MARY CLARKE, TOO, IN HER BOOK ON MADAME RECAMIER, HER ONLY
EXTENSIVE WRITTEN WORK, PUBLISHED IN 1862, TELLS SEVERAL STORIES WHICH REVEAL THE IMPORTANCE OF WOMEN WITHIN THESE ARISTOCRATIC FAMILY GROUPS AND THEIR CONTINUED IMPORTANCE AMONG THE BOURGEOISIE UNDER NAPOLEON: IN THE MATTER OF SECURING FAVOURS WHICH MIGHT EVEN INVOLVE THE FREEDOM FROM PRISON OR THE LIFE OF A RELATIVE.
FOR INSTANCE, MARY CLARKE QUOTES THIS STORY FROM MADAME RECAMIER'S JOURNAL:
"MY ACQUAINTANCE WITH BERNADOTTE BELONGS TO AN EVENT OF MY LIFE TOO IMPORTANT, TOO PAINFUL EVER TO BE FORGOTTEN; HIS KINDNESS TO ME WILL EVER REMAIN DEEPLY IMPRESSED ON MY MIND."2
MONSIEUR BERNARD, MADAME RECAMIER'S FATHER (ALTHOUGH IT WAS RUMOURED, AND MARY CLARKE BELIEVED IT TRUE, THAT M. RECAMIER WAS ACTUALLY MADAME RECAMIER'S FATHER: THE MARRIAGE WAS NEVER CONSUMMATED) WAS MANAGER OF THE POST OFFICE IN 1802.
ON SUSPICION OF HIS BEING A ROYALIST, HE WAS ARRESTED AND IMPRISONED IN THE TEMPLE. MADAME RECAMIER RECEIVED THIS NEWS AT A PARTY AT CLICHY GIVEN FOR MADAME BACCIOCHI,
"AND ALTHOUGH MADAME BACCIOCHI SHOWED MORE DESIRE TO GET OUT OF THE WAY THAN TO HELP," SAID
"AS PROVIDENCE, MADAME, HAS MADE YOU A WITNESS OF OUR,” WRITES MARY CLARKE, OF MADAME RECAMIER “MISFORTUNE, NO DOUBT IT IS THAT YOU MAY HELP US. I MUST SEE THE FIRST CONSUL TO-DAY-I MUST, AND I TRUST IN YOU TO OBTAIN THE INTERVIEW."
MADAME RECAMIER WAS FORCED TO VISIT FOUCHE, THE MINISTER OF POLICE, TO PURSUE THE RELUCTANT MADAME BACCIOCHI TO
HER BOX AT THE THEATRE FRANCAIS, TO SIT THROUGH A GOOD DEAL OF THE TRAGEDY ON STAGE, AND AT LAST TO GAIN THE SYMPATHY OF BERNADOTTE, WHO WAS ALSO IN THE THEATRE BOX, WHO TOOK HER HOME AND HIMSELF WENT ON HER BEHALF TO NAPOLEON AND GAINED A PROMISE THAT M. BERNARD WOULD NOT BE TRIED AND WOULD LATER BE FREED.
MARY CLARKE REMARKS TARTLY ABOUT THIS INCIDENT:
IN THE ST HELENA MEMOIRS THIS STORY IS RELATED VERY DIFFERENTLY; BUT A LETTER FROM BERNADOTTE CONFIRMS MADAME RECAMIER'S ACCOUNT.
IT WOULD BE WELL IF THE WHOLE OF THOSE MEMOIRS WERE SIFTED AND COMPARED WITH CONTEMPORARIES WHOSE LETTERS, WRITTEN WITH ALL THE ANIMATION OF THE MOMENT, AND PUBLISHED SINCE, WOULD SHOW HOW COMPLETELY THEY WERE DISHED UP FOR POSTERITY, AS MANY OTHER STORIES HAVE SINCE BEEN FOR THE SAME PURPOSE}
MADAME RECAMIER'S SALON DURING NAPOLEON'S TIME SEEMS TO
HAVE BEEN A LIVELIER VERSION OF THE FICTIONAL ARISTOCRATIC SALON DESCRIBED BY TOLSTOY.
MARY CLARKE WRITES:
THE LUXURY AND RICHES OF BONAPARTE'S COURT, AND THE WEALTH HE HAD BROUGHT BACK FROM THE COUNTRIES HE HAD INVADED, MADE PARIS A VERY DIFFERENT PLACE FROM WHAT IT WAS FIVE OR SIX YEARS BEFORE, AND LADIES HAD NOW SALONS TO SHOW THEMSELVES IN ...
THERE ARE STILL SOME WHO REMEMBER THE SENSATION WHEN MADAME RECAMIER CAME IN; AND THOUGH DRAWING-ROOMS IN THOSE DAYS WERE NOT SO CROWDED AS THEY NOW ARE, ALL RUSHED TO SEE HER, AND IT WAS DIFFICULT TO APPROACH. SHE WAS CELEBRATED FOR THE SHAWL DANCE, AND THE DESCRIPTION OF IT IN 'CORINNE' IS TAKEN FROM HER: IT WAS INVENTED BY LADY HAMILTON ON SEEING THE DRAWINGS OF POMPEII AND HERCULANEUM. AT A PERIOD WHEN
EVERYTHING WAS GREEK IT COULD NOT FAIL OF SUCCESS.4
NAPOLEON'S HOSTILITY TO HER, ESPECIALLY BECAUSE OF HER FRIENDSHIP WITH MADAME DE STAEL, WHOM HE LOATHED, HAD SENT MADAME RECAMIER WANDERING IN FRANCE AND ITALY.
"After the Revolution, woman's costume in France moved towards simplicity and freedom from both moral and physical restrictions. The new mode was pioneered by Medames Recamier and Tallien who were the leaders of the new Parisian social set known as as les merveilleuses. The ladies' clothes showed a much more definite break with the past the did those of their male counterparts, les incroyables. Panniers, bum-rolls, corsets and even petticoats were abandoned completely. From 1790 to the turn of the century, woman wore a style known asrobe en chemise which, as the name suggests, resembles the undergarment of the previous century. Never since the ancient Egypt had society ladies never seen in such a state of undress. So sheer was the material used for these gowns that, for the sake of decency, they were sometimes worn with flesh-coloured tights. The robe en chemise worn with open sandals was an attempt by Parisian ladies to copy the costume of the ancient Greeks.
They looked towards Greece not only for aesthetic inspiration but also for a philosophy upon which to base their new republic. In fact this outfit bore only the most superficial resemblance to the Greek chiton. No self-respecting Greek woman would ever have appeared in public in this state of near nudity. During the early 1790s he gown was at its very simplest, a slender shift of sheer muslin, gathered at the neck and under the breasts which gave it an extremely short waist, in contrast to the elongated waists of the previous decade. This became a feature of the early nineteenth century which, together with the sheerness of the fabric, led to the famous couplet: