THE DIALOGUE IN HELL BETWEEN MACHIAVELLI AND MONTESQUIEU -- ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Early television had a show, Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour, and Ted himself acted as impresario for all the talent that graced this deservedly acclaimed and widely watched telecast. There appeared a nervous little girl from Hoboken who shed her nervousness as she passed deeper into raucous song -- Lady of Spain -- hands simultaneously pumping and gliding along the keys of her accordion, as body rocked on tapping feet. She concluded to much applause and Ted asked the girl her name and if she would like to thank anyone. On cue, she set into her "thank-yous." It began with her parents and continued in machine gun fashion. The television audience could hear "and Aunt Bertha and Uncle Sam." It was all gathering speed, as she was about to descend into cousins, teachers, schoolmates, then friends, neighbors, and domestic pets. But Ted intervened and our little lady of Spain faded from the screen. He was obliged to cut away to pitch for an American elixir that promised the elderly faithful, nodding before magnified television screens, "to feel stronger ... fast!"
When I worked in the State Legislature of Massachusetts, I remember very well a conversation I had with an old "pol," who was unsurpassed in his knowledge of how "the Game" was played "up there on Beacon Hill." He told me: "Never get into any long list of 'thank-yous.' The ones you thank don't give a (expletive deleted) and the ones you don't remember to thank get ticked off."
The wisdom of the "pol" is probably unassailable and I risk being classed among the "re-tahds," which, in case you don't know, was State House for persons of very meager intelligence. But I stand with the kid from Hoboken. The heart too has to have its say and I'm willing to risk ridicule and take some time doing it.
I would first like to thank Prof. David Lowenthal. I remember the day the secretary, with uncharacteristic formality, summoned me to "The Chairman's Office." I had many a "summons" in numerous other such offices through the years.
For example, I had never quite made "The Dean's List" as an undergraduate but my name periodically found a place on a certain Dean's list. It was this the Dean himself waved at me while peering over spectacles. And if my name appeared again on it, he would be forced to take the "appropriate action" that he threatened the last time. The same anecdote could be recounted about my whole sophomore year in high school. I was being watched. Another town, another sheriff. And if I didn't mend my ways, I was being told again, I'd have to pack up and get out of Dodge. To escape such ignominy and avoid taking precipitate leave from friends, I vowed to the Dean right there and then to attend all my classes. And I'm sure I did, for a while.
You can understand how I was momentarily disoriented by the novelty of what Professor Lowenthal was asking. I was, I marveled, being invited to stay on at a school. I joined the Ph.D. program at Boston College. Little did David know, but that day ranks as one of the happier days of my life. I subsequently learned my Montesquieu from him, but even more, he introduced me to Shakespeare and made him a lifetime companion. Can anyone think of a more precious gift?
Professor Lowenthal's invitation allowed me to study with the likes of Christopher Bruell, Robert Faulkner, Father Ernest Fortin, David Manwaring, and Robert Scigliallo, among others. Only someone fortunate enough truly to have had a real teacher can appreciate the gratitude I feel. We at Boston College had many. From them, I learned many sublime things but I also learned to think manfully about certain harsher necessities. We were a Political Science Department, after all.
I later even taught at Boston College. Bob Faulkner imaginatively designed courses for me that I could plausibly teach. He knew I was facing the job market and my thin resume needed some strategic padding.
Unlike many of my more gifted friends and acquaintances, I was not compelled to philosophic studies by keen intellect. I was rather drawn to certain men and women already engaged in them. It was a longish process that tentatively started at Cornell, but was interrupted when all hell broke loose. It also began with great skepticism. I was drawn to them by something inchoate in me which I was not even completely aware of at the time.
And as I subsequently knew these people better and heard them talk, I wanted to be like them. So, on any measure of existential "authenticity," I merit a bad failing grade and wouldn't even try to talk my way around it. They proved to be very wise, appropriately "tough," and like Bob Faulkner, incredibly kind. As with one's parents, I came to call them all by their first names. I am to this day, and in advanced years, still self-conscious in doing so. It somehow affronts the respect I feel for them.
I would also like to thank the people I lived with in the course of my studies. This includes Abe Shulsky, still the smartest individual I have ever met. It also includes Wayne Ambler, Michael Kieselbach, Roger Karz and the late Jim Leake. What a disparate set of hombres. I look back to them all with affection and gratitude for having shared in their special lives.
Wayne is my oldest friend with whom I'm still fortunate to have regular contact. We literally grew up together, intellectually and otherwise. I invited him to my small apartment when I first came to Boston College. It was for a long weekend, mainly to hear Chris Bruell's seminar on Plato's Laws. He immediately enrolled and stayed roughly eight years, both at B.C. and my apartment. We sat in on just about every course Chris subsequently offered. Chris's mind is the most powerful I've ever encountered. Time flew in his seminars. For a brief, exhilarating moment I would be conscious of thinking at higher levels. It is difficult to describe the power and charm of such a mind, set off by an understated manner and quiet humor.
I often wondered what the administration thought about him. A hapless teacher, no doubt. This was because there were typically only two or three graduate students, brave souls, officially registered in his courses. Yet, his classrooms were always full. I remember on more than one occasion hunting for chairs to accommodate the auditors -- anyone within driving distance of his classroom, who, like me, my roommates, and friends, sought the privilege of spending a couple of hours with Xenophon and Plato.
