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TEN tears' exile. 73

Bonaparte, in which I described with perfect truth
the extent of my unhappiness. A retreat at ten
leagues distance from Paris, was the sole object of
my ambition, and I felt despairingly, that if I was
once banished, it would be for a great length of
time, perhaps for ever. Joseph and his brother
Lucien generously used all their eiforts to save
me, and they were not the only ones, as will pre-
sently be seen.

Madame Recamier, so celebrated for her beauty,
and whose character is even expressed in her beau-
ty, proposed to me to come and live at her country
seat at St. Brice, at two leagues from Paris. I
accepted her offer, for I had no idea that I could
thereby injure a person so much a stranger to po-
litical affairs ; I believed her protected against
every thing, notwithstanding the generosity of her
character. I found collected there a most delight-
ful society, and there I enjoyed for the last time, all
that I was about to quit. It was during this stormy
period of my existence, that I received the speecli
of Mr. Mackintosh; there I read those pages,
where he gives us a portrait of a jacobin, who had
made himself an object of terror during the revo-
lution to children, women, and old men, and who is
now bending himself double under the rod of the
Corsican, who ravishes from him, even to the last
atom of that liberty, for Vv hich he pretended to have
taken arms. This morceau of the finest eloquence
touched me to my very soul ; it is the privilege of
superior writers sometimes, unwittingly, to solace
the unfortunate in all countries, and at all times.
France was in a state of such complete silence
around me, that this voice which suddenly re-'
spoqded to my soul, seemed to me to come down



T4 TEN years' EXiLE.

from heaven ; it came fi-om a land of liber'ty. After
having passed a few days with Madame Recamier,
without hearing my banishment at ail spoken of, I
persuaded myself that Bonaparte had renounced it.
Nothing is more common than to tranquilize our-
selves against a threatened danger, when we see
no symptoms of it around us. I felt so little dis-
position to enter into any hostile plan or action
against this man, that I thought it impossible for
him not to leave me in peace ; and after some days
longer^ I returned to my own country seat, satisfied
that he had adjourned his resolution against me,
and was contented with having frightened me. In
•truth I had been sufficiently so, not to make me
change my opinion, or oblige me to . deny it, but
to repress completely that remnant of republican
habit which had led me the year before to speak
with too much openness.

I was at table with three of my friends, in a
room which commanded a view of the high roadj
and the entrance gate; it ^vas now the end of
September. At four o'clock, a man in a brown
coat, on horseback, stops at the gate and rings : I
was then certain of my fate. He asked for me,
and I went to receive him in the garden. In
walking toward him, the perfume of the flowers,
and the beauty of the sun particularly struck me.
Flow different are the sensations which affect us
from the combinations of society, from those of
nature ! This man informed me, that he was the
commandant of the gendarmerie of Versailles;
but that his orders were to go out of uniform ^ that
he might not alarm me; he showed me a letter
signed by Bonaparte, which contained the order
to banish me to forty leagues distance from Paris,



TEN years' exile, 75

with an injunction to make me depart within four
and twenty hours ; at the same time to treat me
with all the respect due to a lady of distinction.
He pretended to consider me as a foreigner, and
as such, subject to the police: this respect for in-
dividual liberty did not last long, as very soon
afterwards, other Frenchmen and Frenchwomen
were banished without any form of trial. I told
the gendarme officer, that to depart within twenty-
four hours, might be convenient to conscripts, but
not to a woman and children, and in consequence,
I proposed to him to accompany me to Paris,
where 1 had occasion to pass three days to make
the necessary arrangements for my journey. I
got into my carriage with my children and this
officer, who had been selected for this occasion,
as the most literary of the gendarmes. In truth,
he began complimenting me upon my writings.
•' You see,'' said I to him, " the consequences of
being a woman of intellect, and I would recom-
mend you, if there is occasion, to dissuade any
females of your family from attempting it.'' I en-
deavoured to keep up my spirits by boldness, but
1 felt the barb in my heart.

