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to enjoy in selfishness the fruits of a struggle
" which they had neither begun nor aided."
How far it was from the book on ** Germany,"
from the treatise on " Enthusiasm," from the
Petersburg soirees, and the aurora borealis of
1812! In the autumn Madame de Stael again

196 Madame de StdeL

established herself in Paris, in the rue Royal. In
spite of political disturbances, there followed
some brilliant months. But she felt her life
ebbing from her, and the world she had known
and loved was fading away. A new generation
was rising around her, — the generation whose
history Balzac has written, and which she saw,
with horror, invading society. ** They are in-
telligent, bold, determined, clever hunting-dogs,
eager birds of prey; but that inner conscience
which makes one incapable of deception, in-
gratitude, servility to power, and indifference
to misfortune, — all those virtues which are
of blood as well as of will and reason, were
treated as chimeras or as romantic fancies
by the young people of this school." These
gilded dandies of the race of speculators are
the direct descendants of the roues of the old
regime trained in the service of Bonaparte;
they are the rivals of Talleyrand, brought up
to politics by Fouche. In her youth, Madame
de Stael had measured the ravages caused
by libertinage of the heart. She lived long
enough to foresee the disorders that may be
brought about by libertinage of statecraft.

It was in this state of mind that she wrote,
with inspired pen and with an oftentimes bitter
inspiration, the last chapters of her " Consid-
erations." She employed the whole winter in

Last Years. 197

revising the first two parts of this work pre-
viously composed. The labor was beyond her
strength. She became very feeble. Worn out
by insomnia, enervated by the use of opium,
terrified by the thought of death, she fled
from that death, as it were " fighting against
the invading ills with an heroic impetuosity;
invited everywhere, going everywhere, keeping
open house, receiving in the morning, at din-
ner, and in the evening." She was diverted
then by conversation, but at night her restless-
ness would not let her keep her bed, and she
walked to and fro for hours together trying to
conquer her mind by fatigue, to benumb it, to
soothe it. In the month of February, 1817,
the malady so much dreaded seized upon her
while at a ball at the house of the Due De-
cazes. She fell paralyzed and could not rise
again. This was, for her ardent nature and
her fanciful imagination, the most horrible of
afflictions. She had often pictured to herself
its tortures : " A soul still alive united to a
ruined body, inseparable enemies."

She bore her trial with resignation in her in-
most soul, and before her friends with a sort of
melancholy gayety. She made the most, in
view of her death, of all that remained of her
life and the last flower of her illusions. She
had been removed to a house in the rue des

198 Madame de StdeL

Mathurins, where there was a garden. Her
friends must go to dine with her there, as
though she were still doing the honors of her
own house. " She was no longer in the draw-
ing-room," says Chateaubriand, who finally did
her some justice and ended by going over to
her side. ** On entering her room I approached
the bed. The invalid, half sitting up, was sup-
ported by pillows, her cheeks burning with
fever; her fine glance was fixed upon me, and
she said, * Bon jour, my dear Francis^ (in
English). * I am suffering, but that does not
prevent my loving you.' "

Rocca, very ill himself, surrounded her with
tenderness. He was ever the constant object
of her solicitude. She was afraid of dying
without having time to bid him farewell. She
begged to be awakened when the opium made
her sleep, lest death should surprise her in the
midst of it. And yet she watched with terror
the signs of the end, " surpassing in horror
even death itself." " Would it not be better,"
she said, *' to let man's end come like the end
of the day, and as much as possible make the
sleep of death seem like the sleep of life?"
This wish was fulfilled. She fell asleep in the
evening of the 13th of July and never woke

She was interred at Coppet. ** The proces-

Last Years, 199

sion," says Bonstetten, " passed between two
rows of children and old people, — all the men
were then engaged in harvesting, — until within
the walls of the cemetery, near to the grove of
beeches and poplars where stands the tomb in
which her father and mother rest side by side.
The day was magnificent, and the joyous song
of the birds contrasted with the solemnity of
the company assembled; the black-clad men
seemed shadows come from another world be-
yond the thick woods. The grave lay under
the shadow of the trees."

