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Madame de Staël

  • ... in the history of the human mind there has never been a useful thought or a profound truth that has not found its century and admirers.

  • The mind's pleasures are made to calm the tempests of the heart.

  • Anything that happens gradually is always irrevocable.

  • The memories which come to us through music are not accompanied by any regrets; for a moment music gives us back the pleasures it retraces, and we feel them again rather than recollect them.

  • In women's destiny everything goes downhill except for thought, whose immortal nature it is to keep constantly rising.

  • Love is above the laws, above the opinion of men; it is the truth, the flame, the pure element, the primary idea of the moral world.

  • I am glad that I am not a man, for then I should have to marry a woman.

  • Love is the whole history of a woman's life, it is but an episode in a man's.

  • The face of a woman is always a help or a hindrance in her life story, whatever the strength or range of her mind, however important the things which concern her. Men have wanted it to be this way.

  • ... nothing is so horrifying as the possibility of existing simply because we do not know how to die.

  • [Ridicule] laughs at all those who see the earnestness of life and who still believe in true feelings and in serious thought ... It soils the hope of youth. Only shameless vice is above its reach.

  • The entire social order ... is arrayed against a woman who wants to rise to a man's reputation.

  • The study of history, it seems to me, leads to the conviction that all important events tend toward the same end — the civilization of mankind.

  • ... inventiveness is childish, practice sublime.

  • A nation has character only when it is free.

  • Intellect does not attain its full force unless it attacks power.

  • Between God and love, I recognize no mediator but my conscience ...

  • ... women have no existence except in love; the history of their life begins and ends with love!

  • To pray together, in whatever tongue or ritual, is the most tender brotherhood of hope and sympathy that men can contract in this life.

  • She liked to make others' lives as drab as possible, perhaps so as not to feel too much regret at the dissolution of her own.

  • Love is the emblem of eternity; it confounds all notion of time; effaces all memory of beginning, all fear of an end.

  • Love is a symbol of eternity. It wipes out all sense of time, destroying all memory of a beginning and all fear of an end.

  • ... intellect is a sin that must be atoned for by leading exactly the life of those who have none.

  • The most beautiful landscapes in the world, if they evoke no memory, if they bear no trace of a remarkable event, are uninteresting compared to historic landscapes.

  • ... a perfect piece of architecture kindles that aimless reverie, which bears the soul we know not whither.

  • The sight of such a building is like a ceaseless, changeless melody ...

  • All music, even if its occasion be a gay one, renders us pensive.

  • Nature, who permits no two leaves to be exactly alike, has given a still greater diversity to human minds. Imitation, then, is a double murder; for it deprives both copy and original of their primitive existence.

  • Self-love, so sensitive in its own cause, has rarely any sympathy to spare for others.

  • [On Italian:] One may almost call it a language that talks of itself, and always seems more witty than its speakers.

  • Music revives the recollections it would appease.

  • The world is the work of a single thought, expressed in a thousand different ways.

  • ... a religious life is a combat, not a hymn.

  • What is love, if it can calculate and provide against its own decay?

  • ... in Italy, almost at every step, history and poetry add to the graces of nature, sweeten the memory of the past, and seem to preserve it in eternal youth.

  • There is no second country for an Englishman, except a ship and the sea.

  • ... she wished all the faculties she did not share to be looked on as diseases.

  • His house was so ordered, the same things were every day performed there so punctually to the minute, that any change was impossible. The two old aunts who directed his establishment, the servants, the very horses, could not to-morrow have acted differently from yesterday; nay, the furniture, which had served three generations, would have started of its own accord had any thing new approached it.

  • ... nothing recalls the past like music ...

  • Venice astonishes more than it pleases at first sight ...

  • ... 'I told you how it would be.' Strange mode of comforting; but such is the satisfaction which vanity tastes at the expense of misfortune.

  • Who understands much forgives much. To understand everything makes us very forgiving ...

  • Enthusiasm, though the seed / Of every high heroic deed, / Each pious sacrifice — its lot / Is scorn, from those who feel it not.

