To be received in the Countess Bezukhova's salon was regarded as a diploma
of intellect. Young men read books before attending Helene's evenings,
to have something to say in her salon, and secretaries of the embassy,
and even ambassadors, confided diplomatic secrets to her, so that in a
way Helene was a power. Pierre, who knew she was very stupid,
sometimes attended, with a strange feeling of perplexity and fear, her
evenings and dinner parties, where politics, poetry, and philosophy
were discussed. At these parties his feelings were like those of a
conjuror who always expects his trick to be found out at any moment.
But whether because stupidity was just what was needed to run such a
salon, or because those who were deceived found pleasure in the
deception, at any rate it remained unexposed and Helene Bezukhova's
reputation as a lovely and clever woman became so firmly established
that she could say the emptiest and stupidest things and everybody
would go into raptures over every word of hers and look for a profound
meaning in it of which she herself had no conception.
"War and Peace", L. N. Tolstoy.
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