Jeanne Françoise Julie Adélaïde Bernard Récamier.

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Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1867, by


In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of Massachnsettg.




The " Souvenirs et Correspond ance tires des
Papiers de Mme. Recamier," published in Paris in
1859, and now for the first time translated, is by Mme.
Lenormant, the niece of M. Recamier, and the adopted
daughter of his wife. To this lady, Mme. Recamier be-
queathed her papers, with the understanding that she was
to use them in the preparation of a biography.

Mme. Lenormant had a difficult, as well as delicate,
task assigned her, — one requiring taste and skill, tact and
judgment. The materials at her command were rich and
valuable, but fragmentary and disconnected. To give
them unity and completeness, grace and finish, would have
been perplexing, even to a practised writer ; and the Me-
moirs, if we do not mistake, was Mme. Lenormant's first
essay in authorship. Consequently it is not surprising
that the book should bear marks of crudity and inex-
perience. It is involved and diffuse in style, and faulty
in method. Events are not always given in their natural
and proper order ; repetitions are frequent ; trivial details
usurp the place of necessary facts ; and much matter is in-
troduced which is not only tiresome, but wholly irrelevant.

In order, therefore, to give the work, in its English dress,
a more compact and readable form, an effort has been


2 J


made to tone down its prominent defects, so far as that
could be done without destroying its essential and dis-
tinctive character. No changes have been made in the
text which could not be effected simply by condensation,
omission, and transposition. The individuality of the au-
thor has been scrupulously preserved ; all important state-
ments are translated literally ; and, in every case, care has
been taken to convey the precise meaning. Nothing
has been omitted that could either throw light upon Mme.
Kecamier's character and career, or that was of general
interest in the way of gossip and anecdote. Of the four
hundred and fifty-three letters in the original, three
hundred and eighty-four are reproduced in the transla-
tion ; including the whole of Chateaubriand's, in their
regular order, and all others of special interest and im-

This correspondence has one singular feature, in which
it differs from that usually found in biographies. It is
composed almost entirely of letters addressed to Mme.
Recamier, instead of those written by herself. Only seven
of her own are given, and these not addressed to any of
the correspondents whose letters form so large a portion
of the Memoirs.

Mme. Lenormant does not account anywhere in the
work for this unfortunate deficiency ; but in " Coppet et
Weimar," published subsequently, she thus casually alludes
to it : " Mme. Recamier's letters are rare, and this very
rarity excites curiosity. Still she corresponded regularly
with Matthieu de Montmorency, Mme. de Stael, and M. de
Chateaubriand. It would be a sad fatality, indeed, if none
of her letters have been preserved. I should be sorry
to believe this : let us hope, on the contrary, that we shall
some day be able to judge for ourselves whether her style


can aid us in comprehending her ascendancy over her con-

Though this hope may yet be realized with regard to
Mme. Recamier's letters to occasional correspondents, and
possibly to Mme. de Stael, we are inclined to think, judg-
ing from internal evidence, that it will prove fallacious
as far as the bulk of her confidential correspondence is
concerned. After the death of Matthieu de Montmorency,
his widow gave her letters from him to Mme. Recamier.
If Mme. de Montmorency could bestow upon her hus-
band's friend such a mark of confidence, it is highly prob-
able that she also returned to Mme. Recamier what would
be of much more importance to her, — her own corre-
spondence with M. de Montmorency. It is even more
reasonable to conclude, that she ultimately obtained pos-
session of that with Chateaubriand and Ballanche, since
she was with them both at the time of their death, and
was their nearest and best friend ; nor is it difficult, if
this supposition be correct, to conjecture the fate of these
letters. They probably formed part of the packet, con-
taining an unfinished record of her personal reminiscences,
which Mme. Recamier directed to be burnt at her death ;
for the feeling that prompted her to destroy the record
would be still stronger in the case of the letters.

