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Stendhal's On Love

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Although Stendhal considered On Love his best creation, not many critics and readers will ever agree with him. Henry James called the book unreadable; others have called it bizarre; and some disconcerting and exasperating. Here’s a warning by means of a question: what is the 21st century reader to make of this book? In my estimation, with some patience one can find not onl Although Stendhal considered On Love his best creation, not many critics and readers will ever agree with him. Henry James called the book unreadable; others have called it bizarre; and some disconcerting and exasperating. Here’s a warning by means of a question: what is the 21st century reader to make of this book? In my estimation, with some patience one can find not only an abundance of wit, but also much hidden wisdom about the mysterium tremendum that is human love. If Stendhal’s On Love is considered a failure, then all I can say is that he is in good company, for Aristophanes, Plato, Denis de Rougemont, Ortega y Gasset, Eric Fromm and others also fell short—and no one can say they disgraced themselves. Here’s a gem that never fails to give hope to men who search for love: “A requirement of love is that a man's face, at first sight, should show both something to be respected and something to be pitied.”


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Although Stendhal considered On Love his best creation, not many critics and readers will ever agree with him. Henry James called the book unreadable; others have called it bizarre; and some disconcerting and exasperating. Here’s a warning by means of a question: what is the 21st century reader to make of this book? In my estimation, with some patience one can find not onl Although Stendhal considered On Love his best creation, not many critics and readers will ever agree with him. Henry James called the book unreadable; others have called it bizarre; and some disconcerting and exasperating. Here’s a warning by means of a question: what is the 21st century reader to make of this book? In my estimation, with some patience one can find not only an abundance of wit, but also much hidden wisdom about the mysterium tremendum that is human love. If Stendhal’s On Love is considered a failure, then all I can say is that he is in good company, for Aristophanes, Plato, Denis de Rougemont, Ortega y Gasset, Eric Fromm and others also fell short—and no one can say they disgraced themselves. Here’s a gem that never fails to give hope to men who search for love: “A requirement of love is that a man's face, at first sight, should show both something to be respected and something to be pitied.”

30 review for Stendhal's On Love

  1. 4 out of 5

    David

    At first I really loved Stendhal's essays on Love. His theory is that the pains of love are necessary in order to "crystallize" the object of one's love, which basically is a process of transcendence from the real to the ideal, a state which is necessary in real, passionate love. Furthermore, Stendhal dissects love into a number of classifications which range the gambit from passionate romantic love to egotistic physical love to mannered love, etc. It is these meandering discussions of love, what it At first I really loved Stendhal's essays on Love. His theory is that the pains of love are necessary in order to "crystallize" the object of one's love, which basically is a process of transcendence from the real to the ideal, a state which is necessary in real, passionate love. Furthermore, Stendhal dissects love into a number of classifications which range the gambit from passionate romantic love to egotistic physical love to mannered love, etc. It is these meandering discussions of love, what it is and what it isn't, the stages of falling in and out of love, the nuance between love and jealousy, and their co-dependance, which make the first half of Love a real pleasure to read. However, this collection is very imbalanced. The first half is superb, but the second half falls very short of the standard set by its preceding pages. Particularly the generalizations about love in different locales grew very tiresome, as many of these descriptions also felt very dated and now irrelevant. These essays, while a joy to read, didn't ring with brilliance the way love in fiction does. Love is a sort of strange thing to approach in a methodical essay format, and while I think it works in some short shimmering passages herein, the essays mostly feel coldly scientific. And what qualifies anyone to write about love in this way, anyway? Certainly I have a lot of thoughts on the subject, which typically make their mischievous ways into my reviews here, for better or worse, but am I any authority on the matter? Probably not, I'm a veteran of wedding singles tables, and anyway the closest I've had to a long term relationship is with the "Romantic Comedies" listing on my Netflix account. And what qualifies Stendhal's authority on love? He's french, anyway, which helps. He wrote these essays in a passion to unrequited love for his Italian mistress (who probably helped to inspire the character of Mathilde in The Red and the Black). Whatever his qualifiers for talking about love, it's hard to deny him when he has insights like: The memories produce a semblance of love; there is the pricking at your pride and the sadness in satisfaction; the atmosphere of romantic fiction catches you by the throat, and you believe yourself lovesick and melancholy, for vanity will always pretend to be grand passion. or: Some people, over-fervent, or fervent by starts - loving on credit, if I may put it that way - will hurl themselves upon the experience instead of waiting for it to happen. Before the nature of an object can produce its proper sensation in them, they have blindly invested it from afar with imaginary charm which they conjure up inexhaustibly within themselves. Stendhal is an astute observer of the psychologies of love and passion, vanity and jealousy: that's what makes his novels so emblematic of realism (even if I think they're a bit melodramatic - but what do you expect? he's french). He is a man who has clearly been steeped in the language of love, the fictions and philosophies of l'amour, but at times his image of it seems almost too big, too grandiose. I felt, when reading this, that all those loves, all of the many kinds and stages of love, where somewhat false to Stendhal. He seems to be trying, at one and the same time, to raise his own (unrequited) love for Countess Dembowska up to a pedestal, but also to vouchsafe it in the realm of the unattainable, the fictive. His love for the countess is the idol which he adores, but it's an idol out of reach, and maybe one which isn't so great: all gilding and no substance. For Stendhal, love is about what you feel, the subject, the "I" in "I love you." Stendhal's analysis is a dissection of one man, a man in love, in a vacuum. The object of love, the "you" constantly eludes his analysis, and his concept of love is a solitary madness, not a folie à deux. But that is a very selfish, vain kind of emotion. Love is a strange ambiance, a nuance of reality: a world of two. A shared madness is the madness of love (it is the madness of genius which is solitary). Werther, Don Juan: men which Stendhal uses to represent two opposed views of love, are two-of-a-kind. For Werther, his love, his infatuation, with Charlotte, incorporates everything into his love, paints the world with her imagined-love, and ultimately entraps him in his own illusions, and vain imagination. For Don Juan, his passion is removed from emotion, his body is split from his spirit, and his conquests are unreal to him. But Charlotte is unreal to Werther, also. Werther's love is not for Charlotte as she is but as he designs her to be. He is "in love" with the illusion of potential, of what could be or might have been. These loves are different for Stendhal, he sees Werther as a sentimental and passionate man, but he misses the point of Werther's sorrows: Werther does not love Charlotte, but vainly loves to be in love, he is a man of infinite emotion, but emotion without aim, targeting on the passing fancy of the insipid Charlotte. Stendhal offers a view of love which is compelling, and which is complete, though one which is only a view. There are many loves, and though Stendhal attempts to dissect love in an objective way, and though it seems to be a rational view of amorous affection, it is a tainted and biased view. Love lives and loves vainly in the shadow of Countess Dembowska, a ghostly shade which haunts these pages.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Luís C.

