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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous Sarah Knowles Bolton

Madame De Stael

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The next year 1794, Madame Necker died at Coppet, whispering to her husband, "We shall see each other in Heaven." "She looked heavenward," said Necker in a most affecting manner, "listening while I prayed; then, in dying, raised the finger of her left hand, which wore the ring I had given her, to remind me of the pledge engraved upon it, to love her forever." His devotion to her was beautiful. "No language," says his daughter, "can give any adequate idea of it. Exhausted by wakefulness at night, she slept often in the daytime, resting her head on his arm. I have seen him remain immovable, for hours together, standing in the same position for fear of awakening her by the least movement. Absent from her during a few hours of sleep, he inquired, on his return, of her attendant, if she had asked for him? She could no longer speak, but made an effort to say 'yes, yes.'"

When the Revolution was over, and France had become a republic, Sweden sent back her ambassador, Baron de Stael, and his wife returned to him at Paris. Again her salon became the centre for the great men of the time. She loved liberty, and believed in the republican form of government. She had written her book upon the Influence of the Passions on the Happiness of Individuals and Nations, prompted by the horrors of the Revolution, and it was considered "irresistible in energy and dazzling in thought."

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She was also devoting much time to her child, Auguste, developing him without punishment, thinking that there had been too much rigor in her own childhood. He well repaid her for her gentleness and trust, and was inseparable from her through life, becoming a noble Christian man, and the helper of all good causes. Meantime Madame de Stael saw with alarm the growing influence of the young Corsican officer, Bonaparte. The chief executive power had been placed in the hands of the Directory, and he had control of the army. He had won brilliant victories in Italy, and had been made commander-in-chief of the expedition against Egypt He now returned to Paris, turned out the Directory, drove out the Council of Five Hundred from the hall of the Assembly at the point of the bayonet, made the government into a consulate with three consuls, of whom he was the first, and lived at the Tuileries in almost royal style.

All this time Madame de Stael felt the egotism and heartlessness of Napoleon. Her salon became more crowded than ever with those who had their fears for the future. "The most eloquent of the Republican orators were those who borrowed from her most of their ideas and telling phrases. Most of them went forth from her door with speeches ready for the next day, and with resolution to pronounce them--a courage which was also derived from her." Lucien and Joseph Bonaparte, the brothers of Napoleon, were proud of her friendship, and often were guests at her house, until forbidden by their brother.

When Benjamin Constant made a speech against the "rising tyranny," Napoleon suspected that she had prompted it, and denounced her heartily, all the time declaring that he loved the Republic, and would always defend it! He said persons always came away from De Stael's home "less his friends than when they entered." About this time her book, Literature considered in its Relation to Social Institutions, was published, and made a surprising impression from its wealth of knowledge and power of thought. Its analysis of Greek and Latin literature, and the chief works in Italian, English, German, and French, astonished everybody, because written by a woman!

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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous
Sarah Knowles Bolton

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