“Caustic and eccentric, proud of having nothing to live on but his pension after having once been rich, he possessed courage, effrontery, intelligence, contempt for death, and thirst for life.”

The words stopped me. I had to reread them. What a way to be described. Sharp-tongued, not one of the herd, able to let riches go. Courage I understand. Effrontery (shameless boldness) I’d like to emulate. Contempt for death is grander than what I possess. Thirst for life. Primal. Basic. That I would like to have. And who’s being painted thusly? One Marquis de Galliffet, Prince de Martigues, nearly 70, in Barbara Tuchman‘s The Proud Tower. Tuchman, a fine historian, is writing of the political world before World War I…. when the danger of more and more sophisticated weapons and the threat that war between two nations could drag in all the rest were gradually forming on a horizon no one wanted to see.

How will I be described, I wonder? How will you? What legacies am I leaving? Are there only political ones? Surely not. Surely we small ones count for something other than cannon fodder.

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