Madame de (Anne-Louise-Germaine) Staël.

Ten years' exile; online

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to that of Bonaparte; and genius he certainly had,
for it requires at least as much of that to put one's
self in harmony with heaven, as to invoke to one's
aid all the instruments which are let loose by the

* Saepe mihi dubiam traxitsententia mentera,
Curarent Superi terras, an nullus inesset

Rector, et incerto fluerent mortalia casu.


Abstulit hunc tandem Rufini poena turaultum,
Absolvitque Deos. Jam non ad culmina rerum
Injustos crevJsse queror; toUuntur in altura
Ut lapsu graviore ruant.


absence of laws divine and human. I went once
more to look at my father's study, where his easy
chair, his table, and his papers, still remained in
their old situation ; I embraced each venerated
mark, I took his cloak which till then I had or-
dered to be left upon his chair, and carried it
away with me, that I might wrap myself in it, if
the messenger of death approached me. When
these adieus were terminated, I avoided as much
as I could any other leave-takings, which affected
me too much, and wrote to the friends whom I
quitted, taking care that my letters should not
reach them until several days after my departure.
The next day, Saturday the 23d of May, 1812,
at two o'clock in the afternoon, I got into my car-
riage, saying that I should return to dinner. I
took no packet whatever with me ; I had my fan in
my hand, and my daughter hers ; only ray son and
Mr. Rocca carried in their pockets what was ne-
cessary for some days journey. In descending the
avenue of Coppet, in thus quitting that chateau
which had become to me like an old and valued
friend, I was ready to faint : my son took my hand,
and said, " My dear mother, think that you are set-
ting out for England."* That word revived my
spirits : I was still, however, at nearly two thousand
leagues distance from that goal, to which the usual
road would have so speedily conducted me ; but
every step brought me at least something nearer to
it. When I had proceeded a few leagues, 1 sent
back one of my servants to apprize my establish-

* England Was then the hope of all who suffered for the cause
of liberty ; how ccmes it, that after the victory, her ministers
have so cruelly deceived the expectation of Europe ? — (J^'ote by
the Editor.)

tEN years' exile. 173

ment that I should not return until the next day,
and I conthiued travelling night and day as far as a
farm-house beyond Berne, where I had fixed to
meet Mr. Schlegel, who was so good as to offer to
accompany me ; there also I had to leave my eldest
son, who had been educated, up to the age of four-
teen, by the example of my father, whose features
be reminds one of. A second time all my Courage
abandoned me ; that Switzerland, still so tranquil
and always so beautiful, her inhabitants, who know
how to be free by their virtues, even though they
have lost their political independence : the whole
country detained me : it seemed to tell me not to
quit it. It was still time to return : 1 had not yet
made an irreparable step. Although the prefect
had thougm proper to interdict me from travelling
in Switzerland, 1 saw clearly that it was only from
the fear of my going beyond it. Finally, I had
not yet crossed the barrier which left me no possi-
bility of returning ; the imagination feels a diffi-
culty in supporting this idea. On the other hand,
there was also something irreparable in the resolu-
tion of remaining ; for after that moment, I felt,
and the event has proved the feeling correct, that I
could no longer escape. Besides, there is an in-
describable sort of shame in recommencing such
solemn farewells, and one can scarcely resuscitate
for one''s friends more than once. I know not what
would have become of me, if this uncertainty, even
at the very moment of action, had lasted much
longer ; for my head was quite confused with it.
My children decided me, and especially my daugh-
ter, then scarcely fourteen years old. 1 commitled
jxijself, in a manner, to her, as if the voice of God


174 TEN years' exile.

had made itself be heard by the mouth of a child. "^
My son took his leave, ^and after he was out of my
sight, I could say, like Lord Russel : the hitter^
ness of death is past, I got into my carriage with
my daughter : uncertainty once terminated, I re-
collected all my strength within myself, and I found
sufficient of that for action which had altogether
failed me for deliberation.