It is clear that Mme. Recamier was anxious to conceal
her inner and personal life from the scrutiny of the world.
Her autobiography was only undertaken at the repeated
solicitations of her friends, who tried, almost in vain, to
inspire her with confidence in her own powers. " Ex-
perience," says Mme. Lenormant, in the Preface to the
French edition of her book, " partially overcame this self-
distrust; but the feebleness of Mme. Recamier's sight,
followed, in the last part of her life, by almost total blind-


ness, prevented her continuing the work she had begun.
She had never been in the habit of dictating; and she
could not read what she had written, on account of the
extreme fineness of her handwriting. Hence, we do
not suppose that she had made much progress-" Of
the style and form of this unfinished manuscript, we are
fortunately able to form some idea, as Mme. Lenormant
found, among other papers, a few portions of it, which are
inserted in the Memoirs. The style is easy and grace-
ful, and the anecdotes and incidents related are both perti-
nent and interesting. It is much to be regretted, therefore,
that Mme. Recamier did i^ot carry out her original design.
But, great as this loss is, it is not so irreparable as that of
her correspondence ; since it is plain, from the few speci-
mens we have, that she was expansive and confidential
when writing to those she loved. That her letters were
prized by her friends is also evident : Mme. de Stael espe-
cially is lavish in her encomiums.

" What a charm there is in your style ! " she exclaims.
" If I wanted to write a novel, wherein to portray a celes-
tial being, it would be your expressions I should use,
without changing a single line." Again she writes :
*' Prince Augustus has written me a letter full of you.
He speaks enthusiastically of your letters, your mind,
your character." ^ The Duke de Laval also alludes to
the grace and charm of Mme. Recamier's letters, while
Ballanche and Chateaubriand speak of them as their
greatest source of pleasure and consolation.

But, aside from their epistolary excellences, such letters
would have been invaluable aids in comprehending aright
a career which, from its singularity, has given rise to so

1 " Coppet et Weimar, Mme. de Stael et La Grande Duchesse Louise.
Paris, 1862.


many contradictory imj)ressions ; especially as the Memoirs
do not, in other respects, make up for their absence. On
the contrary, Mme. Lenormant's half-and-half statements
and vague allusions continually provoke curiosity, with-
out gratifying it.^ We want to know more than she tells
us of the heart-history of a woman who so captivated the
world ; to see her sometimes in the silence of solitude, alone
with her own heart ; to gain an insight into the inner, that
we may more perfectly comprehend the outward life that so
perplexes and confounds. Instead of this, we have draw-
ing-room interviews with the object of our interest ; we
see her chiefly as she appears in society. We hear of
her conquests, her social triumphs ; we listen to panegyr-
ics ; but are seldom admitted behind the scenes to judge
for ourselves what is gold or what is tinsel. Nor is it
possible to resist the conviction, that Mme. Lenormant
did not hesitate to suppress any circumstances likely to
cast a shadow over the memory of one to whom she was
bound by such tender ties of affection and gratitude. It
is true that, in a few instances, she relates facts not wholly
to the credit of Mme. Recamier ; but it is also evident,
that she herself is totally unconscious of their nature and
bearing. It was owing to these indiscretions that the
Memoirs were a disappointment to some of Mme. Re-
caraier's personal friends, and one of them,^ an English-
woman, undertook to remove the misconceptions it might
convey. Mme. Mohl corrects a few slight inaccuracies ;
and endeavors, though not with entire success, to justify
Mme. Recamier's conduct toward Prince Augustus of

1 Portions of this Introduction have already appeared in an article in
the " Atlantic Monthly," October, 1864.

2 "Mme Recamier; with a Sketch of the History of Society in
France. By Mme. M * * *," Loudon, 1862.


Prussia. Her version of the principal facts of Mme. Re*
camier's life is substantially the same as that given by Mme.
Lenormant ; though, as an explanation of the singular rela-
tions subsisting between M. and Mme. Recamier, she
states that it was generally believed by their contempo-
raries, that the latter was M. Recamier's own daughter,
whom the unsettled state of the times had induced him
to marry: and she adds, that "Mme. Lenormant rather
confirms than contradicts this statement." In this she
is wholly mistaken. Mme. Lenormant, though she doi^s
not allude to the report, still tacitly contradicts it ; while
the account she gives of M. Recamier's course, in regard
to the proposed divorce between himself and his wife, is
of itself a refutation of the story.

