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there is at least no sign of the satiety of exhausted emotion in them.
Let us be content, then, that in many instances a veil should hide from
us the deeper recesses of Madame de Staël’s heart. Grant that there were
two Germaines—one her father’s daughter, lofty-minded, pure, catching
the infection of exalted feelings, and incapable of error; the other her
husband’s wife, thrust into the fiery circle of human passion, thence
to emerge a little scorched and harmed. The hidden centre of that dual
self cannot be revealed to us; but what we do know is sometimes so grand
and always so great that we can afford to be indulgent when reduced to
conjecture.

In 1791, after having paid a visit of condolence to her father at
Coppet, Madame de Staël had returned to Paris, and made her salon the
rallying-point for the most distinguished Constitutionels. Conspicuous
among these, in principles although not in name, was De Narbonne,
described by Madame de Staël herself as “_Grand seigneur, homme d’esprit,
courtisan et philosophe_.” He was a brilliant, an enlightened, a
generous and charming man. His sympathies were liberal; it would have
been too much to expect from him that they should be subversive. He
had been brought up in the enervating atmosphere of the Court, yet had
adopted many of the new ideas. After having accomplished the difficult
and perilous enterprise of escorting the King’s aunts to Rome, and
establishing them under the roof of the Cardinal de Bernis, he returned
to Paris and ranged himself on the side of the Constitution. His
soldier-soul (he was an extremely gallant officer) would not allow of his
going any farther along the facile descent of change. The King’s abortive
attempt at escape and subsequent imprisonment in the Tuileries restored
to Narbonne all the fervor which his allegiance as a courtier might
originally have lacked. But he was a very intelligent man, so much so,
that Napoleon himself years later rendered justice to his sagacity. He
had serious tastes and a great love of knowledge, and was almost as witty
as Talleyrand himself. He was made Minister of War in December, 1791,
and the general impression prevailed that Madame de Staël’s influence
had contributed to his appointment. He was young and full of hope, and
proposed to himself the impossible task of encouraging the action of the
Assembly at the same time as he sought to reconstruct the popularity of
the King. He also exerted himself to prepare France for resistance to
the armies of foreign invaders; visited the frontier; reported the state
of things there to the Assembly; provisioned the forts; re-established
garrisons, and organized three armies. But what he could not do was to
inspire anybody with confidence in himself. “Too black for heaven, too
white for hell,” he could neither rise to the sublime ineptitude of
deluded royalism nor sink to the brutal logic of facts. Curtly dismissed
by the King, at the end of three months, on resigning the portfolio he
resumed the sword.

To defend his ungrateful sovereign was his religion, since, in spite
of his talents, he did not reach the point of perceiving that there
is a moment in the history of every nation when individuals must be
sacrificed to principles. Perhaps this preoccupation of minds, naturally
enlightened, with merely personal issues is the real key to all that
was tragically mysterious in the Revolution. Madame de Staël herself
deplored the fate of the King and Queen with precisely the same wealth
of compassion that she would have expressed on the occasion of some
catastrophe involving hundreds of obscure lives. It seemed as though
only such sanguinary monomaniacs as Robespierre or St. Just, only such
corrupt and colossal natures as Mirabeau or Danton, could look below the
accidental circumstances of an event to its enduring elements. All that
was morally and vitally, as distinguished from mentally and potentially,
best in France threw itself into passionate defence of persons; while all
that was strong, original, consistent, was drawn into the fatal policy of
blood.

A few months after Narbonne’s fall, Madame de Staël endeavored to
associate him in a plan which her pity had suggested to her for the
escape of the Royal Family. She wished to buy a property that was for
sale near Dieppe. Thus furnished with a pretext for visiting the coast,
she proposed to make three journeys thither. On the first two occasions
she was to be accompanied by her eldest son, who was the age of the
Dauphin, by a man resembling the King in height and general appearance,
and by two women sufficiently like the Queen and Madame Elisabeth. In her
third journey she would have left the original party behind and taken
with her the whole of the Royal Family. But the King and Queen refused
to co-operate in this romantic and courageous plan. Their motives were
not unselfish. Louis XVI. objected to Narbonne’s share in the scheme;
and Marie Antoinette, who regarded the double representation of the Tiers
Etat as the cause of all her woes, detested Necker’s daughter.

