Notes & Remembrances, 1871-1872

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1st Edition

240 x 160 mm. 144pp ... [In stock in Australia, for immediate delivery]

Ludovic Halevy's notes recorded his observations of the terrible civil war in France in 1871, and the violent destruction of the Commune of Paris by the armed forces of the National Assembly based temporarily in Versailles. In his day, Halevy was known primarily as a novelist and a librettist, especially for the popular works by Offenbach and Bizet. It may be that the vivid aspects of the savage fighting, of the fires set deliberately by the radicals of Paris, and the harsh legal reprisals in the aftermath, were portrayed more effectively by a man of the theatre than they were by conventional historians. That dramatic character makes this book attractive to the general reader of history and provides the student of history a rare inside story.

Halevy wrote not merely as a witness, but as an insider. Before achieving financial independence as a librettist, he was employed as chief secretary-editor of the Legislative Body in the Second Empire, where he gained a mastery of quick note-taking as he kept the records of parliamentary debates. The position allowed him to appraise the worth of a multitude of political figures, whether Bonapartists, monarchists, or republicans, without public adherence to any partisan cause.

Even though he became a friend and admirer of the president of the chamber and half-brother of Napoleon III, Halevy was not an ally of the Bonapartists. Instead, one finds expressions of esteem for individuals, notably for Thiers, a liberal monarchist, and for Gambetta, a liberal republican. Generally he revealed an aversion for politicians and their necessary compromises, and doubts about the wisdom of granting universal suffrage. This made him, by 19th-century standards, a liberal rather than a democrat.

It becomes clear that Halevy regretted the passing of monarchy, constitutional monarchy to be sure, as explaining the instability of subsequent French governments: the result of the downfall of traditional legitimate authority. That sentiment was confirmed by visits to England where he saw change and reform within a monarchical framework, and a monarch benefiting from universal allegiance.

The frivolous subjects of Offenbach's light operas, wildly popular in their day, have been cited often as proof of a decadent or irresponsible public. As a result, today's audiences miss what a contemporary audience recognised: that the regime and its creatures were the butt of deadly criticism. That conformed to Halevy's persistent melancholia, a deep doubt about the future, which could only have been reinforced by those scenes in 1871 he recorded on his outings with pencils and notebook.

Roger L. Williams is retired from the University of Wyoming.
^ Biography & Autobiography ^

(9780874130850)

SKU 9780874130850
Barcode # 9780874130850
Artist / Author Ludovic HALEVY

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