    So it's not a novel that's about, but an essay. Love first intrigued me because Stendhal is known for his romanticism in his novels. So why not try this one? The first chapters are screaming for truth, we are surprised to mumble "But yes, but too much! Exactly!" Stendhal has clearly identified the process of love, at least that's what it stands out ... Throughout this book, he supports his ideas with fragments of diaries, letters, and so on. Some things may shock, just remember that this is not So it's not a novel that's about, but an essay. Love first intrigued me because Stendhal is known for his romanticism in his novels. So why not try this one? The first chapters are screaming for truth, we are surprised to mumble "But yes, but too much! Exactly!" Stendhal has clearly identified the process of love, at least that's what it stands out ... Throughout this book, he supports his ideas with fragments of diaries, letters, and so on. Some things may shock, just remember that this is not the same time. Thus, when one sees the style of education given to women and the way Stendhal talks about it, one might think that he supports this form of misogyny. It is not so, we learn as and test that Stendhal would be to put on an equal footing men and women with respect to education at least. I was surprised to learn that Stendhal considers himself a poor writer. In summary, this book is a bit long since on the end it is like the famous Thoughts of Pascal, snatches of ideas are exposed. All the examples do not seem relevant, but the first chapters are magical and very realistic. I'll recommend to the courageous and enthusiasts of classics!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sketchbook

    Stendhal exorcised his unrequited love for a Milanese beauty w this philosophical buffet-chaud. Does he grump or whine? He's too civilized. He offers no practical lessons but rather extravagant literary exercises. With his awareness of life's absurdities and human imperfections (including his own), he presents - most seriously - worldly ideas on intimacy, jealousy, pride and national differences. Americans : "They are just, they are rational but they are not at all happy. Is Stendhal exorcised his unrequited love for a Milanese beauty w this philosophical buffet-chaud. Does he grump or whine? He's too civilized. He offers no practical lessons but rather extravagant literary exercises. With his awareness of life's absurdities and human imperfections (including his own), he presents - most seriously - worldly ideas on intimacy, jealousy, pride and national differences. Americans : "They are just, they are rational but they are not at all happy. Is the Bible - or rather the absurd conclusions that people have culled from that collection of poems - enough to have caused them so much unhappiness?" This was penned 200 years ago. When the heart hurts he 'finds consolation in a beautiful view of the sea.' Caution for those in love: 'The wisest thing is to confide in yourself.' Then handle w care: 'What is love without solitude?' And remember: 'There are no age limits for love.' He illustrates a dreadful moment of agony. A Parisienne surprised in flagrante by her lover asserts innocence. 'You'd rather believe your eyes than what I tell you?' she demands. Worldlings should not flinch, he suggests. Today he'd say, 'Be cool.' The cool, comic spirit is required for this imperfection. You become friends -- and to hell with adoration.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sunny

    I thought this was brilliant. The author uses the effect of crystallization to descibe the bejewelling (word?) effect of love on the person you love. He gives some really startling examples of how people can get fascinated with the feeling that loves gives them and find it difficult to dichotomize that from the person they are supposed to be loving. This is the type of book you should read at 18 because it makes you realise a hundred things you probably acknowledge when you turn 30. Although he I thought this was brilliant. The author uses the effect of crystallization to descibe the bejewelling (word?) effect of love on the person you love. He gives some really startling examples of how people can get fascinated with the feeling that loves gives them and find it difficult to dichotomize that from the person they are supposed to be loving. This is the type of book you should read at 18 because it makes you realise a hundred things you probably acknowledge when you turn 30. Although he goes on about lots of random french literature which half the time i had no clue about this book is highly recommended.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Galadrielė

    ☆1.5/5☆ DNF. I don't know on what page, but it was so so boring. Also the perspective was only from one side. I think that men and women feel differently about love.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    If your fires of classical romance need fanning, turn to this gem. This is one of those books that can convince you of humanity's pervading spirit; the timelessness of emotions and experiences that in the moment seem so seethingly personal, yet to discover that they are shared, almost exactly, by others who lived hundreds of years before you.... I am only giving it 4 stars to prove that I can review something without giving it 5 stars but this book probably deserves all of them because it can be If your fires of classical romance need fanning, turn to this gem. This is one of those books that can convince you of humanity's pervading spirit; the timelessness of emotions and experiences that in the moment seem so seethingly personal, yet to discover that they are shared, almost exactly, by others who lived hundreds of years before you.... I am only giving it 4 stars to prove that I can review something without giving it 5 stars but this book probably deserves all of them because it can be so right-on! Stendhal really spoke to me when I was deep in the throes of desperately thrilling enrapturement; I was so taken with someone distant, uncommunicative, yet (I was convinced) PERFECT for me....The author just nails those embarrassing and private ruminations and articulates them beautifully, making me feel understood and supported rather ashamed and/or immature. If only this guy had been your uncle that lived down the street, and you could have gone over to his house during adolescence and played basketball while he surreptitiously shared the meaning of life.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Б. Ачболд

