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قراءة كتاب The Modern Regime, Volume 1

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‏اللغة: English
The Modern Regime, Volume 1

The Modern Regime, Volume 1

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 5

class="pginternal" tag="{}a">1117 A little later, his letter to Buttafuoco, deputy in the Constituent Assembly and principal agent in the annexation to France, is one long strain of renewed, concentrated hatred, which, after at first trying to restrain it within the bounds of cold sarcasm, ends in boiling over, like red-hot lava, in a torrent of scorching invective.—From the age of fifteen, at the Academy and afterwards in his regiment, he finds refuge in imagination in the past of his island;1118 he recounts its history, his mind dwells upon it for many years, and he dedicates his work to Paoli. Unable to get it published, he abridges it, and dedicates the abridgment to Abbé Raynal, recapitulating in a strained style, with warm, vibrating sympathy, the annals of his small community, its revolts and deliverances, its heroic and sanguinary outbreaks, its public and domestic tragedies, ambuscades, betrayals, revenges, loves, and murders,—in short, a history similar to that of the Scottish highlanders, while the style, still more than the sympathies, denotes the foreigner. Undoubtedly, in this work, as in other youthful writings, he follows as well as he can the authors in vogue—Rousseau, and especially Raynal; he gives a schoolboy imitation of their tirades, their sentimental declamation, and their humanitarian grandiloquence. But these borrowed clothes, which incommode him, do not fit him; they are too tight, and the cloth is too fine; they require too much circumspection in walking; he does not know how to put them on, and they rip at every seam. Not only has he never learned how to spell, but he does not know the true meaning, connections, and relations of words, the propriety or impropriety of phrases, the exact significance of imagery;1119 he strides on impetuously athwart a pell-mell of incongruities, incoherencies, Italianisms, and barbarisms, undoubtedly stumbling along through awkwardness and inexperience, but also through excess of ardor and of heat;1120 his jerking, eruptive thought, overcharged with passion, indicates the depth and temperature of its source. Already, at the Academy, the professor of belles-lettres1121 notes down that "in the strange and incorrect grandeur of his amplifications he seems to see granite fused in a volcano." However original in mind and in sensibility, ill-adapted as he is to the society around him, different from his comrades, it is clear beforehand that the current ideas which take such hold on them will obtain no hold on him.

Of the two dominant and opposite ideas which clash with each other, it might be supposed that he would lean either to one or to the other, although accepting neither.—Pensioner of the king, who supported him at Brienne, and afterwards in the Military Academy; who also supported his sister at Saint-Cyr; who, for twenty years, is the benefactor of his family; to whom, at this very time, he addresses entreating or grateful letters over his mother's signature—he does not regard him as his born general; it does not enter his mind to take sides and draw his sword in his patron's behalf;' in vain is he a gentleman, to whom, d'Hozier has certified; reared in a school of noble cadets, he has no noble or monarchical traditions.1122—Poor and tormented by ambition, a reader of Rousseau, patronized by Raynal, and tacking together sentences of philosophic fustian about equality, if he speaks the jargon of the day, it is without any belief in it. The phrases in vogue form a decent, academical drapery for his ideas, or serve him as a red cap for the club; he is not bewildered by democratic illusions, and entertains no other feeling than disgust for the revolution and the sovereignty of the populace.—At Paris, in April,1792, when the struggle between the monarchists and the revolutionaries is at its height, he tries to find "some successful speculation,"1123 and thinks he will hire and sublet houses at a profit. On the 20th of June he witnesses, only as a matter of curiosity, the invasion of the Tuileries, and, on seeing the king at a window place the red cap on his head, exclaims, so as to be heard," Che Caglione!" Immediately after this: "How could they let that rabble enter! Mow down four or five hundred of them with cannons and the rest would run away." On August 10, when the tocsin sounds, he regards the people and the king with equal contempt; he rushes to a friend's house on the Carrousel and there, still as a looker-on, views at his ease all the occurrences of the day.1124 Finally, the chateau is forced and he strolls through the Tuileries, looks in at the neighboring cafés, and that is all: he is not disposed to take sides, he has no Jacobin or royalist inclination. His features, even, are so calm "as to provoke many hostile and distrustful stares, as someone who is unknown and suspicious."—Similarly, after the 31st of May and the 2nd of June, his "Souper de Beaucaire" shows that if he condemns the departmental insurrection it is mainly because he deems it futile: on the side of the insurgents, a defeated army, no position tenable, no cavalry, raw artillerymen, Marseilles reduced to its own troops, full of hostile sans-culottes and so besieged, taken and pillaged. Chances are against it: "Let the impoverished regions, the inhabitants of Vivaris, of the Cevennes, of Corsica, fight to the last extremity, but if you lose a battle and the fruit of a thousand years of fatigue, hardship, economy, and happiness become the soldier's prey."1125 Here was something with which the Girondists could be converted!—None of the political or social convictions which then exercised such control over men's minds have any hold on him. Before the 9th of Thermidor he seemed to be a "republican montagnard," and we follow him for months in Provence, "the favorite and confidential adviser of young Robespierre," "admirer" of the elder Robespierre,1126 intimate at Nice with Charlotte Robespierre. After the 9th of Thermidor has passed, he frees himself with bombast from this compromising friendship: "I thought him sincere," says he of the younger Robespierre, in a letter intended to be shown, "but were he my father and had aimed at tyranny, I would have stabbed him myself." On returning to Paris, after having knocked at several doors, he takes Barras for a patron. Barras, the most brazen of the corrupt, Barras, who has overthrown and contrived the death of his two