MADAME DE STAËL
THERE was open war between Mme de Staël and Napoleon. In 1803 she was exiled from France, and her books, at first merely branded as indecent by the obedient press, were banned. The angle from which she judged the regime, her personality and her methods, explain why Napoleon was less tolerant to her than he was to Chateaubriand.
Mme de Staël was the daughter of the Swiss banker Necker, who at the eleventh hour of the ancien régime was to have been the minister responsible for its reconstruction, and from whom, in the first stage of the Revolution, the National Assembly had expected so much. She admired her father, and remained faithful throughout her life to the original liberal aims of the Revolution. Perhaps this can be explained by her Protestant origins and upbringing. Perhaps it was also the fact that she was not French by birth, however deep her love for France, which made her immune to the lures of glory and power which undermined the resistance of so many others. Her personal fortune and the title of her husband, a Swedish diplomat, enabled her to play an important part in the social life of Paris, and this, thanks to her vivacious and energetic personality, she was able to maintain through many a change of government. Her salon was the centre of her life. Conversation, as she herself says, was her greatest pleasure, but perhaps it gave her even more satisfaction to exert influence, to play a part, through her friends and her activities, in the development of the great events going on around her.
As a woman with a devouring need for action, whose aim it was to know, and if possible to influence, everyone worth knowing in political circles, she had naturally tried to get hold of General Bonaparte after his triumphs in Italy. In this she had not much success, for Bonaparte did not care for intellectual women. Nevertheless Mme de Staël was still among his admirers after the Egyptian campaign, and rushed eagerly back to Paris after 18th Brumaire to enjoy the spectacle of what she considered a reforming and conciliatory administration. But before long disillusionmen