    This very proper and apparently dry book on ‘love’ is actually pouring with warmth and feeling. It explains . . . everything. If you think you are not interested in love, you should pick this up. Don’t skip the prefaces. As a writer, Stendhal is like those conductors (e.g. Mravinsky) who refrain from sentimentality in most of the notes, so that the notes that are allowed to break free come in to a sharper contrast (i.e. tear your heart out). But he’s never cold or detached: or detache This very proper and apparently dry book on ‘love’ is actually pouring with warmth and feeling. It explains . . . everything. If you think you are not interested in love, you should pick this up. Don’t skip the prefaces. As a writer, Stendhal is like those conductors (e.g. Mravinsky) who refrain from sentimentality in most of the notes, so that the notes that are allowed to break free come in to a sharper contrast (i.e. tear your heart out). But he’s never cold or detached: or detached in appearance only. If you are an aspiring writer (of anything), this would be a great book to study. Because what is good writing? Good grammar and usage? Those are necessary perhaps, but are hardly sufficient. Sound organisation, clear and accurate content matter, brilliant and fresh use of language, good “найруулга”? OK, maybe. Clear and honest thinking? Yes. But I think Stendhal shows that a writer needs above all a great soul. There is no other word to describe it. (This is sort of a cliché that you only begin to understand when you read a writer like Stendhal.) If you don’t have a great soul, no amount of technique or ability will help. But a great soul makes up for a lot of those other things. His voice is the voice to emulate.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Morgan

    Many truths in this book, but the pain was still there when I finished.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tatiana

    A scientific research, called "On Love" by Stendhal is presenting love in all forms, such as Passion, Desire, Jealousy, Courtesy, Platonic, Savage and Pure. He crystallized all stages through his own experience, tormented by a going astray love affair. It's a bible of love!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Howard Olsen

    This is a work belongs with Stendhal's works of social and cultural criticism, rather than his brilliant noves. Regardless, all of the qualities he brings to his fiction are present here-irony, psychological acuity, poetry, satire, radical politics, etc. "On Love" is not a roses-and-candlelight affair, nor is it a 19th century version of "How to Pick Up Girls." Stendhal is interested in the psychology of love, especially the question of what makes someone focus their passion on a particular man This is a work belongs with Stendhal's works of social and cultural criticism, rather than his brilliant noves. Regardless, all of the qualities he brings to his fiction are present here-irony, psychological acuity, poetry, satire, radical politics, etc. "On Love" is not a roses-and-candlelight affair, nor is it a 19th century version of "How to Pick Up Girls." Stendhal is interested in the psychology of love, especially the question of what makes someone focus their passion on a particular man or woman. The "famous" part of this book is the first part in which Stendhal describes the process by which one falls in love. He calls it "chrystallization," and uses the image of a bare branch thrown into the bottom of a Bavarian salt mine, which becomes gradually covered with fragile salt chrystals. It's an apt metaphor. As with all of Stendhal's works, there is a certain degree of self-absorption and self-pity. Stendhal's anecdotes from the drawing rooms of Napoleanic Europe are often the tales of a man who unsuccessfully sought to woo a series of beautiful and frivolous women. Despite this, the degree to which Stendhal captures the zeitgeist of his era is remarkable. Although the theme is love, Stendhal works in discussions about politics, literature, classical history, and the revolutionary fever that was in the air. This is especially true in the "Small Fragments" section that closes the book. Here, Stendhal strings together 137 short bursts of rhetoric, musings, witticisms, short tales, and the sort of twisted aphorisms that he was born to write. They seem random and unrelated, but they nonetheless build to a remarkable climax in which a story of a priest's narrow escape from the Terror is followed by a "Dialogue of 1787" in which a father and son discuss a party at Versailles at which each man at the table was attended by a naked woman. By the end of the Fragments, you feel like you have just experienced the social history of the Napoleanic Generation.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    aha! finally, finished. yet, this is one of those books that are meant to be studied rather than hastily devoured, thus I will retract any penalty upon myself. in fact, I will probably re-read this one again, which doesn't happen very often in my world. to think that someone was so dismantled by rejection in love that he set out to travel the continent and write an entire two books about the ins and outs of love. and this is what Love by Stendhal is. although dated (duh), whatever angle i aha! finally, finished. yet, this is one of those books that are meant to be studied rather than hastily devoured, thus I will retract any penalty upon myself. in fact, I will probably re-read this one again, which doesn't happen very often in my world. to think that someone was so dismantled by rejection in love that he set out to travel the continent and write an entire two books about the ins and outs of love. and this is what Love by Stendhal is. although dated (duh), whatever angle in romantic endeavors you can think of, Stendhal untangles it to the bare bone. the content isn't a story like other Stendhal works but rather a psuedo-philosophical analysis of human love, decorated with stories and anecdotes from all over Europe. appropriately, Stendhal's wit and critical view of the (at the time) stuffy French are ever-present and amusing. this is a profound, delicate and yet blunt read, exposing the human nature in love for what it is. highly recommended, read it at a a pace where you can truly absorb what Stendhal has to say. when thinking of Love, this piece of music comes to mind. some favorite clips from the "Various Fragments" section: "If women are to take pleasure in reading the ten or twelve good books annually published in Europe, they will soon cease to look after their children. - This is as if we feared that by planting trees along the shores of the ocean, we should arrest the movement of the waves." "I call passion only what has stood the test of protracted misfortunes of a kind carefully avoided by novels, and which indeed novels cannot convey." "The more one pleases generally, the less one pleases profoundly."

