The Tiger of France
Clemenceau, the Events of his Life as told by himself to his former Secretary, Jean Martet, translated by Milton Waldman. (Longman, Green. 25s.).
The Tiger. By George Adam. (Cape. 10s. gd.)- " Ah, Greece I You must travel by way of Greece to get any you're going.. . . Now and then in the night, when I'm unable
to sleep, I see Phaistos again. . . . The Egyptians with their pyramids—what were they seeking They may pile stone upon stone, yet even by breaking their backs they cannot hope to scale the Heavens. The Greeks did not look for their solution in space, but in the mind. . . Athens or Rome, what interests me is the way in which races ascend, ascendand at the end of it all, what's left ? It's just the old stay of the sun that sets over and over again mathematically into the water. If you want to form a judgment about anything. you must_ take a view over the ages. . . . When you have ten td- tweritjr centuries spread before you . . . the same causes have the same effects g - you see that the same mob which deetroye4 Athens destroyed. Rome. Everything was said and done in vain ; that's the way of the world."
THAT is M. Clemenceau talking in his old age ; at once cynical and enthusiastic, philosophic and practical. M. Martet reveals a remarkable personality in these sketches, and a tenderer, more lovable and more contradictory Clemenceau than the public imagined during his lifetime. " I can't live without dogs," he says at the age of eighty-seven, " they have such silences " ; and " I have my gymnastic lesson from 8 to 8.45." When visiting his birthplace he chucks old Mere Michouneau under the chin and says he is jealous of, her. " Why ? " she asks. " You've a handsomer mous- tache than I," is the answer. To the last he retained his broad, sometimes brutal, sense of humour, which spared no one, least of all. himself.
There was only one subject on which he did not joke : France. He hated Foch, yet_ he made him Generalissimo and championed him fiercely. He was the man we needed. With Main, a loyal and trustworthy man who behaved *self in exemplary fashion, the War would have lasted another year." Of his defence of Foch's conduct of the War before the Chamber, he says : " I had already perceived his opinion of rne, had already realized that I didn't like hum, that I didn't like people of his kind, in whose souls ability and courage live side by side with—less attractive traits. I defended him because at bottom it was not a question of him or me, but of the country."
" I don't know anyone any more. At times it's frighten- ing," mutters the old Tiger, musing on his life in his little flat in Paris ; " frightening like the desert—and marvellously delightful, like the solitude of high peaks. Those who hadn't left me I've eliminated, gently pushing them by the shoulders and milking them understand that . . . I'm no longer on their planet." Yet in a sense this was the pose of a proud and disappointed man, who " questioned shrimps and sardines " because he had grown tired of men, and who only appeared in public -on rare occasions " as though to pause but for a moment- an the way to his grave." His faculties and his faith—such as it washe kept to the last. His atheism had an ahnost religious quality. He denied God, but he worshipped His flowers, sea, sun, and the land of France. He proclaimed that all was vanity- and vexation of spirit, yet preached and lived a strenuous and simple life of devotion to work.
Friendship and scolding. That's what my life's been made up of. I can't like anyone without scolding him." In these revealing words, Clemenceau discloses his own weakness as well as strength. He was endowed with an extra- ordinary natural facility of expression and great power of work. He was honest, clear-sighted, courageous ; but his stubborn nature made him so many enemies that but for the War he might never have been Premier of France for more than a few months. M. Martet, his secretary during the days of his power, remained his friend and confidant until the end, but only a few devoted followers were admitted to the Tiger's retirement. He licked his wounds and growled in loneliness from his fisherman's but in La 'Vendee, or the. Paris flat.
M. Recouly's Foch was written on the same plan as M. Martet's book, but is not to be compared to the latter for general interest. Every Boswell must have his Johnson ; and the great and good general who led the Allied Armies egtAld not by any stretch, of the imagination be termed a wit. Clemenceau, on the contrary, was all Attic salt. The transla- tion of these sparkling and often memorable conversations is excellent. Mr. Waldman had a difficult, sometimes an impossible, task, but he has not been afraid either of simplicity or slang. This is one of the most entertaining and interesting biographical sketches that we have read for a long times
Neither M. Martet, however, nor Mr. Adam can be con_ sidered as authoritative biographers. M. Martet has had access to the Clemenceau pipers, and may in the course of time give us a connected account of the troubled early years and fighting prime of his subject : so far ire 'have only jottings and justifications, brilliant and provocative, but not a life.
Mr. Adam has sketched in the outlines of his picture with a practised pencil, and if he has done no more, it is not his fault. The crash of the Second Empire, the riots'of 1870, the Crimean and Austrian and Franco-Prussian Wars, the Dreyfus case, Jaures, Caillaux, the Great War pass in review, but what of Clemenceau the man ? Is it too early to tell of his American marriage ? Of the duels he fought ? Of his friendships with the intellectual leaders of his age ? Of the intrigues which deprived him of the Presidency ? Perhaps it is. Mr. Adam has the wisdom to set himself limitations ; within his chosen boundaries he has made a valuable sketch of a dynamic man and time. Those who come after must fill in the details.