Mme. Mohl's reminiscences are pleasant from their
personal character, though inferior, in point of insight,
to the eminently suggestive sketch, by Sainte Beuve,
forminor one of the series of the " Causeries de Lundi."
Chateaubriand's narrative, in the eighth volume of the
" Memoires d'Outre Tombe," is also of interest. It not
only gives some facts in regard to Mme. Recamier not
recapitulated by Mme. Lenormant, but it contains some
extracts from an unpublished manuscript of Benjamin
Constant. Its significance to those who desire to under-
stand fully Mme. Recamier's character is increased by
the fact, that she not only saw it herself, but furnished
a part of the material which, according to Mme. Lenor-
mant, Chateaubriand inserted in his work without any

Guizot, Lemoine, Mme. d'Hautefeuille, and others also
have published sketches of more or less interest; but, though
all of these authorities aid the reader in forming an opinion
of Mme. Recamier, none can, in fulness and variety oi


information, supply the place of Mme. Lenormant's work,
vphich alone, in spite of its defects, deserves to be consid-
ered as a biography. And, however much other account.3
differ from this with regard to some trivial matters of fact,
they agree with it in testifying to the rare beauty of Mme.
Recamier's character, and the power she exerted over all
who came within the sphere of her influence.

So remarkable was this influence, that it is interesting
to try to analyze it. It did not lie in her beauty and
wealth alone ; for she lost the one, while time dimmed the
other. Nor was it due to power of will; for she was not
great intellectually, and, had she been a' person of strong
convictions, she never would have been so universally
popular. As it was, she pleased persons of every shade
of opinion and principle. Her instinctive coquetry can
partly account for her sway over men, but not over
women. What, then, was the secret of her influence?
It lay in the subtile power of a marvellous tact. This
tact had its roots deep in her nature. It was part and
parcel of herself, the distinguishing trait in a rare com-
bination of qualities. Though nurtured and ripened by
experience, it was not the offspring of art. It was an
effect, not a cause ; not simply the result of an intense
desire to please, regulated by fine intuitive perceptions,
but of higher, finer characteristics, such as natural sweet-
ness of temper, kindness of heart, and forgetfulness of
self. Her successes were the triumph of impulse, rather
than of design. In order to please, she did not study
character : she divined it. Keenly alive to outward 'nflu-
ences, and losing in part her own personality when coming
in contact with that of others, she readily adapted herself
to their moods ; and her apprehension was quick, if not
profound. It is always gratifying to feel one's self under-


stood, and every person who talked with Mme. Recamier
enjoyed this pleasant consciousness. Her instincts were
unerring, and her mind was appreciative, if not original.
The genuine admiration she felt for her literary friends
stimulated as well as gratified them. She drew them out ;
and, dazzled hj their own brilliancy, they gave her credit
for thoughts which were in reality their own. To this
faculty of intelligent appreciation was added another still
more captivating. She was a good listener. " Bien ecou-
ter c'est presque repondre,^' quotes Jean Paul, from Mari-
vaux ; and Sainte Beuve says that Mme. Recamier listened
" avec seduction." The repose of her manner made her
sympathy more effective. ( Hers was not a stormy nature,
but calm and equable. If she had emotion to master, it
was mastered in secret, and not a ripple on the surface
betrayed the agitation beneath. She had no nervous likes
or dislikes, no changeful humors, few unequal moods.
She did not sparkle, and then die out. The fire was
always kindled on the hearth, the lamp always serenely
burning. Some women charm by their mutability; she
attracted by her uniformity. But in her uniformity there
was no monotony. Like the continuous murmur of a
brook, it gladdened as well as soothed.

