It is natural that the attention and affection of Americans should be attracted to a woman who has devoted herself assiduously to understanding and to making known the aspirations of our country, especially in introducing the labors and achievements of our women to their sisters in France, of whom we also have much to learn; for simple, homely virtues and the charm of womanliness may still be studied with advantage on the cherished soil of France.
Marie-Therese Blanc, nee Solms—for this is the name of the author who writes under the nom de plume of Madame Bentzon—is considered the greatest of living French female novelists. She was born in an old French chateau at Seine-Porte (Seine et Oise), September 21, 1840. This chateau was owned by Madame Bentzon’s grandmother, the Marquise de Vitry, who was a woman of great force and energy of character, “a ministering angel” to her country neighborhood. Her grandmother’s first marriage was to a Dane, Major-General Adrien-Benjamin de Bentzon, a Governor of the Danish Antilles. By this marriage there was one daughter, the mother of Therese, who in turn married the Comte de Solms. “This mixture of races,” Madame Blanc once wrote, “surely explains a kind of moral and intellectual cosmopolitanism which is found in my nature. My father of German descent, my mother of Danish—my nom de plume (which was her maiden-name) is Danish—with Protestant ancestors on her side, though she and I were Catholics—my grandmother a sound and witty Parisian, gay, brilliant, lively, with superb physical health and the consequent good spirits—surely these materials could not have produced other than a cosmopolitan being.”
Somehow or other, the family became impoverished. Therese de Solms took to writing stories. After many refusals, her debut took place in the ‘Revue des Deux Mondes’, and her perseverance was largely due to the encouragement she received from George Sand, although that great woman saw everything through the magnifying glass of her genius. But the person to whom Therese Bentzon was most indebted in the matter of literary advice—she says herself—was the late M. Caro, the famous Sorbonne professor of philosophy, himself an admirable writer, “who put me through a course of literature, acting as my guide through a vast amount of solid reading, and criticizing my work with kindly severity.” Success was slow. Strange as it may seem, there is a prejudice against female writers in France, a country that has produced so many admirable women-authors. However, the time was to come when M. Becloz found one of her stories in the ‘Journal des Debats’. It was the one entitled ‘Un Divorce’, and he lost no time in engaging the young writer to become one of his staff. From that day to this she has found the pages of the Revue always open to her.