordered the fugitive Ambassadress to be conveyed to the
Assembly of the Section nearest at hand.

She did not lose her presence of mind, but on descending from the
carriage found an opportunity of bidding the Abbé’s servant rejoin his
master and tell him of what had happened. This step proved to be a very
dangerous one. The President of the Section informed Madame de Staël
that she was accused of seeking to take away proscribed royalists, and
that he must proceed to a roll-call of her servants. One of them was
missing, naturally, having been despatched to save his own master; and
the consequence was a peremptory order to Madame de Staël to proceed to
the Hôtel de Ville under charge of a gendarme. Such a command was not
calculated to inspire her with any sentiment but fear. Several people had
already been massacred on the steps of the Hôtel de Ville; and although
no woman had yet been sacrificed to popular fury, there was no guarantee
for such immunity lasting; and, as a point of fact, the Princess de
Lamballe fell the very next day.

Madame de Staël’s passage from the Faubourg Saint Germain to the Hôtel
de Ville lasted three hours. Her carriage was led at a foot-pace through
an immense crowd, which greeted her with reiterated cries of “Death!” It
was not herself they detested, she says, but the evidences of her luxury;
for the news of the morning had brought more opprobrium than ever on the
execrated name of aristocrat. Fortunately, the gendarme who was inside
the carriage was touched by his prisoner’s situation and her delicate
condition of health, and her prayers, and promised to do what he could to
defend her. By degrees her courage rose. She knew that the worse moment
must be that in which she would reach the Place de Grève; but by the time
she arrived there aversion for the mob had almost overcome in her every
feeling but disdain.

She mounted the steps of the Hôtel de Ville between a double row of
pikes, and one man made a movement to strike her. Thanks to the prompt
interposition of the friendly gendarme, she was able, however, to reach
the presence of Robespierre in safety. The room in which she found him
was full of an excited crowd of men, women and children, all emulously
shrieking, “_Vive la Nation!_”

The Swedish Ambassadress was just beginning to protest officially against
the treatment she had met with, when Manuel arrived on the scene. Never
was any apparition more opportune. Greatly astonished to see his late
illustrious visitor in such a position, he promptly undertook to answer
for her until the Commune had made up its mind what to do with her; and
conveying her and her maid to his own house, shut them up in the same
cabinet where Madame de Staël had pleaded for Jaucourt.

There they remained for six hours, “dying of hunger, thirst, and
fear.” The windows of the room looked out upon the Place de Grève,
and consequently offered the spectacle of bands of yelling murderers
returning from the prisons “with bare and bleeding arms.”

Madame de Staël’s travelling carriage had remained in the middle of the
square. She expected to see it pillaged; but a man in the uniform of the
National Guard came to the rescue and passed two hours in successfully
defending the luggage.

This individual turned out to be the redoubtable Santerre. He introduced
himself later in the day to Madame de Staël, and took credit for his
conduct on the ground of the respect with which M. Necker had inspired
him when distributing corn to the starving population of Paris.

In the evening Manuel, pallid with horror at the events of that awful
day, took Madame de Staël back to her own house, through streets of which
the obscurity was only relieved at moments by the lurid glare of torches.
He told her that he had procured a new passport for herself and her maid
alone; and that she was to be escorted to the frontier by a gendarme.

The next day Tallien arrived, appointed by the Commune to accompany her
to the barriers. Several suspected aristocrats were present when he was
announced. Most people under such circumstances would have taken care to
be found alone; but Madame de Staël remained undaunted to the end. She
simply begged Tallien to be discreet, and he fortunately proved so. A few
more difficulties had to be encountered before she was fairly in safety;
but at last she reached the pure air and peaceful scenes of the Jura.



Madame de Staël arrived at Coppet about the beginning of September,
1792. The life there, after her recent experiences in Paris, so far from
seeming to her one of welcome rest, fretted her ardent spirit almost
beyond endurance. She longed to be back in France, even under the shadow
of the guillotine, anywhere but in front of the lake, with its inexorable
beauty and maddening calm.

“The whole of Switzerland inspires me with magnificent horror,” she wrote
to her husband, who was still in Sweden. “Sometimes I think that if I
were in Paris with a title which they would be forced to respect, I might
be of use to a number of individuals, and with that hope I would brave
everything. I perceive, with some pain, that the thing which least suits
me in the world is this peaceful and rustic life. I have put down my
horses for economy’s sake, and because I feel my solitude less when I do
not see anybody.”

By “anybody” it is to be presumed that she meant the good Swiss, whose
expressions of horror, doubtless as monotonous as reiterated, must have
been irritating to one whose single desire night and day, was to cast
herself into the arena, there to combat and to save. One outlet she found
for her activity in perpetual plans for enabling her friends, and often
her enemies, to escape from Paris.

The scheme which she projected was to find some man or woman, as the case
might be, who would enter France with Swiss passports, certificates,
etc., and after getting these properly _visés_, would hand them over to
the person who was to be saved.

Nothing could be simpler, Madame de Staël averred; and as she provided
money, time, thought, energy, and presumably infected her agents with a
little of her own enthusiasm, her efforts were often successful. Among
those who engaged her attention were Mathieu de Montmorency, François de
Jaucourt, the Princess de Poix and Madame de Simiane.

Among the people whom she saved, and whose rescue she records with the
most complacency, is that of young Achille du Chayla. He was a nephew
of De Jaucourt’s, and was residing at Coppet under a Swedish name—(M.
de Staël had lent himself to many friendly devices of that kind). The
news came that Du Chayla, when trying to escape across the frontier
under cover of a Swiss passport, had been arrested at a frontier town on
suspicion of being what he truly was—a refugee Frenchman. Nevertheless,
the authorities declared themselves willing to release him if the
Lieutenant Baillival of Nyon would attest that he was Swiss. What was
to be done? To bring M. Reverdil, the functionary aforesaid, to such a
declaration seemed well-nigh hopeless, and Jaucourt was in despair. His
nephew, if once his identity were discovered, had no chance of escape
from death; for not only was his name on the list of the suspected ones,
but his father actually held a command under Condé’s banner. This was one
of the opportunities in which Madame de Staël delighted. Her spirits rose
at once in the face of such difficulties. Fortunately, M. Reverdil was
an old friend of her family; she believed that she would be able to melt
him, and she hurried away to try.

The task was more arduous than she had anticipated. M. Reverdil (by her
own confession one of the most enlightened of Swiss magistrates) turned
out to have a sturdy conscience and an uncomfortable amount of common
sense. He represented to his ardent visitor, first, that he would be
wrong in uttering a falsehood for any motive; next, that in his official
position he might compromise his country by making a false attestation.
“If the truth be discovered,” he urged, “we shall no longer have the
right of claiming our own compatriots when arrested in France; and thus
I should jeopardize the interest of those who are confided to me for
the sake of saving a man towards whom I have no duties.” M. Reverdil’s
arguments had “a very plausible side,” Madame de Staël allowed thus
much herself; but the good man little knew with whom he had to deal if
he thought that such cold justice would have the least effect on his
petitioner. She swept all paltry considerations as to the remote danger
of unknown, unromantic Swiss burghers to the winds. Her object was to
bring back to Jaucourt the assurance of his young nephew’s safety; and
from this no abstract principles could turn her.

She remained two hours with M. Reverdil, arguing, entreating, imploring.
The task she proposed to herself was, in her own words, “to vanquish his
conscience by his humanity.” He remained inflexible for a long while,
but his visitor reiterating to him, “If you say No, an only son, a man
without reproach, will be assassinated within twenty-four hours, and your
simple word will have killed him,” he ultimately succumbed. Madame de
Staël says it was his emotion that triumphed; it is just possible that it
was sheer physical exhaustion. Madame de Staël was at no time a quiet
person to deal with; when excited, as in the present instance, she must
have been overpowering.

It was shortly after these events that Madame de Staël visited England,
and while there went to Mickleham, there to be introduced to, and for
a time to captivate, Fanny Burney. Except Talleyrand, she was the most
illustrious of the brilliant band of exiles gathered together at Juniper
Hall, and familiar to all readers of the memoirs of Madame d’Arblay and
the journal of Mrs. Phillips. It is well known how Fanny withdrew from
her intimacy with the future author of _Corinne_ on learning the stories
which connected the latter’s name with Narbonne. Mrs. Phillips herself
was much more indulgent, and Madame de Staël appears to have felt a
grateful liking for her; but it is evident that she was deeply hurt at
Fanny’s coldness. The approbation of a nature so narrow could hardly
have affected her much, one would think, and yet it is plain that she
longed for it—she longed indeed, all her life for such things as she
possessed not. She could sacrifice her wishes at all times generously and
unregretfully, but she never knew how to bear being denied one of them.

In all the glimpses one obtains of Madame de Staël, in different
countries and from different people, she never seems quite so womanly,
so imperfect and yet so pathetic, as in these journals of Mrs. Phillips.
Perhaps the reason of it is that one divines in her at this time a
sentiment which, if erring, was simple and _true_, while many of her
later sorrows gained a kind of factitious grandeur from the train of
political circumstances attendant on them. Mrs. Phillips was present when
Madame de Staël received the letter which summoned her to rejoin her
husband at Coppet, and relates the effect produced upon her. She was most
frankly inconsolable, spoke again and again of her sorrow at going, and
made endless entreaties to Mrs. Phillips to attend to the wants, spirits
and affairs of the friends whom she was leaving. She even charged her
with a message of forgiveness for the ungrateful Fanny, and fairly sobbed
when parting with Mrs. Folk.

Madame de Staël did not leave Coppet again until after the Revolution.
Her life seems to have passed with a monotony that the long drama of
horror slowly culminating in Paris rendered tragically sombre. She
continued her efforts—every day more difficult of accomplishment and
sterile of results—to save her friends and foes; and when the Queen was
arraigned, she wrote, in a few days, that eloquent and well-known defence
of her which called down upon the writer the applause of every generous
heart in Europe.

The Neckers during this period seem to have seen very little society.
Gibbon was almost their only friend; and in 1794 he went to England,
and a few months later died. The next to go was Madame Necker herself.
She had long been ill, and her last few months of life were embittered
by cruel pain. She had prepared for her end with the minute and morbid
care that might have been expected from her. The tomb at Coppet in
which she rests, together with her husband and daughter, was built in
conformity with her wishes, and in great part under her eyes. She died
on 6th May, 1794. M. Necker felt her death acutely, and for months not
even his daughter’s sympathy could console him. Madame Necker had one of
those self-tormenting natures which poison the existence of others in
embittering their own. Too noble to be slighted, and too exacting to be
appeased, they work out the doom of unachieved desires; and when they
go to be wrapt in eternal mystery, their parting gift to their loved
ones is a vague remorse and doubting. Silent themselves when they might
have spoken, they leave an unanswered question in the hearts of their
survivors. Monsieur Necker, with his exaggerated consciousness, must
have asked himself repeatedly if he had cared for his strange and loving
wife enough. Madame de Staël mourned her mother sincerely, but it is
clear that the keenest edge of her grief came from contemplation of her

Three months had not elapsed after Madame Necker’s death when the 9th
Thermidor dawned, and at its close, all sanguinary as that appalling
termination was, France drew one long sigh of inconceivable relief,
for Robespierre had fallen. The Directory followed, and Baron de Staël
having been re-nominated to his post, his wife lost no time in hurrying
back to Paris. There, true to her indefatigable self, she immediately
set about obtaining the eradication of her friends’ names from the list
of the proscribed _émigrés_. From this moment her opinions, and with
them her character, underwent a certain change. She had been a moderate
royalist; she became avowedly a republican. But her republicanism was of
a strangely abstract and eclectic sort, and it was dashed with so many
personal leanings towards monarchists that it resulted in nothing better
than a spirit of intrigue.

She could not understand that the law, whatever it may be, which governs
circumstances, makes no account of individuals. She believed that, by
causing Mathieu de Montmorency and Talleyrand to be recalled from exile,
and inspiring Benjamin Constant with the loftiest ideals, she could
obliterate the blood-stained past and reverse the logic of events. When
everybody (everybody, that is, whom she cared about) should have been
restored to peace, prosperity, and the air of France, she conceived that
the study of metaphysical systems and the cultivation of the affections
would alone be needed to re-model and perfect humanity.

With this in view she toiled and plotted unceasingly, clasping the hands
of regicides like Barras, rubbing skirts with such women as Tallien, and
sacrificing her own pet ideal of womanly duty, which consisted, as she
repeatedly proclaimed, in loving and being loved, and leaving the jarring
strife of politics to men.

Had she remained in France, she must inevitably have been betrayed
into greater inconsistencies still. But, fortunately for her fame,
her intellect, and her character, the period was approaching in which
Bonaparte’s aversion was to condemn her to a decade of illustrious exile.



In all its varied story, the world probably never offered a stranger
spectacle than that presented by Paris when Madame de Staël returned to
it in 1795. The mixture of classes was only equalled by the confusion
of opinions, and these, in their turn, were proclaimed by the oddest
contrasts in costumes. _Muscadins_ in gray coats and green cravats
twirled their canes insolently in the faces of wearers of greasy
_carmagnoles_; while the powdered pigtails of reactionaries announced the
aristocratic contempt of their wearers for the close-cropped heads of the

To the squalid orgies in the streets, illuminated by stinking oil-lamps,
and varied by the rumble of the tumbrils, had succeeded the salons where
Josephine Beauharnais displayed her Creole grace, and _Notre Dame de
Thermidor_ sought to wield the social sceptre of decapitated princesses.
Already royalism had revived, although furtively, and fans on which the
name of the coming King could be read but by initiated eyes, were passed
from hand to hand in the cafés of “Coblentz.” A strange light-hearted
nervous gayety—intoxicating as champagne—had dissipated the lurid gloom
of the Terror; the dumbness of horror had given way to a reckless
contempt for tyranny. A sordid, demented mania for speculation had
invaded all classes, and refined and delicate women trafficked in pounds
of sugar or yards of cloth.

An enormous sensation was produced by Ducancel’s _Nouveaux Aristides, ou
l’Intérieur des Comités Révolutionnaires_, a comedy in which its author
distilled into every line the hoarded bitterness of his soul against the

Barras flaunted his cynical sensuality and shameless waste in the face
of a bankrupt society; and austere revolutionaries, beguiled into the
enervating atmosphere of the gilded salons, sold their principles with a
stroke of the same pen that restored some illustrious proscribed one to
his family. “Every one of us was soliciting the return of some _émigré_
among his friends,” writes Madame de Staël. “I obtained several recalls
at this period; and in consequence the deputy Legendre, almost a man
of the people, denounced me from the tribune of the Convention. The
influence of women and the power of good society seemed very dangerous
to those who were excluded, but whose colleagues were invited to be
seduced. One saw on _decadis_, for Sundays existed no longer, all the
elements of the old and new _régime_ united, but not reconciled.”

Into this seething world Madame de Staël threw herself with
characteristic activity. Legendre’s attack upon her, foiled by Barras,
could not deter her from interference. Her mind being fixed upon
some ideal Republic, she was anxious to blot out all record of past
intolerance. The prospect of restoring an aristocrat to his home, or of
shielding him from fresh dangers, invariably proved irresistible to her.
Nevertheless she was quick to perceive and to signalize the folly of
the reactionaries; and she felt but scant sympathy with the mad attempt
at a monarchical restoration known in history as the 13th Vendémiaire.
She uttered no word of palliation for the massacres committed by the
Royalists in Lyons and Marseilles, and she was more than willing to
admit the benefits conferred on France by the first six months of the
Government of the Directory.

But she could not be happy at the continued exclusion of the nobles and
clericals, and any appeal from one of them touched her with all the
force of old association. Talleyrand had not returned from America when
her eloquence induced Chénier to address the Convention in favor of his
recall. Montesquion next claimed her attention, and in consequence of
all this she became an object of suspicion and was accused of exciting
revolt. The Government, indeed, thought her so dangerous that, at one
moment, when she was at Coppet, they ordered her to be arrested and
brought to Paris, there to be imprisoned. Barras, however, defended her,
as she relates, “with warmth and generosity,” and, thanks to him, she was
enabled to return, a free agent, to France.

Throughout the events preceding the _coup d’État_ of the 18th Fructidor,
Madame de Staël was keenly alive to the danger which threatened and
eventually overtook her friends among the Moderates. To act, in these
circumstances, was with her a second nature. Her relations with Barras
had naturally become very friendly; and she used her influence to obtain
the nomination of Talleyrand to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “His
nomination was the only part that I took in the crisis preceding the 18th
Fructidor, and which I hoped by such means to avert,” she wrote. “One was
justified in hoping that the intelligence of M. de Talleyrand would bring
about a reconciliation between the two parties. Since then I have not had
the least share in the different phases of his political career.”

There is a ring of disappointment in these words; but how could Madame de
Staël, with her supposed infallible insight, ever have believed in such
a nature?

“It is necessary to serve someone,” was the answer of a noble when
reproached for accepting the office of chamberlain to one of Napoleon’s
sisters. Madame de Staël records the reply with scorn; but she should,
one thinks, have recognized the fibre of just such a man in the Bishop of
Autun. The proscription extending on all sides after the 18th Fructidor,
Madame de Staël’s intervention became unceasing. She learnt the danger
incurred by Dupont de Nemours, according to her “the most chivalrous
champion of liberty” France possessed, and straightway she betook
herself to Chénier, who, two years previously, had made the speech to
which Talleyrand owed his recall. Her eloquence soon fired the nervous,
violent-natured, but imaginative author, and, hurrying to the tribune,
he succeeded in saving Dupont de Nemours, by representing him as a man
of eighty, whereas he was barely sixty. This device displeased the very
person in whose favor it was adopted; but Madame de Staël saved her
friends in spite of themselves.

So much energy could not be displayed with impunity, and the Committee of
Public Safety caused a hint to be conveyed to the Baron de Staël, which
induced his wife to retire for a short time to the country. According
to Thibaudeau, indeed, the hint was in the first instance a distinct
order to quit France, and M. de Staël cut a somewhat sorry figure when
appearing before the Committee to protest against it. In spite of his
“embarrassed air” and “want of dignity,” he managed to convey to his
hearers that to expel the wife of an ambassador would be a violation of
rights; and after some discussion the decree was withdrawn. Nevertheless,
probably yielding to the prudent representations of her husband, Madame
de Staël did retire for a while, and took refuge with a friend. We may
suppose that she felt greatly aggrieved and ill-used, and yet it cannot
be denied that her qualities—rare and noble though they might be—were not
of a nature to recommend her to a Revolutionary Government. One can even
affirm that they were not of a sort to recommend her to any Government.
Her talents, her wealth and her position gave her immense social power.
When she used this, as she repeatedly did, to inspire officials with
disobedience to orders, and to save the lives of reactionary prisoners at
the risk of ruining radical functionaries, it is not to be wondered at if
the selfish majority regarded her interference as exceedingly pernicious.

It may even be questioned whether her influence at this time was
intrinsically valuable. Her state of excited feeling kept her floating
between sympathy with principles and sympathy with individuals. The
result was an eclecticism of feeling, which reflected itself in the
composition of her salon. Had she been able to declare herself frankly
either Monarchical or Republican she might have left some lasting impress
on the destinies of her land. As it was, she was kept in a condition of
restless activity which, while sterile of intellectual results, brought
her into disrepute as a conspirator.

The time was now rapidly approaching when Bonaparte was to cross her
path, and, as she chose to conceive it, to spoil her existence. The
instrument of destiny in this instance was Benjamin Constant. Immediately
after the fall of Robespierre he arrived—a young old man, world-weary,
full of unsteady force, and warmed by an inner flame of passion that
sometimes smouldered but never died down.

A Bernese noble, he had been reared in aristocratic prejudices, but his
life was early embittered by domestic circumstances and the political
conditions of his country. After being educated at Oxford, Edinburgh,
and in Germany, he was forced by his father to accept the post of
Chamberlain at the Court of Brunswick. Ariel in the cloven pine was not
more heart-sick, with the difference that Constant’s “delicate” spirit
was dashed by a vein of mephistophelian mockery. Some malignant fairy
seemed to have linked to his flashing and unerring insight a disposition
the most cynical of which man ever carried the burden through sixty-three
years of life. Being utterly unwarped by illusion, he could place
himself on the side of opposition with telling effect, for he could
neither deceive himself nor be deceived by others; and if not rigidly
conscientious, he was inexorably logical.

At war with the authorities of his native land, too familiarized with
order to be further charmed by it, and tired of the solemn absurdities of
Court functions, he turned his thoughts towards revolutionary Paris as
being, perhaps, the one city in the world which could still afford him a
fresh sensation. Moreover, every element of originality and audacity in
his brilliant mind was attracted by the amazing spectacle then presented
by the Convention. A government which, deprived of organized armies,
money, or traditions, confronted with a European coalition, and weighted
with the responsibility of crime, had conquered its enemies in the field,
and made its will respected from the Pyrenees to the Rhine, was exactly
of a kind to fascinate a born combatant like Constant. He arrived, eager
to be initiated into that strange world; longing to find himself in the
salons of Madame Tallien, Josephine Beauharnais and Madame de Staël.

Hitherto his Egeria had been Madame de Charrière, a charming middle-aged
monitress, Dutch by birth, but French by right of intellect and choice of
language. Her delicate penetration and subtle sympathy with minor moods
had doubtless for years responded precisely to his ideal; for if she
might not excite neither could she bore him; and she must have understood
his fastidious notions even before he could express them. She was, in
fact, perfection, as long as he was still too young to mind feeling old;
but there necessarily came a moment when that unconscious comedy was
played out. The fitful energy of his nature had gradually vanquished his
early lassitude, and he needed to renew his utterances at the founts of
some Sybilline inspiration.

Madame de Staël appears simply to have overwhelmed him; and the effect
which he produced on her was not less startling. Her salon was the
rallying-ground of contradictory individualities. She believed in
those days that she could reconcile Irreconcilables, and she welcomed
Conventionnels like Chénier and Roederer, stranded “survivals” of a
vanished epoch like Suard, Morellet and Laharpe; and aristocrats, some
of them altogether soured and worn out, like Castellane, Choiseul and
Narbonne. Into this political menagerie Constant fell like a spirit
from another world. Applauding the Revolution, yet having played no
part in it, he was its virgin knight. There was something strange and
attractive also in his appearance; a certain awkwardness in figure and
gesture joined to a handsome, clever, young face and long, fair hair.
Just at that moment (1795) the predominant tendency in Madame de Staël’s
salon was hostile to the Government. She professed herself already to
be converted to Republicanism, and probably was so in theory, but she
had not yet overcome her aversion to the real revolutionaries. Either
directly through her influence or with her tacit consent, Constant was
induced to publish three letters protesting against the admission of two
thirds of the old Convention into the new body of Representatives. The
success which followed was prodigious. All the women of the Royalist
party flattered and caressed him, and all the journalists extolled him
to the skies. Constant, however, was not the man to bear that kind of
petting long, he required excitement with some keener edge to it, and
was, moreover, too logical, too naturally enlightened and liberal to
endorse reactionary platitudes. He hastened to disavow the letters,
and although he did not find it easy to disabuse the public mind of
its first impression, he was careful not to deepen this by any further
mistakes. During the following four years his intimacy with Madame de
Staël flourished and grew apace. They acted and reacted upon one another
by the law of their opposing natures. His ardor was as uncertain as hers
was steady; but whenever he caught fresh fire, it came from her. On the
other hand, the tormenting kind of cruelty which belonged to his cynical
caprice seems to have cast a spell over Madame de Staël’s own warm and
frank simplicity which she found it difficult to break.

To Constant, at this time, belongs the merit of having appreciated her
thoroughly and defended her warmly—if not invariably, at any rate in
his truer moments. On his very first meeting with her, which was in
Switzerland, she enthralled him instantaneously; perhaps all the more so
that, like most people, he had been prejudiced against her by hearsay. He
wrote to Madame de Charrière, who seems to have felt and expressed some
bitterness regarding his new acquaintance, that she should get rid of the
idea that Madame de Staël was nothing more than a “talking machine.”

He praised her lively interest in everyone who suffered, and her courage
in scheming for the escape of her friends and enemies. He admitted that
she might be active partly because she could not help it; but silenced
further carping by the remark that her activity was well employed. In
about a month more his admiration had risen to enthusiasm, and he
could hardly find words in which to praise the brilliancy and accuracy
of mind, the exquisite goodness, the generosity and social politeness,
the simplicity and charm of his latest friend. He declared that she
knew just as well how to listen as to talk (a point on which many both
before and after Madame de Charrière differed from him), and that she
enjoyed the talents of other people quite as much as her own. This was
perfectly true. No woman ever breathed who was less envious than Madame
de Staël; but, on the other hand, what woman’s intellect was ever so
unapproachable? At the time, however, of her first acquaintance with
Constant, her literary reputation was still to make, and it is not to be
wondered at, consequently, if Madame de Charrière felt more inclined to
question than agree when informed that this restless female politician
was a being of so superior a sort that her like could not be met with
once in a century.

About 1796 Madame de Staël took a new departure. Perhaps thanks to
Constant’s enlightened views, perhaps thanks merely to her own common
sense, she felt the full futility of reactionary effort, and ranged
herself frankly on the side of the Directory. The royalist Club de Clichy
was by this time an accomplished fact; and to neutralize its mischievous
influence the Cercle Constitutionnel had been formed at the Hôtel de
Salm. For some time Madame de Staël was the soul of these meetings,
and Constant was their orator. Finally, when a fresh division in the
Convention declared itself, and a large number of deputies deserted the
Directory, Madame de Staël and Constant exerted themselves to prove
that such dissensions could profit only the two extremes of Royalists
or Terrorists, but never the Moderates. Naturally, the latter were deaf
(when have Moderates eyes to see or ears to hear in moments of vital
significance?), and Madame de Staël’s worst previsions were justified
by the events of the 18th Fructidor. The establishment, two years
later, of the Consulate, while filling Madame de Staël’s noble soul
with dismay, offered Constant the opportunity assigned to him by his
talents. He entered then upon the course of opposition from which he did
not again deviate until sixteen years later, when he yielded either to
Napoleon’s personal charm, the fascination of his deeds, and the hope of
his repentance, or to the profound disgust of a world-worn man with the
imbecility of the Restoration.

