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destiny itself?


The Work on Exile. — The Flight through
Europe. — Last Years.


THE Emperor treated her as a pretender.
Madame de Stael was allowed to exag-
gerate the character she played throughout Eu-
rope. She would not have been a woman if she
had not found, even in her persecution, an indi-
rect homage which flattered her pride, This feel-
ing is betrayed by the grandiose and exalted
air which, in her book on the " Years of Exile,"
she gives to the account of her quarrels with
Napoleon. Suspense and heart-burning appear
there also in features too sharp and cutting
to make it necessary to warn the reader of it
beforehand. It is not a historical writing; the
author judges nothing. Neither is it a pam-
phlet ; the author does not write for the sake of
publishing her book and stirring up the public
mind. It is the sad wailing and the bitter
imprecation of a victim. No doubt there are
in these memoirs too many epigrams of the
salon along with too many diatribes of the
tribune. These are the side issues of the nar-

178 Madame de St del.

rative ; they have grown stale. The narrative
remains. It is copious; and in that part of
the work which directly concerns Madame de
Stael, she appears more philosophical than in
her reflections. In a word, the philippics are
matters of circumstance ; the narrative is histor-
ical. It is enamelled with phrases a la Tacitus,
which were to Madame de Stael's mind the
sublimity of style. She tries as it were to soar
with her disgrace; she flies like a wounded
and complaining bird on baffled wing; but
when she throws herself forward and the wind
buoys her up, she uses the full play of her
wings and regains the power of flight.

She execrates Bonaparte ; she defames his
glory and debases his genius; she never
attacks his person. One cannot find either
feminine perfidies or venomous insinuations in
her vehement recriminations. She proscribes
the Corsican from French history as an in-
truder and a stranger : " The daughter of M.
Necker was more French than he." She
paints him as " inebriated by the bad wine
of Machiavelism, and as resembling in many
ways the Italian tyrants of the fourteenth and
fifteenth centuries ; " but in this malformed
'figure she still makes him of gigantic propor-
tions, formidable in tyranny, eclipsing the
subtle Borgias by all the height that separates

The Work on Exile. 179

a colossal statue of Charlemagne from a little
carved Italian image.

In 1800 it had seemed to Madame de Stael
that a hazard of war, a spent ball, a grain
of battle-dust, might change the destiny of
the world. She is still more passionately per-
suaded of it in 1 8 12. The Empire is a hor-
rible machine which is embroiling Europe:
" Only stop the motor and all will fall into
repose." She hopes from the coalition of the
kings the re-establishment of " all the moral
virtues " in Europe. These monarchical jus-
tices will " snatch from the grip of the one
man " the treasure stolen from humanity. She
sadly deceives herself as to the princes and
their enterprise; she suspects neither their
avidity, their injustice, nor their secret wish,
their only real motive, — namely, to preserve,
under cover of a feigned affranchisement of
Europe, the spoils which they have shared
with Napoleon. They very soon put this in
action, and Madame de Stael will judge them
for what they are, — men of " but one idea,
might, . . . mediocre men, time-servers, who
have not the will to think beyond the present
facts." But at the time she crossed Europe as
a fugitive she would see only the nations rous-
ing for their great fight, their proper fight, for
independence. The French armies, in her

i8o Madame de StdeL

eyes, are only conquering and pretorian, mer-
cenary in fact. Recruited to a large extent
of foreigners, they no longer interest " true
Frenchmen" or their cause. One might con-
sider their defeat even as a good fortune for
France. Napoleon in banishing Madame de
Stael converted her healthy and upright soul
into the soul of the exile. She had need of
the lessons of 1814 and 181 5 before she could
regain her strength and clear-sightedness.

