In Paris Tory Historian was told by two separate and very different people, both of whom are Parisians, that Sarkozy’s most popular move was his marriage to Carla Bruni. Oddly enough, our own media seems to think otherwise.

Indeed, Peter Allen of the Daily Telegraph has found an article with a delightfully historic parallel: “Carla Bruni is ‘modern day Marie Antoinette’”. Well, not quite, one has to say, if one remembers the scandalous and scurrilous stories that circulated about that silly and unhappy queen.

It seems that Nicolas Domenach, author of the article “Enough is enough” in the magazine Marianne is not one of the French First Lady’s fans.

After referring to the wives of past presidents, Jacques Chirac and Francois Mitterand, Mr Domenach said of the Sarkozys: "They are always pawing each other in public, which might be normal for newly-weds, but he is the president and she is the first lady - and they are not exactly young! The endless photos of Carla cosying up to Nicolas have become nothing more than a
vulgar charade.

"Quite frankly it's overkill and we can't take any more. She is not so much a perfume but a very strong air freshener that we use to cover up unpleasant smells in public places."
Political writing has become very mild and superficial since the eighteenth century. If nothing worse than that had been written about Marie Antoinette the French Revolution may have taken a completely different turn. In fact, it may not have even happened.

Mr Allen seems very interested in historical matters. His other article is about King Arthur. It seems that “a conference and exhibition to be held at Rennes university in northern France next month” will tell us all that the legendary king who may or not have existed was actually a Celt and fought bitterly against the Anglo-Saxons. As such he is not to be considered a British hero, an image created by historians, poets and artists “for political purposes” but someone closer to the French.

Well, not really the French, but the Bretons, who, as it happens, dislike the rest of France, in particular, those of its population who have descended from the Germanic tribe of the Franks (not to mention the Normans who descended from the Vikings). Sadly, Mr Allen does not mention this aspect of the story, concentrating on British perfidy in elevating a mythical (or not) Welsh chieftain to the status of a British hero.

The Arthurian legends have never held much interest for Tory Historian. As ever, the best analysis can be found in that most excellent publication “1066 And All That”. Who can better the authors’ analysis of the situation in two memorable but separate paragraphs?
The brutal Saxon invaders drove the Britons westward into Wales and compelled them to become Welsh; it is now considered doubtful whether this was a Good Thing. Memorable among the Saxon warriors were Hengist and his wife (?or horse), Horsa. Hengist made himself King in the South. Thus Hengist was the first English King and his wife (or horse), Horsa, the first English Queen (or horse). The country was now almost entirely inhabited by Saxons and was therefore renamed England, and thus (naturally) soon became C. of E. This was a Good Thing, because previously the Saxons had worshipped some dreadful gods of their own called Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
A couple of pages on we read the following:
King Alfred was the first Good King, with the exception of Good King Wenceslas, who, though he looked 4th, really came first (it is not known, however, what King Wenceslas was King of). Alfred ought never to be confused with King Arthur, equally memorable but probably non-existent and therefore perhaps less important historically (unless he did exist).
Let’s see the academics of Rennes bettering that account.

The trip to Paris was very enjoyable, with plenty of excellent food and drink but also many long walks through Parisian arrondissements. In between all this activity the reading matter was a book by Professor Colin Jones, entitled "Paris - Biography of a City".

It is an excellent introduction to the history of this fascinating city and any comparison one might make with a "biography" of London gives one furiously to think as a certain Belgian detective used to say.

One interesting aspect of Professor Jones's book is the reminder that Parisian history has been fierce and violent throughout most of its existence. More so than that of London, whether one looks at the City or London as it expanded. There are many dark aspects to London's history but the almost continuous sequence of riots, revolutions and counter-revolutions, not to mention civil wars that fill Parisian history since the early middle ages far overwhelms our own peccadillos.

It is also worth recalling that Paris was often not just in opposition to the ruler or the many rulers but also in opposition to the rest of the country that occasionally took its revenge. For all of that, Henri IV was right: Paris was worth a Mass. or as "1066 and All That" has it: Paris is rather a mess.