Her children paid her a last homage by
publishing her marriage with Rocca, and re-
ceiving as a brother the child born of it. This
act of filial piety supplied the society chroni-
cles with matter for several days, and reawoke
the attention of the public. Madame de Stael
had wearied the salons with her genius, her
eloquence, and the noise of her misfortunes.
They were in haste to shake off her unwel-
come //rj-/^^^ and to forget her. But this very
forgetfulness of a world which had been the
object of her idolatry, furnished to her post-
humous mockers an opportunity for a last
thrust. ''The day of her praises is past;
she received them in her lifetime, there is no
more to be said," wrote Joubert. "Except
for the newspapers, the end of a life which has

200 Madame de St del.

been so tumultuous would not have made the
least stir." '* She inspired in me," wrote a
woman who in politics had followed quite an
opposite course, " that sort of pity which I
feel when I hear an account of the fervors of
the ancient prophetesses, or of our own con-
vidsionnaires . . , . She gave me the idea of a
moral hermaphroditism."

The disappearance of the earthly form of
Madame de Stael was not regretted by her
children. They would gladly have drawn a
veil over it, because there was not a single
opinion passed by the world which did not
clash with their own worship of her. Their
mother, they thought, no longer belonged to
them. The world had during her life only too
truly stolen from them her person and her
heart. But in bringing her back to the do-
mestic temple, they desired to raise an endur-
ing monument over her tomb. Therefore
they published in i8i8 and 1821 the manu-
scripts she had left to them; namely, " Con-
siderations upon the French Revolution " and
" Ten Years of Exile." The " Considerations "
is, together with the book on " Germany,"
the most important of Madame de Stael's
works. In publishing these manuscripts her
children not only offered her, in the words of
a contemporary, *' brilliant and pubhc obse-

Last Years. 201

quies," but they consecrated her to posterity.
The Duchesse de Broglie once asked Sainte-
Beuve, " Why do you occupy yourself with
my mother? Does not what has ah'eady been
written about her seem to you sufficient? "
Why? Because she is the author of these two
books ; because she has opened, on the great-
est affairs of the age, views which looked far
into the age, and because she has entered
once and for all into the patrimony of the
glories of France.


The Book on Germany.

THIS book is the most finished of all Ma-
dame de Stael's writings ; the composi-
tion is broad, the thought is just, the style
well sustained. The whole work is governed
by a plan, which is to make Germany known
to the French ; to explain it to them, and, by
contrast, to explain France to the Germans
and make them admire her more; to reinvi-
gorate French literature ; to enlarge the hori-
zon, and to open to poetry new avenues to new
sources. Madame de Stael brings to this work
an intellect of extraordinary comprehension,
a human sympathy, a love of truth, an enthu-
siasm for the beautiful which no one has ever

The work is divided into four parts : I. Ger-
many and the Customs of the Germans. II.
The Literature and Arts. III. The Philosophy
and Ethics. IV. Religion and Enthusiasm.

Only the first two parts are a direct study
of Germany ; the third is a series of disserta-
tions on questions dear to the author ; the

The Book on Germany. 203

last, a digression upon her favorite theme.
The proportions of the book are therefore
those of Madame de Stael's own mind. The
tone is that of the time in which she Hved.
But in this sense the last two parts are valu-
able as testimony. The first two have lost
nothing of their value. We now do differ-
ently, know more; but we comprehend no
better, we feel no more keenly. The basis of
the book still holds ; and several chapters
which made their epoch remain decisive.

The author is from the start impressed
by contrasts. There is no classical prose in
Germany; less importance is attributed to
style there than in France; each one creates
his own language. The poetry has more char-
acter than the prose, and it is at the same time
easier to understand ; probably because rhythm
and measure regulate the thought and oblige
it to be precise. Poetry in France is all spirit,
eloquence, reason, or jest; poetry in Germany
is all sentiment, — it is " the poetry of the soul."
It touches and penetrates ; it makes one see,
and it makes one dream.