I stopt for a few minutes at Madame Reca-
mier's ; I found there General Junot, who, from
regard to her, promised to go next morning to
speak to the first consul in my behalf; and he
certainly did so with the greatest warmth. One
would have thought, that a man so useful from his
military ardor to the power of Bonaparte, would
have had influence enough with him, to make hira
spare a female ; but the generals of Bonaparte,
even when obtaining numberless favours for them-
selves, have no influence with him. When they



76 TEN years' exile.

ask for money or places, Bonaparte finds that in
character; they are in a manner then in his power,
as they place themselves in his dependance; but
if, what rarely happens to them, they should think
of defending an unfortunate person, or opposing
an act of injustice, he would make them feel very
quickly, that I hey are only arms employed to sup-
port slavery, by submitting to it themselves.

I got to Paris to a house I had recently hired,
but not yet inhabited; I had selected it with care
in the quarter and exposition which pleased me ;
and bad already in imagination set myself down
in the drawing room with some friends, whose
conversation is, in my opinion, the greatest plea-
sure the human mind can enjoy. Now, I only en-
tered this house with the certainty of quitting it,
and I passed whole nights in traversing the apart-
ments, in which I regretted the deprivation of siill
more happiness than I could have hoped for in it.
My gendarme returned every morning, like the
man in Blue-beard, to press me to set out on the
following day, and every day I was weak enough
to ask for one more day. My friends came to dine
with me, and sometimes we were gay, as if to
drain the cup of sorrow, in exhibiting ourselves
in the most amiable light to each other, at the mo-
ment of separating perhaps for ever. They told
me that this man, who came every day to summon
me to depart, reminded them of those times of
terror, when the gendarmes came to summon
their victims to the scalTold.

Some persons may perhaps be surprized at my
comparing exile to death; but there have been
great men, both in ancient and modern limes, who
have sunk under (his punishment. We meet with



TEN years' exile.



more persons brave against the scaffold, tlian
against the loss of country. In all codes of law,
perpetual banishment is regarded as one of the
severest punishments; and the caprice of one man
inflicts in France, as an amusement, what consci-
entious judges only condemn criminals to with re-
gret. Private circumstances offered me an asylum,
and resources of fortune, in Switzerland, the
country of my parents; in those respects, I was
less to be pitied than many others, and yet I have
suffered cruelly. I consider it^ therefore, to be
doing a service to the world, to signalize the rea-
sons, why no sovereign should ever be allowed to
possess the arbitrary power of banishment. No
deputy, no writer, will ever express his thoughts
freely, if he can be banished when his frankness
has displeased; no man will dare to speak with
sincerity, if the happiness of his whole family is to
suffer for it. Women particularly, who are desti-
ned to be the support and reward of enthusiasm,
will endeavour to stifle generous feelings in them-
selves, if they find that the result of their expres-
sion will be, either to have themselves torn from
the objects of their affection, or their own exist-
ence sacrificed, by accompanying them in their
exile.

On the eve of the last day which was granted
me, Joseph Bonaparte made one more effort in
my favour; and his wife, who is a lady of the most
perfect sweetness and simplicity, had the kindness
to come and propose to me to pass a few days at
her country seat at Morfontaine. I accepted her
invitation most gratefully, for I could not but feel
sensibly affected at the goodness of Joseph, who
received me in his own house, at the very time I

8



78 TEN years' exile.

was the object of his brother's persecution. I
passed three days there, and notwithstanding the
perfect politeness of the master and mistress of the
house, felt my situation very painfully. I saw
only men connected with the government, and
breathed only the air of that authority which had
declared itself my enemy; and yet the simplest
rules of politeness and gratitude forbade me from
showing what I felt. 1 had only my eldest son
with me, who was then too young for me to con-
verse with him on such subjects. I passed whole
hours in examining the gardens of Morfontaine,
among the finest that could be seen in France, and
the possessor of which, then tranquil, appeared
to me really an object of envy. He has been since
exiled upon thrones, where I am sure he has often
regretted his beautiful retreat.



CHAPTER XII.

Departure for Germayiy, — Arrival at Weimar,

I HESITATED about the course I was to adopt
on quitting France. Should I return to my father,
or should I go into Germany? My father would
have welcomed his poor bird, ruffled by the storm,
with ineffable goodness; but I dreaded the disgust
of returning, sent back in this manner, to a coun-
try which I was accused of finding rather monoto-
nous. I was also desirous of exhibiting myseif,
hy the kind reception which I had been promised
in Germany, superior to the outrage I had receiv-
ed from (he first consul; and of placing in public
contrast the kind reception of the ancient dynas-
ties, with the rude impertinence of that which
was preparing to subjugate France. This move-
ment of self love triumphed, for my misfortune; [
should have again seen my father, if 1 had return-
ed to Geneva.

