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which she had never realized as being more
than a rhetorical play. " What can others do
against your contrary desires? " said he to her.
''You will not suffer, yet you spread your
wings ; you are determined to brave the winds,
you run against the trees, you bruise yourself
against the rocks. I can do nothing for you,
alas ! Until you furl your sails there is no



158 Madame de Stdel

hope for you ! " He could indeed do nothing.
He loved her no longer. He flew into a passion
under this reproach : *' Love after ten years of
association, when I have already sworn two
hundred times that it no longer exists ! " There
ensued ''some frightful scenes." She wrote to
Benjamin " such letters as one would not write
even to a highway assassin." He spoke of her
in his private notes in terms which outdid by a
great length the barrack diatribes of Napoleon.
Benjamin, out of the scorn of his own absurd
conduct, obtained a stimulus for his vanity; he
flayed himself alive, and painted himself, dis-
sected and desiccated, as " Adolphe." Mean-
while during his sprees in Paris he busied him-
self with " raising up a fallen daughter," or, as
he says, " a child of the demi-monde," who was
an admirer of Jean Jacques and made pilgri-
mages to Ermenonville. He plans to marry
every young person who crosses his pathway.
He longs for a ''pure marriage ; " and this wish
leads him to the feet of a German, Charlotte
de Hardenberg, divorced from her first hus-
band, united in left-handed marriage to a
second, having a gay reputation, and whose
advances he regrets having heretofore neglected.
He finds her apathetic, and this apathy is charm-
ing by contrast. Madame de Stael knows noth-
ing about it, but suspects. She writes to him



Life at Coppet. 159

** It is the crash of the universe and chaos in
motion," says Benjamin. " All the volcanoes
put together are less inflammable than this wo-
man. ... I am tired of this man-woman whose
iron hand has held me bound for the last ten
years." He desired to marry Charlotte, but he
dared not. Meanwhile he deceived her, and
then abandoned her to return to Coppet,
whither Madame de Stael recalled him. He
arrived there fully determined to break with
her. He told her so. She cried out that she
*' would pursue him to the ends of the earth,
and that if he escaped her, she would kill her-
self." '* Rather than lose him I would marry
him." He remained, not knowing which of
her threats he dreaded more, — marriage or sui-
cide. In the evening they went before the
audience and played together. The piece was
" Andromaque." Benjamin was Pyrrhus.
The part pleased him. *' He is well pleased
to play this part," writes his cousin Mademoi-
selle de Constant, and adds, " Never was ' Her-
mione ' played with so much truth and fervor."
When the curtain fell and the footlights were
extinguished, the quarrels began again in the
green-room.

They could neither tolerate each other nor
separate, could neither marry nor dissolve.
They made their friends by turns confidants in



i6o Madame de Stdel.

their disagreements and spectators of the stage
whereon they continued their quarrels under
assumed characters. It was a tragic romance
in high Hfe ; seeing them pass thus from drama
to real life, one asks in which role they were
more sincere, and which character really leads
the piece, — that which one believes to be living,
or that which one believes to be acted.

**We must submit," said Benjamin to him-
self; " it is the fate of the weak." And again,
" She is very useful to me in my tragedy."
He refers to a play of " Wallenstein " which he
is imitating after Schiller, and in which he
makes Madame de Stael help him. *' Mon
Dieu ! " he adds finally, " only make one or
the other depart! " Napoleon heard his
prayer, and the police brought about the
climax. The Emperor refused to authorize
Madame de Stael's return to Paris. "Your
mother," he said later to the young Auguste
de Stael, who went to offer him a petition as
he was passing through Chambery, — " your
mother would not be six months in Paris be-
fore I should be obliged to put her in Bicetre
or the Temple. She would do all sorts of rash
things, she would see all the world, she would
make a jest of everything; she would not
think all this at all important, but I take every-
thing seriously." For lack of anything better



Life at Coppet. i6i

Madame de Stael returned to Germany toward
the close of 1807. She visited Munich and
Vienna, of which she had previously known
nothing. She revisited Weimar, which she
found quite changed. The great geniuses had
learned to admire Napoleon, and had discov-
ered in him the man of destiny.

