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The leading feature of Madame de Staël's private charac. ter, was her inexhaustible kindness of temper: it cost her nc trouble to forgive injuries. There seems not to have been a creature on earth whom she hated, except Napoleon. “Hei friendships were ardent and remarkably constant; and yet she had a habit of analyzing the characters, even of those to whom she was most attached, with the most unsparing sagacity, and of drawing out the detail and theory of their faults and peculiarities, with the most searching and unrelenting rigour; and this she did to their faces, and in spite of their most earnest remonstrances. It is impossible for me to do otherwise,' she would say: 'if I were on my way to the scaffold, I should be dissecting the characters of the friends who were to suffer with me upon it.'”.
Though the excitement of mixed society was necessary to her happiness, her conversation, in a tête-à-tête with her intimate friends, is said to have been more delightful than her most brilliant efforts in public. She was proud of her powers, and loved to display and talk of them. But her vanity was divested of offensiveness by her candour and ever-present consideration of others. Of her errors we would speak with forbearance; but it is due to truth, to say, that there were passages in her life, which exposed her to serious and wellfounded censure.
As a daughter and mother she displayed sedulous devotion, and the warmest affection. Though never destitute of devotional feeling, her notions of religion, in youth, seem to have been very vague and inefficient. But misfortune drove her sensitive and affectionate temper to seek some stay, which she found nothing on earth could furnish; and, in later years, her religion, if not deeply learned, was deeply felt. Of this, the latter portion of Mad. Necker de Saussure's work, will satisfy the candid reader. And though her testimony to the truth and value of religion, was, for the most part, indirect, we may reasonably believe that it was not ineffective.
“Placed, in many respects, in the highest situation to which humanity could aspire, possessed unquestionably of the highest powers of reasoning, emancipated in a singular degree from prejudices, and entering, with the keenest relish, into all the feelings that seemed to suffice for the happiness and occupation of philosophers, patriots, and lovers, she has still testified, that, without religion, there is nothing stable, sublime, or satisfying; and that it alone completes and consummates all to which reason and affection can aspire.” A genius like hers, and so directed, is, as her biographer has well remarked, the only missionary that, in modern times, can work any permanent effect upon the upper classes of society, or upon the vain, the learned, the scornful and argumentative, “who stone the prophets, while they affect to offer incense to the muscs."
[The following piece furnishes a noble example of solemnity and sub limity. Nothing can more strikingly display the injury to mind and taste, which is done in our prevalent modes of female education, - by neglecting the elevating effects of nature and art upon the sensibility of youth, — than the tame, trite, and heartless manner in which this and similar passages are usually read in our schools for young ladies. The utmost depth and fulness of feeling are required in the utterance of thoughts at once so profound and so exalted, as those which this poem imbodies. The management of the voice, in such cases, requires a deep and resonant “orotund quality,” — the full, majestic effect of blank verse, — “median stress,” in its amplest form, — a “slow” and stately “movement,” and long, impressive pauses.]
With what a stately and majestic step
Thou, faithful sentinel! dost never quit
Ages have witnessed thy devoted trust,
Ages have rolled their course, and time grown gray; The earth has gathered to her womb again, And yet again, the myriads, that were born Of her, uncounted, unremembered tribes. The seas have changed their beds; the eternal hills Have stooped with age; the solid continents Have left their banks; and man's imperial works,The toil, pride, strength of kingdoms, which had flung Their haughty honours in the face of heaven, As if immortal, — have been swept away, Shattered and mouldering, buried and forgot. But time has shed no dimness on thy front, Nor touched the firmness of thy tread: youth, strength, And beauty still are thine, – as clear, as bright, As when the almighty Former sent thee forth, Beautiful offspring of his curious skill, To watch earth's northern beacon, and proclaim The eternal chorus of eternal love.
I wonder as I gaze. — That stream of light, Undimmed, unquenched, — just as I see it now, — Has issued from those dazzling points, through years That go back far into eternity. Exhaustless flood! forever spent, renewed Forever ! — Yea, — and those refulgent drops, Which now descend upon my lifted eye, Left their far fountain twice three years ago. While those winged particles, whose speed outstrips The flight of thought, were on their way, the earth Compassed its tedious circuit round and round,
And, in the extremes of annual change, beheld
Yea, glorious lamps of God! He may have quenched
Yet what is this, which to the astonished mind Seems measureless, and which the baffled thought Confounds ? - a span, a point, in those domains Which the keen eye can traverse. Seven stars Dwell in that brilliant cluster; and the sight Embraces all at once; — yet each from each Recedes as far as each of them from earth. And every star from every other burns No less remote. From the profound of heaven, Untravelled even in thought, — keen, piercing rays Dart through the void, revealing to the sense Systems and worlds unnumbered. Take the glass And search the skies. The opening skies pour down Upon your gaze thick showers of sparkling fire, Stars, crowded, thronged, in regions so remote, That their swift beams, – the swiftest things that be, Have travelled centuries on their flight to earth. — Earth, sun, and nearer constellations, what Are ye, amid this infinite extent . And multitude of God's most infinite works?
And these are suns ! — vast, central, living fires, Lords of dependent systems, kings of worlds That wait as satellites upon their power, And flourish in their smile. Awake, my soul, And meditate the wonder! Countless suns Blaze round thee, leading forth their countless worlds! Worlds, in whose bosoms living things rejoice, And drink the bliss of being from the fount Of all-pervading love! What mind can know, What tongue can utter, all their multitudes, Thus numberless in numberless abodes? Known but to thee, blessed Father! Thine they are, Thy children and thy care; and none o'erlooked Of thee! — no, not the humblest soul that dwells
Upon the humblest globe, which wheels its course
Tell me, ye splendid orbs, as, from your throne, Ye mark the rolling provinces that own Your sway, — what beings fill those bright abodes? llow formed, how gifted? what their powers, their state, Their happiness, their wisdom? Do they bear The stamp of human nature? Or has God Peopled those purer realms with lovelier forms And more celestial minds? Does Innocence Sul wear her native and untainted bloom ? Or has Sin breathed his deadly blight abroad, And sowed corruption in those fairy bowers ? Has War trod o'er them with his foot of fire ? And Slavery forged his chains ? And Wrath and Hate, And sordid Selfishness, and cruel Lust, Leagued their base bands to tread out light and truth, And scattered woe where Heaven had planted joy? Or are they yet all paradise, unfallen And uncorrupt?— existence one long joy, Without disease upon the frame, or sin Upon the heart, or weariness of life — Hope never quenched, and age unknown, And death unfeared; while fresh and fadeless youth Glows in the light from God's near throne of love? Open your lips, ye wonderful and fair ! Speak, speak! the mysteries of those living worlds Unfold ! – No language ? Everlasting light, And everlasting silence? - Yet the eye May read and understand. The hand of God Has written legibly what man may know,-. THE GLORY OF THE Maker. — There it shines, Ineffable, unchangeable; and man, Bound to the surface of this pygmy globe, May know and ask no more. In other days, When death shall give the encumbered spirit wings, Its range shall be extended : it shall roam,