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tristan

    Not a book you have to read all at once. Neither do I feel there is a need to read it in a chronological fashion. Stendhal does a good job analysing the very difficult subject that is love. Particularly amusing is concerning the love life of nations. Here France, Italy, Spain, England and Germany are some of his examples. Maybe a bit stereotypical, but definitely some truths in his observations! There is a section called various fragments that consist of quotes, anecdotes which is ver Not a book you have to read all at once. Neither do I feel there is a need to read it in a chronological fashion. Stendhal does a good job analysing the very difficult subject that is love. Particularly amusing is concerning the love life of nations. Here France, Italy, Spain, England and Germany are some of his examples. Maybe a bit stereotypical, but definitely some truths in his observations! There is a section called various fragments that consist of quotes, anecdotes which is very interesting and profound, not all of it concerning love. For example: A stern resolve at once changes the direst misfortune into something bearable. On the evening after a lost battle a man is in a headlong flight on a spent horse; he can clearly hear a group of horsemen galloping after him; suddenly he stops, dismounts, reloads his carbine and pistols, and resolves to defend himself. His vision of death is instantly changed into that of the cross of the Legion of Honour. Women of sensibility, you who seek to know whether you are loved passionately by the man you adore, examine your lover's early youth. Every man of distinction was of the beginning of his life either absurdly fanatical or else dogged by misfortune. A man of cheerful, gentle disposition, easy to please, can never love with the passion your heart demands. I call passion only what has stood the test of protracted misfortunes of a kind carefully avoided by novels, and which indeed novels cannot convey. Tristan

  13. 4 out of 5

    Olga Vallinsgren

    I think this is essential reading in the topic of love, or passionate love more precisely. No matter how much you think you know already, the insights in this book will still fascinate you.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Octavian

    I consider this book a history of love, because Stendhal draws his conclusions on one hand form the multiple ideas that were expressed in different ages of the past and on the other from his own experiences. This, I think, is the only way you can explain love; you experience it, you create your own explanations and when you get to a point where you don't understand what is happening, you go back in time to see how others saw it. Everybody knows how hard it is to express feelings and how hard it I consider this book a history of love, because Stendhal draws his conclusions on one hand form the multiple ideas that were expressed in different ages of the past and on the other from his own experiences. This, I think, is the only way you can explain love; you experience it, you create your own explanations and when you get to a point where you don't understand what is happening, you go back in time to see how others saw it. Everybody knows how hard it is to express feelings and how hard it is to find the right words to describe them. Reading this book I came to the conlusion that love is universal, but each individual experiences it different and therefore the explanations are divers. If there are some triggers or general cause that create love and if these triggers can be controled I'm not yet convinced. Although there are some frequent elements that creat attraction I don't think that there can be a handbook that can tell you exactly how to create and maintain love. Although this book explains love from different perspective, it gives a pesimistic point of view because the author tries to find the answer to two very dificult questions: why do people fall out of love and why does this hurt so much. Trying to answer these questions Stendhal starts explaining how people as individuals and as nations fall in love and then analyses each form of love he identified. I believe this book is useful when one is trying to find some answers to some difficult questions/situations or is just curious how others felt and described love.It is a great book.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    This is not a novel, but more of a dissertation of Stendhal's poignant, intense and sometimes hopeless view of passionate love. A lot of his ideas resonated with me, particularly the "crystallisation" and I underlined passages furiously throughout. The anecdotes are very tender and romantic, and make me want to live in the 19th century forever. The second part of the book, the "Fragments" I found a bit disjointed. I think my understanding of some of the themes would have been enhanced by a more This is not a novel, but more of a dissertation of Stendhal's poignant, intense and sometimes hopeless view of passionate love. A lot of his ideas resonated with me, particularly the "crystallisation" and I underlined passages furiously throughout. The anecdotes are very tender and romantic, and make me want to live in the 19th century forever. The second part of the book, the "Fragments" I found a bit disjointed. I think my understanding of some of the themes would have been enhanced by a more thorough understanding of 19th Century French literature and poetry.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Chinchilla_clouds

    An interesting analysis, not only of love (as Stendhal tries to explain it) but of a historic perspective towards it. A little chaotic, but full of information. One can see how sceptical he was about this subject.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    I still don't have a girlfriend, but then it was never marketed as a self-help book. I am consoled by knowing that as of 1822 this could already be said of the United States: "love there has become impossible."

  18. 5 out of 5

    Donald

    "That you should be made a fool of by a young woman, why, it is many an honest man's case." (The Pirate, vol. III, page 77)...

