Byron, Mme de Stael, Schlegel, and the religious motif in Armance
Rosa, George M
IN A PASSAGE of Promenades dans Rome (1829) that concerns the destruction o San Paolo fuori le Mura, the great Roman basilica that burned to the ground in 1823, Stendhal writes: “Ainsi cessa d’exister la basilique la plus ancienne non seulement de Rome, mais de la chrretiente tout entiere. Elle avait dure quinze siecles. Lord Byron pretend, mais tort, qu’une religion ne dure que deux mille ans” (Voyages 935-36). The remark by Byron cited in the last sentince of this passage derives from Thomas Medwin’s Conversations ofLord Byron, a work that Stendhal read with considerable enjoyment shgrtly after its publication in October 1824, frequently echoed in his writings of the 1820s, and in which Stendhal’s own name (Marie-Henri Beyle) was conspicuously associated with that of Byron, much to the French novelist’s gratification.(1) The comment on the longevity of religions with which Stendhal takes issue in Promenades dans Rome appears in a section of Medwin’s book (84-95) purporting to “throw some light upon…what the religious opinions of Lord Byron really were”–‘a subject that,” Medwin claims, “cannot fail to excite curiosity” (84). In that section of the Conversations, Medwin quotes Byron as having said: “One mode of worship yields to another; no religion has lasted more than two thousand years” (87). Stendhal’s interest in the subject of Byron’s religious views would appear to have received an immediate stimulus from his reading of Medwin’s Conversations, for whereas none of his writings that antedate the publication of Medwin’s book overtly express such an interest, one that appeared shortly afterward does. The text in question is a London Magarine article of July 1825 in which Stendhal reviewed Alphonse de Lamartine’s Le Dernier Chant du pilerinage d’Harold (1825), a poetical evocation of Byron’s last voyage to Greece. In the Demzier Chant, the irreligion of the protagonist Harold (the name Lamartine uses to designate Byron) is one of his most notable traits, as Stendhal acknowledged, underlining its importance by quoting the following verses from Larpartine’s poem:
–du sceptique Harold le doute est la dotrine; Le croissant ni la croix ne couvrent sa poitrine; Jupiter, Mahomet, heros, grands hommes, dieux, (O Christ, pardonne-lui!) ne sont rien a ses yeux. (Quoted in Chroniques 5:216)
Indeed, Lamartine, a devout Catholic, implied at the end of the Dernier Chant that Byron/Harold was likely to be condemned to hell, a conclusion against which Stendhal indignantly protested in the London Magazine. I transcribe that periodical’s rendering into English of Stendhal’s original text in French, which–like all Stendhal’s contributions to the British press quoted in the present study–unfortunately has been lost:
At the end of the poem, in order to conciliate the most rigorous of his patrons, our poet gives us to understand that Lord Byron is damned:
Harold! dit une voix, voici l’affreux moment!
The absurdity of this conclusion shocked everybody. What! is Lord Byron who devotes himself to the liberties of Greece damned What then remains for the members of the Holy Alliance who send officers of artillery to Ibrahim Pacha? (see Chroniques 5:216 and cf. 5:198)
The skepticism that marred Byron’s character in the eyes of Lamartine dignified it in those of Stendhal, who argues that Lamartine himself unwittingly enlists the reader’s sympathy for Harold’s unbelief: “The doubts of Harold concerning the existence and attributes of the Deity who permits so many horrors–who terminates the career of Lord Byron at thirty-seven,(2) and prolongs the life of Ferdinand VII, have been deemed sublime” (Chroniques 5:216).
Stendhal’s vehement disapproval of the denouement of the Dernier Chant, which contrasts markedly with the high regard he professed for the poem as a whole (see Chroniques 5:210-17), may have concealed a nagging doubt that the dnouement was less absurd than he was willing to admit, for Stendhal knew full well that the protagonists of Byron’s fictional works frequently risk–or invite–damnation.(3) Lamartine’s consignment of Byron/Harold to a comparable role was in some measure warranted by the conventions of Byronism, a thought-provoking irony that must have encouraged Stendhal to reflect more deeply on the nature of Byron’s religious outlook. Stendhal read numerous biographical and pseudo-biographical publications devoted to Byron in the first few years following the poet’s death (see Rosa, “Stendhal, Byron, Mme Belloc” 185-86, 191n11, “Sailing”); among them was Hubert Lauvergne’s brief “Note sur Lord Byron” (1826), which Stendhal read in the year it was published,4 and which afforded him a further inducement to such reflection, as it indicated that Byron had been obsessively preoccupied by fears of God’s judgment. According to Lauvergne’s “Note,” Byron once had been driven during a period of “profonde mlancholie” (234) to seek refuge at a monastery in Athens, where he had unburdened his spiritual torments to a venerable monk named Pre Paul d’Ivree:
O mon pere! il vous est facile de nejamais murmurer contre l’auteur de votre etre…dans la douce quittude d’une vie exempte d’orages…Moi, jete sur la terre comme un enfant desherite, cree comme tous les hommes pour sentir la felicite et ne devant la trouver jamais,j’erre de climats en climats, en couvant dans mon ame les germes de mon eternelle infortune…Nourri de la haine des hommes, trahi par ceux memes dont je comparais la douceur a celle des anges; atteint d’un mal incurable qui a moissonne mes peres; dites-moi, homme de la verite! si des murmures echappes au sein du desespoir peuvent caracteriser un athee et attirer sur lui tous les fleaux de la colere du ciel. Oh! malheureux Byron, si apres tant d’epreuves mortelles on te ravit ta derniere esperance de salut…eh bien…ici la voix du lord expira. (237-38)
Lauvergne’s “Note’ is patently spurious:(5) on the occasions in 1810 and 811 when Byron took up lodgings in an Athenian monastery, he was in exceptionally high spirits, and devoted most of his waking hours to pleasurable pursuits (see Marchand 1:253-55, 265-66; Byron, Letters 2:11-14, 27, 37). Stendhai did not question the veracity of Lauvergne’s report, however, and perhaps one of the reasons for his credulity is that the “Note” afforded him a purportedly historical correlative of the supernatural conclusion to the Dernier Chant: while both texts depict Byron as an unbeliever haunted by the specter of damnation, the later one permitted Stendhal to interpret that specter from a psychological rather than a metaphysical standpoint as the faptasy of an overwrought mind. Stendhal did in fact so interpret it in the 1826 edition of Rome, Naples et Florence and in “Lord Byron en Italie” (1830), both of which cite Lauvergne’s “Note” as evidence that Byron had been prey to moments of madness (see Voyages 495n, OEuvres 46:248). Stendhal’s interest in Lamartine’s Dernier Chant and in Lauvergne’s “Note sur Lord Byron” would appear to be reflected in his first novel, Armance (1827), whose protagonist, the Vicomte Octave de Malivert, is, as recent scholarship has demonstrated, very closely identified with Byron in his sexual, social, and political predicaments, all of which lead the French nobleman, like the English one, to end his days in exile in the course of a military expedition to Greece.(6) The religious aspect of Octave’s identification with Byron has yet to be studied, however, and Lamartine’s Dernier Chant and Lauvergne’s “Note” provide useful points of departure from which to do so. In both texts, Byron is portrayed as oscillating between atheistic tendencies and transcendental aspirations. The skepticism of Lamartine’s Harold does not prevent him from taking up residence (as the guest of a saintly monk named Cyrille) in a Greek monastery, where he spends long hours pondering the issue of God’s existence (229-35) and avers that “j’ai toujours cherche Dieu!” (234); Lauvergne’s Byron, who is unable to stifle his sense of doubt or his blasphemies, nevertheless confesses to Pre Paul–in another Greek monastery–that he wishes God might cleanse his soul of earthly dross and permit him to live on after death “comme un pur esprit” (238, 236). Octave’s spiritual plight is similarly paradoxical: he doubts God’s existence and questions his laws (16) yet ardently yearns to attain purity of soul, exclaiming, “que je voudrais pouvoir rendre mon lme pure au CrCateur comme je l’ai recue! ” (9), and naturally feels attracted by monasteries, which to him embody “l’image de la retraite et de la tranquillite” (13).