She came back in July, 1808. At Secheron,
near Geneva, she found Benjamin Constant
awaiting her; he announced to her that he
had been secretly married, and presented his
wife to her. Madame de Stael was so beside
herself with despair that she prevailed upon
Charlotte and Benjamin to conceal their mar-
riage. Charlotte in consternation yielded.
Madame de Stael showed her plainly that she
thought her very insipid to submit to the humil-
iation. Benjamin was ashamed of it ; he thought
he should have grown calmer by uniting him-
self to this apathetic being; but he concluded
that wrath had its charms. Moreover his mar-
riage gave his return to Madame de Stael a
flavor of infidelity. He allowed himself to be
carried off to Coppet, where he stayed ; and
Charlotte waited with the best grace she could
command, for the return of her husband and
the publication of their marriage. But this
craze of Madame de Stael was to some degree
only a matter of her imagination. Benjamin's
11



1 62 Madame de Stdel,

treason had not killed her. She found that
she had really no desire to die. She found
that she could live without Benjamin, and she
only kept him out of pride, and to hold for
herself the honors of war.

For a moment she thought of going to
America, where she had certain interests.
For this purpose she wrote a touching letter
to Talleyrand in February, 1809. She appealed
to his aid : '' You wrote me fourteen years
ago, ' If I stay here another year, I shall die
here.' I may say as much of my sojourn
abroad. I shall succumb under it. But the
time for pity is past; necessity takes the place
of it, . . . Half of my life is gone. . . . Are
you happy? With your superior mind do you
not go to the bottom of everything, even sor-
row?" Talleyrand considered that the bot-
tom of everything was an immense void, and
he did not like to look into it. He professed
a particular aversion to explanations; if he
sent her any reply, no one knows of it. Madame
de Stael found some distraction in publishing
the memoirs of the Prince de Ligne, which
she had brought home from Vienna. But this
" whipped cream " could not long sustain her
imagination. Her friends, who thought she
exaggerated her complaints of exile, advised
her, if she desired to find favor again, to make



Life at Coppet, 163

use of the only advantage of her trials, — silence.
" Do not write," they said ; " what is the good
of writing? After a few years you will be for-
gotten, and you will be as happy as though
you had published nothing at all ! "

This consolation was as intolerable as mis-
fortune itself. Moreover, Madame de Stael's
genius had matured singularly. The time was
coming when the vocation to well-doing would
replace that of being happy. The experience
she had undergone on her return from Ger-
many had led her even farther than she could
have foreseen. She was at last freed from the
yoke ; she reconquered herself little by little.
But as she had formerly found that her worst
slavery was to herself, it was now outside
of herself that she instinctively sought her
enfranchisement.

Since the death of Necker, she had inclined
toward the Christian religion. She now sought
it by hard and stony, but direct paths. For-
merly, when she had tried the wisdom of the
ancients, she loved to repeat this phrase of
Euripides : '' It is useless to fret over things,
for that will not better them." It was sub-
mission to fate; she was about to resign
herself to the inscrutable designs of a just
Providence. " We must take care that the
decline of this life be the youth of the next,"



164 Madame de Stdel,

she said. '' To give up self-interest without
ceasing to be interested in others, puts a some-
thing divine into the soul." She turned to
Heaven for the satisfaction of that thirst for
justice with which she was possessed, and
poured out upon humanity that power of lov-
ing which had kept her life in a vain ferment.
She cast away, like a dry clod which is crushed
to powder by a firm hand-grasp, the abstract
and sterile philosophy by which she had been
so long led far afield. She once professed to
believe that nothing unintelHgible existed. In
her imperative need of peace and hope, and in
the impossibility of finding these within herself,
she came to feel that the extremes of the uni-
verse eluded the grasp of intelligence; that
there are aspirations of the soul which even
imagination cannot satisfy; that there is in
man's spirit a reaching out toward the infinite
which the spirit can neither suspend nor Hmit.
She stifled the obstinate demands of judg-
ment which would reduce everything to its
own measurements. She heard nothing but
the cry of her own heart. She said to herself
that not only man's heart, but his whole soul
** has reasons which reason itself knows nothing
of." She listened to her Christian friends such
as Mathieu de Montmorency, Gerando, and even
the mystics, though to these latter she did not