  • Unhappy love freezes all our affections: our own souls grow inexplicable to us. More than we gained while we were happy we lose by the reverse.

  • New doctrines ever displease the old. They like to fancy that the world has been losing wisdom, instead of gaining it, since they were young.

  • A Gothic building engenders true religion ... The light, falling through colored glass, the singular forms of the architecture, unite to give a silent image of that infinite mystery which the soul for ever feels, and never comprehends.

  • ... the last steps of life are ever slow and difficult.

  • The more I see of other countries, the more I love my own.

  • The voice of conscience is so delicate that it is easy to stifle; but it is also so clear that it is impossible to mistake.

  • No nation has the right to bring about a revolution, even though such a change may be most urgently needed, if the price is the blood of one single innocent individual ...

  • [The Germans] so easily confuse obstinacy with energy, and rudeness with firmness.

  • The sense of this word among the Greeks affords the noblest definition of it: enthusiasm signifies God in us.

  • Wit lies in recognizing the resemblance among things which differ and the difference between things which are alike.

  • Conversation as talent exists only in France. In other countries, conversation provides politeness, discussion, and friendship; in France, it is an art for which imagination and soul are certainly very welcome, but which can also provide its own secret remedies to compensate you for the absence of either or both, if you so desire.

  • ... we always cut our poetical theories to suit our talent ...

  • I believe that happiness consists in having a destiny in keeping with our abilities. Our desires are things of the moment, often harmful even to ourselves; but our abilities are permanent, and their demands never cease.

  • Why shouldn't man be as angry about not having always been alive as about having to stop being alive?

  • The people are as severe toward the clergy as toward women; they want to see absolute devotion to duty from both.

  • Anyone who can see as far as tomorrow in politics arouses the wrath of people who can see no farther than today.

  • Life resembles Gobelin tapestry; you do not see the canvass on the right side; but when you turn it, the threads are visible.

    • Madame de Staël,
    • in Samuel Griswold Goodrich, Lives of Celebrated Women ()
  • The mystery of our existence is the connection between our faults and our misfortunes.

    • Madame de Staël,
    • in Samuel Griswold Goodrich, Lives of Celebrated Women ()
  • Never, never have I been loved as I love others!

    • Madame de Staël,
    • 1786, in Lydia Maria Child, Memoirs of Madame de Staël and of Madame Roland ()
  • There is no arena in which vanity displays itself under such a variety of forms as in conversation.

    • Madame de Staël,
    • in R.R. Madden, The Literary Life and Correspondence of the Countess of Blessington, vol. 1 ()
  • Prayer is the life of the soul.

    • Madame de Staël,
    • in Isaphene M. Luyster, ed., Memoirs and Correspondence of Madame Récamier ()
  • Architecture is frozen music.

    • Madame de Staël,
    • in Ralph Waldo Emerson, Letters and Social Aims ()
  • However old a conjugal union, it still garners some sweetness. Winter has some cloudless days, and under the snow a few flowers still bloom.

    • Madame de Staël,
    • in J. De Finod, ed., A Thousand Flashes of French Wit, Wisdom, and Wickedness ()
  • We cease loving ourselves when no one loves us.

    • Madame de Staël,
    • in C. A. Sainte-Beuve, "Madame de Staël" (1835), Portraits of Women ()
  • Of all human sentiments, enthusiasm creates the most happiness; it is the only sentiment in fact which gives real happiness, the only sentiment which can help us to bear our human destiny in any situation in which we may find ourselves.

    • Madame de Staël,
    • in Margaret Goldsmith, Madame de Staël ()
  • I do not want an echo of myself from my children. I do not want to hear from them merely the reverberation of my own voice.

    • Madame de Staël,
    • in Margaret Goldsmith, Madame de Staël ()
  • A voyage without companionship, that is to say without conversation, is one of the saddest pleasures of life.

    • Madame de Staël,
    • in Margaret Goldsmith, Madame de Staël ()
  • Liberty is the only idea which circulates with the human blood, in all ages, in all countries, and in all literature — liberty that is, and what cannot be separated from liberty, a love of country.

