IT is remarkable that the men who emerged from the war with the greatest claims to leadership were old men. When the war broke out Clemenceau— was 74 and playing a minor part in polities, Hindenburg was 67 and on the retired list, Foch, regarded by many as an undependable theorist, was 63, Woodrow Wilson was 57, and Lloyd George, the junior of them all, was a young Chancellor of the Exchequer of 51. What, it has been asked, was the source of power which, notably in the instance of Hindenburg, Foch, and Clemenceau, survived in these ancients, and which gave them, as to no other of their countrymen, a domination and a saving courage at the time of crisis?
In the case of Clemenceau, the answer is in print, partly to be found in his own Grandeur and Misery of Victory, partly in that spirited and at times touching prose portrait of the Tiger by his friend and secretary, Jean Martet (Clemenccau; Longmans, Green, $5.00). Picturesquely Mr. Martet, with his table talk with Clemenceau, his Boswellian dialogues and his Gallic asides, contrives to make us hear and see his old chief in his last two years, throwing off those sparks which, even now and in translation, jolt us as though we had touched a live wire. Thus warmed up by Clemenceau at his ease and full of wit, one is better disposed to appreciate the bitter struggle at which the secretary is ever hinting and which comes to a head in Grandeur and Misery of Victory.
It has been said that Clemenceau the fighter —is far better known for his enemies than for his friends. To see him full length, then, it is important to remember that when at the outset he practised medicine his patients paid him so seldom that his earnings for one year netted him $190; that he saved a would-be assassin from a death sentence; that he is the author of plays, novels, an appreciation of his close friend, Claude Monet, and two volumes of philosophy; it is important, before going on to Clemenceau’s volume, to remember these three quotations from Martet’s book. Clemenceau is speaking:—
‘Gentle and kindly men are pleasant to have about, but in general they don’t create masterpieces. Soak yourself in Greece, Martet. It’s something that’s sustained me in trouble. When I was weary of all the imbecilities and futilities of which polities is composed, I turned my spirit towards Greece. Others went fishing. To each his own way. . . .’ And again, ‘I have always been surrounded by a lot of people who would very much have liked to see me dead, and who wished for my destruction with a kind of mystic delirium. . . .’ And again, ‘My people have always lived in the Vendée. And it’s odd: I love the Vendéens. They are good. They have an ideal. And to defend that ideal they have something obstinate, limited, and savage in them — which I like. It was n’t the nobles who made the wars in the Vendée; it was the peasants who sought them out and said, “Lead us!”’
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