She was the only daughter of a Swiss banker, and one of the richest and cleverest young women of her generation in Europe. She wrote among much else one celebrated novel— Corinne, or Italy (1807)—which invented a new heroine for her times, outsold even the works of Walter Scott, and has never been out of print since. She personally saved at least a dozen people from the French revolutionary guillotine. She reinvented Parisian millinery with her astonishing multicolored turbans. She dramatically dismissed Jane Austen as ” vulgaire.” She snubbed Napoleon at a reception. She inspired Byron’s famous chauvinist couplet, “Man’s love is of his life a thing apart,/’Tis woman’s whole existence.” And she once completely outtalked the poet Coleridge at a soirée in Mayfair. For these things alone she should be remembered. Though married to the handsome Swedish ambassador (or possibly because she was so married), she took numerous lovers, and had four children, the most brilliant of whom—a girl, Albertine—was certainly illegitimate. She had a running and highly personal vendetta with Bonaparte, who hated bluestockings and once leaned over and remarked leeringly on her plunging cleavage: “No doubt, Madame, you breast-fed your children.” He followed this up by censoring her books for being anti-French, actually pulping one of them in mid-printing (On Germany), and exiling her from France on at least three separate occasions between 1803 and 1812.
more from the NYRB here.