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Never mind the neighbours

Margaret Anne Doody, 4 April 1996

Delphine 
by Germaine deStaël, translated by Avriel Goldberger.
Northern Illinois, 468 pp., $50, September 1995, 0 87580 200 1
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... In England during her exile of 1792, Mme de Staël was puzzled as well as offended that Frances Burney, who was then 40, should have felt it necessary to obey her father’s instruction no longer to associate with the adulterous Baronne. Mme de Staël remarked in some puzzlement to Susanna Phillips, Burney’s younger sister: ‘But is a woman under guardianship all her life in your country? It appears to me that your sister is like a girl of 14 ...

The pleasure of not being there

Peter Brooks, 18 November 1993

Benjamin Constant: A Biography 
by Dennis Wood.
Routledge, 321 pp., £40, June 1993, 0 415 01937 0
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Isabelle de Charrière (Belle de Zuylen): A Biography 
by C.P Courtney.
Voltaire Foundation, 810 pp., £49, August 1993, 0 7294 0439 0
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... knowing he was married, living apart and visiting Charlotte only clandestinely. The problem was Germaine deStaël, with whom Constant had been locked in a tempestuous on-again, off-again affair for some 12 years. How to tell the grand lady of Coppet what he had done – and how to stage manage the scene that was ...

Water me

Graham Robb: Excentricité, 26 March 2009

Eccentricity and the Cultural Imagination in 19th-Century Paris 
by Miranda Gill.
Oxford, 328 pp., £55, January 2009, 978 0 19 954328 1
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... The word excentricité was first used in its figurative sense by Germaine deStaël in her Considérations sur les principaux événements de la Révolution française (1817). Until then, it had been an astronomical and geometrical term. In its new sense, it was an anglicism, expressing ‘a wholly original way of behaving which pays no heed to the opinion of others ...

Great Man

David Blackbourn: Humboldt, 16 June 2011

Nature’s Interpreter: The Life and Times of Alexander von Humboldt 
by Donald McCrory.
Lutterworth, 242 pp., £23, November 2010, 978 0 7188 9231 9
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... a great flowering of German intellectual life in the decades either side of 1800, the period when Germaine deStaël called Germany the land of poets and thinkers. Quite a few of the writers came in pairs, whether fathers and sons, like the Forsters and Niebuhrs, or brothers, like the Schlegels and Grimms. Humboldt was ...

At the Fairground

Tom Nairn, 20 March 1997

Republics, Nations and Tribes 
by Martin Thom.
Verso, 359 pp., £45, July 1995, 1 85984 020 5
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... us up? Or perhaps it was offering a little consolation to those already suffering from the fin-de-siècle drowning sensation. More serious victims might also try turning to Martin Thom’s careful and deep fathoming of a similar great transition two hundred years ago: the birth of modern nationalism. There is more to be learned on that particular subject ...

The Village Life

James Meek: Pushkin in English, 6 June 2019

Novels, Tales, Journeys 
by Aleksandr Pushkin, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.
Penguin, 512 pp., £9.99, October 2017, 978 0 241 29037 8
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... as reading such European writers as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Samuel Richardson, Laurence Sterne, Germaine deStaël and Scott, but denigrated or avoided naming their actual competition: such bestselling sentimental novelists as Kotzebue, de Genlis, Lafontaine and Sophie ...

You better not tell me you forgot

Terry Castle: How to Spot Members of the Tribe, 27 September 2012

All We Know: Three Lives 
by Lisa Cohen.
Farrar Straus, 429 pp., £22.50, July 2012, 978 0 374 17649 5
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... lesbian women: the American heiress and intellectual polymath Esther Murphy (1897-1962); Mercedes de Acosta (1893-1968), the Cuban-American Hollywood screenwriter, memoirist and seductress extraordinaire (Garbo and Dietrich and Isadora Duncan were among her conquests); and the brittle yet pioneering British fashion editor and stylesetter Madge Garland ...

One Does It Like This

David A. Bell: Talleyrand, 16 November 2006

Napoleon’s Master: A Life of Prince Talleyrand 
by David Lawday.
Cape, 386 pp., £20, September 2006, 0 224 07366 4
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... Napoleon Bonaparte and his chief diplomat, Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand, are usually seen as the oddest of history’s odd couples. One personified boldness, ambition and overblown operatic passion; the other, subtlety, irony and world-weary cynicism. One displayed such restless physical energy that contemporaries repeatedly reached for that newly hatched adjective ‘electric’ to describe him; the other was sickly, pallid and had a club foot ...
Revolutionary France, 1770-1880 
by François Furet, translated by Antonia Nevill.
Blackwell, 630 pp., £40, December 1992, 0 631 17029 4
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... translation, Interpreting the French Revolution, 1981) and with Mona Ozouf, Dictionnaire critique de la révolution française (English translation, A Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution, 1989), Furet demolished the major tenets of the Marxist interpretation, in particular the notion of a class-based, bourgeois revolution as a ‘metaphysical ...

Why edit socially?

Marilyn Butler, 20 October 1994

Lord Byron: The Complete Poetical Works, Vol. VII 
edited by Byron.
Oxford, 445 pp., £52.50, March 1993, 0 19 812328 0
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The New Oxford Book of Romantic Period Verse 
edited by Jerome McGann.
Oxford, 832 pp., £25, April 1993, 0 19 214158 9
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... Felicia Dorothea; Lamb, Lady Caroline; Lee, Harriet; Lee, Sophia; Radcliffe, Ann: Sévigné, Marie de; Seward, Anna; Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft; Staël-Holstein, Anne Louise Germaine, Baronne de Worldly, informed and informal, the index is a fitting ...

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