The spiritual dilemma of Lamartine’s Harold and of Lauvergne’s Byron further anticipates that of Stendhal’s Octave in conferring on them a mysterious, otherworldly aura. In the passage of the Dernier Chant in which the poem’s protagonist makes his first appearance, he is described as follows:
Est-ce Harold….C’est bien lui! Que le temps 1’a change! Que son front,jeune encore, dejours semble charge! L’ eclat dont son genie eclairait son visage, Luit toujours; mais, helas! c’est l’eclair dans l’orage; Et, plus que ce flambeau qui tremble dans sa main, On croit voir vaciller son ame dans son sein: Dans l’amere douceur d’un sourire farouche L’amour et le mepris se melent sur sa bouche. L’oeil n’y peut du remords discerner la douleur; Mais on dirait, a voir sa mortelle paleur, Qu’une apparition vengeresse, eternelle, Le glace a chaque instant d’une terreur nouvelle. (202)
Octave, who is similarly torn between the extremes of love and hate (‘il ne savait pas aimer ou hair a demi,” 20), also seems to derive this disposition largely from his feelings of thralldom to supernatural forces. In the first chapter of Armanee, Octave’s mother, the Marquise de Malivert, reflects that her son’s passions apparently “avaient leur source ailleurs et ne s’appuyaient sur rien de ce qui existe ici-bas. Il n’y avait pas jusqu’a la physionomie si noble d’Octave qui n’alarmat sa mere; ses yeux si beaux et si tendres lui donnaient de la terreur. Ils semblaient quelquefois regarder au ciel et reflechir le bonheur qu’ils y voyaient. Un instant apres, on y lisait les tourments de l’enfer” (18-19). Thus Octave, like Lamartine’s Harold, seems from the outset suspended precariously above a frightening spiritual abyss, as does Lauvergne’s Byron, whose arrival at the Athenian monastery fills Pere Paul with emotions of dread: “Sa vue m’inspira une sorte de pitie melee de terreur; je me rappelai involontairement les derniers mots d’une conversation qu’il avait eue avec moi:’Vous ne pouvez me convaincre, je demeure athee'” (234). And just as Pere Paul, fearing for Byron’s salwation, enjoins the poet not to ally himself with those heretics who investigate “des mysteres pour lesquels Dieu n’avait point predestine leur intelligence” (236), so Mme de Malivert, who trembles at the thought of her son’s impiety (15-16), entreats him not to ponder “ces sujets terribles” that God alone can fathom (17).(7)
Octave’s religious doubts most clearly identify him with Byron in the way they are perceived and received by high society, whose values Mme de Malivert generally endorses and articulates, though in practice her kindness and simplicity of manner clearly distinguish her from most of her fellow Parisian patricians. The true representatives of that society are parodic characters such as the self-important, endlessly voluble Marquise de Bonnivet, whose salon in the Faubourg Saint-Germain provides the setting for most of the action in Armance, and the Commandeur de Soubirane, Octave’s greedy, deceitful, and dull-witted uncle. Neither genuinely communicates with Octave, yet both are aware in varying degrees of his spiritual predicament; the Commandeur jokingly summarizes it when he remarks, “si tu n’es pas le messie attendu par les Hibreux, tu es Lucifer en personne” (8), and Mme de Bonnivet feels divinely called to remedy it.
Mme de Bonnivet’s campaign to save Octave from perdition begins in Chapter 4 of Armazce, in the course of which one of her domestics secretly deliuers him a Bible along with an unsigned, homiletic letter that reproves him for his reading of “Helvtius, Bentham, Bayle et autres mauvais livres” (43-44). These acts of proselytism, Octave soon learns, are intended to serve the cause of Mme de Bonnivet’s “nouvelle religion,” whose adherents believe that Christianity is undergoing its “quatrime mtamorphose,” out of which a “nouveau protestantisme” will arise (44, 71). The episode appears to have been partly inspired by the aforementioned section of Medwin’s Conversations concerning Byron’s religious views. In that section of Medwin’s book, only a few pages after the quotation from Byron that Stendhal borrowed in Promenades dans Rome (‘no religion has lasted more than two thousand years”), the poet is reported to have said: “I am considered an infidel. My wife and sister, when they joined parties, sent me prayerbooks. There was a Mr. Mulock, who went about the Continent preaching orthodoxy in politics and religion, a writer of bad sonnets, and a lecturer in worse prose,–he tried to convert me to some new sect of Christianity. He was a great anti-materialist, and abused Locke” (93). Mme de Bonnivet’s religiosity resembles the one inflicted on Byron not only insofar as she sends the Viscount sacred writings and seeks to convert him to a new Christian sect, but also as she is a passionate anti-materialist (“hors l’espace et la dure,” she maintains, “il n’y a rien de reel ici-bas” 72) who repudiates the ‘aride philosophie de l’utile” (62) of philosophers in the Lockian tradition, such as Helvtius and Bentham. Indeed, in a Nev Monthly Magazine article that dates from the same period as the first draft of Amnance,’ Stendhal specifically cites Locke as one of the philosophers to whom the advocates of Christianity’s “fourth transformation” were most resolutely opposed (see Chroniques 6:130-36, esp. 134, 136).(9)
The nature of Mme de Bonnivet’s preachifying gives us reason to speculate that Stendhal largely modelled her on another wouldbe spiritual mentor of Byron. In some burlesque scenes of Armance, “elle daignait examiner avec [Octave] s’il possdait le sentiment religieux,” and she encourages the Viscount to convert to “une sorte de mysticisme allemand” involving a belief in the ‘sens intime” and in certain “etres intermdiaires entre Dieu et l’homme” who, by fluttering overhead, “magnitisent nos ames” (62, 70, 63). As Henri Martineau points out, the variety of German mysticism Mme de Bonnivet endorses derives principally from August Wilhelm Schlegel (1767-1845), whose sens intirieur Stendhal frequently ridiculed in much the same way he ridicules the sens intime of Mme de Bonnivet (see Martineau 281n147 and cf. Blin 334n19).(1)0 But it never has been noted (at least so far as I am aware) that Mme de Bonnivet’s proselytism of Schlegelian doctrine serves equally to remind us of Mme de Stal, who from 1803 to her death in 1817 loyaily supported Schlegel, and was the most famous and influential popularizer of his ideas. Indeed, Stendhal himself virtually invites us to draw a parallel between Mme de Bonnivet and Mme de Stal in a London Magazine article of November 1824 that has been frequently said to prefigure Amnance (see Lebegue XXII-XXIV; Bardeche 119-20, 136; Martineau 279n135). In a derisive review of the first volume of Benjamin Constant’s De la religion (1824)–a volume devoted to establishing and justifying the prevalence in all societies of “le sentiment religieux” (11)–Stendhal conjures up the image of a fashionable woman who intends to found a new religion. That review anticipates Mme de Bonnivet’s role in Armance a good deal more elaborately than critics have hitherto indicated:
Now the work of M. Benjamin Constant is nothing more nor less than the Gospel of the New Religion, which, at this moment, certain Duchesses,(12) and other ladies of the first rank, and of the highest fashion, and at the same time, perhaps, the cleverest of their class, are attempting to get up in Paris…
