It’s hard to imagine two more dissimilar writers than Jane Austen and Madame de Staël (1766-1817.) Unlike Austen’s ‘little bit (two inches wide) of ivory’, de Staël used large brushstrokes on her literary canvas; she painted portraits of whole continents, people and politics.
Born in Paris, Anne-Louise-Germaine Necker was an admirer of Rousseau. She was the daughter of wealthy Swiss banker Jacques Necker (later French Minister of Finance.) The tomboyish young woman with ‘dark, flashing eyes’ married Swedish ambassador Baron de Staël-Holstein in 1786.
Germaine became embroiled in Revolutionary politics. She had a very public spat with Napoleon, who exiled her from France. De Staël was famous for her literary salons; she hobnobbed with Byron, Sheridan and other eminent writers.
Germaine died in the same month as Austen. Like Jane, she left work unfinished: her memoirs, and her Considerations on the French Revolution. There’s a Society dedicated to her works. You can find out more about de Staël’s life, books and unorthodox love-life in my feature for this month’s Jane Austen's Regency World.
Image: Madame de Staël. History of England, Vol. VII, Charles Knight, (London, 1868.)