Wednesday, 5 June 2013

The Modern Salonnière

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.

Madame de Staël was loud and unrestrained, emotionally and sexually; her stormy moods drove away her unfaithful lover, misnamed Constant; my friend Sarah is always self-controlled and elegant in everything she does.Though they both love hats, I've not yet seen Sarah in a bright silk turban like Madame de Staël's. 
Germaine de Staël in her turban


The thing that struck me just now, seeing them walking in the light, shining from the clarity of their intellects, 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 founded and edited a cultural journal. She would have published novels and literary and theatre criticism; she would have decorated her home with original artworks, and she would have been a majestic actress, renowned for her beautiful voice, deep and rich, complex as fragrance notes. 

So here's to all the modern salonnières. Sarah, this is for you. 

 Germaine de Staël is very well known, and easy to find:
Madame de Staël's chateau at Coppet on Lake Geneva
If you want to know Sarah better, look here.