    • Madame de Staël,
    • in Margaret Goldsmith, Madame de Staël ()
  • ... there is not enough interest in life to spread over twenty-four hours when one can't sleep.

    • Madame de Staël,
    • in Margaret Goldsmith, Madame de Staël ()
  • Whatever efforts one may make, one must revert to the realization that religion is the real basis of morality; religion is the real and perceptible purpose within us, which alone, can turn aside our attention from things. ... The science of morality can no more teach human beings to be honest, in all the magnificence of this word, than geometry can teach one how to draw.

    • Madame de Staël,
    • in Margaret Goldsmith, Madame de Staël ()
  • In matters of the heart, nothing is true except the improbable.

    • Madame de Staël,
    • letter (1810), in J. Christopher Herold, Mistress to an Age: A Life of Madame de Staël ()
  • Love, supreme power of the heart, mysterious enthusiasm that encloses in itself all poetry, all heroism, all religion!

    • Madame de Staël,
    • in J. Christopher Herold, Mistress to an Age: A Life of Madame de Staël ()
  • I never was able to believe in the existence of next year except as in a metaphysical notion.

    • Madame de Staël,
    • in J. Christopher Herold, Mistress to an Age: A Life of Madame de Staël ()
  • The pursuit of politics is religion, morality, and poetry all in one.

    • Madame de Staël,
    • in J. Christopher Herold, Mistress to an Age: A Life of Madame de Staël ()
  • Those gentlemen are like the rainbow; they always appear after the storm is over.

    • Madame de Staël,
    • c. 1791, in J. Christopher Herold, Mistress to an Age: A Life of Madame de Staël ()
  • The universe is in France; outside it, there is nothing.

    • Madame de Staël,
    • 1796, in J. Christopher Herold, Mistress to an Age: A Life of Madame de Staël ()
  • The greatest happiness is to transform one's feelings into actions.

    • Madame de Staël,
    • 1796, in J. Christopher Herold, Mistress to an Age: A Life of Madame de Staël ()
  • Genius has no sex!

    • Madame de Staël,
    • c. 1798, in J. Christopher Herold, Mistress to an Age: A Life of Madame de Staël ()
  • ... scientific progress makes moral progress a necessity; for if man's power is increased, the checks that restrain him from abusing it must be strengthened.

    • Madame de Staël,
    • 1800, in J. Christopher Herold, Mistress to an Age: A Life of Madame de Staël ()
  • One must, in one's life, make a choice between boredom and suffering.

    • Madame de Staël,
    • letter (1800), in J. Christopher Herold, Mistress to an Age: A Life of Madame de Staël ()
  • If one hour's work is enough to govern France, four minutes is all that is needed for Italy. There is no nation more easily frightened; even its poetic imagination predisposes it to fear, and they look upon power as on an image that fills them with terror.

    • Madame de Staël,
    • 1805, in J. Christopher Herold, Mistress to an Age: A Life of Madame de Staëâ�° ()
  • There is no reality on this earth except religion and the power of love; all the rest is even more fugitive than life itself.

    • Madame de Staël,
    • letter (1808), in J. Christopher Herold, Mistress to an Age: A Life of Madame de Staël ()
  • Exile: A tomb in which you can get mail.

    • Madame de Staël,
    • 1812, in J. Christopher Herold, Mistress to an Age: A Life of Madame de Staël ()
  • I must keep on rowing, not until I reach port but until I reach my grave.

    • Madame de Staël,
    • letter (1814), in J. Christopher Herold, Mistress to an Age: A Life of Madame de Staël ()
  • There are only two distinct classes of people on this earth, those who espouse enthusiasm and those who despise it.

    • Madame de Staël,
    • 1804, in J. Christopher Herold, Mistress to an Age: A Life of Madame de Staël ()
  • Life teaches much, but to all thinking persons it brings ever closer the will of God — not because their faculties decline, but on the contrary, because they increase.

