Memoirs and Correspondence of Madame Récamier
Translated from the French and edited by Roberts Brothers.. Fourth Edition. Boston :
IN an article contributed a year or two since to these pages, Miss Luyster sketched the career of the beautiful and good woman whose history is minutely recounted in the volume before us. It is a fascinating history, for Madame Récamier was altogether as anomalous as any creation of French fiction. Her marriage was such only in name ; she lived pure, and with unblemished repute, in the most vicious and scandalous times ; she inspired friendship by coquetry; her heart was never touched, though full of womanly tenderness ; a leader of society and of fashion, she never ceased to be timid and diffident; she ruled witty and intellectual circles by the charm of the most unepigrammatic sweetness, the merest good-heartedness.
The correspondence of Madame Récamier consists almost entirely of letters written to her ; for this adored friend of literary men wrote seldom herself, and at her death even caused to be destroyed the greater part of the few notes she had made toward an autobiography. In the present Memoirs Madame Lenormant chiefly relies upon her own personal knowledge of Madame Récamier’s life, and upon contemporary hearsay. It is a very interesting book, as we have it, though at times provokingly unsatisfactory, and at times inflated and silly in style. It is not only a history of Madame Recatnier, but a sketch of French society, politics, and literature during very long and interesting periods.
Miss Luyster has faithfully performed the ever-thankless task of translation ; and, in preparing Madame Lenormant’s work for the American public, has somewhat restrained the author’s tendency to confusion and diffusion. Here and there, as editor, she has added slight but useful notes, and has accompanied the Memoirs with a very pleasantly written introduction, giving a skilful and independent analysis of Madame Récamier’s character.