Madame de Staél: “Preface to DE L’ALLEMAGNE” Part 2 of 3
Excerpt from DE L’ALLEMAGNE – “Germany” by Madame Germaine de Staél-Holstein (published 1810 in three volumes; this is from the 1813 John Murray translation).
Anne Jean Marie René Savary, 1st Duc de Rovigo and Minister of Police
Savary carried out the order of Napoleon for the exile of Mme de Staël and the destruction of her work De l’Allemagne.
Paris, 3d October, 1810
“I received, Madam, the letter that you did me the honor to write to me. Your son will have apprised you, that I had no objection to our postponing your departure for seven or eight days.
“I beg you will make that time sufficient for the arrangements you still have to make, because I cannot grant you more.
“The cause of the order which I have signified to you, is not to be looked for in the silence you have preserved with respect to the Emperor in your last work; that would be a mistake; no lace could be found in it worthy of him.
“But your banishment is a natural consequence of the course you have constantly pursued for some years past. It appeared to me, that the air of this country did not agree with you, and we are not yet reduced to seek for models amongst the people you admire.
“Your last work is not French; it is I who have put a stop to the publication of it. I am sorry for the loss the bookseller must sustain, but it is not possible for me to suffer it to appear.
“You know, Madam, that you were only permitted to quit Coppet, because you had expressed a desire to go to America.
“If my predecessor suffered you to remain in the department of the Loire and the Cher, you were not to look upon that indulgence as a revocation of the orders which had been given with respect to you.
“At present, you oblige me to cause them to be strictly executed, and you have only yourself to accuse for it.
“I desire M. Corbigny [Prefect of the Loire and the Cher] to suspend the execution of the order I had given him, until the expiration of the time I now grant you.
“I am concerned, Madam, that you have obliged me to commence my correspondence with you by a measure of severity.
“It would have been more agreeable to me to have had only to offer you the testimonies of the high consideration with which I have the honour to be,
Your very humble and very
[Signed] The Duke De Rovigo
“Mad. De Stael,
P.S. I have reasons, Madam, for mentioning to you the ports of L’Orient, Larochelle, Bourdeaux, and Rochefort, as being the only ports at which you can embark; I beg you will let me know which of them you choose.”
*The object of the Postscript was to forbid me the Ports of the Channel.
I shall subjoin some reflections upon this letter, although it appears to me curious enough in itself.
“It appears to me,” says General Savary, “that the ‘air of this country did not agree with you.’”
What a gracious manner of announcing to a woman, then, alas! the mother of three children, the daughter of a man who had served France with so much fidelity, that she was banished forever from the place of her birth, without being suffered, in any manner, to protect against a punishment, esteemed the next in severity to death!
There is a French vaudeville, in which a bailiff boasting of his politeness towards those persons whom he takes to prison, says, “So I am loved by all I arrest.”
I do not know if such were the intention of General Savary.
He adds that ‘the French are not reduced to seek for models amongst the people I admire’; these people are the English first, and in many respects the Germans.
At all events, I think I cannot be accused of not loving France.
I have shewn but too much sensibility in being exiled from a country where I have so many objects of affection, and where those who are dear to me have such power of entertaining me by their genius!
But, notwithstanding this attachment, perhaps too lively, for so brilliant a country, and its ingenious inhabitants, it did not follow that I was to be forbidden to admire England.
She has been seen like a knight armed for the defence of social order, preserving Europe, during ten years of anarchy, and ten years more of despotism.
Her happy constitution was, at the beginning of the Revolution, the object of the hopes and the efforts of the French. My mind still remains where theirs was then.
To be continued…