  19. 5 out of 5

    D

    A witty book with lots to chew on. Marie Henri Beyle, known through his writings as Stendhal, was born in Grenoble in 1793. He followed Napoleon’s campaigns in Italy, Germany, Russia and Austria. In between wars, he spent his time in Paris drawing-rooms and theaters. After the fall of Napoleon, he retired to Italy, adopted his pseudonym and started to write books on Italian painting, Haydn and Mozart, and travels in Italy. He left Italy in 1821 due to the political situatio A witty book with lots to chew on. Marie Henri Beyle, known through his writings as Stendhal, was born in Grenoble in 1793. He followed Napoleon’s campaigns in Italy, Germany, Russia and Austria. In between wars, he spent his time in Paris drawing-rooms and theaters. After the fall of Napoleon, he retired to Italy, adopted his pseudonym and started to write books on Italian painting, Haydn and Mozart, and travels in Italy. He left Italy in 1821 due to the political situation, and returned to Paris, where he finished his book, De L’Amour. With the fall of Napoleon in 1815 and the breakup of the Napoleonic empire, the province of Lombardy in North Italy was annexed to Austria and ruled as a police state. During Stendhal’s residence in Milan from 1815 onwards, there was a smouldering anti-Austrian patriotic movement among the circles of Italian intellectuals in which Stendhal moved. Manifestations of Italian nationalism, attempts at emancipation, and the spread of liberal ideas were rigorously suppressed. There were conspiracies, the formation of secret societies (eg, Carbonari) aiming to throw off the Austrian yoke; the situation was similar in the adjacent state of Piedmont. Leaders of these patriotic movements were arrested and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment in the Spielberg citadel at Brno in Moravia, which became a state prison for political prisoners with long incarcerations under severe conditions. The wives, relatives and friends of the Spielberg prisoners and many others participated in attempts to succour the prisoners and to maintain and develop the revolutionary movements. Among these cultured, ardent and daring women were the intimate friends Teresa Confalonieri, wife of Count Federico Confalonieri, Mme Frecavali, and Mathilde Dembowski -- Stendhal’s Metilde. Since Stendhal’s obsession with one woman is the core of his book, she must be introduced without further delay. Stendhal was no novice in love when in 1818 he met Mathilde Viscontini Dembowski. She was a Milanese, 28 years old, and had been married at 17 to a Polish officer, a naturalized Italian, from whom she was separated. She had 2 schoolboy sons. She was an ardent patriot and deeply involved in the nationalist revolutionary organization of the Carbonari. She died at the age of 35, still beautiful, when everything should have preserved her for her 2 sons whom she idolized. But she also loved the glory of her country, and the men who aspired to make it illustrious; she suffered too long, from our subjection and the loss of her friends, for her constitution not to be shattered; the energy of her soul consumed her, not finding any other nourishment… And yet, what goodness, what angelic sweetness in that noble heart! She was arrested in December 1822 and brought the next day before the Inquisitorial Commission. She underwent interrogation for 10 hours. Salvotti, wanting to insult her dignified answers asked her whether she thought she was in the midst of the Carbonari. “No,” she replied, “in the Venetian Inquisition.” Then, protesting against the violence they were doing to a woman’s weakness, she declared that she would answer no more questions, and the enraged Salvotti was obliged to set her at liberty. Teresa Confalonieri, to whom Andryane’s book is dedicated described Metilde as “that angelic woman in whom were united all the perfections of an adorable sensibility with the energy that makes one capable of the most sublime actions” (A Andryane, Memoires, III, Chapter 9). Stendhal said Metile had the enigmatic beauty, which he called Lombardian, and which he recognized in Luini’s Salome in the Uffizi in Florence. Metile died on 1 May 1825, four years after Stendhal had left Milan. Stendhal, who had the habit of writing notes in the margins of books, wrote in one of his own copies of De l’Amour: 1 mai 1825 -- Death of the author [in English] She never yielded to his persistent siege. She neither loved nor understood him. The more exigent he became, the more Metilde cooled and kept him at a distance. He saw her for the last time on 7 June and left Milan for Paris on 13 June 1821. Throughout the rest of his life, he continually thought Metilde, making marginal and other cryptic notes referring to her until he died. The publisher of his book, l’Amour, complained bitterly about the unsold copies: They must be sacred, for nobody will touch them. He describes several kinds of love: amour-passion: intense, romantic and generally unrequited, and perhaps impossible to requite. It alone is deemed worthy of the name. amour-physique: plain sex amour-goût and amour de la vanité: prevalent in the France of his day, which too often masqueraded as the real thing Shakespeare: The lunatic, the lover and the poet Are of imagination all compact Stendhal appears as an eloquent champion of the emancipation and education of women. This will not surprise those who know his spirited, high-minded women, nor those who read his early letters to his sister, Pauline, assiduously urging her to study literature, philosophy, and mathematics, and to strive to become a truly cultured, rational and free person. Simone de Beauvoir has said: Stendhal is at the same time deeply romantic and decidedly a feminist… It is not only in the name of freedom in general, it is in the name of individual happiness that Stendhal demands the emancipation of women. Stendhal sought happiness unremittingly; not mere pleasure or the satisfaction of desires, but a rapture accessible only to the natures of rare quality -- the âmes sensibles the happy few; the delight that comes from intense feeling, lucid awareness, passion, and energy; the happiness of reverie, of response to beauty, of the free imagination -- and such happiness he found in loving, even without return. Preface to the First Edition It is of little use of an author to beg the public’s indulgence, for the very act of publication gives the lie to this pretence at modesty. He had better submit himself squarely to the justice, patience, and impartiality of his readers. It is chiefly to the last of these qualities that the