697: Sudden Illuminations.

You see those immense volumes lying upon my desk. In them, for more than thirty years, I have written whatever is most striking that my reading presents. Sometimes I limit myself to simple references; at other times I transcribe, word for word, special passages. Often I accompany them with notes, and also I place there those thoughts of the moment, those sudden illuminations, which are extinguished without result if the flash is not made permanent by writing. Carried by the revolutionary whirlwind into different European countries, never have I been without those selections; and you cannot imagine with what pleasure I look over that immense collection. Each passage awakens a crowd of interesting ideas and melancholy remembrances a thousand times sweeter than what are called pleasures. I see pages dated at Geneva, Rome, Venice, Lausanne. I cannot see the names of those cities without recalling those of excellent friends whom I have left in them, and who formerly consoled my exile. Often I turn to a page written from my dictation by a beloved child, whom the tempest has separated from me. I stretch out my arms and fancy I hear him speak to me. One date recalls to my mind the time when, upon the banks of a frozen river, I ate with a French bishop a dinner which we had ourselves prepared. That day I was merry, and could join in a laugh with that good man, who now waits for me in a better world; but the preceding night I had passed in an open vessel, without fire or light, seated with my family upon chests, without being able to lie down or rest one moment, listening to the hostile cries of some watermen who did not cease to threaten us, and being able to stretch over cherished forms only a miserable mat to protect them from a heavy snow which fell incessantly.

(Joseph de Maistre; quoted in William Alexander, “De Maistre and Romanism,” The North American Review, Vol. LXXIX, 1854, No. 165, pp. 378–379).

697: Sudden Illuminations.

598: Pasteboard Giants.

There was in the Terror an element more disgraceful to France than the carnival of murder in which the members of the Mountain, maddened, let us hope, by their long draughts of what we have called intellectual absinthe, permitted themselves to indulge, and that was the astounding cowardice of those who were not mad. If there is one thing certain about the Terror it is that it was approved by a small minority, that the troops loathed it, that the respectables feared it, that even the populace, who three times moved the guillotine, at heart condemned it as ruthless and unjust. The moment a minute group in the Convention, in fear for their own necks, defied it, it was over, and could not by the most desperate efforts be re-established. Not only were the silent majority of the Convention, who were constantly voting proscription lists, opposed to them, but physical force was wholly on that side, and once appealed to, drove the true Terrorists into hiding as mere human vermin. Not a shot was fired when the Jacobin Club was closed, and the “furies of the guillotine” whipped with canes. For months, in fact, France, which was all the while rushing to battle on the frontiers, lay paralysed with nervous terror, afraid of pasteboard giants, who on the first symptom of real resistance exploded with a smell, leaving behind them a recollection which has been more fatal to true liberty than all the Kings and all the reactionary leaders who have succeeded them.

(“On the Edge of the Abyss,” The Spectator, Vol. LXXXII, February 11, 1899, p. 190).

598: Pasteboard Giants.

576: Money Wins.

The concepts of Liberalism and Socialism are set in effective motion only by money. It was the Equites, the big-money party, which made Tiberius Gracchus’s popular movement possible at all; and as soon as that part of the reforms that was advantageous to themselves had been successfully legalized, they withdrew and the movement collapsed. Cæsar and Crassus financed the Catilinarian movement, and so directed it against the Senatorial party instead of against property. In England politicians of eminence laid it down as early as 1700 that “on ‘Change one deals in votes as well as in stocks, and the price of a vote is as well known as the price of an acre of land.” When the news of Waterloo reached Paris, the price of French government stock rose — the Jacobins had destroyed the old obligations of the blood and so had emancipated money; now it stepped forward as lord of the land. There is no proletarian, not even a Communist, movement that has not operated in the interest of money, in the directions indicated by money, and for the time permitted by money — and that, without the idealist amongst its leaders having the slightest suspicion of the fact. Intellect rejects, money directs.

(Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West, Vol. II. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1918, p. 402).

576: Money Wins.

524: The Painful Slavery of Gratitude.

Very often resentment goes hand in hand with timidity. The strong man reacts directly and energetically to attack, and so automatically expels affront from his mind, as though it were some foreign body. This saving elasticity does not exist in the resentful man. Many a man who turns die other cheek after a buffet does so, not from virtue, but to cover up his cowardice; and his enforced humility afterwards turns into resentment.

But, if he should later happen to become strong, with that adventitious strength which is conferred by political power, his resentment, hitherto disguised as resignation, bursts forth in revenge. It is for this reason that weak men and resentful men when chance places them in a position of power, as often happens in time of revolution, are so much to be feared. Here, too, we find the reason why so many resentful men respond to revolutionary confusion and play so large a part in its development. The most cruel of leaders often have antecedents which betray their former timidity and show unequivocal symptoms of their present resentment.

Similarly, what is very typical of such men is not merely their incapacity for gratitude, but also the facility with which they transform the favours conferred upon them by others into fuel for their resentment. There is a sentence of Robespierre’s, that tragic example of a resentful man, which one cannot read without a shudder, so stark is the light which it sheds on the psychology of the French Revolution: “I experienced, from a very early age, the painful slavery of gratitude.”

Once he has done a favour to the resentful man, the benefactor remains inscribed on the black list of his dislike. As though moved by some obscure impulse, the resentful man hovers around the powerful man, who attracts and irritates him at one and the same time. This twofold feeling creates a bitter bond which makes him one of the leader’s retinue. It is for this reason that we so often find the resentful man at the courts of the mighty. Woe betide the mighty if they do not realize that within their shadow, infinitely more dangerous than envy, inevitably grows the resentment of the very men who live by their favour!

(Gregorio Marañón, Tiberius: A Study in Resentment. London: Hollis & Carter, 1956, pp. 12–13).

524: The Painful Slavery of Gratitude.

508: By Kindness.

If any fact was clear amid the bewildering confusion of the French Revolution, it was that the gentleness, the concessions, the morbid tenderness of Louis XVI had only tended to precipitate his own and his people’s doom, and aggravate the ferocity of those whom he tried by kindness to disarm.

(Lord Salisbury, “Lord Stanhope’s Life of Pitt,” The Quarterly Review, Vol. CXI, 1862, pp. 538–539).

508: By Kindness.