I took a break from Upham to start Hilaire Belloc‘s The French Revolution. He blames Carnot for everything, really, and as a Frenchman I suppose he has the right. But his comments on Marat give me a great deal of thought.
“He was often right when he denounced a political intriguer: he often would have sacrificed a victim not unjustly condemned, he often discovered an agent partially responsible, and even the violent solutions that he suggested were not always impracticable. But it was the prime error of his tortured mind that beyond victims, and sudden violent clutches at the success of democracy, there was nothing else he could conceive. He was incapable of allowing for imperfections, for stupidities, for the misapprehension of mind by mind, for the mere action of time, and for all that renders human life infinitely complex and infinitely adjustable.”
Excerpt From: Hilaire Belloc. “The French Revolution”.
His two short portraits of Marat and Robespierre are bookends of a sort; they present personalities immediately recognizable in the age of social media as well. Plus ça change, and all that.
Belloc was a Catholic apologist, an anti-Semite, didn’t believe in evolution, and probably would be a Gamergater if alive today, so if you want to read, be warned. I find him funny, but it’s the raging bigots who have a gift for comedy you have to watch out for. That aside, I’m always game for French Revolution histories, and he’s witty enough in places to be a smooth read. When I finish it I’ll go back to Upham; it’s not quite a palate cleanser so much as a different taste to provide complexity.