A large society of these poor neglected women, who have talent, hearts, and habitual belief, for they all learnt their catechism under Buonaparte, is a fine materiel for a new sect. They have imaginations, and they haue the passions and feelings of twenty-five, that period so greedy of emotion–which the prudery of the existing manners controls, and subdues, but at the expense of considerable weariness and disgust. Moreover, since 1820, the triumph of the priests, the knaverj of the Jesuits of Montrouge and St. Acheul, who in a secret manner govern France, and a thousand petty sanctified rogueries and vexations, have disgusted the more generous souls with Papism. The priests have absolutely put the ladies of fashion out of love with their catechism. Behold the moment for the establishment of a new sect! “My salon shall become celebrated through all Paris. I shall take the lead of something; at least, on parlera de moi.” A gospel and a creed were only wanting. It does not take much to turn a French head. But, how establish a new religion in Pan’s, without being covered with re’dieule! that ridicule which twenty-five years ago quenched the theophilanthropy of Lariveillere-Lepaux. A happy thought suggests itself; our friend Benjamin Constant is just going to publish his history of the religious sentimenthe shall be the St. Paul of the new church. His politics are on the wane: he will be enchanted to head a new school. He shall first prove to the world that the satiment religieux must have a forme, that is, a form of worship; then, with that address and dexterity which we well know enables him to say all, and make all understand, without getting laughed at, he shall show the vices of all the existing forms; then, when he shall have clearly convinced his readers that all the known forms are bad, he must stop: then, at his moment I will open my salon; but all must be done gently and cautiously. Benjamin shall publish this work volume by volume; tread slowly, but surely; and like St. Paul the first in his Epistles to the Corinthians, take measure of their spiritual wants. If Madame de Stail had not been surprised by the sudden death which deprived the world, one may almost say, in the flower of her age, of a woman the most extraordinary that was ever produced; she who carried French conversation, and the brilliant art of improvisation on every subject that fell out, to the highest degree of perfection, would have declared herself the chief of the new religion. Being unable to dazzle by her beauty, and now no longer capable of shining by that amiability which supplied its place; disgusted at the want of that birth indispensable for making a distinguished appearance at the Court of a Bourbon,–Madame de Stal, at the moment of her death, was on the point of opening a rival salon in opposition to the Court. The standard of this salon would haue unfolded to the astonished eyes of all Europe the word religion. (Chroniques 4:196,202,204)
In this passage–whose praise of Mme de Stal must be taken with several grains of salt(13)–the female speaker is a modern Parisian avatar of Mme de Stael.(14) In Armance, so is Mme de Bonnivet, who is convinced that a new cult is destined to succeed Christianity, “dont le temps est pass” (71); who promotes “les recherches sur le sentiment religieux” as a means of hastening “le triomphe de sa nouvelle religion” (63, 73); who aspires, in her capacity as “l’une des femmes les plus remarquables de la societe,” to command a following that will rival that of the French court (63, 64, 226); and who is concerned that “la nouvelle religion, dont on esprait qu’Octave serait un jour le saint Paul” (77), should be supplied with a modern apostle. The parallelism between Stendhal’s London Magazine article and Armance acquires further significance in light of the publication date of the former text, which appeared in November 1824, precisely the same month in which Stendhal purchased Medwin’s Conversations of Lord Byron.(15) Stendhal may well have noted in that book not only Byron’s account of the attempt made to convert him ‘to some new sect of Christianity” and his anecdote concerning the proselytism of his female relatives, but also his complaint elsewhere in the Conversations that Coleridge had “spoilt his fine genius by the transcendental philosophy and German metaphysics” (215)–a remark that recalls a view expressed in Stendhal’s review of De la religion, where he criticized Constant for having used “mystical arguments, borrowed from the unfortunate German philosophy, the laughingstock of Europe” (Chroniques 4:208). Stendhal doubtless was struck by a very early passage of Medwin’s book in which Byron refers to Mme de Stael’s passion for preaching, which the poet had experienced at first hand:
Somebody possessed Mme de Stael with an opinion of my immorality. I used occasionally to visit her at CoPet; and once she invited me to a family-dinner, and I found the room full of strangers, who had come to stare at me as at some outlandish beast in a raree-show. One of the ladies fainted, and the rest looked as if his Satanic Majesty had been among them. Madame de Stael took the liberty to read me a lecture before this crowd; to which I only made her a low bow. (11-12)
I mentioned earlier that Medwin’s Conversations appears to have inspired the episode of Amnance in which Mme de Bonnivet sends Octave a reproving letter and a copy of the Bible in the service of her new religion, and the scene described here evidently suggested some subsequent, related developments in the plot of Armance. Whereas the Mme de Stal in Stendhal’s review of Constant conceives of her salon as a temple and court, the Vatican of the new religion, Byron’s Mme de Stael sees it as a spiritual arena in which she is called upon to grapple with the forces of evil; both Mme de Staels reappear in the person of Mme de Bonnivet. Just as Byron had a reputation in Mme de Stael’s salon for sinfulness, to the point of being identified with “his Satanic Majesty,” so Octave, who complains like Byron that he was suspected of being “Lucifer lui-meme” (150), strikes Mme de Bonnivet in particular as an etre rebelle” notable for “la purete de son diabolicisme” (70-72).(16) And just as Mme de Stael undertook the spiritual rehabilitation of Byron in the presence of her guests at Coppet, so Mme de Bonnivet focuses the attention of her entire entourage while lecturing Octave on his need of redemption (72-73).
Mme de Bonnivet further resembles Mme de Stael in that she wishes to pass for a uniquely inspired conversationalist. In her desire to be seen “comme une prophetesse par une foule d’adeptes,”(17) she has persuaded herself that she possesses vatic powers of expression, and while looking intently up at the “plafond de son salon, elle parvenait a se dire: la, dans cet espace vide, dans cet air, il y a un genie qui m’ecoute, magntise mon ame et lui donne les sentiments singuliers et pour moi bien reellement imprevus que j’exprime quelquefois avec tant d’loquence” (110, 89). But Mme de Bonnivet’s strained attempts to communicate the ineffable tend to result in mere bombast, exposing her to the same criticism levelled in the Conversations at Mme ae Stal, who was, Byron claims, “very indefinite and vague in her manner of expression. In endeavouring to be new she became often obscure, and sometimes unintelligible” (222). The fustian of Mme de Bonnivet is the more apparent for being offset by the laconism of Octave: “Ses idCes taient vives, claires, et de celles qui grandissent a mesure qu’on les regarde. Il est vrai que la simplicite pleine de noblesse avec laquelle il Octave] s’enoncait lui faisait perdre l’effet de quelques traits piquants; on ne s’en etonnait qu’une seconde apres. La hauteur de son caracttre ne lui permit jamais de dire d’un ton marque ce qui lui semblait joli” (28). This contrast between Mme de Bonnivet and Octave resembles that between Mme de Stael and Byron as defined by Stendhal in “Lord Byron en Italie” (an article detailing the personal impressions the French novelist had formed of the English poet at Milan in 1816). Stendhal describes a Byron as unlike Mme de Stal as Mme de Bonnivet is unlike Octave: “Jamais il [Byron] ne faisait la phrase comme Mme de Stael, par exemple, qu’il venait de laisser a Coppet, et qui bientot nous arriva a Milan. Parlait-on de litterature, Lord Byron etait le contraire d’un acadmicien: toujours plus de pensees que de paroles et nulle recherche de mots elegants” ((Euvres 46:246).
