Page images

-P. 37.

“ You can, however, imagine how such an apparition and such a wit, who is at the head of French culture (which is entirely opposed to ours), and who comes suddenly upon us from the abyss of another world, must contrast with the German nature; and how much she differs from me. She frightens away all my poetry, and I am at a loss for words. I see her often, and, furthermore, as I cannot express myself readily in French, I really pass terrible hours. One is obliged, however, to esteem and honor highly this woman, for her beautiful intelligence, and for her spirit, which is broad and liberal on many sides."

Goethe was at Jena when Madame de Staël arrived at Weimar. Though he sent her an invitation to visit him at his own house, promising a cordial welcome, he resisted all entreaties to come to Weimar till a message from the Duke summoned him. But he was cold and formal to her, - as he was to all to whom he was not specially attracted, - and only at intervals brilliant and talkative. Madame de Staël said of him : “ When I saw Goethe, he had no longer that winning ardor which inspired him in Werther; but the heat of his thoughts sufficed to excite him. One might say that life had no longer power to move him. He portrays it only as an artist, and attaches more value to the pictures he paints than the emotions which he feels. Time has converted him into a spectator."

Of Schiller she spoke more warmly. But it is evident that she liked both the friends better than they liked her. Lewes states that they were delighted when she left Weimar after a visit of three months. De Quincey, accounting for this nonappreciation, says that Baron William von Humboldt attributed it to the fact that neither Goethe nor Schiller was familiar with “ the fluencies of oral French," and supposed “that mere spite at the trouble they found in limping after the lady, so as to catch one thought that she uttered, had been the true cause of their unfavorable sentence upon her.” *

From Weimar Madame de Staël went to Berlin, where she met Augustus Schlegel, who was afterward domesticated in her family for eight years, as tutor to her sons. Constant association with a man of Schlegel's learning and taste must

* Essay on Conversation.

have been a source of enjoyment, and have somewhat sweetened the bitterness of exile. According to Madame Lenormant there were, however, drawbacks to this pleasure. Schlegel had his weaknesses. He was vain and irritable, and it required all the tact of Madame de Staël to avoid wounding his self-love. He spoke to her in private with the utmost deference, but he was so fearful that his position in her household might be considered subordinate, that he constantly addressed her in the presence of strangers as “Chère amie.This want of taste annoyed Madame de Staël excessively, but she never allowed him to perceive her chagrin. Schlegel accompanied her in that tour through Italy of which Corinne was the fruit. Madame Lenormant thus describes his influence:

"Schlegel was a precious guide in Italy. He had studied thoroughly the arts, and loved and appreciated them. He succeeded in interesting Madame de Staël in them by ingenious comparisons between the beauties of plastic art and the chef-d'ouvres of literature. She was one of those who learn to enjoy art by means of reasoning, analogy, and reflection, but who do not feel at first sight a rapid and instinctive emotion.”

The most curious and interesting of all the letters in Madame Lenormant's collection is one of Schlegel's, which has never before been edited. It was found among Madame de Staël's correspondence, and is addressed to Matthieu, Duke of Montmorency, a zealous Romanist. As it is too long to be given in full, we make a few extracts.

"I owe much to literary occupations, which I have regarded for a long time as my natural vocation. At an early hour these pursuits have turned me from vulgar pleasures; they have made me less eager after worldly interests, by opening to me sources of enjoyment which are innocent, and independent of fortune.”- p. 195.

“I respect infinitely the works of Madame Guyon. They are a living well-spring of love and faith. I read many extracts of hers last winter, and I have several of her writings. But it must be borne in mind, in reading them, as in reading everything else, that it is necessary to hold to the spirit, and not to the letter. What is essential and difficult in the works of Madame Guyon is, not to stamp her words on the memory, but to apply to one's self the experiences that she commu

nicates; to turn the soul towards God; to unite one's self with him, and to hear his voice in the silence of contemplation.” — p. 201.

“I have taken no decided resolution in respect to my old project of returning into the bosom of the Church. In the mean while, I have such strong and reiterated calls that I almost reproach myself with purely worldly motives for resisting them. Some geniuses, who have devoted themselves, by their poems and works of art, to the glorification of the Church, first made me perceive the divine splendor of this majestic edifice. A young person whom I cherished with all my soul bas been through her obsequies received into the bosom of this Church, to which she did not belong during her life. In grief for her loss, the most heart-rending that I have ever felt, I have found the first consolation in Catholic temples. In prostrating myself before the chapel of · Notre Dame des Ermites, where so many poor pilgrims seek refuge, I have felt distinctly an inward voice which called me to her. My brother and several honored friends have cleared the way, and I shall unite myself to them more closely in following their example. In fact, I cannot witness any ceremony, nor enter even into temples sacred to this worship, without being touched with this religious Magianism, as a profound writer calls it. I am very far from confounding exterior worship with that of the soul, of which it is the type; but I consider the first as a powerful means of exerting those holy inclinations which the inward worship requires. The interior of a sacred place is the best barrier between us and earthly passions. The bended knee is the emblem of humility and of contrition, but it contributes also to create in us these sentiments. The holy water with which we sprinkle ourselves cannot, by its own virtue, purify us, but it recalls to us our stains, and the sign of the cross, so to speak, is the visible compass of our salvation.” — pp. 197, 198.