At Vienna she cast a bird's-eye glance over
the actual political state of Europe, as shown
by the staffs of the commanders and the coun-
cillors' tables, and she found it quite different
from her dream. She was confused by it.
But she attributed all the ill to that '* deplor-
able alliance " which had degraded the noble
court of Austria. She saw the Austrians as
they really were, and she imagined that she
saw them perverted. She thought them mean
in servitude and mawkish in tyranny. Met-
ternich's satellites almost made her regret
Savary's gendarmes. In Poland she learned
to know the conquest of the ancient regime as
practised by the pretended hberators whom
she summons to the holy league of the people.
It was conquest by the police and the tax-
gatherer, the spoiler of property, the oppres-
sor of men's souls. She was astonished but

The Flight through Europe. i8i

lately to find in captive Germany men who
flattered themselves that they had gained
from their French captors a breath of civiliza-
tion and liberty. The Poles see no such
mirage. She cannot accuse the copartners
in the alliance of having mystified Poland as
she reproached Napoleon for mystifying Eu-
rope. These unfortunate Poles received her
as a persecuted sister. They seemed born to
comprehend her; they are filled with the same
great dreams, agitated by the same contrary
passions, incautious, over-bold, adoring a lib-
erty which they can only conceive of as ab-
solute, and impatient either of the excess or
the privation of it.

She arrived in Russia the 14th of July. That
date on that frontier seemed to her a presage of

freedom, —

" Chimene qui I'eutdit?"

" One could believe oneself in a republic when
one reaches a country where the tyranny
of Napoleon cannot make itself felt." She
had simply reached a country at war with
France. In her character of the illustrious
enemy of Napoleon she obtained the iikase of
the Czar commanding all Russians to do her
the honors of the Empire. The officials
obeyed the order literally; the nobility, more
enhghtened, gladly paid court to her. The

1 82 Madame de St del,

love of liberty did not enter into their zeal
more than it had entered into the attentions of
the Prince of Orange to Madame de Longueville
or those of Philip IV. to Madame de Che-
vreuse. But though "liberalism " was ordered
from above, hospitality was sincere, and the
most generous hospitality in the world. Ma-
dame de Stael, it must be allowed, was appre-
ciative of this.

For days together she rolled along in her
carriage viewing the country. The vast plains
suited her entirely intellectual character better
than the mountains. She felt the grandeur of
them and divined their poetry. " I felt a sort
of spell such as one sometimes feels at night
when one seems to be always walking but
never advancing. This land seemed to me the
image of the infinite, and as though it would
take one an eternity to cross it." She found
Moscow in arms. At Petersburg, the sea, the
open sea ! The blockade was raised. " I saw
floating over the Neva the English flag, sym-
bol of liberty ! " She met Baron Stein, — the
greatest, certainly, of Napoleon's proscripts, —
and she read to him the chapter on " Enthusi-
asm " from her book on "Germany." She met
again Joseph de Maistre, always at the opposite
extreme from herself even in hatred of the

The Flight through Europe. 183

At last she was admitted to an audience
with Alexander, and immediately fell under
his spell. One sentence tells the story: "The
Emperor Alexander did me the honor to
come and speak to me." He avowed to her
the errors of his past; he disclosed to her his
great designs for the future. He confessed
that he had submitted to the seductions of
Napoleon ; but he reset the scene and turned
it into a symbolic drama. He described being
taken up into a high mountain ; but the king-
doms of the world and the glory of them had
dazzled him only for a moment; he has con-
jured artifice and unmasked " the charlatanry
of vice." Napoleon has "encountered con-
science," and his calculations are confounded.
Erfurt was but a dream, the interviews were
only visions, the treaties apocryphal, all ca-
lumnious inventions ! Madame de Stael not
only exonerates Alexander, but she glorifies
him by anticipation. " There is genius in his
virtue ! " This autocrat, who combines the
mystic duplicity of the German with the facile
exaltation of the Slav, shows himself to be in-
finitely more Machiavelian than the Corsican.
Oh, if Bonaparte had received her with this
effusion of confidence, how great he would
have become in her eyes, and how easily, for
at least some months, she, too, would have
found her road to Tilsit!

184 Madame de StdeL

She had some intercourse with Koutousof.
That valiant and crafty soldier posed as the
obedient and pious instrument of God's designs
for his country. " He was an old man of
gracious manners and vivacious physiognomy.
I did not know whether I embraced a con-
queror or a martyr, but I saw that he com-
prehended the grandeur of the cause with
which he was intrusted." She thought less of
the government than of the men ; in the latter
she saw the patriotism and national spirit
which actually animated them; she made
every effort to discern in the institutions of
the country a spirit of liberty which was no-
where to be found. From this fantastic point
of view she even placed Peter the Great far
above Richelieu, " who did nothing but govern
tyrannically within the empire and astutely

