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Madame De Stael
by [?]

They were rivals–that was the trouble. France was not big enough for both.

Madame De Stael’s book about Germany had been duly announced, puffed, printed. Ten thousand copies were issued and–seized upon by Napoleon’s agents and burned.

“The edition is exhausted,” cried Madame, as she smiled through her tears and searched for her pocket-handkerchief.

The trouble with the book was that nowhere in it was Napoleon mentioned. Had Napoleon never noticed the book, the author would have been woefully sorry. As it was she was pleased, and when the last guest had gone she and Benjamin Constant laughed, shook hands, and ordered lunch.

But it was not so funny when Fouche called, apologized, coughed, and said the air in Paris was bad.

So Madame De Stael had to go–it was “Ten Years of Exile.” In that book you can read all about it. She retired to Coppet, and all the griefs, persecutions, disappointments and heartaches were doubtless softened by the inward thought of the distinction that was hers in being the first woman banished by Napoleon and of being the only woman he thoroughly feared.

When it came Napoleon’s turn to go and the departure for Elba was at hand, it will be remembered he bade good-by personally to those who had served him so faithfully. It was an affecting scene when he kissed his generals and saluted the swarthy grenadiers in the same way. When told of it Madame picked a petal or two from her bouquet and said, “You see, my dears, the difference is this: while Judas kissed but one, the Little Man kissed forty.”

Napoleon was scarcely out of France before Madame was back in Paris with all her books and wit and beauty. An ovation was given the daughter of Necker such as Paris alone can give.

But Napoleon did not stay at Elba, at least not according to any accounts I have read.

When word came that he was marching on Paris, Madame hastily packed up her manuscripts and started in hot haste for Coppet.

But when the eighty days had passed and the bugaboo was safely on board the “Bellerophon,” she came back to the scenes she loved so well and to what for her was the only heaven–Paris.

She has been called a philosopher and a literary light. But she was only socio-literary. Her written philosophy does not represent the things she felt were true–simply those things she thought it would be nice to say. She cultivated literature, only that she might shine. Love, wealth, health, husband, children–all were sacrificed that she might lead society and win applause. No one ever feared solitude more: she must have those about her who would minister to her vanity and upon whom she could shower her wit. As a type her life is valuable, and in these pages that traverse the entire circle of feminine virtues and foibles she surely must have a place.

In her last illness she was attended daily by those faithful subjects who had all along recognized her sovereignty–in Society she was Queen. She surely won her heart’s desire, for to that bed from which she was no more to rise, courtiers came and kneeling kissed her hand, and women by the score whom she had befriended paid her the tribute of their tears.

She died in Paris aged fifty-one.

* * * * *

When you are in Switzerland and take the little steamer that plies on Lake Leman from Lausanne to Geneva, you will see on the western shore a tiny village that clings close around a chateau, like little oysters around the parent shell. This is the village of Coppet that you behold, and the central building that seems to be a part of the very landscape is the Chateau De Necker. This was the home of Madame De Stael and the place where so many refugees sought safety.