Mme de Staël

Madame de Stael as Corinne - Vladimir Lukich Borovikovsky painted 1812 in Russia

Men of wit are so astounded by the existence of women rivals that they cannot judge them with either an adversary’s generosity or protector’s indulgence. This is a new kind of combat, in which men follow the laws of neither kindness nor honour’* French-Swiss writer, a woman of letters and an early champion of women’s rights, Madame de Stael, Anne Louise Germaine Necker, Baroness of Stael-Holstein (1766-1817) spent most of her life in exile. She wrote romantic comedies, tragedies, novels and essays. Married unhappily to the bankrupt Swedish ambassador to Paris to protect her fortune she separated from her husband in 1798. With revolution in the wind she left Paris for Coppet, nearby Lake Geneva in Switzerland. She went on to Mickleham in Surrey, England where she was surrounded by French émigré’s and tried in vain to save Queen Marie Antoinette. When Napoleon allowed her to return to Paris she found only animosity. Delphine (1802) earned her exile from Napoléon’s Paris. Corinne (1807) became an immediate success. Admiration for her reached a climax with the publication of De l’Allemagne in 1810. A study of German culture, it revealed another Germany to the French and the majority of the sold out edition of 10,000 copies was seized by the Minister of Police and destroyed. She was the first to use the word Romanticism.

*On Literature Considered in Its Relationship to Social Institutions, 1800

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