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position which seem to be endemic in the society of Geneva, has also perhaps something of the formality, mannerism, and didactic ambition of that very intellectual society. Fora personal memoir of one so much distinguished in society, it is not sufficiently individual or familiar—and a great deal too little feminine, for a woman's account of a woman, who never forgot her sex, or allowed it to be forgotten. The only things that indicate a female author in the work before us, are the decorous purity of her morality—the feebleness of her political speculations—and her never telling the age of her friend.
The world probably knows as much already of M. and Madame Necker as it will care ever to know: Yet we are by no means of opinion that too much is said of them here. They were both very good people—neither of the most perfect bon ton, nor of the very highest rank of understanding,—but far above the vulgar level certainly, in relation to either. The likenesses of them with which we are here presented are undoubtedly very favourable, and even nattering; but still, we have no doubt that they are likenesses, and even very cleverly executed. We hear a great deal about the strong understanding and lofty principles of Madame Necker, and of the air of purity that reigned in her physiognomy: But we are candidly told also, that, with her tall and stiff figure, and formal manners, "il y avoit de la gêne en elle, et auprès d'elle;" and are also permitted to learn, that after having acquired various branches of knowledge by profound study, she unluckily became persuaded that all virtues and accomplishment? might be learned in the same manner; and accordingly set herself, with miuht and main, I:to study the arts of conversation and of housekeeping—together with the characters of individuals, and the management of society—to reduce all these things te system, and to deduce from this system precise rules for the regulation of her conduct/' Of M. Nocker, again, it is recorded. in very emphatic and affectionate terms, that he was extraordinarily eloquent and observing, and equally full of benevolence and practical wisdom: But it is candidlv admitted that his eloquence was more sonorous than substantial, and consisted rather of wellrounded periods than impressive thoughts; that he was reserved and silent in general society, took pleasure in thwarting his wife in the education of their daughter, and actually treated the studious propensity of his ingenious consort with so little respect, as to prohibit her from devoting any time to composition, and even from having a table to write at !—for no better reason than that he might not be annoyed with the fear of disturbiiiï her when he came into her apartment! He was a great joker, too, in an innocent paternal way, in hie own family; but we cannot find that hie witticisms ever had much eoccess in other places. The worship of M. Necker, in short is a part of the established religion, we perceive, at Geneva; but we •aspect that the Priest has made the God,
here as in other instances; and rather the worthy financier must be contented to tr known to posterity chiefly as the father oí Madame de Staël.
But however that may be, the education of their only child does not seem to have beeu gone about very prudently, by these sage personages; and if Mad. de Staël had ix! been a very extraordinary creature, both u to talent and temper, from the very beginning, she could scarcely have escaped being pretty well spoiled between them. Her mother had a notion, that the best thing that could be done for a child was to cram it with all kinds of knowledge, without caring very much »hether it understood or digested any part of it; —and so the poor little girl was overtasked and overeducated, in a very pitiless way. for several years; till her health became str> ously impaired, and they were obliged to 1л her run idle in the woods for some year« longer—where she composed pastorals ami tragedies, and became exceedingly romantic. She was then taken up again; and set to bei studies with greater moderatioo. All th» time, too. her father was counteracting the lessons of patient application inculcated by her mother, by the half-playful disputation in which he loved to engage her, ana the d,«play which he could not resist making of her lively talents in society. Fortunately, this last species of training fell most in wilh !ir' disposition; and she escaped being solcmri and pedantic, at some little risk of beoomirp forward and petulant. Still more fortúnatela the strength of her understatuling was such as to exempt her almost entirely from this smaller disadvantage.