But she laid a wonderful hold on the char-
acters around her: " They are all Russians at
heart, and this gives them their force and
originality." These Russians turn all their
tastes to " luxury, power, and courage." Their
genius is strange to her: one feels as though
one stood at "the gateway of another land,
near to the Orient, whence so many religious
faiths have set out, and which still holds within
its embrace inconceivable treasures of industry
and reflection." They seem to bivouac even

The Flight through Europe. 185

in their palaces; they spend their lives as
though on a race-course, in the sleigh, or the
carriage, always at a gallop behind their horses,
over an everlasting plain. Few ideas; only
facts interest them. The police teach them
silence. Society is only a march; a going and
coming, with never any conversing. " In the
midst of all this noise is there love? " the Italians
would have asked. Corinne judges that there
is more of domestic virtue and less of senti-
mental love than foreigners have represented.
" In these fanciful and vehement natures love
is rather a feast or a delirium than a profound
and thoughtful affection." Their passions are
simple and sudden; they go directly to the
point, without taking account of difficulties,
less still of means : ** A Russian desire," said
a clever man, ** would blow up a city." The
peasants have an air of " elegance and gentle-
ness." She finds the nation full of mystery,
and this mystery of the nation big with future
events. The Russian people possess reserves
of national virtue *' enough to astonish the
world." "What characterizes this people is
a gigantic proportion in every direction. . . .
Everything with them is colossal rather than
well proportioned, audacious rather than well
planned ; and if the end is not attained it is be-
cause they overshoot it." These minds which

1 86 Madame de StdeL

combine the wealth of the Orient with the
visions of the North must certainly bring forth
poets and artists ; but Russian literature must
be freed from the cold imitation under which
it languishes, and Russians must seek their
inspirations " in what is most intimate and real
to their own souls." They will have a genius of
their own " when they have found the means to
express their own nature in language. ... It
is always among the people that one must seek
the sap of the national genius."

Nowhere has Madame de Stael shown more
perspicacity than in these pages. It is but a
sketch ; but all the essential features are there,
and this outline of Russia deserves to be placed
beside her great picture of Germany. She
left Petersburg in September, and made her
way to Finland. She was much struck by the
great forests and scattered rocks ; *' but there is
little life about these great ossifications of the
earth." She sailed from Riga. The voyage
depressed her. '* I looked upon the land at
the horizon as long as I could perceive it; the
infinite strikes our view with as much fear as
it strikes our souls with pleasure."

The court and society at Stockholm gave
her a great reception. She allowed herself
during her stay here the repose of which she
was so much in need. Rocca — "Monsieur

The Flight through Europe. 187

rAmant," as Byron afterward called him — had
followed her, not without hindrance. His role
was embarrassing, but he sustained it gallantly
and with grace and dignity. Madame de Stael
could not bring herself to publish their mar-
riage, and yet she had it repeated or confirmed
in Sweden. " She was always afraid of not
being sufficiently married," says Rocca. It
was in Stockholm that she wrote the second
part of her '* Ten Years of Exile," — the exo-
dus of 1 8 12. She began there also the great
Apology of Necker, so long projected.

Bernadotte appeared to her grown larger,
but not changed. This majestic Gascon, he-
roic and crafty, impressed her without stun-
ning her; he was only 2l parvenu. She had
thought of him for a high place in the Republic
before the advent of Bonaparte; she placed
him now on the throne of France to succeed
Napoleon. Her good wishes had followed
him in the wars in which he engaged, in his
management of the alliance of the kings, of the
opinion of the French, and especially of his
army, which constituted all his prestige and
the entire guaranty of his present elevation.
Madame de Stael was not more amazed to
behold him among the co-allies than to see
another of her old friends, Moreau. She con-
sidered this contest of peoples merely as a

1 88 Madame de Sidel

grand return of things, the national revokition
reacting against France. " Enthusiasm had
crossed over from the left bank of the Rhine
to the right." This state of mind she carried
with her to England when she went there in
June, 1813.

