Madame de (Anne-Louise-Germaine) Staël.

Ten years' exile; online

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to acquit her debt to one of her most illustrious
defenders. When Bonaparte caused Moreau to be
arrested, he said, " I might have made him come to
me> and have told him : Listen, you and I cannot
remain upon the same soil ; go therefore, as I am
the strongest ; and I believe he would have gone.
But these cliivalrous manners are puerile in public
matters." Bonaparte believes, and has had the art
to persuade several of the Machiavelian appren-
tices of the new generation, that every generous
feeling is mere childishness. It is high time to
teach {jim that virtue also has something manly in
it, and more manly than crime with all its auda-



Commencement of the Empire^

The motion to call Bonaparte to the empire
was made in the tribunate by a conventionalist, for-
merly a jacobin, supported by Jaubert, an advo-
cate and deputy from the naerchants of Bourdeaux,
and seconded by Simeon, a man of understand-
ing and good sense, who had been proscribed as
a royalist under the republic. It was Bonapartelfe
wish that the partisans of the old regime, and
these of the permanent interests of the nation,
should unite in choosing him. It was settled that
registers should be opened all over France, to
enable every one to express his wish regarding
the elevation of Bonaparte to the throne. But
without waiting for the result of this, prepared as
it was before-hand, he took the title of emperor
by a senatus consultum, and this unfortunate se-
nate had not even the strength to put constitu-'
tional limits to this new monarchy. A tribune,
whose name I wish I dared mention,* had the
honour to make a special motion for that purpose.
Bonaparte, in order to anticipate this idea, adroit-
ly sent for some of the senators, and told them,
'* I feel very much at thus being placed in front ;
i like my present situation much better. The
continuation of the republic is, however, no longer
possible J people are quite tired out with it •,. I

TfiN years' exile. 107

believe that the French wish for royalty. I had
at first thought of recalling the old Bourbons, but
that would have only ruined them, and myself.
It is my thorough conviction, that there must be
at last a man at the head of all this 5 perhaps,
however, it would be better to wait some time

longer I have made France a century

older in the last five years ; liberty, that is a good
civil code, and modern nations care little for any
thing but property. However, if you will believe
me, name a committee, organize the constitution,
and I tell you fairly," added he smiling, " take
precautions against my tyranny ; take them, be^"
lieve me." This apparent good nature seduced
the senators, who, to say the truth, desired nothing
better than to be seduced. One of them, a man
of letters, of some distinction, but one of those
philosophers who are always finding philanthro-
pic motives for being satisfied with power, said
to one of my friends, '' It is wonderful ! with what
simplicity the emperor allows himself to be told
every thing ! The other day I made him a dis-
course an hour long, to prove the absolute neces-
sity of founding the new dynasty on a charter
which should secure the rights of the nation."
And what reply did he make you ? was asked*
" He clapped me on the shoulder with the most
perfect good humour, and told me ; You are quite
right, my dear senator; but trust me, this is not
Ihe moment for it." And this senator, like many
others, was quite satisfied with having spoken,
though his opinion was not in the least degree
acted upon. The feelings of self-imporrance
have prodigiously, greater influence over the
French than those of character-*

i03» TEN years' exile.

Avery odd peculiarity in the French, and whicfa
Bonaparte has penetrated with great sagacity, is,
that they who are so ready to perceive what is
ridiculous in others, desire nothing better than to
render themselves ridiculous, as soon as their vanity
finds its account in it in some other way. Nothing
certainly presents a greater subject for pleasantry,
than the creation of an entirely new noblesse, such
as Bonaparte established for the support of his new
throne. The princesses and queens, citizenesses o£
the day before, could not themselves refrain from
laughing at hearing themselves styled, your majes^
ty. Others, more serious, delighted in having their
title of monseigneur repeated from morning to
night, like Moliere's City Gentleman. The old
archives were rumaged for the discovery of the
best documents on etiquette ; men of merit found a
grave occupation in making coats of armour for
the new/anjilies 5 finally, no day passed which did
not afford some scene worthy of the pen of Moliere ;
but the terror, which formed the back ground of
the picture, prevented the grotesque of the front
from being laughed at as it deserved to be. The
glory of the French generals illustrated all, and the
obsequious courtiers contrived to slide themselves
in, under the shadow of military men, who doubtless,
deserved the severe honours of a free slate, but not
the vain decorations of such a court. Valour and
gjenius descend from heaven, and whoever is gift-
ed with them has no need of other ancestors. The
distinctions which are accorded in republics or li-
mitcii monarchies ought 10 be the reward of services
rendered to the country, and every one may equally
pretend to them ; but nothing savours so much of
Tartar despotism as this crowd of honours em a-

TEN years' exile. 109

Mating from one man, and having his caprice foi»
their source.

