Monday, January 5, 2009


From the life of Ferdinand Lasalle according to Edmund Wilson's To the Finland Station (1940):

"He set himself up in a splendid establishment with, as he boasted, four great reception rooms and with an immense stock of books and wines. And here he entertained those members of the nobility and the fashionable and learned worlds who had the courage to come to see him. A young lady whom he wanted to marry, the daughter of a Russian official, has left an account of his house. The general effect, she says, was not attractive; it was cluttered with a great mixture of furnishings, obviously intended for effect: Turkish divans, wall brackets, bronzes, enormous mirrors, heavy satin hangings, great Japanese and Chinese jars; but his study was serious and simple and showed a more decent taste. He had just published a work on Heraclitus, on which he had been working for years and in which he tried to trace to the Greek philosopher the principles expounded by Hegel, but of which Marx and others have said that it had more bulk and show of learning than content; and he wrote also a blank-verse tragedy on a subject from the Peasant War, an Hegelian work on jurisprudence, and a pamphlet on foreign policy which, though intended to promote the interests of revolution, anticipated Bismarck's design of weakening the power of Austria. He speculated on the Stock Exchange, paid a visit to Garibaldi in Italy, thrashed with his cane a jealous official with whom he had come into conflict over the affections of a married lady, and courted the young Russian lady, whom he had met at Aix-la-Chapelle, writing her a forty-page letter and summoning the Countess back to him, at a time when he could hardly get around except in a wheelchair. He had caught syphilis at twenty-two; it had got into the secondary stage and had never been satisfactorily cured, and now the bones in one of his legs were going. He had as yet no real political role and could only throw his energies away. This was already the end of 1860.

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