In analyzing the elocution of Mme de Bonnivet, I have been briefly diverted from my investigation of the religious beliefs she espouses. The above quotation suggests a means of approaching that investigation from a new angle. This description recalls a number of historical circumstances that bear directly on Armance. Stendhal first heard of Byron in September 1816 as a result of his contacts with Ludovico di Breme, a Milanese friend of Mme de Stal’s who had spent part of the summer frequenting her salon at Coppet.(18) When Breme returned to Milan in late August, he was accompanied by Henry Brougham (see Vigneron 381-82), one of the founders and collaborators of the influential Scottish quarterly, the Edinburgh Review. Stendhal’s earliest known references to Byron appear in a letter to Louis Crozet written at Milan on September 28, 1816, in which he enthusiastically announced his discovery of the Edinburgh Review (to which Brougham evidently had introduced him) and of Francis Jeffrey’s anonymous article in the Review hailing Byron as the inaugurator of a new era in European poetry.(19) Stendhal promptly adopted this view; in his letter of September 28 to Louis Crozet, he proclaims his allegiance to the Edinburgh Review’s version of Romanticism and his repudiation of the Schlegelian (and, by implication, Stalian) one, to which he previously had subscribed (see Del Litto 463-75), but which he now scorned:
Ces plats allemands toujours betes et emphatiques se sont empares du systeme romantique, lui ont donne un nom et l’ont gate. Ce systeme tel qu’il est pratique par Lord Ba-i-ronne (Lord Byron, jeune pair, Lovelace de trente-six ans) et tel qu’il est enseigne par l’Edinburgh Review est sur d’entrainer le genre humain. Schlegel reste un pedant ridicule….qui un de ces jours sera jete dans la boue. Byron, Byron est le nom qu’il faut faire sonner ferme. (Correspondance 1:819-20)
Stendhal reiterated this view in another letter to Louis Crozet dated October 1:
La superiorite logique des Anglais, produite par la discussion d’interets chers, les met a cent piques au-dessus de ces pauvres gobe-mouches d’Allemands qui croient tout. Le systeme romantique, gate par le mystique Schlegel, triomphe tel qu’il est explique dans les vingt-cinq volumes de l’Edinburgh Review et tel qu’il est pratique par Lord Ba-i-ronne (Lord Byron)….Lorsqu’il [Byron] entre dans un salon toutes les femmes en sortent. La representation de cette farce a eu lieu plusieurs fois a Coppet. (Correspondance 1:827-28)
These passages invidiously contrasting Schlegel to Byron are of particular interest because the two rival Romantic authors actually had met at Coppet, as Stendhal was well aware: indeed, he explicitly evokes the encounter of the English poet with the German critic in Rome, Naples et Florence en 1817 (1817), where he remarks that “il y a eu cet automne, sur les bords du lac [Leman], la reunion la plus etonnante” in a “salon oh…les de Broglie, les Brougham, les de Breme, les Schlegel, les Byron discutent les plus grandes questions de la morale et des arts devant Mmes Necker-Saussure, de Broglie, de Stael” (Voyages 155). In the late summer and early autumn of 1816, Stendhal himself witnessed the flowering of a sort of mini-Coppet at Milan, where Breme received several of Mme de Stal’s former guests, including Henry Brougham, Dr. John William Polidori, John Cam Hobhouse, and, most notably, Lord Byron, whom Stendhal met in person on October 17, 1816, less than three weeks after he first penned the poet’s name.
These historical details all point to the conclusion that Stendhal from the outset associated Byron with Mme de Stael’s entourage at Coppet and that he had good reason in 1816 to take a lively interest in any news concerning Byron’s experiences there–news that would of course have been readily available either directly through Breme and Breme’s visitors from Coppet or indirectly through the Italian habitus of Breme’s salon.
Stendhal scarcely could avoid learning from these sources about the religious climate at Coppet, which was so mystically nebulous in 1816 as to invite humorous comment. According to the Duc de Broglie, Schlegel was obsessed with ideas of conversion throughout that year,(2O) and extravagant religious notions issuing from the ‘tersants duJura” preyed on ‘l’tat d’esprit de madame de Stael,” who, along with other “mes naturellement pieuses,” sought to promote, “en fait de religion, le sentiment…et l’abngation de la raison” (1:369). The Duc de Broglie also indicates that, in late September or early October 1816–a period during which Byron and Hobhouse both made appearances at Coppet (see Hobhouse, Icollections 2:14-16, 25-28)–“deux patriarches” of a “petite secte ou glise mystique” descended upon the place, and one of them scored notable successes in discoursing “sur des sujets de pure spiritualite” (1:367-68). All of these circumstances no doubt set Byron even more conspicuously apart from the assembled company than he might otherwise have been, in view of his reputation for being irreligious: the Duc de Broglie, who met Byron at Coppet, observes that the poet seemed determined to “se faire passer…,sinon pour le diable en personne, du moins pour un vivant exemplaire de Manfred ou de Lara” (1:361).
The journals of Hobhouse, who was Byron’s constant companion in Milan from October 12 through November 3, 1816, provide the most complete available record of the topics of conversation then common in Breme’s circle–a record that not surprisingly includes some reported discussion concerning Mme de Stal and Schlegei. Hobhouse reveals that on October 14, two days after he and Byron arrived at Milan and three days before they met Stendhal, Breme greatly “amused” the two English travelers “with some most ridiculous stories of Schlegel and Mme de Stal,” which included references to the lavish financial assistance Schlegel received from his generous patron; to his demand that she consistently display a profound reverence for German culture as embodied in his own august person and in that of his brother, Friedrich; and to his repudiation not only of Locke’s rationalist philosophy but of reason itself as a mode of philosophical enquiry (see Recollections 2:42-43 and cf. Italy 1:3-4). On the 21st, at La Scala, wben Stendhal may have been present,(21) Breme told some further “ridiculous stories of Schlegel,” one concerning Mme de Stael’s overindulgence of the German thinker, and another Schlegel’s predilection for the adjectives “divine” and ‘supernatural’ (Recollections 2:51-52). Stendhal must surely have been aware of such discussions, and undoubtedly was involved in similar ones (cf. Del Litto 538), as he numbered among his chief literary concerns of the late summer and early autumn of 1816 precisely the debunking of Schlegel’s mystical philosophy (see OEvres 27:54-57, 35:286-96, esp. 287, 294, Corresondance 1:827, 829).
If, then, we imagine the Coppet scene Stendhal describes in Rome, Naples et Florenee en 1817 and if we view it in the light of what he had learned in Breme’s circle concerning the religious atmosphere at Coppet, the nature of the parallel between Byron’s relations with Mme de Stael and those of Octave with Mme de Bonnivet becomes increasingly clear. Would not the mystic Schlegel, whom Stendhal dismissed in early October 1816 as the prime exemplar of “ces pauvres gobe-mouches d’A11emands qui croient tout,” stand out with his ally Mme de Stael, the author of De l’Allemagne (1810), in visible and absurd contrast to Byron, just as Mme de Bonnivet, a staunch defender of Teutonic idealism, stands out in contrast to the skeptical young Anglophile, Octave de Malivert?(22) And, in confronting Byron, would not Mme de Stael and her German protg probably have condemned English and French rationalist philosophy, glorified “le sentiment…et l’abnegation de la raison,” made speeches about the “divine” and the “supernatural,” taken the poet to task for his religious doubts, and prescribed antidotes for his apparent diabolism, behaving in much the same way as Mme de Bonnivet behaves toward Octave!