This is how Constant, in 1800, described the state of the public mind in

“The predominating idea was: Liberty has done us harm, and we wish for
it no longer; and those who modestly pointed out to these candidates
for slavery that the evils of the Revolution came precisely from the
fact that the Revolution had suspended liberty, were hounded through the
salons under the names of Jacobins and Anarchists. A nation which begged
for slavery from a military chieftain of thirty, who had covered himself
with glory, might count upon its wishes being gratified; and they were.”

These few lines are a good example of Constant’s incisive intellect and
biting style. Another man with such gifts would have retired disgusted
from all opposition; but Constant loved fighting for its own sake.
Perhaps he loved the combat better than the cause; but that is one of
the secrets which it is given to no one to fathom. Whatever the central
motive, the final fact of his complex and interesting nature, he proved
himself the ideal leader of a forlorn hope.

By the contemporaries of Constant and Madame de Staël the connection
between these two brilliant minds was, as might be expected, variously
judged. Later critics have asserted that he was completely under her
influence, but it is more likely that his native cynicism and spurious
passion alternately irritated and dominated her. She may have inspired,
but she could not mould, a nature so original and perverse.

Chênedollé said of Madame de Staël about this time that she had more
intelligence than she could manage, and in this there was probably some
truth. She had hardly begun to write as yet, having published (besides
some pamphlets) only the _Letters on Rousseau_, and her work on the
_Passions_. Her turbulence of ideas, scarcely then reduced to any system,
must necessarily have been crystallized at moments by contact with a more
definite mind.



The hostility between Madame de Staël and Napoleon was inevitable,
since not a single point of sympathy existed between them. Her moral
superiority, unselfishness, romantic ardor and sincerity, were precisely
the qualities for which he would feel contempt, as being incompatible
with the singleness of individual purpose, serene indifference to
suffering, and calm acceptance of means which are necessary to material
success. Madame de Staël was intimately convinced that not only honesty,
but every other virtue constituted the best policy. Napoleon treated all
such amiable theories as mere sentimentalism. If occasionally sensual
from love of excitement, he was essentially passionless, and looked
upon women as toys, not as sentient beings. He hated them to have ideas
of their own; he liked them to be elegant, graceful and pretty. He was
brought into contact with Madame de Staël—a woman overflowing with
passion, energy and intellect, large of person, loud of voice, careless
in attire. She had generally found her eloquence invincible, and he meant
nothing to be invincible but his system. She had every reason to believe
in her talent, and proclaimed that belief somewhat obstreperously; while
he was disgusted at not being able to differ from her, and at finding
that there was still one light which could shine unquenched beside his
star. He usually succeeded in repressing people so entirely as to leave
alive in them no possibility of protest; but she was, by her nature,
irrepressible. It is true that she records having felt suffocated in
his presence, but such a feeling could not have endured in her long.
A very little familiarity would have transformed it into impatient
rebellion. For Napoleon society, with a few exceptions, was composed of
dummies, some of them a little more tangible and resisting than others,
consequently more difficult to thrust out of the way. The individual
had no intrinsic value for him, but was simply a factor in the sum
of success. Madame de Staël admired everybody who was clever, loved
everybody who was good, pitied everybody who was sorrowful. She detested
oppression, and fought against it and conquered, if not materially, at
least morally, although sometimes she hardly foresaw when engaging in it
how much the fight would cost her. In the beginning of her acquaintance
with him Madame de Staël evidently entertained an admiration for
Napoleon greater than that which she eventually cared to avow. Bourrienne
goes so far as to assert that she was in love with him, and that she
wrote him perfervid letters, which he disdainfully threw into the fire.
It is not necessary to accept the whole of this story. Bourrienne as
a returned _émigré_ can have felt but a meagre sympathy for Madame de
Staël, and he probably yielded to the temptation of making his account
of her as piquant as possible. But as she never did anything by halves,
and always wrote with the most unconventional ardor, it is certain that
her first sentiments towards the conqueror of Italy were expressed in a
form to weary rather than gratify him. She presumably praised him for
views which he did not hold, and for a disinterestedness that he was far
from feeling. He must have understood that to an intellect such as hers,
the first shock of disappointment would bring enlightenment, and then
his schemes would be penetrated before they were ripe for execution. Add
to all these elements of antipathy the fact that every intelligent man
in Paris would find his way to Madame de Staël’s salon, with the further
fact that she herself was not to be silenced, and it becomes easy to
understand how Bonaparte could condescend from his greatness to hate her.

His aversion, owing to his Italian blood, had a strain of Pulcinello-like
malignity, and every fresh outbreak of clamor from his victim only roused
him to strike harder. That he should exile her in the first instance was
not only comprehensible but justifiable. He had undertaken a gigantic
task, that of accomplishing by the single force of his own will, and in
the brief space of his own life-time, what, in the natural course of
events, would have required the slow action of generations. That is, he
sought to weld into his own system the mobile, alert, and impressionable
mind of France.

To crush a thing so impalpable, to extinguish a thing so fiery, was an
impossible undertaking, and to anybody but Napoleon it must have seemed
so. He, at least, so far understood its magnitude as to appreciate the
full danger of even a momentary reaction. And what, in that sombre but
electric atmosphere, charged with suppressed fire, was so likely to
provoke a reaction as the influence of Madame de Staël—a woman of amazing
talent, of high position and great wealth; notoriously disinterested,
and, although ever true to her principles, yet strongly swayed by
personal influences.

Moreover, she represented the Opposition. Let anybody consider what
public opinion is, even in well-ordered England, how it reverses in
a moment the best laid plans of Ministers, and it becomes easy to
understand how in revolutionary France, a new thought emanating from
Madame de Staël’s salon could prove gravely dangerous to Napoleon. In
exiling her he only treated her as she had been treated already. If he
found her in France on coming to power, it was because she had been
reconciled to the Directory; but there never was the least chance of her
becoming reconciled to him.

There are several very womanly touches in Madame de Staël’s own account
of her relations with Napoleon. Here is one of them, relating apparently
to a time when the aversion between the First Consul and his illustrious
foe had become an accomplished but not an acknowledged fact. Madame de
Staël was invited to General Berthier’s one evening when it was known
that Napoleon would be present.

“As I knew,” she says, “that he spoke very ill of me, it struck me that
he would address me with some of the rude things which he often liked
to say to women, even to those who flattered him; and I wrote down on
chance, before going to the party, the different stinging and spirited
replies which I could make to his speeches. I did not wish to be taken
by surprise if he insulted me, for that would have been a greater want
of character even than of wit; and as nobody could be sure of remaining
at ease with such a man, I had prepared myself beforehand to defy him.
Fortunately, it was unnecessary; he only put the most insignificant
question in the world to me, for … he never attacks except where he feels
himself to be the stronger.”

The whole of this passage is enchantingly simple-minded. One may be
allowed to think, in spite of Madame de Staël’s assertion to the
contrary, that she was really disappointed at not being able to make some
of her defiant retorts to the conqueror; but it was child-like of her to
have arranged them in advance!

Napoleon was preparing to invade Switzerland. Madame de Staël flattered
herself for a moment that she might deter him from the project, and
sought an interview with him for that purpose. The _tête-à-tête_ lasted
an hour, and Napoleon listened with the utmost patience, but he did not
give himself any trouble to discuss Madame de Staël’s arguments, and
quickly diverted the conversation to his own love of solitude, country
life and fine arts—three things for which, by the way, his visitor cared
almost as little as himself. She came away convinced that the eloquence
of Cicero and Demosthenes combined would not move him, but captivated,
she admits, by the charm of his manner; in other words, by the false
_bonhomie_ which he possessed the art of introducing into his Italian
garrulity. While Madame de Staël pleaded and Bonaparte chattered they
were both learning to understand one another, but it is most probable
that the first to be enlightened was the man.

Switzerland being threatened with an invasion, Madame de Staël left Paris
in 1798 to join her father at Coppet; for he was still on the list of
_émigrés_, and therefore came under a law which forbade him on pain of
death to remain on any soil occupied by French troops. His daughter,
always as much alarmed by remote danger as courageous when in imminent
peril, trembled for his safety, and supplicated him to leave, but in
vain. He probably supposed that her fears were groundless; and so they
turned out to be.

When Madame de Staël was returning to France, Necker, anxious to have
his name erased from the list of the proscribed, drew up a memorial to
that effect, which was presented by his daughter to the Government. His
request having been unanimously granted, his next step was to endeavor
to recover the two millions which he had quixotically left in the
public treasury when quitting France on the outbreak of the Revolution.
The Government recognized the debt, and offered to pay it out of the
confiscated church lands. But to this M. Necker would not consent. He no
longer disapproved of the sale of ecclesiastical property, but he did
not wish to throw doubt on his perfect impartiality by confounding his
interests with his opinions.

About this time Madame de Staël’s separation from her husband took place.
Her ostensible object was to ensure the safety of her children’s fortune,
which was jeopardized by Baron de Staël’s extravagance. Any other reason
which may have existed is not of great importance, inasmuch as the
Baron, always a shadowy personage, had finally been quite eclipsed by
his brilliant wife. He was said to be indifferent to her, but he seems
to have been always fairly amiable and very obedient. As it will not be
necessary to speak of him again, it may be mentioned here that he died in
1802, and that his last moments were soothed by the ministrations of his
wife, who, hearing that he was ill, travelled from Switzerland to France
to attend on him, and tried to bring him back with her to Coppet; but he
expired on the road at a place called Poligny.

Madame de Staël happened to be returning from Coppet to Paris on the 18th
Brumaire, when she learnt that her carriage had passed that of her former
ally Barras, who was returning to his estate at Grosbois accompanied
by gendarmes. The name of “Bonaparte” was on everybody’s lips—the
first time, as she remarks, that such a thing had happened since the
Revolution. The state of things which she found on entering the capital
was of a kind to excite her imagination. Five weeks of intrigue had
ripened Napoleon’s opportunity, and the 19th Brumaire dawned on a France
exhausted and enslaved.

From that moment Madame de Staël’s _rôle_ was marked out for her
irrevocably as one of perpetual opposition. At no time inclined to
silence, she was, we may be sure, both loud and intrepid in her
denunciation of the new tyranny. At first Napoleon appeared disposed
to win her over. Joseph Bonaparte, who was her friend and frequented
her salon, came to her once with something that sounded like a message.
Napoleon had asked why Madame de Staël would not give in her adhesion to
his Government. Did she want the two millions to be paid to her father,
or residence in Paris accorded him? There should be no difficulty about
either. She had only to say what it was she wanted. Madame de Staël’s
answer is celebrated: “The question is not what I want, but what I think.”

Some protests against the growing despotism proceeded from the Tribunat,
and notably from Constant. It is superfluous to say that Madame de Staël
applauded these with fervor. It is well known how, the evening previous
to a celebrated speech which he was about to make, Constant consulted her
on the subject. She encouraged him warmly, although already perceiving
that the path which she had elected to tread would, in all likelihood,
lead to exile. The salon was full of her friends at the time, but
Constant warned her that, if he spoke the next day, everybody would
desert her. “You must obey your conscience,” she replied; but adds that,
had she known what she would have to suffer from that day, and throughout
the next ten years, her answer might have been different. But here we
think that Madame de Staël’s literary instinct carried her away. She was
very sincere, but very imaginative, and, when writing for the public, it
must often have been difficult for her to distinguish between what she
felt _before_ and _after_ the fact. Considering what her disposition was,
and the opportunities for eloquence afforded both to herself and Constant
by an attitude of hostility to Napoleon, it is impossible to resist the
conclusion that she enjoyed her opposition with one-half of her nature,
if she regretted its results with the other.

For some weeks after Constant’s speech Madame de Staël’s salon, usually
so animated, was silent and deserted. Joseph Bonaparte was forbidden by
his brother to attend it; but most people needed no prohibition, they
absented themselves of their own accord under various pretexts. Fouché,
the Minister of Police, called on her, and insinuated that a brief
retirement into the country would be advisable, as giving the storm time
to blow over. She took the hint, and retired for a short time to St.
Ouen. On her return to Paris she avers that she did not find Napoleon’s
wrath at all appeased. Apparently she expected it to die a spontaneous
death, for she did not adopt the only means by which she could have
pacified him, but continued to applaud, if not instigate, an active
hostility to his measures. It would have been grand and magnanimous of
Napoleon to have despised the enmity of a woman, but he was neither grand
nor magnanimous. Moreover, the last thing which Madame de Staël probably
desired was to be despised. Nobody can deny her the meed of admiration
which she deserved for her love of liberty, and the indomitable spirit
with which, when in exile, she refused to conciliate her oppressor by one
word of praise. But, inasmuch as she knew with whom she had to deal, and
what would be the consequence of her actions, one must admit that the
amount of pity which she claimed for herself, and has generally received,
is excessive. She was in direct contradiction to her own theories of a
woman’s true duty, when interfering in politics; and in being treated by
Napoleon as a man might have been, she paid the penalty of the splendid
intellect which emancipated her from the habits and the views, if not
from the weaknesses, of her sex. She was neither helpless nor harmless,
since she could stir up enemies to the tyrant by her eloquence, and
revenge herself, when punished, by the power of her pen. She was exiled
not because she was a woman and defenceless, but because she was a genius
and formidable. She deliberately engaged in a contest of which the object
was to prove who was the stronger—herself or Napoleon.

She came out of it scarred, but dauntless. What right had she to complain
because the weapons that wounded her were keen?

Besides, paltry as Napoleon showed himself in many respects, he was a
phenomenon of so exceptional a nature that to judge him by ordinary
standards was absurd. It was the weakness of France which made his
opportunity; and if the epoch had not been abnormal, he never could have
dominated it. The people whom he governed had two courses open to them:
to submit or to protest. The first brought profit, the second glory; and
the glory which is purchased by no sacrifice is unworthy of the name.

In 1801 Madame de Staël published her work on _Literature_, in which, as
she says, there was not a word concerning Napoleon, although “the most
liberal sentiments were expressed in it with force.” The book produced
an immense sensation; and Parisian society, in its admiration for the
writer, forgot the First Consul’s displeasure, and again crowded round
her. She admits that the winter of 1801 was a pleasant one. Napoleon,
passing through Switzerland the previous summer, had seen and spoken
with M. Necker. It is characteristic of both interlocutors that the
ex-statesman was far more impressed with the warrior than the latter
with him. Necker divined in the young hero a strength of will to which
his own hesitating nature was a stranger; while Napoleon, on his side,
penetrating but prejudiced, contemptuously described the once august
financier in two words, “A banker and an Idealist.” With his usual
cynicism, he attributed Necker’s visit to the desire of employment;
whereas Madame de Staël affirmed that her father’s chief object was to
plead her cause. In this he was so far successful that residence in
France was for some time at least assured to her. “It was,” she writes,
“the last time that my father’s protecting hand was extended over my
life.” For the moment, either this beneficent influence, or, as is more
likely, a passing fit of good humor on the part of Napoleon, enabled her
to enjoy existence. Fouché consented to recall several _émigrés_ for
whom she interceded, and even Joseph Bonaparte once again treated her
with cordiality, and entertained her for a little time at his estate at

A variety of circumstances arose to put an end to this state of things
and to revive Napoleon’s dislike to Madame de Staël. Her father published
his work, _Dernières Vues de Politique et de Finance_, with the avowed
intention of protesting against Napoleon’s growing tyranny. His daughter
had encouraged him in this feeling, herself unable, as she declares,
to silence this “Song of the Swan.” Then Bernadotte had inaugurated
a certain sullen opposition to the First Consul, and Madame de Staël
immediately became his friend. Finally, her salon was more crowded than
ever, and by great personages, such as the Prince of Orange and other
embryo potentates, besides foreigners of celebrity in letters and science.

Napoleon detested salons. It was his conviction that a woman who disposed
of social influence might do anything in France, inasmuch as he held that
the best brains in the country were female. Madame de Staël, moreover,
possessed the art of keeping herself well before the public. Even now she
had just published _Delphine_, and all the papers were full of it. To
please Napoleon, they condemned it as immoral—a strange criticism in that
age, and an excellent advertisement in any.

Napoleon, on Madame de Staël’s again visiting Switzerland, hinted to
Lebrun that she would do well not to return to Paris. His obsequious
colleague hastened to intimate this by letter; and although the
communication was not official, the First Consul’s lightest intimations
by this time carried so much weight that Madame de Staël was compelled to
obey. She did so very reluctantly; and perhaps if her father’s prudence
had not been greater than her own, her longing to be back in the capital
would have overpowered every other consideration. As it was, she made
the best that she could of a year’s uninterrupted sojourn at Coppet.
The Tribunat meanwhile had shown itself again rebellious. Bonaparte,
irritated, declared that he would shake twelve or fifteen of its members
“from his clothes like vermin,” and Constant had no choice but to rejoin
his friend in Switzerland.



Some remarkable people had already begun to cluster round the Châtelaine
of Coppet. De Gérando, Sismondi, Camille Jordan, Madame de Krüdener,
Madame Récamier—all are interesting names. Camille Jordan, who was
introduced by De Gérando, appears to have been taken up at once with
characteristic ardor by Madame de Staël. His _Vrai Sens du Vôte
National sur le Consulat à Vie_, published in 1802, was just the kind
of trumpet-call to which she always responded. Straightway her letters
to him became frequent, and full of the excessive fervor and flattery
which distinguished all her protestations of affection. Oddly enough,
Madame de Krüdener, not yet a priestess, but a most decided coquette,
appears to have exercised a rather perturbing influence upon these new
relations. Madame de Staël writes that she would have liked to send
Jordan a ring containing a lock of her hair, and formerly the property
of her husband, but she is restrained by the recollection of Madame de
Krüdener’s fair tresses, for which, as she learns, Camille entertains a
lively admiration. Another letter contains an invitation to him to join
her and one or two other friends in a journey to Italy, coupled with a
playful hint that in such scenes he might find her society more agreeable
than the lovely blonde’s. Camille not responding in the way desired,
Madame de Staël betrays some wounded feeling. She had thought that when
once she had admired Jordan’s writings so much, everything must be in
harmony between them. She had been mistaken. She would take refuge in
silence. Nevertheless she is not silent; and Madame de Krüdener’s name
reappears. Madame de Staël is willing to admit that she is a remarkable
person, but objects that she is always talking of persons who have killed
themselves for love of her. Then Jordan is summoned to say if it be true
that he is in love, not with Madame, but with Mademoiselle de Krüdener?
She has nothing but a Greuze-like face to recommend her, and if _she_
has enthralled him then why has he not fallen a victim to every young
girl of fifteen? Nevertheless, if he really be in love, and will confess
it, Madame de Staël will set herself to study Mademoiselle de Krüdener
better, with a view to loving her herself if she prove indeed worthy of
Jordan’s affection.

In reading all this, one is forced to the conclusion that a more
emotional woman than Madame de Staël never trod the earth. Every human
creature, perhaps, has one unsolved, it may be insoluble, riddle in his
life—one mystery of feeling which nobody fathoms. More especially is
this true of women who live so much in sentiment; and supremely true
of a woman like Madame de Staël. That ineffable something in her which
nobody seems to have guessed while she was living, of which Byron felt
the presence in her without divining the cause, was the passionate and
unappeasable desire to be loved. All men who had dealings with her appear
to have misunderstood her in so far that they believed her to be more
dominated by her head than her heart—instead of understanding that,
in her, head and heart were the systole and diastole of a temperament
surprisingly forcible but not essentially strong. Or, if they did learn
to comprehend her better at last, it was when she was no longer young,
and feeling of a certain sort had become, alas! ridiculous. As long as
she was entitled to feel and to suffer they made almost a reproach to her
of the intellectual superiority which they could not deny, and cast her
back upon her own thoughts for happiness.

Madame de Krüdener, on one occasion, arrived at the complacent conclusion
that Madame de Staël was jealous of her. Not jealous of her beauty
and golden locks, which was conceivable, and might have been true, but
jealous of her literary fame! _Corinne_ jealous of _Valerie_! It is true
that _Corinne_ had not yet seen the light, while _Valerie_ had not only
appeared, but had met with great success. So great an authority as St.
Beuve pronounces Madame de Krüdener’s novel to be a thing of joy, a work
to be read thrice, “in youth, in middle life, and in old age.” But it is
possible to have many intellectual qualities, and yet remain at such an
immeasurable distance beneath Madame de Staël that nothing but vanity
could scale the height.

Moreover, Madame de Krüdener’s meaner self had not been a stranger
to the immediate and surprising triumph of her work. She was always
intriguing, and intrigued to some purpose when her novel was on the eve
of publication. She ran about to all the _fournisseurs_ in Paris, asking
them for bows _à la Valerie_, caps and gowns _à la Valerie_.

They heard the name for the first time, but naturally proceeded to call
a variety of articles by an appellation presumably so fashionable, and
the success of the novel was assured. Madame de Krüdener, promptly and
conveniently oblivious of the sources of this sudden triumph, allowed
herself to become somewhat intoxicated by it, and wrote to a friend
that the “dear woman” (meaning Madame de Staël) was jealous of her.
The person at whom this accusation was levelled probably never heard
of it. She certainly would never have divined it; and, the little
difficulty about Jordan once overcome, she appears to have found Madame
de Krüdener’s society more than tolerable. Indeed they ended by becoming
affectionate friends; but that was after the authoress of _Valerie_ had
undergone the mystic change which transformed her from a flirt into a

She had always been immensely admired, and had not preserved a spotless
reputation. But she had one of those emotional natures in which a
restless vanity, love of novelty, a morbid sensibility and an excess of
imagination, combine to produce religious fervors.

Standing at a window in Riga one day, she saw an old admirer drop dead
at the very moment that he was lifting his hat to salute her. This event
made on her one of those terrifying and ineffaceable impressions which
in regenerate circles is known as “a call.” She plunged into mysticism;
became the exponent of a new dogma, and finally claimed for herself the
gift of prophecy. People were, of course, not wanting to declare that her
predictions had in several instances been verified; and, her personal
fascination remaining always great, she now acquired an enormous
influence. Her extreme self-abnegation and boundless charities increased
her reputation for sanctity, and she even succeeded in bringing down on
herself a satisfactory amount of persecution. In Paris superstition was,
as always, rife. The days were not yet so remote when Philip Egalité
had gone to question the devil in the quarries of Montrouge; and men
were barely more than middle-aged who in their first youth had looked
on the brazen brow of Cagliostro, and felt their blood agreeably frozen
by the Comte de St. Germain’s casual mention of personal experiences
three hundred years old. But little more than thirty years previous to
Madame de Krüdener’s “revival” Mesmer had seen numbers of the fairest
and many not of the stupidest heads in Paris gathered round his famous
_baquet_. A little later the _illuminati_ had been credited unveraciously
and to their scant honor, with a share in the sanguinary priesthood of
Robespierre, and finally Mademoiselle Lenormand had shuffled the cards of
prophecy at the instance of Napoleon himself. Into this strange world, so
exhausted and cynical, yet excited, impulsive, and thirsting for novel
emotions, the Northern Sybil, with her strange, pale face and shining
eyes, came like a wandering star.

But all this was subsequent to our first meeting with her at Coppet, when
she was still fairly young and singularly pretty, and the gold in her
tresses owed as yet no fancied splendor to the aureole of inspiration.

Madame Récamier, the charming Juliette, was a far more normal, but a not
less attractive person. Châteaubriand’s memoirs have made her famous, but
he was among the latest of her many swains. Her path through life was
strewn with conquests, and she had offers of marriage by the score. They
continued up to the age of fifty-one, when the author of _Réné_ laid a
heart which was hardly worthy of her at her feet.

Three generations of Montmorencys adored her; a German prince of royal
blood urged her to divorce her husband in order to marry him; and Lucian
Bonaparte was among the most ardent of her slaves. Ampère the younger,
at twenty, fell in love with her, she being then forty-three; and
Châteaubriand addressed her as “_très belle et très charmante_” when
she was seventy and blind. The little Savoyards turned round in the
streets to look at her, and when they did so no longer she knew that her
marvellous beauty was on the wane. But the fascination of her grace,
her goodness, her unfailing tact and delicate intelligence survived her
loveliness; and the men who knew her still worshipped her for years after
fresher charms had attracted the eyes of the multitude. She was not a
politician, but her friendship with Madame de Staël gave her decided
opinions, and she incurred the anger of Napoleon by declining to be
_Dame du Palais_ to one of his sisters. It was said, however, that what
specially raised his ire was that a throng which on one occasion had been
assembled to do homage to him, so far forgot his presence, when Madame
Récamier appeared, as to have eyes only for her.

Finally Constant, the inexplicable, unhappy, brilliant Constant, sought
the peace which he had never found in anyone in a tardy passion for her.
He sought in vain, for she treated him as she treated all men, with a
kind and gracious indifference which her unique fascination robbed of
all its sting. She influenced his political conduct—not altogether for
good, as it turned out in 1814, when Napoleon returned from Elba. Vague
hints at a rivalry before this date between her and Madame de Staël are
to be found in some of the correspondence of the time, but they are
contradicted by the tone of Madame de Staël’s letters to her _belle
Juliette_, and by Madame Récamier’s own rare discretion.

Moreover, although Constant first saw Madame Récamier at Coppet in
1806, and confided to her those grievances of his against Madame de
Staël, which just then were rising to exasperation point, it was only in
1813, when she called upon him to defend the interests of Murat at the
Congress of Vienna, that he fell in love with her. The correspondence
which ensued between them does more honor to her than to him. Leaving
aside the questionable nature of his passion, he allowed himself to
speak of Madame de Staël with a fractious mistrust which, even if
transitory, could have come from nobody with a more deplorable grace.
The basis of the sentiment appears to have been jealousy of Madame de
Staël’s influence over her devoted friend. Such a jealousy was as futile
as paltry; for it would have needed a more witching tongue even than
Constant’s to have shaken the loyalty of the loving Juliette. To gratify
a request of hers he wrote some fragments of memoirs and sketched a
portrait of Madame de Staël which, besides much praise, contains some
furtive sarcasm at her inexpugnable belief in herself—that large quality,
too grand to be called conceit, which, according to Constant, amounted to
a cultus and inspired a “religious respect.”