Puns without end were darted against this no-
bility of yesterday 5 and a thousand expressions of
the new ladies were quoted, which presumed little
acquaintance with good manners. And certainly
there is nothing so difficult to learn, as the kind of
politeness which is neither ceremonious nor familiar:
it seems a trifle, but it requires a foundation in our-
selves ; for no one acquires it, if it is not inspired
by early habits or elevation of mind. Bonaparte
himself is embarrassed on occasions of representa-
tion ; and frequently in his own family, and evea
with foreigners, he seems to feel delighted in re-
turning to those vulgar actions and expressions
which remind him of his revolutionary youths
Bonaparte knew very well that the Parisians made
pleasantries on his new nobility ; but he knew also
that their opinions would only be expressed in vul-
gar jokes, and not in strong actions. The energy
of the oppressed went not beyond the equivoque of
a pun 5 and as in the East they have been reduced
to the apologue, in France they sunk still lower,
namely, to the clashing of syllables. A single in-
stance of a jew c?e mo/5 deserves, however, to sur-
vive the ephemeral success of such productions ;
one day as the princesses of the blood were an-
noujiced, some one added, of the hlood of Enghien^
And in truth, such was the baptism of this new dy-

Several of the old nobility who had been ruined
by the revolution, were not unwilling to accept em-
ployments at court. It is well known by what a
gross insult Bonaparte rewarded their complaisance.
'■ I proposed to give them rank in ray army, and

tlQ TEN years' exile.

the}^ declined it : I offered them places in the ad^
ministration, and they refused them ; but when I
epened my anti-chambers, they rushed into them
in crowds." They had no longer any asylum but
in his power. Several gentlemen, on this occasion,
set an example of the most noble resistance ; but
how many others have represented themselves as
menaced before they had the least reason for ap-
prehension ! and how many more have solicited
for themselves or their families, employments at
court, which all of them ought to have spurned at ^
The military or the administrative careers are the
only ones in which we can flatter ourselves with
being useful to our country, whoever may be the
chief who governs it; but employments at court
render you dependent on the man, and not on the

Registers were made to receive votes for the
empire, like those which had been opened for the
consulship for life ; even a-ll those who did not
sign, were, as in the former instance, reckoned as
voting for ; and the small number of individuals
who thought proper to write no, were dismissed
from their employments. M. de Lafayette, the
constant friend of liberty, again exhibited an in-
variable resistance ; he had the greater merit,
because already in this country of bravery, they
no longer knew how to estimate courage. It is
quite necessary to make this distinction, as we see
the divinity of fear reign in France over the most
intrepid warriors. Bonaparte would not even
subjecthimseK tothe law of hereditary monarchy,
but reserved the power of adopting and choosing
his successor in the manner of the East. As he
had. then no children, be wished not to give Ms

fEN tears' EXIIiE. lit

^wn family the least right ; and at the very mo-
ment of his elevating them to ranks to which as-
suredly they had no pretensions, he subjected them
to his will by profoundly combined decrees, whick
entwined the new thrones with chains.

The fourteenth of July was again celebrated
this year, (1804,) because it was said the empire
consecrated all the benefits of the revolution,
Bonaparte had said that storms had strengthen-
ed the roots of government ; he pretended that
the throne would guaranty liberty: he repeated
in all manner of ways, that Europe would be tran-
quillized by the re-establishment of monarchy in
the government of France. In fact, the whole of
Europe, with the exception of illustrious England,
recognized his new dignity : he was styled my
brother^ by the knights of*the ancient royal brother-
hood. We have seen in what manner he has re-
warded them for their fatal condescension. If he
had been sincerely desirous of peace, even old
King George himself, whose reign has been the
most glorious in the English annals, would have
been obliged to recognize him as his equal. But,
a very few days after his coronation, Bonaparte
pronounced some words which disclosed all his
purposes : ** People laugh at my new dynasty ; in
five years time it will be the oldest in all Europe."
And from that moment he has never ceased tend-
ing toward this end.