I requested Joseph to ascertain if I might go
into Prussia, for it was necessary for me to be at
least certain, that the French ambassador would
not reclaim me abroad as a Frenchwoman, while
in France I was proscribed as a foreigner. Jo-
seph went in consequence to St. Cloud, I was
obliged to wait his answer at a public house, at
two leagues from Paris, not daring to return to
my own house in the cily. A whole day passed
before this answer reached me. Not wi:^hing to
attract notice by remaining longer at the house



TEN years' exile.



where I was, I made a lour of the walls of Paris
in search of another, at the same distance of two
leagues, but on a different road. This wander-
ing life, at a few steps from my friends and my
own residence, occasioned me such painful sen-
sations as I cannot recollect without|shuddering.
The room is still present to n^e ; the window
where I passed the whole day, looking out for
the messenger, a thousand painful details, which
misfortune always draws after it, the extreme
generosity of sorme friends, the veiled calculations
of others, altogether put my mind in such a cruel
fetale of agitation, as I could not wish to my
greatest enemy. At last this message, on which
1 still placed some hopes, arrived. Joseph sent
me some excellent letters of recommendation
for Berlin, and bid me adieu in a most noble and
touching manner. I was obliged, therefore, to
depart. Benjamin Constant was good enough
to accompany me ; but as he also was very fond
of Paris, I felt exlremely for the sacrifice he
made me. Every step the horses advanced made
rne ill, and when the postillions boasted of having
driven me quickly, I could not help sighing at
the disagreeable service they were rendering me.
In this way I travelled forty leagues without
being able to regain my self-possession. At last
we stopped at Chalons, and Benjamin Constant,
rallying his spirits, relieved by his wonderful
powers of conversation, at least for some mo-
ments, the weight which oppressed me. Next
day we continued our route as far as Metz, where
I wished to stop to wait for news from my father.
There I passed fifteen days, and met one of the
most amiable and intelligent men whom France



TEN years' exile. 3

and Germany combined could produce, M.
Charles Villers. I was delighted with his so-
ciety, but it renewed my regret for that first of
pleasures, a conversation, in which there reigns
the most perfect harmony in all that is felt, with
all that is expressed.

My father was extremely indignant at the
treatment I had received at Paris ; he considered
that his family were in this manner proscribed,
and driven as criminals out of that country
which he had so faithfully served. He recom-
mended me to pass the winter in Germany, and
not to return to him until the spring. Alas!
alas ! I calculated on then carrying back td him
the harvest of new ideas which I was going to
collect in this journey. For several years pre-
ceding he was frequently telling me that my let-
ters and conversation were all that kept up his
connection with the world. His mind had so
much vivacity and penetraiion, that one was ex-
cited to think by the pleasure of talking to him.
I made observations to report tohim,— Ilistened,
to repeat to him. Ever since I have lost him, 1
see and feel only half what I did, when I had the
object in view of giving him pleasure by the
picture of my impressions.

At Frankfort, my daughter, then five years old,
fell dangerously ill. I knew nobody in that city,
and was entirely ignorant of the language; even
the physician to whose care I entrusted my child
scarcely spoke a word of French. Oh ! how
much my father shared with me in all my trouble !
what letters he wrote me ! what a number of con-
sultations of physicians, all copied with his own
hand, he sent me from Geneva ! Never were

8*



82^ TEN years' exile.

the harmony of sensibility and reason carried
further ; never was there any one like him, pos-
sessed of such lively emotion for the sufferings
of his friends, always active in assisting them,
always prudent in the choice of the means of
being so ; in short, admirable in every thing. My
heart absolutely requires this declaration, for
what is now to him even the voice of posterity !