It is interesting to record that the first time Châteaubriand ever saw
Madame Récamier was at Madame de Staël’s. He had gone to thank the latter
for having occupied herself about his recall to France. He found her at
her toilette, talking eagerly, and twirling in her fingers, as usual, a
little green twig. Madame Récamier suddenly entered, dressed in white.
From that moment Châteaubriand was so absorbed in her that he had no
longer any attention to bestow on her eloquent friend. This was in 1800.
He did not see her again for twelve years. Benjamin Constant, in the
“portrait” already mentioned, has left an account of Madame Récamier and
Madame de Staël, which gives a very good idea of both of them, and is
specially interesting as coming from such a source. He relates that, at
the first interview between them, Madame Récamier felt very shy. He says:—

    Madame de Staël’s appearance has been much discussed, but a
    magnificent glance, a sweet smile, and an habitual expression
    of kindness, the absence of all minute affectation and of all
    embarrassing reserve, flattering words, praise a little direct
    but apparently dictated by enthusiasm, an inexhaustible variety
    in conversation, astonish, attract, and reconcile almost
    everybody who approaches her. I know no woman, and even no
    man, who is more convinced of her immense superiority over the
    whole world, and who renders this conviction less oppressive to
    others. Nothing could be more charming than the conversations
    between Madame de Staël and Madame Récamier. The rapidity of
    the one in expressing a thousand new thoughts, the rapidity
    of the second in seizing and judging them; on the one side a
    strong and masculine intelligence which unmasked everything,
    on the other a delicate and penetrating mind which understood
    everything. All this formed a whole impossible to render for
    those who did not enjoy the privilege of witnessing it.

Madame de Staël scattered golden rain of the frankest and sincerest
praise over Madame Récamier every time that she addressed her. “You are
exquisite,” “you are beautiful,” “you reign as a queen over sentiment,”
are among the sentences that stud every other line of her letters.
Another of her female friends was she whom she named the “sweet Annette
de Gérando,” the wife of the author of _The Signs and Art of Thinking
in their Mutual Relations_, the _Origin of Human Intelligence_,
the _Comparative History of Philosophic Systems_, etc. He was a
philanthropist as well as a philosopher, and Madame de Staël in later
years once made rather a bitter allusion to this fact. As time went on,
and Napoleon’s star blazed brighter, De Gérando was unable to resist the
general infection of idolatry; moreover, he had accepted a post under the
new Government, and the withering blight of officialism fell to a certain
extent on his spirit. “There is too much philanthropy in his friendship,”
wrote Madame de Staël to Jordan. “One is afraid of being treated by him
like a pauper.”

But in the summer of 1801 all this was still in the future, and harmony
and wit reigned at Coppet. Sismondi about this time appears on the scene;
discreet, observant, serene, reasonable, he conceived for Madame de
Staël a friendship which remained moderate in expression and sincere in
feeling to the last. He was not as much dazzled by her as many, and saw
her failings clearly. Occasionally she even wounded his quiet self-love,
and once or twice, when very restless and excited, she offended him. But
he was invariably drawn back to her by the spell of her goodness. He
appears as a rock of strength amid all the sparkling, moving, changing
tide of ideas and feelings that rippled, dashed, recoiled, and returned
unceasingly in every hour of the sojourn at Coppet. His steady sense and
calm judgment bring out into sharper contrast the unrest of Constant; the
flashing splendor of Madame de Staël; the dreamy refinement of Mathieu de
Montmorency; the fantastic charm of Madame de Krüdener, and the unfailing
grace of the lovely “Juliette.”

Bonstetten was yet another visitor at the château. He was called the
Swiss Voltaire, was eternally young, and even grew younger and more
plastic in mind as the unnoticed years crept over him. He had seen
Madame Necker in Paris when she was still unmarried, and reappeared
in her daughter’s home at Coppet as gay, as smiling, as vivacious and
witty as he had shown himself in the long-vanished salon of Madame
de Vermenoux. He laid himself at Madame de Staël’s feet at once, was
received by her with her usual gracious warmth, and profited by her keen
but generous criticism of his works. Everybody began by gently laughing
at Bonstetten’s incurable youthfulness, and ended by adoring him for it.
He wanted steadiness of intellectual purpose—a “belfry,” as St. Beuve
expresses it; in other words, some central fact of mind round which
all his ideas could rally—but he had plenty of insight, and, amid the
universal eulogium of Madame de Staël’s powers, seems to have been the
first to point out a defect in her which Schiller commented on later. For
when writing of her to Frederica Brun, he says: “Her goodness is extreme,
and nobody has more intellect; but that which is best in you, in her
does not exist. She lacks feeling for art, and sees no beauty except in
eloquence and intelligence. She has more practical wisdom than anybody,
but uses it more for her friends than herself.”

Frederica Brun herself came to Geneva about this time, and has left
enthusiastic descriptions of Madame de Staël, of Necker, Madame Necker de
Saussure and Madame Rilliet-Hüber. She also bore testimony to Madame de
Staël’s devotion to her children. Her eldest son, Auguste, and her only
daughter, Albertine, were destined all her life to solace her by their
love for much that she suffered. She directed the education of both her
boys, but occupied herself especially with that of the girl. She was
accused by some of her friends, even by Sismondi, of not caring very
much for her children; but no word of theirs ever betrayed any sense of
such a deficiency in her. On the contrary, both Auguste and Albertine
always spoke and wrote of her with the utmost enthusiasm.

After spending two summers and one winter uninterruptedly at Coppet,
during which period she wrote and published _Delphine_, the desire to
return to France grew into an overpowering force. Napoleon had now been
declared Consul for life, and was preparing to invade England. She
hoped, she said, that amid such multifarious occupations he would not
have leisure to conceive any objection against her establishing herself
within a few miles of Paris, near enough, in fact, to enjoy the society
of such friends as would not be too much in awe of the potentate to pay
her occasional visits. She further deluded herself with the notion that
Napoleon would shrink from the odium of exiling a woman so well known
as herself. Such a hope shows how simple Madame de Staël could still be
at times. Napoleon was no longer in a position in which blame for mere
details of conduct could touch him, and his career from this moment was
to be one long outrage on public opinion.

Madame de Staël established herself in a country house about ten miles
from Paris. Then there happened a circumstance which she had not
foreseen. In the eighteen months of her sojourn at Coppet, the society
which she knew formerly had grown baser. A whole race of parasites had
arisen, whose real or fancied interest it was to obtain the favor of
Napoleon by denouncing the people whom he detested. A woman, whose name
is suppressed, lost no time in informing Napoleon that the road leading
to Madame de Staël’s dwelling was crowded with her visitors. Immediately
one of her friends warned her that a gendarme would probably be sent to
her without loss of time. She instantly became a prey to anxiety, an
excessive anxiety it is certain, for she was excessive in most things.

She wrote to De Gérando to plead her cause with Talleyrand; she solicited
the good offices of Lucian and Joseph Bonaparte; and finally she wrote
a passionate but dignified letter to Napoleon himself. Then she waited,
in the midst of strangers, and consuming herself with a fiery impatience
that made every hour of fresh suspense a torture. She spent the nights
sitting up with her maid, listening for the tramp of the horse which was
to bring the gendarme and his message. But the gendarme did not arrive;
and, worn out with her terrors, Madame de Staël bethought herself of her
“beautiful Juliette.” That loving and devoted person assured her of a
kind welcome at St. Brice, a place about two leagues from Paris. Thither
Madame de Staël went, and finding there a varied and agreeable society,
was for the time being cured of her fears. Hearing nothing more about
her exile, she persuaded herself that Napoleon had changed his mind,
and she returned with some friends to her own lodgings at Maffliers. It
is probable enough that some officious courtier again drew her enemy’s
attention to her; or perhaps Madame de Staël’s own letter, in which she
spoke of her children’s education and her father’s advanced age, and
betrayed in every line her haunting fear of exile, enlightened Napoleon
as to the tenderest spot in which to wound her. Disliking her as he
did, and irritated by the mere thought of her as he seems to have been,
it would have been highly characteristic of his southern malice to be
decided in his course by the very prayers that should have deterred him.

However that may be, she was sitting at table with her friends one late
September afternoon when she perceived a rider, dressed in grey, pull up
at her gate and ring the bell. This prosaic-looking individual was the
messenger of destiny. She felt it at once, although he did not wear the
dreaded uniform. He was the bearer of a letter signed by Napoleon, and
ordering her to depart within twenty-four hours for any place not nearer
than forty leagues to Paris.

Needless to say, Madame de Staël did not submit without protest, and
represented so energetically to the gendarme that a woman and three
children could not be hurried off with no more preparation than a
recruit’s, as to induce him to allow her three days at Paris in which to
get ready.

On their way they stopped for a few moments at Madame Récamier’s,
and there found General Junot, who, like everybody else, was one of
Juliette’s admirers. Perhaps to please the latter, he promised to
intercede with the despot for her illustrious friend; and he was, as it
appears, so far successful that Napoleon accorded permission for Madame
de Staël to reside at Dijon. As soon as Madame Récamier received this
news she communicated it in a letter to the care of Camille Jordan. But
Madame de Staël never received it, having been driven, as she says, by
daily admonitions from her gendarme—but as Madame Récamier appeared to
think, by her own impatient agitation—away from Paris to Morfontaine.
This was the home of Joseph Bonaparte. Probably pitying her state of
excitement and misery, he invited her thither to spend a few days. He was
just then animated, as far as he dared be, by a spirit of opposition to
his mighty brother; and perhaps—who knows?—was kind to Madame de Staël
as much for that reason as for any other. In any case, nobody in those
days appears to have been profoundly in earnest except Madame de Staël
herself. She could not recover either patience or peace. She was wretched
at Morfontaine in spite of the kindness of her host and hostess, because
surrounded with officers of the Government who had accepted the servitude
against which she rebelled. She knew that her father would receive her,
but the thought of taking refuge at Coppet again was distasteful to her.

She had but just left that place, and to return thither was to resume
habits of which she had tired, and to acknowledge herself beaten.
Probably she longed for a change; and probably enough, also, she was
in that morbid condition of mind in which to do the simplest and most
obvious thing is to rob grief of all its luxury. Finally, she decided to
crave permission through Joseph to betake herself to Germany, with the
distinct assurance that the French Minister there would consider her a
foreigner and leave her in peace. Joseph hastened to St. Cloud for the
purpose, and Madame de Staël retired to an inn within two leagues of
Paris, there to await his reply.

At the end of one day, receiving no answer, and fearing (but why?) to
attract attention to herself by remaining any longer in one inn, she
sought the shelter of another; and is extremely—one cannot really help
thinking needlessly—eloquent in describing her anguish during these
self-imposed peregrinations. At last Joseph’s letter came. He not only
forwarded her the permission to go to Berlin, but added several valuable
letters of introduction, and took leave of her in the kindest terms.

Accompanied by her children and Benjamin Constant, she started, hating
the postillions for their boasted speed, and feeling that every step
taken by the horses was a fresh link in the ever-lengthening and
indestructible chain of which one end was Paris and the other her heart.

What Constant’s feelings were she does not say, and speaks of his
accompanying her as a spontaneous act of friendship. But he had been
exiled as well as herself; and although his desire to go to Germany had
partly determined hers, and neither wished to separate from the other,
there are indications that Constant quitted France as reluctantly as his

Their relations were already varied by alternate periods of shine and
storm; and although her influence over him was still immense, it had
begun, as was inevitable with such a man, to fret him. And probably some
doubts that were not political, and some sufferings that had their root
in another cause than exile, played their part in the extreme agitation
of Madame de Staël’s mind at this period.



At Metz Madame de Staël was received in triumph. The Prefect of the
Moselle entertained her, parties were given in her honor, and all the
literary big-wigs of the place hastened to do her homage. She there,
for the first time, came into personal contact with Charles de Villers,
with whom she had previously corresponded on the subject of Kant. Of
course she was charmed with him, her first impulse invariably being to
find every clever or distinguished person delightful. Her friendship
with him resembled all her friendships. She began by expecting to have
inspired as much enthusiasm as she felt, possibly a little more, seeing
that she was a woman, and such a woman, and exiled to boot. Villers,
a cross-grained kind of Teuton, had no idea of allowing his theories,
which were extremely sturdy on all subjects, to be spirited away by any
of Madame de Staël’s conversational conjuring tricks. They discussed
philosophy, and he railed sourly at French taste; and, perhaps by way of
proving his final emancipation from all such fetters, he had obtained
the companionship of a certain Madame de Rodde, whom Madame de Staël
described, with some asperity, as a “fat German.”

But she separated from the philosopher still quite charmed with his
appreciation of the good and true, and not in the least repulsed by his
ways. On the contrary, she wrote to him shortly afterwards, reproaching
him passionately with his silence. One can imagine how absurd such
exactions must have seemed to the good Villers, with his head full
of Kant and Madame de Rodde to attend to his comforts; but the truth
was that Madame de Staël’s mood just then caused her to make herself
needlessly miserable about everything. To Mathieu de Montmorency she
wrote that she was filled with terror, and fancied that death must
shortly overtake her father, children, friends, everybody dear to her.

She seemed to forget entirely that it was her own choice which had taken
her to Germany; Napoleon had banished her merely from Paris; and there
was nothing to prevent her returning to Coppet to soothe the last years
and enjoy the conversation of her venerated father. But this did not suit
her; she required a wider intellectual horizon and more varied society.

For many reasons, some of them dependent on the political bias of
monarchical writers, it has been the fashion to proclaim Madame de
Staël’s opposition to Napoleon as inspired by pure hatred of despotism.
To us this does not seem quite a correct version. If it were, Madame
de Staël would have been a totally different person; colder, less
impulsively benevolent, less thoroughly womanly. All through her
life her conduct was determined by her feeling towards individuals.
While professing republicanism she counted, as we have seen, hosts of
reactionary friends; the claims to consideration of noble names and
social distinctions weighed powerfully with her; and all her love of
liberty could not save her from being torn by sympathy for every Royalist
head that fell during the Revolution. Such a catholicity of feeling
constitutes a charming woman, but not a great politician; and Madame de
Staël’s liberal instincts and penetrating insight only lent force to
her hatred of Napoleon, they did not originate it. There was a natural
antagonism between their natures—circumstances increased this, and
obstinacy on both sides confirmed it—and Madame de Staël made the most of
a persecution which, while condemning her to inaction, added enormously
to her fame.

That Napoleon in his most transcendent moments was great simply by
stupendous intellect and amazing will; that in his baser moments he was
inconceivably callous, cynical, arrogant and mean, perhaps few persons
in these days will be found to deny. But it is overstating the case
to assert, as has been done, that he persecuted Madame de Staël from
unmitigated envy of her superiority. Much as he resented intellectual
power in a woman, it is nevertheless most likely that what really
inspired his action against Madame de Staël was her turbulent disposition
and the restless mind which made her the centre of Parisian opposition.
As to this opposition itself, without any wish to detract from its
sublimity, it may fairly be asked whether—at the time Constant began his
denunciations, and Madame de Staël encouraged them—it was altogether
well-timed. To declaim against Napoleon’s growing despotism was perhaps
irresistible to independent spirits; but such declamation necessarily
remained sterile of results in the state in which France then was. What
would these orators have substituted for the strong will of a Dictator?
The greed for place of a Talleyrand? The mystic fervor of a Montmorency?
The dissolute ambition of a Barras? Between the sanguinary excesses of
the _Terreur Rouge_, the lust for revenge of the _Terreur Blanche_, the
incorrigible short-sightedness and criminal frivolity of the “Coblentz”
faction, the diseased logic of the Jacobins, and the frightful collapse
of intelligence, morality, decency, and humanity that extended from end
to end of France, it is difficult to understand what ruler could have
governed it for other ends than personal ones. Napoleon sprang armed
from the ruin of France, as a kind of fatal embodiment of all the evil
under which she groaned and all the crime that stained her. And yet who
shall say that his career of conquest, desolating as it was, could have
been spared from European history? It enters as a factor into almost all
that this closing century has brought us—the unity of Italy, the power
of Germany, France’s own awakening to the limitations of her destiny. It
was not given to any mortal, eighty years ago, to foresee all this; and
Madame de Staël, who was in most things of a preternatural acuteness,
only foresaw the coming despotism and its immediate, not its ultimate,
results. Nevertheless, had her bias against Napoleon not been a personal
one, she might have submitted more quietly to his first acts of tyranny,
and only protested when his insatiable ambition had prostrated France
at the feet of the nations. She might have done this, because she was
constantly led away by her feelings, and could be blind on occasion. That
she was not more dazzled by Napoleon must be considered a lucky accident.

In Germany the feeling in regard to her was not generally favorable.
The mightiest minds, indeed, admired her great intellect; and Goethe’s
unwilling homage is the brightest jewel in her crown. But it was as a
woman that she excited a somewhat sour antipathy. Her plaintive little
friend Madame de Beaumont had called her a _tourbillon_, and Heine
has only added a doubtful picturesqueness to this description when
designating her a “whirlwind in petticoats.” But as a most disturbing
element she certainly did introduce herself into German society. Rahel
Varnhagen acidly—it is difficult to help thinking ungenerously—echoes
the usual complaint of her obstreperousness, saying, with striking lack
of originality, by the way, “She is nothing to me but an inconvenient

Schiller, as is well known, was infinitely more magnanimous. He had
made up his mind as to her kind of intellect before she came. In 1798
he had already pronounced her to be of an “exalted, reasoning, entirely
unpoetical nature”; and, although he clung, after seeing her, to his
conviction that “of poetry she had no conception,” he was obviously
surprised and enchanted at her native goodness, her healthy simplicity of
mind, and unaffectedness. To her penetration, brilliancy and vivacity, he
does full justice. And if, as her book on Germany afterwards showed, his
statement that “nothing existed for her unless her torch could illuminate
it,” was as misleading as are most metaphors, still its descriptiveness
enables one exactly to understand the particular sort of splendor with
which Madame de Staël flashed through the windings of the German mind.

Schiller—poor man!—was quite pathetic over her amazing volubility, which
left him, with his halting French, a hopeless distance behind her. It
is rather comic to trace the dismay at her exhausting personality which
pierces through all his admiration for, and interest in, her mind. To
Goethe, who was coquetting at Jena, and wished the brilliant stranger to
come there to him, Schiller later writes: “I saw the De Staël yesterday,
in my house, and again to-day at the Dowager Duchess’s. One would be
reminded of the sieve of the Danaïdes, if Oknos with his donkey did not
then occur to one.” He fears she will have to discover that the Germans
in Weimar can be fickle, as well as the French, unless it strikes her
soon that it is time she went. To Körner he complained that the devil had
brought the French female philosopher to torment him just in the middle
of his new play.

He found her, of all mortals within his experience, “the most
gesticulative, combative, and talkative,” even while admitting that she
was almost the most cultivated and intellectual of women. But he declared
that she destroyed all poetry in him, and waxed plaintive once again
over his ineffectual struggles with French. He proclaimed that not to
admire her for her fine mind and liberality of sentiment was impossible;
and he breathed a sigh of the most unfeigned relief when she departed.
All the Court personages felt that they had been having a severe time
of it; although the bright and petulant Duchess Amelia was enchanted in
the first instance, and wrote to Goethe imploring him to come and study
the phenomenon. He resisted for a long while, but finally arrived—not
without a previous sneer or two. Madame de Staël was charmed to know
him—in fact, her days in Weimar passed in a perfect effervescence of
delight. While the Germans were coldly, sometimes rather snarlingly,
criticizing her, she was admiring them. Schiller she speaks of with
the liveliest enthusiasm. Their acquaintance began with an animated
discussion on the respective merits of French and foreign dramas. Madame
de Staël maintained that Corneille and Racine were unsurpassable.
Schiller, of course, differed; and managed to make her heed his reasons,
in spite of his difficulty in speaking French. His quiet simplicity
and earnestness, as well as his originality of mind, became instantly
manifest to the illustrious stranger. With her, admiration meant always
the most ungrudging friendship; and this was the sentiment with which
Schiller inspired her for the rest of his days. Goethe she found cold,
and she was characteristically disappointed at his no longer displaying
the passionate ardor of Werther “Time has rendered him a spectator,” she
says; yet she admits the universality of his mind and his prodigious
information when once prevailed on to talk. It is provoking to think that
she never saw the best of Goethe, and that this disappointing result
was—although she was far, indeed, from guessing it—her own fault chiefly;
for she informed the poet that she intended to print his conversation,
and of this Goethe had a horror. He states as much in a letter to
Schiller, and gives as his reason the sorry figure which Rousseau had
cut in his correspondence—just then published—with Madame de la Tour
Franqueville and her friend.

The Dowager Duchess Amelia was a vivacious, pleasure-loving, singularly
intelligent, and liberal-minded woman, who had governed the duchy during
her son’s minority admirably, and made allies for herself among the
best German intellects. Thanks to her, her son Karl August had been so
trained, that, in the midst of a court circle to which the light of the
eighteenth century had barely penetrated, he showed a most manly contempt
for the ideals of mistresses of the robes and silver sticks in waiting,
and swept all such fripperies away to become the dearest friend of
Goethe. His duchess (whose courage both extorted Napoleon’s admiration
and saved her husband from further proofs of his ire) was a woman of
grand character, and as great a contrast, except in what was really best
in both of them, to her lively mother-in-law as could well be imagined.
She insisted on the most uncompromising observance of etiquette, and wore
to the last day of her life the costume which had prevailed in the years
when she was young.

Of this remarkable trio of exalted personages it was the reigning duchess
whom Madame de Staël selected for her friend. Indeed, she never mentions
the Dowager Duchess in corresponding with the daughter-in-law, and in
her _Allemagne_ dismisses the Grand Duke with a few lines, in which
she alludes to his military talents and speaks of his conversation as
_piquante_ and thoughtful.

From Weimar, Madame de Staël went to Berlin, with letters from their
highnesses of the little court to the lovely and charming Queen Louise.

In a well-known letter to the Grand Duchess (the first of their long
correspondence), she records a _fête_ which took place immediately
after her arrival. It was a masquerade representing Alexander’s return
to Babylon; and the beautiful queen, of whom Madame de Staël is lost
in admiration, danced in it herself. To this pageant succeeded various
costume quadrilles, in which Kotzebue appeared as a priest of Mercury,
poppy crowned, caduceus in hand, and so ugly and awkward, that Madame de
Staël wonders why her imagination was not irretrievably ruined by the
sight of him.

One likes to think of her at this court in the midst of such famous and
distinguished people; the personages so outwardly brilliant, so inwardly
dull, who surrounded her having vanished down the gulfs of Time, her
own unique personality stands out vividly against the picturesque but
confused background reconstructed by our fancy.

At Berlin she first saw and liked August Wilhelm Schlegel, destined
later to be so unwelcome to Sismondi, Bonstetten, and her other friends
at Coppet. She succumbed at once to the varied attractions of his
colossal learning, his surprising linguistic accomplishments, and his
great conversational powers. She felt that here was a foeman worthy of
her steel, and she magnanimously overlooked his acerbity, his pedantry
and vanity. She had indeed a royal indifference to the defects of great
minds. It was only the greatness she cared for.

Berlin was destined to be associated with the greatest, perhaps the most
genuine, grief of her life. She left it pleased with her reception,
enriched with new friends, new experiences, and new ideas. She had been
happier there than six months previously she would have admitted she
could ever be again; far happier than at Coppet, which for years past had
only been a place where she tarried and amused herself as she could until
the moment came for returning to Paris. She had treasured up a wealth of
conversation for her father—all kinds of novel and delightful impressions
which she felt would be listened to by nobody so appreciatively as by
him; and she started for Vienna, there to glean a little more. But she
had hardly set foot in Austria when a courier brought her the news that
her father was dangerously ill. He was, in truth, dead, and the messenger
knew it; but the fact was withheld, to be broken to her later on. She
instantly quitted Vienna, where, as she expresses it, “her happiness
had ended,” and started homewards. On the road her father’s death was
communicated to her. Her grief was overpowering and demonstrative to the
last degree. It was not only sorrow that she felt, but an overmastering
terror, for it seemed to her that with her father her last moral support
had vanished. Henceforward she would bend to the storms of life like a

On arriving at Coppet, she sank into a condition that temporarily
resembled dementia. The idea that in losing her father her whole
existence was irretrievably wrecked from its moorings, and would drift
aimlessly in the future, again filled her mind, and this time with
greater force. To every remonstrance she only answered, “I have lost my
father.” She soon recovered—strangely soon as it seemed to many—her old
elasticity and fire, but a curious secret change was wrought in her from
the hour of her loss. She showed mystic yearnings, and became even a
little superstitious. She invoked her father in her prayers, and nothing
deeply agreeable to her ever happened without her saying, “My father has
obtained this for me.”

One of Necker’s latest acts was to write a letter to Napoleon begging
him to rescind the order for Madame de Staël’s exile. Needless to say
that the pathetic request had no effect upon the person to whom it was
addressed. Domestic sentiment at no time appealed strongly to Napoleon,
and at this period he had almost reached his final pitch of unreasoning
and arrogant egoism. The murder of the Duc d’Enghien had hardened all
his nature, and in preparing to have himself proclaimed Emperor he had
kicked away any useless rubbish in the shape of scruples that might still
encumber him.

Now, when the first germ of decay had begun to consume the core of
his splendor, his attitude towards Madame de Staël itself altered.
His persecution of her ceased to be a capricious thing compounded of
spasmodic spite on his side and sporadic fears on hers, and became an
organized system of repression which placed its originator in a light all
the meaner that the woman against whom it was directed rose from this
time to a new and grander moral altitude.



Madame de Staël sought to solace her grief for her father’s death by
writing “The Private Life of Necker,” a short sketch intended to serve
as preface to a volume of his fragmentary writings. Constant spoke very
feelingly of this sketch, and pronounced it to be a revelation of all
that was best in the writer’s head and heart. He said that all her gifts
of mind and feeling were here devoted to express and adorn a single
sentiment, one for which she claimed the sympathy of the world.

This is all quite true, but it is natural that the sketch should affect
us less than it did Madame de Staël’s contemporaries. Necker was a
good and intelligent man. He had varied talents of no common order,
and an incorruptibility of character which would be rare—given the
circumstances—in any age, and, by his admirers, was supposed to be
especially so in his. But joined to all these qualities in him were
just the foibles which spoil an image for posterity. He had a profound
compassion for what he considered the hardships of his lot. It is
touching to read the way—so simple, loving, and yet ingenuous—in which
Madame de Staël records such facts as the following:—“It was painful to
him to be old. His figure, which had grown very stout and made movement
irksome to him, gave him a feeling of shyness that prevented his going
into society. He hardly ever got into a carriage when anybody was looking
at him, and he did not walk where he could be seen. In a word, his
imagination loved grace and youth, and he would say to me sometimes, ‘I
do not know why I am humiliated by the infirmities of age, but I feel
that it is so.’ And it was thanks to this sentiment that he was loved
like a young man.”