Nothing, however, could exempt her from the danger and disadvantage of tx-ii'g a you:hful Prod icy; and there never perhaps was an instance of one so early celebrated, whose celebrity went on increasing to the last period of her existence. We hare a very lively picture of her, at eleven years of age. in the work before us; where she is represented a.« then a stout brown girl, with fine eyes, and an open and affectionate manner, full of eager curiosity, kindness, and vivacity. In the drawing-room, she took her place on a little stool beside hier mother's chair, where she was forced to sit very upright, and to look a» demure as possible: But by and by, two or three wise-looking oldish gentlemen, witk round wigs, came up to her, and entered into animated and sensible conversation with her. as with a wit of full age; and those were Raynal. Marmontel, Thomas, and Grimm. At table she listened wilh delighted attention to all that fell from those distinguished paettf. and learned incredibly soon to discuss all subjects with them, without embarrassment or affectation. Her biographer says, indefd. that she was -always young, and never a rh,!.: but it does seem to us a trait of mere chiiJishness, though here cited as a proof of her filial devotion, that, in order to inwre for h«r parents the gratification of Mr. Gibbon's »• ciety, she proposed, about the same time, thai •he should marry him! and combated, wilb
great earnestness, all the objections that were blated to this extraordinary union.
He/ temper appears from the very fust to have been delightful, and her heart full of :rene»osity and kindness. Her love for her lather rose almost to idolatry : and though her taste for talk and distinction carried her at last tt good deal away from him, this earliest passion seems never to have been superseded, or even interrupted, by any other. Up to the age of twenty, she employed herself chiefly with poems and plays;—but took after that to prose. We do not mean here to say any thing of her different works, the history and analyrfis of which occupies two-thirds of the Notiic before us. Her fertility of thought, and warmth of character, appeared first in her Letters on Rousseau; but her own character is btst portrayed in Delphine—Corinne showing rather what she would have chosen to be. During her sufferings from the Revolution, she wrote her works on Literature and the Passions, and her more ambitious book on Germany. After that, with more subdued feelings-—more confirmed principles—and more piactical wisdom, she gave to the world her admirable Considerations on the French Revolution: having, for many years, addicted herself almost exclusively to politics, under the conviction which, in the present condition of the world, can scarcely be considered as erroneous, that under "politics were comprehended morality, religion, and literature."
She was, from a very early period, a lover of cities, of distinction, and of brilliant and varied discussion—cared little in general for the beauties of nature or art—and languished and pined, in spite of herself, when confined I to a narrow society. These are common enough traits in famous authors, and people | of fashion and notoriety of all other descrip- | lions: But they were united in her with a| warmth of affection, a temperament of enthu- ] siasm, and a sweetness of temper, \vith which ] we do not know that they were ever combined in any other individual. So far from resembling the poor, jaded, artificial creatures who live upon stimulants, and are \vith difficulty kept alive by the constant excitements of novelty, flattery, and emulation, her great characteristic was an excessive movement of the soul—a heart overcharged with sensibility, a frame over-informed with spirit and vitality. All her affections, says Madame Xecker,—her friendship, her filial, her maternal attachment, partook of the nature of Love—were accompanied by its emotion, almost its passion— and very frequently by the violent agitations which belong to its fears and anxieties. With all this animation, however, and with a good deal of vanity—a vanity which delighted in recounting her successes in society, arid made her speak without reserve of her own great talents, influence, and celebrity—she seems to have had no particle of envy or malice in her composition. She was not in the least degree vindictive, jealous, or scornful; but uniformly kind, indulgent, compassionate, and forgiving—or rather forgetful of injuries. In these respects she is very justly and advan
tageously contrasted with Rousseau; who, with the same warmth of imagination, ana still greater professions of philanthropy in his writings, uniformly indicated in his individual character the most irritable, suspicious, and selfish dispositions; and plainly showed that his affection for mankind was entirely theoretical, and had no living objects in this world.
Madame de Staèl's devotion to her father is sufficiently proved by her writings;—but it meets us under a new- aspect in the Memoir now before us. The only injuries which she could not forgive were those offered to him. She could not bear to think that he was ever to grow old; and, being herself blinded to his progressive decay by her love and sanguine temper, she resented, almost with fury, every insinuation or casual hint as to his age.or declining health. After his death, this passion took another turn. Every old man now recalled the image of her father! and she watched over the comforts of all such persons, and wept over their sufferings, with a painful intenseness of sympathy. The same deep feeling mingled with her devotions, and even tinged her strong intellect with a shade of superstition. She believed that her soul communicated with his in prayer; and that it was to his intercession that she owed all the good that afterwards befell her. Whenever she met with any piece of good fortune, she used to say. ''• It is my father that has obtained this for me!"
