She talked so much that her conversation was almost always mere personal opinion. Thus she told Goethe that he never was really brilliant until after he had got through a bottle of champagne. Schiller said that to talk with her was to have a “rough time,” and that after she left him, he always felt like a man who was just getting over a serious illness. She never had time to do anything very well.
There is an interesting glimpse of her in the recollections of Dr. Bollmann, at the period when Mme. de Stael was in her prime. The worthy doctor set her down as a genius—an extraordinary, eccentric woman in all that she did. She slept but a few hours out of the twenty-four, and was uninterruptedly and fearfully busy all the rest of the time. While her hair was being dressed, and even while she breakfasted, she used to keep on writing, nor did she ever rest sufficiently to examine what she had written.
Such then was Mme. de Stael, a type of the time in which she lived, so far as concerns her worship of sensibility—of sensibility, and not of love; for love is too great to be so scattered and made a thing to prattle of, to cheapen, and thus destroy. So we find at the last that Germaine de Stael, though she was much read and much feted and much followed, came finally to that last halting-place where confessedly she was merely an old woman, eccentric, and unattractive. She sued her former lovers for the money she had lent them, she scolded and found fault—as perhaps befits her age.
But such is the natural end of sensibility, and of the woman who typifies it for succeeding generations.
Some time ago I entered a fairly large library—one of more than two hundred thousand volumes—to seek the little brochure on Karl Marx written by his old friend and genial comrade Wilhelm Liebknecht. It was in the card catalogue. As I made a note of its number, my friend the librarian came up to me, and I asked him whether it was not strange that a man like Marx should have so many books devoted to him, for I had roughly reckoned the number at several hundred.
“Not at all,” said he; “and we have here only a feeble nucleus of the Marx literature—just enough, in fact, to give you a glimpse of what that literature really is. These are merely the books written by Marx himself, and the translations of them, with a few expository monographs. Anything like a real Marx collection would take up a special room in this library, and would have to have its own separate catalogue. You see that even these two or three hundred books contain large volumes of small pamphlets in many languages—German, English, French, Italian, Russian, Polish, Yiddish, Swedish, Hungarian, Spanish; and here,” he concluded, pointing to a recently numbered card, “is one in Japanese.”
My curiosity was sufficiently excited to look into the matter somewhat further. I visited another library, which was appreciably larger, and whose managers were evidently less guided by their prejudices. Here were several thousand books on Marx, and I spent the best part of the day in looking them over.