author of the present work now makes appeal. First Attempt at a Preface This book has met with no success; it has been found unintelligible, and not without cause. In this new edition, therefore, the author has tried above all to express his ideas clearly. He has related how they occurred to him, and has written a preface and an introduction, all for the sake of clarity. Yet despite all this care, for every hundred readers who have enjoyed Corinne, not more than four will understand this book. Although this book deals with love, this little book is not a novel, and above all it is not entertaining like a novel. It is simply an exact and scientific description of a brand of madness very rare in France. The conventions, whose sway widens daily, more from a fear of ridicule than from moral purity, have turned the word which serves me for title into something unmentionable, something that even conveys lewdness. I could not avoid using the word, and trust that the scientific austerity of my style puts me beyond reproach on that score. It takes years to penetrate intimately into Italian society. The whole purpose of this preface is to proclaim that the book which follows it will be understood only by those who have had leisure enough to commit acts of folly. Many people will think themselves offended; I hope they will read no further. Second Attempt at a Preface I would ask anyone who wants to read this book: Have six months of your life ever been made miserable by love? Final Preface Following upon the masked balls during the Carnival of 1820, which were more brilliant than usual, Milan society witnessed five or six completely crazy events. Love, or the most common substitute that uses its name, was all-powerful in France under Louis XV; the ladies of the court chose the colonels, and that was the finest position in the kingdom. Now, 50 years later, the court no longer exists, and the most respected women in the ruling middle-class or the disgruntled aristocracy could not influence so much as the grant of a tobacconist’s licence in the tiniest village. We must face the fact that women are no longer in fashion; in our salons, brilliant as they are, young men of 20 affect never to speak to them, much preferring to gather round some coarse driveller with a provincial accent who talks of capacities, while they try to get in a word edgeways. This frightening change which has plunged us into our present boredom, and which makes us quite unable to understand the society of 1778, such as we find it in Diderot’s letters to his mistress Mademoiselle Voland… may lead us to enquire which of our successive Governments destroyed our faculty for amusing ourselves and increased our resemblance to the gloomiest people on earth. We do not even know how to copy their Parliament and the integrity of their parties -- the only tolerable thing they ever invented. On the other hand, the stupidest of all their gloomy conceptions, the spirit of dignity, has come among us to replace French gaiety, which is hardly to be found anywhere now except in the 500 suburban ballrooms round Paris, or in the Midi, south of Bordeaux. But which of our successive Governments did commit the frightful atrocity of anglicizing us? I need not press my investigation further; the reader will, on reflection, be well able to reach his own conclusions… Chapter I: On Love I want to try and establish exactly what this passion is, whose every genuine manifestation is characterized by beauty. There are 4 different kinds of love: 1. Passionate Love 2. Mannered Love 3. Physical Love 4. Vanity Love Chapter 2: Concerning the Birth of Love Here is what happens in the soul: 1. Admiration. 2. You think, ‘How delightful it would be to kiss her, to be kissed by her,’ and so on… 3. Hope. 4. Love is born. 5. The first crystallization begins. It is a pleasure to endow her with a thousand perfections if you are sure that a woman loves you, and to count your blessings with infinite satisfaction. In the end, you overrate wildly, and regard her as something fallen from Heaven, unknown as yet, but certain to be yours. 6. Doubt creeps in. 7.The second crystallization, which deposits diamond layers of proof that ‘she loves me.’ The lover’s mind vacillates between 3 ideas: 1. She is perfect 2. She loves me 3. How can I get the strongest possible proofs of her love? The most heartrending moment of love in its infancy is the realization that you have been mistaken about something, and that a whole framework of crystals has to be destroyed. You begin to feel doubtful about the entire process of crystallization. Since in love only the illusion appeals… Chapter 16 It has been borne upon me this evening that perfect music has the same effect on the heart as the presence of the beloved. It gives, in fact, apparently more intense pleasure than anything else on earth. If everyone reacted to music as I do, nothing would ever induce men to fall in love. Chapter 17: Beauty Usurped by Love A man may meet a woman and be shocked by her ugliness. Soon, if she is natural and unaffected, her expression makes him overlook the faults of her features. He begins to find her charming, it enters his head that she might be loved, and a week later, he is living in hope. The following week, he has been snubbed into despair, and the week afterwards, he has gone mad. Chapter 22: Concerning Infatuation High breeding is often marked by curiosity and prejudice, and these ominous symptoms are generally apparent when the sacred flame -- the origin of all the passions -- has gone out. I could think of nothing but whether he would notice me. An absence of mistrust is not enough. You are unconsciously bored by living without loving… A yes or a no spoken by a man in love has a warmth and grace not to be found elsewhere, nor even in the same man at other times. Yes, half of life, its most wonderful half, is hidden from the man who has never loved passionately. Even in his saddest moments, the happiness of meeting her always left him intoxicated for some hours despite the effects of all his misfortunes and of every attempt to reason with him. Chapter 32: Concerning Intimacy The greatest happiness love can offer is the first pressure of hands between you and your beloved. piquea feeling of irritation or resentment resulting from a slight, esp. to one's pride. Pique has no place in passionate love; either it is pride or sheer furious jealosy. Jealousy desires the death of the rival it fears. Chapter 39 Her passion will die like a lamp for want of a what the flame should feed upon - Lammermoor, II It is most important to control the