October 1810. The book was censored and then it was banned. So many representations and so much insistence overtaxed his patience. In order to give a definite answer to the petitioners, he took the book up again and lost his temper with the passages that had already worried him. The negotiations of the previous week had almost saved the book; but by her direct solicitations, Mme de Stael had lost it. She had reawakened an almost dormant anger.
Not only were actual politics involved between Mme de Stael and Emperor Napoleon; there was more than a hostility of circumstances. There was more even than a temperamental incompatibility; there was an essential opposition of characters, ideas and minds.
He was cold and crafty even in his angers, secretly ardent, busy from a distance with his most far-reaching plans, and dependent upon the future. She, on the other hand, preferred friendship and love, burned eagerly for systems and men, concealed nothing: an improviser, changeable and entirely given up to the present. He unjustly despised humanity, while she imprudently trusted it. She was generous and he was implacable; she was a utopian and he was a calculator. She wanted to draw the Revolution back to its principles, to steep it again in its sources; he wanted to fulfill it in its consequences, to drown it in its own overflow. She wanted to moderate it; he wanted to transcend it.
Napoleon was descended through Robespierre from Louis XIV and Caesar; she was the daughter, through Mirabeau, of Rousseau and Montesquieu. Mme de Stael believed in ideas, which he distrusted; in enthusiasm, at which he smiled; in the intellect, which he feared. He sought to establish order by strength; she sought to establish happiness by justice. He was intoxicated with grandeur; she, with liberty.
Decidedly, there was no place for her in the imperial edifice. Their conflict resulted from the nature of things. Through the voice of imperial wrath, destiny had spoken.
Banished once more,Mme de Stael dawdled and loitered along the way home to Switzerland. In Geneva she learned that both she and her son Auguste were henceforth forbidden to enter France without police permission.
But the wall suddenly collapsed. Two weeks in the spring of 1814 were enough, at the end of which the Emperor was an outlaw himself. Exiles flowed back into Paris en masse. In May, Mme de Stael hastened to Paris; Mme Recamier returned unhurriedly from Rome. When their first ecstasies died down, did each woman find the other really the person she had left? Until now, they had been accustomed to love one another only in the midst of anxiety and misfortune. How would their relations stand up in prosperity?
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