A woman of the first order of human talent: Madame de Staël

“MADAME de Staël, writes a 19th century reviewer of her “Complete Works,” was not only the most remarkable woman of her time, but is in one respect strikingly distinguished above all her sex. She is, perhaps, the only woman whom a majority of competent judges would place in the first order of human talent.” (The Foreign Quarterly Review, Vol 14 1834, London).

She was also the bugbear of the Napoleonic regime and told what she could or could not write. Here is one example of the censor’s scissors:

She must not say that “un homme peut faire marcher ensemble les elemen(t)s opposés, mais à sa mort ils se séparent.”

(Translation: A man may succeed to live a contradictory life but at his death these opposing elements fall asunder).

The implication is the goats will be separated from the sheep. The secular regime weren’t into divine husbandry.

So, “the only woman whom a majority of competent judges would place in the first order of human talent,” hey. Wha’ abou’ George? “Was that Madame de Staël’s hubby?” But I forget, George was only about 15 when the review was written.

George Eliot

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