Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science.  Die fröhliche Wissenschaft.

First published in 1882.

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Chamfort.

That such a judge of men and of the multitude as Chamfort should side with the multitude, instead of standing apart in philosophical resignation and defence I am at a loss to explain this, except as follows: There was an instinct in him stronger than his wisdom, and it had never been gratified : the hatred against all noblesse of blood ; perhaps his mother's old and only too explicable hatred, which was consecrated in him by love of her, an instinct of revenge from his boyhood, which waited for the hour to avenge his mother.  But then the course of his life, his genius, and alas!  most of all, perhaps, the paternal blood in his veins, had seduced him to rank and consider himself equal to the noblesse for many, many years!  In the end, however, he could not endure the sight of himself, the "old man " under the old regime, any longer ; he got into a violent, penitential passion, and in this state he put on the raiment of the populace as his special kind of hair shirt!  His bad conscience was the neglect of revenge.  If Chamfort had then been a little more of the philosopher, the Revolution would not have had its tragic wit and its sharpest sting ; it would have been regarded as a much more stupid affair, and would have had no such seductive influence on men's minds.  But Chamfort's hatred and revenge educated an entire generation ; and the most illustrious men passed through his school.  Let us but consider that Mirabeau looked up to Chamfort as to his higher and older self, from whom he expected (and endured) impulses, warnings, and condemnations, Mirabeau, who as a man belongs to an entirely different order of greatness, as the very foremost among the states man geniuses of yesterday and to day.  Strange, that in spite of such a friend and advocate we possess Mirabeau's letters to Chamfort this wittiest of all moralists has remained unfamiliar to the French, quite the same as Stendhal, who has perhaps had the most penetrating eyes and ears of any Frenchman of this century.  Is it because the latter had really too much of the German and the Englishman in his nature for the Parisians to endure him?  while Chamfort, a man with ample knowledge of the profundities and secret motives of the soul, gloomy, suffering, ardent a thinker who found laughter necessary as the remedy of life, and who almost gave himself up as lost every day that he had not laughed, seems much more like an Italian, and related by blood to Dante and Leopardi, than like a French man.  One knows Chamfort's last words: "Ah!  mon ami" he said to Sieyes, u je m'en vais enfin de ce monde, ou il faut que le coeur se brise ou se bronze."  These were certainly not the words of a dying Frenchman.  
 

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