Madame de Stael belonged too much to the
eighteenth century to appreciate the revolu-
tion which Chateaubriand had accomplished
in French literature. But when she arrived in
Germany, where she learned the language and

204 Madame de StdeL

the literature at the same time, she felt spon-
taneously what had as yet escaped her notice
in France, — the lively charm, the harmonious
force, the mysterious suggestiveness of the
words : " One does not say in French what
one wishes to say, and one never sees floating
about one's words those clouds of a thousand
shapes which envelop the poetry of the North-
ern languages and awaken a host of recollec-
tions." She began to understand in Germany
the essence of popular poetry. Herder was
the herald of this poetry; Goethe opened the
way to it. Comparing this with the gilt and
tinsel Germany heretofore set forth in the
odes, and the operatic Hermanns, pompous
and ridiculous as the troubadours of the style
of the Empire, Madame de Stael writes : *' The
simplest national song of a free people causes
a more real emotion. It is only in their hearts
that the Germans can find the source of truly-
patriotic songs." She wrote these lines in
1809. Uhland and Koerner were about to
answer the call.

She admires Klopstock beyond measure;
but Klopstock's is the *' poetry of the saints," —
virtue in verse, Necker turned poet; her ad-
miration is of the nature of piety. She judges
Wieland at a distance and justly, — '* a Ger-
man poet and a French philosopher who

The Book on Germany. 205

alternately provoke each other ; . . . national
originality were far better." She finds this
originality in Burger, the poet of popular
superstitions and reviver of legends. Schiller
represents that "soul poetry" which is the
special province of the poetry of Germany.
Goethe dominates German literature and all
contemporary literatures ; with his nature,
spirit, serenity, reason, and breadth of thought,
he has all the great qualities and possesses the
secret of eternal forms. *' His imagination is
struck by outward objects, as were those of the
artists among the ancients ; yet his reason has in-
deed attained the full maturity of our own times.
Nothing shakes his strength of mind ; and the
very drawbacks in his character — his moodi-
ness, embarrassment, constraint — pass as clouds
around the base of the mountain whose summit
is crowned by his genius." Like the ancients
whom his powerful originality brings back to
life, he retains all the simplicity and '' artless-
ness of power." He is directly in touch with
humanity and Nature. We find in him " those
[primitive] miracles of sympathy between
man and the elements." He " understands Na-
ture, not only as a poet, but as a brother ; and
one might say that familiar voices spoke to him
in air, water, flowers, trees, and indeed in all the
primitive beauties of creation. It is this in-

2o6 Madame de St del.

timate alliance of our being with the marvels
of the universe which gives to poetry its true
greatness." Add this poetry of Nature to the
poetry of the soul, remember that Madame de
Stael knew nothing of Andre Chenier, and
that she stopped short at Parny and Lebrun-Pin-
dare, and you will see that her discoveries went
deep, and there is no exaggeration in allowing
the breath of genius in her revelations.

There are limitations, however. She can
understand everything that can be explained
in the conversation of the salon; she sees all
that can be seen in passing in her carriage, —
where again she talks more than she observes ;
she divines the national sentiment ; she fore-
sees the poetry that shall be derived from it,
because her imagination is sympathetic, gener-
ous, and free. But she is not of this people,
she does not descend to the lowly of heart.
She has neither the taste nor the time for that.
She has no conception of the poetry of elemen-
tary passions which she has not herself experi-
enced. The idiomatic metaphors of the lan-
guage do not call up to her imagination objects
which have never been of interest to her. For
this reason Vos's " Louise " seems to her vulgar
and foolish. I doubt whether, had she read
" Truth and Poetry," she would have experi-
enced any pleasure in Sesenheim's incom-

The Book on Germany. 207

parable idyl. The masterpiece of Goethe and
of German literature, one of the masterpieces
of modern art, " Hermann and Dorothea," not
only makes no distinct place for itself in her
view, amid contemporary works, but it does not
impress her at all. She has hard work to
bring herself — on the faith of Humboldt, " one
of the most cultured men of the whole coun-
try " — to admire the " natural dignity " of the
hero and heroine of this rustic poem, the
incidents and personages of which seem to her
of too little importance. " It lacks," she adds,
'* a certain literary aristocracy of tone," with-
out which there can be no great masterpieces.