« It was but a trifle to have succeeded in quitting Coppet, by
deceiving the vigilance of the prefect of Geneva ; it was also ne-
cessary to obtain passports for the purpose of going through Aus-
tria, and that these passports should be under a name which
would attract no attention from the different polices which then
divided Germany My mother entrusted me with this commis-
sion, and the emotion which I experienced from it Vv'ill never
cease to be present to my thoughts. It was undoubtedly a deci-
sive step ; if the passports v.-ere refused, my moliter sunk again
into a much more cruel situation ; her plans were Known ; flight
was thenceforward become impracticable, and the rigours of her
exile would liave every day been more intolerable, i thought I
eould not do better than to address myself directly to the Austri-
an minister, with that confidence in the feelings of his equals
which is the flrst movement of every honest man. M. de Schiaut
made no hesitation in granting me the so much desired passports,
and T hope he will allow me to express in this place the gratitude
^vhich I still retain to him for them. At a period when Europe
was still bending under the yoke of Napoleon, during which the
persecution directed against my mother estranged from her per-
sons who probably owed to her courageous friendship the preser-
vation of their fortunes, or their lives, I was not surprised, but I
was most sensibly affected by the generous proceeding of the Aus-
trian minister.

I left my mother to return to Coppet, to which the interests of
her fortune recalled me ; and some days afterwards, ray brother,
of whom a cruel death has deprived us almost at the moment of
entrance into his career, set oft' to rejom my raotlier at Vienna
with her servants and travelling carriage. It was only this second
departure which gave the bint \o the police of the prefect of the
Leraan : so true it is, that to the other qualities of espionnage xve
must stiii add stupidity. Fortunately my mother was aiready
<am(Beyond the reach of the ,e;endarmes, andslie could continue
♦ he journey of which the narrative follows. — (.Vo/e inj the Ediior.)

Passage through Austria ;— 1812.

In this manner, after ten years of continuall}?
increasing persecutions, first sent away from Paris,
then banished into Svviiaerland, afterward confined
to my own chateau, and at hist condemned to the
dreadful punishment of never seeing my friends,
and of being the cause of their banishment : in this
manner was I obliged to quit, as a fugitive, two
countries, France and Switzerland, by order of a
man less French than myself; for I was born on
the borders of that Seine where his tyranny alone
naturalized him. The air of this fine country is
not a native air to him : can he then comprehend
the pain of being banished from it, he who consi-
ders this fertile country only as the instrument of
his victories ? Where is his country ? it is the earth
which is subject to him. His fellow citizens ? they
are the slaves who obey his orders. He complain-
ed one day of not having had under his command,
like Tamerlane, nations to whom reasoning was un-
ksown. I imagine that by this time he is satisfied with
Europeans : their manners, like their armies, now
bear a softicient resemblance to those of Tartars.

1 had nothing to fear in Switzerland, as I could
always prove that I had a right to be there ; but to
leave it, I had only a foreign passport : 1 must go
through one of the confederated states, and if any
F'lench agent had required the government of
Bavaria to hinder me from passing, who does not
know with what regret, but at the same time, with

176 TEN tears' exile.

what obedience it would have executed the orders
thus received f I entered into the Tyrol with a
great respect for that country, which had fought
from attachment to its ancient masters, but with
a great contempt for such of the Austrian ministers
as had advised the abandonment of men compro-
mised by their attachment to their sovereign. It
is said that a subaltern diplomatist, head of the spy
department in Austria, thought proper one day,
during the war, to maintain at the emperor's table,
that the Tyrolese should be abandoned. M. de H.
a gentleiTiao of the Tyrol, counsellor of state in
the Austrian service, who in his actions and writings
has exhibited the courage of a warrior, and the
talents of an historian, replied to these unworthy
observations with the contempt they deserved : the
emperor signified his entire approbation to M. de H.
and showed by that at least that his private feelings
were strangers to the political conduct which he
was made to adopt. Thus it is that the greater
part of the European sovereigns, at the moment of
Bonaparte aiaking himself master of France, who
were ei^tremely upright persons as individuals, were
already becpme mere cyphers as kings, as the go-
vernment of their states was entirely committed to
clrcuMjstances and to their ministers.