In her happier days, this ruling passion took occasionally a more whimsical aspect: and expressed itself with a vivacity of which we have no idea in this phlegmatic country, and which more resembles the childish irritability of Voltaire, than the lofty enthusiasm of the person actually concerned. We give, as a specimen, the following anecdote from the work before us. Madame Saussure had come to Coppet from Geneva in M. Neckers carriage; and had been overturned in the way, but without receiving any injury. On mentioning the accident to Madame de Staël on her arrival, she asked with great vehemence who had driven; and on being told that it was Riche!, her father's ordinary coachman, she exclaimed in an agony, ;'My God, he may one day overturn my father!!: and rung instantly with violence for his appearance. While he was coming, she paced about the room in the greatest possible agitation, crying out, at every turn, "My father, my poor father! he might have been overturned!"—and turning to her friend, "At your age, and with your slight person, the danger is nothing—but with his age and bulk! I cannot bear to think of it." The coachman now came in; and this lady. so mild and indulgent and reasonable with all her attendants, turned to him in a sort of frenzy, and with a voice of solemnity, but choked with emotion, said, <:Richel, do you know that I am a woman of genius'?"—The poor man stood in astonishment—and she went on, louder, "Have you not heard. I say, that I am a woman of genius?" Coachy was still mute. "Well then! I tell you that / am a woman of genius—of great genius—of огоdigious genius !—and I tell you more—that all the genius I have shall be exerted to secure your rotting out your days in a dungeon, if ever you overturn my father!" Even after the fit was over, she could not be made to laugh at her extravagance; but was near beginning again—and said "And what had I to conjure with but my poor genius V
Her insensibility to natural beauty is rather unaccountable, in a mind constituted like hers, and in a native of Switzerland. But, though born in the midst of the most magnificent scenery, she seems to have thought, like Dr. Johnson, that there was no scene equal to the high tide of human existence in the heart of a populous city. "Give me the Rue de Вое,'' said she. when her guests were in ecstasies with the Lake of Geneva and its enchanted shores—"I would prefer living in Paris, in a fourth story, with an hundred Louis a year." These were her habitual sentiments;—But she is said to have had one glimpse of the glories of the universe, when she went first to Italy, after her father's death, and was engaged with Corinne. And in that work, it is certainly true that the indications of a deep and sincere sympathy with nature are far more conspicuous than in any of her other writings. For this enjoyment and Ыеч1еveloped sensibility, she always said she was indebted to her father's intercession.
The world is pretty generally aware of the brilliancy of her conversation in mixed company; but we were not aware that it was generally of so polemic a character, or that ehe herself was so very zealous a disputant. —such a determined intellectual gladiator as her cousin here represents her. Her great delight, it is said, was in eager and even violent contention; and her drawing-room at Coppet is compared to the Hall of Odin, where the bravest warriors were invited every day to enjoy the tumult of the fight, and, after having cut each other in pieces, revived to renew the combat in the morning. In this trait, also, she seems to have resembled our Johnson.—though, according to all accounts, she was rather more courteous to her opponents. These fierce controversies embraced all sorts of subjects — politics, morals, literature, casuistry, metaphysics, and history. In the early part of her life, they turned offener upon themes of pathos and passion—love and death, and heroical devotion; but she was cured of this lofty vein by the affectations of her imitators. "I tramp in the mire with wooden shoes," she said, "whenever they would force me to go with them among the clouds" In the same way, though sufficiently given to indulge, and to talk of her emotions, she was easily disgusted by the parade of sensibility which is sometimes made by persons of real feeling; observing, with admirable force and simplicity, '-'Que tous les sentiments naturels ont leur pudeur."
