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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous Sarah Knowles Bolton

Madame De Stael

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Soon after Necker published his Last Views of Politics and Finance, in which he wrote against the tyranny of a single man. At once Napoleon caused a sharp letter to be written to Necker advising him to leave politics to the First Consul, "who was alone able to govern France," and threatening his daughter with exile for her supposed aid in his book. She saw the wisdom of escaping from France, lest she be imprisoned, and immediately hastened to Coppet. A few months later, in the winter of 1802, she returned to Paris to bring home Baron de Stael, who was ill, and from whom she had separated because he was spending all her fortune and that of her three children. He died on the journey.

Virtually banished from France, she now wrote her Delphine, a brilliant novel which was widely read. It received its name from a singular circumstance.

"Desirous of meeting the First Consul for some urgent reason," says Dr. Stevens in his charming biography of Madame de Stael, "she went to the villa of Madame de Montessan, whither he frequently resorted. She was alone in one of the salles when he arrived, accompanied by the consular court of brilliant young women. The latter knew the growing hostility of their master toward her, and passed, without noticing her, to the other end of the salle, leaving her entirely alone. Her position was becoming extremely painful, when a young lady, more courageous and more compassionate than her companions, crossed the salle and took a seat by her side. Madame de Stael was touched by this kindness, and asked for her Christian name. 'Delphine,' she responded. 'Ah, I will try to immortalize it,' exclaimed Madame de Stael; and she kept her word. This sensible young lady was the Comtesse de Custine."

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Her home at Coppet became the home of many great people. Sismondi, the author of the History of the Italian Republics, and Literature of Southern Europe, encouraged by her, wrote here several of his famous works. Bonstetten made his home here for years. Schlegel, the greatest critic of his age, became the teacher of her children, and a most intimate friend. Benjamin Constant, the author and statesman, was here. All repaired to their rooms for work in the morning, and in the evening enjoyed philosophic, literary, and political discussions.

Bonstetten said: "In seeing her, in hearing her, I feel myself electrified.... She daily becomes greater and better; but souls of great talent have great sufferings: they are solitary in the world, like Mont Blanc."

In the autumn of 1803, longing for Paris, she ventured to within ten leagues and hired a quiet home. Word was soon borne to Napoleon that the road to her house was thronged with visitors. He at once sent an officer with a letter signed by himself, exiling her to forty leagues from Paris, and commanding her to leave within twenty-four hours.

At once she fled to Germany. At Frankfort her little daughter was dangerously ill. "I knew no person in the city," she writes. "I did not know the language; and the physician to whom I confided my child could not speak French. But my father shared my trouble; he consulted physicians at Geneva, and sent me their prescriptions. Oh, what would become of a mother trembling for the life of her child, if it were not for prayer!"

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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous
Sarah Knowles Bolton

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