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of her mot. " I could smell her a mile away.
Ideophobe, does she say ? Why not hydrophobe ?
Ah ra — but who could govern with people like
that about ! "

And Talleyrand — son ancien, her cast-off — is


given instructions to tell Madame to place a
sentinel over her big mouth. There is no
possible question of a reconciliation between
this strange couple after the enactments of the
Concordat and the Life-Consulship, both of which
clearly show to what lengths Bonaparte is pre-
pared to go, and de Stael, Constant and the old
Republican patriots finally realise how cleverly
they had been tricked by the simple student-
conqueror who returned from Italy in 1797 with
the Treaty of Campo Formio in his satchel. It
is now beyond doubt established that de Stael
counted for an important equation in the con-
spiracy in which Bernadotte engaged before the
passing of the Concordat. Corinne charged the
future King of Sweden with hesitancy if not
cowardice :

" Hurry up," she wrote, " you have only a
short time in which to act. To-morrow the
tyrant will have forty thousand priests in his

The appearance of Delphine about this time
was another blow at the system of Bonaparte,
whose ambition had early divined its great w-,
opportunity in the wholesale restoration of order
which it was in his power to effect within the
community. And on no established social
institution had he calculated to this end more
than upon the marriage contract, which he
rightly looked upon as the keystone of national
life — the surest guarantee of order within the
State. Delphine had a vast success on its



appearance ; it is frankly the story of a femme
incomprise, a type of woman who, it seems to us,
is never sure of what she wants — when it is not
a man — and whose hfe seems to be one long
pilgrimage spent in a vain quest of the male ideal
— ndeed, a kind of devanciere of those polyand-
rous females with whom Georges Sand has made
us so familiar.

" Very false, immoral and altogether anti-
social," cries Bonaparte, who in commenting on
its special pleadings for easy divorce, delivers
himself of some elegant remarks about the private
life of Madame. Nor did he fail to inspire the
scribes of his subsidised Press. The critic of the
Mercure de France speaks of women of the type
of Deliohinei who, it need hardly be said, represents
Madame de Stael herself, in the following strain : —

" Such creatures are simply animals in their
lustfulness and their passions, and it is much
harder to be their friends than their lovers. . . .
Look at them, and you will find that they are
invariably great, fat, gross, full-blooded women
who, externally at least, give no indication of the
soul-tortures which they affect to undergo " — all
of which bears the impress of the Corsican's style
and method of invective.

"\Mien exiled in 1803, Madame betakes herself
to Germany and at Weimar meets Goethe and
Wieland, the former of whom introduces his
friend Schlegel, and this worthy man undertakes
to form the lady's ideas as regards his country,
its institutions and inhabitants. Schlegel even


accompanies his pupil to Vienna, to Stockholm,
to Petersburg, and acts in the capacity of secretary
and press-agent, with the especial duty of giving
to all the capitals which they visit a true picture
of the tyrant of the Tuileries. While she is in
Germany, the establishment of the Empire takes
place, and de Stael sets about a new campaign,
the object of which is to detach the old French
nobility from the service of Napoleon, an attempt
in which she is only partially successful, since
great families like that of La Rochefoucauld, of
Remusat, of Montmorency, of Turenne and Segur
have shown no objection whatever to join the
Corsican's establishment, and all the more so
because the astute upstart places a premium on
their ability to show his own ennobled pai'venus
how to play the complete courtier.

Napoleon, whose Cabinet Noir is ever on the
alert, intercepts every letter written by his enemy
and there is consequently no detail of her intrigues
with which he is not acquainted. Madame does
not even suspect the Emperor's espionage and
is stirred " almost to con\ailsions " when on
requesting permission to reside near Paris, she is
ordered to remove nearer to the frontier. Nor
does the appearance of Corinne improA'e the
relations of the twain : Napoleon accuses her of
being frankly anti-French and correspondingly
Anglophile, for Corinne is one long paean of the
English character and all its peculiar virtues,
which spring, she maintains, from such free
political institutions as enable them to flourish.


And to the accusation that she has deUberately
depreciated the French character, de Stael rephes
that she only represents the " abaissement des
caracteres dans Vetat sociaV^ — which the Corsican's
despotism has deUberately brought about.

