Friday, March 25, 2011

Madame Anne Louise Germaine de Stael

Anne Louise Germaine de Stael
22 April 1766 – 14 July 1817

Of all the women Napoleon Bonaparte knew, he hated Madame de Stael the most. She was the most famous woman in Europe during the nineteenth century.

She was born in Paris on 22 April 1766. Her parents named her Germaine Necker. Her father was Jacques Necker, a wealthy Genevese banker.

Jacques Necker 
She was raised in the lap of luxury.

Her father was often called upon to manage the deteriorating treasury of King Louis XVI. During the final days of the French monarchy Necker tried desperately to influence the King to adopt English practices. Queen Marie-Antoinette disliked him and when the king dismissed him on 11 July 1789, it led to the storming of the infamous Bastille by revolutionists.

Germaine’s mother was Suzanne Curchod. She was beautiful, cultivated and talented.

Suzanne Curchod

To further her husband's career, she held literary and political “salons” for her guests while in Paris. Germaine attended these salons where she brushed shoulders with some of the most intelligent men of her time including Voltaire, Rousseau, Lamartine, and Châteaubriand. She participated in lively discussions at these male-dominated occasions. At first, the men regarded her with a wary eye, but soon she gained their admiration for her quick wit and good looks. Although Germaine did not possess the beauty of her mother, she was deemed almost pleasant.

In 1786, at the age of 20, she married the Swedish ambassador to Paris, Baron Eric de Staël-Holstein.

Baron Eric de Staël-Holstein

Like most marriages of this time, it was pre-arranged and one of political convenience to unite the wealthy and intelligent Germaine Necker to the aloof, hard-drinking, poor, gambling, titled diplomat who was a full sixteen years older than her.

The marriage failed and they separated in 1797. It was rumoured that her two sons were the children of her lover Louis de Narbonne, one of King Louis XVI’s ministers.

When the French Revolution broke out in 1789, the Swedish Embassy in Paris provided Germaine and her friends with diplomatic sanctuary.

Like her mother before her and other rich and powerful women of this era, Germaine held some of the grandest salons of eighteenth century French society. These salons were a meeting place for writers, artists and critics where they could openly discuss opinions about politics and literature in addition to listening to music and poetry readings.

In 1793 during the period of the “Terror”, life in Paris became so dangerous that Germain fled her family residence at Chateau de Coppet near Geneva. By the end of the revolution in 1794 order, Germain returned to Paris and resumed her salons. She published several political and literary essays.

Napoleon Bonaparte seized power in 1799.

Napoleon Bonaparte

Because Germaine was interested in all men of power and brilliance, she decided to share with him her political views and ideas on how to form the new government.

Napoleon was not impressed. His impatience soon turned into irritation as Germaine's salon evolved into a liberal resistance group that annoyed Napoleon.  Benjamin Constant was the leader of this group.

Benjamin Constant

Napoleon was of the opinion that his speaches reflected strongly the political views of Germaine. As a result, Napoleon banished Constant and Germaine. Napoleon’s hostility towards her made her famous throughout Europe.

Never one to be intimidated, Germaine travelled throughout Germany between December 1803 to April 1804. Everywhere she went, she was treated with all the pomp and pagentry befitting a queen. When her father died, she returned to Chateau de Coppet and resumed residence there. Her home became the headquarters for an anti-Bonaparte movement. Fellow dissidents joined her and the group grew in size.

In 1811, at the age of 45, Germaine married John Rocca, a Swiss-Italian army officer nearly half her age. Their only son was born retarded.

John Rocca

Napoleon’s officers took an ever-increasing interest in her affairs and in 1812 she was forced to flee to Austria, Russia, Finland and Sweden before finally arriving in England in June 1813 where she remained for a year.

Napoleon fell in 1814. She returned to Paris and began holding her salons again. Soon thereafter, her health began to fail and she died on 14 July 1817.

It is said that Mme Germaine de Staël threw herself at every distinguished man but received little love in return.

She admitted, “I always loved my lovers more than they loved me”. Her greatest love was Benjamin Constant, a successful politician and novelist. She bore him a daughter named Albertine.

She was a hopeless insomniac and kept up a hectic pace. As a result, she rarely accomplished anything well. The novels she wrote and her philosophys were mediocre and often emulated the work of others.

But her gregarious personality overshadowed her faults. Her intelligent eccentricity and strong personality turned the heads and caught the notice of everyone she made contact with.

In addition to earning the moniker of the woman whom Napoleon hated most, she is also remembered as the champion of liberal republicanism and the empress of a vast realm of intelligence, talent and grace.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Jane Austen Quote

Jane Austen

On the marriage of Maria, a middle-aged flirt, with a Mr. Wake, whom gossips averred Jane would have scorned in her prime, Jane said:

"Maria, good-humored and handsome and tall,

For a husband was at her last stake;

And having in vain danced at many a ball,

Is now happy to jump at a Wake."

Friday, March 18, 2011

Love Letters - Pietro Bembo to Lucrezia Borgia

Lucrezia Borgia was the daughter of the Spanish Cardinal, Rodrigo Borgia, who later became Pope Alexander VI. Much scandal regarding incest and murder surrounds her. She entered into a passionate affair with Pietro Bembo, (1470-1547), a respected poet and scholar who became a Cardinal in the Vatican who became enraptured by her.