Byron’s relations with Mme de Stal at Coppet further anticipate those of Octave with Mme de Bonnivet in that the poet’s supposed diabolism did not deter Mme de Stael, any more than that of Octave deters Mme de Bonnivet from treating him on most occasions with great warmth and solicitude. As Byron pointed out in a letter of September 8, 1816 to his half sister, Augusta Leigh, and as Breme or one of Breme’s guests at Milan presumably told Stendhal, Mme de Stal had been “particularly kind & friendly” toward Byron at Coppet, and had even “fought battles without number” on his behalf (Letters 5:92)–an observation that calls to mind the way Mme de Bonnivet protects Octave so assiduously as to risk scandal (64, 69-73, 88-90). Stendhal, greatly impressed by Byron’s good looks when he met the poet at Milan,(23) had every reason to conjecture that they had powerfully attracted Mme de Stail, whose weakness for the opposite sex was well known;(24) and in Armanee, the favoritism that Mme de Bonnivet bestows upon the Byronically handsome Octave clearly indicates that her motives are partly erotic.(25) Such is at all events the consensus of opinion among the guests of Mme de Bonnivet (89-90), even though she is considerably older than Octave (just as Mme de Stail was older than Byron).(26) There is an element of coquetry in Mme de Bonnivet’s approach to Octave from the beginning, when she conspiratorially sends him a sumptuous copy of the Bible in the hope of leading him to share her religious passion. Byron had been the recipient of an analogous gift in August 1816, during his residence near Coppet, when Mme de Stael sent him a book by Schlegel (see Byron, Letters 5:88)–a gift that Stendhal might well have regarded as an attempt both to kindle religious fervor in the poet and to draw him more closely into the fold of Coppet.
Unfortunately, we know nothing of what Byron himself may have said at Milan concerning his relations either with Mme de Stael or with Schlegel, as Hobhouse recorded scarcely any of the conversation of his celebrated friend and traveling companion during their stay there. Yet there is one observation attributed to Byron in Hobhouse’s journal entry of October 15, 1816, that Stendhal would undoubtedly have interpreted as a reference to the mystical and specifically Schlegelian atmosphere then pervading Mme de Stael’s salon. Describing a discussion that took place between himself, Breme, and Byron, in which Byron explained his conception of God, Hobhouse writes: “B[yron] was against talking of these things to women and children, but he said he could no more be a Christian than he could be an atheist. His sens intime of a divinity, although he could not account for it, was as certain a proof to him that there was a cause for it as the influence upon the compass was a sign there was some cause for the direction of the magnetical needle to the pole.”(27) In the encounters that Byron, Hobhouse, and Breme had with Stendhal during the days that followed this discussion, it is possible that the sens intime again was discussed, and it seems likely, in view of the interest the poet’s religious views were certain to excite at Milan, that Stendhal heard at least some report of Byron’s reference to that mysterious faculty. If so, he could not but be intrigued, as he had been seeking in the weeks before to revise a lengthy footnote of the Histoire de la peinture en alie (OEures 27:54-57n1) that describes Schlegel as “meilleur ap6tre que juge littCraire” and in which the sens intieur is cited seven times and mocked repeatedly.(28) Furthermore, Stendhal perused Cours de litterature dramatique (1814), Mme Necker de Saussure’s authorized French translation of Schlegel’s Vorlesungen uber dramatische Kunst und Literatur (1809-1811), in August and September 1816–that is, just before Byron, who recently had been given what was quite possibly the same work,29 arrived in Milan. Stendhal’s marginal annotations within the Cours, a number of which evidently date from those two months (see OEuvres 35:286-96, esp. 287, 294), confirm that he took a particular inter-est at the time, as one might expect, in Schlegel’s religious views. Next to an early passage in Volume I (“l’homme ne peut jamais se detourner en entier de l’infini, et des souvenirs fugitifs de sa celeste patrie viennent par moment lui rappeler ce qu’il a perdu”), Stendhal acidly notes: “Pure philosophie allemande, c’est–dire draison.” Next to Schiegel’s observation, “la religion est la racine veritable de notre etre,” he scribbles, “der[ais]on complete.” Elsewhere in the same volume, Stendhal ridicules Schlegel’s idea that religion has established “des principes absolus…places bien au-dessus de l’atteinte d’une raison scrutatrice,” condemns his “style minemment vague et peu clair,” and asserts: “Quand on a lu et compris Helvetius, Tracy, Gibbon et Cabanis, on ne croit a aucune religion” (see Schlegel 1:23,26; OEuvres 35:288-89).
In the light of all this, one may well wonder what Stendhal would have made of Byron’s professed “sens intime of a divinity,” which the poet explained in confusing language of a decidedly mystical character. Stendhal no doubt considered Byron to be in many ways mad (see Voyages 125, 495n, OEuvres 46:89, 246, 248-49, 251), but it seems unlikely that he would have thought the poet capable of such complete irrationality as to agree, even momentarily, with Schlegel. Stendhal was more than ready to suppose that Byron had suffered acute spiritual torments, and was pleased to imagine that the poet believed in God at least enough to defy Him, but the God he imagined Byron defying is a cruel and tyrannical deity (see Chroniques 5:216), like “cet etre terrible…[et] impitoyable dans ses vengeances” (16) with whom Octave refuses to be reconciled. There is not the slightest evidence that Stendhal was prepared to conceive of Byron as a devotee of some comfor ably fashionable, vaguely pantheistic cult,(30) still less that he considered the poet susceptible to Schlegel’s influence. On the contrary, in late September and early October 1916, long before he came across Byron’s explicit condemnation of “the transcendental philosophy and German metaphysics” in Medwin’s Conversations (215), he had taken pains to dissociate the cause of Byron from that of Schlegel, who soon after was to become the object of overt ridicule in Breme’s circle. Byron’s reference to the sens intime in mid-October 1816 thus was likely to strike Stendhal as a deliberately ironic reminiscence of the poet’s brush with Schlegelianism at Coppet, where Mme de Stael and her German guru could be assumed to have attempted, as does Mme de Bonnivet with Octave, to “rveiller en lui la conseienee et le sens intime,” to “lui persuader qu’il avait un sens intime” (71, 72).
Schlegel himself seems to have paraded his missionary zeal while in Byron’s company at Coppet, as may be inferred from a farcical piece of verse the poet wrote for his publisher, John Murray, on August 21, 1817. With reference to Mme de Stael’s religious views and to Schlegel’s influence on those views, Byron remarks:
Some say she died a Papist–Some Are of opinion thati a Hum–I don’t know rhat-the fellow Schlegel Was very likely to inveigle A dying person in compunction To try the extremity of Unction. (Letters 5:260)(31)
Byron’s awareness of Schlegel’s preachiness may have stemmed largely from his having been obliged to mediate between the German writer and Ludovico di Breme (see Letters 8:172-73), who quarrelled about religious matters so frequently that their disputes…interminables” were considered a nuisance (Broglie 1:354). Furthermore, Byron’s explanation of his “sens intime of
divinity” in terms of magnetic forces suggests very strongly that he meant to refer thereby to the ideas of Schlegel, whom Polidori describes in his Coppet journal (146) as “a believer in magnetism.”
