this described Mme. de Stäel accurately and it comes as no
surprise that she had these negative remarks to make of Napoleon:
could overcome my invincible aversion to what I perceived in Napoleon's
character.....His wit was like the cold, sharp sword in romance,
which froze the wound it inflicted. I could never breathe freely
in his presence. I examined him with attention; but when he observed
that my looks were fixed upon him, he had the art of taking away
all expression from his eyes, as if they had been suddenly changed
to marble" (Child, 41).
1800, Mme. de Stäel came into direct conflict with Napoleon.
With the aid of Talleyrand, Napoleon had been appointed first
consul and drawn up a constitution establishing a senate and two
chambers. Mme. de S's lover, Benjamin Constant, was elected to
serve in one of the chambers.
in her salon, a number of publicly active men such as Constant
and Lucien Bonaparte, minister of the interior, were meeting.
Constant mentioned that he planned to speak in opposition of certain
government proposals the following day, and was strongly urged
by those present to not do so. Constant asked Mme. de Stäel
for advice who recommended that he act according to his own beliefs.
her advice, Constant gave his original speech opposing the government
and by the end of the day, Mme. de Stäel had received ten
letters of regret from friends invited to dine that evening. One
letter was from her old friend Talleyrand whom she never heard
from again. Although her friendship with the family of the first
consul was not harmed, Napoleon was said to have never forgiven
her for Constant's speech and continued to keep close watch upon
her, looking for an opportunity to banish her (Watson,
is a wonder that Mme. de Stäel was able to hold her salon
open as long as she did in spite of Napoleon. All her hopes of
liberty were crushed as she noted that he was rapidly becoming
a dictator. With all her talents, power, and might, she fought
to continue her salon, the most "exquisite pleasure of
her life," as it allowed her "the pleasure of conversing in Paris"
But as time went on, her guests stopped coming, most likely afraid
Mme. de Stäel's spirited opposition to Bonaparte caused her
exile from Paris. She was banished by Napoleon to forty leagues
(approximately 310 miles) from Paris. Mme. de Stäel was crushed
as she believed "If one could not be in the capital there was
no good in being in France at all. To be out of Paris was extinction!"
Stäel retired to her châuteau at Coppet, Switzerland,
on the Lake of Geneva, where she attracted a brilliant circle
and continued to write.
during her ten-year exile from Paris, Mme. de S published her
principal work, De l'Allemagne. Her work was the result
of a tour through Germany. Napoleon, who resented the book as
an invidious comparison between German and French culture and
mores, ordered the destruction of the entire first edition in
1811 on the ground that it was "un-French". Threatened by Napoleon's
police, Mme. de Stäel fled to Russia and England and eventually
returned to Coppet. Republished, De l'Allemagne tremendously
influenced European thought and letters, which became imbued with
Mme. de Stäel's enthusiasm for German romanticism.
the demise of Napoleon in 1814 and the restoration of Louis XVIII
to the throne of his ancestors, Mme. de Stäel returned to
Paris and quickly resumed her high place in society as her name
had accumulated much fame over the years.