Augustus Schlegel never joined the Romish Church; still this letter proves without a doubt that he had, at one time at least, a strong bias in that direction.

Madame de Staël's expostulatory letter to the First Consul is also published here at length for the first time.

“ October, 1803. “I was living quietly at Maffliers, under the assurance that you pleased to give me that I might remain there, when I was told of the arrival of the officers to take me away with my two children. Citizen Consul, I cannot believe it ! you would be treating me cruelly. I should have a page in your history. You would break the heart of my venerable father, who would, I am sure, notwithstanding his age, seek



you to demand what crime I had committed, what crime his family had committed, to merit so barbarous a treatment. If you wish me to leave France, give me a passport for Germany, and the privilege of eight days at Paris, to procure the necessary funds, and to see a physician for my daughter, six years old, whom the journey has fatigued. In any other country such a request would not be refused. Citizen Consul, the persecution of a woman and two children is not worthy of you. A hero should be the protector of the weak. I beseech you once more, grant me a full pardon. Let me live in peace


father's house at Saint Ouen. It is near enough to Paris to allow my son to go to the Polytechnic School when he is of the proper age, and yet so far off that I cannot be considered a resident.

“I will go away in the spring, when it will be prudent to travel with children.

“ Finally, Citizen Consul, reflect a moment before causing so great a grief to one so defenceless. A great many favors bestowed may not, perhaps, inspire a gratitude so true and lasting as I shall feel for an act of simple justice.

“ I am with respect, Citizen Consul, your very humble and obedient servant,

“ NECKER STAEL DE HOLSTEIN.” Madame de Staël was willing to supplicate, but she was too honest and consistent to make concessions, and concessions alone could mollify her powerful enemy. Shortly after the coup d'état, the First Consul made an effort, through Joseph Bonaparte, to conciliate his feminine opponent. “Why does not Madame de Staël,” he said, “ attach herself to my government? What does she want? The payment of her father's claim? She shall have it. Permission to remain in Paris ? I will grant it. In short, what is it she wants ?

66 Mon Dieu !” exclaimed Madame de Staël, when Joseph reported this to her ; “ the question is not what I want, but what I think.”

In Les Dix Années d'Exil she describes the anxious months preceding her exile, and her despair when the sentence which she had been dreading was actually passed. Her reply to the officer in charge, who complimented her upon her writings, is amusing from its petulance. “You see, sir," she said, “the consequences of being a woman of intellect. If any of your family are so inclined, I beseech you to discourage

them." She adds, " I tried to fortify myself by my pride, but I felt the arrow at my heart.” There is probably but little exaggeration in her constant lamentations over her exile. Paris was her world. “ Show me La Rue du Bac,” she once said, when begged to admire Lake Leman. She often declared that she would be content to live in Paris upon a hundred louis a year, and lodge in a fourth story. Her attachment seems to have been in some degree local. In 1806, when she visited Paris secretly, her greatest delight was to steal out at night to see the streets by the light of the moon.

In her second letter to Napoleon, accompanying a copy of L'Allemagne, she enters into quite an elaborate defence of her love for Paris, and paints the misery of her exile in glowing colors. Her eloquence was wasted. One word of published commendation from her pen would have had more effect than any number of letters. Napoleon showed his appreciation of the compliment of her book by the seizure and suppression of the whole edition. Madame de Staël was in despair. “I counted so much on the help my book would give in maintaining me, and now here are ten years of labor and study and travel almost lost.Madame Lenormant inserts Madame de Broglie's account of an interview at Chambery between the Emperor and Madame de Staël's eldest son, Augustus, which shows Napoleon's peculiarities in a strong light.

“ • Where do you come from?' asked the Emperor.
«Sire, from Geneva.'
66 • Where is your mother?'
« « She is at Vienna, or has nearly reached that city.'

“ • Ah! she is well, then ; she ought to be contented; she will learn German. Your mother is not mischievous; she has wit, plenty of wit; but she is unaccustomed to any kind of subordination.'

“ The young man entreated that his mother might be allowed to come to Paris.

He spoke with much warmth. 6 • Your mother,' answered the Emperor, ó would not be six months in Paris before I should be obliged to send her to the Bicêtre or the Temple ; and I should be sorry, because it would cause some excitement, and perhaps injure me a little in public opinion.

“. So you may tell her that, as long as I live, she shall not return to Paris. She would do foolish things; she would receive society; she

« PreviousContinue »