In 1808 Napoleon indicated in very clear terms
his reasons for treating Madame de Stael as a
public enemy and for keeping her in exile. All
her Paris friends having failed of inducing the
Emperor to allow the lady to reside in the Capital,
her son, Augustus, a schoolboy of seventeen,
decided himself to seek an interview with Napoleon
and endeavour to move his pity. The Emperor
was on his way back from Italy and young de
Stael, knowing that he would pass through
Chambery, awaited his coming in that city. On
being told the object of the boy's visit. Napoleon,
one is pleased and, indeed, not surprised to hear,
consents to see him while he is breakfasting
at a hotel, and grants the youth an audience of
nearly an hour. The Emperor does not, he himself
says, consider Madame de Stael a bad woman, but
only a woman who will not submit to authority,
and he must insist on being obeyed. She could
not curb her tongue, and though she may not
attach much importance to what she says.
Napoleon does, since he knows for how much
she counts in public opinion.

" I have to take things very seriously," he
tells the boy, " and if I were to allow your mother
to return to Paris, Avithin six months I should have
to imprison her. I should be sorry to have to do


so, since I must suffer for it in the opinion of
the pubHc. ... As for you, jeune homme, stick
to the right path in pohtics, for I shall not easily
forgive a Necker. Paris, you must see, is my
home, and there I can tolerate only those who
respect me. If I allowed your mother to come
to Paris, she would very soon lose me all my
friends. Rome, Naples, Vienna, Berlin, Milan,
even London — all these cities are open to her.
She has only to choose."

After that, and as she found herself more closely
watched at Coppet, there was nothing for it but
America, and at one time she seriously thought
of going there. An American newspaper, hear-
ing of the likelihood of the great Corinne visiting
" these shores," comments thereon in character-
istic superlatives :

" She is a tremendously wealthy woman and
lives in extremely splendid and decorous style at
her very elegant mansion. The famous woman
has also written several books which, having a
large circulation in Europe, undoubtedly bring
her in good money. ^'

" The savages ! " cries Madame de Stael when
she reads this exquisite Press notice.

All literary Europe knew by this time that her
work on Germany, to which she had given six
years' close labour, was already in the hands of
the printers; and the critics, not less than the
connoisseurs and politicians, were all on the alert
for its appearance. Ten thousand copies had
already been struck off by the publisher when


Napoleon gave orders to Savary — then Minister
of Police — to suppress the whole issue. Her
son preserved the manuscript, however, and the
work was eventually published in London by
John Murray, in 1813.

" I am sending you," Napoleon wrote to
Savary, " the work of Madame de Stael. Has she
the right to describe herself as a Baroness ? Did
she adopt this title in previous works ? Suppress
the passage relating to the Duke of Brunsmck,
and three-fourths of what she has to say in praise
of England. She has done us enough harm in
this respect."

Even now de Stael, with that never-failing self-
delusion which marks her relations with Napoleon,
solicits permission in an eloquent letter to the
Emperor to be allowed to reside in Paris :

*' Why should I blush," she cries, " to ask for
friendship, poetry, music, painting and all that
ideal existence which I can enjoy without refusing
obedience to the sovereign of France ? "

Napoleon is said to have been touched by
this appeal, but was true to his conviction that
Madame de Stael was too much a machine a
mouvement to be trusted in such susceptible
political salons as those of Paris.

Constant, in his Memoirs, tells us how Napoleon,
after reading a certain passage in De VAllemagne,
threw the work on the fire and gave orders that
Madame was to be more strictly watched than
ever. There is little doubt that the Emperor
suppressed the book on general principles, as


they say, and without having made any especial
study of the ideas it set forth. Nor can it be
doubted that he not only directed but even
stimulated the zeal of those to whom he had
assigned the task of spying on de Stael and her
movements. This work, it may be observed, was
an unequivocal appea' to the Germanic nations
to thrown off the yoke which had oppressed them
since 1806, to organise their resources, to learn
the lessons that England and the Peninsula were
then teaching to the enslaved Continent, and to
be prepared against the hour w^hich was at hand
when the awakening peoples would turn and rend
their oppressor. Even Goethe, in February, 1814
— when his friend Napoleon w^as obviously on the
eve of his first collapse — could write to his corre-
spondent, Madame von Grotthus : " The French
police, intelligent enough to realise that a work like
De V Allemagne must have the effect of building
up the confidence of the Germans in themselves,
prudently suppressed it. Even at this very hour
it is producing an astonishing effect." It is not
difficult, therefore, to understand why Napoleon
refused to allow this modern female Tacitus to
place her new De Moribus before a Germany
which w^as only awaiting an auspicious moment
to raise the banners of reasoned — and honourable
— revolt.

