Posted in anecdotes, history, tagged Benny Thomas, Child rearing, Emile, glimpses of greatness, Oliver Cromwell, plato, Republic, Rousseau, series, warts and all on October 5, 2012|
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The title is a popular mis-quote attributed to Oliver Cromwell. The Great Protector of Great Britain was to sit for a portrait by the famous portrait painter of his time, -Peter Lely and he cautioned him thus: ‘Mr.Lely, I desire you would use your skill to paint my picture truly like me and not flatter me at all; but remark all these roughnesses, pimples,warts and everything as you see me,otherwise I will never pay a farthing for it.’ (1675?)
In this series I hope to write foibles and follies of great personages of history. These are not biographical sketches but light and shades that reveal their personal lives. Some of the subjects have been already covered in the Pen-Portraits.
Jean Jacques Rousseau(1712-1778)
Rousseau did not consider he would be able to rear children though he wrote Emile(1762) a classic book on education. His five children born to his wife Therese le Vasseur he delivered to the Paris’ Foundling Hospital. The circumstances under which Rousseau was living may have convinced him he was unfit to be a role model. In his defense it must be said that his own painful experiences must have lent his weight to his apparent heartlessness. Later in his twilight years he tried to explain his actions in his Confessions.
“my error was such that, in handing over my children to the State to educate, for want of means to bring them up myself, in deciding to fit them for becoming workmen and peasants rather than adventurers and fortune-hunters, I thought I was
behaving like a citizen and a father, and considered myself a member of Plato’s Republic. More than once since then, the regrets of my heart have told me that I was wrong: but ,far from my reason having given me the same information, I have often blessed Heaven for having preserved them from their father’s lot.’
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History is the march of events in a perspective.
History is made in context of something else.
History is made by man on whom other life forms as well as inanimate objects can also work. Socrates ended his life drinking hemlock and Cleopatra by a bite of asp are but a few examples. A man like Caesar afflicted with falling sickness might in time lose his judgment and that might hasten his end in an unexpected manner. In short man who makes history can never be seen isolated from his world.
History is made in time and space.
Since history is made by man certain primary impulses in man would always take the steering wheel. Championing the cause of the weak for example. In ancient Rome around 113 BC the Grachii brothers stood for land reforms that would have given land to the veterans who served the republic in wars. Then as now. The vested interests of those who had plenty of land saw to that the brothers were done away with. (ref:note below)
These two brothers were concerned with the underlying injustice of the political system but in a space of decade had to appeal to two different sets of people viz., plebians and publicans. Our basic impulses have to lock in with time and place in order to be relevant.
History is correct timing.
( to be continued)
Note: Historical background
The Gracchi brothers were a pair of tribunes in 2nd century BC who attempted to pass land reform legislation in Ancient Rome that would redistribute the major patrician landholdings among the plebeians.
In 133 BC, two brothers, Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus, became agents of reform. They were both well connected with the ruling elite and descendants of Scipio Africanus. The political issue was land reform. The small peasant farmer was being pushed off the land by rich landowners.
When Tiberius Gracchus’s proposal came to a vote, masses of rural people, seeing opportunity for economic advancement, entered Rome to support the proposal. In addition, as head of this movement, Tiberius found himself necessarily replacing an opposing tribune already in office. The proposal passed and the situation returned to almost normal, except that Tiberius was going to need re-election to stay in office.
When the day of election arrived Tiberius’s supporters were lacking and, worse, his opponents caused a fight in the assembly and killed Tiberius Gracchus.
Ten years later, Tiberius’s brother, Gaius, took the same office as his brother, as a tribune for the plebeians. Gaius however, appealed to a different set of supporters, the publicans. They were in charge of tax-collecting in Asia and of contracting for construction projects. The equestrian class would get to control a court that tried senators for misconduct in provincial administration. In effect, the equestrians replaced senators already serving at the court. Thus, Gaius became an opponent of senatorial influence.(ack:wikipedia)
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