She had at all times a deep sense of religion. Educated in the strict principles of Calvinism, »he was never seduced into any admiration of the splendid apparatus and high pretensions •i Popery; although she did not altogether
escape the seductions of a more sublime !<zperstition. In theology, as well as in eventhing else, however, she was less dogmatic, than persuasive; and, while speaking ¡'rum the inward conviction of her own htart. pour> *1 out its whole warmth, as well as its cunrictions. into those of others; and петет seemed to feel any thing for the errors of her companions but a generous compassion, and an affectionate desire for their removal. Sm rather tcstißed in favour of religion, in ebon. than reasoned systematic-ally in its supjor: . and, in the present condition of the world, this was perhaps the best service that coula be rendered. Placed in many respecte in the most elevated condition to which huma: :;y could aspire—possessed unquestionably ol lie highest powers of reasoning—emancipated. ¡:. a singular degree, from prejudices, and «Erring with the keenest relish into all the feel;:;;:? that seemed to suffice for the happiuesc- ы . occupation of philosophers, patriots, and loveni —she has still testified, that without religion there is nothing stable, sublime, or satiMju ::'. and that it alone completes and consummates all to which reason or affection can aspire.— A genius like hers, and so directed, ¡к as- her bioerapher has well remarked, the only M.ssionary that can work any permanent eflecl on the upper classes of society in modern time* :— upon the vain, the learned, the scornful. ai¡iJ argumentative.—they "who stone the Pro] h<-N while they affect tooffer incense to t he Wu^_
Both her marriages have been censuitci :— the first, as a violation of her principles—;he second, of dignity and decorum. In that « .:h M. de Staël, she was probably merely pa-sitt It was respectable, and not absolutely u¡ happy: but unquestionably not such as*uj!<: her. Of that wiih Ы. Rocca. it will not perhaps be so easy to make the apology. W e have no objection to a love-match at fiîty:— But where the age and the rank and forn;i_e are all on the lady's side, and the bndeenxm seems to have little other recommendation than a handsome person, and a great deal ol" admiration, it is difficult to escape ridicule.— or something more severe than ridicule. )laii N. S. seems to us to give a very candid аЫ interesting account of it: and undoubtedly goes far to take off what is most revolting wi the first view, by letting us know that it originated in a romantic attachment on the]art of M. Rocca; and that he was an ardent Niitut to her, before the idea of loving him hail Pi;tered into her imagination. The broken state of his health, too—the short period ehe survived their union—and the rapidity w ith which he followed her to the grave—all tend not only to extinguish any tendency to ridicule, but lo disarm all severity of censure: and lead и rather to dwell on the storv as a [»art only ol lie tratrical close of a life full of lolly emotitn*
Like most other energetic spirit*, she Htvpised and neglected too much the accommodation of her body—cared little about exerciseand save herself no great trouble about hrallh With the sanguine spirit which bêlons«! t'1 her character, she affected to triumph ovei infirmity; and used to eay—"Imigbt have been sickly, like any body else, had I not resolved to vanquish all physical weaknesses." But Nature would not be defied! — and she died, while contemplating still greater undertakings than any she had achieved. On her sick-bed, none of her great or good qualities abandoned her. To the last she was kind, patient, devout, and intellectual. Among other things, she said—:I J'ai toujours été la même —vive et triste.—J'ai aimé Dieu, mon père, et la liberté!" She left life with regret—but felt no weak terrors at the approach of death —and died at last in the utmost composure and tranquillity.
We would rather not make any summary at present of the true character and probable effects of her writings. But we must say, we are not quite satisfied with that of her biographer. It is too flattering, and too eloqne"t and ingenious. She is quite right in extolling the great fertility of thought which characterises the writings of her friends;— and. with relation to some of these writings, she is not perhaps very far wrong in saying that, if you take any three pages in them at random, the chance is, that you meet with more new and striking thoughts than in an equal врасе in any other author. But we cannot at all agree with her, when, in a very imposing passage, she endeavours to show that she ought to be considered as the foundress of a new school of literature and philosophy —or at least as the first who clearly revealed to the world that a new and a grander era was now opening to their gaze.
