Page:Englishmen in the French Revolution.djvu/305

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This book, beginning with 1789 and ending with 1814, covers exactly twenty-five years of Englishmen's experiences in France. That quarter of a century was undoubtedly the most thrilling period of French history, and not a few of our countrymen witnessed the whole of it. Yet we can scarcely envy their lot, for perspective is necessary to appreciate the gravity of events, and the position of spectator had not merely inconveniences but dangers. To us, however, these spectators are interesting as a psychological study. They present as striking contrasts as the Frenchmen among whom they lived. We see generosity and selfishness, enthusiasm and mockery, patriotism and anti-patriotism, fanaticism and calculation, refinement and brutality, curiosity and apathy, jubilation and anguish, fraternal affection and fraternal hatred. We see servility and manliness, human nature at its best and at its worst, now touching the clouds, now grovelling in the mire. For individuals as for nations the Revolution was an ordeal drawing out the brightest and the darkest sides of human character. It was a forcing-house which stimulated