Born of an aristocratic Venetian family, Pietro Bembo wrote many adoring poems to Lucrezia, and they carried on a long correspondence that continued well after they parted. Theirs was an affair of great affection and respect.

October 18, 1503

Eight days have passed since I parted from f.f., and already it is as though I had been eight years away from her, although I can avow that not one hour has passed without her memory which has become such a close companion to my thoughts that now more than ever is it the food and sustenance of my soul; and if it should endure like this a few days more, as seems it must, I truly believe it will in every way have assumed the office of my soul, and I shall then live and thrive on the memory of her as do other men upon their souls, and I shall have no life but in this single thought. Let the God who so decrees do as he will, so long as in exchange I may have as much a part of her as shall suffice to prove the gospel of our affinity is founded on true prophecy. Often I find myself recalling, and with what ease, certain words spoken to me, some on the balcony with the moon as witness, others at that window I shall always look upon so gladly, with all the many endearing and gracious acts I have seen my gentle lady perform--for all are dancing about my heart with a tenderness so wondrous that they inflame me with a strong desire to beg her to test the quality of my love. For I shall never rest content until I am certain she knows what she is able to enact in me and how great and strong is the fire that her great worth has kindled in my breast. The flame of true love is a mighty force, and most of all when two equally matched wills in two exalted minds contend to see which loves the most, each striving to give yet more vital proof...It would be the greatest delight for me to see just two lines in f.f.'s hand, yet I dare not ask so much. May your Ladyship beseech her to perform whatever you feel is best for me. With my heart I kiss your Ladyship's hand, since I cannot with my lips.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Victorian Lady Quote

At a Chicago dinner-party a physician received a menu card with an imprint of a mushroom.  He showed it to the lady next to him and said, "I hope nothing invidious is intended."

The lady responded, "Oh, no, it only
alludes to the fact that you spring up in the night."

Friday, March 11, 2011

Castello Miramare in Trieste

Living in Western Canada all my life didn't provide much opportunity to see a real castle first hand.  It wasn't until I was sixteen, when my father took me to Italy to visit his aunt in Trieste that I got my chance.  My father's cousin, Romano, a police officer in Trieste, took the day off and took us to Castello Miramare.  I fell instantly in love with it and have never forgotten how mesmerized I was with it's enchanting beauty and the tragic love story between Maximillian and his Queen Charlotte of Belgium.  

Ferdinand Maximilian (1832-1867), of the House of Habsburg - younger brother of Franz Joseph, Emperor of Austria - built the beautiful castle wich sits on the Gulf of Trieste. Maximilian originally came to Trieste in 1850 when he was eighteen years old with his brother Charles. According to legend, he was forced to take shelter in the harbour of Grignano when caught in a sudden storm. It was then that he chose that bare rocky spur of limestone origin as the setting for his home. He wanted to name it Miramar after the name of Prince Ferdinand of Saxony’s residence in Pena, Portugal.

When he approved the plans, he insisted on creating an intimate atmosphere in the area reserved for his family – an area which he wanted to be in contact with nature, reflecting both his own spirit and that of an epoch.

The work, steadily supervised by Maximilian, was finished only after his departure in 1864 for Mexico where he was appointed Emperor, and where after a brief reign he was shot in Querétaro in June 1867.

Currently, the rooms in the Castle are mostly arranged according to the original layout decided upon by the royal couple. A valuable photographic reportage commissioned by the Archduke himself made accurate reconstruction possible.

Nowadays to visit the Castle is to experience the fascination of life in the middle of the 19th century in a residence that has remained largely intact.

During the construction, he had a small castle called the Gartenhuys or Castelletto built. It was a smaller replica of the main castle and he lived there until Christmas 1860.

The Castelletto, situated in a panoramic area, faces Grignano on one side and on the other a parterre surrounded by trees and on a clearing in front of greenhouses at the centre of which there is a fountain. The Castelletto is closely linked to the tragic history of Maximilian and Charlotte. It was here that Charlotte stayed upon her return from Mexico with a nervous breakdown, between the end of 1866 and the beginning of 1867, while awaiting her return to Belgium. It also housed part of the furnishings of the Castle of Miramare during the period when the Duke of Aosta stayed there.

After the death of Maximilian I in Mexico in June 1867 and Charlotte’s departure for Belgium, the Castle and the Park continued to be a place where the Habsburgs spent short periods.

Today, visitors are permitted to view Maximilian's and Charlotte's chambers and various other rooms. All the rooms still feature the original furnishings, ornaments, furniture and objects dating back to the middle of the 19th century.

Maximillian's Bedchamber

Particularly noteworthy are the music room where Charlotte used to play the fortepiano, now on show in room VII. In room XIX there are a series of paintings by Cesare dell'Acqua depicting the history of Miramare.

Lastly, visitors may visit the throne room, which was recently restored to its former splendor.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Louisa May Alcott Quote

"If steamers are named the Asia, the Russia, and the Scotia, why not call one the Nausea?"

Louisa May Alcott

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Sara Jane Lippincott Quote

Sara Jane Lippicott (alias Grace Greenwood) at a tea-drinking at the Woman's Club in Boston, was begged to tell one more story, but excused herself in this way:
"No, I cannot get more than one story high on a cup of tea!"