A pretext was required, to be always advancing,
and this pretext was the liberty of the seas. It
is quite incredible how easy it is to make the most
intelligent people on earth swallow any nonsense
for gospel. It is still one of those contrasts which
-would be altogether inexplicable, if unhappy


France had not been stripped of religion and mo-
rality bj a fatal concurrence of bad principles and
unfortunate events. Without religion no man is
capable of any sacrifice, and as without morality
no one speaks the truth, public opinion is inces-
santly led astray. It follows, therefore, as we
have already said, that there is no courage of
conscience, even when that of honour exists : and
that with admirable intelligence in the execution,
no one even asks himself, what all this is to lead

At the time that Bonaparte formed the resolu-
tion to overturn the thrones of the Continent, the
sovereigns who occupied them were all of them
very honourable persons. The political and mi-
litary genius of the world was extinct, but the
people were happy ; although the principles of
free constitutions were not admitted into the ge-
nerality of states, the philosophical ideas which
had for fifty years been spreading over Europe,
had at least the merit of preserving from intole-
rance, and mollifying the reign of despotism.
Catherine II. and Frederic IL both cultivated the
esteem of the French authors, and these two
monarchs, whose genius might have subjected the
world, lived in presence of the opinion of enlight-
ened men, and sought to captivate it. The na-
tural bent of men's minds was directed to the
enjoyment and application of liberal ideas, and
there was scarcely an individual who suffered
either in his person or in his property. The
friends of liberty were undoubtedly in the right,
in discovering that it was necessary to give the
faculties an opportunity of developing themselves;
that it was not just that a whole people should

TEN years' exile. 113

depend on one man ; and that a national repre-
sentation afforded the only means of guarantying
the transitory benefits that might be derived from
the reign of a virtuous sovereign. But what
came Bonaparte to offer ? Did he bring a greater
liberty to foreign nations ? There was not a mo-
narch in Europe who would in a whole year have
committed the acts of arbitrary insolence which
signalized every day of his life. He came solely
to make them exchange their tranquillity, their
independence, their language, their laws, their
fortunes, their blood, and their children, for the
misfortune and the shame of being annihilated as
nations, and despised as men. He began finally
that enterprize of universal monarchy, which is
the greatest scourge by which mankind can be
menaced, and the certain cause of eternal 'war.

None of the arts of peace at all suit Bonaparte:
he finds no amusement but in the violent crises
produced by battles. He has known how to make
truces, but he has never said sincerely, enough;
and his character, irreconcilable with the rest of
the creation, is like the Greek fire, which no
strength in nature has been known to extinguish.




There is at this place in the manuscript
a considerable vacuum, of which I have al-
ready given an explanation,* and vrhich I am
not sufficiently informed to make the attempt
to fill up. But to put the reader in a situa-
tion to follow my mother's narrative, I will
run over rapidly the principal circumstances
of her life during the fivG years which sepa-
rate the first part of these memoirs from the

On her return to Switzerland after the
death of her father, the first desire she felt
was to seek some alleviation of her sorrow
in giving to the world the portrait of him
whom she had just lost, and in collecting the
last traces of his thoughts. In the Autumn
of 1804, she published the MSS, of her fa-

* See the Preface.


tber, with a sketch of his public and private

My mother's health, impaired by misfor-
tune, necessitated her to go and breathe the
air of the South. She set out for Italy. The
beautiful sky of Naples, the recollections of
antiquity, and the chefs d'osuvre of art, open-
ed to her new sources of enjoyment, to which
she had been hitherto a stranger; her soul,
overwhelmed with grief, seemed to revive
to these ne^ impressions, and she recovered
sufficient strength to think and to write.
During this journey,' she was treated by
the diplomatic agents of France without
favour, but without injustice. She w^as
interdicted a residence at Paris: she was
banished from her friends and her habits;
but tyranny had not, at least at that time,
pursued her beyond the Alps; persecution
had not as yet been established as a system,
as it was afterwards. I even feel a real plea-
sure in mentioning that some letters of re-
commendation sent her by Joseph Bonaparte,
contributed to render her residence at Rome
more agreeable.