Why does Stendhal use the words sens intime rather than sens interieur in caricaturing the Schlegelian form of mysticism that Mme de Bonnivet preaches to Octave? The former term identifies the hero of Armanee directly with Byron, who had averred that the sens intime as surely points to “a divinity” as “the magnetical needle to the pole,” as if to echo the Schlegelian teachings then prevalent in Mme de Stael’s salon. Those same teachings also are echoed in the salon of Mme de Bonnivet, who believes in divine agents “entre Dieu et l’homme…qui, suivant les plus modernes des philosophes allemands, voltigent quelques pieds au-dessus de nos tetes[et]…magnetisent nos ames,” thereby leading the chosen soul toward an understanding of God (63). Of course, Stendhal, as I already have suggested, was not likely to take Byron’s protestations of belief in the sens intime seriously, and in Armance Octave consistently employs the same expression with mock gravity (70, 77), impishly allowing Mme de Bonnivet to believe that he is “a demi converti au mysticisme allemand” (see 111 and cf. 64). Indeed, Octave’s feigned respect for Mme de Bonnivet’s Schlegelian ideas suggests yet another parallel between him and Byron, who went out of his way at Coppet to treat Schlegel with comically insincere deference, as the poet’s letter to Murray of August 7, 1821, attests:
The Man [Schlegel] was also my personal acquaintance–and though I refused to flatter him grossly (as Mme de Broglie requested me to do) yet I uniformly treated him with respect–with much more indeed than any one else–for his peculiarities are such that they one and all laughed at him and especially the Abbe Chevalier di Breme–who did nothing but make me laugh at him so much behind his back–that nothing but the politeness on which I pride myself in society–could have prevented me from doing so to his face. (Letters 8:172-73)
If Breme and Byron told their acquaintances at Milan anything at all about their mutual encounters with Schlegel at Coppet, they scarcely could avoid describing scenes such as these; this would greatly have amused Stendhal, who himself had imagined a skeptic’s farcical dialogue with Schlegel in the Histoire de la peinture en Italie:
Voulez-vous savoir si vous avez le sens interieur? M. Schlegel vous le dira; il en a une si grande part. qu’en cinq minutes de conversation il se fait fort de connaitre si vous etes du nombre des bienheureux.
Le difficile en cette affaire, c’est qu’il ne faut pas rire….OEuvres 27:54n1)
In Armance Stendhal best evoked the image of a mystical missionary preaching to an unregenerate freethinker, contriving only to elicit a polite smile of suppressed hilarity.
Octave’s comical initiation into Schlegelianism gains deeper historical resonance from the link it forges between the early and the late years of the French Restoration. As we have seen, Stendhal thought of Mme de Stal as the first of a long line of fashionable women who harbored the ambition of establishing a new religion, and he numbered among her modern spiritual descendents in particular the Duchesse de Broglie. The Duchesse traditionally has been characterized as the principal model for Mme de Bonnivet, largely on the authority of Stendhal’s close friend, Romain Colomb.(32) Critics have endorsed Colomb’s identification of Mme de Broglie with Mme de Bonnivet for two reasons: first, because Mme de Broglie was greatly influenced by the ideas of Schlegel, who had served as her private tutor (see Michel 3:404); and second, because Mme de Broglie was well known to Stendhal for her support in the middle 1820s of fashionabie Parisian religious coteries (see Chroniques 2:216, 4:226, 292). Yet Mme de Bonnivet’s kinship with Mme de Broglie, far from dispelling or diluting the evocation of Mme de Statl in Armance, actually intensifies it, as the Duchesse de Broglie was in a very real sense a latterday copy of Mme de Stael: she was Mme de Stael’s daughter.
The relevance to Armance of this familial connection has been consistently overlooked, despite Stendhal’s assertion in the New Monthly Magazine of July 1824 that Mme de Broglie was worthy of note above all “for being the daughter of the celebrated Madame de Stael” (Chroniques 2:216), and despite Mme de Stael’s responsibility for employing Schlegel as her daughter’s tutor. The daughter’s Schlegelian upbringing must have been common knowledge in 1816 in Breme’s circle, where Stendhal presumably also had occasion to learn of Mme de Broglie’s relations with Byron. The poet mentioned in his letter to Murray of August 7, 1821, cited above, that “Mme de Broglie requested me” “to flatter [Schlegel] grossly” at Coppet, and had explained more fully in an earlier letter that “he [Schlegel] took a dislike to me–because I refused to flatter him in Switzerland–though Madame de Broglie begged me to do so–‘because he is so fond of it'” (Letters 8:172, 16). Whether or not Stendhal was aware of this anecdote, he must surely have learned–or at least inferred–at Milan that Mme de Broglie hadjoined forces with her mother at Coppet in encouraging their guests to pay homage to Schlegel.(33)
The context in which Stendhal viewed Mme de Broglie’s subsequent contributions to the spiritual life of Parisian salons thus inevitably was a Staelian one, as the author of Amnanee tacitly indicated in his Londbn Magazine article of February 1825 less than a year before he began the novel. In the course af a discussion of the religious “reformation called for by the spirit of the age,” to which the Socit de la Morale Chretienne(34) had given a significant impetus, Stendhal argued that “the Duchesse de Broglie (daughter of Madame de Stael) has written a homily in favour of this society, which may acquire an historical importance, if the chair of St. Peter should continue to be long filled by so narrow-minded and imprudent a fanatic as Leo XII” (Chroniques 4:292). The remark suggests that Stendhal imagined Mme de Broglie to have had religious ambitions no less hegemonic than those he had imputed to her mother just three months earlier in the same periodical, where he maintained that “Mme de Stael, at the moment of her death, was on the point of opening a rival salon in opposition to the Court” within which she hoped to reign as “chief of the new religion” (Chroniques 4:204). In short, Mme de Stal had engendered an ideal disciple in Mme de Broglie, who not only justified and fulfilled the “ducomanie” that Stendhal attributed to her mother (Correspondance 1:917) by becoming a duchess, but also took up and reinvigorated her mother’s Schlegelian mission to transform the Christian religion. The legacy of elitist cultism Mme de Bonnivet parodically exemplifies in Amnance thus legitimately may be said to derive from Mme. de Broglie only insofar as Mme de Broglie herself had inberited it from Mme de Stael, who was in Stendhal’s view the true originator of the rage for religious reform prevalent among artistocratic Parisian women in the waning years of the French Restoration.
I have endeavored to show that, in Armanee, the identification of Octave with the spiritually tormented Byron of Lamartine’s Dernier Chant and of Lauvergne’s “Note” is reinforced by a concomitant identification of Mme de Bonnivet with Mme de Statl. The latter identification intimately relates to and illuminates the former in several ways. Mme de Bonnivet’s Stalian proselytism of her new religion, by providing a burlesque counterpoint to Octave’s pri-vate search for spiritual self-definition, helps both to validate his Byronic questioning of conventional religious beliefs and to highlight his Byronic feelings of spiritual and social mar-ginalization. Furthermore, Mme de Bonnivet’s attempts to make Octave an apostle of Schlegelianism, precisely because they are doomed to fail ludicrously, attest that Octave has little hope of finding
higher cause to uphold within the frivolous and inauthentic world of the Faubourg Saint-Germain. He ultimately discovers such a cause in the political rather than the religious sphere by turning his gaze toward the eastern frontiers of Europe, when he dedicates himself, like Byron, to the liberation of Greece.