There she printed and published in October
the book on " Germany." The homage of the
upper classes, the interest, the admiration, the
sympathy of which she was the object, flattered
her inexpressibly. If Germany was to her the
land of enthusiasm, England was still the
promised land of liberty. In this perspective
she once more considered matters and men in
England. Everything was there ennobled in
her eyes, as everything in France was degraded
under the lurid light of Napoleon. She deep-
ened her knowledge of the institutions ; she
extended her study of the English political
customs, and collected material from which she
afterward drew the best portraits contained in
the sixth part of the " Considerations," — Lord
Grey, Lord Lansdowne, Sir James Mackintosh,
Lord Harrowby, — ** the best circle of clever
men that England, and consequently the world,
can offer." She knew Lords Erskine, Holland,
Canning, and Byron ; the latter did not cease
to harp upon her weaknesses. Walter Scott
was preparing " Waverley ; " she affected him

The Flight through Etirope. 189

with the same horror as she had Schiller, and
he avoided falling into her way.

Always more expansive than inquiring, she
harangued the English upon their own affairs,
and confounded them by her flow of advice.
They received her advice with as much in-
difference as politeness. She was not deceived
by this phlegm, but the lesson she took led her
to unexpected conclusions. " What ascen-
dancy could a woman have, amiable as she
might be, amid popular elections, parliamentary
eloquence, and the inflexibility of the law?"
This was to avow that neither in the monarchy
of 1 79 1, nor in the republic of the year III,
nor in any other representative government, —
that is to say, in any of her chosen forms of
government, — was there any more place for
her salon, her influence, or indeed for her politi-
cal ideal. She was about to make proof of this,
even in France.

Once more she thought of Bernadotte ; then,
as she familiarized herself more with European
politics, she returned to the Bourbons. The
force of circumstances brought her to this ;
she resigned herself, but was not converted.
Her hopes of the coalition fell with each vic-
tory of the alHes, When she saw strangers
overleap that ** solemn " barrier of the Rhine
which she had thought placed there by Nature

I go Madame de StdeL

against all Europe, and which she gratuitously-
believed consecrated by unanimous consent of
the monarchies, she shook from head to foot,
as though the ground over which she walked
swayed beneath her. The veil was parted.
She now knew that there was no real France
save where the French flag waved. She turned
upon Bonaparte again in her rage. She hurled
against him the famous apostrophe uttered in
the year VIII, — " What have they done with
that land of France which I left to them so
glorious?" unaware that at that very hour
Napoleon was justifying by the same argument
his lasting refusal to the everlasting equivoca-
tion offered by the fallacious peace of the
allies, — " What ! would you have me leave
France smaller than I received it? " This was
not the only encounter between herself and
her tyrant to which the country's disaster un-
wittingly led. " Is it the time to speak of
abuses when two hundred thousand Cossacks
assail our frontiers?" said Napoleon to the
Corps Legislatif Benjamin — always in quest
of fortune and power, but gliding over realities
— was working for Bernadotte. He had written
a panegyric on the coalition : '' On the Spirit
of Conquest and of Usurpation." He sent it
to Madame de Stael with a passionate letter.
She replied to the letter : ** You have con-

The Flight through Europe. 191

sumed my life. For ten years there has not
been a day that I have not suffered on your
account. How I have loved you ! " — which
was to say that she loved him no more. She
replied to the pamphlet : ** It is not the time to
calumniate France when the Russians are at
Langres. May God exile me from France
forever rather than let me owe my return to

But she found them installed in France when
she returned there in May. *' Germans, Rus-
sians, Cossacks, Baskirs," — she found them
conquerors, rapacious, brutal, spoilers, arrogant,
and vindictive. She could not help admiring
Wellington, but Alexander had descended
from his pedestal and laid aside his Petersburg
aureole. He reigned at Paris as a conqueror,
and he exercised there with much pomp a
very diplomatic clemency over France lying
at his feet. Everything about this so much
longed for revolution astonished and upset
Madame de Stael. She did not recos^nize
Europe, nor did she recognize herself any
more. The spirit of '89 always glowing within
her ; her hatred of Napoleon satisfied even to
satiety ; her illusions dashed by the crusade of
the allies ; her hopes of the liberty of the peo-
ple deceived : "All was confusion within me . . .
I thought that the foreigners had shaken off the

192 Madame de StdeL

yoke. I admired them without reserve at that
epoch; but to see Paris occupied by them,
the Tuileries, the Louvre, guarded by troops
from the far confines of Asia, to whom our
language, our history, our great men, were all
less familiar than the last Khan of Tartary, was
an intolerable grief to me," She felt shattered,
stunned by the wear of agitations, the shocks
of tribulation, and the burdens of life. Her
friends found her *' pale and thin, . . . com-
pletely changed."