In 1812 Madame de Stael made her memorable
visit to Russia, and was already in Moscow^ w-hen
the Napoleonic armies were advancing on
Smolensk. The great society of the old capital


failed to understand Madame, although they were
willing to do her reverence, first, as the enemy of
Napoleon, and, secondly, as the great representa-
tive of the " conscience of Europe." Even semi-
barbaric Muscovy found Corinne heavy of form
and unpleasing of face — " too big for a woman and
built like a man," as Arndt put it. Nor did they
think her style of dress becoming in a woman
already approaching her fiftieth year; "her dis-
courses are too long and her sleeves too short,"
said a sententious member of the Rostopchin
family, who also describes the amusing way in
which our elephantine Egeria and Baron Stein
used to caramboler together on the sofa when
discussing the iniquities of the latter-day Nero.
From Moscow de Stael proceeds to Stockholm,
where she finds her old friend Bernadotte already
Crown Prince of Sweden and quite as cordially
disposed towards her as in the early days of the
First Consulate.

Here she resumes her literary activities and an
avalanche of pamphlets is the result, in which
Bernadotte is extolled as Europe's only hope
against Napoleon. Schlegel's essay on Napoleon's
Continental system appears about the same time,
and Napoleon, not less than the connoisseurs, is
perfectly well aware that Madame de Stael is the
inspiration behind this attack on himself and his
system. Even in her short Essay on Suicide she
finds it impossible to avoid giving expression to
her political views, and accordingly assails the sort
of egoism that allows no^enthusiasm to live which

r/uHo,i:raflt : II'. A. Manse!: &■ Co.



After the (yaintiiiii by Gotle/ruy


finds its source in ideas of liberty and independ-
ence. She attacks the type of Christianity which,
bending before the tyrant, remains satisfied with
its own slavery, and finally deplores the " fashion
of suicide," almost vulgarised since Werther,
throughout Germany, and points out that death
in battle against despotism is a far worthier way
of quitting life. And not satisfied with working
herself against the enemy, she induces her bride-
groom husband, Rocca, to write his experiences
of the French campaign in Spain — a frank ex-
position of Napoleon's inhuman methods when
carrying war into hostile countries. Monsieur de
Rochechouart tells us, too, that until Madame de
Stael had suggested its possibility to him, Berna-
dotte had never conceived the idea of succeeding
Napoleon as Emperor of the French.

In London, where she resided on leaving Sweden,
all society rushed to her salon^ and among the
many historic names on her visiting list, we note
that of Byron, then in his twenty-fifth year, who
quickly wearied of the voluble lady and declared
that if her books were in octavo style, her eloquence
was certainly in folio. Murray published her book,
De VAllemagne, in 1813, and the result of the battle
of Leipzig proved to Englishmen that they were
entertaining a prophetess, for she had foretold
Napoleon's collapse when Germany's national
conscience should awaken. On 8th May 1814,
while Napoleon is making his way to Elba, de
Stael returned to Paris, in broken health, and not
unmoved at the fate [of the~Corsican, whom, for


all her opposition, she never ceased to look upon
as the only hero of the modem world. Napoleon,
indeed, on his return from Elba recognised that
she had been kinder to him in his misfortune than
she had ever proved during his prosperity, and
in the hope of attaching her to his new constitu-
tional ideas, expressed his desire for an under-
standing, admitting that she had made him more
enemies during her exile than she could have done
had he allowed her to remain in France. It is
also said that Napoleon gave her to understand
that her old claim on the French Treasury should
be settled, and in the Memorial, chapter iii.,
Madame de Stael is represented as addressing a
letter to the Emperor, conceived in the most
fulsome terms, in which in consideration of
receiving her millions, she offers to devote her
pen and her principles for ever to Napoleon — a
charge which may, we think, be dismissed, as
well as Gourgaud's statement to the same effect.
Says this very naif aide-de-camp, who might
well, indeed, have posed for the picture of the
imperishable Brigadier Gerard, in volume ii. of
his Memoirs :

" She gave me to understand that if I could
induce the Treasury to pay over her millions,
she would write anything / wanted." And then
airily : " Je V envoy ai loromener—I sent her about
her business."