Life at CoppeL 165

yield herself; she read Fenelon, she devoured
the " Imitation." She gave up trying to solve
life's enigma. '' I love the Lord's Prayer bet-
ter," she said a little later, when some one
spoke to her of metaphysics. She concluded
that there was no philosophy but the Christian
religion. If she had been logically led, she
would have gone as far as Pascal ; but Pascal
would have carried her too far, to heights too
barren and too icy, to mountain tops and
abysses which had always terrified her soul.
Her theory of exaltation gave place to the
theory of morality, said a friend. Madame de
Stael saw the mystery of existence, as a rela-
tionship between trial and fault. '' I have
never committed a wrong," she was wont to
say, "which did not become the source of
a misfortune." "Whatever effort one may
make," she wrote, " one must return to the
recognition of the fact that religion is the true
basis of morals; it is the real and sensible
object within ourselves, which can alone de-
tach our gaze from exterior things. . . . The
science of morals no more teaches how to be
an honest man, in all the magnificence of the
word, than geometry teaches to draw, or
poetry to invent happily. . . . Mathematics
leads one to take account only of what is
proven ; while primitive truths such as can be



1 66 Madame de StdeL

grasped by feeling and spirit are not suscepti-
ble of demonstration." This is a faith that
works, but questions not. Madame de Stael,
like Necker once before, avoided *' the study
of miracles and mysteries." She made her
own religion, only too glad to find in it her
peace and consolation, — "a pietistic latitudi-
narianism," said the Due Victor de Broglie.

This kind of conversion brought about great
changes in her literary compositions and style
of writing. Her works had been heretofore
but her life's accessories; they were to be-
come the principal object of it. She had
sought in them a diversion in her exile; but
it was still the world which she was pursuing
even by this detoicr. Hereafter she felt herself
more and more a stranger to the world, and
she gave to her writings whatever in herself
was least subject to worldly frivolity. She no
longer sought to embellish her own person-
ality in romances, in order to be the more
beloved ; henceforth she made a great effort
to transmit to her books the best of her soul,
in order to be more helpful to humanity. Her
inspiration no longer proceeds solely from en-
thusiasm, she becomes generous and magnani-
mous. In thus rising above the selfish interests
of life, the parties and intrigues of the world,
Madame de Stael begins to work for posterity.



The Book on Germany, 167

This epoch is marked by the production of
the book on " Germany." Madame de Stael's
new feelings stand out in the last chapters on
" The Religion of Enthusiasm." This gives
the moral dignity and the elevated tone to the
work. Madame de Stael not merely proposes
to accomplish the plan laid out in the book on
" Literature," namely, to open to France new
sources of poetry, — this she does in the first
part of the work, — but she looks still higher;
she endeavors to apply to a great nation the
doctrine of progress, of which she is a stanch
defender. She wishes to establish for others
the justice and reason of those rights of ma7t
which the pure reason of the French proclaims
as universal, but which the Emperor's statecraft
would swallow up, as the Empire in France
had absorbed the Republic; she seeks to de-
fend the nations, — their independence, their
originality; to show the peace of the future
as derived from reciprocal rights of peoples ;
to declare that nations are not the arbitrary
work of men nor the fatal result of circum-
stances, that *' the submission of one people
to another is contrary to nature;" to de-
velop these great principles in relation to
Germany; to remind "this poor and noble
Germany " of her intellectual wealth even
amid the ravages of war; to prove that Eu-



1 68 Madame de StdeL

rope cannot obtain repose except by the lib-
eration of this land ; she endeavors, finally, to
awaken the Germans to a self-consciousness,
by crying aloud to them, '* You are a nation,
and you weep ! "

How could she have dreamed that a book
written in this spirit could not only be printed
in France, but reopen the gates of Paris to the
author? How could she have beHeved that
Napoleon would relax his severity on reading
a work which was the condemnation of his
reign, and the whole tenor of which aimed to
instil a rebellious spirit in this Germany which
had become the pivot of his machinery?
There is but one explanation. Madame de
Stael longed more ardently than ever to re-
turn to Paris; and as she had become a
changed woman, she imagined that the uni-
verse also was going to change. She con-
fessed this ingenuously: "Bonaparte needed
at this epoch but one honest sentiment to be
the greatest sovereign in the world."