She spent the summer of 1814 at Coppet,
and returned to Paris in the autumn. She was
much sought after; her salon was filled with
friends ; but her very success gave rise to new
troubles. In the society of the Restoration
she was confronted with the same difficulties
as in the Republican society of the year III.
The reaction made her indignant and rebel-
lious, and she did not seek to hide her feelings.
The members of the exile party manifested the
same spectacle of intolerance as had formerly
the regicidal aristocracy. The royalists who
had supported Bonaparte now atoned for their
idolatrous servility of yesterday by a furious
zeal of orthodoxy. Bonaparte had slept in
the bed of Louis XIV. ; Louis XVIII. sleeps in
the bed of Bonaparte. The ministers of the
king oppose to liberty, which has but an in-

Last Years, 193

secure footing In the laws, all the artifices of
Imperial despotism. They lead on the sub-
missive revolutionaries and retain them In their
functions, but to the end that they may the
more surely annul the laws of the Revolution.
The charter Is but an Edict of Nantes, the
abrogation of which the ultra-royalists perfi-
diously urge. The Church reclaims the mo-
nopoly of the education of the people, and
endeavors to recover all her prerogatives in the
domain of thought. The army is filled with
intruders, officers by favoritism, who. If they
have seen service, have seen It only against
the French. At this spectacle the patriot
again awakes in Madame de Stael, and in the
name of that glory which yesterday she con-
demned, she cried : " Is it thus that they should
treat twenty-five millions of Frenchmen who
lately conquered all Europe?" At last the
salon becomes for sheer bitterness only a mob
whose murmur has no echo : " The courtiers
were of opinion that good taste forbade men-
tion of politics or any other serious subject."

The return from Elba did not surprise her.
At first glance she felt this event disastrous:
** Liberty is done with if Bonaparte triumphs,
and national independence is over if he is de-
feated." In haste she quitted Paris, where Ben-
jamin with his sceptical near-sightedness, never

194 Madame de Stdel.

seeing the value of crises, was the dupe of what
she calls " the idiocy " of tacte additionnel.
She rudely opened his eyes. But at the same
time she preached peace to the foreigners.
She addressed to an English friend a letter
which is a second edition, revised and made
appropriate to the circumstances, of her " Re-
flections " addressed to Pitt in 1795. After
Waterloo, she wrote to the Due de Richelieu :
''The problem consists in the integrity of
France, the departure of the foreigners, and the
EngHsh Constitution openly and sincerely es-
tablished." Hereafter this is what she waits for,
and she is compelled to wait long indeed.

Rocca's health, which was much impaired,
obliged them to spend the winter in Italy.
She found there the caricature of Machiavel-
ism, the artful and cowardly tyranny of bigoted
monarchs. She saw the people doomed by
these feeble despots to degradation and the
dungeon. She is indignant to hear Napoleon
and the French vilified by the best society
around her : " It is rating France and Europe
too low to declare that for fifteen years they
have obeyed a poltroon." She took the part
of the Italian nation against the Holy Alliance,
as she had taken the part of the German na-
tion against the Napoleonic conquest. All
that was resurrected from the ruins of the old

Last Years. 195

regime galls her in Italy as in France. But
she is able to turn away her eyes from it; she
has her own happiness at her side.

" If I have a daughter," she said in *' Del-
phine," " ah ! how I will watch over her choice !
how I will repeat to her again and again that
for a woman all the years of life depend upon
one day ! " Her daughter was all that could be
desired. She chose for her a husband of the
elite, a grand seigneur and a great citizen, no-
bler still in heart than in birth. The marriage
of Mademoiselle de Stael with the Due Victor
de Broglie was celebrated at Pisa in the
month of February, 18 16. In this quest of
happiness which was her destiny, Madame de
Stael had accomplished her masterpiece, and
had realized for the one dearest to her in all
the world the dream of her life.

At Coppet, to which she returned in June,
she received Stein, a wanderer and imbittered
like herself, having lost confidence in kings
who were traitors to their word, ungrateful to
their servants, spoilers of their people, eager

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