July 23, 2016

Only {re}connect: Lord Byron and Madame de Staël




      After returning to the Villa Diodati, Byron spent much of July and August writing. The dismal weather deepened his customary melancholy. 'Really, we have had lately such stupid mists, fogs, and perpetual density,' Byron wrote to his publisher on July 22. ... Despite his weather-induced gloom (or perhaps because of it), the summer was a remarkably creative period for Byron. ...
      Whenever he sought a respite from writing, Byron found congenial company at the Chateau de Coppet, the salon of Madame Germaine de Staël. Madame de Staël was perhaps the only woman in the world who could match Byron for notoriety in 1816. ...
      On a Saturday afternoon in July 1816, Byron arrived at Coppet for dinner. As soon as he entered the room, all eyes turned toward him, staring 'as at some outlandish beast in a raree-show. One of the ladies fainted, ad the rest look as if his Satanic Majesty had been among them.'  Madame de Staël, immune to scandal and quite unperturbed, gave Byron a warm and gracious welcome. Between their discussions of  literature, she peppered him with detailed questions about his personal life, and particularly his troubled marriage. Byron, who was practicing his melancholy public persona while pretending to be devoted to his estranged wife, took no offense at her intrusive queries. 'I believe Madame de Staël did her utmost to bring about a reconciliation between us,' he confided to a friend. 'She was the best creature in the world.'
     Byron returned to Coppet frequently over the next several months. 'She has made Coppet as agreeable as society and talent can make any place on earth,' he told his editor. The celebrated hostess 'ventured to protect  me when all London was crying out against me..., and behaved courageously and kindly; indeed, Madame de S. defended me when few dared to do so, and I have always remembered it.'

from The  Year Without Summer, by William K. Klingaman and Nicholas P. Klingaman

{With my fondness for Coppet, this was a wonderful sidelight from reading Frankenstein, and reading about it, last month, especially since I had forgotten coming across this story before. I only had a chance to dip into this book but what I did read made me want to read more,}


{image of the Chateau found here}



1 comment:

Vintage Reading said...

Interesting how the weather impacts on creative genius. Interesting post.