She ventured again within the circle of
forty leagues which had been drawn around
Paris against her approach. She established
herself at Chaumont, in March, 1810, and
superintended the printing of her book. Her
usual attendants followed her, and left nothing
undone to add to her glory. She announced



The Censor and the Police. 169

her intention of going to America, and begged
an audience of the Emperor. *' Eight years
of sorrow change all characters, and destiny
teaches resignation to those who suffer." She
allowed herself the only flattery which she
could with dignity address to Napoleon :
" Your Majesty's disfavor throws upon those
who are its objects such disgrace throughout
Europe, that I can no longer take a step with-
out feeling its effects." She sent an advance
copy of '' L'Allemagne " with the letter. Na-
poleon would not believe in Madame de
Stael's conversion. ** She is perpetual mo-
tion," he said to Metternich, who presented
the petition for her ; '* she stirs up the salons ;
it is only in France that such a woman is for-
midable, and I do not want her here." Mean-
while the censors examined the book. Their
opinion was that the author showed a lack of
patriotism in provoking the Germans to inde-
pendence, and of good taste in so praising
their literature. Their censure, for the rest,
fell upon merely a few passages, of which they
demanded the suppression; and with this re-
serve they authorized the publication. The
Emperor prohibited it; the police destroyed
the edition, broke the plates, and hunted the
manuscript. Savary warned the author in a
letter which shows that if Napoleon had put



lyo Madame de StdeL

Madame de Stael at the orders of the gendar-
merie he directed the style of his gendarmes
after the manner of his court. A letter dated
October 4 advised Madame de Stael to return
to Coppet and to stay there.

This time it was real and unmitigated exile.
She could neither write anything nor receive
anybody. She saw her editor ruined, and
Coppet forbidden to him. She felt herself
" plague-stricken," and entered upon a course
of deception, heretofore unknown to her, —
" disaffections disguised as chest affections."
She then commenced secretly to collect her
souvenirs, and wrote the first part of the book
which was afterward entitled '' Ten Years of
Exile." She attempted a long poem, imitated
after Byron, which should have Richard Coeur
de Lion for hero, and the Orient for the scene
of action. She sketched a treatise on " Suicide,"
which was a refutation of her book on " The
Passions." " Human existence, well under-
stood, is nothing but an abdication of the
personality for the purpose of absorption in the
universal order." She condemns the charla-
tanism of the double suicide of Kleist and his
mistress, which was then making a great stir
in Germany. She denounces, with too great
severity for the poet's works, the posthumous
vanity of an "author without genius, who



M. de Rocca, 171

would produce by a real catastrophe effects
which he could not attain in poetry."

Thus she calmed herself by retiring within
herself, like the sea after a storm, when the
waves, rolling more and more slowly, become
quieter and recede toward the horizon, where
amid their rise and fall the sun sinks to rest.
She thought herself forsaken forever; she felt
herself drawing near to that dread hour ** when
the twilight no longer suggests the dawn,"
and fades " pale and colorless as a livid
spectre, the herald of the night." " The door
of my heart is shut," she said. She was mis-
taken; and the happiness which had eluded
her when she followed it in ardent pursuit
surprised her at the moment when she least
expected it.

In the last months of 18 10 there returned
to Geneva a young officer of about twenty-
three years of age belonging to the native
aristocracy, Albert de Rocca. He had seen
service in Spain, and had received a wound
which obliged him to return home. He was
slender, graceful, elegant, of gentle and charm-
ing manners ; frank, tender, ingenuous ; of a
passionate heart, and an emotional, even vehe-
ment nature; of an original turn of mind,
prone to leap to conclusions. Intrepid in war,
he was merciful to the vanquished. He has



172 Madame de StaeL

related his campaigns soberly and without too
much embellishment. One might think one
were reading Stendhal humanized, or Meri-
m6e grown tender. He was a hero of a new
race; something of which Madame de Stael
had not dreamed, with a charm possessed by
no politic Valmont, or worldly Werther, or dip-
lomatic Rene whom she had ever met. She
found that he was wounded. She felt what
she had often imagined in her books : *' Ah !
how beautiful is a proud and manly glance,
when it is at the same time modest and
pure ! . . . Pity seized me at the same time
as love." Nevertheless she resisted her feel-
ings; she was almost twice the age of Roc-
ca; but Rocca had fallen under the spell,
and the spell was contagious. *' I will love
her so dearly that she will end by marrying
me," he said. Delphine and Corinne that
day had their revenge. Here was the man
who dared to brave prejudice, and here was
the woman submissive to him. The tempta-
tion was too strong for Madame de Stael to
resist; but the marriage, celebrated in the
early part of 181 1, was kept secret. Madame
de Stael retained her name ; for she dreaded
the opinion of her friends. She feared ridicule,
and in fact she knew that the world, after hav-
ing ascribed so many weaknesses to her, would



M. de Rocca. 173

find it much easier to pardon her an accred-
ited young lover than a young husband.