A short break in postings while Tory Historian travels to France to investigate ... well, many things, though not necessary historical ones. However, staying in the Marais district in Paris should yield some adequate photographs for this blog. Back on Saturday evening.

In the meantime, let us remember that tomorrow is the anniversary of the start of the Korean War, that sometimes appears to be the forgotten war of the twentieth century in Britain. Too many people know nothing about it, not even the fact that British forces took a very active part in it.

To be quite precise, the question should be what is it about Ayn Rand’s followers? Supposedly libertarian, freedom loving, objectivist individuals they tend to be the angriest, most intolerant branch of the right or the conservative movement both in Britain and in America (and probably everywhere else, if they exist).

I was a little stunned by the reaction some Randroids (oops, one mustn’t call them that as they get really upset) displayed at Bill Buckley’s death. There was gloating and rejoicing around because the “evil genius” of the right had finally gone. Why? Because as editor of National Review, he published Whittaker Chambers’s rather negative review of Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”.

The story is that Rand had not bothered to read the review but proclaimed a kind of furious fatwa on it and on Chambers, one that her followers have faithfully adhered to ever since. What annoyed her more than anything, or would have done, if she had bothered to read the review, was Chambers’s conclusion that over the whole novel there hangs the miasma of fascistic intolerance and one hears a voice cry “Into the gas chamber, go”.

As a matter of fact, this is not inaccurate and Chambers had very finely tuned antennae for this sort of thing. Rand is intolerant of anyone who is too weak to enter her particular brand of utopia. What will happen to those? Chambers’s conclusion is not wrong.

The hatred for Chambers and Buckley has persisted to the point when Libertarians of the Randian persuasion were seen dancing metaphorically on the latter’s grave. Weird.

Now I have picked up traces of another bitter row. There has been a certain amount of unexplained movement around the conservative film site Libertas. The man, who under the moniker Dirty Harry has been the main blogger on it for a couple of years, has gone and set up his own extremely lively conservative film blog, Dirty Harry’s Place. (Highly recommended, incidentally, for anyone interested in film and shenanigans around it.)

Libertas, meanwhile, is being reclaimed by the founders Jason Apuzzo and Govindini Murty, also founders of the conservative Liberty film festival. So far, the result of that has been twofold. One is that the blog is not updated as regularly as it was under Dirty Harry (and how I understand that problem) and the other is a mega-row on the subject of Libertas and its two founders, now main authors, on its readers’ forum.

I shall pass over the apparent dislike Apuzzo and Murty have engendered in their readers and viewers of the film festival because I know nothing about the truth of it. What was extraordinary is the venom brought out by Apuzzo’s casually critical reference to Rand, “Atlas Shrugged” and Randroids. The posting was about yet another delay in the filming of that book but Apuzzo was less than complimentary about novel and author.

That was enough to invoke howls of rage and cries of betrayal both on Libertas and on Dirty Harry’s Place. If they could, they would boil Jason Apuzzo in oil. But why?

Why cannot one criticize Ayn Rand exactly the same way as one criticizes other authors one agrees with in general terms but not in every way?

For what it is worth, here are my views on the subject: I have never managed to get through her novels, which are turgid and verbose. I know other people find them wonderfully inspiring but there is no accounting for tastes. The idea that they are among the greatest in modern literature with Mikhail Bulgakov, Anthony Powell or Robert Musil out there, strikes me as ludicrous.

I have, however, read a number of Rand’s essays and agreed with almost everything she said. In fact, let me go further. I agree with all the main ideas but find some of the details worrisome. In particular, I find the intolerance, clear in her writings and even clearer in her followers, deeply unpleasant and frightening. But much of her analysis of socialism and hypocritical corporatism is absolutely accurate and it would do our politicians a good deal of good to read those essays.

The point is that her ideas are very simple and straightforward. This makes her very popular and turns her followers into fanatics; it also makes her essays, after a while, uninteresting. When you read the fifth one and find that the same half a dozen ideas are being churned out in exactly the same way, you find yourself putting the book aside with qualified admiration.