On the other hand, she enters the domain
of the theatre with a bold step. All phases of
this seem to have been made accessible and
familiar to her. It is to the theatre particu-
larly that her famous definition of *' romanti-
cism " is applicable. If she did not actually
invent that word, she certainly popularized it.
The word *' romantic " was used of characters
and landscapes which recalled the Romans,
and was employed as a synonym of '' Roman."
Wieland, by analogy, used it in German to in-
dicate the country in which the ancient Roman
literature still flourished. The first French
translator who came across the word in this ac-
ceptation of it commented upon it as having the

2o8 Madame de Side I.

meaning of "the land of the fairies;" another
translated it, " the country of the Romans ; "
a third puts simply ''the romantic regions;"
and the word, which was at first convenient
because indeterminate, entered into common
literary usage through a misconception. Ma-
dame de Stael defines it thus : " We take
the word * classic ' sometimes as a syno-
nym for perfection. I use it here in another
sense in considering classic poetry as being
like that of the ancients, and romantic poetry
like that which holds in some manner to chi-
valric traditions. This division relates equally
to two eras of the world, — that which pre-
ceded and that which followed the establish-
ment of Christianity."

One cannot better defend the classic French
theatre, particularly Racine, against German
prejudices than she does; one could not show
better reasons than those she gives, why this
theatre, the most unique in the world in ab-
stract theories, the most exclusively French,
and French in a society at once very close
and refined, should remain forever impenetra-
ble to foreigners. She is not less apt in bring-
ing out German dramas, and translating them
for the use of the French public. Her judg-
ment of Lessing is sound; she analyzes
Schiller eloquently; she admires "Don Car-

The Book on Germany. 209

los," and still more "Maria Stuart" and
** Wallenstein." " Wilhelm Tell " pleases her
less, for the same reason as " Hermann and
Dorothea," in spite of her interest in the
*' respectable conjuration of Riitli." Elsewhere
she pays homage to this high poetic concep-
tion which, as in " Athalie," makes the nation
figure as the hero of the drama. She shows
that Goethe has no genius for the theatre. He
puts admirable poems such as " Iphigenia,"
or great historic studies such as "Goetz" or
" Egmont," into dialogues ; he lavishes upon
them '' the brush-strokes of Michael Angelo : "
but these are not dramas, and his works fall
flat on the stage.

We must stop awhile over her study of
" Faust." Benjamin Constant could understand
nothing whatever of this masterpiece. He
sees in it a *' derision of the human species,"
an obscure and heavy counterpart of *'Can-
dide." Madame de Stael sees in it what
Goethe put into it, and adds to it nothing of her
own devices. Her interpretation proceeds
fresh and real from her conversations with the
poet. The trash of commentators has since
disfigured and almost blurred the work. Every
Frenchman who does not know German, who
has not lived in Germany, and who would enjoy
Faust, would do well, before reading a trans-

2 TO Madame de St del,

lation, to study Madame de Stael's analysis.
Without it, if he is very patient and very sub-
tle, he may perhaps imagine that he under-
stands the explanations of scholars, but he
certainly will not understand the poem. ** Faust "
is delineated in a few lines, and one can see
very well why Benjamin found in it nothing to
his taste : " Faust combines in his character
all the weaknesses of humanity, — the desire to
know and the fatigue of toil, the need of suc-
cess and the satiety of pleasure. . . . He has
more ambition than strength ; and this inward
craving makes him revolt against nature."
He is the lasting type of those '' candidates of
vice who have a good will to do evil, but lack
the talent to accomplish it." At this point he
differs from Moliere's terrible Juan. This Don
Juan is carried off by the Devil, but he defies
him and does not yield himself to him. Faust
is devoted to sorcery and witchcraft ; the Devil
whom he evokes makes him afraid and mocks
at him. Mephistopheles is marvellously well un-
derstood by Madame de Stael. It is because
she does not seek to know him through the
legend, of which he retains only the costume.
She takes him in real life, out of which he comes,
in the age of which he is the deformed child,
impious and evil-doing, but of which he has
the real spirit. It is a devil who is the con-

The Book on Germany, 2 1 1

temporary of Frederick, of Voltaire and La-
clos ; licentious and ironical to the last degree ;
always " he who denies," who limits all things,
lowers all things, analyzes all things, annihilates
the soul, drives away the conscience, ruins the
reason ; a devil who has read Wolf, Pufendorf,
Rousseau, Diderot, and Holbach, and kills
each with the other; who vilifies humanity,
drowns the vanity of man in human mire,
jeers at corruption, and amuses himself with
confounding the human mind even in the
depths of scepticism, — for he is jocosely per-
verse, and a bantering Nihilist; he thinks that
of all the follies in the world denial is that
which furnishes the most laughter. There is
nothing about him that one can lay hold on ;
he has no vulnerable spots, lame though he is,
— lame as the vice he fans and as the justice he
mocks at. If one listens to him one is lost ;
he takes hold of you through pride of life, and
leads you to contempt of yourself. '' It is
the delirium of the mind and the satiety of
reason, . . . together with poetry of bad prin-
ciples, an intoxication of evil, an aberration of
thought, which make one shudder, laugh, and
weep all at once."