For the rest, the sketch is one long impassioned elegy in prose. One
is astonished at the sudden creative force of expression in it. It is
graphic by mere power of words without any help from metaphor.

It was not in Madame de Staël’s nature to mourn in solitude, and we have
Bonstetten’s authority for the fact that the summer of 1804 was one of
the most delightful which he had ever passed at the Château. Schlegel,
Constant, Sismondi, were all there, as well as Bonstetten, himself, and
Madame Necker de Saussure, now more than ever devoted to her cousin.
Madame de Staël had also a new visitor, Müller, the historian, whose
learning was stupendous, and who wrangled from morning till night on
subjects of amazing erudition with Schlegel. The mistress of the house,
although far from being the equal of the two combatants in learning,
sometimes rushed between them with her fiery eloquence, like an angel
with a flaming sword; but most of the society were reduced to silence.
Sismondi felt a perfect ignoramus, and talked plaintively to Bonstetten
of going to Germany, there to drink in facts and theories at the source
of the new intellect. In short, the German “Revival” was beginning, and
Madame de Staël in bringing Auguste Schlegel to Switzerland had broken a
large piece off the mountain of learning, like somebody in the fairy tale
who carried away a slice from the Island of Jewels.

In October, 1804, Madame de Staël started with Schlegel and her three
children for Italy, and it is to this journey that the world owes
_Corinne_. It is said that Schlegel first taught Madame de Staël to
appreciate art—that is, painting, sculpture, and architecture. For
music she had always had a passion, and both sang and played agreeably.
But plastic beauty had as yet been a sealed book to her, and she had
not even any great appreciation of scenery. A spontaneous feeling for
all these she perhaps never acquired. Ste. Beuve, indeed, complains
that the spot on Misenum where she places Corinne on one occasion, was
the least picturesque of many beautiful points of view. Nevertheless,
Italy revived her. She found hope and thought and voice anew beneath
that magic sky. There was nothing but the still-abiding sense of loss
to mar the pleasure of her visit. The diplomatic agents of Napoleon
abstained from interference with her, and Joseph had given her letters
introducing her to all the best society in Rome. Unlike her own Corinne,
however, she found it very uninteresting, and wrote complainingly to
Bonstetten that Humboldt was her most congenial companion. The Roman
princes she found extremely dull, and preferred the cardinals, as being
more cultivated, or more probably more men of the world. For the rest,
she was received with the liveliest respect, and even enthusiasm; was
made a member of the Arcadian Academy, and had endless sonnets written
upon her. Unfortunately, her _Dix Années d’Exil_ does not speak of this
Italian journey, and so, for the impression she received, one has to
turn to _Corinne_, where, of course, everything reappears more or less
transfigured. One would have liked to know the genesis of that work,
on what occasion it took root, and how it grew, in Madame de Staël’s
mind. How much did she really know of that poor, lampooned, insulted,
and squint-eyed Corilla who was the origin of her enchanting Sibyl? How
far below the surface did she really see of that strange Roman world,
so cosmopolitan, so chaotic after the French invasion, so thrilled
with fugitive novel ideas, so steeped in time-worn apathy? It would be
delightful to know what was the impression which Madame de Staël herself
produced in the few salons where a little culture prevailed, and what
was the true notion concerning her in that motley and decaying society
of belated Arcadians, exhausted _cicisbei_ and _abatini_ lapsed forever
from the genial circles where their youth had passed in gossiping and

Hers must have seemed a curious and forcible figure among all those
frivolous “survivals”; and great and strange, mad and merry as were the
many foreigners who found their way at various times to Rome, probably no
more striking couple ever appeared there than Madame de Staël and Auguste

As soon as she returned to Switzerland she began _Corinne_. At Coppet
some of her old circle immediately gathered round her again: Madame
Necker de Saussure, of course, and Madame Rilliet-Hüber, Schlegel,
Constant, and Sismondi, assembled to enjoy her society once more. The
private theatricals in which she delighted were again resumed, and such
tragedies as _Zaire_ and _Phèdre_ performed, as well as slight comedies
composed by the châtelaine herself. Madame de Staël was fond of acting;
and although she had no special talent, her imposing presence, and the
earnestness with which she played, made her performance a pleasing one—at
any rate, to her admirers.

When _Corinne_ was drawing to an end, its authoress could no longer
resist her old and recurring temptation to return to France. She went
first to Auxerre; then, profiting by the indulgence of Fouché, who,
when it was possible (and politic), always shut one eye, she accepted
an invitation to Acosta, a property near Meulon belonging to Madame de
Castellane. Some of her old friends ventured there to visit her, and
in peace and reviving hope she completed _Corinne_. It was no sooner
published than it was hailed with universal applause.

All this success annoyed Napoleon, possibly because it revealed in his
enemy greater powers than he had hitherto suspected, hence a greater
influence with all enlightened minds. According to some, an article
which appeared in the _Moniteur_ attacking _Corinne_ was written by the
Imperial hand. And this first sign of ire was followed by a new decree
of banishment, which sent Madame de Staël back to Coppet. There a few
new figures came to join the usual set, among them Prince Auguste of
Prussia, who straightway fell a victim to Madame Récamier. For a few
weeks this love affair introduced a new element of romantic, yet very
human, interest into the intensely intellectual life of Coppet. The
Prince wished Madame Récamier to marry him; and for a short time, either
dazzled by the prospect of such splendor, or really attracted by her
royal wooer, she hesitated. But such a step would have involved a divorce
from M. Récamier. He was old; he had lately lost his fortune; he had
always been good to her; and Juliette made up her mind that it would be
too unkind to leave him.

Some other scenes not altogether literary were passing just then in the
Château. The relations between Madame de Staël and Constant, of late
much strained, had now become constantly stormy. Sismondi, some years
later, in writing to the Countess of Albany, referred to them as really
distressing, and apparently Madame Récamier was in the flattering but
uncomfortable position of having to listen to and, as well as she could,
soothe both parties.

Constant would have married Madame de Staël, but she desired a secret
marriage, and he would only hear of an open one. It was only in 1808
he finally put an end to his perplexities by marrying Charlotte von
Hardenberg. He carefully avoided telling Madame de Staël of his
intention beforehand, being still too much under her influence to bear
her criticisms and possible reproaches with equanimity.

About November, 1807, Madame de Staël had returned again to Germany,
accompanied by two of her children, by Constant, Sismondi, and Schlegel.
From Munich she wrote one of her characteristic letters to Madame

“I have spent five days here, and I leave for Vienna in an hour. There
I shall be thirty leagues farther from you and from all who are dear to
me. All society here has received me in a charming manner, and has spoken
of my beautiful friend with admiration. You have an aerial reputation
which nothing common can touch. The bracelet you gave me [this bracelet
contained Madame Récamier’s portrait] has caused my hand to be kissed
rather oftener, and I send you all the homage which I receive.”

In another she significantly remarks:—

“The Prince de Ligne is really amiable and good above all things. He has
the manners of M. de Narbonne, and a heart. It is a pity he is old, but
all that generation fill me with an invincible tenderness.”

This is one of her touching allusions to her father, of whom all “good
gray heads” reminded her. But the Prince de Ligne and Necker were two
very different people. The former was the ideal of a _grand seigneur_,
clever, brave, handsome, all in a supreme degree; the descendant of a
chivalrous race, and as gallant and noble himself as any of them. He
was extremely witty, and quickly achieved the conquest of the Empress
Catherine when he was sent on a mission to Russia in 1782. He followed in
her suite through the Crimea on the occasion of her famous journey there
with Joseph II., and his amusing account of this expedition is one of his
claims to literary reputation. The last years of his brilliant life were
embittered by the loss of his property, consequent on the French invasion
of Belgium, and by the death in battle of his eldest and best-beloved son.

Madame de Staël probably enjoyed his society all the more that the
Viennese gentlemen appeared to her singularly uninteresting. She
complained of them in her letters to the Grand Duchess of Weimar, and
also to Madame Récamier, and declared that she felt the need of a summer
at Coppet to indemnify her for the frivolous monotony of the Austrian
capital. She seems to have been in an unusually depressed state of mind,
and recurred perpetually to the hardships of exile.

In April, 1808, shortly before starting again for Weimar, she addressed a
letter to her former friend, the ungrateful Talleyrand, begging him to
interest himself for the payment of the two millions left by her father
in the French Treasury. She alluded sadly, and at some length, to all her
sufferings again in this letter, and reminded him that he wrote thirteen
years previously to her from America, “If I must remain even one year
longer here I shall die.”

One is not much surprised to divine from subsequent circumstances that
this appeal produced no effect. Amiable, and even pathetic as it was,
Talleyrand was not the man to be moved by it. Like Napoleon, to whom he
perhaps showed it, he would be likely to think that Madame de Staël’s
“exile” was singularly mitigated. It is one thing to be proscribed and
banished, not only from one’s own country but from friends and fortune;
to wander, as so many illustrious refugees have done, a lonely stranger
in a foreign land, not daring to invoke the protection of any authority,
and constantly eking out a miserable existence by teaching or worse. It
is another thing to be wealthy, influential, admired; to be the guest of
sovereigns, and the honored friend of the greatest minds in Europe; to be
surrounded with sympathy, and followed at every step by the homage of a
brilliant and cultured crowd. Such was the existence of Madame de Staël.
Her sorrows were great because her fiery temperament rebelled against
her grief, at the same time that her great intellect fed it with lofty
and lyric thoughts. But her sorrows were of the affections exclusively.
She never felt the sting of the world’s scorn, nor knew the bitter days
and sleepless nights of poverty. If she ever “ate her bread with tears,”
they were not those saltest tears of all which are wrung from burning
eyes by unachieved hopes and frustrated endeavor. Every field of social
and intellectual activity was open to her except the salons of Paris, and
those were very different under the blight of Napoleonic bureaucracy from
what they had been even during the mingled vulgarity and ferment of the

She returned to Weimar, and had a touching meeting with the Grand
Duchess, whose recent troubles, and the courage she displayed under them,
had not only endeared her to her subjects and her friends, but had won
the applause of the world. On her way thither she presumably delayed a
short while in Berlin, and it must have been to that period that Ticknor
refers when relating a very amusing anecdote in his _Life and Letters_.
She asked Fichte to give her in a quarter of an hour a summarized idea of
his famous _Ego_, professing to be, as she doubtless was, entirely in the
dark about it. Fichte’s consternation may be imagined, for he had been
all his life developing his system, and intended it to comprehend the
universe. Moreover he spoke very bad French, and even if Madame de Staël
were momentarily silent in speech, we may fancy how voluble she _looked_,
and how nervous the prescience of her imminent rapid speech must have
made the philosopher. However, he made up his mind to the attempt, and
began. In a very few moments Madame de Staël burst out:

“Ah! that is enough. I understand perfectly. Your system is illustrated
by a story in Munchausen’s travels.” Fichte’s expression at this
announcement was a study; but the lady went on: “He arrived once on the
banks of a wide river, where there was neither bridge nor ferry, neither
boat nor raft; and at first he was in despair. But an idea struck him,
and taking hold of his own sleeve, he jumped himself over to the other
side. Now, Monsieur Fichte, is not this exactly what you have done with
your _Ego_?”

This speech charmed everybody except Fichte himself, who never forgave
Madame de Staël, or at least so Ticknor’s informant said, and it is easy
to believe him.

During the remainder of 1808, and the whole of 1809 and 1810, Madame de
Staël remained alternately at Coppet and Geneva, working steadily at the
_Allemagne_. It was only about this time that she acquired habits of
sustained occupation. Her father had entertained so strong and singular
an objection to seeing her engaged in writing, that, rather than pain
him, she used to scribble at odd hours and in casual positions—sometimes,
for instance, standing by the chimney-piece. In this way she was able to
hide her work as soon as he appeared, and thus spare him the annoyance
of supposing that he had interrupted her. She talked so continually that
it was a marvel how she ever wrote at all; and her friends used often
to wonder where and how she planned her works. But the truth seems to
have been that they sprang full grown from her brain, after having been
unconsciously developed there by perpetual discussion.

During the years above mentioned society at Coppet, although normally
composed as of old by Schlegel, Sismondi, Constant (for a time), Madame
Récamier, and Bonstetten, was varied once more by new and interesting
visitors. Among these was Madame Le Brun, who not only painted a portrait
of Madame de Staël, but noted many things which now afford pleasant
glimpses of the life at the Château. Of course, like everybody else who
sojourned as a guest at Coppet, she fell under the spell of the hostess.
Byron himself some years later recorded how much more charming Madame
de Staël was in her own house than out of it; and she seems to have
possessed the art of dispensing her hospitality, which was royal, with
as much grace as cordiality.

Among the new figures in these years at Coppet were Werner and
Oehlenschläger. Both were poets and cursed with the irritability of the
genus, so that their mutual exasperation was great, and Madame de Staël
had some trouble to keep the peace between them. Sismondi in one of
his letters described Werner as a man of many intellectual gifts, who
considered himself the apostle of Love and bound to preach it in his
wanderings through the world. Occasionally his utterances were a little
puzzling to sober-minded people, who were too much taken aback by his
mystical mixtures of passion, sentiment, and piety to be always ready
with an answer.

Werner had had a _Sturm und Drang_ period of extreme dissipation, had
taken to Freemasonry, and imbibed, apparently, some of the ideas of the
Illuminati; and, besides his mysticism in religion, inclined to socialism
in politics. After all this vagueness of thought, joined to a highly
impressionable and very vivid temperament, it is not surprising to learn
that he eventually became a Roman Catholic priest and rose to great
renown as a preacher.

Oehlenschläger has left a spiteful picture of Werner, with his nose full
of snuff, discussing his esoteric doctrines in an execrable patois which
was intended for French. Both poets, however, united in admiring and
praising, almost worshipping, Madame de Staël, and she on her side seems
to have cared little for any peculiarity in their habits as long as there
was originality in their characters.

It was during this visit of the two poets at Coppet that Karl Ritter
appeared for a short time on the scene. He enjoyed a great reputation in
Germany, being considered as the inventor of the Science of Comparative
Geography. He was also a gentle, earnest man, and became extremely
religious in his old age. He records an animated, indeed perfervid and
amazingly eloquent, speech pronounced before him by Madame de Staël in
favor of the metaphysical origin of religion, and in answer to Sismondi
who maintained that its basis should be reasoned morality. Madame de
Staël declared that religion was the condition of virtue; and that
without it there could be no higher life, by which she meant no communion
with God. In support of this thesis she displayed the most surprising
power both of analysis and illustration, while her logic appearing to
Ritter unanswerable, caused the discussion, as he avers, to be an epoch
in his intellectual life. This new interest of Madame de Staël in such
questions was largely due to the ever-growing influence of Madame de
Krüdener, now irrevocably “regenerate” and rapidly rising to fame as a
priestess and prophetess, while leading a life of the utmost asceticism.
She had been in Coppet again, and had left there the trail of her
sacerdotal tendencies. Poor Bonstetten, daily growing younger in mind
and heart, was comically disgusted at the change which was coming over
the intellectual life at the Château. The confusion of dogmas prevailing
could not console him for the fact of there being any dogmas at all.
Between Catholics, Boehmists, Martinists and Mystics, he appeared at
times to be quite worn out, and attributed the whole revolution to
the influence of his pet aversion Schlegel. How he made this out is
not very clear, for the theological spirit was as cosmopolitan in its
representatives as varied in its forms. Mathieu de Montmorency was
a Catholic, somebody else a Quietist, a third an Illuminist, while
Rationalism was left to the doubtful prowess of Baron Voght, who was
reported by Bonstetten to be as gyratory in his opinions as a weathercock.

We now approach an event in Madame de Staël’s life so well known and so
often recounted, that it will not be necessary to relate it again in
detail. This was the suppression of her _Allemagne_, Napoleon’s crowning
act of meanness, and a deed which obtained for Madame de Staël the
entire and unquestioning sympathy of every enlightened mind and generous

Madame de Staël determined, after some hesitation, to publish the work
in Paris, after submitting it in the first instance to the approval of
the Imperial Censors. Why she took this unfortunate resolution it is
difficult to conceive; for she had been plentifully illuminated with
regard to Napoleon’s spite, and even if all her penetration did not
enable her to foresee the full lengths to which this would carry him,
she might, one would think, have guessed that the censors in Paris would
judge her work with the utmost severity.

However this may be, she took up her abode near Blois for the sake of
correcting the proofs as they issued from the press. She had, before
leaving Coppet, caused her passports to be made out for America, in which
country she had property, and whither, for the sake of her children she
said, she was gradually making up her mind to go. One cannot imagine
Madame de Staël in the New World such as it was in those days; and as she
entertained the project for a long while, put it off from month to month,
and finally abandoned it altogether, it is more than probable that she
never liked it sufficiently to have resolved upon it seriously.

At Blois she established herself first in the famous Château of
Chaumont-sur-Loire, haunted by such various memories as the Cardinal
d’Amboise, Diane de Poitiers, Catherine de Medici, and Nostradamus. But
the owner of the house shortly returning, she removed to another mansion
at Fossé, the home of a M. de Salaberry. She had addressed a letter
to Napoleon in which she presented her work to his notice, craved an
interview in very respectful terms, and urged on his notice the advantage
which it would be for her sons’ career and her daughter’s eventual
marriage (Albertine was then thirteen) if she were allowed to reside
again in the neighborhood of Paris.

While awaiting the answer to this, she gathered round her a group of
her usual friends, among them Madame Récamier, Adrien and Mathieu de
Montmorency, Prosper de Barante, and Benjamin Constant. This society
amused itself with music (an Italian musician, Albertine’s master, who
played the guitar, being of the company), and with a quaint invention
named _La petite poste_. This consisted in abolishing conversation and
substituting for it little notes, which were passed from one to the
other. A very innocent amusement; but either it, or the guitar-playing,
or “Corinne’s” famous name made some noise in the neighborhood.

Finally, one evening Madame de Staël went to the theatre at Blois,
and, on leaving it, was surrounded by a curious crowd. Some officious
person communicated this fact, probably with various others, some true,
some false, to the Minister of Police, who wrote to the Prefect of the
department to complain that his master’s celebrated foe was the centre
of a little court. In a short time the blow fell. No answer came from
Napoleon, but, instead of it, the announcement that her book had been
seized, that all copies of it were destroyed, and that the authoress was
to leave France within three days either for America or Coppet. At the
same time, the Prefect of Loir and Cher demanded the surrender of the MS.
of the work. Fortunately Madame de Staël possessed a rough copy, which
she gave him, while her son saved the real one.

She wrote to Savary, Duke of Rovigo (“permitted,” she says bitingly
“to hide his name under a title”), and represented to him that the
interval allowed her for her departure was insufficient. She received a
reply which has become classic for its baseness, its insolence, and its
ludicrous arrogance. All the littleness and none of the force of Napoleon
was reflected from the mind of his underling. He told her that she need
not seek for the cause of her exile in the silence regarding the Emperor
which she had observed in her work, for that no place in it could have
been found worthy of him! For the rest, the air of France did not suit
her, and as for its inhabitants, they were not yet reduced to taking as
models the nations whom she admired. Her last work was not French, and it
was he (this worthy official) who had forbidden it to be printed.

Savary thus claimed for himself, and not for his master, the glory of
this precious proceeding; but as nobody suspected him of acting except
under orders, he blew this trumpet to the desert air.

The blow to Madame de Staël was a terrible one. Her first impulse was to
go to America; but fearing the long sea-voyage for her daughter at that
season of the year (it was October), she once again set her face most
reluctantly towards Coppet. This place, which she henceforward describes
as a “prison,” was shortly afterwards made further distasteful to her by
a change of Prefect. Monsieur de Barante, who was a friend of hers, was
removed, and the successor appointed to him, M. Capelle, was one of the
functionaries now turned out by the gross from the Imperial mould. He
regarded Napoleon as a deity and himself as a prophet, and conceived the
brilliant idea of distinguishing himself by persuading Madame de Staël to
write something flattering of the Emperor. Naturally he failed; the mind
of a bureaucrat prostrate before the fetich of his own alarmed idolatry
alone could have conceived the possibility of success. And naturally,
again, his failure rankled, and caused him to visit his disappointment on
the creator of it by numerous small vexations.



Madame de Staël arrived at Coppet in a condition of despair, which
she partially solaced by writing to Madame Récamier and thanking her
again and again for the constancy of her friendship. Evidently many
of her friends had already dropped away, or she fancied they had.
Perhaps she wearied them a little with her lamentations, for one knows
that silence was never her forte. But all at once a happy change came
over her. Sismondi, writing to the Countess of Albany, mentioned the
transformation, and spoke of their friend with admiration for her
new-born but to him inexplicable courage. She had given up literary work,
and no longer alluded to her afflictions; and yet, in spite of that,
her gaiety was great and her conversation as charming and sparkling as
ever. Sismondi doubtless considered that Reason—his beloved Reason was
at last asserting its sway over “Corinne’s” excitable imagination. He
must have been greatly surprised a long time afterwards when he learnt
that the magician was Love. Years previously, when Sismondi had himself
been in love in his decorous fashion, and had reproached Madame de Staël
for a want of sympathy in his trouble—a want which he had not expected
in the author of _Delphine_—she said to him: “I have never loved that
I have not felt in myself two persons—one who laughed at the other.”
But when she made that answer she was young and restless, and, like all
great and burning minds, claimed from life a destiny too radiant to be
ever realized. Now she was middle-aged; she had drunk of the waters of
bitterness and known some of the tragic awakenings of passion; she had
experienced an immeasurable sorrow in the loss of her father; she had
become familiar to satiety with the triumphs of the world; and was,
as she wrote to Madame Récamier, “wearied of suffering.” In short the
moment had come when the one imperious cry of her soul was for peace.
In such a state of mind what seems ridiculous becomes possible, and the
spirit of mocking youth in Madame de Staël, which once could laugh at
the passionate half of her nature, was buried with most of her hopes and
almost all of her illusions.

It was shortly after her return to Switzerland that, going to Geneva
to spend some little while, she first met Rocca. He was twenty-three,
she was forty-five; but that disparity of years did not prevent his
conceiving for her a most romantic passion. He was extremely handsome—a
fact to which Frederica Brun and Byron alike bear witness, and was
further interesting through having been wounded in the war in Spain,
and so badly that his health was never restored. He was the son of a
Councillor of State in Geneva, and descended from a noble Piedmontese
family which had emigrated to Switzerland during the persecution of the
Protestants. He had some culture and considerable intelligence; was
even something of an author; and, finally, was a splendid horseman. He
was wont to ride a magnificent black Andalusian steed, and performed
unheard-of feats of jumping and galloping under the windows of the house
in Geneva where Madame de Staël was staying. These varied attractions
finally proved irresistible to the object of his homage, and before
the year 1811 a secret marriage took place. Why it was a secret is one
of those mysteries which has never been satisfactorily cleared up. One
explanation is that Bonaparte, out of hatred of Madame de Staël, would
order Rocca, who, of course, was in the French army, away on service.
But if this had been the real reason, it was sufficiently strong to have
rendered any further explanation unnecessary. Nevertheless, a very good
authority, the authoress of _Coppet et Weimar_, gives two other reasons:
one that Madame de Staël would “never have consented to give up the
aristocratic name which she had made so illustrious”; the other, that the
world would have turned such a marriage into ridicule. In this connection
it is worth while to state that Constant has given Madame de Staël’s
unwillingness to change her name as a reason why she would not consent to
an open marriage with him.

The union with Rocca seems to have been a very happy one; but inasmuch
as it passed for years in the eyes of everybody for a connection of
another nature, there is no doubt that it brought Madame de Staël into
some discredit. Many of the guests at Coppet admired Rocca, but Sismondi,
for one, disliked him extremely. Sismondi, however, was not unfrequently
disposed to be rather severe on Madame de Staël and her guests; he even
carped a little at the lovely Juliette. “She (Madame Récamier) has put in
a fleeting appearance here,” he wrote in August, 1811. “She is full of
kindness and graciousness towards Madame de Staël, and is not less pretty
than two years ago, and yet I am glad that she is going; for whenever she
is present, all true conversation is destroyed. She always beguiles her
neighbor into low-toned _tête-à-tête_ talk. Her small airs and graces
weary me, and her intelligence—for she is intelligent—in no way profits
the public.”

Sismondi sometimes visited Madame de Staël herself with criticism not
less captious, although he was generally vanquished in the end by her
heroism and her charm. During the summer of 1811 she was in a very
restless and unhappy mood, which often drew forth his censure.

The conviction of the extreme disfavor with which Napoleon regarded her
was now widely spread, and one of its results was a real or fancied
falling-off of friends, which wounded her exceedingly. To nothing was
she so sensitive as to any failure of affection, and the ardor with
which she sought to defend herself from blame was caused not so much
by offended self-love as by slighted feeling of a more amiable kind.
Just about this time she wrote to Camille Jordan a very characteristic
letter. Its tone was indignant, for Jordan, always rather cold and
repellent, had evidently stung her by some censure of her conduct.
Apparently also, he had sought to justify himself for not coming to see
her, for she assured him that she had never dreamed of blaming him, nor
entertained a thought against his loyalty. She quivered under a shaft
which had struck more deeply home, and in one sentence made an allusion
applying apparently to Rocca. She owned that being placed, as it appeared
to her, on the highest pinnacle of moral dignity, she had felt some
wonder at the fact that Jordan, “indulgent towards the inconceivable
conduct of Girando,” should have reserved all his wrath for an unhappy
woman who, “while resisting all attacks and defending her children and
her talent at the risk of happiness, security, and life,” had allowed
herself to be momentarily touched by the self-sacrificing chivalry of a
young man. Her anger was but fleeting, and a few months later she wrote
as affectionately as ever to Camille, who, perhaps, for once had been
shaken from his prudent calm by her fiery words, and had calmed her by
protesting unaltered regard.

