The Modern Salonnière

I’m blogged out, so a Lenten reblogging season begins early here with a day-dream about one of my best and oldest friends which was first posted elsewhere in the summer of 2013. Without her, I would never blog anything. You are more than likely to know her already….

While I was sitting in the dappled sunshine of the dying planet, reading my friend Sarah’s blog, two women coming from different directions met in my mind’s eye. They did not look or behave alike, but I saw them make a connection without a social networking site.

One of them was Sarah; the other one had just stepped ashore from a boat on my imaginary Lake Geneva, while talking volubly to a group of companions, who weren’t getting a word in. She was very loudly dressed, too. She was a very famous woman, whose life, loves and ideas I’d been recently reading and writing about, but now for the first time she appeared vivid to me.

Madame de Staël was always noisy and unrestrained, emotionally and sexually; her stormy moods drove away her unfaithful lover, misnamed Constant, while my friend Sarah never goes over the top or makes a nuisance of herself in public. She has classically and instinctively good manners; she knows why they were created in the first place, to make life pleasant for other people.

One of the sympathetic things about Madame de Staël was that she was a very loyal friend; so is Sarah.

Sarah lives near water, too; that is how I imagine her now, under clear Mediterranean skies. Though they both love hats, I’ve not yet seen Sarah in a bright silk turban like Madame de Staël’s.

MadamedeStaëlturbanGermaine de Staël showing off one of her trademark turbans, in a detail of a painting c.1810, attributed by different sources to François Gérard or, more likely from the style and background, Anne-Louis Girodet de Roucy Trioson. Image source: Wikipedia

The thing that struck me just now, seeing them walking in the sunshine of their intellects, and regarding their gift for friendship, their instinctive love of art and literature, their indefatigable courage and resourcefulness, is the knack they have of combining all this into a radiant whole, shedding light over the rest of us.

They are instigators and inspirers and sharers. De Staël, a shrewd self-publicist who knew how to market her flamboyant personality, would have been blogging and tweeting if the technology had been at her disposal.

If Sarah had lived in the early nineteenth century, and had Germaine’s money and connections, she would have held a brilliant salon at her continental waterside retreat, presiding and encouraging others with wry wit and wisdom, discerning truth, laughing at folly, and she would have founded and edited a cultural journal.

She would have published novels and literary and theatre criticism; she would have decorated her home with her own and other artists’ original works, and she would have been a majestic actress, renowned for her beautiful voice, deep and rich, complex as notes in the delicate fragrance she wears.

So here’s to all the modern salonnières. Sarah, this is for you, with love.

Germaine de Staël is very well known, and easy to find:

Chateau Coppet Madame de Staël’s chateau at Coppet on Lake Geneva

If you still don’t recognize Sarah, or want to know her better,

look here.

and here

and here

© 2015 and 2021 Pippa Rathborne

6 comments on “The Modern Salonnière

  1. I’m so sorry to hear about Sarah’s death. We always called each other “Dah-ling!” on wordpress and twitter, and the world seems a little emptier, knowing she’s no longer around.

    Agreed: Sarah would have had a brilliant salon. Her blogs were that, in a way.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. PJR says:

    Thank you, Olga. So often, people don’t get remembered the way they would have wished, and I wanted to close the gap for Sarah. Her strength of character and purpose shone through her work on multiple platforms.


  3. olganm says:

    I didn’t catch this post first time around, Pippa, but it’s a great memorial to Sarah. Thanks and so sorry for your loss, for she touched many people’s lives. ♥


  4. […] This is a post from 2013 dedicated to my great friend, Sarah Vernon, who died last week. […]


  5. erickeyswriter says:

    I will be sure to check out Sarah’s blogs!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. beetleypete says:

    Hard to believe that you are ‘blogged out’. After your last epic work, I will allow a rest before you embark on your next project of delight.
    I can imagine Sarah as you describe. A gentlewoman (if there are Gentlemen, there should be Gentlewomen) of discernment; staunch, and kind. If they had salons in Crete, hers would be the most admired.
    My very best wishes to you as always. Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

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