~Madame de Stäel
of the Restoration
of Victor Hugo
of Printed Materials
Viewed by Foreigners
~Parisians Viewed by
Engraving of Mme. Geoffrin, (Hall, 35).
a personality that was tactful, kindhearted, tender, honest, and
is no wonder that Madame Geoffrin's motto was:
give and be forgiven]
her salon was "one of the wonders
of the social world" as she had no position, was not
beautiful by any means and of course was not educated like most
women at the time (Mason, 40). At a young
age, she was orphaned and at fourteen was married off to the wealthy
director of the royal glassworks at Saint-Gobain. In her twenties,
she began apprenticing at the salon of her neighbor, Madame
artists, nobles, princes, ambassadors, politicians, and reformers
flocked to Mme. Geoffrin's. On Monday nights, her guests were mostly
painters and sculptors. Mme. G knew little about art but was willing
to be taught. Wednesday night dinners had a literary theme with
guests such as Jean François Marmontel, Baron d'Holbach, and Jean
le Rond d'Alembert.
1.3 "Abbé Delille reciting his poem, La Conversation
in the salon of Madame Geoffrin" from Jacques Delille,
"La Conversation" (Paris, 1812) Courtesy of Harvard University
Surrounded by men and
seated in the very front, Mme. Geoffrin listens and watches quite
naturally and orderly in her prim, exact dress and little cap
tied under her chin. Like the others, she appears to devote her
attention to Delille who recites aloud, La Conversation,
one of the three most important poems of his career. Unlike the
lazy, distracted guests in Jean-François de Troy's La Lecture
de Molière featured on the Parisian
salon's home page, Mme. G and all her guests appear
very alert and interested in the speaker. Sitting on the edges
of their seats, they are ready at any moment to insert their voices
and maintain an intellectual group dialogue.
What two innovations
did Mme. Geoffrin add to create the ideal Enlightenment salon?
- Mme. G
switched the traditional late night dinner, "the sociable
meal of the day" to a one-o'clock dinner to allow for an
entire afternoon of conversation.
- Mme. G
created a regular, weekly salon dinner schedule
with Monday assigned to the artists, Wednesday for the men of
letters and so forth. Her salons often met weekly with
the inclusion of a dinner meal. However, the prime focus and function
of her salon was the conversation and exchange of intellectual
activity, which could also include time for sharing informal writing
or formal poetry.
exactly was the great appeal of Mme. Geoffrin and her popular salon?
- Mme. G was a wonderful,
She often listened to the hopes, cares, fears, and ambitions of
her literary guests.
G knew how to make other people talk
their best. She knew just
when to say her bit or ask a question.
- Mme. G was a very
generous woman as she was quite wealthy and willing to share.
She often helped young authors struggling to make ends
meet and on Sundays she didn't open up her salon. Instead
she put together large sums of money in little bags to distribute
among the poor.
"For here in
evil Paris with its great gulf fixed between class and class,
there were so many sick who needed the necessaries of death
of so many orphaned
babies, so many despairing women!" (Hall,