On the second return of Louis XVIII. Madame
de Stael played a more important role in Court
and general society than she had done even


during the first restoration — a fact which seems
to give the He to the charge that she had been
mlUng to sell herself to Napoleon. At St Helena,
in 1817, the death of this great woman moved the
tactless Gourgaud to remind the fallen Emperor
that her world role had been epitomised in the
description of Europe's great Entente between
1805 and 1815 as " Britain, Russia and Madame
de Stael."

" She was a woman," said Napoleon, with real
justice, " of very great powers of mind."



Afi Lnstoried Celebrity — Biogi and Bonaparte —
Philosopher and Artist — Biogi and the Military Art
— The Corsicans Affection for him — Poisons and
Antidotes — The Battle-field of Rivoli — Berthier and
Bonaparte — Biogi dislikes Army Men— Bonaparte as
Connoisseur — Gros and the Areola Picture — Biogi' s
Description of the Corsican — M. de Chateaubriand
— The ricomte and the First Consul — A Mutual
Antipathy — Le Genie du Christianisme — Essentially
anti-Catholic — Chateaubriand's Egotism — The Little
Man and the Big Quarry — The Vicomle is dismissed
— His Colossal Vanity — His Obsession as to Xapoleon
— Some Expressions of Opinion — " Napoleon and My-
self" — Beyle, alias Stendhal — His Literary Pedigree
— The Individualistic Touch — His Connection with
Xapoleon — Stendhal's Idolatry — His Impartiality —
France and the Empire — Napoleon's Dead-heads —
Stendhal and the e.r-Empress Eugenie — Aii Author's
Discretion — Stendhal, Megalomanaic — Napoleon's
Trust in him — An Imperial Present — The "Soul" of
the Imperial Army — Stupid Officialdom — Napoleon,
France's Greatest Man — His Best Achievement — '^Tlie
Great Emperor" — A Change of Temper — A Literary
Mak's Philosophy — Napoleon diminishes — A Final
Recantation — " Napoleon was our only Religion "

WHAT the painter Biogi achieved as
an artist we are unfortunately unable
to say, since our researches, in many
biographical dictionaries of his own and
later times, tell us nothing either of his professional
status or even of his ever having passed across
the crowded stage of the Napoleonic drama. To
Stendhal we owe it that this young landscape
painter, a Frenchman by birth and an Italian by
origin, has been rescued from complete oblivion
and given an honourable place in the annals of
the Corsican. The picture drawn by Stendhal
of Biogi's association with the soldier is, in our
opinion, one of the most pleasing we have met with
in our quest for details concerning the art-circle of
Napoleon, and the youthful artist's independence
of mind and character in his attitude towards the
Conqueror, as well as towards the temptations
which the latter so persistently held out to him
for his personal advancement, must be admitted
to be singular, as shown by a member of a brother-
hood which is not remarkable for its indifference
either to the spectacular life, or to its possibilities.
It was during the operations on the Mincio,
in the early Italian campaign, that Bonaparte
and Biogi met for the first time. The successful
soldier, already surrounded by a crowd of syco-
phants and intriguing self-seekers, was at once
attracted towards his youthful countryman by
the strange trait of philosophic indifference with
which the latter watched, unmoved and detached,
the imposing drama even at that period beginning



to unfold itself round the figure of the Corsican.
Biogi's work had, moreover, the advantage of
making an especial appeal to the as yet uncor-
rupted taste of the triumphant warrior — namely,
in that it was untouched by what Napoleon himself
termed the gasconisme common to artists of the
time, whose tendency was to exaggerate the actual
beauty and effect of all the scenes and portraits
which they committed to canvas. Failing to
induce the artist to throw in his lot with him as a
military man, and although he had added a promise
to look carefully after his promotion, Bonaparte
sought to attach Biogi permanently to his suite
in the capacity of official painter. To both
offers the young Frenchman answered very
candidly :

" General, I am far from blaming men who
adopt the military profession which, in its own
way, may doubtless be both noble and useful.
To me, however, it makes no sympathetic appeal,
and I am of those who look upon it as a coarse
and inhuman trade which never fails to show men
in their worst aspects. Not all the glory of all the
conquerors that ever lived could induce me to
devote myself to a military career."

