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be considered in any other light than as a trifling obstacle, which interrupted the smoothness of the ground? The pebbles were thrown aside, that the surface might be level over which the victorious chariot-wheels were to pass. Bonaparte had conversed personally with Madame de Staël, and was aware that her general ideas were unfavorable to his views; that her house was a rallying point for the disaffected ; and that the discussions which took place there tended to preserve that love of liberty which it was his object to extinguish. She speaks neither of politics, nor of me, as they affirm,' said he,-"yet I know not how it happens,—those who have seen her, always like me less."
To understand the wounded feeling which Madame de Staël carried with her into exile, it is necessary to consider her love of France and of French society, and the numerous and devoted friends, by whom she was there surrounded. Above all, we must recollect that Paris was at that period the theatre of events, which held the world in breathless suspense,
-even those who could not chime in with the patriotic sentiment, Hors Paris, point de salut.
In 1803, Madame de Staël paid her first visit to Germany. Here she found her literary reputation established. Men of genius hailed her arrival with transport, and sovereigns disputed the honor of her society.
It has been observed, by one well acquainted with Madame de Staël, that though fully aware of her own talents, no one was more ready to do homage to genius which she considered as superior to her own. It was with these feelings that she regarded Schlegel, with whom she formed a friendship which lasted till death. But in the midst of her triumph, and of the joy with which her cordial reception in Germany inspired her, a sudden blow was given to her happiness. Her father, in whom all her affections were concentrated, who was at once
* Madame de Stael had no affected modesty with regard to her own merits. It is related by a contemporary and friend of hers, that upon one occasion, having gone with the beautiful Madame Recamier on a pleasure-excursion on the lake of Geneva, a sudden storm came on, and the party narrowly escaped being drowned. What a paragraph, exclaimed Madame de Stael, “ this might have been for a newspaper. With what effect the Editor might have said,— The most beautiful woman in the world, and the most talented woman of the age, have perished at the same moment!'
the object of her respectful veneration and tender love, was taken from her by death. Her affection for him was her ruling sentiment through life, and the hope of rejoiming him softened in after days the pangs of death. From this period her piety became of a more active nature, and religion was more entirely predominant over her. In speaking of the sketch of her father's private character, prefixed by her to a collection of his manuscripts, which she published, Benjamin Constant observes,—- I know not if I am mistaken, but it appears to me that these pages are better calculated to command for her the admiration and love of those even who have not known her, than all her most eloquent and forcible writings upon other subjects. Here her mind and her talent are perfectly delineated. The clearness of her views, the astonishing variety of her impressions, the warmth of her eloquence, the strength of her reasoning, the truth of her enthusiasm, her love of liberty and justice, her passionate sensibility, the melancholy which often characterized her even in those productions which are purely literary, all are here consecrated to tbrow light upon one single subject, to express one single sentiment, to make us partake one only sorrow.'
The delightful climate and soft air of Italy, to which country the wanderer bent her steps, after having paid the last tribute to her father's memory, had at length a bappy influence over her wounded spirit. She became interested and absorbed in the study of the fine arts; and as the works of Madame de Staël seem always prompted by the super-abundance of her ideas, she gave vent to her feelings in the composition of Corinna. From the moment of its publication, her fame was established from one end of literary Europe to the other. As political discussions were wholly banished from it, it created fewer enemies than her other works, while her talents were forgiven in the sympathy which she excited for herself, under the character of her heroine. It was, besides, more evidently the production of a woman, and its superiority therefore the less likely to be contested.
The faults and beauties of this work have given rise to an infinity of discussion among the literary men of all countries. The criticism of Schlegel, considering bis devotion to the autbor, is extremely impartial. He condemns the plan of the work, which, uniting a romance with a picture of Italy, is neither complete as a book of travels nor as a novel. He considers VOL. XXXVII.- NO. 80.
the character of Lord Nelvil as so complete a failure from the commencement, that nothing, he says, but his knowledge of the author's talent could have induced him to read farther. He even denies all poetical merit to the songs of Corinna. But he does ample justice to the innumerable merits and beauties of the work ;-and especially to the brilliant and faithful descriptions of Italian scenery, as well as to the intiinate knowledge of the fine arts, evinced throughout.
Nothing indeed is more remarkable than the happy facility with which Madame de Staël identifies herself, as it were, with the people of every country which she describes,—enters into their feelings, --understands their prejudices,-penetrates into the causes of their imperfections, or sympathizes with the excellences of their character. Even where her ideas are borrowed, as in her opinions of Winkelman and other German authors, they have all the charm of originality. Her description of the Carnival was written with Goëthe's Carnival Scene in Wilhelm Meister open before her,--but her mind seems to have been more calculated to receive solemn than
impressions, and a vein of sadness runs through her most lively descriptions.