She returned from Italy in the summer of
1805, and passed a year at Coppet and Ge-^


neva, where several of her friends were col-
lected. During this period she began to
write Confine.

During the following year, her attachment
to France, that feeling which had so much
power over her heart, made her quit Geneva
and go nearer to Paris, to the distance of
forty leagues from it, which was still permit-
ted to her. I was then pursuing my studies,
preparatory to entering into the Polytechnic
school ; and from her great goodness to her
children, she wished to watch over their edu-
cation, as near as her exile could allow her.
She went in consequence to settle at Auxerre, a
little town where she had no acquaintance, but
of which the prefect, M. de la Bergerie, be-
haved to her with great kindness and deli-

From Auxerre she went to Rouen: this

was approaching some leagues nearer the

centre to which all the recollections and all

the affections of her youth attracted her.

There she could at least receive letters daily

from Paris ; she had penetrated without any

obstacle the inclosure, entrance into which

had been forbidden to her ; she might hope


1 1 8 ABtEnTlSEBfENT'

that the fatal circle would progressively be
contracted. Those only who have suffered
banishment will be able to understand what
passed in her heart. M. Savoie-Rollin was
then prefect of the Lower Seine ; it is well
known by what glaring injustice he was re-
moved some years afterwards, and I have
reason to believe that his friendship for my
mother, and the interest which he showed
for her during her residence at Rouen, were
no slight causes of the rigour of which he be-
came the object.

Fouche was still minister of police. His
system was, as my mother has said, to do as
little evil as possible, the necessity of the ob-
ject admitted. The Prussian monarchy had
just fallen ; there was no longer any enemy
upon the Continent to struggle with the go-
vernment of Napoleon ; no internal resistance
shackled his progress, or could aiford the
least pretext for the employment of arbitrary
measures ; what motive, therefore, could he
have for prolonging the most gratuitous per-
secution of my mother? Fouche then per-
mitted her to come and settle at the distance
of twelve leagues from Paris, upon an estate


belonging to M. de Castellane.There she finish-
ed Corinne, and superintended the printing of
it. In other respects, the retired life she
there led, the extreme prudence of her whole
conduct, and the very small number of persons
who were not prevented by the fear of disgrace
from coming to visit her, might have been
sufficient to tranquilize the most suspicious
despotism. But all this did not satisfy Bo-
naparte ; he wanted my mother to renounce
entirely the employment of her talents, ami to
interdict her from writing even upon subjects
the most unconnected with politics. It will
be seen that even at a later period this abne-
gation was not sufficient to preserve her
from a continually increasing persecution.

Scarcely had Corinne made her appear-
ance, when a new exile commenced for my
mother, and she saw all the hopes vanish,
with which she had for some months been
consoling herself. By a fatality which ren-
dered her grief more pungent, it was on the
9th of April, the anniversary of her father's
death, that the order which again banished
her from her country, and her friends, was
signified to her. She returned to Coppet,


with a bleeding heart, and the prodigious
success of Corinne afforded very little diver-
sion to her sorrow.

Friendship, however, succeeded in accom-
plishing what literary glory had failed to do ;
and, thanks to the proofs of affection which
she received on her return to Switzerland,
the summer passed more agreeably than she
could have hoped. Several of her friends
left Paris to come to see her, and Prince
Augustus of Prussia, to whom peace had re-
stored his liberty, did us the honour to stop
several months at Coppet, prior to his return
to his native country.

