Friday, November 15, 2013

Chateaubriand and Chapman on Patronage

In Chateaubriand's memoirs, Book XXIII, Chapter 5, I noticed a couple of sentences:
 Perhaps nothing conduces more to attachment and gratitude than to find oneself under the patronage of the friendship with one who by virtue of her influence in society can make one's faults pass for virtues, one's imperfections for a charm. A man promotes you by virtue of what he is worth, a woman by virtue of what you are worth; that is why of the two powers one is so odious, the other so sweet.
That is charming, but is true? Never having been in the position to push a proteg√© by my influence, or to be pushed by a patroness, I can't say. And if true, it is helpful? I can think of women who have made their clients' faults pass for virtues, and the result has not always been good. John Jay Chapman writes of a Boston hostess
 Mrs Whitman was surrounded by geniuses. I didn't always believe in the rest of them, but I believed that somehow I must be a good one--not so great as she believed, but still something quite considerable in my own way.
("Mrs. Whitman", collected in Memories and Milestones.) But I imagine that Mrs. Whitman's influence was mostly social and disrupted nobody's work.

Chateaubriand was writing of the Duchess de Duras, whose influence had procured him the ambassadorship to Sweden under the Restoration, despite Louis XVIII's distrust of poets, and Blacas's general indifference. At the moment, though, the Restoration has adjourned to Ghent while Napoleon enjoys his Hundred Days, and Chateaubriand is with it.

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