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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Necker
By Madame de Staël (1766–1817)
 
From ‘Considerations on the French Revolution’

IT is now twelve years since death separated me from my father, and every day my admiration for him has increased: the remembrance that I preserve of his mind and of his virtues serves me as a point of comparison to appreciate the worth of other men; and although I have traveled through the whole of Europe, no genius of such quality, no moral nature of such strength, has been made known to me. M. Necker might be weak from kindness, uncertain because of reflection: but when he believed duty to be involved in a determination, it seemed to him he heard the voice of God; and he listened only to that, whatever efforts might be made to affect him. I have more confidence to-day in the lightest of his words than I should have in any living person however admirable; all M. Necker has said to me is fixed as a rock in me. All that I have gained by myself may disappear; the identity of my being is in the attachment that I retain to his memory. I have loved those whom I love no more; I have esteemed those whom I esteem no more; the flood of life has swept all in its current, save this great figure, which I see on the mountain-top pointing me the life to come.  1
  I owe no true gratitude on this earth but to God and my father: all my days had been days of struggle had not his benediction rested on them. But how much he suffered! The most brilliant prosperity had marked the first half of his life: he had become rich; he had been made first minister of France; the boundless attachment of the French nation had rewarded him for his devotion to it; during the seven years of his first retirement, his works had been placed in the first rank of those of statesmen: and perhaps he was the only man who had shown himself skilled in the art of administering a great country without ever departing from the most scrupulous morality, and even from the purest delicacy. As a religious writer he never ceased to be philosophical; as a philosophic writer he never ceased to be religious: eloquence never carried him beyond reason, and reason never deprived him of a single true impulse of eloquence. To these great advantages was united the most flattering success in society….  2
  Alas! who could have foreseen that so much admiration would be followed by so much injustice; that he who had loved France with almost too great a predilection would be reproached with having the sentiments of a foreigner; that by one party he would be called the author of the Revolution because he respected the rights of the nation, and that the leaders of this nation would accuse him of having desired to sacrifice it to the support of the monarchy? Thus, in other times, I please myself with thinking the Chancelier de l’Hospital was threatened by the Catholics and Protestants alternately; that Sully would have been seen to succumb under party hatreds, had not the firmness of his master sustained him. But neither of these two statesmen had that imagination of the heart which makes a man open to all kinds of suffering. M. Necker was calm before God, calm in the presence of death; because conscience alone speaks at that moment. But when the interests of this world still occupied him, there was not a reproach that did not wound him, not an enemy whose malevolence did not reach him, not a day in which he did not twenty times question himself: sometimes blaming himself for ills that he had not been able to prevent; sometimes going back behind events, and weighing anew the different determinations he might have made. The purest enjoyments of life were poisoned for him by the unheard-of persecutions of party spirit. This party spirit showed itself even in the manner in which émigrés in the time of their need addressed themselves to him to ask help. Many of them writing to him for this purpose, excused themselves for not going to see him, on the plea that the most important personages of their party had forbidden their doing so; they judged truly at least of the generosity of M. Necker, when they believed that this submission to the violence of their leaders would not deter him from being of use to them….  3
  After years so full of grief, so full of virtue, the power of loving seemed to increase in my father at the age when it diminishes in other men; and everything about him declared, when life ended, his return to heaven.  4
 
 
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