Ever since her journey to Berlin, which
had been so cruelly interrupted by the death
of her father, my mother had regularly con-
tinued the study of the German literature
and philosophy ; but a new residence in Ger-
many was necessary to enable her to com-
plete the picture of that country, which she
proposed to present to France. In the au-
tumn of 1 807, she set out for Vienna, and
she there once more found, in the society of
the Prince de Ligne, of Princess Lubomirski
&c. Sic. that urbanity of manners and ease of


conversation, which had such charms in her
ejes. The Austrian government, exhausted
bj the war, had not then the strength to be
an oppressor on its own account, and, not-
withstanding, preserved toward France an
attitude which was not without dignity and
independence. The objects of Napoleon's
hatred might still find an asylum at Vienna ;
the year she passed in that city was, therefore,
the most tranquil one she had enjoyed since
the commencement of her exile.

On her return to Switzerland, where she
spent two years in writing her reflections on
Germany, she was not long in perceiving the
progress which the imperial tyranny was
every day making, and the contagious rapid-
ity with which the passion for places, and the
fear of disgrace, were spreading. No doubt
several friends, both at Geneva and in France,
preserved to her during her misfortunes a
courageous and unshaken fidelity ; hut, who-
ever had any connection with the government,
or aspired to any employment, began to keep
at a distance from her house, and to dissuade
timid people from approaching it. My mo-
ther suffered a great deal from ail these symp-


toms of servitude, which she detected with
incomparable sagacity ; but the more unhap-
py she was, the more she felt the desire
of diverting from the persons w^ho were
about her, the miseries of her situation, and
of diffusing around her that life and intellec-
tual movement, which solitude seemed to ex-

Her talent for declamation was the means
of amusement which had the greatest influ-
ence over herself, at the same time that it
varied the pleasures of her society. It was
at this period,and while she was still labouring
on her great work on Germany, that she
composed and played at Coppet, the greater
part of the little pieces which are collected
in the 16th volume of her works,* under the
title of Dramatic Essays*

Finally, at the beginning of summer, 1810,
having finished the three volumes of Germa-
ny, she wished to go and superintend the
printing of them, at 40 leagues distance from
Paris, a distance which was still permitted
to her, and where she might hope to see

* Or the Second Volume of her (Euvres incdiies.


again those of her old friends, whose affec-
tions had not bent before the disgrace of the

She went, therefore, to reside in the neigh-
bourhood of Blois, in the old castle of Chau-
mont-sur- Loire, which had in former times
been inhabited by the Cardinal d' Amboise,
Diana of Poitiers, and Catherine de Medicis.
The present proprietor of this romantic resi-
dence, M. Le Ray, with whom my parents
were connected by the ties of friendship and
business, was then in America. But just at
the time we were occupying his chateau, he
returned from the United States with his
family, and though he was very urgent in
wishing us to remain in his house, the more
he pressed us politely to do so, the more anx-
iety we felt, lest we should incommode him.
M. de Salaberry relieved us from embarrass-
ment with the greatest kindness, by placing at
our disposal his house at Fosse. At this period
my mother's narrative recommences.




Suppression of my Work on Germany* — Banish^'
mentfrom France,

Being unable to remain longer in the castle of
Chaumont, the proprietors of vyhi; h had returned
froH] America, I went and fixed myself at a farm
called Fosse, which a generous friend lent me.*
The house was inhabited by a Vendean soluier,
who certainly did not keep it in the nicest order,
but who had a loyal good nature that made every
thing easy, and an originality of character that
was very amusing. Scarcely had we arrived,
when an ItaHan musician, whom I had with me
to give lessons to my daughter, began playing
upon the guitar; my daughter accompanied upon
the harp the sweet voice of my beautiful friend
Madame Recamier; the peasants collected round
the windows, astonished to see this colony of trou-
badoursj which had come to enliven the solitude of
their master. It was there I passed my last days
in France, with some friends, whose recollection
lives in my heart. Certainly this intimate assem-
blage, this solitary residence, this agreeable occu-

* M. de Salaberry.

126 TEN years' exile*

pation with the fine arts did no harm to any one.
We frequently sung a charming air composed by
the Queen of Holland, and of which the burden is:
Do zohat you ought, happen what may* After din-
ner, we had imagined the idea of seating ourselves
round a green table, and writing letters to each
other, instead of conversing. These varied and

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Online LibraryMadame de (Anne-Louise-Germaine) StaëlTen years' exile; → online text (page 7 of 18)