The aspect of the Tyrol reminds one of Swit-
zerland : there is not, however, so much vigour and
originality in the landscape, nor have the villages
the same appearance of plenty; it is, in short, a
fine country, wiiich has been wisely governed, but
never been free; and it is only as a mountaineer
people, that it has shown itself capable of resistance.
Very few instances of remarkable men can be men-
tioned from the Tyrol : first, the Austrian govern-
ment is scarcely fit to develop genius ; and, be«

TEN years' exile. 177

sides, the T3'rol, by its manners as well as by its
geographical position, should have formed a part
of the Swiss confederation : its incorporation with
the Austrian monarchy not being conformable to
its nature^ it has only developed by that union
the noble qualities of mountaineers, courage and

The postilion who drove us, showed us a rock
on which the emperor Maximilian, grandfather of
Charles the Fifth, had nearly perished : the ardour
of the chace had stimulated him to such a degree,
that he had followed the chamois to heights from
which It was impossible to descend. This tradi-
tion is still popular in the country, so necessary to
nations is the admiration of the past. The memory
of the last war was still quite alive in the bosoms
of the people ; the peasants showed us the summits
of mountains on which they had entrenched them-
selves: their imagination delighted in retracing
the effect of their fine warlike music, when it echoed
from the tops of the hills into the valleys. When
we Were shown the palace of the prince-royal of
Bavaria, at Inspruck, they told us that Hofer, the
courageous peasant and head of the insurrection,
had lived there ; they gave us an instance of the
intrepidity shown by a female, when the French
entered into her chateau : in short, every thing
displayed in them the desire of being a nation,
much more than personal attachment to the house
of Austria.

In one of the churches at Inspruck is the famous
tomb of Maximilian. I went to see it, flattering
myself with the certainty of not being recognized
by any person, in a place remote from the capitals
where the French agents reside. The figure of
Maximilian in bronze, is kneeling upon a sarco-


i.78 t;es tEAias' exilit,

phagns. In the body of the church, and thirty sta-
tues of the same metal ranged on each side of the
sanctuary, represent the relations and ancestors of
the emperor. So much past grandeur, so much of
the ambition formidable in its day, collected in a
family meeting round a tomb, formed a spectacle
which led one to profound reflection : there you
saw Philip the Good, Charles the Rash, and Mary
of Burgundy; and in the midst of these historical
personages, Dietrich of Berne, a fabulous hero :
the closed visor concealed the countenances of the
knights, but when this visar was lifted up a brazen
countenance appeared under a helmet of brass, and
the features of the knight were of bronze, like his
armour. The visor of Dietrich of Berne, is the
only one which cannot be lifted up, the artist mean-
ing in that manner to signify the mysterious veil
which covers the history of this warrior*

From Inspruck I had to pass by Saltzburg,
from thence to reach the Austrian frontiers. It
seemed as if all my anxieties would be at an end,
when I was once entered on the territory of that
monarchy, which 1 had known so secure and so
good. "But the moment which 1 most dreaded was
the passage from Bavaria to Austria, for it was
there that a courier might have preceded me, to
forbid my being allowed to pass In spite of this
apprehension, 1 had not been very expeditious, for
my health, which had been seriously injured by all
1 had suffered, did not allow me to travel by night*
I have often lieit, during this journey, that the
greatest terror cannot overcome a sort of physical
depression, wlilch makes one dread fatigue more
than death. I flattered myself, however, with ar-
riving without any obstacle, and already my fear
was dissipated on approaching the objtct which I


thought secured, when on our entrance into the
inn at Saltzburg, a man came up to Mr. Schlegel
who accompanied me, and told him in German,
that a French courier had been to inquire after a
carriage coming from Inspruck with a lady and a
young girl, and that he had left word he would re-
turn to get intelligence of them. 1 lost not a word
of what the innkeeper mentioned, and became pale
with terror. Mr. Schlegel also was alarmed on my
account : he made some farther inquiries, all of
which made it certain that this was a French cou-
rier, that he came from Munich, that he had been
as far as the Austrian frontier to wait for me, and
not finding me there, that he had returned to meet
me. Nothing appeared more clear: this was just
what I had dreaded before my departure, and
during the journey, it was impossible for me now
to escape, as this courier, who, it was said, was
already at the post-house, would necessarily over-
take me. I determined on the spur of the moment
to leave my carriage, my daughter, and Mr. Schle-
gel at the inn, and to go alone and on foot into the
streets of the town, and take the chance of enter-
ing the first house whose master or mistress had a
physiognomy that pleased me. I would obtain of
them an asylum for a few days; during this time,
my daughter and Mr. Schlegel might say that they
were going to rejoin me in Austria, and 1 should
leave Salizburg afterwards in the disguise of a
country woman. Hazardous in the extreme as
this resource appeared, no other remainfd to me,
and I was preparnig for the task, in fear and
trembling, when who should enter my apartment
but this so much dreaded courier, who was no other
than Mr. Rocca. After having accompanied me
the first day of my journey, he returned to Geneva

