Madame de Staël

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Staël, Madame de


(née Anne Louise Germaine Necker; married name Staël-Holstein). Born Apr. 16 or 22,1766, in Paris; died there July 14, 1817. French writer, literary theorist, and publicist.

The daughter of J. Necker, Mme. de Staël received a comprehensive education at home. She married the Swedish ambassador to France. Her first works were Letters on the Works and Character ofJ.-J. Rousseau (1788) and the tragedy Jane Gray (published 1790).

Mme. de Staël enthusiastically welcomed the French Revolution, but repudiated the idea of popular sovereignty that had been implemented in 1793 and 1794 by the Jacobins. Her publicistic and other writings of these years, similar in viewpoint to the ideas of her friend B. Constant, testified to the moderation of Mme. de Staël’s political outlook, which however was hostile to despotism and monarchism.

In 1800, Mme. de Staël published On Literature Considered in Its Relations With Social Institutions. The book’s innovative views initiated the historical, cultural, and comparative study of literature, and the author’s faith in progress and reason, attention to the distinctive traits of the arts of all nations and epochs, and praise of the Middle Ages and of Shakespeare undermined the foundations of classicism. Mme. de Staël’s first novel was Delphine (1802; Russian translation, 1803–04). Its romantic heroine, striving for emotional freedom, rebelled against social norms.

Mme. de Staël’s defense of individual freedom and her opposition to the dictatorship of Napoleon I led to her banishment from Paris in 1803 and later from France. Until 1814 she lived in Switzerland in the château of Coppet and traveled throughout Europe, meeting Schiller, Goethe, Byron, and W. von Humboldt. The novel Corinne (1807; Russian translations, 1809–10, 1969) reflected Mme. de Staël’s impressions of Italy; its heroine, a poet and actress, became a symbol of romantic love of freedom. Mme. de Staël’s book Germany (1810) was seized by Napoleon before its publication but was published in Great Britain in 1813. The author’s opinions were inconsistent, but the work was the first to introduce into France the philosophy, culture, and literature of the German people and to proclaim the theory of romanticism. Mme. de Staël’s loyalty to the ideals of the Encyclopedists and the diversity of her interests were reflected in her unfinished memoirs, Ten Years of Exile (published 1821).

Mme. de Staël was praised by A. S. Pushkin; in the novel Roslavlev he described her introduction into Russian society in 1812 with deep sympathy.


Oeuvres completes, vols: 1–17. Paris, 1820–21.


Pushkin, A. S. Poln. sobr. soch., vols. 6, 7, 10. Moscow-Leningrad, 1949.
Rzhiga, V. F. Pushkin i memuary m-me de Staël o Rossii. Petrograd, 1914.
Istoriia frantsuzskoi literatury, vol. 2. Moscow, 1956.
Tomashevskii, B. Pushkin i Frantsiia. Leningrad, 1960.
Reizov, B. “Poeticheskaia zagadka Zhermeny de Stal’.” Izv. AN SSSR: Seriia literatury i iazyka, 1966, vol. 25, issue 5.
Vol’pert, L. I. “A. S. Pushkin i gospozha de Stal’.” In Frantsuzskii ezhegodnik, 1972. Moscow, 1974.
Henning, I. A. L’Allemagne de M-me de Staël et la polémique romantique. Paris, 1929.
Andlau, B. La Jeunesse de M-me de Staël. Geneva, 1970.
M-me de Staël et l’Europe (1766–1966). Paris, 1970.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.