Chateaubriand's memoirs, XXVIII, 21

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XXVIII, 20 << Chateaubriand's memoirs >> XXIX, 1


Mémoires d'Outre-tombe


Book XXVIII, chapter 20
Madame Récamier and Monsieur de Montmorency are exiled –– Madame Récamier at Chalons.



Madame de Staël returned to Coppet; Madame Récamier hastened to join her again; Monsieur Mathieu de Montmorency remained equally devoted to her; both were punished; the same punishment they had gone to relieve was inflicted on them. The forty leagues distance from Paris was maintained.

Madame Récamier withdrew to Châlons-sur-Marne, her choice being influenced by the neighbouring presence of Montmirail where Messieurs de La Rochefoucauld-Doudeauville lived. A host of details of Bonaparte’s tyrannies were lost in the general oppression: the persecuted dreaded their friends’ visits, fearing to compromise them; their friends dared not seek them out, afraid of causing them some increased severity. The unfortunate person became a plague-victim isolated from humankind, living in quarantine due to a despot’s hatred. Welcomed while one suppressed one’s freedom of opinion, as soon as it became evident, all turned their backs on you; around you, remained only officials spying on your relationships, your sentiments, your correspondence, your thoughts. Such were those days of freedom and happiness.

Madame de Staël wrote to Madame Récamier saying that she did not wish to see her at Coppet because of her apprehension of the ill-luck she might bring her; but she did not tell all: she had secretly married Monsieur Rocca, resulting in an embarrassing complication from which the Imperial police profited. Madame Récamier was rightly astonished at the obstinacy with which Madame de Staël forbade her to visit Coppet. Hurt by her friend’s insistence, a friend for whom she had already sacrificed herself, she no less persisted in her resolution to share the dangers of Coppet.

A whole year went by in this state of uncertainty. Madame de Staël’s letters reveal the sufferings of those times, when the talented were threatened at every instant with being flung in jail, when one aspired to flee as the only deliverance: when freedom vanishes, a country remains, but not a homeland.