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CultureThe mysterious baroness that Napoleon was afraid of - Madame de Stahl

The mysterious baroness that Napoleon was afraid of – Madame de Stahl

Gaston de Persigny
Gaston de Persigny
Gaston de Persigny - Reporter at The European Times News

205 years since the death of one of the most influential women of the 19th century

Anna Stahl, or as her full name is – Anne Louise Germain de Stahl, who became known as Madame de Stahl, is a famous writer of French and Swiss origin, a representative of the liberal trend in French romanticism and an outspoken opponent of Napoleon.

She is of aristocratic origin. She was born into the family of a banker and finance minister of Louis XVI. Her first marriage was to Eric Magnus, Baron de Stahl-Holstein, Swedish ambassador in Paris.

Madame de Stael became famous when, on the eve of the French Revolution, she created a literary salon in Paris, where politicians, writers and scientists began to gather. He appeared as an opponent of Napoleon and had to leave Paris. He emigrated to Switzerland. There he met the politician Benjamin Constant de Roebeck and together with him undertook many trips throughout Europe.

He returned to France only after the fall of Napoleon. Madame de Stael was a writer who became famous for her novels “Dolphin” (1802) and “Corinne” (1807), as well as the works “On the Influence of the Passions on Individuals and Nations” (1796), “On Literature Considered in the Relationship her with public institutions” (1800), “About Germany” (1810), etc.

Madame de Stael has been named one of the most influential women of the 19th century. Many intellectuals of her time are of the opinion that she was feared by Napoleon himself, and admired by bright minds such as Goethe and Pushkin.

A close acquaintance of Madame de Stahl – Countess Victorine de Chastanet wrote: “Three great powers are fighting with Napoleon for the soul of Europe – England, Russia and Madame de Stahl.” This phrase inspires real respect for the personality of the baroness, who is personally compared to two powerful countries in a battle with the emperor.

Her first meeting with Napoleon was on January 3, 1798 at the Hotel Khalifa in Paris. The Baroness de Stael herself wrote the following about her impressions of him: “The more I observed Napoleon Bonaparte, the more anxious I became. He is a man without emotion… Everything is programmed by one man, and no one can take even a step, or to desire anything without it. Not only freedom, but free will seems banished from the earth.”

The identity of Madame de Stael is a real mystery. She remains somewhat in the shadows in the pages of history, and her influence on the art and politics of the time in which she lived was enormous. It is noted not only by her close friend Goethe, but also by Byron, as well as Pushkin. They all admire this woman’s amazing culture and tough character.

She was born on April 22, 1766. Her mother is of Franco-Swiss descent – a beautiful woman who married in an arranged marriage to Anne’s father – Jacques Necker, a man with an impressive career in the French royal court. Many celebrities used to gather at Anne’s mother’s salon in Paris. Already at 11, Ann calmly communicated with them and gained experience – both life and political. Anne was of an impressionable nature, and her mother introduced strict discipline into her education, so that she would not stray into trifles. Thus, at the age of 16, Anne aroused real admiration among mature and experienced people with her intellectual knowledge.

Anne’s mother was 18 years younger than her father, and although she was not happy in her marriage, she respected her husband and bore him five children. And the future Madame de Stahl, like her mother, although she was not happy in both of her marriages, gave birth to two children from them and another child from her lover.

Was she a feminist? – Probably yes, even extreme sometimes, because he once wrote: “The more I get to know men, the more I like dogs.”

For her time, Madame de Stael is an extremely emancipated woman who stands up for her opinion, but also respects the opinion of others. He wrote in his diary: “Had it not been for respect for human opinion, I would not have opened my window to see the Bay of Naples the first time I went five hundred leagues to speak with a man of genius whom I had not seen”.

Madame de Stael is an independent spirit who respects her awake contemporaries. A woman’s free and fearless expression of opinion on such important political topics and figures as Napoleon made her a fighter with a halo in the eyes of many.

During her exile – between 1803 and 1810, away from Paris, Madame de Stael first traveled to many countries in Europe. Writes “Corin” and “For Germany”. Among the emigrants he met abroad was the former Minister of War of France – Count Louis de Narbonne. A real passion broke out between the two, the fruit of which was the work of Madame de Stahl “On the influence of passion on the happiness of people and nations”.

Unfortunately, the relationship between the two suffered a rupture and separation.

Madame de Staël was the first to dare to rebel against the cruel treatment of Queen Marie-Antoinette in France and published an anonymous pamphlet “Refléxion sur le procès de la Reine, par une femme (1793), with which she tried to arouse sympathy for the unhappy queen.

While in Switzerland, Madame de Stael’s mother died, and she buried her parent there. For two years she took care of her father, for whom she felt sincere admiration and adoration for his mind and character. In 1804, she published the work “Vie privée de Mr. Necker” dedicated to her father.