The deepest wells of inspiration underlying the religious motif in Armance apparently were Stendhal’s experiences in Ludovico di Breme’s circle at Milan in 1816. There, during the same period in which he rejected Schlegel’s mystical romanticism in favor of Byronism, Stendhal had abundant reason and opportunity to learn a great deal about the role that Byron had played at Coppet, where the poet’s perceived immorality and irreligion had provoked considerable scandal, and where Byron had been exposed to the reforming zeal of Mme de Stai and of Schlegel. After Byron’s death in April 1824, Stendhal found a strong inducement to reflect on the specifically comic dimensions of that role, when, in November of the same year, the novelist came across Byron’s humorous complaints, in Medwin’s Conversations, that several persons had sought to convert or reform him, including Mme de Stal herself. These complaints must have struck Stendhal the more forcibly in that he was particularly concerned at the tirne to poke fun at the legacy of irrationalism and of mystical pietism that Mme de Stael had bequeathed to Restoration France. Because Stendhal perceived a literally seminal connection between Coppet in 1816 and fashionable Parisian society in the 1820s, a link embodied in the person of the Duchesse de Broglie, he felt it appropriate to conjure the image of the English skeptic, Lord Byron, incongruously juxtaposed with that of the Germanizing mystic, Mme de Stael, within the fictional context of Armance, whose religious motif comprises one of its most elaborately crafted historical subtexts.
‘See Stendhal, Voyages 1217, correspondance 2:56, Chroniques 5:248; Rosa, “Stendhal et Shelley” ‘Stendhal, Byron, Mme Belloc” 185-86 and 191n15, “Presage” 16-17,’Stendhal et Keats,” “Sailing,” ‘Two Romantic Models” 40-41 and 44nll, 41-42; Thompson, “Clefs” 530 and 544n77, 5S6 and 546n126, j38 and 547n136, 5S9 and 547n142, 547n143,’Stendhal connaisseur’ 126 and 137n8S, “Stendhal et son ‘ami’ Shelley” 220 and 228n80.
2In fact, Byron died at the age of 36.
SThe heroes of The Corsair (1814) and of Larra (1814) both have demonic impulses; the protagonist in Cain (1821) turns away from God and becomes a pupil of Lucifer; the hero of Manfred (1817) is assailed by fiends from hell before he dies but loftily dismisses them, claiming that he will inhabit a hell of his own making; Amold in The Deformed Transformed (1824) makes a Faustian pact with the devil. Stendhal was well-acquainted with the first ree of these works (on The Corsair and Lara, see note 7 below; on Cain, see uvres 23:268n1, 37:35n2, 47:76), and, although he does not cite Manfred or The Deformed Transfonned in any of his known writings, he presumably read the extracts and synopses of those two works in Louise Swanton-Belloc’s Lord Byron (1:117-59, 2:191-200), which he possessed as of late March 1825 and read with interest (see Palfrey; Rosa, ‘Stendhal, Byron, Mme Belloc”).
The BibliograPhie de la Franee (379, item # 2659) announced the publication of Lauvergne’s Souvenirs de la Grce, in which the “Note sur Lord Byron” appears, on May 3, 1826. Stendhal evidently read the “Note” soon after that date, as he refers to it (Voyages 495n) in the 1826 edition of Rome, NaPles et Florence (actual date of publication: February 1827).
jA few years after reading Lauvergne’s “Note,” Stendhal published a spurious anecdote of his own concerning Byron’s fear of damnation in “Lord Byron en Italie” (1830). See uvres 46:255, and cf. Moore 389.
6 On Octave’s Byronism, see particularly Adams 149-51; Crouzet 64-68; Rosa, “Pr&sage,” “Byronism,” “Two Romantic Models.” “Sailing”; Thompson, “Clefs.”
The spiritual plight of Octave also recalls that of Byron’s ‘Byronic” heroes in such poems as The Co7sai7, Lara, and Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (1812-1818), works that Stendhd held in high esteem during the few years leading up to the composition of Armanee (see Iroyages 459, Chronipues 2:190, 288, S:196, 4:104, 5:120, 26B, SSO, 7:78) and whose protagonists all seem attuned to and governed by powers that lie beyond the realm of normal human experience.
Conrad, the hero of The Corsair, whose character Stendhal deemed particularly touching (uves 35:124), is at once a sanguinary fiend, a humble ascetic, and a devoted lover who feels “The hopeless past, the hasting future driven / Too quickly on to guess if Hell or Heaven’ (Poetry S:261). Lara, who seems ‘a stranger in this breathing world, / An erring Spirit from another hurled,” is not only a demon, but also an angel, “With more capacity for love than Earth / Bestows on most of mortal mould and birth” (Poet7y 3:9S5, S36). Childe Harold, in whom ‘life-abhorring Gloom / Wrote on his faded brow curst Cain’s unresting doom,” neuertheless is a visionary whose ‘impeded Soul” feels drawn to “the boundless air’ as if the heavens were its natural abode (Poetry 2:74, 225). The Corsair, Lara, and Childe Harold’S Pilgrimage–insofar as they could be regarded as autobiographical works–surely buttressed the conception of Byron’s spiritual predicament that Stendhal derived from Lamartine and Lauvergne and presumably helped to shape Stendhal’s characterization of Octave de Malivert as the victim of a similar predicament.
s The New Monthly Magazine article in question bears the date February 10, 1826, and presumably was written during the first week or so of the month, which is precisely when Stendhal composed an unknown amount of a lost first draft of Armance. See Ch7oniques 6:112-40 and Leb&gue XXXInl.
SStendhal’s article cites as the principal proponents of Christianity’s “fourth transformation” such neo-Catholic Restoration writers as the Baron d’Eckstein and Lamennais, contributors to Le Catholique; this periodical, Stendhal claims, “is expected to produce no slight effect among the ladies of the Faubourg St.
Germain, who, for want of anything better to do, have taken a fancy to make a new religion” ( Chro7Lipues 6:130). While it may seem surprising that Stendhal should have associated neo-Catholic writers with a movement to promote Christianity’s metamorphosis into a new form of Protestantism, his reasons for doing so are ably explained by Henri-Francois Imbert (392-93): “Le neo-protestantisme n’itait pour Stendhalqu’une forme, entre tant d’autres, du mal romantique.
Et c’est ce qui explique que, sans se soucier de l’apparente contradiction, il le mette sur le meme
plan que le nCo-catholicisme de Lamennais et du baron d’Eckstein–ainsi cavalirement rapprochis! A quoi bon essayer d’etablir des diffrences entre ces diffrents systemes? Les uns comme les autres se fondent sur le mtpris de la raison.” lo Mme de Bonnivet’s religious vocabulary recalls that of several writers besides Schlegel. Her ‘sens intime” invites comparison to the “sens intime” of Maine de Biran (see Martineau 281n147), to the “sentiment intrieur” (as well as the “lumiire intCrieure.” “voix intrieure,” “persuasion intCrieure,” “assentiment intCrieur,’ and ‘sentiment involontaire”) of Rousseau’s Savoyard vicar (Emile 323, S24, 329, 333, 339, 348, 360, 361), to the ‘sentiment. intime” and ‘sentiment intCrieur” of Constant (see note 11 below), to the categorical imperative of Kant (see Simons 38), and to the intuitionism of such Scottish philosophers as Thomas Reid (see Blin 334n12). Mme de Bonnivet’s other mystical teachings appear to derive partly from Lamennais and Eckstein, already discussed in note g, from Kratry (see Imbert S92), from Swedenborg (see Simons 38), and from Victor Cousin (see Lebgue S19n; Blin 333n10; Bardeche 120, 1S6; Martineau 2828Sn157). But the parodic resemblance between Mme de Bonnivet and such thinkers is peripheral to Stendhal’s real focus of satiric attack, Schlegel.