To the offer that Biogi should become the official
pictorial chronicler of the brilliant Italian cam-
paign, which Bonaparte made to him on the
morrow of Rivoli, the painter replied :

" Sir, on entering on my profession I took
the resolve never to allow myself to work except
under such inspirations as came directly from my


own heart and mind, and I feel that the battle-
field is the least likely of all scenes to move my
brush to endeavour into which I can throw either
my heart or my mind."

Biogi, it appears, was hardly less attracted
towards Napoleon than the latter to himself.
He it was who once counselled the young General
to undergo a kind of regular regime with a view
to preparing his constitution against the possibility
of being poisoned, by taking antidotes and so
preserving his life for the benefit of the Republic.
Berthier, says Stendhal, on this occasion made
a sign to the young artist suggesting that Bona-
parte did not care for that kind of conversation.
To the surprise of the Chief of Staff, however,
Napoleon took up the subject and treated his
table company to the philosophy he held in regard
to this matter.

" There are poisons, doubtless," said the young
Corsican, according to Stendhal, " but is there
a remedy against them ? If Medicine were a
real and an exact science, would it not, in the case
of sickness, recommend repose as the best thing
for one ? But can there be any repose for a man
of my character and disposition ? Suppose, for
example, I was to forget my duty so far as to
hand over the command of the army to one of my
generals, and go to Milan or Nice, I should be
entirely unable, at that distance from my troops,
to judge of the real effects of one or more battles.
My blood would in that case be in far worse con-
dition than if I remained here where I could deal


directly with the actual situation. No ; a general
in supreme command must take all the risks
attached to his position, which in their way are not
dissimilar from the risks that are imposed on the
commonest grenadier. Besides, if I lost my self-
respect, I should have lost everything, and death
itself would be far preferable to reaching that

It was after this somewhat vague discourse
that Bonaparte sought again to move the young
artist to paint the battle-field of Rivoli. Biogi
again objected and insisted that his forte lay in
landscape work. The Corsican would not be
denied, however, and finally Biogi — who in order
to facilitate his work was provided with an escort
by Berthier — consented to paint the scene of one
of Bonaparte's earliest masterpieces of the art
of war. In regard to Berthier, Biogi tells that
he appeared to act as nothing more than Bona-
parte's chief clerk, that he was never consulted
but always given orders, and that this, in the
majority of cases, was the Corsican 's attitude
towards his subordinates even at that early stage
in his career. For his own part, the young artist
declared that, Bonaparte and the common soldiery
excepted, he had no liking at all for the officers,
high or low, of the Army of Italy.

" I was surprised," Biogi is reported by Stendhal
as saying, " at the distant attitude of tlie General
commanding towards even his most distinguished
lieutenants. To have exchanged a word with him
was sufficient to make the conversation of a mess-


table for a whole evening. So you may imagine
with what envy I was regarded by other men.
But I suppose," he adds wisely, " the General
would have entirely changed his disposition to-
wards me once I had put on the uniform he wished
me to wear."

Biogi was not singular among the connoisseurs
in thinking rather meanly of Napoleon's know-
ledge of art matters.

" The General-in-Chief had good enough in-
stincts," he admits, " but had no training what-
soever in regard to technique or the various
schools. He used, for instance, to confuse the
works of Hannibal Carracci with those of
Michel -Angelo."

At that date, we learn with interest, Gros was
executing his noted picture of Bonaparte rushing
across the bridge of Areola with a regimental flag
in hand. Of this painter Biogi said :

" Gros is the only artist who has courage
enough to reproduce the j^^uvretes — an artist's
expression— which in those days characterised
the young Conqueror who had the appearance of
a man already far gone in consumption. Only
Bonaparte's superhuman physical activity showed

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Online LibraryHamil GrantThe soul of Napoleon → online text (page 14 of 17)