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Madame de Staël. The Woman Napoleon Feared (Madame de Staël. La femme qui faisait trembler Napoléon)



Original Language: French | 248 pp. | March 2015

2 Seas Represents: World Excl French

‘We have found our Woman of the Year for 2015!’ — Elle
‘Around de Staël in 24 days: enlightening!’ — Le Point


Her fame has no equal in present day. She was known throughout Europe. Her books were bestsellers. Her closest friends were writing History and Napoleon said of her: “I have four enemies: Prussia, Russia, England and Madame de Staël.” Laurence de Cambronne chronicles the life of this exceptional woman over 24 decisive days.

The gifted daughter of Jacques Necker who was finance minister of Louis XVI, Germaine de Staël lived through the Revolution, the Consulate and the Empire while being a very different woman than was appropriate at the time. She was a major political writer: her fifteen books show she was liberal, democratic and European, while the world was royalist, Jacobin or Bonapartist.

Her salon was the dazzling beginning of what would become “the Coppet Group”, named after her castle in Switzerland: the intellectual Elysée of a generation, the focal rendezvous point of the European intelligentsia. She knew Voltaire and Diderot, the Czar of Russia and the King of Sweden, Jefferson and Lord Byron. Her friends went by the names of Juliette Recamier, Talleyrand, Lafayette or Chateaubriand. She was immensely rich, immensely generous and all those around her enjoyed her fortune. She spent her life being chased away by Napoleon, who constantly banned her from Paris and then France as he felt under attack by each of her writings.

This strong, great intellectual woman who was not afraid to oppose the Emperor was also perpetually in love. If her thoughts were organized, her emotions were anything but, and that is what made her such a moving person. She gave herself so easily to men – there are countless recollections of her liaisons – and she fell in love with each one of them. She loved men with an all-consuming, insatiable passion but time after time, found herself abandoned as her love suffocated them. Germaine had five children from four different fathers, and as a symbiotic mother, took them with her everywhere during her extensive travels throughout Europe.

Ahead of her time, Germaine campaigned for divorce, for women’s right to happiness, for freedom of expression and the abolition of slavery. She was a deeply endearing character, a woman in love aspiring for happiness, but also a feminist, a visionary intellectual, a woman with such a romantic destiny that her lover Benjamin Constant said of her: “If she had been able to rule herself, she would have ruled the world.”