Madame de Stael now also remembered the kindness Queen Hortense had shown her during her exile; and not to her only, but also to her friend, Madame Recamier, who had also been exiled by Napoleon, not, however, as his enemies said, “because she was Madame de Stael’s friend,” but simply because she patronized and belonged to the so-called “little church.” The “little church” was an organization born of the spirit of opposition of the Faubourg St. Germain, and a portion of the Catholic clergy, and was one of those things appertaining to the internal relations of France that were most annoying and disagreeable to the emperor.
Queen Hortense had espoused the cause of Madame de Stael and of Madame Recamier with generous warmth. She had eloquently interceded for the recall of both from their exile; and, now that the course of events had restored them to their home, both ladies came to the queen to thank her for her kindness and generosity.
Louise de Cochelet has described this visit of Madame de Stael so wittily, with so much naivete, and with such peculiar local coloring, that we cannot refrain from laying a literal translation of the same before the reader.
MADAME DE STAEL’S VISIT TO QUEEN HORTENSE.
Louise de Cochelet relates as follows: “Madame de Stael and Madame Recamier had begged permission of the queen to visit her, for the purpose of tendering their thanks. The queen invited them to visit her at St. Leu, on the following day.
“She asked my advice as to which of the members of her social circle were best qualified to cope with Madame de Stael.
“‘I, for my part,’ said the queen, ’have not the courage to take the lead in the conversation; one cannot be very intellectual when sad at heart, and I fear my dullness will infect the others.’
“We let quite a number of amiable persons pass before us in review, and I amused myself at the mention of each new name, by saying, ’He is too dull for Madame de Stael.’
“The queen laughed, and the list of those who were to be invited was at last agreed upon. We all awaited the arrival of the two ladies in great suspense. The obligation imposed on us by the queen, of being intellectual at all hazards, had the effect of conjuring up a somewhat embarrassed and stupid expression to our faces. We presented the appearance of actors on the stage looking at each other, while awaiting the rise of the curtain. Jests and bon mots followed each other in rapid succession until the arrival of the carriage recalled to our faces an expression of official earnestness.
“Madame Recamier, still young, and very handsome, and with an expression of naivete in her charming countenance, made the impression on me of being a young lady in love, carefully watched over by too severe a duenna, her timid, gentle manner contrasted so strongly with the somewhat too masculine self-consciousness of her companion. Madame de Stael is, however, generally admitted to have been good and kind, particularly to this friend, and I only speak of the impression she made on one to whom she was a stranger, at first sight.