IIConstant employs the expression “sentiment religieux” repeatedly throughout the first volume of De la religion and also makes use of two closely synonymous locutions: “sentiment intime” (sometimes in the plural form) and “sentiment
inttrieur’ (see XXVI, XXXIX, 13, 14nl, 17, 35, 73nl, 148nl, S53). He does not, however, on any occasion write “sens intime,’ contrary to Stendhal’s indication (Chroniques 4:196). Stendhal presumably thought that Dc la religion had been largely inspired by Schlegelian (and Kantian) ideas; he observes that Constant ‘commenced his book at Berlin, at that time being exalted by the German illumination,” and adds elsewhere that Constant’s ‘mystical arguments” were “borrowed from the unfortunate German philosoehy” (Chroniques 4:204, 208). On Stendhal’s views of De Ea religion, see Marill 37-39; and, on the relevance of those views to Amnance, Crouzet 62-6S.
ln The duchess Stendhal principally had in mind was Mme de Broglie, whose relevance to the religious motifin Armancel will discuss later.
ls Stendhal felt ‘une antipathie instinctiue” for Mme de Stal, as Jacques FlixFaure demonstrates in the chapter of that title (Ch. 1, 9-14) and throughout Stendhal leeteur de M7ne de Stai;l.
14 The structure of the entire passage makes this unmistakably clear, as does the female speaker’s reference to “our friend Benjamin Constant.” who had been Mme de Stail’s close friend as well as her lover.
15 Stendhal ordered three copies of Medwin’s book on November ls, 1824. See Voyages 1217.
16 Mme de Bonnivet and Octave de Malivert are parodically suited by their very names to play the parts, respectively, of savior and sinner.
Cf. Thompson, ‘Clefs’ 533.
17 As Madeleine Simons points out (39), Stendhal on one occasion in Armance (ll0) compares Mme de Bonnivet to the prophet Mohammed, “ce qui est plaisant quand on songe I’extravagante mode des turbans, qu’ont immortalisCe les portraits de Madame de Sta&l et de Madame de Duras.”
la Breme, who held Mme de Sta&l in verj high esteem, met her at Milan in 1815, and became closely attached to her. See the letters and numerous allusions to Mme de Stail in Breme and cf. Stendhal, uures 35:168.
19 For a discussion of Stendhal’s discovery ofJeffrey’s article in The Edilaburgh Reviev and of the article’s impact on his intellectual development, see Vigneron S77-89; Del Litto 508-11, 518-22, 5S5-S9; Thompson, “Stendhal connaisseur” 11323.
no The Duc de Broglie writes: ‘Wilhelm Schlegel, dont le frire, aprQs avoir consacr la moitie de sa vie 9 composer des livres pantheistes et des romans obsctnes, s’ttait fait tout 1 coup catholique, Wilhelm Schlegel, dis-je, 8 I’Cpoque dontje parle [i.e., 1816], semblait tout pr&t n en faire autant. 11 s’&tait pris de belle passion, passion qui n’a pas dure, pour I’ext&rieur du culte catholique …” (1:354). This brief flirtation with Catholicism no doubt would haue struck Stendhal as further evidence of, rather than a departure from, Schlegel’s penchant for mystical irrationalism. Cf. the quotation from Henri-Francois Imbert in note 9 above.
21 Polidori says in his journal of October 1816 that Stendhal (Beyle) was one of ‘the usual attendants at De BrCme’s box” (178), and Hobhouse’s journal shows that he and Byron saw Beyle there on at least two occasions: October 23 and 28 (see Rosa, “Stendhal Raconteur”).
12On Octave’s anglophilia, see uvres5:145.
2S See Stendhal, Correspondance 1:828, 832, 2:43, Voyages 124, CEuvres 31:186, 35:169, 36:63, 46:252; and, for a discussion of the last two of these texts, Berthier 217.
2a Stendhal hyperbolically wrote in the margins of Mme de Stael’s voluminous Considirations sur les PrineiPaux inements de la Rolution franaise (1818) that its author “a couche avec les 3/4 de ses personnages, avantage particulier pour Ccrire I’histoire” (Ftlix-Faure 81).
es Stendhal’s physical descriptions of Byron and Octave present a number of striking analogies. Compare the texts by Stendhal cited in note 23, above, with uvres 5:7-8, 18, 28, 35, 37, 40.
26 Mme de Stael was 22 years older than Byron, and Mme de Bonnivet is more than ten years older than Octave (see uvres 5:7, 48).
s? The italicized portions of the first sentence have never been published before.
They were expurgated by the diarist’s Victorian editor. See Hobhouse, Broughton folio 68v, and cf. Lady Dorchester’s edition of his RecolEeetions 2:45, in which the sentence was sanitized to read: “Byron said he could no more be a dogmatist than he could be an atheist.” 2B This revision also included several paragraphs lauding Lord Byron (see Correondanee 1:827-28, 829, and cf. (Euvres 27:448-5On).
29According to Prothero 3:343n3, the book by Schlegel that Mme de Sta&l gave Byron probably was the first English translation (1815) of Vo71esungen ber dramatische Kunst und Literatur.
so This is in spite of the fact that there are traces of pantheistic feeling in Byron’s poetry, perhaps most notably in the famous Wordsworthian stanzas (;r2-75) in Canto 3 of Childe Harold ‘s Pilgrimage (Poety 2:261-64).
s On Schlegel’s enthusiasm for Catholicism in 1816, the year in which he met Byron, see note 20 above. Mme de Sta&l’s religious views during the last few years of her life are well summed up in her letter to Mme de G&rando of September 27, 1815:’3e crois le mysticisme, c’est-dire la religion de Fnelon, celle qui a son sanctuaire dans le caeur, quijoint I’amour aux ouvres,je la crois une rCformation de la RL;formation, un developpement du christianisme, qui r&unit ce qu’il y a de bon dans le catholicisme et le protestantisme, et qui sCpare entitrement la religion de I’influence politique des pr&tres” (514).
sp See Colomb 314 and cf. Lebtgue XLV-XLVI; Blin S21n17; Bardeche 135; and Martineau IX, 278-79n1S5, all four of whom point out that the Baronne de Krdener (on Mme de Krdener, see also Imbert S94) and Mme Swetchine (on Mme Swetchine, see also Martino 190) are likely concomitant models for Mme de Bonnivet.
SSAnother member of Mme de Sta&l’s Germanizing cohort at Coppet was her cousin by marriage, Albertine Necker de Saussure, who did the translation of Schlegel’s Vorlesungen Sbe7 dramatisehe Kunst und Literatur that Stendhal studied and annotated in Milan in 1816. Commenting on that translatin, Stendhal observed that ‘Mme Necker, nte Saussure, cousine de Mme de Sta&l, et qu’on trouve presque aussi remarquable qu’elle,” wrote in a ‘style sec, entortill& et enflt’ specifically reminiscent of her more famous relative, and belittled Mme Necker de Saussure’s preface for its ‘petitesse” and “timiditi1” (uvres 35:287). Coppet was in short a place where Byron had been surrounded by Schlegelian zealots.
‘Stendhal observes in his London Magazine article of December 1824 that “the Broglies, the Stails, and the SaintAulaires have formed a powerful club, called the Soeiety of Christian Morals. This [i.e., their] plan is evidently that which poor Benjamin Constant points out in his book [De la religion] …” See Chniques 4:226, 228, and cf. 4:292, 5:S8.
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