This year of 1811 was fruitful of sorrow. Mathieu de Montmorency and
Madame de Récamier were both exiled immediately after a visit paid by
them to their illustrious friend. According to Madame Lenormant, the
writer of _Coppet et Weimar_, as well as to Madame de Staël herself, the
letter from the Minister of Police which conveyed the order of exile to
Mathieu de Montmorency distinctly signified that friendship with the
mistress of Coppet was the cause of his disgrace. Sismondi, however,
who showed himself incredulous, and to a certain extent unsympathizing
throughout all these circumstances, when writing to the Countess of
Albany, was concerned to correct such an impression, and declared that
not only had the Prefect of Geneva and the Minister of the French Police
disclaimed the idea as unfounded, but he himself had never seen that
anybody was in the least compromised by going to Coppet. Nevertheless,
in a very short time Schlegel was ordered to quit the Château on the
preposterous plea that he had pronounced the _Phædra_ of Euripides to be
superior to that of Racine! Madame de Staël went to Aix for the sake of
her youngest son’s health, but at the end of ten days was recalled by a
letter from the Prefect, who advised her not to venture more than two
leagues from Coppet. Very naturally she was irritated to the last degree
and often deeply distressed at all these incidents. The exile imposed on
Mathieu de Montmorency and Madame Récamier caused her the greatest grief,
more especially as she never doubted but that unwittingly she was the
cause. She had other causes of suffering also in her health at the time,
and doubtless was far from being as brilliant as of yore.

Circumstances (she had a son by Rocca in 1812) condemned her to an
isolation which fretted her almost beyond endurance; and Sismondi, not
possessing the key to the situation, was aggrieved at her sombre mood
and nervous irritability. He wrote that he sometimes “bores himself”
at Coppet (O Ichabod!); and he was induced to take refuge with sundry
amiable persons at Geneva who soothed his wounded self love.

At last Madame de Staël—inconsolable for the loss of Schlegel’s society,
panting to escape beyond the narrow limits of Coppet, where her sons had
no career before them, and her daughter no chance of marrying, and she
herself was harassed by hints and admonitions from the Prefect at every
turn—resolved upon escape. She was informed through Schlegel, who was in
Berne at the time, that if she would even now write something in praise
of Napoleon her fate would be considerably mitigated. It is no slight
credit to her that, agitated and ill as she was, she firmly declined.
Nothing, indeed, at such a moment could have been more courageous than
her refusal, for she was torn with a thousand fears at her impending
journey. The passport would have been an insuperable difficulty, as
the permission to go to America, once accorded, had now been withdrawn
from her; entrance into Italy was also denied, and the Government was
determined that she should not take refuge in England.

Yet to England she was resolved to go. The only route open to her was
through Russia and Sweden. Through her friend the Grand Duchess of Weimar
she obtained a passport, which was to be handed to her in Vienna. All
this took months to settle, and it was only on the 23rd of May, 1812,
that she was at last able to start. It was necessary to leave in such a
way as not to excite the attention of the lynx-eyed Prefect of Geneva.

The eve of her departure she wandered about the park of Coppet a prey
to the utmost grief. She had been unwilling to return there at one
time, but now she was heart-broken at having to bid a long, perhaps
a last, farewell to the tomb of her father and the scenes associated
with his memory. To her, both by nature and system, such a parting was
particularly poignant.

At 2 o’clock on the afternoon of the 23rd, she got into her carriage,
announcing that she would return for dinner. Only two of her servants
were in the secret. Albertine, Auguste and Rocca were with her; her
second son was to follow in a few days, and join her at Vienna with
her baggage. For the present, all the necessaries which the travellers
absolutely needed were stowed away in the pockets of Auguste and Rocca;
Madame de Staël and Albertine only carried fans.

The escape thus ingeniously planned was carried out with a success that
it is quite pleasant to read of, even to this moment. The police never
awoke at all to the fact of the flight until the luggage followed the
fugitives, and then Madame de Staël was beyond their reach. History
draws a veil over the feelings of the Prefect.

At Berne, Schlegel joined the party, and Auguste de Staël separated
from it, in order to return to Coppet to see after things there. The
travellers pushed on, but, because of Madame de Staël’s health, in no
great haste, through Switzerland and the Tyrol. Her one haunting fear all
this time was that in Bavaria an agent of the French Government might
have preceded her with an order for her arrest. The abject subservience
of the German Governments at that time to Napoleon made it very likely
that in such a case passports would be so much waste-paper.

Vienna was reached in safety, and there Madame de Staël at first
determined to remain three weeks, while a courier was despatched to Wilna
to obtain the Russian passport from the Emperor Alexander. The first
ten days of her sojourn were marked by cloudless pleasure. Security had
returned to her; and, after her late repression, varied chiefly by the
Prefect of Geneva’s solemn exhortations, it was a real delight to find
herself in the midst of a society where Napoleon was frankly abused. But
the Emperor and Empress of Austria were at Dresden, and the official
mind, left to itself, soon became frightened at the idea of sheltering
the dangerous authoress. Spies were stationed at her door, and cropped
up, like poisonous fungi, with silent rapidity along her path. Moreover,
an order had arrived for the arrest and return of Rocca as a French
officer—the fact of his wounds and inability to serve being waived in
the interests of persecution. At this point one pauses to ask _why_,
after all, Madame de Staël herself was not arrested. There seems but
little doubt that the obsequiousness of the Austrian police would have
been equal to the task. Perhaps Napoleon shrank from the odium of such a
proceeding; perhaps he was, in reality, rather glad to be rid of Madame
de Staël. This would agree with a well-known conversation which he had
held four years previously with Auguste de Staël, who, going to him to
plead for his mother’s recall, was told, with insolent, good-humored
contempt, that the whole of Europe, except France, was open to her;
that she would not be imprisoned, as then she might have some cause to
complain, but that she alone could be unhappy when allowed to wander at
will through every capital of Europe except Paris.

But if this explanation be accepted, it becomes difficult to account for
the later persecutions of Madame de Staël at the hands of the French and
Swiss police. Could it be that Savary and his underlings, through excess
of zeal, interpreted their instructions with liberal severity and that
Napoleon was not responsible for every individual act, but only for the
angry hatred which promised approval of each and all of them?

However this may be, Madame de Staël’s fears were not long in reasserting
themselves. Too impatient to wait for the passport, she started with
her son and daughter for Galicia, having extracted from a friend the
promise of hurrying after her as soon as the expected paper arrived. In
her _Memoirs_ she admits that this was a mistake; for at Vienna she had
friends to intercede in her favor, while in Galicia there was no shield
between herself and the servility towards France of inferior officials.
As a consequence she was driven along her route by the unceasing
admonitions to “move on” of the police. Her immediate goal was Lanzut—the
home of her friends Prince and Princess Lubomirski. Here she was to meet
Rocca, who had also proceeded on his way, but disguised. At some point of
the road her passport reached her. This was a ray of light; and a letter
from Madame Récamier, which overtook her somewhere near Olmutz, was
another. But, as a rule, her sensations were all gloomy. The discomforts
of her journey through such a country and under such circumstances
increased her sadness, to which the finishing touch was put by the aspect
of the desolated countries, and of the overtaxed, starving populations
withering beneath the Napoleonic blight, and mingling curses on the
oppressor with prayers to heaven for relief.

These tragic pictures were ludicrously, but by no means reassuringly
relieved by the sight of placards, in the various towns where the
passports had to be examined, which ordained that Madame de Staël was to
be submitted, wherever she appeared, to the surveillance of the police!

At Lanzut she had been informed that she was not to stay more than
twenty-four hours. This, however, was previous to her receiving the
Russian passport. With that to show, she hoped for more indulgence.

The hope was vain, for at Lanzut a police agent presented himself, having
received orders from his chief, the Governor of the district, to see that
Madame de Staël did not remain more than eight hours at the Lubomirski’s
Château. And when she left, he followed her carriage in a calèche, thus
causing her much alarm lest Rocca, on joining them, should be recognized.

Fifty leagues of Austrian territory had still to be traversed. The
police agent, who is described as carrying out his instructions with a
most vexatious pertinacity, quitted the travellers at the limit of his
“circle”; but Madame de Staël says that grenadiers were still found
posted along the route to observe her, and she did not breathe freely
until she found herself on Russian territory. Even there she could not
allow herself to feel quite secure, for Napoleon’s huge army—destined by
its apparent power and its oncoming doom to typify the falling might of
France—was hastening by forced marches to Moscow; and Madame de Staël,
to avoid meeting it, had to reach St. Petersburg by a circuitous route.
Her terror of being arrested and imprisoned still abode with her; she
was evidently convinced that the Emperor was furious with her for having
escaped his clutches; and she began seriously to consider what she would
do if any portion of the army threatened to overtake her. Her plan was to
hasten on to Odessa, and thence proceed to Greece and Constantinople.

Fortunately, her companions succeeded in persuading her that she could
travel by post much faster than an army; and partially calmed, she at
last gave herself up to some enjoyment of the scenes and people around
her. Her _Dix Années d’Exil_, always vivid, becomes from this point a
charming book. She is a little too optimistic, and indulges, as usual,
too much in generalization, but seizes on salient points with swiftness,
and describes them with remarkable force.

She was delighted with her reception by the nobles and the Imperial
family. Of the Czar she speaks with a fervent admiration that later
generations have not shared. He had the facile amiability and
conventional philanthropy of a sovereign who finds his benevolent
theories so constantly crossed by circumstances as to release him, in
most instances, from the responsibility of applying them. But any promise
of political reform and any appeal to general principles of excellence
found so ready a response in Madame de Staël’s own heart that, especially
where a monarch spoke, she ceased to be severely critical.

According to Galiffe, she met in Russia with immense social success, and
enchanted everybody. He, personally, found her much improved since the
days of her brilliant, but too self-asserting youth.

Stein was struck with her air of simplicity and goodness, and sought
to convey her great unaffectedness of manner by saying that “she gave
herself no trouble to please”—quite a man’s judgment on a woman, and
curiously inaccurate as a necessary consequence. Madame de Staël was
so intensely interested in every new person who appeared to her at all
distinguished, that she must always have cared supremely to please. But
what Stein probably meant was that she had none of the airs and graces
of worldly coquettes; and very often, when launched in conversation, she
must have been more bent on convincing than seducing.

Madame de Staël passes over in her _Memoirs_ a scene at the theatre,
during her visit to St. Petersburg, which wounded her deeply, and
is related by Arndt. She went with her son and somebody else to the
“Théatre Français,” to see Racine’s _Phèdre_. Scarcely was she seated,
when somebody in the pit denounced her and her companions as French.
Instantly the people rose and clamored for them to be turned out. The
performance was stopped, the actors decamped, and poor Madame de Staël,
sobbing with indignation and grief, was led away. Even then she felt the
insult chiefly as levelled at Racine, and repeated incessantly, “_Oh! les
barbares, les barbares! Oh, mon Racine!_” Arndt was rather astonished at
her taking such a scene so much to heart; but, on reflection, arrived at
the conclusion that German women might be the better for a little of the
same passionate patriotism.

But unpleasant incidents during her stay in the Russian capital seem to
have been few. She visited several institutions, was received everywhere
with politeness and cordiality, and revelled again, as she had done in
Vienna, in listening to the free expression of sentiments that agreed
with her own. Events, however, were progressing rapidly, and, in spite
of the engagement never to sign a peace entered into by the Czar with
Bernadotte at Abo, the battle of Borodino and the taking of Moscow filled
most people with dismay. Madame de Staël, always easily alarmed, thought
that the moment had arrived when she could no longer remain in Russia
with safety, and she set her face towards Sweden, _en route_ for England;
thus quitting St. Petersburg a few days too soon to receive in all its
force the electric shock of learning that Moscow was fired. At Abo, where
she was to embark for Stockholm, she met Bernadotte, now Prince Royal of
Sweden, whom she had formerly known in Paris as an _habitué_ of her own
and Madame Récamier’s salon. Of course he admired the lovely Juliette,
and hastened to inquire after her with an interest which Madame de Staël
straightway conveyed in a letter to her friend—a letter worded, however,
with a caution that reveals the inconceivable difficulty even of private
correspondence in those stormy days.

At Stockholm she was welcomed, according to her son, with “perfect
kindness”; and as she was notoriously enthusiastic about Bernadotte, whom
she unhesitatingly pronounced to be “the hero of the age,” it is probable
that he honored her with a great deal of his confidence. Galiffe (author
of _D’un siècle à l’autre_), who had access to her correspondence from
Sweden with J. A. Galiffe in St. Petersburg, was of opinion that her
influence had a large share in determining Bernadotte to declare himself
against Bonaparte.

She dedicated her _Réflexions sur le Suicide_ to the Prince in a very
complimentary preface, in which she compared herself and her children as
seeking his protection in the same way as Arabian Shepherds take shelter
from a storm “under a laurel”; and went on to assure him that his public
life had been signalized by all the virtues which claim the admiration
of thinkers, and she encouraged him to persevere and remind the world of
that which it had entirely forgotten, namely, that the highest reason
teaches virtue. In contrast to all this praise, it is piquant to learn
that Bernadotte—like so many other practically-minded people—had his
little grumble at his illustrious guest, and talked of the “inconceivable
preoccupation with self,” which by this time had led Madame de Staël to
see in every political move of Napoleon the beginning of some new measure
against herself.

Her oft-professed anxiety about her sons’ future was allayed by the
Prince Royal’s offer to interest himself in Auguste’s diplomatic career,
while Albert was to enter the Swedish army.

One might wonder why this obvious solution of her difficulties had not
presented itself sooner to Madame de Staël, were it not evident that she
had consciously or unconsciously made the most of every circumstance
which could heighten the apparent hardship of her lot.



After quitting Sweden Madame de Staël went to England. Some eighteen
years or so had passed since she had wept in the lanes at Mickleham at
the thought of separating from the charming colony at Juniper Hall. Her
heart was still almost as young as in those days; the vivid flame of
enthusiasm for all that was good still burnt as brightly in her soul.
If her spiritual horizon had widened, and a fervent if rather vague
religious sentiment had succeeded to her unquestioning faith in men—that
was almost all the change in her. For her nature was a singularly
homogeneous one, and growth, while widening and deepening it, did not
render it more complex.

Her reception in English society was marked by all the enthusiasm which
we are accustomed to lavish on illustrious foreigners. She was mobbed at
routs and assemblies, and ladies mounted on chairs and tables to stare at

She took up her abode at 30, Argyll Place, Regent Street, a house now
a bathing establishment. It was here that she received the mixed but
brilliant society which Byron declared reminded him of the grave,
inasmuch as all distinctions were levelled in it!

These social meetings formed her protest against the enormous and
overcrowded gatherings which were dignified then, as now, with the
name of “society” in London, and where Madame de Staël found that all
intellectual enjoyment was smothered by sheer force of numbers. She
was willing enough to admit that clever men and women in England were
transcendentally interesting when caught in sufficiently small groups to
make rational conversation possible; but declared that all qualities of
mind were annihilated in the crowds, where the only superiority necessary
was physical force to enable one to elbow one’s way along.

Byron and Madame de Staël became very good friends, although she rated
him about his conduct in love; and he laughed, with quiet malice, at
many of her peculiarities. One of his favorite diversions—or, at least,
so he said—was to plague her by declaring that he did not believe in
Napoleon’s “persecutions.” Nothing made her more angry, he declared,
inasmuch as she was proud of the danger, which, as she believed,
threatened Napoleon’s Government from her eloquence and her fame. Byron,
in his _Conversations with Lady Blessington_, told one or two stories
of “Corinne,” more diverting probably than veracious, and complained of
her overwhelming declamation (as distinguished from talk), her tendency
to metaphysical subtleties, her extraordinary self-complacency, and the
strange simplicity which caused her to be perpetually mystified. But he
admitted that she was “a fine creature with great talent and many noble
qualities”; and he loudly proclaimed her immeasurable superiority to
every woman with pretensions to literary fame in England. He even found
several things to admire in her appearance, which in a man of his taste
was a very precious testimony, and might have consoled Madame de Staël,
had she only known of it, for those personal defects which were said to
afflict her.

The person who in all England appears to have been the best match,
conversationally, for Madame de Staël was Sir James Mackintosh, who,
perhaps, gave the best of all descriptions of her when he said, “She
is one of the few persons who surpass expectation. She has every sort
of talent, and would be universally popular if, in society, she were
to confine herself to her inferior talents—pleasantry, anecdote, and
literature, which are so much more suited to conversation than her
eloquence and genius.” At another time he remarked: “Her penetration was
certainly extraordinary, with an air of apparent occupation in things
immediately around her.” He recorded, not always approvingly, some of her
sweeping judgments, as for instance, that “Political Economy was prosaic
and uninteresting,” and that “Miss Austen’s novels were commonplace.”

Her stay in England was saddened, although apparently not very deeply so,
by the violent death of her younger son. Byron’s flippant allusion to
this tragic event has brought him into much disrepute. “Madame de Staël,”
he wrote, “has lost one of her young Barons, who has been carbonaded by a
vile Teutonic adjutant.… ‘Corinne’ is, of course, what all mothers must
be, but will, I venture to prophesy, do what few mothers could—write an
essay upon it. She cannot exist without a grievance and somebody to see
or read how much grief becomes her.” All these epigrammatic previsions
turned out to be apparently unfounded; for there is no proof that Madame
de Staël mourned her son with anything approaching to the passion
with which she had grieved for her father. Sismondi, indeed, always
censorious, is rather severe on what he is pleased to consider her want
of maternal feeling; and, as she was never known to hide her sentiments,
it is only fair to conclude that comparative silence meant comparative
insensibility. Albert de Staël was very high-spirited and impetuous, and
rather wild. Judging from a severe and somewhat self-righteous epistle
addressed to him on one occasion by his mother, he had many of the faults
that irritated, and none of the qualities that pleased her. Auguste and
Albertine, inspired by their adoring veneration, presumably tried to
mould their tastes and pursuits by hers; but Albert appears to have been
different—for his mother reproaches him with remaining unmoved by her own
intellect, the dignity of his brother, the charm of his sister, and the
talents of M. Schlegel! She assures him that he is unfit to appreciate
the mother whom he possesses, and very characteristically requests to be
told of what service it has been to him to be “the grandson of Necker.”
Neither the invocation of this august memory, nor the general drift of
the arguments, strike one as happily chosen for moving a thoughtless
lad in his teens, who was probably drawn towards his brother and sister
by other reasons than their respective dignity and charm, and was more
than likely to be secretly bored by the disquisitions of the learned
Schlegel. However this may be, the letter gives the full measure of the
contempt which Madame de Staël could feel for folly and frivolity; and,
if those were the distinguishing characteristics of Albert, it is very
comprehensible that, the first pangs of natural grief overcome, his loss
would not leave a great void in her active existence.

In the autumn of 1813 _L’Allemagne_ was published. It appeared in London,
and straightway caused the greatest ferment known for a long while in
the literary world. The circumstances under which it saw the light—the
social position, sex, and history of its author—and its own intrinsic
merits, combined to make it an event. It is notorious how much Sir James
Mackintosh and Byron admired it; and articles concerning it, critical
and laudatory, poured from the European press. Goethe admitted that no
previous writer had so largely revealed the riches of German literature
to the intelligence of an unappreciative generation; and although the
great Teutonic race was not fully satisfied with the work at the time,
and has since become somewhat captious regarding it, the talent which it
displayed has never been called in question. By a sufficiently striking
coincidence the publication of _L’Allemagne_ took place in the same
month as the battle of Leipzic. Only a brief period then elapsed before
Napoleon abdicated, and Madame de Staël, her splendid and triumphant
exile terminated, was enabled once more to re-enter the gates of beloved
but, alas! humiliated Paris. She was far too patriotic not to entertain
saddened feelings on seeing the streets of the capital filled with
soldiers in German, Russian and Cossack uniforms; for while rejoicing in
the overthrow of Napoleon, she mourned the tarnished glory of the French

She was received with the utmost cordiality by Louis XVIII., and her
salon quickly became the rallying-ground for all the brightest intellects
of France. It is interesting to read that Talleyrand—the supple, silent,
time-serving Talleyrand—was among her guests. She forgave him, of course,
for his long oblivion of her old claims on his friendship; but not
more thoroughly, in all probability, than he forgave himself. To Paris
had returned the Abbé de Montesquion, Lally, Tollendal, Lafayette. How
changed were the times since the latter had hurried thither to plead,
and plead in vain, for his imprisoned King; since the Abbé had waited in
disguise on the high road for Madame de Staël to arrive in her carriage
and convey him out of France; since Lally, “the fattest of susceptible
men,” had brought his eloquence and sensibility to help in enlivening the
sylvan glades of Mickleham.

Madame Récamier had returned and Constant, at the ripe age of forty-eight
and married for the second time, was so in love with her as to resent any
allusion to the past which could divert him, even momentarily, from his
all-absorbing passion.

Madame de Krüdener, worn and wasted with sybilline fervor, had commenced
her religious gatherings, and the Czar was drawn daily within the circle
of her spells, while Madame Récamier was banished from it because her
beauty could still claim glances that were vowed to heaven. Constant,
going once, never went again; perhaps because Juliette was wanting;
perhaps because such mystic utterances as fell from the inspired
priestess’s lips were too vague to find an echo in his passion-tossed
soul. To Paris also had come Bonstetten, younger than ever in spirit, and
hopeful, for all his burden of years.

The dawn of the new era—so quickly clouded for more serious and prescient
souls than his—filled him with delight. He was brighter and more
contented now than he had been in youth; the world seemed a better place
to him, and he almost wondered how anybody could be sad in a universe so
full of new ideas and dazzling intellectual possibilities.

Besides all these interesting figures, other and more splendid, if not
more illustrious, personages crowded Madame de Staël’s salon. Thither
came the Czar, so chivalrous and sympathetic in these days; thither came
her old friend the Duke of Saxe Weimar; and Wellington presented himself
to be received with the utmost cordiality, and to inscribe himself on
the long list of Madame Récamier’s admirers.

At first Madame de Staël’s heart beat high with patriotic hopes. She had
become monarchical in her feelings again, and expected great things for
France from the liberal disposition of the King. She exerted herself
quite in her old way to talk over dissidents and reconcile malcontents;
for her one longing was that the new constitution of France might be
made on the pattern and informed with the spirit of England. But she
was not slow to discover how ill-founded were such aspirations. Egotism
stalked through the exhausted land—egotism under various forms and
professing various creeds; now wearing the super-annuated uniform of the
Maison Rouge; now decorated with the medals conferred by Napoleon; now
prating of old services before the emigration; now professing a servile
repentance for base obedience to Bonaparte. They were but differences
in the mask after all; yet over these differences men wrangled, and
meanwhile the poison of a deadly indifference crept through the veins
of France. Madame de Staël saw all this and felt it with a passionate
regret. In the last volume of her _Considerations_ she shows how
everything was accorded in the letter, only to be constantly violated in
the spirit. She deplored the irreconcilable folly of the _émigrés_; the
abject cringing of converted Bonapartists, who only cared for power; and
the disastrous reactionary influences which hampered the action of the

She returned for the summer to Coppet—a very welcome refuge to her now
that she went thither of her own free will. Her health was beginning to
fail about this time, while that of M. Rocca gave her constant anxiety.
Originally she had been blest, if not with a splendid constitution, at
least with a royal disdain of physical influences. She had felt neither
heat nor cold, and spoke even with a certain impatience of invalid
considerations. But she had lived at such high pressure intellectually
from her very earliest years; had thought, felt, talked, and done so
much, that her existence could not be counted, like most people’s, by
years. In the sense of accumulated efforts and results it had been a
very long life, and the expenditure of nervous energy so constantly kept
up was beginning to tell at last. Even Bonstetten, the optimist, saw a
change in her when in July, 1814, he visited her at Coppet. She was,
indeed, very depressed in spirits; but he appeared to allude only to a
physical alteration, for he declared her to be as brilliant and good
as ever. He might have added as indefatigable. She found somebody to
translate Wilberforce’s work on the Slave Trade, and wrote a preface to
the French edition. Also she published, in pamphlet form, an appeal for
Abolition addressed to the Sovereigns met together at that time in Paris;
and she was busy with her work, _Considerations_, of which the first two
parts alone were eventually revised by herself.

In July, from Coppet, she wrote a characteristic letter to Madame
Récamier, telling what difficulty she experienced in keeping up the
fine love of solitude, which had beguiled her momentarily into seeking
that picturesque and sacred but monotonous retreat. “My soul is not
sufficiently rural,” she writes. “I regret your little apartment and
our quarrels and conversations, and all that life which is yours.” In
this sturdy love of streets Madame de Staël resembled Dr. Johnson and,
perhaps, if the truth were known, she resembled all good talkers.

She returned to Paris in the winter of 1814-15, and, conscious that her
strength was failing, she became extremely anxious to marry her darling
daughter to some man who would be worthy of her. Her circumstances had
been recently much improved by the repayment from the Treasury of the
two millions which Necker had left there. Such wealth, joined to her own
brilliant social position, entitled her to look out for a good _parti_
for Albertine; but she was resolute that the match should be a happy one.
Her ideal of felicity was conjugal love. She preached, indeed, a code
of wifely submission that would seem very insipid to some emancipated
damsels in our days, and was perhaps a little too perfect to be possible.
But she put into it all her own rare faith in good, and often laughingly
declared that “she would _force_ her daughter to make a marriage of the

In the midst of these amiable preoccupations, and while enjoying once
again the delight of social intercourse, unhampered by foreign modes of
speech and thought, and untroubled by the irritation of exile, Madame
de Staël was still haunted by a foreboding of evil. Such presentiments
were very common with her. She had the quick, indefinable instinct
of imaginative minds, and felt that subtle vibration of events which
precedes, or perhaps causes, change in them. Probably she hardly knew
what she anticipated; and yet, when the news of Napoleon’s escape from
Elba arrived, it seemed as if the expected disaster could only be that.
An hour after she met M. de la Valette, and said to him: “If Bonaparte
triumph, liberty is lost; and if he be beaten, our national independence
is over.”

A few days of utter consternation followed—a pause of bewildered,
incapable silence, through which, as Châteaubriand so graphically says,
“the sound of Bonaparte’s advancing footsteps echoed.” Then came the
news of one town and province after another rallying round the standard
of the resurgent conqueror. Ney departed, vowing to bring back his
former master in an iron cage; and the vain boast, so quickly yet not
ludicrously disproved, inspired as little confidence as it deserved.