Rocca brought back to her what she had
thought forever lost, — youth's illusion; and
she knew at last the happiness of being com-
pletely beloved. Coppet suddenly became alive
for her. There was a whirl of ''fetes and
amusements." She wrote gay comedies for
her theatre in place of the former sanguinary
tragedies. Two of these were entitled " Cap-
itaine Kernadec " and " Le Mannequin." Her
friends were confounded. " She bewilders me
more every day," said Sismondi. She began
to play a new part; she no longer yearned for
Paris ; she forgot her book, and took no
thought for another; she lived in the present.
Forget Paris! — these words are the measure
of her revolution.

Benjamin reappeared now and then. Madame
de Stael's vivacity revived his own, and they
once more dazzled their friends by their well-
matched conversation. One day, during an
excursion into Savoy, they went to drive, ac-
companied by Madame de Boigne and Adrien
de Montmorency, and their discourse fell
upon the letters of Mademoiselle de Lespi-
nasse. Madame de Stael and Benjamin be-
gan to talk, and they talked so well that no-
body noticed a dreadful storm which came



174 Madame de Stdel.

upon them, or roads flooded with water, or
the long halt of the carriage under the porte-
cochere of an inn. The storm passed over.
Benjamin and Madame de Stael continued to
talk, and were still talking when on their return
home the excursionists learned from their at-
tendants of the experience they had under-
gone. But Benjamin could not long be the
dupe of this change in affairs at Coppet. He
was seized with jealousy, and his old ardor
revived. He found himself supplanted, and it
was his turn to rage. He twice challenged
Rocca. He finally resigned himself to a re-
treat, as much humiliated now at his depart-
ure as he had once been at having to remain.
Coppet would have been henceforth the*
promised land, if the police had not made
their stay there unendurable and almost
perilous. The Emperor understood how to
make it a wilderness. Schlegel was expelled ;
Mathieu de Montmorency and Madame Re-
camier, who had persisted in going there, re-
ceived letters of exile. Madame de Stael was
in despair at the thought of seeing them no
more, and especially of being the cause of
their disgrace. Then she began to tremble
for Rocca. He belonged to the army; a sum-
mons, at any hour, might tear him away from
her. Lastly, she trembled for her children



The Flight. 175

and for herself. Elzear de Sabran wrote to
her: *' If you remain, he will treat you like a
Marie Stuart, — nineteen years of misery and
a catastrophe at the end of them." Without
being treated like a queen of the old regime^
she might be treated, like the Pope after the
Concordat, to honorable captivity. She was
assailed by fears ; she could no longer work.
She could sleep only by the aid of opium.
She constantly thought of death. She de-
cided to take flight; but her condition de-
tained her. She was secretly confined, left
the babe to the devoted care of a friend in the
Bernese Jura, and prepared her departure with
the greatest mystery.

• Her children had some interests and prop-
erty in Sweden, and she would find there, now
wearing the kingly title, one of her old friends
of the Republican period. She had always
had a liking for Bernadotte ; she hoped she
could count upon him and find a refuge at
his court. She departed the 22d of May,
18 1 2, with her children, followed later by
Rocca, and went by way of Vienna toward
St. Petersburg. She sought in Russia " the
last refuge of the oppressed," drawn toward
this country by the same illusion which at the
same time led the Emperor on to follow the
last obstacle to his domination of the whole



176 Madame de StdeL

continent She cast a sad backward glance
upon Coppet, and at the moment of putting
'* the irreparable " between herself and the
graves dear to her there, she cursed the Cor-
sican who had banished her from her country.
*' The air of this beautiful land is not natal
air to him," she wrote ; '* can he understand
the pain of my exile? " He was to know this
pain only too well ; and he bore it to the very
death. But who would believe it, this spring
of 1 8 12, when Napoleon had drafted every
nation into his service, subjugated all the
princes of Europe, and seemed to control even


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