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FrRevol_551-600.indd 15 3/16/12 1:14 PM CHAPTER VI Ofthe Aspect ofFrance and ofParis During Its First Occupation hy the A!lies. It would be altogether wrong to feel surprise at the grief experienced by the French on seeing their celebrated capital occupied in r814 by foreign armies. The sovereigns who became masters ofit behaved at that time with the greatest equity; but it is a cruel misfortune for a nation to have to express even gratitude to foreigners, as it is a proof that its fate depends on them. French armies had, it is true, entered more than once almost all the capitals of Europe, but none of these cities were of so great importance relative to their respective countries as Paris relative to France. The monuments of the fine arts, the recollections of men of genius, the splendor of society, all contributed to render Paris the central point of Continental civilization. For the first time since Paris occupied such a rank in the world did the flag of foreigners wave on its ramparts. The dome of the Hotel ofthe Invalids had been lately decorated with standards, the trophies offorty battles, and now the banners of France could be displayed only under the orders ofher conquerors . I have not, I believe, extenuated in this work the picture of the faults which reduced the French to this deplorable condition, but the more they suffered from them, the more they were entitled to esteem. The best way of judging of the sentiments that actuate large masses is to consult one's own impressions. We are sure ofdiscovering the feelings ofthe multitude by a reference to our own; and it is thus that men ofardent imaginations are able to foresee the popular movements with which anation is threatened. After ten years ofexile1 I landed at Calais, and I anticipated great plea1 . In reality, Madame de Stael returned to France after twelve years of exile. She left London on May 8, r 814, and arrived in Paris on May 12. 565 FrRevol_551-600.indd 16 3/16/12 1:14 PM PART V sure on revisiting that beautiful France which I had so much regretted; my sensations were quite different from what I expected.2 The first men whom I perceived along the shore wore the Prussian uniform; they were the masters of the town and had acquired that right by conquest. But I felt as if I were witnessing the re-establishment of the feudal system, such as it is described by old historians, when the inhabitants of the country served only to cultivate the ground of which the warriors of Germany were about to reap the fruits. Oh France, France! None but a foreign tyrant would have reduced you to such a state; a French sovereign, be he who he might, would have loved you too much ever to expose you to it. I continued my journey, my heart always afflicted by the same thoughts; on approaching Paris, Germans, Russians, Cossacks, and Baskirs presented themselves to my sight in every direction; they were encamped around the church of St. Denis, where repose the ashes of the kings of France. The discipline enjoined by their leaders prevented the soldiers from doing injury to anyone, at least any other injury than that oppression of soul which it was impossible to remove. At last, I entered that city in which had been spent the most happy and most brilliant days of my life; I entered it as ifi were passing through a painful dream. Was I in Germany or in Russia? Had they imitated the streets and squares of the capital of France to revive the remembrance of them after it had ceased to exist? In short, all was trouble in my mind; for in spite of the bitterness ofmy pain, I esteemed the foreigners for having shaken off the yoke. I felt unqualified admiration for them at this time; but to see Paris occupied by them, the Tuileries, the Louvre guarded by troops who had come from the frontiers of Asia, to whom our language, our history, our great men were all less known than the meanest Khan of Tartary-this was insupportable grief. If such was the impression on me, who could not have returned to France under Bonaparte's sway, what must have been the feelings of those warriors , covered with wounds and so much the prouder of their military fame, as it had for a long time...


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