The Court prepared for ignominious flight, and Madame de Staël had no
choice but to follow its example. But a few months previously she had
by chance become aware of a conspiracy against Napoleon’s life, and,
for all her hatred of him, had been so moved by the menace of peril to
her ancient and implacable foe, that she had found means to despatch a
warning to him. Yet now, when she heard of his return, all her terror of
him revived in its pristine force, bringing back with it the flood of
agitated imagination which had so long poisoned her life.

Villemain has left a record of the evening of the 18th March 1815,
which he passed in the salon of the Countess Rumford, and where he met
Madame de Staël. Several famous, and to us now familiar, personages were
present—Lafayette, Constant, Jaucourt, Cuvier, Sismondi, and Lemercier
among others. Every moment somebody arrived with news of the advancing
hero. Madame de Staël came late, and instantly attracted the general
attention to herself. She was overwhelmed with sadness, but more for
France even than for herself. She had been at the Tuileries, and found
that there all hope of resistance was abandoned. Her own mind was made
up for flight, yet she urged Madame de Rumford to remain, showing that
she considered Napoleon’s hatred of herself to be inextinguishable
and as active as ever. In point of fact, Napoleon’s earliest care,
on reaching the capital, was to express his regret at her departure.
It is very unlikely that he would have molested her in any way had
she remained; but it was ordained that, to the last, he should make
her suffer even more in imagination than in reality. She urged Madame
Récamier to escape with her, for, Juliette’s prescription never having
been formally revoked, Madame de Staël considered her danger as great
as her own. But Madame Récamier, more calm, refused. With her remained
also Benjamin Constant, although he also was admonished by Madame de
Staël to seek safety in another land. His career during the Hundred Days
is well known. He began by attacking Napoleon violently, then had an
interview with him, was fascinated, converted, appointed a councillor of
state, and helped to edit the _Acte Additionnel_. Another convert was the
sober-minded Sismondi, and several people have asserted, on the authority
first of an English editor, and then of M. Thiers, that the great, the
irreconcilable “Corinne” herself, gave in a tardy but complete adhesion.
Ste. Beuve endorsed the error, and based his belief upon the style of an
unsigned note in French found among Lord Castlereagh’s posthumous papers,
and attributed by Lord Londonderry’s secretary to Madame de Staël. This
letter was supposed to have been written at Coppet and forwarded to Mr.
Crawford, the American Minister in Paris, in order that he might take it
to London. Its object was to inspire English statesmen with the writer’s
own belief in Napoleon’s new-found sincerity, and to recommend his
government to their support.

A comparison of dates shows, however, that such a letter, if despatched
from Coppet, could only have reached Paris twenty-four hours after
Mr. Crawford’s departure, and Thiers’ assumption that Madame de
Staël remained in Paris during the Hundred Days is disproved by her
correspondence from Switzerland with Madame Récamier. Finally, and again
according to Thiers, Sismondi’s conversion was a result of Madame de
Staël’s own change of views. But this also appears quite untenable,
inasmuch as Sismondi himself bears testimony to her resentment against
Napoleon, strengthened, as he says, “to a blind and violent hatred.”
This is the natural language of a person who _has_ veered about of
another person who has _not_, and the expression occurs in a letter of
Sismondi’s written from Coppet a short time after Waterloo, and when he
had gone to the château in some doubt as to the nature of the reception
there awaiting him. He had been much relieved to find his hostess as
cordial as ever. Madame de Staël, indeed, never seems to have willingly
or spontaneously given up any friend whom she had once admitted to the
title. Politics are apt to envenom the most intimate relations, but
they left no bitterness in _her_ great and gentle soul. Alas! the happy
days at Coppet were numbered now for most of those whom we have seen
congregating there through so many exciting summers.

Madame de Staël delighted in the exercise of a generous hospitality.
Nobody ever seems to have managed her business affairs better than she
did, and among the few apparent contradictions of her transparent nature
was the spirit of order in which she dealt with life, as soon as the
things presented to her consideration were hard facts and not sentiments.
In all administrative matters she had the capacity of a true Frenchwoman,
and, while systematic and careful, was the least avaricious of women.



After Waterloo, Madame de Staël did not return to France. The thought of
the second occupation by foreign troops was odious to her, and, besides
this, she feared the outbreak of reactionary feelings, and foresaw a
political condition in which her pure and ideal liberalism would be
equally unwelcome to all parties.

Rocca’s state of health finally induced her to go to Italy. From Milan
she sent a letter to Madame Récamier, which is interesting as showing how
little her fine mind and noble heart were in harmony just then with the
condition of affairs in France.

“You are kind enough to say to me,” she wrote, “that I should do better
to be in Paris. But no, indeed, I should not care to see some forms of
liberty (_franchises_) ‘accorded’ to the people, for it is my creed that
nations are born free. I should say unfashionable things and make enemies
unnecessarily. When all is arranged for Albertine’s marriage, I shall
lead a solitary life in Paris; but at present I do well, believe me, to
have myself represented by Auguste. Like you, I think well, and better
than ever, of Victor de Broglie, and I shall be very glad of the marriage
if nothing goes against it. I am also of your way of thinking in regard
to Madame de Krüdener. She is the herald of a great oncoming religious
epoch. Speak of me to her, I beg, as of a person quite devoted to her.…
M. Rocca’s health still gives me anxiety. I have never recovered any
happiness since Bonaparte disembarked.”

Madame de Staël had been very happy in her marriage with Rocca, and
the tenderness with which she regarded him was manifest to all her
acquaintances. Under such circumstances, it does seem strange that she
should to the last have kept her marriage with him a secret.

The most plausible reason for such a course, fear of Napoleon’s spite,
existed no longer after Waterloo. Why, then, have gratuitously incurred
the reproach of an illicit connection? Why, above all, separate herself
for five years from her own and Rocca’s child? Such conduct does not on
the face of it seem quite consistent with the lofty ideal of duty which
Madame de Staël professed.

Albertine’s wedding took place in civil form at Leghorn on February 15th,
1815; and five days later in Pisa a double religious ceremony, one
Catholic, the other Protestant, was performed.

All Madame de Staël’s friends gave a charming picture of Albertine.
Guizot, Lamartine, and Bonstetten were most enthusiastic about her. Their
praises were also echoed by Byron, who, needless to say, was no mean
judge; and Ticknor seeing her in Paris about a year after her marriage,
never mentioned her except in terms of admiration. She was both beautiful
and clever, and, after her mother’s death, became, in her turn, the queen
of a cosmopolitan salon.

Accompanied by the bride and bridegroom, by Rocca, by Schlegel and
Sismondi, Madame de Staël presently betook herself to Florence, and while
there renewed her acquaintance with the Countess of Albany. Alfieri was
dead now, and Fabre reigned in his stead. Madame de Staël appears to
have adopted him with the mingled enthusiasm and indulgence which she
exhibited towards all the tastes of her friends.

The summer of 1816 was spent in Coppet. The newest and most interesting
figure there on this occasion was Byron. He had shaken the dust of
England from his feet, and was nursing his lyrical cynicism at Cologny
near Geneva. Unfortunately, his reputation was so bad that the virtuous
society of the place would not know him. Madame de Staël alone not only
received but welcomed him. He was grateful; and so far yielded to the
influence which this gratitude enabled her to exercise over him as
actually to make an imperfect attempt at reconciliation with his wife, in
order to please his eloquent and magnanimous hostess.

It is amusing to note the different impressions which Byron—the charming,
reprehensible Byron—made upon the various guests at the Château.
Bonstetten, as might be expected, was quite fascinated by him, and
wrote to Malthasson of his musical voice and beautiful head; and of the
“half-honest little demon” that darted in a lambent way through the
sarcasm of his speech. Sismondi—the correct and censorious—dwells more
especially on Byron’s cynical contempt for appearances, and the conduct
and companionship which had brought him into disrepute with the worthy

Coppet had never been quite as brilliant, probably, as in this last
summer that Madame de Staël was to reign there. The society was more
varied in nationality than in the days when a brilliant but small
band of intellects had gathered round to console her in her exile.
Brougham, Bell, Lady Hamilton, Lord Breadalbane, Romilly, Stendahl,
Schlegel, passed in rapid succession over the scene—talked, sparkled—and
disappeared. They flashed like meteors, but Madame de Staël shone among
them with a steady splendor. Wherever and with whomsoever she was,
her powers remained always unquenchable. Nevertheless a great sadness
possessed her. This was partly due to her anxiety concerning Rocca—partly
to the disappointment inevitable in a spirit which broke impatiently
against the limitations of life, the pettiness of human nature. “Ah
happiness!” she exclaimed yearningly. Then added, “But at my age no trust
is possible but in the goodness of God.”

Bonstetten, parting with her, was struck with the profound melancholy of
the glance which she gave him. He had been gay and content, as usual, yet
the memory of her look dwelt with him; and unable to explain it, he at
last, the dear, genial old man, arrived at the touching conclusion that
she had been thinking how old _he_ was, and that she would never see him
again. The adieu was, indeed, a lasting one; but it was over Madame de
Staël’s radiant path that the shadows of death were to gather first.

Nevertheless, during the winter of 1816-17, and when she returned to
Paris, her spirit showed no sign of failing. In her salon gathered
Châteaubriand, Talleyrand, Wellington, Humboldt, Blucher, Lafayette,
Schlegel and his brother, Canova, and crowds of English. Bonstetten
averred that to her influence over Wellington alone was due the fact
that the Army of Occupation was about this time diminished by 30,000 men.

Just before her death she removed from the Rue Royale to the Rue Neuve
des Mathurins; and it was here that Châteaubriand again, after so many
years, saw Madame Récamier, and commenced the romantic friendship which
was to end only with his death. He had been invited to dine at Madame
de Staël’s; but, when he arrived there, found that she was too ill to
entertain the guests. The dinner took place all the same—for Madame de
Staël invariably insisted on this, and made her daughter do the honors.
They must have been melancholy banquets; the little Duchess de Broglie
presiding with a heavy heart, and all the guests being vividly conscious
of the noble life slowly and painfully ebbing away in another room. It is
with a certain relief, therefore, in the midst of so much sadness that
one reads Châteaubriand’s record of his meeting with Juliette. He was
selfish and self-conscious and weak no doubt—his fretful uneasy vanity,
indeed, pierces through the affected melancholy of the _Mémoires d’Outre
Tombe_. They are sickly with a kind of faded perfume; and yet in the
great void which is coming, one is glad to think that the blind Madame
Récamier, the aged and feeble Châteaubriand, must often have remembered,
perchance often talked of, that dinner where they met in the house of
their dying friend.

Her interest in life remained undiminished to the last. Not only
Châteaubriand, but Constant, Mathieu de Montmorency, Sismondi, all her
old friends, were daily with her. She was even glad to welcome strangers,
although frequently so ill that her physicians forbade such visits for
several days at a time. It was after one of these intervals that Ticknor
saw her. She received him in bed, and her weakness was already so great
that she could hardly stretch out her hand to touch his. She alluded to
her approaching end with a calmness infinitely pathetic and admirable
in one who suffered none of that slow extinction of the faculties which
blunts the anguish of the end for so many departing souls. Seeing that
her words pained her daughter, she changed the subject to America, and
spoke of the great future of that country with characteristic enthusiasm
of belief. Of Europe, Ticknor said, “she despaired.” She might well do
so, for the era then beginning was one with which she could not have
sympathised. Whatever its virtues, its force, its promise, the oracles by
which it was inspired must have sounded strange in her ears. Herself, she
had been a kind of priestess; through her some unknown God had spoken,
and amid the thunder of great events her faith, for all its ideal
grandeur, had hardly seemed too mighty. But that age had passed, and it
was fit she should pass with it.

All witnesses except the captious Sismondi bear testimony to the devotion
with which Rocca nursed his wife in her last illness. Silent, pallid,
sad as a phantom itself, he sat day by day beside her bed. According to
Madame d’Abrantes, she never looked long at him without feeling that
she might still live. The sense that her existence was necessary to him
seemed to inspire her for a moment with the courage to take up anew the
increasing burden of her days. But at other times her thoughts turned
with a grateful sense of coming rest to the great change, and to the
thought of her father “waiting for her,” as she said, “on the other
shore.” Constant passed the last night of her life by her bedside. She
had seemed so much better that at eleven o’clock Mathieu de Montmorency
left, convinced that in the morning he would find her revived. She
suffered no pain during the concluding hours, and the brightness of her
intellect was not even momentarily dimmed. Sleep visited her as usual;
then at 5 o’clock she opened her eyes again, for the last time on the
world. A few moments later she passed away, so quietly that her watchers
did not note the precise moment in which her great soul was exhaled. The
date of her death was 14th July, 1817.

The news of it was the signal for, perhaps, the most widely-spread and
most genuine outburst of grief ever known. Joubert, indeed, asserts the
contrary, and not only declares that she was not regretted, but adds that
Constant, meeting him casually the very day after the event, did not even
allude to it. It never seems to have occurred to Joubert that Constant
might have had some other and deeper cause for silence than indifference.
From such a nature reserve was perhaps the only tribute that could be
more eloquently expressive than the loud lamentations of other friends.
These abounded, and even Châteaubriand, who, after all, had not been
bound to the dead woman by such ties of constant friendship as attached
Schlegel, Sismondi, and others—even he records with a sort of jealous
care that in the last letter she ever wrote to Madame de Duras, a letter
penned in “large, irregular characters like a child’s,” there was an
affectionate allusion to “Francis.”

Bonstetten and Sismondi have both left records of their grief at her
funeral. The latter, writing immediately after it to his mother, said:
“My life is painfully changed. I owe more to her than to any other
person.” Bonstetten’s sorrow finds a more energetic expression: “I miss
her as though she were a part of myself. I am maimed henceforward in

She was buried at Coppet, and they laid her coffin at the foot of her
father’s. A crowd of friends, of humble mourners, and of official
functionaries, assembled to do her homage; but Rocca was too ill to be
present. He died, indeed, only seven months later, and the son whom
Madame de Staël had borne him hardly reached early manhood before he
also passed away. Auguste de Staël had preceded him along the road to
eternity, and the Duchess de Broglie did not live to be old.

Twenty years had hardly elapsed before, with the sole exception of her
faithful friend and cousin, Madame Necker de Saussure, no near relative
of Madame de Staël was still alive; but those who had known her did
not need to be reminded of her. She was constantly present to them, a
radiant, imperishable vision. “I wish I could see you asleep,” Bonstetten
had said one day to her. “I would like to feel sure that you sometimes
close your eyes, and are not always thinking.” She had remained so bright
and full of life to the last, that even Death’s inexorable hand could not
for many long years efface the recollection of her vivid personality.

In a page of the _Mémoires d’Outre Tombe_, Châteaubriand has left a
description of a visit paid by himself and Madame Récamier to the grave
at Coppet. It was fifteen years after Madame de Staël’s death. The
Château was closed, the apartments deserted. Juliette, wandering through
them, recognised one after another the spots where Madame de Staël had
played the piano, had talked to those gathered round her, or had written.

The two friends went into the park where the autumn leaves already were
reddening and falling. The wind subsided by degrees, and the sound of a
millstream alone broke the stillness. Madame Récamier entered the wood
into whose depths the grave is hidden, while Châteaubriand remained
looking at the snowy line of the Alps, and at the glittering lake. Above
the sombre heights of Jura the sky was covered with golden clouds “like
a glory spreading above a bier.” Suddenly Madame Récamier, pale and
tearful, phantom-like among phantoms, emerged from the wood. And on her
companion’s melancholy spirit fell a sense of all the emptiness of glory,
of all the sad reality of life. “_Qu’est-ce que la gloire?_” asked Madame
de Staël. “_Ce n’est qu’un deuil éclatant du bonheur._” We could wish
that the most famous of women might have held a less hopeless creed.



Any notice of Madame de Staël would be imperfect without a review of
her works. She did not begin, like so many famous authors, to write
at an abnormally early age—it is true, she composed _Portraits_,
which were read aloud in her mother’s salon, but everybody did as
much in those days, and her attempts were not sufficiently remarkable
to stamp her at once as a literary genius. It has been said how much
her father discouraged her writing. This may account in part for the
tardy development of the taste, although more was doubtless due to
the peerless conversations in which, before the Revolution, her young
intellect found all that it could need of ideas. However this may be,
she was twenty before she wrote _Sophie, ou les Sentiments Secrets_,
that elegiac “comedy” which drew down on its authoress’s youthful head
the animadversions of her austere mother. Madame Necker was shocked at
the subject, which represented a young girl of seventeen struggling
against a secret passion for her guardian, a married man, who is in love
with her. Sophie (who, by the bye, is English) behaves in the noblest
manner as soon as she discovers that her feelings are reciprocated, and
leaves the home of which she has unwittingly destroyed the peace. Her
guardian and his wife are no less equal to the occasion, and Milord
Henri Bedford, Sophie’s slighted swain, is inspired by their example.
Everybody expresses his or her sentiments in polished and prolix verse,
and the curtain finally falls on four loftily eloquent and magnanimously
miserable people. The style is not inflated, but the piece is very dull,
and, while betraying little of the writer’s future talent, reveals two of
her defects, exaggeration of sentiment and a want of humor.

To the same date as _Sophie_ belong _Jane Grey_, a tragedy in five acts,
also in verse, of no real merit; another tragedy, _Montmorency_, and
three tales—all romantic and tiresome.

Finally, in 1788, when she was nearly twenty-two, Madame de Staël
published her _Letters on Rousseau_, and thus established her position as
an aspirant to literary fame. The book, coming from a woman, made a great
sensation. Indeed, this fact of her sex must never be lost sight of in
judging the reception accorded to Madame de Staël’s works. She attempted
subjects of historical and philosophical interest which no woman in her
country or age had approached before her.

As might be expected, she was an ardent admirer of Rousseau. Her sympathy
with the philosophy of Helvetius was naturally slight. She required
something declamatory, earnest, and didactic. In a glorification of
natural sentiments to result in some future apotheosis of humanity lay
the key to her creed. “Virtue” and still “virtue” and more “virtue” was
her cry, as though “virtue” were a tangible and definitely constituted
thing to be extracted _en bloc_ out of the materials composing humanity.
To such a mind it was inevitable that _Emile_ and the _Contrat Social_
should appeal more strongly than any number of witty epigrams at the
expense of penitents and priests.

She sympathised with the philosophy of the eighteenth century in so far
as it tended, by uprooting abuses, to promote the progress of culture
and the emancipation of the oppressed, but she required some system that
would reconstruct as well as destroy; and being a fervid believer in
theories, disliked nothing so much as the idea of leaving the human race
to take care of itself. Rousseau, as embodying a protest against the
spirit of frivolous negation, appeared to her in the light of a prophet
of perfection; and she saw in the approaching meeting of the States
General a first step towards the realization of his views. These radiant
ideals were destined to be suddenly and painfully obscured by the events
of the Terror. Her only contribution to literature during that time was
her celebrated and impassioned defence of the unhappy Queen. Public
events so fascinated her attention that she had no leisure for any other
thought. Two sentences in her _Réflexions sur la Paix_, published in
1794, reveal this preoccupation.

“During the reign of Robespierre,” she says, “when each day brought a
list of devoted victims, I could only desire death, and long for the end
of the world and of the human race which was witness to, or accomplice
in, such horrors. I should have made a reproach to myself even of
thought, because it was separate from sorrow.” In another passage she
exclaims: “Oh appalling time, of which centuries will barely dim the
trace; time which will never belong to the past!”

Nevertheless, Robespierre had hardly fallen, before her ever vivid faith
in humanity revived in full force. She looked for safety to the faction
which divided extreme revolutionaries from extreme reactionaries, and
refused to believe that it could only act as a buffer. Its moderation
was partly caused by exhaustion; yet Madame de Staël, always optimistic,
maintained that having no passions it must have convictions, and that
the trumpet-call of liberty would summon it to the front. In this she
was mistaken; but in the course of her observations on public events
she uttered one remarkable prophecy. “France,” she wrote, “may remain a
republic; but to become a monarchy it must first submit to a military

In 1790 she published her work on _The Influence of the Passions upon
Human Happiness_. This was originally to have been divided into two
parts. The first portion was to be devoted to reflections on man’s
peculiar destiny; the second, to the constitutional fate of nations. We
have to concern ourselves with the first alone, as the second, which
would have required an immense and minute knowledge of ancient and modern
governments, was never even begun.

In Madame de Staël’s view the true obstacle to individual and political
happiness lay in the force of passion. Neutralize this, and the problem
of government would be solved. Happiness, as she conceived it, was to
consist in having hope without fear, activity without anxiety, glory
without calumny, love without inconstancy—in a word, ideal good with
no admixture of evil. The happiness of nations would consist in the
combination of Republican liberty with monarchical calm, of emulation
among talents unaccompanied by factious clamor, of military spirit in
foreign affairs, and a law-abiding tendency in domestic matters. She
concluded by saying that such an ideal is impossible of attainment, and
the only achievable happiness is to be acquired by studying the true
means of avoiding moral pain. To the discovery of this spiritual Nirvana
her work was directed. The subject, as is evident, was a sterile one,
since it dealt with abstractions that have no corresponding realities. To
say that men and nations would be prosperous and contented without some
particular institution or defect, is the same as to say that a human face
would be beautiful without features. A blank surface is conceivable as
a blank surface, but not as a physiognomy; and to speculate concerning
ideal humanity divorced from social systems, imposes on thought the most
futile exercise that ever occurred to an enlightened mind. Such being the
case, it is not surprising that Madame de Staël should eventually have
abandoned her self-imposed task. Even as much of it as she accomplished
landed her on a moving morass of conclusions of which the essential
nullity must have been evident to herself before anybody. For the rest,
her analysis of the various passions is admirable. One wonders as one
reads how a young woman could have reached so perfect a comprehension
of the springs of human action. The penetration displayed is unerring,
and only equalled by the masculine vigor of touch. A good example is
the following: “Truly great men are such as have rendered a greatness
like their own less necessary to successive generations.” And here is
another striking passage: “A revolution suspends every action but that
of force. Social order establishes the ascendancy of esteem and virtue,
but a revolution limits men’s choice to their physical capacities. The
only sort of moral influence that it does not exclude is the fanaticism
of such ideas as, not being susceptible of any restraint, are weapons
of war and not exercises of the mind. To aspire to distinction in times
of revolution one must always outstrip the actual momentum of events,
and the consequence of this is a rapid descent which one has no power of
staying. In vain one perceives the abyss in front. To throw oneself from
the chariot is to be killed by the fall, so that to avoid the danger is
more perilous than to face it. One must of one’s own accord tread the
path that leads to ruin, since the least step backwards overturns the
individual but does not hinder the event.”

This is a very good example both of the clearness of Madame de Staël’s
thought and the careless confusion of her style. She introduced
metaphors just as they occurred to her, without any preparatory
gradations of thought.

The second section of the work is devoted to the examination of natural
affections such as family love, friendship, and pity. Here, again, the
analysis is delicate and true, but the mind, fatigued by the futility of
the theme, recoils from such minute dissection of emotion. Passion, being
comparatively rare, is always interesting, but sentiment does not bear
prolonged contemplation.

Finally come the remedies to be applied to the evils worked by passion.
They consist in philosophy, in study, and the practice of benevolence,
joined, if possible, to a child-like faculty of extracting from each
hour just the amount of happiness that it contains. With this lame and
impotent conclusion the book practically ends, for all the remaining
reflections do not avail to place in any clearer light the uncertain and
colorless thought of the writer.

Her next work was that on _Literature Considered in Relation to Social
Institutions_. Its object was to establish the continuous progress and
ultimate perfectibility of the human mind, and the happy influence
exercised by liberty upon literature.

The theory of the authoress was that the progress of philosophy, _i. e._
thought, had been gradual, while that of poetry had been spasmodic.

Art, indeed, offering, by its early maturity, an awkward contradiction
to her system, she proceeded to get rid of it by describing it as the
product of imagination rather than of thought, and by adding that its
plastic and sensuous qualities rendered it capable of flourishing under
systems of government which necessarily crush every other form of
intellectual activity. To prove the perfectibility of the human mind, she
then had but poetry and philosophy. To the latter she assigned the really
glorious future, while the former she regarded as finished. She was the
first of the Romanticists, in the sense that she preferred the poetry
of the north to that of the south; and her predilections in this line
carried her so far, that she placed Ossian above Homer. She considered
that the early forms of poetry—in other words, mere transcripts of
material impressions—were superior to those later creations in which
sentiment enters as an element. And this idea, which seems at first
a contradiction to her theory of perfectibility, was really intended
to confirm it. For, in her view, the value of literature consisting
exclusively in the amount of thought that it contained, introspective
poetry became a mere bridge which the mind traversed on its way to wider

Madame de Staël was not only not a poet herself, but she was incapable of
appreciating the higher forms of poetry. In her excursions through the
regions of literature, she was always in pursuit of some theory which
would reconcile the contradictions of human destiny. Man, regarded as
socially perfectible, being her ideal, she was in haste to classify and
relegate to some convenient limbo the portions of a subject which did
not directly contribute to her hypotheses. Having disposed, therefore,
of poetry and art, she undertook to consider literature from the point
of view of psychology. She was only pleased with it when self-conscious
and analytical. Dante probably perplexed her, and she evoked to condemn
him the perruqued shade of “Le Goût.” Shakespeare she applauded, as
might be expected, chiefly in consideration of _Hamlet_; while Petrarch
pleased her principally because he was harmonious; and Ariosto because he
was fanciful. The true significance of the Renaissance escaped her. She
sought for the origin of each literature in the political and religious
institutions of the country where it arose, instead of regarding both
literature and social conditions as simultaneous products of the national
mind. Her erudition was inadequate to her task, and the purpose of her
works, by warping her judgments, contributed to make them superficial.
While pronouncing the English and French drama to be essentially
superior to the Greek, she characteristically preferred Euripides to
his two mighty predecessors. The grandeur of the dominant idea of Greek
tragedy—that of an inevitable destiny, against which man struggles in
vain—appears to have escaped her altogether. This is not surprising,
since such a conception was entirely opposed to her own order of mind and
to the age in which she lived. The root of all the social theories then
prevailing was the value of the individual. Man was not a puppet of the
gods, but the architect of his own fate. To lose hold of ideal virtue
was to become incapable of governing or being governed; and ideal virtue
was a definite entity which anybody might possess who chose. This—rather
crudely stated—was Madame de Staël’s point of view. Her enthusiasm
rejected all idea of limited responsibilities. The ethical value of the
Æschylean trilogy—the awful sense of overhanging doom which pervades
it—did not appeal to her, because it tended to the annihilation of the
struggling soul. In other words, she liked _self-conscious_ drama, and
was attracted to Euripides by his creation of artificial situations, in
which interesting personages had room and leisure to explain themselves.

