Clemenceau and the Third Republic

By J. Hampden Jackson | Go to book overview

Chapter 5
The Making of a Mind

CLEMENCEAU'S POLITICAL CAREER was to all appearances ended. No question of contesting another election could arise; the verdict of the Var was unequivocal. There was nothing to fall back on. His private life had gone to pieces: he had no family -- his marriage was broken, his wife returned to America and his children grown up. He had few friends, and those were not in high places. Now that he had lost his salary as deputy, he had no income, only debts. At the age of fifty-two, he had to make a new start in life.

The challenge revivified Clemenceau. He was out of politics: very well, he must make a new career for himself. Somebody, probably Edmond de Goncourt, suggested writing. The idea was not immediately attractive. Clemenceau had scarcely written a paragraph for publication since his correspondence from America, and that was twenty-three years ago. As editor of La Justice he had left the drudgery of writing to Pelletan, Geoffry and the others. His own form of expression was the spoken word -- the debating speech, the impromptu remark, the boutade. Writing, on the other hand, was a serious business. It demanded meditation, and Clemenceau had never meditated. It was a craft, requiring an apprenticeship, and Clemenceau had served no regular apprenticeship except in medicine. It was an art, and no one had ever suggested that Clemenceau had it in him to be an artist. Again, writing was a solitary business, and Clemenceau had seemed incapable of being alone. He had lived his whole life in company; he had worked, so far as he had worked at all, in a crowded consultingroom, in the arena of the Chamber or in the delectable hubbub of a newspaper office. He had always needed an interlocutor, preferably an opponent, to strike a spark

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