When the Tuileries was invaded by the mob, M. Necker, who was already
at Coppet, and knew that the Baron de Staël had been recalled to
Sweden, wrote urging his daughter to join him. But she was chained to
Paris, fascinated by the very scenes that revolted her, and anxious to
intervene if only to save. She assisted, with slender sympathy for the
revolutionaries, at the celebration of the 14th July in the Champs de
Mars, and was wrung with pity for the tear-stained countenance of the
Queen, whose magnificent toilet and dignified bearing contrasted with the
squalor of her cortège. Madame de Staël’s eyes were fixed with longing
compassion on the figure of the King as he ascended the steps of the
altar, there to swear for the second time to preserve the Constitution.
His powdered head, so lately desecrated by the _bonnet rouge_, and
gold-embroidered coat struck her imagination painfully as the vain
symbols of vanished ease and splendor.

Then came the terrible night of the 9th August, during which, from
midnight to morning, the tocsins never ceased sounding. “I was at my
window with some of my friends” (wrote Madame de Staël), “and every
fifteen minutes the volunteer patrol of the Constitutionels brought us
news. We were told that the faubourgs were advancing headed by Santerre
the brewer and Westermann.… Nobody could foresee what would happen the
next day, and nobody expected to survive it.… All at once (at 7 o’clock)
came the terrible sound of cannon. In this first combat the Swiss Guards
were victors.”

The tidings—partly false, as afterwards proved—were brought her of the
massacre of Lally Tollendal, Narbonne, Montmorency, and others of her
friends; and at once, regardless of peril, she went out in her carriage
to hear if the news were true. After two hours of fruitless efforts to
pass, she learnt that all those in whom she was most interested were
still alive, but in hiding; and, as soon as the evening came, she sallied
forth once more to visit them in the obscure houses where they had taken
refuge. Later, she came to have but one thought, which was to save as
many as she could of her friends. They were unwilling at first to take
shelter in her house as being too conspicuous; but she would listen to
no such objections. Two yielded to her persuasions, and one of these was
Narbonne. He was shut up with his companion in the safest room, while the
intrepid hostess established herself in the front apartments, and there,
in great anxiety, awaited a domiciliary visit from the authorities. They
were not long in coming and in demanding M. de Narbonne. To permit a
search was practically to deliver up the victim. Madame de Staël’s whole
mind was consequently bent on averting investigation.

The police agents were exceptionally ignorant, and of this fact she was
quick to take advantage. She began by instilling alarm into them as to
the violation of rights which they committed in invading the house of
an ambassador, and she followed this up by informing them that Sweden,
being on the frontier of France, would descend upon that offending land
immediately. She next passed to pleasantries, and succeeded so well
in cajoling her visitors that they finally allowed themselves to be
gracefully bowed out. Four days later a false passport supplied by a
friend of Madame de Staël allowed Narbonne to escape to England.

The Swedish ambassadress herself could easily have left France at any
moment, but she lingered on from day to day, unwilling to quit the
country while so many of her friends were in danger; and she was rewarded
at last by the opportunity of interfering to save Jaucourt, who had been
conveyed to the Abbaye—now aptly named “the Ante-chamber of Death.”
Madame de Staël knew none of the members of the Commune, but, with her
unfailing presence of mind, she remembered that one of them, Manuel,
the _procureur_, had some pretensions to be literary. These pretensions
being greater than his talent, Madame de Staël rightly concluded that he
possessed sufficient vanity to be moved by solicitation. She wrote to
ask for an interview, which was accorded her for the next morning at 7
o’clock in the official’s own house.

“The hour was democratic,” she remarks, but she was careful to be
punctual. Her eloquence achieved an easy victory over Manuel, who, unlike
so many of his colleagues, was no fanatic; and on the 1st of September he
made Madame de Staël happy by writing to inform her that, thanks to his
good offices, Jaucourt had been set at liberty.

