Decline and Discovery
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Celebrated as a spellbinding conversationalist, political and social commentator, novelist, and free spirit, Germaine de Staël wrote in French but was born to Swiss Calvinist parents in 1766. Her mother was Suzanne Curchod Necker, who by all accounts was beautiful, conscientious, and highly intelligent.Her father, Jacques Necker, was the extremely talented and public-spirited banker who vainly attempted to repair the finances of monarchical France between 1777 and 1781. Staël’s brilliant and morally upstanding parents had a major influence on her character, which was always marked by a strong sense of integrity and responsibility, and her intellect, notable for its extraordinary scope, aspiration, and penetration.1 When Napoleon snuffed out liberty in France and showed intentions of doing the same throughout Europe, Staël was one of the few courageous enough to challenge him publicly. He rewarded her with banishment from France in 1803, and after several years of wandering she returned to Switzerland where she became the center of a distinguished circle of anti-Bonapartist intellectuals at her family home in Coppet. There she remained one of the great independent consciences of Europe up to her death in 1817.
KeywordsNational Character Sixteenth Century Italian Society Sexist Prejudice Italian Improviser
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