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Never mind the neighbours

Margaret Anne Doody

4 April 1996
Delphine 
by Germaine de Staël, 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 deStaël 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 Staë ...
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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... had ended in divorce), but married her secretly, then took extraordinary precautions to prevent anyone knowing he was married, living apart and visiting Charlotte only clandestinely. The problem was GermainedeStaël, 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 ...

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 GermainedeStaël 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 ...

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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... biography, pious in tone and lumpishly written, could hardly be more different. Humboldt was part of a great flowering of German intellectual life in the decades either side of 1800, the period when GermainedeStaël 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 ...
20 March 1997
Republics, Nations and Tribes 
by Martin Thom.
Verso, 359 pp., £45, July 1995, 1 85984 020 5
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... were not checked in, notably éminence noire Conor Cruise O’Brien. Was the Indie trying to cheer 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 ...

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 ...

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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... praising more rarefied writers. ‘Russian writers,’ she suggests, ‘represented themselves … as reading such European writers as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Samuel Richardson, Laurence Sterne, GermainedeStaël and Scott, but denigrated or avoided naming their actual competition: such bestselling sentimental novelists as Kotzebue, de Genlis, Lafontaine and Sophie Cottin.’ Hoogenboom applies to ...
25 February 1993
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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... of the ‘Lenino-populist vulgate’. In two major works, Penser la révolution française (English 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 ...

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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... heart of Cohen’s strikingly elegant and assured biographical study of three now almost forgotten 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 ...

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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... Blessington, Marguerite, Countess of; bluestockings; Dacre, Charlotte; Edgeworth, Maria; Hemans, 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 finale to an edition which extends the range of ...

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