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.
Germaine 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:
Madame de Staël’s chateau at Coppet on Lake Geneva
If you still don’t recognize Sarah, or want to know her better,
© 2015 and 2021 Pippa Rathborne