Madame de Staël & Benjamin Constant
Germaine Baroness de Staël (Madame de Staël)
was the daughter of Swiss banker (and pre-revolutionary French minister
of finance) Jacques Necker and is known for her literary salon in Paris.
Henri-Benjamin Constant de Rebecque, son of a exiled French
Huguenot family was born in Lausanne, Lake Geneva, Switzerland.
Constant is regarded as one of the most important thinkers of political
and economic liberalism and an influential French politician.
Today he is remembered foremost as a romantic writer, however.
The biographies of Madame de Staël and Benjamin Constant are
Madame de Staël: Biography
- 1766-04-22: Anne Germaine Necker is born as daughter of Jacques Necker,
a Swiss banker from Geneva, who went to Paris in 1750 and was
appointed general director of finances in 1777 by the French king.
- Enthusiastic about the French Revolution in the beginning,
Madame de Staël flees to a family castle in Coppet, Lake Geneva,
Switzerland in 1792 when the revolution turns into sheer violence.
- 1794: Madame de Staël meets Benjamin Constant in Lausanne.
- 1795: Mme de Staël returs to Paris.
- 1802: Banned by Napoleon I., her writings are forbidden.
- 1803 - 1804: Trip to Germany with Benjamin Constant. They
meet German writers Goethe, Schiller, Wieland and Schlegel.
A.W. Schlegel will continue to give her literary advice until her
death in 1817. The trip is of fundamental influence for Mme de Staël.
- 1817-07-14: Death of Madame Germaine de Staël.
Madame Germaine de Staël: Works
- Delphine (1802)
- Corinne, ou l'Italie
This autobiographical work demands for
women's rights, individuality and freedom to love outside marrige.
It strongly influenced other fiction of the era.
- De l'Allemagne (1810; German translation published in 1814)
Her idealistic romantic portrait of Germany
is constitutional for the way the French see Germany for a long period.
Germany appears as a country where people show little interest in
politics, but with many thinkers and dreamers.
- Considérations sur la Révolution française
Benjamin Constant: Biography
- 1767-10-25: Henri-Benjamin Constant de Rebecque is born in Lausanne
as son of a French Huguenot family that has emigrated to Switzerland
after the 1685 cancellation of tolerance for Huguenots in France.
- 1772 - 1785: Benjamin Constant lives with his father, partly in
Lausanne, partly in the Netherlands and studies law in
Erlangen (Germany) and Edinburgh.
- 1788 - 1794: Benjamin Constant serves as chamberlain at the court of
- 1789: Marriage with Minna von Cramm.
- 1793: Meets Charlotte von Hardenberg and separates from Minna von Cramm.
- 1794: Meets Madame Germaine de Staël in Lausanne.
Starts his studies on religion.
- 1795: Benjamin Constant starts his political activities in Paris,
following in the wake of Madame Germaine de Staël and writing
pamphlets in favor of republican institutions.
- 1799: Nomination to the Tribunat.
- 1800 - 1801: Lives in Switzerland and Paris.
Love affair with Anna Lindsay.
Meets Jean Charles Léonard Simonde de Sismondi,
a liberal Swiss political economist.
- 1802: Napoleon comes to power, dissolution of the revolutionary
institutions. Benjamin Constant goes to Switzerland.
- 1803: Plans to marry Amélie Fabri. Trip to Germany with
Madame Germaine de Staël.
- 1804: They meet German writers Goethe and Schiller.
When Germaine de Staël refuses to marry Constant, he goes
to Paris and meets Charlotte von Hardenberg.
- 1805 - 1806: Benjamin Constant feels renewed passion for Anna Lindsay
while he wants to marry Charlotte von Hardenberg at same time. He
tries to work out his complicated multiple love affairs by writing
his novel Adolphe.
- 1808: Secret marriage with Charlotte von Hardenberg.
Trip to Coppet (castle of Madame de Staël).
Only in 1809 Germaine de Staël is informed of the marriage with
Charlotte von Hardenberg.
- 1814: After the defeat of Napoleon, Constant returns to Paris.
- 1815: Cent-Jours: Napoleon returns to power for 100 days.
First, Constant sharply attacks the emperor, but then helps him to
formulate some amendments to the constitution of the Empire. After
the final defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo, Constant has to leave France.
- 1816: Constant returns to Paris with Charlotte von Hardenberg.
- 1819 - 1822: Benjamin Constant is member of the French parliament for la Sarthe.
- 1822: Failure in elections; Constant continues his studies on religion.
- 1824 - 1827: Member of parliament for Paris.
- 1827 - 1830: Member of parliament for Strasbourg.
- July 1830: Louis-Philippe d'Orléans comes to power - a triumph
for the liberal ideas of Benjamin Constant and his friends.
- 1830-12-08: Benjamin Constant dies in Paris and gets a national
Benjamin Constant: Works
- Wallstein (1809)
- De l'esprit de conquête et de l'usurpation [On power]
(political treaty, 1814)
- Adolphe (one of the earliest psychological novels,
written in 1806; published 1816)
- Commentaire sur l'ouvrage de Filangieri (1824)
- De la religion [on religion] (vol. I: 1824; vol. II: 1825;
vol. III: 1827; vol. IV: 1830; vol. V: 1831)
- Discours à la Chambre [Speeches in parliament] (2 vols, 1828)
- Mémoires sur les Cent-Jours [memoirs on the 100 days]
(published as letters 1819 - 1820; republished in 2 vols. 1820/22;
- Mélanges de littérature et de politique (1829)
- Cécile (novel, written probably in 1810; published 1951)
University of Lausanne, Faculté des lettres,
Institut Benjamin Constant (in French)
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