The ancien regime: here comes everybody

More virtuous and religious monarchists may be scandalized, but I’m actually pleased with the fact that the old order was able to hold the allegiance of some very colorful public sinners.  Consider Giacomo Casanova:

If any one person was responsible for defaming Casanova, it was Laforgue, a revolutionary sympathizer, atheist and fundamentalist bigot. He didn’t just correct Casanova’s French but removed passages he disapproved of, softened Casanova’s conservative political stance and toned down what he regarded as obscenity while spicing up passages that he thought dull. The result was published in twelve volumes between 1826 and 1838. And so Casanova, bowdlerized, buttoned into a garish suit that did not fit him, faced his public…

He emerges as a man of many contradictions: a freethinker and staunch Catholic, a sceptical rationalist and a practising necromancer, a free spirit and establishment boot-licker, a man of principle and an opportunist, a scoundrel, a snob, both coward and hero, at ease with persons of every class, generous, mean, clever and stupid, a cheat who was gullible, a con man who was easily fooled…

He never developed a philosophy of his own, but was quick to see the flaws in the philosophies of others. He told Voltaire to his face that his war on superstition was wrong-headed: teach a man to believe in nothing and he will, as Chesterton would later observe, believe in anything. Rare among his contemporaries, he saw that Rousseau was a masochist who planned a world tailored to suit his failings. Politically, he loved kings, but conceded that whatever the regime the common people invariably suffer. He loathed the French Revolution, which destroyed his world, and hated the violent terrorist Robes­pierre whom he regarded as the fundamentalist spawn of the disturbed “visionary”, Rousseau.

But kings were not, of course, the only people he loved. About 10 per cent of his autobiography is taken up by his service to Eros…

2 Responses

  1. I would take Maurras over Cassanova because he was more virtuous than he is.

  2. […] has a hopeful revision on Casanova. In a Precondition for a meaningful democracy, posits that two competing elites could agree to let […]

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