TEN years' exile.

to terminate some business, and now came to re-
join me; he had passed huiKelf off as a French
courier, in order to take advaiitage of the terror
which the name inspires, particularly to the allies
of i iance, and to obtain horses more quickly. He
had taken the Munich road, and had hurried on as
far as the Austrian frontier, to make himself sure
that no one had preceded or announced me. He
returned to meet me, to tell me that I had nothing
to fear, and to get upon the box of my carriage as
we passed that frontier, which appeared to me the
most dreadful, but also the last of my dangers. In
this manner my cruel apprehension was changed
into a most pleasing sentiment of gratefulness and

We walked about the town of Saltzburg, which
contains many noble edifices, but Hke the greater
part oi the ecclesiastical principahties of Ger-
many, now presents a most dreary aspect. The
tranquil resources of shat kind of government
have terminated with it. The convents also were
preservers; one is struck with the number of es-
tablishments and edifices which have been erected
by bachelor masters in their residence; all these
peaceable sovereigns have benefited their people.
An archbishop of Saltzburg in the last century,
has cut a road which is prolonged for several hun-
dred paces under a mountain, like the grotto of
Pausilippo at Naples; on the front of the entrance
gate there is a bust of the archbishop, under which
is an inscription : Te saxa loquuntur, (The stones
speak of thee.) There is a d -gree of grandeur
in this'inscription.

I entered at last into that Austria, which, four
years before I had seen so happy ; already 1 was



Struck by a sensible change, produced by the de-
preciation of paper-money, and the variations of
every kind which the uncertainty of the financial
measures had introduced into its vaUie. Nothing
demoraUzes a people so much as these continual
fluctuations which make every man a broker, and
hold out to the working classes a means of getting
money by sharping, instead of by their labour,
I no longer found in the people the same probity
which had struck me four years before ; this pa-
per-money sets the imagination at work with the
hope of rapid and easy gains ; and the hazardous
chances overturn the gradual and certain exist-
ence which is the basis of the honesty of the mid-
dling classes. During my residence in Austria,
a man was banged for forging notes at the very
moment when the government had reduced the
value of the old ones ; he called out, on his way
to execution, that it was not he who had robbed,
but the state. And, in truth, it is impossible to
make the common people comprehend, that it is
just to punish them for having speculated in their
own affairs, in the same way as the government
had done in its own. But this government was
the ally of the French government, and doubly its
ally, as its monarch was the wery patient father-
in-law of a very terrible son-in-law. What re-
sources, therefore, could remain to him ? The
marriage of his daughter had been the means of
liberating him from two millions of contributions
at most ; the rest had been required with Ihe kind
of justice of which the other is so easily capa-
ble, and which consists in treating his friends and
his eneuiies alike ; from this proceeded the penury
of the treasury. Another misfortune also result-


182 TEN years' exile.

ed from the last war, and.e;^pecia]lj from the last
peace : the inutility of the generous feeling which
had illustrated the Austrian arras in the battles of
Essling and Wagrara, had cooled the national at-
tachment to the sovereign, which had fornnerly
been very strong. The same thing has happened
to all the sovereigns wl*o have treated with the
emperor Napoleon ; he has made use of them as
receivers to levy imposts on his account ; he has
forced them to squeeze their subjects to pay him
the taxes he deaianded ; and w^hen it has suited
him to dethrone these sovereigns, the people, pre-
viously alienated froiii them by the very wrongs
they had committed in obedience to the emperor,
have not raised an a^m to defend them against
him. The emperor Napoleon has the art of
making countries said to be at peace, so singu-
larly miserable, that ?ny change is agreeable to
them, and having beea once compelled to give
men and money to France, they scarcely feel the
inconvenience of being v/holly united to it. Tbey
are wrong, however, for any thing is better than
to lose the name of a nation, and as the miseries
of Europe are caused by one man, care should be
taken to preserve what m&y be restored when he
is no more.

