Home > Uncategorized > Maxime Du Camp: Gautier, war filled him with horror

Maxime Du Camp: Gautier, war filled him with horror

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

French writers on war and peace

Théophile Gautier: One could imagine oneself in the Golden Age of Peace

Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve: Théophile Gautier, lover of peace

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Maxime du Camp
From Théophile Gautier
Translated by G. E. Gordon

Like most dreamers, he was rather prone to admire men of action, and yet all violence was repugnant to him; war filled him with horror, and revolutions made him despair. His ideal was not of this world, he wished for a state of civilisation where intelligence, beauty, and the arts were honoured, and where every effort would have been towards expansion of mind, a sort of abbey of Thelema, on the shores of some peaceful gulf, under the shelter of groves of lemon-trees, in view of the Parthenon. He was born like that, and could not help it, that is why he felt oppressed, and suffered; rebellion would have been useless, and a struggle absurd; he knew that, and resigned himself.

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The dream was too beautiful that was to delude his old age. He was living in the fairyland of his dream when there came a rough change of scene, and the poor poet foundered in the disaster in which France nearly perished. The war, the fourth of September Revolution, the siege of Paris, and the Commune overwhelmed him. He took two years to die of it, but he did die of it, and he was not the only one who had no longer any wish to live, after so many misfortunes. If he did not despair of our country, he was made desperate by her heroic sufferings; he heard the little children crying for hunger, he saw Paris burning, he visited the ruins of our homes and monuments….How can this civilisation of which we are so proud conceal such barbarism? We should have thought that after so many centuries the wild beast in man would have been better tamed.

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If his calm, and above all benevolent character had not made him pacific he would have been a formidable person, but no man was less quarrelsome than he, all violent discussion seemed to him an outrage to human dignity, for he philosophically looked upon composure as a virtue.

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