The part devoted to the novels Is less origi-
nal and not so well developed as that which
treats of the theatre. Yet her life at Coppet

212 Madame de StdeL

had fitted Madame de Stael to appreciate
" Wilhelm Meister." This she found charm-
ing; she had Hved hke this book, and she
found it hving. She is enthusiastic for Jean
Paul; she thinks she understands him, and
compares him with Montaigne, The chapters
devoted to criticism as employed by Lessing,
Herder, and Schlegel, " the power of know-
ing and admiring," are to be counted as
among the most fruitful in the book, I will
delay but little over the philosophy. Madame
de Stael speaks only from hearsay, and she
imagines more than she analyzes. She finds
in Kant only a reviver of the idea of duty:
" He would re-establish primitive truths and
spontaneous activity in the soul, conscience in
morals, the ideal in the arts." The rest — that
is to say, the critique of pure reason — escapes
Madame de Stael in its direct object, and
especially in its consequences. Her Kant,
humanitarian, liberal, eclectic, and kindly, the
disciple of the " Vicaire Savoyard " and who
submitted his critique to Necker's censure, is a
conventional Kant. For Madame de Stael's
purposes, the ruling ethics of Germany must
be sweet and *' sensible ; " and Madame de Stael
puts it there by grace or by force. In this
order of ideas, that which ought to have inter-
ested her most — namely, the influence of

The Book on Ger^nany. 213

Fichte on the national mind — never seems to
have struck her. As to metaphysics itself, it is
bottomless and she shuns it. Her natural
good sense glides over the logomachy of the
great abstracters of quintessences. She had
not understood a bit of it, and she does not
convey an idea of it. In the chapters on the
religion of enthusiasm, Germany is but a

There now remain only the social customs
and the governments. The impressions gath-
ered by the author in the course of her
travels are here summed up and reasoned out.
They are almost always just. Madame de
Stael remarks the difference between the north
and the south of Germany. In the south, that
" mild and peaceable monarchy," favorable to
the development of an independent literature;
the sort of liberty to write and think which
existed in France under the old regime which
tolerated all abuses in suppressing all natural
rights. This liberty is better defined and ex-
ercised in Prussia. There all seems sterner
and ruder. She appreciates Frederick in his
work of government, and she analyzes this
work well in reciting the causes of its deca-
dence; but the elements of regeneration are
apparent, and this is essential in this order of
studies. There is never any lack of libellists

214 Madame de StdeL

and diplomats who succumb to appearances
and announce the corruption of the State.
The thinker discerns the Hfe that is latent, and
the sap that will rise again. It takes genius
to predict a resurrection, Madame de Stael
foretold the resurrection of the State of Prus-
sia. She hoped for that of the whole German
nation, and marked out the conditions for it.

The principal obstacles arise out of certain
characteristics : the Germans are too apt to
confound " obstinacy with energy, rudeness
with firmness." They have certain social vir-
tues, but they are the virtues of weakness.
They are, she says, visionary, good, faith-
ful, loyal, sincere, full of kindness, little in-
clined to war, submissive to power even to a
servile degree, slow even to inertia ; they put
poetry into everything, and all their poetry
they put to music. Their character is *' patchy,"
like their country. Only a national spirit, by
providing a united nation for them, can de-
velop in them the quality which they lack.
This would make them revolt against the for-
eign arm which now holds them subject, and
against the foreign influence which now warps
the course of nature. They imitate too much,
indeed, and too openly. They are too cosmo-
politan; they are too eager to know and to
understand all things, even at the risk of losing

The Book on Germany. 215

themselves in this unlimited scrutiny of others:
'' He who does not take in the affairs of the
universe has nothing to do there." They have
not enough " national prejudices." " The patri-
otism of nations should be egotistical." The

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