She is one of the few authors who fully appreciated the merit of Dante, and penetrated the secret of his wonderful powers; especially that extraordinary art, with which, by a few mysterious words, like the deep low toll of a bell startling us from slumber, he brings before our eyes a whole picture of terror and despair.
The Germany of Madame de Staël was not liable to the same objections as her Corinna. The soft impressions which the mind receives from the scenery of Italy ;—its music, paintings, and statues,—its orange groves and fountains,—its cloudless skies, melodious language and pompous religion,
--all were fitted to adorn a tale of love and romance. But it was not so with the colder North. Here plain narrative was necessary, and here the object of the author was of a higher character.
But in order to appreciate the moral courage of Madame de Staël, and the salutary influence likely to result from such a work, it is necessary to consider the state of society in France, —the opinions, both religious and philosophical, which prevailed there at that period, -and the deep-rooted prejudice which
had long existed throughout the nation against the German character and literature.
The distinguishing characteristics of the French nation, since the regency, were immorality and incredulity. Society was equally remarkable for its brilliancy, and for the ridicule which was thrown by its witty and accomplished members upon the noblest feelings of humanity,-upon religion, enthusiasm, and virtue,-upon every thing, in short, except egotism, which, from its very nature, is placed beyond the reach of irony. No weapon was so formidable as ridicule to those who spent their days in public, and who lived upon the opinion of society. There was no devotedness of attachment, no sympathy for suffering, between the inost intimate friends. No one blushed to avow that self-interest governed all his actions, and that, in attaining his object, he considered the end as sanctifying the means.
Perhaps there is no character more illustrative of the state of society then existing in France, than that of Madame du Deffand; or more deserving of attention, from her intimate friendship with such men as D'Alembert, Montesquieu, Henault, and others. La Harpe relates that, upon one occasion, having lost a friend whom she had known intimately and loved for twenty years, she went on the evening of his death to a brilliant supper-party at the house of Madame de la Marchais ;and that, upon receiving some compliments of condolence, she replied, - Alas! he died this evening. If he had not, you would not have seen me here,'—whereupon, adds her biographer, being trés gourmande, she forthwith ate an immoderate supper. • What is faith?' says the same lady, in a letter to Voltaire. "A firm belief in what we do not understand. Do not deprive the lower orders of their prejudices. They are resources for them in misfortune, and in this respect I should be too happy to resemble them.'
The system of philosophy which prevailed in France had gradually undermined every sentiment of religion and morality. It was a system destructive of all moral responsibility. Deduced from Locke, perhaps through misconception, and carried to a fatal extent by Condillac,-propagated by the Encyclopedists, -by men of talent, such as Diderot, Helvetius and D'Alembert,-illuminated by the inexhaustible wit and mockery of Voltaire, -its progress could be checked by no feeble hand. The mind itself was considered as a mere machine,-the material world as the only form of existence,-man as an animal of a somewhat finer organization than the beasts of the field. • If man were formed like a horse,' said Condillac,' he would have but the sensations of a horse.' One philosopher defined thought as a material product of the brain! Since the belief of an active intelligence in the human mind, and that of a God in the universe, are inseparably connected, absolute atheism was the natural consequence of these opinions. Two periods should be distinguished in the history of French philosphy. During the first, the influence of England was observable. To this belong the writings of Montesquieu. In the second, the same system was carried to a destructive extent by Raynal and others, who, in their search after truth, madly seized the torch which should have guided them, to set fire to the building. Voltaire, by his writings upon universal toleration and freedom of thought, belongs to the former period; but bis mockery of religion rendered him in a manner the personal representative of the latter.
A strong reaction naturally grew up against these revolting doctrines, and those who took the lead in it, may be considered as the benefactors of the age. It commenced with Rousseau, This writer, in his poetical enthusiasm for the beauties of nature, and in the elevation of his sentiments, bore some resemblance to Madame de Staël. As finished compositions, his works are more perfect than hers; but he had less generosity, and was less calculated to do good. He had visions of an ideal and perfect nature, but he had not the same ardent love for the living and thinking beings by whom he was surrounded.
The German philosophers, beginning with Leibnitz, had boldly opposed the doctrines of the materialist philosophy, but Voltaire had erected against Leibnitz his whole battery of wit in his Candide, where, like a mocking demon, or like Nero, exulting over the ruins of the Imperial City, he laughs at the misery of his own species,
Besides, the antipathy existing in France to everything appertaining to Germany was so strong, that, until its literature and the character of the nation were better known, it was impossible to penetrate the triple wall of vanity, self-interest and national prejudice, with which France was surrounded. Nor was there perhaps any period, when the national vanity was at a greater height. Though the dearly bought fruits of the Re