This steadfastness of soul entered largely into all her
social relations. Constant in her affections, she never lost
a friend through waywardness, or alienated one by indiffer-
ence. Sainte Beuve prettily said of her, that she brought
the art of friendship to perfection. Coquettish, she was
seldom capricious. Her coquetry was owing more to an
instinctive desire to please than to any systematic attempt
to swell the list of her conquests. She had received the
gift of fascination at her birth ; and can a woman be
fascinating who has not a touch of coquetry ? It was as


natural in Mine. Recamier to charm, as it was to breathe.
It was a necessity of her nature, which her unnatural posi-
tion developed and fostered to a reprehensible extent.
But, while she permitted herself to be loved, and rejoiced
in the consciousness of power, she never seems to have
carried her flirtations so far as to lose her own self-respect
or the respect of her admirers. She was ever dignified
and circumspect, though gracious and captivating. The
men who began by loving her passionately, usually ended
by becoming her true friends. This is greatly to her
honor, but not so singular as it at first appears. Had
Mme. Recamier been unmarried and free to choose, and
then encouraged attentions only to reject them, she could
not so readily have converted lovers into friends. In her
peculiar position, she could not only repulse her admirers
without wounding their self-love, but, by so doing, inspire
them with more admiration and respect. Still, even in
her case, there were exceptions to this rule, — excep-
tions which her biographer does not care to dwell upon,
but which the more candid Sainte Beuve passes over
less lightly, giving as authority for his assertions Mme.
Recamier herself, who was fond of talking over the past
with her new friends, " Cest une maniere" disait elle, " de
mettre du passe devant V amities The subtile and pene-
trating critic cannot resist saying of these recollections,
that " elle se souvenait avec gout.*' StiU she often looked
back with self-reproach upon passages of her youth ; and
Sainte Beuve, though he called her coquetry " une coquet-
terie angelique,'' recognizes it as a blemish. " She who
was so good brought sorrow to many hearts, — not only
to indignant and soured men, but to poor feminine rivals,
whom she sacrificed and wounded without knowing: it. It is
the dark side of her hie, which she lived to comprehend."


This "dark side" suggests itself; for, though it would
be manifestly unjust to strictly judge Mme. Recamier by
our standard of propriety, it is impossible to read the
record of her conquests without thinking of women
sl:ghted and neglected for her sake. The greater number
of her admirers were married men. That their wives did
not hate this all-conquering woman is strange indeed ; that
they witnessed her triumphs unmoved is scarcely credible.
For, while French society allows great laxity in such
matters, and a domestic husband, as we understand the
term, is a rarity ; still, French wives, we imagine, differ
very little from other women, in wishing to be considered
a first object by their husbands. Public desertion is
rarely relished, even when there is no affection to be
wounded ; for it is not necessary to love to be jealous.
But, whatever heartaches and jealousies were caused by
Mme. Recamier's conquests, they do not appear on the
surface. She, indeed, seemed to possess some talisman, by
whose spell she disarmed envy and silenced detraction.
The few scandals caused by some of her early indiscre-
tions were soon dissipated; and, to all appearances, she
lived down the unpleasant rumors. Mme. de Stael wrote
to her from Vienna.^ " It must give you pleasure to know
that I hear you universally spoken of as a person of per-
fect propriety of conduct: such is your reputation. Do
not trouble yourself, therefore, about a few wounded ene-
mies, but look at yourself in the light of general opinion."
From Munich she writes again: "The Court was in Italy;
but everybody here treated me with the utmost attention,
and spoke of my beautiful friend with admiration. You
have an aerial reputation, which nothing vulgar can touch."

1 "Coppet et Weimar, Mme. de Stael et La Grande Duchesse


The gossiping Duchess d'Abrantes, who treats with so
little charity the ladies of the First Empire, has only words
of respectful admiration for Mme. Recamier. The pre-
conceived prejudices of the admii-able Mme. Swetchine
vanished at a first interview. Mme. de Genlis, equally
prejudiced, was alike subdued. She made her the heroine
of a novel, and wrote letters to her full of affectionate
flattery and extravagant affection. " You are one of the
phenomena of the age," she writes, " and certainly the most
amiable. . . . You can look back upon the past without
remorse. At any age, this is the most beautiful of privi-
leges ; but at our time of life it is invaluable." ^

The following passage from a paper on Mme. Recamier
in " Frazer's Magazine," vol. xL, p. 264, is an excellent
epitome of the sort of influence this celebrated woman
exerted, and also another evidence of the light in which
she was regarded by her contemporaries : —

