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This review is from: Memoirs of the Duc De Saint-Simon: 1691-1709 v.1: 1691-1709 Vol 1 (Lost Treasures) (Paperback)
This book, and its two companion volumes, should come with a health warning; it is utterly addictive.
Saint-Simon was undoubtedly a terrible snob, concerned for his own position, jealous of upstarts, critical of the royal family and especially the illegitimate part, and concerned that everything was getting irretrievably worse.
But he was also a brilliant observer, able to skewer someone's character in a few choice phrases when he thinks it necessary, but also genuinely warm to those who deserve it. He is actually a deeply moral and humane man, and that is one of the qualities which makes his memoirs compelling: he isn't out just to put everyone down; rather he cares about what is happening around him. And he makes us care too.
My reaction to him is similar to that to Pepys: his human frailties, foibles and fables on the one hand and his concern to serve his country on the other make a mixture which is irresistable, partly because, although it's in a very different time and culture, what he has to say is familiar to anyone who has ever thought about life, or become aware of its ambiguities. He holds up a mirror, and we can see ourselves, and people who are as familiar as our familes, friends and neighbours.
Forget the soap-operas: this is much more dramatic; and it has the advantage of being real.