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Madame De Stael
by [?]

It was a happy marriage. The first three years of married life were the happiest Madame De Stael ever knew, she said long afterward.

Possibly there are hasty people who imagine they detect tincture of iron somewhere in these pages: these good people will say, “Gracious me! why not?”

And so I will at once admit that these respectable, well-arranged, and carefully planned marriages are often happy and peaceful.

The couple may “raise” a large family and slide through life and out of it without a splash. I will also admit that love does not necessarily imply happiness–more often ‘t is a pain, a wild yearning, and a vague unrest; a haunting sense of heart-hunger that drives a man into exile repeating abstractedly the name “Beatrice! Beatrice!” And so all the moral I will make now is simply this: the individual who has not known an all-absorbing love has not the spiritual vision that is a passport to Paradise. He forever yammers between the worlds, fit for neither Heaven nor Hell.

* * * * *

Necker retired from business that he might enjoy peace; his daughter married for the same reason. It was stipulated that she should never be separated from her father. She who stipulates is lost, so far as love goes–but no matter! Married women in France are greater lions in society than maidens can possibly hope to be. The marriage-certificate serves at once as a license for brilliancy, daring, splendor, and it is also a badge of respectability. The marriage-certificate is a document that in all countries is ever taken care of by the woman and never by the man.

And this document is especially useful in France, as French dames know. Frenchmen are afraid of an unmarried woman–she means danger, damages, a midnight marriage and other awful things. An unmarried woman in France can not hope to be a social leader; and to be a social leader was the one ambition of Madame De Stael.

It was called the salon of Madame De Stael now. Baron De Stael was known as the husband of Madame De Stael. The salon of Madame Necker was only a matter of reminiscence. The daughter of Necker was greater than her father, and as for Madame Necker, she was a mere figure in towering headdress, point lace and diamonds. Talleyrand summed up the case when he said, “She is one of those dear old things that have to be tolerated.”

Madame De Stael had a taste for literature from early womanhood. She wrote beautiful little essays and read them aloud to her company, and her manuscripts had a circulation like unto her father’s bank-notes. She had the faculty of absorbing beautiful thoughts and sentiments, and no woman ever expressed them in a more graceful way. People said she was the greatest woman author of her day. “You mean of all time,” corrected Diderot. They called her “the High Priestess of Letters,” “the Minerva of Poetry,” “Sappho Returned,” and all that. Her commendation meant success and her indifference failure. She knew politics, too, and her hands were on all wires. Did she wish to placate a minister, she invited him to call, and once there he was as putty in her hands. She skimmed the surface of all languages, all arts, all history, but best of all she knew the human heart.

Of course there was a realm of knowledge she wist not of–the initiates of which never ventured within her scope. She had nothing for them–they kept away. But the proud, the vain, the ambitious, the ennui-ridden, the people-who-wish-to-be, and who are ever looking for the strong man to give them help–these thronged her parlors.

And when you have named these you have named all those who are foremost in commerce, politics, art, education, philanthropy and religion. The world is run by second-rate people. The best are speedily crucified, or else never heard of until long after they are dead.