" To be beloved (says Mme. d'Hautefeuille, in her affectionate
lament), was the history of Mme. Recamier. Beloved bj all in
her youth for her astonishing beauty ; beloved for her gentleness,
her inexhaustible kindness, for the charm of a character which was
reflected in her sweet face ; beloved for the tender and sympa-
thizing friendship which she awarded with an exquisite tact and
discrimination of heart ; beloved by old and young, small and great,
by women, even women, so fastidious where other women are con-
cerned ; beloved always and by all from her cradle to the grave, —
such was the lot, such will be the renown, of this charming woman !
What other glory is so enviable 1 "

A character like this, whose leading traits we have thus
outlined, must surely excite a curiosity, the gratification
of which would be of itself a sufficient reason for trans-
lating the Memoirs. But the book has also many other
claims to attention. It would be difficult to find any

1 "Memoires d'Outre Tombe," vol. viii.


biography that can boast of more varied subjects of
interest, that is more full of anecdote, or that furnishes
a greater amount of valuable information. It has an his-
torical as well as a political interest, a literary as well as
a social significance. It is a mirror in which are casually
reflected the events of successive revolutions, the passions
and excitements of the period, the men and women who
were prominent actors in these shifting scenes. It illus-
trates society, gives an inside view of persons and things,
and throws new light upon individual character. The
value of its correspondence, composed almost wholly of
letters from distinguished persons, cannot be over-estimated.
Those of Chateaubriand alone form a complete auto-
biography of the last twenty-five years of his life, and
give a better idea of this celebrated man than his own
voluminous narrative, written expressly to meet the eye
of the public. In the belief, therefore, that the work will
prove both instructive and entertaining, it is now sub-
mitted to American readers.

I. M. L.



1777-1800. Page

Parentage. — Childhood. — M. Simonard. — Home in Paris. — Din-
ner at Versailles. — Education. — M. R^camier. — Her Marriage.
— Beauty. — Chateau of Clichy. — Fete given at the Luxem-
bourg. — General Bonaparte. — Dinner given by Barras. — Mme
de Stael. — House in the Rue Mont Blanc. — Lucien Bonaparte. -
His Letters. — Dinner at Lucien's. — First Consul 1



State of Society. — M. de La Harpe. — His Letters. — Adrien and
Matthieu de Montmorency. — Letters of Matthieu de Montmo-
rency. — Portrait of Mme. R^camier. — David. — Gerard. — Arrest
of M. Bernard. — Mme. Recamier's Narrative in regard to it. —
Her References to Mme. de Stael, Bernadotte, the First Consul,
and Moreau. — Account of Moreau's Trial. — Letter trom Moreau.
— Interview with Bernadotte 21



The Masked Balls. — Note from the King of Wurtemberg. — The
Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. — His Letters. — The
Prince-Royal of Bavaria. — Visit of Mme. Rt'camier to England.
— Letter fi-om General Bernadotte. — Mme. Recamier's position
toward the French Government. — Mme. Murat. — Proposition to
give Mme. R^camier a place at Court. — Reverse of Fortune. —
Letters from JVIme. de Stael and General Bernadotte ..... 44





Death of Mme. Bernard. — Visit to Coppet. ^ Prince Augustus of
Prussia. — Second visit to Coppet. — Tlie Chateau de Chaumont-
sur-Loire. — Sojourn at Foss6. — Return to Paris. — Letter trom
M. de Montmorency. — Suppression of Mme. de Stael's " Ger-
many." — Letter from Mme. de StaeL — Letter from the Prince-
Royal of Sweden ..62


v^ 1811-1813.

Mme. R^camier visits Coppet. -r- Exile of M. de Montmorency. —
Exile of Mme. Eecamier. — Sojourn at Chalons-sur-Marne. —
Leaves for Lyons. — The Duchess de Chevreuse. — The Duchess
de Luynes. — Lyonnese Society. — Mme. de Serm^sy. — Camille
Jordan. — M. Ballanche. — Letter of M. Ballanche. — Letter of
M. de Montmorency. — Departure of Mme. de Stael for Russia.
— Mme. R^camier treated Coldly as an exile. — Anecdote of
Talma and the Bishop of Troyes. — Leaves Lyons for Italy. —
Arrives in Rome. — Torlonia. — Letters from the Duchess de
Luynes i ..74


\^ 1813-1814.

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