With Aristophanes she was frankly disgusted; from her didactic
standpoint, because of his pronounced indecency; and on artistic grounds,
because he attacked living individuals instead of creating characters
like Tartufe and Falstaff. To his beauties she remained entirely blind,
and this, perhaps, is to be explained by her deficiency in the æsthetic
faculty. It is said that Châteaubriand first taught her to appreciate
nature, and Schlegel to perceive the loveliness of art. Chênedollé
complained that she had lived for years opposite Lake Leman “without
finding an image” in regard to it; and she herself once frankly admitted
that of her own accord she would hardly open her window to gaze on the
bay of Naples, while she would go a hundred miles to converse with a new

Its defects admitted, we may own that Madame de Staël’s work contains
many charming chapters. If, true to her theory, she provokes her reader
by preferring the Latin poets to the Greek ones, and Quintilian to
Cicero, simply because of their later date; if she persists, rather than
modify her views, that the sterile scholasticism of the Middle Ages was
not a real retrogression, and strangely overlooks, in her admiration for
Christianity, the intellectual benefits which man owes to the Arabs; on
the other hand, she has flashes of admirable insight. The chapter on the
invasion of Italy by the barbarians, and the part played by Christianity
in fusing the two races, is very suggestive. But, unfortunately, it is
suggestive _only_, and sins by a sketchiness which, more or less, mars
the whole book. This was one of Madame de Staël’s defects. She abounded
in ideas, but failed either in the power or the patience to work them out.

Two other interesting chapters are those on the “Grace, Gaiety, and
Taste of the French Nation,” and on “Literature in the Reign of Louis
XIV.” The peculiar social influences which, among successive generations
of courtiers, produced the best writers of France, are very happily
described; but here again the conclusions are indicated rather than
developed. Madame de Staël stated her conviction that the palmy days of
French wit were over, and that the literature of the future, if it wished
to flourish, must invest itself with greater gravity.

Convinced that the moment had come for the dramatist to pack up his
puppet-show and despatch it to a museum of antiquities, she laid down
rules for an ideal republican literature, and prescribed strong emotions,
careful analysis of character, and a high moral tone as indispensable
ingredients. She was in fact one of the first to admire and write that
appalling product, the novel with a purpose.

Anything duller than _Delphine_ it would be difficult to imagine.
From the first page to the last there is hardly one line of genuine
inspiration. All is forced, exaggerated, overstrained. The misfortunes of
the heroine are so needlessly multiplied, that they end by exasperating
the reader; and the _motif_ of the book—the contrast between conventional
and moral ideals—fails in true dramatic interest. The plot is as follows:
Madame de Vernon has a daughter, Mathilde, beautiful and sanctimonious,
whom she desires to marry to Léonce de Mondoville, a young Spaniard of
noble birth and aristocratic prejudices. Madame de Vernon has in the
whole world one friend, Delphine d’Albémar, a miracle of grace, wit,
and beauty, who does acts of unheard-of generosity, and generally by
some evil chance accomplishes them at the moment when they lead to
unlucky results for herself. She is a young widow, and has been left
by her elderly and devoted husband a fortune, of which she proceeds to
divest herself as rapidly as possible. One of her favorite objects of
charity is Madame de Vernon, who does not deserve her pity, since the
pecuniary embarrassments under which she suffers arise from her love
of card-playing, and general mismanagement. But Delphine adores her
friend, who is represented as extremely charming, and is in some respects
a well-drawn character. Her life is one long act of dissimulation. She
masks her cynicism cleverly, under an appearance of indolence, which
dispenses her from ever taking inconvenient resolutions, or appearing
agitated by events which should—but do not—move her. She has some faint
affection for her generous dupe—Delphine; but not enough to be prevented
from taking every mean advantage of her. There is some difficulty in
arranging Mathilde’s marriage, on account of the want of a dowry.
Delphine hastens to supply this, and then the bridegroom elect, Léonce,
appears on the scene. He is described as divinely handsome. The cold and
pietistic Mathilde falls in love with him immediately (as was her duty,
since he was to be her husband), but so, unfortunately, does Delphine.
What is still worse, he is by no means attracted by his _fiancée_, but
reciprocates the young widow’s passion. Then the drama begins. Madame
de Vernon, while seeming to see nothing, sees everything. Mathilde is
really blind. Delphine is agitated, but resolved, if possible, to be
happy. This, by the way, is the only gleam of common sense that she has
throughout the book. Unfortunately, she manages to compromise herself
(of course quite innocently) by espousing the cause of a pair of guilty
but repentant lovers; and Madame de Vernon cleverly uses the awkward
positions in which she places herself, in order to detach Léonce from
her. He marries Mathilde and is madly unhappy. Delphine pours out her
feelings in long letters to her sister-in-law and confidant, Mademoiselle
d’Albémar, letters which she writes, by the way, on recovering from
fainting fits, or when lying in bed, or when on the verge of distraction.
The whole of the novel is told in letters, and is proportionately
long-winded and unnatural.

Not long after the marriage Madame de Vernon dies, and on her death-bed
confesses her perfidy to her victim. Then the mutual passion of Delphine
and Léonce enters upon a new and harrowing phase. They determine to
remain technically virtuous, but to see one another constantly—of course
unknown to Mathilde. This unnatural situation—unnaturally prolonged,
becomes unbearable through its monotonous misery.

Finally Mathilde discovers the state of the case and conjures Delphine to
separate herself from Léonce. Madame d’Albémar consents, and disappears.
Léonce is then described by his confidant as being on the point of
madness. He alternately loses consciousness, and rushes about with
dishevelled hair and distraught looks. Delphine goes to Switzerland, and
there proceeds to compromise herself anew, this time beyond recall, for
the sake of a rejected lover who had behaved disgracefully to her.

She had taken refuge in a convent of which the superioress, Madame de
Ternan, turns out to be the aunt of Léonce. This lady is something of the
same sort as Madame de Vernon—except that her egotism, although quite as
systematic, is not so base. But it can become so on occasion, and, as she
is rather fond of Delphine and anxious to keep her with her to solace her
old age, she plays into the hands of Madame de Mondoville (the mother of
Léonce) and cleverly contrives to make Delphine take the veil. Barely has
this been done when Léonce appears and claims her as his own, Mathilde
having in the meanwhile died. Then is the exhausted reader harassed
anew by a fresh spectacle of poignant anguish. A Monsieur de Sebersci
suggests that Delphine should break her vows, quit her convent, and join
Léonce, pointing out that, thanks to the Revolution, they can be quite
respectably married in France. Delphine is horrified at first, but Léonce
having announced the firm intention of putting an end to his existence
if she remains a nun, she finally escapes and joins him. One begins to
hope that they are going to be happy at last, when the “purpose” of the
book presents itself. Madame de Staël was anxious to prove that social
conventions may not be braved with impunity, but overtake and crush the
nature which defies them. Delphine throughout had listened to no voice
but that of her conscience and her heart; she is consequently the victim
of calumny. Léonce is principally swayed by passion. He defies society
in the end to possess Delphine, but has no sooner induced her to break
her vows for him than he begins to feel the stigma of the act. He leaves
her, and seeks death on the battle-field. Death spares him, but he is
arrested as an aristocrat and condemned to be shot. Delphine follows him,
and by her eloquence wrings a pardon from the judge. Léonce, enlightened
by the approach of death as to the nothingness of the world’s opinion, is
prepared to live happily at last with the woman whom he still professes
to adore. But all at once the order for his release is rescinded and
he is taken out to die. Delphine accompanies him, and talks all along
the road. Indeed, she is superfluously eloquent, from the first page of
her history to the last. When Léonce has been strung up by her to the
highest pitch of exalted feeling, she takes poison and dies at his feet.
He is then shot; and the lovers are interred in one grave by Monsieur de
Serbellane, who has appeared again in the last chapter, after having
been the primary though unwitting cause of his unhappy friends’ woes.

It is difficult to understand why critics like Sainte Beuve should so
warmly have praised this novel. No doubt it shows talent, especially
in the analysis of mental struggle; but it is false from beginning to
end. All the characters want vitality, although some of the qualities
attributed to them are described with penetration and force. Delphine and
Léonce talk too much, and faint too much, and are simply insupportable.
Finally, the book is drearily monotonous and unrelieved by one gleam of
poetry or humor.

_Corinne_ is a classic of which everybody is bound to speak with respect.
The enormous admiration which it excited at the time of its appearance
may seem somewhat strange in this year of grace; but then it must be
remembered that Italy was not the over-written country it has since
become. Besides this, Madame de Staël was the most celebrated woman,
and, after Napoleon, the most conspicuous personage of her day. Except
Châteaubriand, she had nobody to dispute with her the palm of literary
glory in France. Her exile, her literary circle, her courageous opinions,
had kept the eyes of Europe fixed on her for years, so that any work from
her pen was sure to excite the liveliest curiosity.

_Corinne_ is a kind of glorified guide-book, with some of the qualities
of a good novel. It is very long-winded, but the appetite of the age was
robust in that respect, and the highly-strung emotions of the hero and
heroine could not shock a taste which had been formed by the _Sorrows
of Werther_. It is extremely moral, deeply sentimental, and of a deadly
earnestness—three characteristics which could not fail to recommend it to
a dreary and ponderous generation, the most deficient in taste that ever
trod the earth.

But it is artistic in the sense that the interest is concentrated from
first to last on the central figure, and the drama, such as it is,
unfolds itself naturally from its starting-point, which is the contrast
between the characters of Oswald and Corinne.

Oswald Lord Nelvil is a young man of exquisite sensibility and profound
melancholy. He comes to Rome (after distinguishing himself heroically
during a fire at Ancona) accompanied by a young Frenchman, the Count
D’Erfeuil, whom he has casually met. One of the first sights which greets
them on their arrival in the Eternal City is the triumphal procession of
“Corinne” on her way to be crowned in the Capitol. She is a musician, an
improvisatrice, a Muse or Sibyl, with all the poetry and passion of Italy
stamped upon her radiant brow. In the midst of her improvisation she
exchanges glances with Lord Nelvil, and the fate of both is sealed. He is
intended to be a typical Englishman imbued with a horror of eccentricity
in women. His ideal of the sex is a domestic angel, and he feels bound to
disapprove of Corinne, who lives alone, though young and beautiful, and
offers the spectacle of her various talents to the profane view of the
crowd. The Count D’Erfeuil mocks at everything, and is the most amusing
character in the book; feels no scruples about knowing Corinne, and,
having quickly discovered that his reserved English friend pleases her,
he persuades that gentleman to call on her also. Corinne speaks English
wonderfully, and allows Lord Nelvil to divine that there is a mystery
about her past. Once she betrays great agitation on hearing the name
of Edgermond, which is the patronymic of a certain Lucile, whom Lord
Nelvil’s father had destined him to marry. Grief at the death of this
father is, by the way, the ostensible cause of his persistent melancholy,
but he also vaguely hints at remorse. He promises that he will one day
confide his history to Corinne, who on her side prepares herself to
tell him hers. But as she greatly fears the effect of it on him, and is
deeply in love, she puts off the evil hour, and, in order to keep him
with her, offers to be his cicerone in Rome. Together they wander among
the ruins, visit the galleries, and drive on the Appian Way. Corinne
explains everything, discourses on everything, and Oswald interrupts her
with exclamations of rapture at her wit and learning. This novel form of
courtship lasts for some weeks, and finally the lovers proceed to Naples.
Corinne persuades Oswald that there is nothing at all extraordinary in
such conduct in Italy, where everyone, according to her, may do as he
likes. But the Count L’Erfeuil makes remarks which, although intended
to be merely flippant, are sensible enough to convince Lord Nelvil that
he must either marry Corinne or leave her. He is very much in love, or
fancies himself so. Nevertheless he hesitates because of the mystery
surrounding his _inamorata_. Who is she? What is her name? Whence comes
her fortune? If she is not quite blameless, he thinks he can never marry
her, for that would be derogating from the traditions of his order and
outraging the shade of his father. The mental struggle which he undergoes
is visible to Corinne and fills her with anguish and alarm. At last,
during an expedition to Vesuvius, Oswald speaks. He had been at one
time in love with an unworthy Frenchwoman; had lingered in France when
his father required his presence in England, and had finally returned,
only to find him dead. From that hour he had known no peace; remorse
had pursued him; his filial love, which was morbidly excessive, caused
him to look upon himself as almost a parricide, and he considered that
he was thenceforward morally bound to do nothing which his father might
disapprove. This absurd conclusion afflicts Corinne visibly, and the
sight of her agitation reawakens all Oswald’s doubts. He conjures her to
tell him her history. She consents; but begs for a few days’ grace, and
employs the interval in planning and carrying out a fête on Cape Misenum.
In front of the azure, tideless sea she takes her lyre and pours out an
improvisation on the past glories of that classic shore. This, although
Oswald does not know it, is an adieu to her past life, for she foresees
that what she has to tell him of herself will entirely change her
destiny. Either he will refuse to marry her, and then she will never know
happiness again, but wingless, voiceless, will go down to her tomb, or
else he will make her his wife, and the Sibyl will be lost in the peeress.

The next day she leaves with him the narrative of her youth. She is
the daughter of Lord Edgermond by an Italian wife, consequently the
half-sister of Lucile. At the age of fifteen she had gone to England,
and fallen under the rule of her stepmother, Lady Edgermond, a cold and
rigid Englishwoman, who cared for nothing outside her small provincial
town, and regarded genius as a dangerous eccentricity. In the narrow
monotony of the life imposed upon her Corinne nearly died. At the age
of twenty-one she finally escaped and returned to Italy, having dropped
her family name out of respect for Lady Edgermond’s feelings. Until her
meeting with Oswald she had led the life of a muse, singing, dancing,
playing, improvising for the whole of Roman society to admire, and had
conceived no idea of greater felicity until learning to love. This
love had been a source of peculiar torment to her from the fact of her
divining how much the unconventionality of her conduct, when fully known
to him, must shock Oswald’s English notions of propriety. In the first
moment, however, his love triumphs over these considerations, and he
resolves to marry Corinne. Only he wishes first—in order that no reproach
may attach to her—to force Lady Edgermond once again to acknowledge her
as her husband’s daughter. He goes to England, partly for this purpose,
partly because his regiment has been ordered on active service.

In England he again meets Lucile, a cold-mannered, correct, pure-minded,
but secretly ardent English girl, with an odd resemblance in many ways
to a French _jeune fille_. He mentions the subject of her step-daughter
to the upright but selfish Lady Edgermond, who has set her heart on
seeing Oswald the husband of Lucile. She is too honorable to try and
detach him from Corinne by any underhand means, but does what she knows
will be far more effectual; that is, she makes him acquainted with the
fact that his father had seen Corinne in her early girlhood, had admired
her, but had strongly pronounced against the marriage proposed by Lord
Edgermond between her and Oswald. In the view of the late Lord Nelvil,
she was too brilliant and distinguished for domestic life. This is a
terrible blow to Oswald. He begins to think he must give up Corinne, and
is strengthened in the idea by perceiving that the beautiful and virtuous
Lucile is in love with him. Finally he marries her, decided at the last
by Corinne’s inexplicable silence. She has not answered his letters for
a month, and he concludes that she has forgotten him. But her silence is
owing to her having left Venice and come to England. She loses a whole
month in London, for very insufficient reasons—necessary, however, to the
story—and at last follows Oswald to Scotland just in time to learn that
he is married, to fall senseless on the road-side, and to be picked up by
the Count D’Erfeuil. She returns heart-broken to Italy, and dies slowly
through four long years of unbroken misery.

When she is near her end Oswald comes to Florence, accompanied by his
wife and child. He had begun to regret Corinne as soon as he had married
Lucile, who, on her side, being naturally resentful, takes refuge in
coldness and reserve. As soon as Lord Nelvil learns that his old love
is in Florence and dying he wishes ardently to see her, but she refuses
to receive him. He sends the child to her, and she teaches it some of
her accomplishments. Lucile visits her secretly, and is converted by her
eloquence to the necessity of rendering herself more attractive to her
husband by displaying some graces of mind.

At last Corinne consents to see Oswald once again, but it shall be, she
determines, in public. This is one of the most unnatural scenes in the
book. Corinne invites all her friends to assemble in a lecture hall.
Thither she has herself transported and placed in an arm-chair. A young
girl clad in white and crowned with flowers recites the Song of the Swan,
or adieu to life, which Corinne has composed, while Oswald, listening
to it and gazing on the dying poetess from his place in the crowd, is
suffocated with emotion and finally faints. A few days later Corinne
dies, her last act being to point with her diaphanous hand to the moon,
which is partially obscured by a band of cloud such as she and Lord
Nelvil had once seen when in Naples.

Even as a picture of Italy, _Corinne_ leaves much to be desired. Madame
de Staël’s ideas of art were acquired. She had no spontaneous admiration
even for the things she most warmly praised, and her judgments were
conventional and essentially cold. Some of the descriptions are good
in the sense of being accurate and forcibly expressed. But even in the
best of them—that of Vesuvius—one feels the effort. Madame de Staël is
wide-eyed and conscientious, but has no flashes of inspired vision. She
can catalogue but not paint. A certain difficulty in saying enough on
æsthetic subjects is rendered evident by her vice of moralizing. Instead
of admiring a marble column as a column, or a picture as a picture, she
finds in it food for reflection on the nature of man and the destiny
of the world. Some of her remarks on Italian character are extremely
clever, and show her usual surprising power of observation; but they are
generally superficial.

This was due, in part, to her system of explaining everything by race
and political institutions, in part to her passion for generalization.
Because Italians had produced the finest art and some of the finest
music; because they had no salons and wrote sonnets; because they had
developed a curiously systematic form of conjugal infidelity; finally,
because they had no political liberty, Madame de Staël constructed a
theory which represented them as simply passionate, romantic, imaginative
and indulgent. This theory has cropped up now and again in literature
from her days to our own, and if partially correct, overlooks the subtler
shades and complex contradictions of the Italian mind.

Roman society in the beginning of this century was far from being the
transfigured and exotic thing represented in _Corinne_. The modern
Sibyl’s prototype, poor Maddalena Maria Morelli, was mercilessly
pasquinaded, and on her road to the Capitol pelted with rotten eggs.
This gives a very good idea of the sort of impression that would have
been produced on a _real_ Prince of Castel-Forte and his fellows by
the presence in their midst of a young and beautiful woman, unmarried,
nameless, and rich. Corinne’s lavish exhibition of her accomplishments is
another “false note,” as singing and dancing were but rarely, if ever,
performed by amateurs in Italy. What redeems the book are the detached
sentences of thought that gem almost every page of it. Madame de Staël
had gradually shaken off the vices of style which her warmest admirers
deplore in her, and in her _Allemagne_ she was presently to reveal
herself as singularly lucid, brilliant, and acute. This work of hers on
Germany is, perhaps, the most satisfactory of her many productions. As a
review of society, art, literature, and philosophy, it naturally lends
itself to the form best suited to her essentially analytical mind.

Madame de Staël was always obliged to generalize, that being a law of her
intelligence, and this disposition is accentuated in the _Allemagne_,
through her desire to establish such contrasts between Germany and
France, as would inspire the latter with a sense of its defects. She saw
Germany on the eve of a great awakening, and was not perhaps as fully
conscious of this as she might have been. As Saint Beuve happily says,
she was not a poet, and it is only poets who, like birds of passage, feel
a coming change of season. Germany appealed to her, however, through
everything in herself that was least French; her earnestness, her
vague but ardent religious tendencies, her spiritualism, her excessive
admiration of intellectual pursuits. She was, therefore, exceptionally
well-qualified to reveal to her own countrymen the hitherto unknown or
unappreciated beauties of the German mind.

She was, on the other hand, extremely alive to the dullness of German,
and especially of Viennese, society, and portrays it in a series of
delightfully witty phrases. The _Allemagne_ is indeed the wittiest of all
her works, and abounds in the happiest touches.

The opinions expressed on German literature are favorable towards it, and
on the whole correct. If she betrays that Schiller was personally more
sympathetic to her than Goethe, she nevertheless was quick to perceive in
the latter the strain of southern passion, the light, warmth and color,
which made his intellect less national than universal.

Her chapters on Kant and German philosophy generally, are luminous if
not exhaustive. She takes the moral sentiment as her standpoint, and
pronounces from that on the different systems. Needless to say, she
admires metaphysical speculations, and considers them as valuable in
developing intellect and strengthening character.

_Les Dix Années d’Exil_ is a charming book. Apart from its interest as
a transcript of the writer’s impressions during her exile at Coppet
and subsequent flight across Europe, it contains brilliant pictures of
different lands, and especially Russia. One is really amazed to note
how much she grasped of the national characteristics during her brief
sojourn in that country. The worst reproach that can be addressed to
her description is that, as usual, it is rather too favorable. Her
anxiety to prove that no country could flourish, during a reign such as
Napoleon’s, made her disposed to see through rose-colored spectacles the
Governments which found force to resist him.

The _Considerations on the French Revolution_ were published
posthumously. According to Sainte Beuve, this is the finest of Madame
de Staël’s works. “Her star,” he says, “rose in its full splendor only
above her tomb.” It is difficult to pronounce any summary judgment on
this book, which is partly biographical and partly historical. The first
volume is principally devoted to a vindication of Necker; the second to
an attack on Napoleon; the third to a study of the English Constitution
and the applicability of its principles to France. The first two volumes
alone were revised by the authoress before her death. We find in this
work all Madame de Staël’s natural and surprising power of comprehension.
She handles difficult political problems with an ease that would be more
astonishing still, had the book more unity. As it is, each separate
circumstance is related and explained admirably, but one is not made to
reach the core of the stupendous event of which Europe still feels the
vibration. Her portrait of Napoleon is unsurpassable for force and irony,
for sarcasm and truth. All she possessed of epigrammatic power seems to
have come unsought to enable her to avenge herself on the mean, great
man who had feared her enough to exile and persecute her.

In closing this rapid review of her works, one asks why was Madame de
Staël not a greater writer? The answer is easy; she lacked high creative
power and the sense of form. Her mind was strong of grasp and wide in
range, but continuous effort fatigued it. She could strike out isolated
sentences alternately brilliant, exhaustive and profound, but she could
not link them to other sentences so as to form an organic page. Her
thought was definite singly, but vague as a whole. She always saw things
separately, and tried to unite them arbitrarily, and it is generally
difficult to follow out any idea of hers from its origin to its end. Her
thoughts are like pearls of price profusely scattered, or carelessly
strung together, but not set in any design. On closing one of her books,
the reader is left with no continuous impression. He has been dazzled and
delighted, enlightened also by flashes; but the horizons disclosed have
vanished again, and the outlook is enriched by no new vistas.

Then she was deficient in the higher qualities of imagination. She could
analyze but not characterize; construct but not create. She could take
one defect like selfishness, or one passion like love, and display its
workings; or she could describe a whole character, like Napoleon’s, with
marvellous penetration; but she could not make her personages talk or
act like human beings. She lacked pathos, and had no sense of humor. In
short, hers was a mind endowed with enormous powers of comprehension, and
an amazing richness of ideas, but deficient in perception of beauty, in
poetry, and true originality. She was a great social personage, but her
influence on literature was not destined to be lasting, because, in spite
of foreseeing much, she had not the true prophetic sense of proportion,
and confused the things of the present with those of the future—the
accidental with the enduring.


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“Miss Thomas has accomplished a difficult task with as much good sense
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    _Sold by all booksellers. Mailed, postpaid, on receipt of the
    price, by the publishers_, ROBERTS BROTHERS, BOSTON.

       *       *       *       *       *


Famous Women Series.



One vol. 16mo. Cloth. Price, $1.00.

“Messrs. Roberts Brothers begin a series of Biographies of Famous Women
with a life of George Eliot, by Mathilde Blind. The idea of the series
is an excellent one, and the reputation of its publishers is a guarantee
for its adequate execution. This book contains about three hundred pages
in open type, and not only collects and condenses the main facts that
are known in regard to the history of George Eliot, but supplies other
material from personal research. It is agreeably written, and with a
good idea of proportion in a memoir of its size. The critical study of
its subject’s works, which is made in the order of their appearance, is
particularly well done. In fact, good taste and good judgment pervade the
memoir throughout.”—_Saturday Evening Gazette._

“Miss Blind’s little book is written with admirable good taste and
judgment, and with notable self-restraint. It does not weary the reader
with critical discursiveness, nor with attempts to search out high-flown
meanings and recondite oracles in the plain ‘yea’ and ‘nay’ of life. It
is a graceful and unpretentious little biography, and tells all that
need be told concerning one of the greatest writers of the time. It is a
deeply interesting if not fascinating woman whom Miss Blind presents,”
says the New York _Tribune_.

“Miss Blind’s little biographical study of George Eliot is written with
sympathy and good taste, and is very welcome. It gives us a graphic if
not elaborate sketch of the personality and development of the great
novelist, is particularly full and authentic concerning her earlier
years, tells enough of the leading motives in her work to give the
general reader a lucid idea of the true drift and purpose of her art,
and analyzes carefully her various writings, with no attempt at profound
criticism or fine writing, but with appreciation, insight, and a clear
grasp of those underlying psychological principles which are so closely
interwoven in every production that came from her pen.”—_Traveller._

“The lives of few great writers have attracted more curiosity and
speculation than that of George Eliot. Had she only lived earlier in the
century she might easily have become the centre of a mythos. As it is,
many of the anecdotes commonly repeated about her are made up largely of
fable. It is, therefore, well, before it is too late, to reduce the true
story of her career to the lowest terms, and this service has been well
done by the author of the present volume.”—_Philadelphia Press._

    Sold by all booksellers, or mailed, post-paid, on receipt of
    price, by the publishers, ROBERTS BROTHERS, BOSTON.

       *       *       *       *       *

_Messrs. Roberts Brothers’ Publications._




One vol. 16mo. Cloth. Price, $1.00.