She now, at last, determined to quit France the next day, but not alone.
Resolute to the end in risking her life for that of others, she consented
to take the Abbé de Montesquion with her in the disguise of a domestic,
and convey him safely into Switzerland. A passport obtained for one
of her servants was given to one of his, and a place on the high road
indicated as a rendezvous where the Abbé was to join her suite.

When the next morning dawned a fresh element of terror had invaded the
public mind. The news of the fall of Longwy and Verdun had arrived and
Paris was in effervescence. Again in all the sections the tocsin was
sounding; and everybody whose own life was his chief preoccupation kept
as quiet as possible. But Madame de Staël could not keep quiet—that
was impossible for her at all times—and at this moment the image
paramount in her mind was that of the poor Abbé waiting anxiously at
his rendezvous—perhaps only to be discovered if his generous deliverer
delayed.

Turning a deaf ear to all remonstrance, she started in a
travelling-carriage drawn by six horses, and accompanied by her servants
in gala livery. This was an unfortunate inspiration. Instead of filling
the minds of the vulgar with awe, as she had vainly hoped, it aroused
their vigilant suspicions. The carriage had hardly passed under the
portals of the hotel before it was surrounded by a furious crowd of old
women, “risen from hell,” as Madame de Staël energetically expressed it,
who shrieked out that she was carrying away the gold of the nation. This
intelligent outcry brought a new contingent of exasperated patriots of
both sexes, who ordered the fugitive Ambassadress to be conveyed to the
Assembly of the Section nearest at hand.

She did not lose her presence of mind, but on descending from the
carriage found an opportunity of bidding the Abbé’s servant rejoin his
master and tell him of what had happened. This step proved to be a very
dangerous one. The President of the Section informed Madame de Staël
that she was accused of seeking to take away proscribed royalists, and
that he must proceed to a roll-call of her servants. One of them was
missing, naturally, having been despatched to save his own master; and
the consequence was a peremptory order to Madame de Staël to proceed to
the Hôtel de Ville under charge of a gendarme. Such a command was not
calculated to inspire her with any sentiment but fear. Several people had
already been massacred on the steps of the Hôtel de Ville; and although
no woman had yet been sacrificed to popular fury, there was no guarantee
for such immunity lasting; and, as a point of fact, the Princess de
Lamballe fell the very next day.

Madame de Staël’s passage from the Faubourg Saint Germain to the Hôtel
de Ville lasted three hours. Her carriage was led at a foot-pace through
an immense crowd, which greeted her with reiterated cries of “Death!” It
was not herself they detested, she says, but the evidences of her luxury;
for the news of the morning had brought more opprobrium than ever on the
execrated name of aristocrat. Fortunately, the gendarme who was inside
the carriage was touched by his prisoner’s situation and her delicate
condition of health, and her prayers, and promised to do what he could to
defend her. By degrees her courage rose. She knew that the worse moment
must be that in which she would reach the Place de Grève; but by the time
she arrived there aversion for the mob had almost overcome in her every
feeling but disdain.

She mounted the steps of the Hôtel de Ville between a double row of
pikes, and one man made a movement to strike her. Thanks to the prompt
interposition of the friendly gendarme, she was able, however, to reach
the presence of Robespierre in safety. The room in which she found him
was full of an excited crowd of men, women and children, all emulously
shrieking, “_Vive la Nation!_”

The Swedish Ambassadress was just beginning to protest officially against
the treatment she had met with, when Manuel arrived on the scene. Never
was any apparition more opportune. Greatly astonished to see his late
illustrious visitor in such a position, he promptly undertook to answer
for her until the Commune had made up its mind what to do with her; and
conveying her and her maid to his own house, shut them up in the same
cabinet where Madame de Staël had pleaded for Jaucourt.

There they remained for six hours, “dying of hunger, thirst, and
fear.” The windows of the room looked out upon the Place de Grève,
and consequently offered the spectacle of bands of yelling murderers
returning from the prisons “with bare and bleeding arms.”

Madame de Staël’s travelling carriage had remained in the middle of the
square. She expected to see it pillaged; but a man in the uniform of the
National Guard came to the rescue and passed two hours in successfully
defending the luggage.

This individual turned out to be the redoubtable Santerre. He introduced
himself later in the day to Madame de Staël, and took credit for his
conduct on the ground of the respect with which M. Necker had inspired
him when distributing corn to the starving population of Paris.

