Benjamin Constant: A Biography by Dennis Wood

By Dennis Wood

`For 40 years i've got defended a similar precept: freedom in every thing, in faith, in philosophy, in literature, in undefined, in politics - and by means of freedom I suggest the triumph of the individual.' consistent hence summarized his ideals on the finish of his lifestyles. A political theorist and a passionate defender of person liberty, he was once additionally the writer of 1 of the best French novels of mental perception, Adolphe. In an important new biography Dennis wooden lines the advance of continuing as a author centrally preoccupied with the problematics of freedom, not just within the fields of politics and non secular trust but additionally in his personal stricken courting with a number of girls.

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55 In a family marked by extremes of diffidence and indecisiveness on the one hand and of stiff-necked authoritarianism on the other Rosalie was an exemplar of reasonableness and clear thinking. In her friendship with her cousin Benjamin, who was nine years her junior, she could be relied on for her unsentimental kindness and support as well as for needle-sharp home truths about his character and behaviour. She had a Calvinist’s unswerving respect for the truth, however uncomfortable that was at times, but also a modesty about her own Benjamin constant 32 worth which added greatly to the force of her observations.

His boisterousness was taking over from his intellect and, as he was allowed a great deal of Benjamin constant 36 freedom, he sometimes came out with strange things which people took to be marks of genius. But as his boisterousness diminishes, so do his apparent gifts, and all that is now left is a great love of study. You will see him and judge him similarly. It is true that my mother has written some very harsh things, and that my fear of being contradicted by her and of the many problems she might cause me encouraged me to come to England—something I had long had the intention of doing—in order to be free and undisturbed: those are the things I need in order to be able to continue to supervise my son’s studies.

57 In 1782 Constant was 14 years of age, Rosalie 23. It is not inconceivable that at such an age Constant felt a kind of calf-love for his cousin of which he was ashamed, but which experience of the world and relationships with other women helped him to overcome. This is, at least, one of the possible inferences to be drawn from the Lettres de d’Arsillé fils, the unfinished autobiographical novel which Constant was later to write in collaboration with Isabelle de Charrière. But there is no evidence of this elsewhere, and it remains pure speculation.

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