I arrived at Weimar, where I resumed my cou«
rage, on seeing, through the difficulties of the
language, the immense intellectual riches which
existed out of France. I learned to read Ger-
man ; I listened attentively to Goethe and Wieland,
who, fortunately for me, spoke French extremely-
well. I comprehended the mind and genius of
Schiller, in spite of the difficulty he felt in express-
ing himself in a foreign language. The society
of the duke and duchess of Weimar pleased me
exceedingly, and I passed three months there^
during which the study of German literature gave
all the occupation to my mind which it requires
to prevent me from being devoured by my own
feelings^



CHAPTER XIIL

Berlin, — Prince Louis-Ferdinand,

I LEFT Weimar for Berlin, and there I saw that
charming queen, since destined to so many mis-
fortunes. The king received me with great kind-
ness, and I may say that during the six weeks I
remained in that city, I never heard an individual
who did not speak in praise of the justice of his
government. This, however, does not prevent
me from thinking it always desirable for a country
to possess constitutional forms, to guaranty to it,
by the permanent co-operation of the nation, the
advantages it derives from the virtues of a good
king. Prussia, under the reign of its present mo-
narch, no doubt possessed the greater part of these
advantages ; but the public spirit which misfor-
tune has developed in it did not then exist ; the
military regime had prevented public opinion from
acquiring strength, and the absence of a consti-
tution, in which every individual could make him-
self known by his merit, had left the stale unpro-
vided with men of talent, capable of defending it.
The favour of a king, being necessarily arbitrary,
cannot be sufficient to excite emulation ; circum«
stances which are peculiar to the interior of
courts, may keep a man of great merit from the
helm of affairs, or place there a very ordinary
person. Routine, likewise, is singularly power-
ful in countries where the regal power has no one
to contradict it ; even the justice of a king leads



84 TEN years' exile.

him to place barriers around him, by keeping
every one in his place ; and it was almost with-
out example in Prussia, to find a man deprived
of his civil or military employments on account of
incapacity. What an advantage, therefore, ought
not the French army to have, composed almost
entirely of men born of the revolution, like the
soldiers of Cadmus from the teeth of the dragon!
What an advantage it had over those old com-
manders of the Prussian fortified places and ar-
mies, to whom every thing that was new was en-
tirely unknown ! A conscientious monarch who
has not the happiness — and I use the word design-
edly — the happiness to have a parliament as in
England, makes a habit of every thing, in order
to avoid making too much use of his own will :
and in the present times we must abandon ancient
usages, and look for strength of character and un-
derstanding, wherever they can be found. Be
that as it may, Berlin was one of the happiest and
most enlij^htened cities in the world.

The writers of the eighteenth century were cer-
tainly productive of infinite good to Europe, by
the spirit of moderation, and the taste for litera-
ture, with which their works inspired the greater
part of the sovereigns ; it must be admitted, how-
ever, that the respect which the friends of know-
ledge paid to French intellect has been one of the
causes which has rumed Germany forsuch a length
of time. Many people regarded the French ar-
mien as the propagators of the ideas of Montes-
quieu, Rousseau, and Voltaire ; while Ihe fact
was, that if any traces of the opinions of these
great men remained in the instruments of the
power of Bonaparte, it was only to liberate them



TEN years' exile* 8d

from what they called prejudices, and not to es-
tablish a single regenerating principle. But there
were at Berlin, and in the North of Germany, at
the period of the spring of 1804, a great many
old partizans of the French revolution, who had
not yet discovered that Bonaparte , was a much
nnore bitter enemy of the first principles of that
revolution, than the ancient European aristo-
cracy.

I had the honour to form an acquaintance with
Prince Louis-Ferdinand, the same whose warlike
ardor so transported him, that his death was almost
the precursor of the first reverses of his country.
He was a man full of ardor and enthusiasm, but
who, for want of glory, cultivated too much the
emotions which agitate life. What particularly
irritated him against Bonaparte, was bis practice
of calumniating all the persons he dreaded, and
even of degrading in public opinion those whom
he employed, in order, at all risks, to keep then*
more strongly dependent on him. Prince Louis
said to me frequently, " 1 will allow him to kill,
but, moral assassination is what revolts me." And
in truth let us only consider the state in which we
have seen ourselves placed, since this great libeller
became master of all the newspapers of the Euro-
pean continent, and could, as he has frequently
done, pronounce the bravest men to be cowards,
and the most irreproachable women to be subjects
of contempt, without our having any means of con-
tradicting or punishing such assertions.