In the evening Manuel, pallid with horror at the events of that awful
day, took Madame de Staël back to her own house, through streets of which
the obscurity was only relieved at moments by the lurid glare of torches.
He told her that he had procured a new passport for herself and her maid
alone; and that she was to be escorted to the frontier by a gendarme.

The next day Tallien arrived, appointed by the Commune to accompany her
to the barriers. Several suspected aristocrats were present when he was
announced. Most people under such circumstances would have taken care to
be found alone; but Madame de Staël remained undaunted to the end. She
simply begged Tallien to be discreet, and he fortunately proved so. A few
more difficulties had to be encountered before she was fairly in safety;
but at last she reached the pure air and peaceful scenes of the Jura.




CHAPTER VI.

MADAME DE STAËL RETIRES TO COPPET.


Madame de Staël arrived at Coppet about the beginning of September,
1792. The life there, after her recent experiences in Paris, so far from
seeming to her one of welcome rest, fretted her ardent spirit almost
beyond endurance. She longed to be back in France, even under the shadow
of the guillotine, anywhere but in front of the lake, with its inexorable
beauty and maddening calm.

“The whole of Switzerland inspires me with magnificent horror,” she wrote
to her husband, who was still in Sweden. “Sometimes I think that if I
were in Paris with a title which they would be forced to respect, I might
be of use to a number of individuals, and with that hope I would brave
everything. I perceive, with some pain, that the thing which least suits
me in the world is this peaceful and rustic life. I have put down my
horses for economy’s sake, and because I feel my solitude less when I do
not see anybody.”

By “anybody” it is to be presumed that she meant the good Swiss, whose
expressions of horror, doubtless as monotonous as reiterated, must have
been irritating to one whose single desire night and day, was to cast
herself into the arena, there to combat and to save. One outlet she found
for her activity in perpetual plans for enabling her friends, and often
her enemies, to escape from Paris.

The scheme which she projected was to find some man or woman, as the case
might be, who would enter France with Swiss passports, certificates,
etc., and after getting these properly _visés_, would hand them over to
the person who was to be saved.

Nothing could be simpler, Madame de Staël averred; and as she provided
money, time, thought, energy, and presumably infected her agents with a
little of her own enthusiasm, her efforts were often successful. Among
those who engaged her attention were Mathieu de Montmorency, François de
Jaucourt, the Princess de Poix and Madame de Simiane.

Among the people whom she saved, and whose rescue she records with the
most complacency, is that of young Achille du Chayla. He was a nephew
of De Jaucourt’s, and was residing at Coppet under a Swedish name—(M.
de Staël had lent himself to many friendly devices of that kind). The
news came that Du Chayla, when trying to escape across the frontier
under cover of a Swiss passport, had been arrested at a frontier town on
suspicion of being what he truly was—a refugee Frenchman. Nevertheless,
the authorities declared themselves willing to release him if the
Lieutenant Baillival of Nyon would attest that he was Swiss. What was
to be done? To bring M. Reverdil, the functionary aforesaid, to such a
declaration seemed well-nigh hopeless, and Jaucourt was in despair. His
nephew, if once his identity were discovered, had no chance of escape
from death; for not only was his name on the list of the suspected ones,
but his father actually held a command under Condé’s banner. This was one
of the opportunities in which Madame de Staël delighted. Her spirits rose
at once in the face of such difficulties. Fortunately, M. Reverdil was
an old friend of her family; she believed that she would be able to melt
him, and she hurried away to try.

The task was more arduous than she had anticipated. M. Reverdil (by her
own confession one of the most enlightened of Swiss magistrates) turned
out to have a sturdy conscience and an uncomfortable amount of common
sense. He represented to his ardent visitor, first, that he would be
wrong in uttering a falsehood for any motive; next, that in his official
position he might compromise his country by making a false attestation.
“If the truth be discovered,” he urged, “we shall no longer have the
right of claiming our own compatriots when arrested in France; and thus
I should jeopardize the interest of those who are confided to me for
the sake of saving a man towards whom I have no duties.” M. Reverdil’s
arguments had “a very plausible side,” Madame de Staël allowed thus
much herself; but the good man little knew with whom he had to deal if
he thought that such cold justice would have the least effect on his
petitioner. She swept all paltry considerations as to the remote danger
of unknown, unromantic Swiss burghers to the winds. Her object was to
bring back to Jaucourt the assurance of his young nephew’s safety; and
from this no abstract principles could turn her.

