May 02 2010

Madame de Stael by Francine du Plessix Gray

The subject of this book is an extraordinary individual, yet I find myself disliking her. Mme de Stael was brilliantly eloquent, audaciously spirited, and a gifted writer, yet there is an overwhelmingly histrionic side to her personality that makes it impossible for me to take her seriously. There is much in her that seems to exemplify the French national character: wittiness, charm, and an endless capacity for love affairs. But she did not lack courage: she was an outspoken critic of Napoleon when it was dangerous to be one. This book also reveals a boorish, anti-intellectual side to Napoleon that is remarkably ugly. A good profile of an outstanding personality.

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