CHAPTER XIT.

Conspiracy of Moreau and Pichegnu

The news had just arrived at Berlin of the great
conspiracy of Moreau, ofPicliegru, and of George
Cadoudal. There was certainly among the prin-
cipal heads of the republican and royalist parties a
strong desire to overturn the authority of the first
consul, and to oppose themselves to the still more
tyrannical authority which he resolved to establish
on making himself be declared emperor : but it has
been said, and perhaps not without foundation,
that this conspiracy, which has so well served Bo-
naparte's tyranny, was encouraged by himself, from
his wish to take advantage of it, with aMachiave-
lian art, of which it is of consequence to observe all
the springs. He sent an exiled jacobin into Eng-
land, who could only obtain his return to France
by services to be performed for the first consul.
This man presented himself, like Sinon in the city
of Troy, describing himself as persecuted by the
Greeks. He saw several emigrants who had nei-
ther the vices nor the faculties necessary to detect
a certain kind of villany. He found it therefore
a matter of great ease to entrap an old bishop, an
old officer, in short some of the wrecks of a govern-
ment, under which it was scarcely known what fac-
tions were. In the sequel he vvrole a pamphlet in
which he mystified, with a great deal of wit, all who
had believed him, and who in truth ought to have
made up what they wanted in sagacity by firmness



TEN years' exile. 87

of principle 5 that is to say, never to place the least
confidence in a man capable of bad actions. We
have all our own way at looking at things; but
from the moment that a person has shown himself
to be treacherous or cruel, God alone can pardon,
for it belongs to him only to read the human heart
sufficiently to know if it is changed; man ought to
keep himself for ever at a distance from the person
who has lost his esteem. This disguised agent of
Bonaparte pretended that the elements of revolt
existed in France to a great extent ; he went to
Munich to find an English envoy, Mr. Drake,
whom he also contrived to deceive. A citizen of
Great Britain ought to have kept clear of this web
of artifice, composed of the crossed threads of ja-
cobinism and tyranny.

George and Pichegru, who were entirely de«
voted to the Bourbon party, came into France
secretly, and concerted with Moreau, whose wish
wag to rid France of the first consul, but not to
deprive the French nation of its right to choose
that form of government by which it desired to
be ruled. Pichegru wished to have a conversa-
tion with General Bernadotte, who refused it,
being dissatisfied with the manner in which the
enterprise was conducted, and desiring first of all,
to have a guarantee for the constitutional freedom
of France. Moreau, whose moral character is
most excellent, whose military talent is unques-
tionable, and whose understanding is just and en-
lightened allowed himself in conversation to go
too great lengths in blaming the first consul, be-
fore he could be at all certain of overthrowing
him. It is a defect very natural to a generous
mind to express its opinion, even inconsiderately:



88 TEN years' exile.

but General Moreau attracted too much the no-
tice of Bonaparte not to make such conduct the
cause of his destruction. A pretext was wanting
to justify the arrest of a man who had gained so
many battles, and this pretext was found in his
conversation, if it could not be in his actions.

Republican forms were still in existence ; peo-
ple called each other citizen, whilst the most ter-
rible inequality, that which liberates some from
the yoke of the law, while others are under the
dominion of despotism, reigned over all France.
The days of the week were still reckoned ac-
cording to the republican calendar ; boasts were
made of being at peace with the whole of con-
tinental Europe ; reports were (as they still con-
tinue to be) continually presenting upon the
making of roads and canals, the building of
bridges and fountains; the benefits of the govern-
ment were extolled to the skies ; in short, there
was not the least apparent reason for endeavour-
ing to change a state of things with which the
nation was said to be so perfectly satisfied. A
plot, therefore, in which the English, and the
Bourbons, should be named, was a most desirable
event to the government, in order to stir up once
more the revolutionary elements of the nation,
and to turn those elements to the establishment
of an ultra monarchical power, under the pretence
of preventing the return of the ancient regime.
The secret of this combination, which appears
very complicated, is in fact very simple; it w^as


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Online LibraryMadame de (Anne-Louise-Germaine) StaëlTen years' exile; → online text (page 5 of 18)