Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO LADY THERESA LEWIS. - Memoir, Letters, and Remains of Alexis de Tocqueville, vol. 2
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TO LADY THERESA LEWIS. - Alexis de Tocqueville, Memoir, Letters, and Remains of Alexis de Tocqueville, vol. 2 
Memoir, Letters, and Remains of Alexis de Tocqueville. Translated from the French by the translator of Napoleon’s Correspondence with King Joseph. With large Additions. In Two Volumes (London: Macamillan, 1861). 2 vols.
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TO LADY THERESA LEWIS.
Paris, May 6, 1857.
I have been absent from Paris, Madame, for some days, and I have turned my leisure to profit by reading through attentively the book which you sent to me,* and I have great pleasure in describing the impression which it has left on me.
The historical period to which you have devoted yourself has always, as I think you know, especially interested me. I have read much on it; but I can sincerely say, that no history ever painted it to me so vividly as your biographies. They make me feel that I live in a real world, in the midst of the details which form the peculiar physiognomy of an epoch. I might venture, perhaps, to accuse you of having almost superstitiously sought for truth in the minutest particulars, if such a defect were not incidental to one of the rarest of merits. I had rather praise the admirable impartiality, which makes you anxious rather to find and to exhibit the truth, than to adorn it. You resemble in this rather one of our old celebrated Benedictines than a charming woman of the world. But what our Benedictines could not do, was to estimate with your wonderful good sense, tact, and impartial justice, the facts so patiently collected and described.
I never saw better, never indeed so well, the causes of the great Civil War of 1640, the spirit of those who took part in it, the circumstances which enabled it to begin, to go on, and to last for so long, and the forms, thoroughly English and aristocratic, in which human passions then exhibited themselves. Your biographies show the truth of your remark, that no two things can be more unlike than your Revolution of 1640 and ours of 1789. No two things, in fact, can be more unlike than the state of your society and of ours at those two periods. These differences, added to those between the character and the education of the two nations, are such that the two events do not admit of even comparison.
When your revolution broke out, you still preserved, in spite of the progress of knowledge, all the powerful social organization of the middle ages. The most enlightened classes were always masters of themselves, and decided for themselves the events. They were divided; they were opposed to one another, and they fought; but never, for a single day, did they abdicate. The consequences were, less boldness of intention, less violence of action, and a regularity, a mildness, even a courtesy, admirably described by you, which showed itself even in the employment of physical force. If what then passed in England is to be compared, not as to the substance, but as to the details, with any event in France, it must be with the Fronde. The passions which excited the Fronde were as wretched, and its results were as ridiculous, as the characters of the men of your Great Rebellion were grand and its results important. But, as respects the conduct towards each other of the opponents, even in the hot blood of battle, their mutual respect, kindness, and generosity, the two civil wars were alike; and your 1640 resembles much more our 1648 than our 1793.
Nothing in your work struck me more than your power of throwing yourself into the current of the thoughts and feelings of those days, so as to show what were the real motives of men so different from ourselves. One sentiment especially, dead in the hearts of our generation, lives in your pages, the idolatry of royalty which made obedience noble, and the greatest sacrifices, not merely to a principle, but to the person of the sovereign, easy. Throughout the world this sentiment is going; in France, it is gone. Even its traces have disappeared. You give to it its real power and importance. I recognised it with a pleasing remembrance, for it is associated with my earliest infancy. At this day, I remember, as if it were still before me, an evening in my father’s château, when some family rejoicing had brought together a large number of our near relations. The servants were gone, and we sat round the fire. My mother, whose voice was sweet and touching, began to sing a well-known royalist song, of which the sorrows of Louis XVI. and his death were the subject. When she ended, we were all in tears; not for our own misfortunes, not even for the loss of so many of our own blood, who had perished on the field of civil war and on the scaffold, but for the fate of a single man, who had died fifteen years before, and whom few of us who wept for him had ever seen. But this man had been our King.
Forgive, Madame, my bringing you back to times which will never return; and forgive this ill-connected letter. It proves, at least, the uninterrupted interest with which I have read your book. I owe to it emotions and reflections; two obligations, for which I am most grateful. I wish that I could be sure of being able soon to thank you in person. I hope, but not confidently, to be able to do so. Kind remembrances to Sir G. C. Lewis, and to your children.
[*]“Friends and Contemporaries of the Lord Chancellor Clarendon.”