Before I reached Vienna, as I waited fcr my se-
cond son, who was to rejoin uiq with my servants
and baggage, I shopped a day at Moik, that cele-
brated abbey, placed upon an eminence, from which
Napoleon had contemplated the various windings
of the Danube, and praised the beauty of the coun-
try upon which he was going to pounce with his
armies. He frequently amuses himself in this man-
ner in making poetical pieces on the beauties of

TEN years' exile. 183

nature, which he is about to ravage, and upon the
effects of war, with which he is going to overwhelm
mankind. After all, he is in the right to amuse
himself in all ways, at the expense of the human
race, which tolerates his existence. Man is only
arrested in the career of evil by obstacles or re-
morse ; no one has yet opposed to Napoleon the
one, and he has very easily rid himself of the other.
For me, who, solitary, followed his footsteps on the
terrace from which the country could be seen to a
great distance, I admired its fertility, and felt as-
tonished at seeing how soon the bounty of heaven
repairs the disasters occasioned by man. It is only
moral riches which disappear altogether, or are at
least lost for centuries.


Residence at Vienna.

I ARRIVED at Vienna on the 6th of June, very
fortunately just two hours before the departure of a
courier whom Count Slackelberg, the Russian am-
bassador, was despatching to Wilna, where the em-
peror Alexander then was. M. de Stackelberg,
who behaved to me with that noble delicacy which
is so prominent a trait in his character, wrote by
this courier for my passport, and assured me that
within three weeks I might reckon on having an
answer. It then became a question where I was
to pass these three weeks ; my Austrian friends, who
liad given me the most amiable reception, assured
me that 1 might remain at Vienna without the least
foar, The court v^as then at Dresden, at the great

184 ^^^ TEN years' exile#

meeting of all the German princes, who came to
present their honiage to the emperor of France.
Napoleon had stopped at Dresden under the pre-
text of still negociating there to avoid the war with
Russia, in other words, to obtain by his policy the
same result as he could by his arms. He would
not at first admit the king of Prussia to his banquet *
at Dresden; he knew too well what repugnance
the heart of that unfortunate monarch must have to
what he conceives himself obliged to do. It is said
that M. de Metternich obtained this humiliating
favour for him. M. de Hardenberg, who accompa-
nied him, made the remark to the emperor Napo-
leon, that Prussia had paid one third more than the
promised contributions. The emperor turning his
back to him, replied: "An apothecary's bill," —
for he has a secret pleasure in making use of vulgar
expressions, the more to humble those who are the
objects of it. He assumed a sufficient degree of
coquetry in his way of living with the emperor and
empress of Austria, as it was of importance to him
that the Austrian government should take an active
part in his war with Russia. In a conversation
with M. de Metternich, I have been assured that he
said, " You see very well that I can never have the
least interest in diminishing the power of Austria,
as it now exists ; for, first of all, it suits me that
my father-in-law should be a prince of great con-
sideration : besides, I have more confidence in the
old than in the new dynasties. Has not General
Bernadotte already taken the side of making peace
with England.^" And in fact, the Prince Royal
of Sweden, as will be seen in the sequel, had cou -
rageously declared himself for the interests of the
country which he governed.

The emperor of France having left Dresden to

TEN years' exile. 185

review bis armies, the empress went to spend some
time at Prague with her own family. Napoleon
himself, at his departure, regulated the etiquette
that was to subsist between the father and the
daughter, and one may conjecture that it was not
very easy, as he loves etiquette almost as much
from suspicion as from vanity ; in other words, as
a means of isolating individuals among themselves,
under the pretence of marking the distinction of
their ranks.

The first ten day?, which I passed ^t Vienna,
passed unclouded, and 1 was delighted at thus
finding myself again in a pleasing society, whose
manner of thinking corresponded with my own ;
for the public opinion was unfavourable to the al-
liance with Napoleon, and the government had
concluded it without being supported by the na-
tional assent. In fact, how could a war, the osten-
sible object of which was the re- establishment of

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Online LibraryMadame de (Anne-Louise-Germaine) StaëlTen years' exile; → online text (page 11 of 18)