imagination in a girl if you wish to save her from love. The less commonplace her spirit, the more noble and generous her nature; in short, the more worthy she is of our respect, the greater the risk she runs. Chapter 40 All kinds of love and all imaginings are coloured in different people by one of the 6 temperaments: The sanguine or French The bilious or Spanish The melancholic or German (eg, Schiller’s Don Carlos) The phlegmatic or Dutch The nervous: Voltaire The athletic Forms of government or national character: 1. Asiatic despotism, such as exists in Constantinople 2. Absolute monarchy in the style of Louis XIV 3. Aristocracy masked by a charter, or the government of a nation for the benefit of the rich, as in England, and all according to Biblical morality 4. The federal republic, or government for the benefit of all, as in the USA 5. Constitutional monarchy, or: 6. A state undergoing a revolution, such as Spain, Portugal, or France. This state in a country inspires everyone with lively passion, induces a more natural way of life, does away with stupidities, conventional virtues, and absurdities or etiquette, makes young people more serious, and causes them to despise vanity-love and to abstain from gallantry (polite attention or respect given by men to women). This state can last a long time, and shape the habits of a generation. In France, it began in 1788, was interrupted in 1802, and began again in 1815, to continue until God knows when. Besides all these general ways of look at love there are the differences resulting from age, and finally, the peculiarities of the individual. Chapter 41: Concerning the Love-Life of Nations - France Frenchwomen, schooled by charming Frenchmen who have nothing to offer but vanity and physical desires, are less active, less energetic, less feared and above all, less loved and less powerful than Spanish or Italian women. A woman’s power lies only in the degree of unhappiness with which she can punish her lover. In France, great passions are as rare as great men - Meilhan Love is an exquisite flower, but it needs courage to pluck it on the brink of a dreadful precipice. Besides ridicule, love is always haunted by the desperate possibility that the beloved will forsake it, leaving nothing but a lifelong DEAD BLANK. The pleasures of private life ought to be augmented to an infinite degree by recurrent exposure to danger, as was the essence of the life of the Middle Ages. Chapter 42: More Concerning France If anyone reads this essay I shall get my insults back a hundredfold, for national honour is a jealous watchdog. France is important in the pattern of this book because Paris, thanks to the superiority of its conversation and literature, is and always will be the drawing-room of Europe.The ‘best people’ do this: 1. They are ironic about anything important. This is quite natural since those who used really to be the ‘best people’ were never affected by anything. They had no time. Summers in the country are changing all that. Besides it is flying in the face of nature for a Frenchman to permit himself to admire something, because that implies he is inferior not only to the thing admired -- that might just about pass -- but also to his neighbour, if the latter chooses to laugh at what he admires. In Germany, Italy, and Spain on the other hand admiration is full of good faith and happiness. There the man who admires is proud of his transports and feels sorry for the censorious -- I won’t say for the scoffer, since such a person does not exist in those countries where ridicule is reserved for those who have missed their path to happiness, and is not directed against the imitation of a certain mode of being. 2. A Frenchman thinks he is the unhappiest man in the world and verging on the the most ridiculous if he has to spend his time alone. But what is love without solitude? 3. A passionate man thinks only about himself, while a man seeking to be well thought of thinks only about others. Chapter 43: Italy It is the happy privilege of Italy to rely on the inspiration of the moment, a privilege shared to some extend by Germany and England. Abundant leisure under magnificent skies tends to sharpen one’s awareness of beauty in all its forms. Intense though reasonable mistrust deepens the sense of isolation and doubles the appeal of intimacy. A passion for music stirs the spirit in much the same way as love. Around 1770 there was no mistrust in France; on the contrary it was right and proper to live and die in the public eye; as the Duchess of Luxembourg was intimate with a hundred friends, so there was neither intimacy nor friendship in the true sense of the words. In Italy, since passion is not infrequent it is not ridiculous. The public knows the symptoms and stages of the disease and takes a great interest in them. When a man is jilted they tell him: You will be in the depths of despair for six months but after that you’ll recover, like so-and-so, or so-and-so. Chapter 45: England No one could be idler than the young Italians; movement, which might blunt their sensibility, they find tiresome. Now and again they will walk half a league reluctantly for their health’s sake; and as for the women, a Roman woman does not cover as much ground in a whole year as an English miss will do in a week. In England, Bond Street invented the Carefully Careless.In England, fashion is a duty. In Paris, it is a pleasure. I neither approve nor disapprove; I observe. The two great English vices, cant and bashfulness (hypocrisy in morality, and proud agonized shyness). cant = hypocritical and sanctimonious talk, typically of a moral, religious, or political nature For the last two centuries, Ireland has been just about as badly governed as Sicily. It is obvious though, that of the two countries, both governed by madmen for the exclusive profit of the few, Sicily is the happier. Its rulers have at least left it love and the pleasures of the senses; they would have taken these like everything else, but in Sicily, heaven be praised, there is very little of that moral evil known as law and order. Laws are made and enforced by old men and priests; this is evident in the kind of comical jealousy with which the pleasures of the senses are attacked in the British Isles. The people there might say to their rules as Diogenes said to Alexander: Keep your sinecures and just leave me my sunshine. New love drives out the old. A lover is always timorous. Waning love dies quickly and seldom revives. Nothing forbids a woman to be loved by two men, or a man by two women.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kamil