“Miss Robinson has written a fascinating biography.… Emily Brontë is
interesting, not because she wrote ‘Wuthering Heights,’ but because of
her brave, baffled, human life, so lonely, so full of pain, but with a
great hope shining beyond all the darkness, and a passionate defiance in
bearing more than the burdens that were laid upon her. The story of the
three sisters is infinitely sad, but it is the ennobling sadness that
belongs to large natures cramped and striving for freedom to heroic,
almost desperate, work, with little or no result. The author of this
intensely interesting, sympathetic, and eloquent biography, is a young
lady and a poet, to whom a place is given in a recent anthology of living
English poets, which is supposed to contain only the best poems of the
best writers.”—_Boston Daily Advertiser._

“Miss Robinson had many excellent qualifications for the task she
has performed in this little volume, among which may be named, an
enthusiastic interest in her subject and a real sympathy with Emily
Brontë’s sad and heroic life. ‘To represent her as she was,’ says Miss
Robinson, ‘would be her noblest and most fitting monument.’ … Emily
Brontë here becomes well known to us and, in one sense, this should be
praise enough for any biography.”—_New York Times._

“The biographer who finds such material before him as the lives and
characters of the Brontë family need have no anxiety as to the interest
of his work. Characters not only strong but so uniquely strong, genius
so supreme, misfortunes so overwhelming, set in its scenery so forlornly
picturesque, could not fail to attract all readers, if told even in
the most prosaic language. When we add to this, that Miss Robinson has
told their story _not_ in prosaic language, but with a literary style
exhibiting all the qualities essential to good biography, our readers
will understand that this life of Emily Brontë is not only as interesting
as a novel, but a great deal more interesting than most novels. As it
presents most vividly a general picture of the family, there seems
hardly a reason for giving it Emily’s name alone, except perhaps for
the masterly chapters on ‘Wuthering Heights,’ which the reader will
find a grateful condensation of the best in that powerful but somewhat
forbidding story. We know of no point in the Brontë history—their genius,
their surroundings, their faults, their happiness, their misery, their
love and friendships, their peculiarities, their power, their gentleness,
their patience, their pride,—which Miss Robinson has not touched upon
with conscientiousness and sympathy.”—_The Critic._

“‘Emily Brontë’ is the second of the ‘Famous Women Series,’ which Roberts
Brothers, Boston, propose to publish, and of which ‘George Eliot’ was the
initial volume. Not the least remarkable of a very remarkable family, the
personage whose life is here written, possesses a peculiar interest to
all who are at all familiar with the sad and singular history of herself
and her sister Charlotte. That the author, Miss A. Mary F. Robinson,
has done her work with minute fidelity to facts as well as affectionate
devotion to the subject of her sketch, is plainly to be seen all through
the book.”—_Washington Post._

    Sold by all Booksellers, or mailed, post-paid, on receipt of
    price, by the Publishers, ROBERTS BROTHERS, BOSTON.

       *       *       *       *       *

_Messrs. Roberts Brothers’ Publications._

Famous Women Series.



One volume. 16mo. Cloth. Price $1.00.

“A memoir of the woman who first in New England took a position of moral
and intellectual leadership, by the woman who wrote the Battle Hymn of
the Republic, is a literary event of no common or transient interest. The
Famous Women Series will have no worthier subject and no more illustrious
biographer. Nor will the reader be disappointed,—for the narrative is
deeply interesting and full of inspiration.”—_Woman’s Journal._

“Mrs. Julia Ward Howe’s biography of _Margaret Fuller_, in the Famous
Women Series of Messrs. Roberts Brothers, is a work which has been
looked for with curiosity. It will not disappoint expectation. She has
made a brilliant and an interesting book. Her study of Margaret Fuller’s
character is thoroughly sympathetic; her relation of her life is done in
a graphic and at times a fascinating manner. It is the case of one woman
of strong individuality depicting the points which made another one of
the most marked characters of her day. It is always agreeable to follow
Mrs. Howe in this; for while we see marks of her own mind constantly,
there is no inartistic protrusion of her personality. The book is
always readable, and the relation of the death-scene is thrillingly
impressive.”—_Saturday Gazette._

“Mrs. Julia Ward Howe has retold the story of Margaret Fuller’s life
and career in a very interesting manner. This remarkable woman was
happy in having James Freeman Clarke, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and William
Henry Channing, all of whom had been intimate with her and had felt the
spell of her extraordinary personal influence, for her biographers. It
is needless to say, of course, that nothing could be better than these
reminiscences in their way.”—_New York World._

“The selection of Mrs. Howe as the writer of this biography was a
happy thought on the part of the editor of the series; for, aside from
the natural appreciation she would have for Margaret Fuller, comes
her knowledge of all the influences that had their effect on Margaret
Fuller’s life. She tells the story of Margaret Fuller’s interesting life
from all sources and from her own knowledge, not hesitating to use plenty
of quotations when she felt that others, or even Margaret Fuller herself,
had done the work better.”—_Miss Gilder, in Philadelphia Press._

    _Sold by all booksellers. Mailed, post-paid, on receipt of the
    price, by the publishers_, ROBERTS BROTHERS, BOSTON, MASS.

       *       *       *       *       *

_Messrs. Roberts Brothers’ Publications._

Famous Women Series.



One volume. 16mo. Cloth. Price $1.00.

“This little volume shows good literary workmanship. It does not weary
the reader with vague theories; nor does it give over much expression to
the enthusiasm—not to say baseless encomium—for which too many female
biographers have accustomed us to look. It is a simple and discriminative
sketch of one of the most clever and lovable of the class at whom Carlyle
sneered as ‘scribbling women.’ … Of Maria Edgeworth, the woman, one
cannot easily say too much in praise. That home life, so loving, so
wise, and so helpful, was beautiful to its end. Miss Zimmern has treated
it with delicate appreciation. Her book is refined in conception and
tasteful in execution,—all, in short, the cynic might say, that we expect
a woman’s book to be.”—_New York Tribune._

“It was high time that we should possess an adequate biography of this
ornament and general benefactor of her time. And so we hail with uncommon
pleasure the volume just published in the Roberts Brothers’ series of
Famous Women, of which it is the sixth. We have only words of praise
for the manner in which Miss Zimmern has written her life of Maria
Edgeworth. It exhibits sound judgment, critical analysis, and clear
characterization.… The style of the volume is pure, limpid, and strong,
as we might expect from a well-trained English writer.”—_Margaret J.
Preston, in the Home Journal._

“We can heartily recommend this life of Maria Edgeworth, not only because
it is singularly readable in itself, but because it makes familiar to
readers of the present age a notable figure in English literary history,
with whose lineaments we suspect most readers, especially of the present
generation, are less familiar than they ought to be.”—_Eclectic._

“This biography contains several letters and papers by Miss Edgeworth
that have not before been made public, notably some charming letters
written during the latter part of her life to Dr. Holland and Mr. and
Mrs. Ticknor. The author had access to a life of Miss Edgeworth written
by her step-mother, as well as to a large collection of her private
letters, and has therefore been able to bring forward many facts in her
life which have not been noted by other writers. The book is written in
a pleasant vein, and is altogether a delightful one to read.”—_Utica

    _Sold by all booksellers. Mailed, post-paid, by the

       *       *       *       *       *

_Messrs. Roberts Brothers’ Publications._

Famous Women Series.



One vol. 16mo. Cloth. Price $1.00.

“In the records of famous women there are few more noble examples of
Christian womanhood and philanthropic enthusiasm than the life of
Elizabeth Fry presents. Her character was beautifully rounded and
complete, and if she had not won fame through her public benefactions,
she would have been no less esteemed and remembered by all who knew
her because of her domestic virtues, her sweet womanly charms, and the
wisdom, purity, and love which marked her conduct as wife, mother, and
friend. She came of that sound old Quaker stock which has bred so many
eminent men and women. The time came when her home functions could no
longer satisfy the yearnings of a heart filled with the tenderest pity
for all who suffered; and her work was not far to seek. The prisons of
England, nay, of all Europe, were in a deplorable condition. In Newgate,
dirt, disease, starvation, depravity, drunkenness, &c., prevailed. All
who surveyed the situation regarded it as hopeless; all but Mrs. Fry. She
saw here the opening she had been awaiting. Into this seething mass she
bravely entered, Bible in hand, and love and pity in her eyes and upon
her lips. If any one should ask which of all the famous women recorded in
this series did the most practical good in her day and generation, the
answer must be, Elizabeth Fry.”—_New York Tribune._

“Mrs. Pitman has written a very interesting and appreciative sketch of
the life, character, and eminent services in the causes of humanity of
one of England’s most famous philanthropists. She was known as the prison
philanthropist, and probably no laborer in the cause of prison reform
ever won a larger share of success, and certainly none ever received a
larger meed of reverential love. No one can read this volume without
feelings of admiration for the noble woman who devoted her life to
befriend sinful and suffering humanity.”—_Chicago Evening Journal._

“The story of her splendid and successful philanthropy is admirably told
by her biographer, and every reader should find in the tale a breath of
inspiration. Not every woman can become an Elizabeth Fry, but no one can
fail to be impressed with the thought that no woman, however great her
talent and ambition, can fail to find opportunity to do a noble work
in life without neglecting her own feminine duties, without ceasing
to dignify all the distinctive virtues of her sex, without fretting
and crying aloud over the restrictions placed on woman’s field of
work.”—_Eclectic Monthly._

    _Our publications are for sale by all booksellers, or will
    be sent post-paid on receipt of advertised price._ ROBERTS

       *       *       *       *       *

_Messrs. Roberts Brothers’ Publications._

Famous Women Series.



One volume. 16mo. Cloth. Price $1.00.

“So far as it has been published, and it has now reached its ninth
volume, the Famous Women Series is rather better on the whole than
the English Men of Letters Series. One had but to recall the names
and characteristics of some of the women with whom it deals,—literary
women, like Maria Edgeworth, Margaret Fuller, Mary Lamb, Emily Brontë,
George Eliot, and George Sand; women of the world (not to mention the
other parties in that well-known Scriptural firm), like the naughty but
fascinating Countess of Albany; and women of philanthropy, of which the
only example given here so far is Mrs. Elizabeth Fry,—one has but to
compare the intellectual qualities of the majority of English men of
letters to perceive that the former are the most difficult to handle,
and that a series of which they are the heroines is, if successful, a
remarkable collection of biographies. We thought so as we read Miss
Blind’s study of George Sand, and Vernon Lee’s study of the Countess
of Albany, and we think so now that we have read Mrs. Elizabeth Robins
Pennell’s study of Mary Wollstonecraft, who, with all her faults, was
an honor to her sex. She was not so considered while she lived, except
by those who knew her well, nor for years after her death; but she is
so considered now, even by the granddaughters of the good ladies who so
bitterly condemned her when the century was new. She was notable for
the sacrifices that she made for her worthless father and her weak,
inefficient sisters, for her dogged persistence and untiring industry,
and for her independence and her courage. The soul of goodness was in
her, though she would be herself and go on her own way; and if she loved
not wisely, according to the world’s creed, she loved too well for her
own happiness, and paid the penalty of suffering. What she might have
been if she had not met Capt. Gilbert Imlay, who was a scoundrel, and
William Godwin, who was a philosopher, can only be conjectured. She was
a force in literature and in the enfranchisement of her sisterhood, and
as such was worthy of the remembrance which she will long retain through
Mrs. Pennell’s able memoir.”—_R. H. Stoddard, in the Mail and Express._

    _Sold by all booksellers. Mailed, post-paid, on receipt of
    price by the publishers_, ROBERTS BROTHERS, BOSTON

       *       *       *       *       *

_Messrs. Roberts Brothers’ Publications._

Famous Women Series.



16mo. Cloth. Price $1.00.

“The almost uniform excellence of the ‘Famous Women’ series is well
sustained in Mrs. Fenwick Miller’s life of Harriet Martineau, the latest
addition to this little library of biography. Indeed, we are disposed
to rank it as the best of the lot. The subject is an entertaining one,
and Mrs. Miller has done her work admirably. Miss Martineau was a
remarkable woman, in a century that has not been deficient in notable
characters. Her native genius, and her perseverance in developing it;
her trials and afflictions, and the determination with which she rose
superior to them; her conscientious adherence to principle, and the
important place which her writings hold in the political and educational
literature of her day,—all combine to make the story of her life one of
exceptional interest.… With the exception, possibly, of George Eliot,
Harriet Martineau was the greatest of English women. She was a poet and
a novelist, but not as such did she make good her title to distinction.
Much more noteworthy were her achievements in other lines of thought, not
usually essayed by women. She was eminent as a political economist, a
theologian, a journalist, and a historian.… But to attempt a mere outline
of her life and works is out of the question in our limited space. Her
biography should be read by all in search of entertainment.”—_Professor
Woods in Saturday Mirror._

“The present volume has already shared the fate of several of the recent
biographies of the distinguished dead, and has been well advertised by
the public contradiction of more or less important points in the relation
by the living friends of the dead genius. One of Mrs. Miller’s chief
concerns in writing this life seems to have been to redeem the character
of Harriet Martineau from the appearance of hardness and unamiability
with which her own autobiography impresses the reader.… Mrs. Miller,
however, succeeds in this volume in showing us an altogether different
side to her character,—a home-loving, neighborly, bright-natured,
tender-hearted, witty, lovable, and altogether womanly woman, as well as
the clear thinker, the philosophical reasoner, and comprehensive writer
whom we already knew.”—_The Index._

“Already ten volumes in this library are published; namely, George Eliot,
Emily Brontë, George Sand, Mary Lamb, Margaret Fuller, Maria Edgeworth,
Elizabeth Fry, The Countess of Albany, Mary Wollstonecraft, and the
present volume. Surely a galaxy of wit and wealth of no mean order! Miss
M. will rank with any of them in womanliness or gifts or grace. At home
or abroad, in public or private. She was noble and true, and her life
stands confessed a success. True, she was literary, but she was a home
lover and home builder. She never lost the higher aims and ends of life,
no matter how flattering her success. This whole series ought to be read
by the young ladies of to-day. More of such biography would prove highly
beneficial.”—_Troy Telegram._

    _Our publications are for sale by all booksellers, or will be
    mailed, post-paid, on receipt of price._ ROBERTS BROTHERS,

       *       *       *       *       *

_Messrs. Roberts Brothers’ Publications._

Famous Women Series.




One volume. 16mo. Cloth. Price, $1.00.

“Of all the interesting biographies published in the Famous Women Series,
Mathilde Blind’s life of Mme. Roland is by far the most fascinating.… But
no one can read Mme. Roland’s thrilling story, and no one can study the
character of this noble, heroic woman without feeling certain that it
is good for the world to have every incident of her life brought again
before the public eye. Among the famous women who have been enjoying a
new birth through this set of short biographies, no single one has been
worthy of the adjective _great_ until we come to Mme. Roland.…

“We see a brilliant intellectual woman in Mme. Roland; we see a dutiful
daughter and devoted wife; we see a woman going forth bravely to place
her neck under the guillotine,—a woman who had been known as the ‘Soul of
the Girondins;’ and we see a woman struggling with and not being overcome
by an intense and passionate love. Has history a more heroic picture
to present us with? Is there any woman more deserving of the adjective

“Mathilde Blind has had rich materials from which to draw for Mme.
Roland’s biography. She writes graphically, and describes some of the
terrible scenes in the French Revolution with great picturesqueness. The
writer’s sympathy with Mme. Roland and her enthusiasm is very contagious;
and we follow her record almost breathlessly, and with intense feeling
turn over the last few pages of this little volume. No one can doubt
that this life was worth the writing, and even earnest students of the
French Revolution will be glad to refresh their memories of Lamartine’s
‘History of the Girondins,’ and again have brought vividly before them
the terrible tragedy of Mme. Roland’s life and death.”—_Boston Evening

“The thrilling story of Madame Roland’s genius, nobility, self-sacrifice,
and death loses nothing in its retelling here. The material has been
collected and arranged in an unbroken and skilfully narrated sketch, each
picturesque or exciting incident being brought out into a strong light.
The book is one of the best in an excellent series.”—_Christian Union._

    _For sale by all booksellers. Mailed, post-paid, on receipt of
    price by the publishers_, ROBERTS BROTHERS, BOSTON.

       *       *       *       *       *


(_Not included in General Catalogue_)



3 Somerset Street, Boston.

_JULY, 1887._



Being the tenth volume in the third “No Name Series.” 16mo. Cloth. $1.00.

    “A Question of Identity” takes its title from the resemblance
    of girl twins to each other,—a resemblance so strong that
    a lover of Rachel offered himself to Leah, calling her his
    beautiful Rachel. It is a story of New England life, with
    strong characterization and intense dramatic incidents which
    give coloring to the impression that it is very real. The
    locality might be a half-hour’s ride from Boston by rail.


Part I. Spring; Part II. Summer; Part III. Autumn; Part IV. Winter. By
HARRIET WATERS PRESTON. 12mo. Cloth, $1.00; paper covers, 50 cents.

    “There is a great charm in the style, and there are some
    exquisite scenes unsurpassed by any writer on New-England life.
    The book will interest a very large number of readers by its
    subject, its thought, and its wit.”—_London Academy._


A Campobello Romance. By ARLO BATES, author of “The Pagans,” “A Wheel of
Fire,” etc. 16mo. Cloth. Price, $1.00.


Short Chats on Social Topics. By LOUISE CHANDLER MOULTON, author of
“Bed-Time Stories,” “Some Women’s Hearts,” “Random Rambles,” etc. 16mo.
Cloth. Price, $1.00.


The second volume in the “Old Colony Series” of novels. Uniform in size
and style with “Constance of Acadia.” 12mo. Cloth. $1.50.

    “This is the second in the ‘Old Colony Series.’ Agatha is
    represented as the daughter of Elder Brewster, and the wife
    of Bernard Anselm. The story is a series of pictures of the
    early life of this country, always with Puritans as the
    central figures. Indians have a large place in this record
    of Pilgrim life, and the book is crowded with romantic and
    dramatic material, with intense feeling, with brilliant
    descriptions.”—_Worcester Spy._


By Mrs. D. A. LINCOLN, author of “The Boston Cook Book.” Square 12mo.
Illuminated board covers. 60 cents.

    “Carving and Serving,” by Mrs. D. A. Lincoln, author of the
    “Boston Cook Book,” is a little manual by the aid of which
    any gentleman or lady can become an expert carver. What an
    advantage it must be to be able to place with the left hand
    a fork in the breast of a turkey, and, without once removing
    it, with the right hand to carve and dissect, or disjoint, the
    entire fowl ready to be helped to admiring guests! This is
    done by skilful carvers. The book also contains directions for
    serving, with a list of utensils for carving and serving.


A Story. By KATHLEEN O’MEARA, author of “Madame Mohl,” etc. 16mo. Cloth.

    This is a French story, with both English and French
    characters. The author, Miss O’Meara, by a long residence in
    Paris, has become familiar with French life; and her delightful
    book, “Madame Mohl, her Salon and her Friends,” is a foretaste
    of what “Mabel Stanhope” will be found to be.



With Hints on the Stable. By Mrs. POWER O’DONOGHUE, author of “Ladies
on Horseback” and “A Beggar on Horseback.” Very fully illustrated by
A. Chantrey Corbould. Square 12mo. Cloth. Gilt. $3.50. Special English

    So much interest is now being given to horseback-riding
    that the publication of this book is very opportune. It is
    a collection of useful and practical hints on matters that
    pertain to the horse and his management. The instructions given
    are of the plainest and easiest description, and are the result
    of an experience which has in some instances been dearly bought.


From Original Documents, most of which are now published for the first
time. By EDWARD E. HALE and EDWARD E. HALE, Jr. With three newly engraved
portraits of Franklin from copies which are now quite rare, and numerous
portrait-illustrations throughout the text. One handsome 8vo volume of
500 pages. Cloth. $3.00.

    When Benjamin Franklin died, in 1790, he left to his grandson,
    Wm. Temple Franklin, the largest collection of his papers. This
    collection, which had been supposed to be irrevocably lost, was
    found a few years since on the top shelf of an old tailor’s
    shop in St. James, became the property of Mr. Henry Stevens,
    and finally of the United States. From this collection and from
    other original documents, this life of “Franklin in France” has
    been written.



  “If ye desire to witness prodigies and to behold marvels,
   Be not concerned as to whether the mountains are distant or the
       rivers far away.”—_Kin-Kou-Ki-Koan._

CONTENTS: The Soul of the Great Bell; The Story of Ming-Y; The Legend of
Tchi-Niu; The Return of Yen-Tchin-King; The Tradition of the Tea-Plant;
The Tale of the Porcelain-God. 16mo. Cloth. $1.00.


A Tour through Southern England. By ANNA BOWMAN DODD. Illustrated from
sketches and photographs by E. Eldon Deane. 12mo. Cloth. $2.00.

    “Mrs. Dodd is a most delightful travelling companion. Nothing
    in method exactly like “Cathedral Days” is, so far as we know,
    to be found in English. We can no more describe its flavor than
    we can describe the flavor of a fruit. Nobody who once takes
    it up will be willing to put it down until he has absorbed the
    whole of it. People who are going to England ought to take
    Mrs. Dodd’s book with them. People who must stay at home ought
    to read it and enjoy the trip in fancy.”—_N. Y. Commercial


16mo. Uniquely bound in cloth. $1.25.

    “Fair Harbor is one of the few places now left in the world
    which most people know nothing about. You may count on your
    fingers the men and women who have ever heard of it; and if you
    have the usual number of fingers, your list will come to an
    end first.” And in this “singularly pretty and attractive bit
    of the very tip end of the heel of Cape Cod” some happy summer
    idlers passed the delightful “week away from time” which the
    book records. A bit of advice: Read it.


A Fragment of Thought. By MABEL COLLINS. 16mo. Limp cloth. Style of “A
Little Pilgrim.” 50 cents.

    “A work which is reported to be of a remarkable character
    will be published by Roberts Brothers in February. It is
    called ‘Through the Gates of Gold;’ and though by a well-known
    author, it was submitted to that house under conditions of the
    strictest secrecy, and nothing concerning the writer’s identity
    or nationality is to be revealed. As Roberts Brothers have had
    much experience in the secret-keeping business, there seems to
    be little prospect that the mystery surrounding the origin of
    the work will be penetrated. The book deals with problems of
    the future life in an unusual manner, and it is believed that
    it will make as much of a sensation as did ‘The Gates Ajar.’
    Its simultaneous publication in London has been arranged for.”


By A. MARY F. ROBINSON, author of “Emily Brontë.”


By Mrs. NINA H. KENNARD, author of “Rachel Félix.”

Two new volumes in the “Famous Women Series,” which now comprises Lives
of George Eliot, Emily Brontë, George Sand, Margaret Fuller, Mary Lamb,
Maria Edgeworth, Elizabeth Fry, Mary Wollstonecraft, Harriet Martineau,
Countess of Albany, Rachel Félix, Madame Roland, Susanna Wesley. Uniform
library volumes. 16mo. $1.00 each.


A Sketch of his Life and Works. By MAY ALDEN WARD. 16mo. Cloth. $1.25.

    A delightful study of the poet’s life and works, written with
    remarkable clearness and lucidity both of style and arrangement.


Letters on Spiritual Christianity. By the author of “Philochristus” and
“Onesimus.” 12mo. Cloth. $1.50.

    The author of this book asserts that a belief in the miracles
    of Christ is not essential to a belief in Christ; and in an
    introduction “to the reader” he says “it is to the would-be
    worshippers and the doubtful worshippers of Christ that the
    following letters are addressed by one who has for many years
    found peace and salvation in the worship of a non-miraculous


A Volume of Devotional Studies in the Life and Nature of our Lord. By the
Rev. JULIAN K. SMYTH, pastor of the New-Church in Boston Highlands. One
handsome 16mo volume. Cloth. Gilt top. Rough edges. $1.00; white and gold
cover, in a neat box, $1.25.


An Historical Sketch. By Lord RONALD GOWER, author of “My Reminiscences.”
With a steel portrait of Marie Antoinette, and a fac-simile letter. The
edition is limited to 483 copies, numbered. Printed on hand-made Irish
linen paper. Small 4to. Beautifully bound in cloth. Gilt top. $4.00.


Printed entirely in the French language, and mounted on a card of
appropriate design. Price, $1.00.

    “A calendar with a handsome illuminated background of scarlet,
    blue, and gold, containing a fine collection of bits from
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Of Giovanni Duprè. Translated from the Italian by E. M. PERUZZI (a
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An Address before the School Children of Boston, in the Old South Meeting
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By ELIZA CLARKE. Being the thirteenth volume in the “Famous Women
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    These are the articles which have been appearing in the _New
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Edited, with Preface and Notes, by WILLIAM M. ROSSETTI. 2 vols. 12mo.
Cloth. Gilt. Price, $6.00.

CONTENTS: Vol. I. Poems, Prose Tales, and Literary Papers. Vol. II.
Translations, Prose-Notices of Fine Arts.

    The original poems are rearranged, so far as was practicable
    and convenient, in order of date. Eight minor poems, which
    appeared in print while Rossetti was alive, but which were not
    included in his volumes, are added; also twenty-two others
    (besides some “versicles and fragments”), of which the great
    majority have never yet seen the light. All the prose writings
    of Rossetti are also printed.


Including the original volume of Poems, and Ballads and Sonnets, together
with some forty new poems, making a complete edition of Rossetti’s Poems.
With portrait. 1 vol. 12mo. Cloth. Gilt edges. Price, $2.00. Half calf,
$3.50; tree calf, $5.00.


With the Italian Poets preceding him. (1100-1200-1300.) A Collection of
Lyrics edited and translated in the Original Metres. By DANTE GABRIEL
ROSSETTI. A new American edition, containing a Preface to the first
English edition. 1 vol. 12mo. Cloth. Gilt. Price, $2.00.


A new “No Name” Novel, the eleventh in the Third Series. 16mo. Cloth.
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By ARLO BATES, author of “Berries of the Brier,” “A Wheel of Fire,” etc.
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From the French of M. ARNAUD. Translated and adapted by SUSAN COOLIDGE.
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With Others of their Kin. By LUCRETIA P. HALE. With illustrations. Square
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A Tale of Two Summers, told and illustrated by FLORENCE and EDITH
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_Gordon Browne’s Series of Old Fairy Tales_:



The Stories Retold by LAURA E. RICHARDS. The drawings by Gordon Browne.
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       *       *       *       *       *


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