“Madame de Stael’s extremely dark complexion, her original toilet, her perfectly bare shoulders, of which either might have been very beautiful, but which harmonized very poorly with each other; her whole ensemble was far from approximating to the standard of the ideal I had formed of the authoress of Delphine and Corinne. I had almost hoped to find in her one of the heroines she had so beautifully portrayed, and I was therefore struck dumb with astonishment. But, after the first shock, I was at least compelled to acknowledge that she possessed very beautiful and expressive eyes; and yet it seemed impossible for me to find anything in her countenance on which love could fasten, although I have been told that she has often inspired that sentiment.
“When I afterward expressed my astonishment to the queen, she replied: ’It is, perhaps, because she is capable of such great love herself, that she succeeds in inspiring others with love; moreover, it flatters a man’s self-love to be noticed by such a woman, and, in the end, one can dispense with beauty, when one has Madame de Stael’s intellect.’
“The queen inquired after Madame de Stael’s daughter, who had not come with her, and who was said to be truly charming. I believe the young gentlemen of our party could have confronted the beautiful eyes of the daughter with still greater amiability than those of the mother, but an attack of toothache had prevented her coming.
“After the first compliments and salutations, the queen proposed to the ladies to take a look at her park. They seated themselves on the cushions of the queen’s large char a banc, which has become historic on account of the many high and celebrated personages who have been driven in it at different times. The Emperor Napoleon was, however, not one of this number, as he never visited St. Leu; but, with this exception, there are few of the great and celebrated who have not been seated in it at one time or another.
“As they drove through the park and the forest of Montmorency, in a walk only, the conversation was kept up as in the parlor, and the consumption of intellectuality was continued. The beautiful neighborhood, that reminded one of Switzerland, as it was remarked, was duly admired. Then Italy was spoken of. The queen, who had been somewhat distraite, and had good cause to be somewhat sad, and disposed to commune with herself, addressed Madame de Stael with the question, ’You have been in Italy, then?’
“Madame de Stael was, as it were, transfixed with dismay, and the gentlemen exclaimed with one accord: ‘And Corinne? and Corinne?’
“‘Ah, that is true,’ said the queen, in embarrassment, awakening, as it were, from her dreams.
“‘Is it possible,’ asked M. de Canonville, ’your majesty has not read Corinne?’
“‘Yes—no,’ said the queen, visibly confused, ‘I shall read it again,’ and, in order to conceal an emotion that I alone could understand, she abruptly changed the topic of conversation.