In so far as regards France, and those countries which derive their literature from her fountains, there may be some foundation for tins remark; but we cannot admit it as at all applicable to the other parts of Europe; which have always drawn their wisdom, wit, and fancy, from native sources. The truth is, that previous to her Revolution, there was no civilised country where there had been so little originality for fifty years as in France In literature, their standards had been fixed nearly a century before: and to alter, or even to advance them, was reckoned equally impious and impossible. In politics, they were restrained, by the stale of their government, from any free or bold speculations; and in metaphysics, and all the branches of the hiirher philosophy that depend on it, they had done nothing since the days of Pascal and Descartes. In England, however, and in Germany, the national intellect had not been thus stagnated and subdued—and a greatdeal of what startled the Parisians by its novelty, in the writings of Madame de Staël, had long been familiar to the thinkers of these two countries. Some of it she confessedly borrowed from those neighbouring sources; and some she undoubtedly invented over again for herself. In both departments, however, it would be erroneous, we think, to ascribe the greater part of this improvement to the talents of this extraordinary woman. The Revolution had thrown down, among other things, the barriers bv which literary enterprise had been so long restrained in France—and broken, among
other trammels, those which had circumscribed the liberty of thinking in that great country. The genius of Madame de Staël co-operated, no doubt, with the spirit of the time«, and assisted its effects—but it was also acted upon, and in part created, by that spirit—and her works are rather, perhaps, to be considered as the first fruits of a new order of things, that had already struck root in Europe, thau as the harbinger of changes that still remain to be effected.*
In looking back to what she has said, with so much emphasis, of the injustice she had to suffer from Napoleon, it is impossible not to be struck with the aggravation which that injustice is made to receive from the quality of the victim, and the degree in which those sufferings are exaggerated, because they were her own. We think the hostility of that great commander towards a person of her sex, character, and talents, was in the highest degree paltry, and unworthy even of a high-minded tyrant. But we really cannot say that it seems to have had any thing very savage or ferocious in the manner of it. He did not touch, nor even menace her life, nor her liberty, nor her fortune. No daggers, nor chains, nor dungeons. nor confiscations, are among the instruments of torture of this worse than Russian despot. He banished her, indeed, first from Paris, and then from France; suppressed her publications; separated her from some of her friends: and obstructed her passage into England :— very vexatious treatment certainly,—but not quite of the sort which we should have guessed at, from the tone either of her complaints or lamentations. Her main grief undoubtedly was the loss of the society and brilliant talk of Paris; and if that had been spared to her, we cannot help thinking that she would have felt less honor and detestation at the inroads of Bonaparte on the liberty and independence of mankind. She avows this indeed pretty honestly, where she says, that, if she had been aware of the privations of this sort which a certain liberal speech of M. Constant was ultimately to bring upon herself, she would have taken oare that it should not have been spoken! The truth is, that, like many other celebrated persons of her country, she could not live happily without the excitements and novelties that Paris alone could supply; and that, when these were withdrawn, all the vivacity of her genius, and all the warmth of her heart, proved insufficient to protect her from the benumbing influence of ennui. Here are her own confessions on the record :—
"J'étois vulnérable par mon goût pour la société Montaigne я dit jadis : Je tuis François pnr Paris, et s'il pcnsoit ainsi, il y a trois siècles, que eeroii-c» depuis que l'on a vu réunies tant de personnes d'esprit dans une même ville, et tant de personnes accoutumées à ее servir rie Cri esorit pour les plaisirs de la conversation î J^e fantôme de Vfimui m'a toujours pounuivie! C'est par la terreur qu'il me
* A great deal of citation and remark, relating chiefly "to the character and conduct of Bonaparte, and especially to his persecution of the fair author, is here omitted—the object of this reprint being solely to illuslrate her Personal character.
cause que j'aiitoia été capable de plier devant la tyrannie—si l'exemple de mon père, e( son sang qui coule dans mes veines, ne l'emportoiem pas sur cette tbiblesse."—Vol. iii. p. 8.