    the first half is great, the second not so much. If you want a similar book read "fragments of a lover's discourse" by Roland barthes, I found it more comprehensive.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kate Savage

    All my favorite French authors gush about Stendhal, so I gave him another chance. I still may be a bit underwhelmed by this plotless hodgepodge of ideas. This doesn't mean I'm not charmed by Stendhal. Maybe even a little seduced. Stendhal's belief in equality and justice doesn't come from dry politics, but from an impulse toward pleasure and joy. He wants everyone to enjoy leisure and education because then you can be in raptures together over Shakespeare and cumulonimbus clouds. Outl All my favorite French authors gush about Stendhal, so I gave him another chance. I still may be a bit underwhelmed by this plotless hodgepodge of ideas. This doesn't mean I'm not charmed by Stendhal. Maybe even a little seduced. Stendhal's belief in equality and justice doesn't come from dry politics, but from an impulse toward pleasure and joy. He wants everyone to enjoy leisure and education because then you can be in raptures together over Shakespeare and cumulonimbus clouds. Outlaw the education of women, and you kill off the best kinds of love. He's a little overwrought in his guiding metaphor of "crystallization." But I find myself smiling in spite of myself when I read lines like these: "Not to love when Heaven has given one a soul made for love is to deprive one’s self and other people of a great happiness. It is as though an orange-tree refused to flower for fear of committing a sin." "Is the Bible, or rather, are the ridiculous consequences and rules of conduct which warped intelligences deduct from this collection of poems and songs, sufficient to cause all this wretchedness?" "The Bible and the Aristocracy both take a cruel revenge on people who believe they owe everything to them." (To a misogynist womanizer:) "But with you, a sensitive woman, even if she loved you, would only be a source of irritation to your pride, because of her pretensions to equality. Your method of possessing women kills every other enjoyment in life" Note: Stendhal's still a little stuck in his time. Even when he's advocating for women's education he'll assert that of course women shouldn't become authors (except for posthumous works). He says unsavory things about "the barbarians." He has a little too much enthusiasm for modesty and purity -- though in the end he can't hide that he feels these are best for adding piquancy to a fall from virtue.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    Actually it was a different translation I read, containing only the first volume. I wondered whether the translator couldn't quite be arsed to finish it - if so I sympathise. The second volume was published later and is much longer than the first, which nevertheless seems easily long enough. The trivial truth is I was drawn to this book by Gainsbourg's "C'est la cristallisation, comme disait Stendhal", one of Serge's lesser gems, but charming enough. Sure enough, Stendhal introduces a Actually it was a different translation I read, containing only the first volume. I wondered whether the translator couldn't quite be arsed to finish it - if so I sympathise. The second volume was published later and is much longer than the first, which nevertheless seems easily long enough. The trivial truth is I was drawn to this book by Gainsbourg's "C'est la cristallisation, comme disait Stendhal", one of Serge's lesser gems, but charming enough. Sure enough, Stendhal introduces a comparison of romantic love (from which he was suffering at the time) with the 'crystallisation' of sticks in Salzburg (was it?) salt mines, transforming the workaday reality of the love-object into a thing of endless fascination and mysterious perfection. Then he flogs it to death. Structurally the book is extremely loose, with a bunch of interlinked fragments of narrative that are never really in focus, and multiple characters who are mostly, maybe, the same two people. It all sounds terribly post-moderny, doesn't it? Well, be that as it may, it turns out as unfulfilling, and its interest as quickly exhausted, as a stick encrusted in salt crystals. The three stars are for daring to try something original, in style and content, plus deference to a Classic Writer I expect, and the two stars docked are for not making a better job of it. My hot tip: stick with the 'Anna' OST. And don't go mistaking paradise for that home across the road.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kaylee

    "There is no Italian word for small talk. You speak when you have something to say in the cause of a passion, and only rarely for the sake of making random conversation." Love is completely riddled with amazing statements like that. I won't pretend to have loved this more than I really did; I found it difficult to stay engaged at times, and felt like I missed more than I would have liked simply due to untranslated phrases or references. Still, what I did comprehend, I enjoyed imm/> "There is no Italian word for small talk. You speak when you have something to say in the cause of a passion, and only rarely for the sake of making random conversation." Love is completely riddled with amazing statements like that. I won't pretend to have loved this more than I really did; I found it difficult to stay engaged at times, and felt like I missed more than I would have liked simply due to untranslated phrases or references. Still, what I did comprehend, I enjoyed immensely. The satirical voice used to pigeonhole every personality, gender, and nationality's flavor of love was amazing. I can certainly see how the satire was lost on many of his contemporaries -- the tone throughout wasn't fanciful or romantic but rather almost educational. That makes it all the more masterful, in my opinion. I'd be remiss if I didn't also mention that it's interesting to read "nonfiction" accounts of love in the 18th and 19th centuries. I'm not quite sure why present day romantics are so convinced that the idea of "one true love" is ancient and universal -- it certainly was in the minority in Stendhal's life (unless it was one-sided or otherwise tragic).

  24. 5 out of 5

    Anamaria

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. There are 4 types of love: Passionate Love, Mannered Love, Physical Love and Vain Love. Birth of LOVE: here is what happens to the soul 1. Admiration 2. We think 3. Hope 4. Love is born 5. The first crystallisation 6. Doubt is born 7. Second crystallisation A tiny measure of hope is enough to cause the birth of love. [...] From the moment he begins to love, even the wisest man no longer sees any object as it is. Everything he imagines become There are 4 types of love: Passionate Love, Mannered Love, Physical Love and Vain Love. Birth of LOVE: here is what happens to the soul 1. Admiration 2. We think 3. Hope 4. Love is born 5. The first crystallisation 6. Doubt is born 7. Second crystallisation A tiny measure of hope is enough to cause the birth of love. [...] From the moment he begins to love, even the wisest man no longer sees any object as it is. Everything he imagines becomes real and present according to its effect on his happiness. For the passionate soul, all other happinesses pale in comparison to love. The greatest joy love can give is in the moment your beloved`s hand clasps your own for the first time. *SIGH*

  25. 4 out of 5

    Adelaide Mcginnity

    Deliciously satirical, hilariously funny, and yet at the same time true in its understanding of the phenomenon of love, this work of Stendhal is the rare book than can be picked up on any occasion, opened to any page, and read for any length of time and be enjoyed. While the cultural references are of course anachronistic, it is remarkable how little has changed in 200 years with regards to courting, coquetry, and conquest.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Patrick

    Hilarious and perceptive thoughts on the madness of love. Stendhal has one striking metaphor, crystallization, to describe the process, and then it's one telling anecdote after another about passionate love, mannered love, the habits of various nationalities in love, and, above all, Stendhal's accounts of his own failings and his compassion for those of others.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Pete

    straight business. this shit is crucial. you have to take the pseudopsychiatric misogyny for what it is. liberation theology for the culturally libertarian dude soul. stendhal: keep your shit straight.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Tenji Tembo

    I fell off of it sadly. What stared off as an interesting dive into love after a split turned into an experience I couldn’t invest myself in. This isn’t for me, but it could be for you? An author rambling about what love is to him, how it is express, defined, judged, and interpreted.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nicolae Petrescu

    A harbinger novel and yes, nowadays everything is suitable,matching Love by Stendhal perfect with one plus, Internet

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jim Driesen

    Great book but I will have to reread it to fully comprehend it.

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