Madame de Staël
French Novelist and Miscellaneous Writer
1766 – 1817 A.D.
Anne-Louise-Germaine Neckar, Baronne de Staël-Holstein, a French novelist and miscellaneous writer, born in Paris. She was the daughter of Neckar, a minister of finance to Louis XVI, while her mother was mistress of one of the most popular salons of Paris.
Germaine was an extraordinarily precocious child, figured at receptions at eleven, and grew up in an atmosphere of admiration. Already in her girlhood she wrote romantic comedies, tragedies, novels and essays.
In 1786 she married Baron of Staël-Holstein, ambassador from Sweden. On the outbreak of the French Revolution she had to flee, but returning later published a noble defense of Marie Antoinette. Her historic quarrel with Napoleon seems to have begun in 1804, and for about ten years she was banished from Paris. After the fall of Napoleon her brilliant salon in the metropolis was reopened, and she spent the last few years of her life, surrounded by a happy domestic circle, esteemed and courted by the most eminent men of the capital.
She had three children by her first husband who was seventeen years her senior, and who died in 1802. In 1811 she was privately married to M. de Rocca, a young officer of hussars, who was twenty-three years her junior.
Thomas Davidson says:
“The deepest feeling of her heart was a woman craving for love, and hardly less deep was the desire to shine and please, and this she gratified to the full as a society-queen in the brilliant world of the Paris of her day. She lacked the special charm of beauty, she was careless of dress, impulsive and abrupt in manners, but her vast capacity for enthusiasm and the passionate intensity of her affections gave force and color to her rich and versatile character and combined to form a personality whose influence was irresistible. Society and conversation were a necessity of her nature, and called forth from the depths of her heart that flowing impromptu eloquence that subdued all hearers in admiration. Words and ideas flowed from her lips in a kind of glorified improvisation that suggested at once the exalted inspiration of the prophet, the refined sensibility of the woman, and the clear understanding of the thinker.”
In judging her as a writer, George Saintsbury says:
“Mme. de Staël occupies a singular position in French literature. Her faults are great; her style is of an age, not for all time; her ideas are mostly second-hand and frequently superficial. But nothing save a very great talent could have shown itself so receptive. To have caught from all sides the floating notions of society and of individuals, to reflect them with such vigor and clearness, is not anybody’s task. Her best two books are Corinne, a striking exposition of a certain kind of aestheticism, and De I’Allemagne, perhaps the most remarkable account of one country, by a native and inhabitant of another, which exists in literature.”
Reference: Famous Women; An Outline of Feminine Achievement Through the Ages With Life Stories of Five Hundred Noted Women By Joseph Adelman. Copyright, 1926 by Ellis M. Lonow Company.