We think this rather a curious trait, and not very easily explained. We can quite well understand how the feeble and passive spirits who have been accustomed to the stir and variety of a town life, and have hail their inanity supplied by the superabundant intellect and gaiety that overflows in these great repositories, should feel helpless and wretched when these extrinsic supports are withdrawn: But why the active and energetic members [ of those vast assemblages, who draw their resources from within, and enliven not only themselves, but the inert mass around them, by the radiation of their genius, should'suffer in a similar way. it certainly is not so easy to comprehend. In France, however, the people of me most wit and vivacity seem to have j always been the most subject to ennui. The letters of Mad. du Defland, we remember, are full of complaints of it ; and those of De Bussy • aleo. It is but a humiliating view of our frail human nature, if the most exquisite arrangements for social enjoyment should be found thus inevitably to generate a distaste for what is ordinarily within our reach: and the habit of a little elegant amusement, not coming very close either to our hearts or understandings, should render all the other parts of life, with its duties, affections, and achievements, distasteful and burdensome. We are inclined, however, we confess, both to question the perfection of the arrangements and the system of amusement that led to such results; and also to doubt of the permanency of the discomfort that may arise on its first disturbance. We are persuaded, in short, that at least as much enjoyment may be obtained, with less of the extreme variety, and less of the overexcitement which belongs to the life of Paris. and is the immediate cause of the depression that follows their cessation ; and also, that, in minds of any considerable strength and resource, this depression will be of no long dura
tion; and that nothing but a little perspverarrr is required to restore the plastic frame of our nature, to its natural appetite and relish fen the new pleasures and occupations that may Vet await it. beyond the precinct» of Pari« or London. We remember a signal testimony to this effect, in one of the later publication;. we think of Volney, the celebrated traveller; —who describes, in а тегу amusing »ay, line misery he suffered when he first changed the society of Paris for that ot Syria and Egrpt, and the recurrence of the same misery wbec. after years of absence, he «as airain r>.->tor--; to the importunate bustle and idle chatter oí Paris, from the tranquil taciturnity of his warlike Mussulmans!—his second acceí-sol bu..;sickness, \vhen he left Paris for the Ur;;>: States of America,—and the discomfort he experienced, for the fourth time, when, after being reconciled to the free and eubstaj.ua! talk of these stout republicans, he finally returned to the amiable trifling of his ovn famous metropolis.
It is an affliction, certainly, to be at the ea-1 of the works of such a writer—and to thii:k that she was cut off at a period when her enlarged experience and matured talents «*:•• likely to be exerted with the greatest utililv. and ihe state of the world was such as to hotl out the fairest prospect of their not being елerted in vain. It is a consolation, however. that she has done so much ;—And her works will remain not only as a brilliant menio-vú of her own unrivalled genius, but ая a proof that sound and comprehensive views were entertained, kind affections cultivated, »nil elegant pursuits followed out. through a }>t i •! which posterity may be apt to regard a* <.• •• of universal delirium and crime :—thai :'ív principles of genuine freedom, taste, and morality, were not altogether extinct, even ourler the reign of terror and violence—and that one who lived through the irhole of that agitating scene, was the first luminously to explain, a- i temperately and powerfully to impress, the great moral and political Lessons, which h should have taught to mankind.
Memoirs of the Life of the Right Honourable Sir James Mackintosh. Edited by hie Son, Robert James Mackintosh, Esq. 2 vols. 8vo. London: 1835.*
There cannot be, we think, a more delight-1 attraction of the Character it brings во picasful book than this: whether we consider the | ingly before us—or the infinite variety of ori
* Tim was mv last considerable contribution to the Kdinburgh Review; and, indeed, (with the exception of a slight notice of Mr. Wilberforre'a .Memoirs.) the only thing I wrote for it, alter my advancement to the place I now bold. If there w:is anv impropriety in my so contributing at all, some pailia'ion I hope may be found in the nature of ihe feelings by which I was led to it, and the tenor of what these feelings prompted me to say. I wrote it solely out of affection to the memory of the friend I had lost; and I think I said nothing which was not dictated by и desire to vindicate and to honour
lhat memory. At all events, if it was an impropriety, it was one for which I cannot now submit to . seek the shelter of concealment: And tbertfore I i here reprint the greater part of it: and think I rannoi better conclude the present collection, than irith this tribute to the mérite of one of the most detinjuiishvd of my Associate« in the work util of which it has been caihered.
A considerable part of the original a omitted in this publication; but consisting almost eniirrlr ta citations from the book reviewed, and incidental r<marks on these citations.