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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous Sarah Knowles Bolton

Madame De Stael

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For the next few years the family travelled most of the time, Necker bringing out a book on the Finances, which had a sale at once of a hundred thousand copies. A previous book, the Compte Rendu au Roi, showing how for years the moneys of France had been wasted, had also a large sale. For these books, and especially for other correspondence, he was banished forty leagues from Paris. The daughter's heart seemed well-nigh broken at this intelligence. Loving Paris, saying she would rather live there on "one hundred francs a year, and lodge in the fourth story," than anywhere else in the world, how could she bear for years the isolation of the country? Joseph II., King of Poland, and the King of Naples, offered Necker fine positions, but he declined.

Mademoiselle Necker had come to womanhood, not beautiful, but with wonderful fascination and tact. She could compliment persons without flattery, was cordial and generous, and while the most brilliant talker, could draw to herself the thoughts and confidences of others. She had also written a book on Rousseau, which was much talked about. Pitt, of England, Count Fersen, of Sweden, and others, sought her in marriage, but she loved no person as well as her father. Her consent to marriage could be obtained only by the promise that she should never be obliged to leave him.

Baron de Stael, a man of learning and fine social position, ambassador from Sweden, and the warm friend of Gustavus, was ready to make any promises for the rich daughter of the Minister Necker. He was thirty-seven, she only a little more than half his age, twenty, but she accepted him because her parents were pleased. Going to Paris, she was, of course, received at Court, Marie Antoinette paying her much attention. Necker was soon recalled from exile to his old position.

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The funds rose thirty per cent, and he became the idol of the people. Soon representative government was demanded, and then, though the King granted it, the breach was widened. Necker, unpopular with the bad advisers of the King, was again asked to leave Paris, and make no noise about it; but the people, hearing of it, soon demanded his recall, and he was hastily brought back from Brussels, riding through the streets like "the sovereign of a nation," said his daughter. The people were wild with delight.

But matters had gone too far to prevent a bloody Revolution. Soon a mob was marching toward Versailles; thousands of men, women, and even children armed with pikes. They reached the palace, killed the guards, and penetrated to the queen's apartments, while some filled the court-yard and demanded bread. The brave Marie Antoinette appeared on the balcony leading her two children, while Lafayette knelt by her side and kissed her hand. But the people could not be appeased.

Necker finding himself unable to serve his king longer, fled to his Swiss retreat at Coppet, and there remained till his death. Madame de Stael, as the wife of the Swedish ambassador, continued in the turmoil, writing her father daily, and taking an active interest in politics. "In England," she said, "women are accustomed to be silent before men when political questions are discussed. In France, they direct all conversation, and their minds readily acquire the facility and talent which this privilege requires." Lafayette, Narbonne, and Talleyrand consulted with her. She wrote the principal part of Talleyrand's report on Public Instruction in 1790. She procured the appointment of Narbonne to the ministry; and later, when Talleyrand was in exile, obtained his appointment to the Department of Foreign Affairs.

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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous
Sarah Knowles Bolton

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