In Switzerland, Madame de Stahl experienced many sad moments, such as the death of her mother, but also many inspiring meetings, as well as a romantic attraction – with Benjamin Constant.

In her novel “Dolphin”, the writer describes the unhappy fate of a highly gifted woman who entered into an unequal battle with the despotism of public opinion. Indeed, as is her own destiny. In Constant, she finds not only passion, but also understanding.

It was when the two left together and resided in Germany that Anne met Goethe, Schiller, Fichte, Humboldt and Schlegel. Then, while in Italy, he met the poet Vincenzo Monti. Tender feelings are awakened between the two. Correspondence is preserved that proves their infatuation with each other, although Anne still has a love affair with Constant.

Later, when she returns to Switzerland, Anne de Staal invites the poet to visit her, but he proves weak-tempered and cowardly enough in his concern not to incur Napoleon’s wrath, that he does not respond to the invitation. This cools her feelings for him. Later, she also suffered great disappointment from Benjamin Constant, close to her heart. Returning from Germany to Geneva, he learned from friends that he had a secret marriage with Charlotte Gardenberg.

Ann’s pursuit of a wide range of topics of public importance saves her from personal dramas. In her essay “On Literature…” this extremely interesting woman explores the relationship between religion, human morals and literary legislation. All topics that are a challenge to society.

In 1812, Madame de Stahl also traveled to Russia. She admires the strength of the Russian people, but notes that America has a leading role in the world. Advises Germans and Italians to unite in a federation. From Petersburg, it is headed for Stockholm. He returned to Paris only after learning that Napoleon had been exiled to Elba.

On February 21, 1817, during a reception organized by Louis XVIII’s chief minister, Anne de Stael fell carelessly and suffered a cerebral hemorrhage. He also became the cause of complications that caused her death. She died on the significant day marking the beginning of the Great French Revolution – July 14th. Unbelievable indeed, but Anne de Stael died on Bastille Day – July 14, 1817, aged only 51, in the prime of her life.

In addition to her books and works, this remarkable woman left us her maxims, which speak eloquently of her developed mind.

And a beautiful, delicately multicolored and rare type of rose is named after her romantic soul.

Madame de Stael – quotes

Mind is in discerning the similarity between different things, and the difference between things that are the same.

I learn life from the poets.

Society develops wit, but its genius is due to contemplation.

The human mind is always progressing, but this is progress in the spiral of life.

The search for truth is man’s noblest pursuit; its publication is an obligation.

Genius is essentially creative; it bears the stamp of the person who owns it.

Courage of soul is necessary for the triumph of genius.

One has to choose in life, between boredom and suffering.

Scientific progress makes moral progress a necessity; for if the power of man is increased, the checks which restrain him from abuse must be strengthened.

Enthusiasm gives life to the unseen and interest to that which has no immediate effect on our comfort in this world.

Enthusiasm means God in us.

Conscience, no doubt, is sufficient to lead even the coldest character into the path of virtue.

The voice of conscience is so delicate that it is easy to silence; but it is also so clear that it is impossible to be mistaken.

Politeness is the art of choosing the best among your thoughts.

Men are deceived by selfishness, and women – because they are weak.

Fame can be for a woman a shining mourning of happiness.

Love is the emblem of eternity; it confounds all ideas of time; erases all memory of the beginning and all fear of the End.

In matters of the heart, nothing is true except the incredible.

We stop loving each other if no one loves us.

The greatest happiness is turning your feelings into action.

The secret of existence is the connection between our mistakes and our misfortunes.

As we grow in wisdom, we forgive more freely.

When we destroy an old prejudice, we need a new virtue.

Education from life perfects the thinking mind, but corrupts the frivolous.

The religious life is a struggle, not a hymn.

Prayer is more than meditation. In meditation, the source of power is yourself. When a person prays, he goes to the source of a higher power than his own.

To pray together, in whatever tongues or ritual, is the tenderest brotherhood of hope and sympathy that men can enter into in this life.

The soul is a fire that penetrates its rays through all the senses; in this fire exists existence; all the observations and efforts of philosophers must turn to that Self which is the center and motive power of our feelings and ideas.

Have you not observed that faith is usually strongest in those whose character may be called the weakest?

The divine wisdom, intending to retain us for a time on earth, has done well to veil the prospect of the future life; for, if our sight can clearly discern the opposite shore, who will remain on that stormy shore?

We first understand death when it lays its hand on someone we love.

How true it is that sooner or later, the greatest rebels are forced to bow under the yoke of misfortune!

Architecture is frozen music!

Music revives memories to soothe them.

Photo: Anne de Stahl, portrait of the baroness, author unknown

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