    • Madame de Staël,
    • last will and testament (1811), in J. Christopher Herold, Mistress to an Age: A Life of Madame de Staël ()
  • [On Russia:] In every way, there is something gigantic about this people: ordinary dimensions have no applications whatever to it. I do not mean by this that true greatness and stability are never met with; but their boldness, their imaginativeness knows no bounds. With them everything is colossal rather than well-proportioned, audacious rather than well-considered, and if they do not attain their goals, it is because they exceed them.

    • Madame de Staël,
    • 1812, in J. Christopher Herold, Mistress to an Age: A Life of Madame de Staël ()
  • The life of famous men was more glorious in antiquity; the life of obscure men is happier with the moderns.

    • Madame de Staël,
    • in J. Christopher Herold, Mistress to an Age: A Life of Madame de Staël ()
  • Happy the land where the writers are sad, the merchants satisfied, the rich melancholic, and the populace content.

    • Madame de Staël,
    • in J. Christopher Herold, Mistress to an Age: A Life of Madame de Staël ()
  • Every time a new nation, America or Russia for instance, advances toward civilization, the human race perfects itself; every time an inferior class emerges from enslavement and degradation, the human race again perfects itself.

    • Madame de Staël,
    • in J. Christopher Herold, Mistress to an Age: A Life of Madame de Staël ()
  • How much past there is in a life, however brief it be.

    • Madame de Staël,
    • 1816, in J. Christopher Herold, Mistress to an Age: A Life of Madame de Staël ()
  • The thing that must be preserved in all situations whatever is the reputation of one's character.

    • Madame de Staël,
    • memorandum to Louis XVI (1792), in J. Christopher Herold, Mistress to an Age: A Life of Madame de Staël ()
  • One must, so long as there is any life left, back up the character of one's life.

    • Madame de Staël,
    • in J. Christopher Herold, Mistress to an Age: A Life of Madame de Staël ()
  • Life, for me, is living among my friends.

    • Madame de Staël,
    • in James F. Marshall, ed., De Staël-Du Pont Letters ()
  • Man's most valuable faculty is his imagination.

    • Madame de Staël,
    • "Essay on Fictions" (1795), in Vivian Folkenflik, ed., Major Writings of Germaine De Staël ()
  • [Moralistic] novels are at the same disadvantage as teachers: children never believe them, because they make everything that happens relate to the lesson at hand.

    • Madame de Staël,
    • "Essay on Fictions" (1795), in Vivian Folkenflik, ed., Major Writings of Germaine De Staël ()
  • ... in this genre, perfection may require the greatest genius, but mediocrity is well within everyone's grasp.

    • Madame de Staël,
    • "Essay on Fictions" (1795), in Vivian Folkenflik, ed., Major Writings of Germaine De Staël ()
  • Kindness and generosity ... form the true morality of human actions.

    • Madame de Staël,
    • "Reflections on the Moral Aim of Delphine," in Vivian Folkenflik, ed., Major Writings of Germaine De Staël ()
  • The more we know, the better we forgive; / Whoe'er feels deeply, feels for all who live.

    • Madame de Staël
  • It is not enough to forgive; one must forget.

    • Madame de Staël
  • The desire of the man is for the woman, but the desire of the woman is for the desire of the man.

    • Madame de Staël
  • We understand death for the first time when he puts his hand upon one whom we love.

    • Madame de Staël
  • [On politeness:] The art of choosing among your thoughts.

    • Madame de Staël
  • The more I see of people, the more I like dogs.

    • Madame de Staël
  • [To Bonaparte, when asked why she meddled in politics:] Sire, when women have their heads cut off, it is but just they should know the reason.

    • Madame de Staël,
    • in Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Matilda Joslyn Gage, eds., History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 1 ()
  • [On Napoleon:] One has the impression of an imperious wind blowing about one's ears when one is near that man.

    • Madame de Staël,
    • in Andrea Stuart, The Rose of Martinique: A Life of Napoleon's Josephine ()

Madame de Staël, Swiss-born French writer, society figure

(1766 - 1817)

Full name: Anne Maria Louise Germaine Necker, Baroness de Staël-Holstein.