Does that make me a traitor to the cause?

Every now and then the Daily Telegraph publishes some truly important stories. Yesterday was such a day when we could read that Dante's "infernal crimes" were now forgiven. Actually, the sub-editor got a little carried away there. It is true that Dante Alighieri was sentence to death in 1302 but it was merely the outcome of the civil war in Florence turning against him and his side.

Dante was born into a noble Florentine family in 1265 and found himself embroiled in a struggle between the Holy Roman Empire and the papacy for control of the city. He is likely to have fought in decisive battles for the city's independence and became a Prior, one of six city leaders, in 1300.

His stint in power came to a bad end, however, when forces loyal to the pope seized power and put him on trial. When he did not appear, he was banished for two years and given a 5,000 florin fine. When he did not pay, he was condemned to death by burning.
The City Council of Florence has now revoked the death sentence, voting on it 19 votes to 5.

Those who lost the vote argue that it is all a gimmick and, anyway, if Dante had not been exiled on pain of death he would not have written "The Divine Comedy", one of the greatest masterpieces of world literature.

Whether that is a good reason for sentencing someone to death is a moot point. Probably, had he stayed in Florence, Dante would have become so involved with political infighting that he would not have had time to write anything, not even his fascinating political treatise on the relationship between Monarchy and Church, "De Monarchia", a text Tory Historian used many years ago, when teaching History of Political Thought.

Does exile help creativity? An interesting question.

Tory Historian found the following wonderful quotation by the great German statesman, Otto von Bismarck:

People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war or before an election.
There was a man who understood human nature. One can only sigh that he did not remain in charge for some years longer.

Thomas Jefferson maintained that

The loss of the Battle of Waterloo was the salvation of France.
That is probably true but one wonders how many French commentators would be honest enough to admit it.

The story of the Staute of Liberty, a gift from France to the United States of America for the centennial of the Declaration of Independence, is long and complicated. Wikipedia gives a good summary as does the National Park Service.

Tory Historian's first sight of it in real life, as opposed to pictures, newsreeels and the unforgettable sequence in Hitchcock's 1942 film "Saboteur" (not to be confused with the earlier "Sabotage", a rather poor version of Joseph Conrad's "The Secret Agent") was a couple of years after 9/11. A walk along the river bank from Ground Zero was the right preparation for the sight of that statue rising, apparently, from the sea. It was the correct sequence - from despair to hope.

As far as this blog is concerned, what we are noting here is that today is the anniversary of the statue's actual arrival in New York Harbour in 1885 on board the French frigate Isère. Any reader who has not yet seen it is in for a tremendous experience, especially if he or she will include a trip to Ellis Island and a long visit to the museum there, which gives an engrossing account of those arrivals from the Old World.

After an hour or two one can look up and across to the Manhattan skyline and think - this is what those people built when they were no longer tired, poor or huddled masses.

Today's anniversary is one of the least happy ones in English history. On this day in 1667, the Dutch fleet sailed up the Medway and raided Chatham.
The Dutch, under nominal command of Lieutenant-Admiral Michiel de Ruyter, bombarded and captured Sheerness, went up the River Thames to Gravesend, then up the River Medway to Chatham, where they burnt three capital ships and ten lesser naval vessels and towed away the Unity and the Royal Charles, pride and normal flagship of the English fleet. The raid led to a quick end to the war and a favourable peace for the Dutch.
There really is nothing better and clearer than Samuel Pepys's description both of the preceding shambles and of the raid and its effect. Now that one thinks of it, there is rarely anything better than old Sam Pepys's description of whatever happened to take place around him.

The Wikpedia entry also quotes Kipling's poem on the subject, maintaining that it is not entirely accurate. Well, it is not inaccurate either.

Here is a less frequently seen picture of the D-Day invasion. Paras on their way.

Well, to be quite precise, time for another quote from the great Lord Acton. This one is extraordinarily apt for all ages:

If some great catastrophe is not announced every morning, we feel a certain void. Nothing in the paper today, we sigh.
How true, how very true.

Powered by Blogger.




Blog Archive