She remained two hours with M. Reverdil, arguing, entreating, imploring.
The task she proposed to herself was, in her own words, “to vanquish his
conscience by his humanity.” He remained inflexible for a long while,
but his visitor reiterating to him, “If you say No, an only son, a man
without reproach, will be assassinated within twenty-four hours, and your
simple word will have killed him,” he ultimately succumbed. Madame de
Staël says it was his emotion that triumphed; it is just possible that it
was sheer physical exhaustion. Madame de Staël was at no time a quiet
person to deal with; when excited, as in the present instance, she must
have been overpowering.

It was shortly after these events that Madame de Staël visited England,
and while there went to Mickleham, there to be introduced to, and for
a time to captivate, Fanny Burney. Except Talleyrand, she was the most
illustrious of the brilliant band of exiles gathered together at Juniper
Hall, and familiar to all readers of the memoirs of Madame d’Arblay and
the journal of Mrs. Phillips. It is well known how Fanny withdrew from
her intimacy with the future author of _Corinne_ on learning the stories
which connected the latter’s name with Narbonne. Mrs. Phillips herself
was much more indulgent, and Madame de Staël appears to have felt a
grateful liking for her; but it is evident that she was deeply hurt at
Fanny’s coldness. The approbation of a nature so narrow could hardly
have affected her much, one would think, and yet it is plain that she
longed for it—she longed indeed, all her life for such things as she
possessed not. She could sacrifice her wishes at all times generously and
unregretfully, but she never knew how to bear being denied one of them.

In all the glimpses one obtains of Madame de Staël, in different
countries and from different people, she never seems quite so womanly,
so imperfect and yet so pathetic, as in these journals of Mrs. Phillips.
Perhaps the reason of it is that one divines in her at this time a
sentiment which, if erring, was simple and _true_, while many of her
later sorrows gained a kind of factitious grandeur from the train of
political circumstances attendant on them. Mrs. Phillips was present when
Madame de Staël received the letter which summoned her to rejoin her
husband at Coppet, and relates the effect produced upon her. She was most
frankly inconsolable, spoke again and again of her sorrow at going, and
made endless entreaties to Mrs. Phillips to attend to the wants, spirits
and affairs of the friends whom she was leaving. She even charged her
with a message of forgiveness for the ungrateful Fanny, and fairly sobbed
when parting with Mrs. Folk.

Madame de Staël did not leave Coppet again until after the Revolution.
Her life seems to have passed with a monotony that the long drama of
horror slowly culminating in Paris rendered tragically sombre. She
continued her efforts—every day more difficult of accomplishment and
sterile of results—to save her friends and foes; and when the Queen was
arraigned, she wrote, in a few days, that eloquent and well-known defence
of her which called down upon the writer the applause of every generous
heart in Europe.

The Neckers during this period seem to have seen very little society.
Gibbon was almost their only friend; and in 1794 he went to England,
and a few months later died. The next to go was Madame Necker herself.
She had long been ill, and her last few months of life were embittered
by cruel pain. She had prepared for her end with the minute and morbid
care that might have been expected from her. The tomb at Coppet in
which she rests, together with her husband and daughter, was built in
conformity with her wishes, and in great part under her eyes. She died
on 6th May, 1794. M. Necker felt her death acutely, and for months not
even his daughter’s sympathy could console him. Madame Necker had one of
those self-tormenting natures which poison the existence of others in
embittering their own. Too noble to be slighted, and too exacting to be
appeased, they work out the doom of unachieved desires; and when they
go to be wrapt in eternal mystery, their parting gift to their loved
ones is a vague remorse and doubting. Silent themselves when they might
have spoken, they leave an unanswered question in the hearts of their
survivors. Monsieur Necker, with his exaggerated consciousness, must
have asked himself repeatedly if he had cared for his strange and loving


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