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Corinne, Volume 1 (of 2) Or Italy   By: (1766-1817)

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First Page:

[Illustration: The crowd break their ranks as the horses pass.]

CORINNE

OR

ITALY

BY

MME. DE STAËL

WITH INTRODUCTION BY

GEORGE SAINTSBURY

( In Two Volumes )

VOL. I.

Illustrated

by

H.S. Greig

LONDON: Published by J.M. DENT and COMPANY at ALDINE HOUSE in Great Eastern Street, E.C.

MDCCCXCIV

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.

THE CROWD BREAK THEIR RANKS AS THE HORSES PASS Frontispiece .

CORINNE AT THE CAPITOL PAGE 33

CORINNE SHOWING OSWALD HER PICTURES " 235

[Illustration]

INTRODUCTION.

In Lady Blennerhassett's enthusiastic and encyclopædic book on Madame de Stael she quotes approvingly Sainte Beuve's phrase that "with Corinne Madame de Stael ascended the Capitol." I forget in which of his many dealings with an author who, as he remarks in the "Coppet and Weimar" causeries , was "an idol of his youth and one that he never renounced," this fancy occurs. It must probably have been in one of his early essays; for in his later and better, Sainte Beuve was not wont to give way to the little flashes and crackles of conceit and epigram which many Frenchmen and some Englishmen think to be criticism. There was, however, some excuse for this. In the first place (as one of Charles Lamb's literal friends would have pointed out), Madame de Stael, like her heroine, did actually "ascend the Capitol," and received attentions there from an Academy. In the second, there can be no doubt that Corinne in a manner fixed and settled the high literary reputation which she had already attained. Even by her severest critics, and even now when whatever slight recrudescence of biographical interest may have taken place in her, her works are little read, Corinne is ranked next to De l'Allemagne as her greatest production; while as a work of form, not of matter, as literature of power, not of knowledge, it has at last a chance of enduring when its companion is but a historical document the record of a moment that has long passed away.

The advocates of the milieu theory the theory which will have it that you can explain almost the whole of any work of art by examining the circumstances, history, and so forth of the artist have a better chance with Corinne than with many books, though those who disagree with them (as I own that I do) may retort that this was precisely because Madame de Stael in literature has little idiosyncracy, and is a receptive, not a creative, force. The moment at which this book was composed and appeared had really many of the characteristics of crisis and climax in the life of the author. She was bidding adieu to youth; and though her talents, her wealth, her great reputation, and her indomitable determination to surround herself with admirers still made her a sort of queen of society, some illusions at least must have been passing from her. The most serious of her many passions, that for Benjamin Constant, was coming, though it had not yet come, to an end. Her father, whom she unfeignedly idolised, was not long dead. The conviction must have been for some time forcing itself on her, though she did not even yet give up hope, that Napoleon's resolve not to allow her presence in her still more idolised Paris was unconquerable. Her husband, who indeed had long been nothing to her, was dead also, and the fancy for replacing him with the boy Rocca had not yet arisen. The influence of the actual chief of her usual herd of lovers, courtiers, teachers, friends (to use whichever term, or combination of terms, the charitable reader pleases), A.W. Schlegel, though it never could incline her innately unpoetical and unreligious mind to either poetry or religion, drove her towards æsthetics of one kind and another. Lastly, the immense intellectual excitement of her visits to Weimar, Berlin, and Italy, added its stimulus to produce a fresh intellectual ferment in her... Continue reading book >>




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