Wayne's misfortune is to have installed his family in Italy a trifle late. He missed the "great Alfonso," who ruled Naples toward the middle of the fifteenth century. Il Magnifico commissioned one Poggio for an unheard of sum (five hundred pieces of gold, to be exact) to translate Xenophon's Cyropaedia. But that was then and now is now. At any rate, I'm sure that Poggio's translation cannot hold a candle to Wayne's.
I would also like to mention and thank Richard Crosby. As with Wayne, the friendship goes back to undergraduate days and has been recently renewed. As an older student back then, he benevolently tried to shape my education. He introduced me to good scotch, great books, and good music. And one part of his lessons, it has to be said, took immediate and fast hold. He also introduced me to Joly and we worked on a translation together for a short time.
While I am at it, I would like to thank Stuart Appelbaum, my best friend and roommate from undergraduate years. To no other person have I ever so unburdened my heart. Though it was an adolescent one, it is, despite encroaching old age and much water under the bridge, still the same one. He would probably be curious to know.
I had come to think that friendship, like love, were mainly affairs for the young. I found an exception in Terence Marshall. Some of my fondest memories of France involve him and his wife, Annie, sitting around a table in Paris or Arcachon about to tuck into French foods, wine, and cheeses. From the very first, Terry was solicitous of my welfare. I had to find appropriate employment. He had me to talk about Joly at the University of Paris and arranged for other speaking engagements on other topics at other universities. If we shook the tree hard enough, an employment "plum" might fall my way. He put me into contact with delightful and very able people.
He is a kind of older brother to me, and had to show me how to survive in France. He has an inflated impression of my talents and I am flattered by this and the kindness he shows me. Who wouldn't be? For me, he is the model of a scholar. But he shows that good humor, in both senses of the term, are compatible with his serious occupations.
We often would gather late Friday afternoons at his apartment to grouse about American politics, French politics, and Franco- American relations. We are very good at these things and there was always much to talk about. We also did justice to the bottle of "unblended" that sat before us. I have had some nibbles through the years regarding publications of my book. But it is thanks to Terry and his connections that it will see the light of day.
I do not have an Aunt Bertha or an Uncle Sam. But I do have an Uncle Jim and an Aunt Margot and would also like to thank them for their interest in me and my education. My debt to my parents is beyond words.
It is an honor to be involved in any project, as I am at Rowman & Littlefield, under the aegis of the likes of Daniel Mahoney and Harvey Mansfield. The latter is the world's greatest interpreter of Machiavelli and the teacher of thinkers I most admire. Of him it can be said: "he is among those who have truly read and understood Machiavelli." The former is becoming one of our most important political thinkers. I share this opinion with the French thinker I most admire, by the way.
I would also like to thank Gilbert Hamamjian at the French Cultural Center in Cairo. Let me explain. It fell to Gilbert to help me prepare my manuscript for what in publishing jargon is called "camera ready" condition. He stands on soil where his great countryman Champollion stood, and, like him, shows incredible patience and genius in deciphering exotic texts.
Computers bought in Cairo have Arabic as the operating mode. A few clicks, he showed me, would bring it into conformity with more familiar tongues. Once, near the end of my long labors, the manuscript suddenly seized. All was instantly transformed into a potpourri of English, French, and Arabic. Accents, aigus et graves, appeared everywhere. Snake like configurations were being emitted at a terrifying rate and were marching across the pages from right to left. Mayday! Mayday! I stabbed the escape key repeatedly with my index finger, as he once counseled me to do. This seemed to make things worse. The squiggles were carrying the day. Mind and pulse raced. For some strange reason I thought of Samuel P. Huntington as the Western languages succumbed. Was this what they talked about when they talked about a deadly virus? And yet I had not opened any electronic mail, which beckoned "I love you" from Manila, or anywhere else, I assure you. (Sickos.) I was face to face with something all my Egyptian acquaintances (including the auto mechanic of the twenty-three-year-old Chrysler I drive) were very loath to admit even existed. Yes, I had a mushkila, big time. In case you don't know, mushkila is Arabic for "problem."
With phone tucked under chin, I composed myself and made a call to Gilbert. "It is normal," he blandly assured me. It was not "normal." "Obviously, all is foutu," I shouted, as if it was his fault. I was sure the manuscript was right then hurtling through cyberspace to that irretrievable bin out there in virtual reality that had inhaled my resume, and other documents of greater and lesser importance. Efforts to correct the mushkila over the phone came to naught. I watched him descend from his cab and I could read the thoughts settling in his mind, as he made his way into the apartment. "The woman is normale but ce mec is really bizarre. How is it that these people are the last hyperpower? It is strange, no?" But he saluted me, as always, in a friendly manner. He made house calls on more than one occasion, and I greeted him like I used to greet the French doctor in the night. First time authors would all be lucky to have a Gilbert.
I would also like to thank the many foundations for their generous support through my long labors. But, unfortunately, I can't. And this brings me to the main reason I am writing these acknowledgments.
There is a simply horrible piece of "folk wisdom" I have heard recounted on more than one occasion here. I can be forgiven retelling it since my openness to all foreign cultures is by now obvious. After all, I worked in the Boston State House for more than five years. It advises that when you go home at night, men, beat your wives! Because even if you don't know why, it is reasoned, they certainly do. My wife has suffered from everything except beatings. In a twist on the above, I would like now to thank her for all the things I know about, and the millions of others she does for us, of which I'm not aware.
I've come to realize that the few good things I've done in life were done because of her. If I flatter myself that this book is among them, it is because it is largely hers. I started it because of her, work was sustained on it because of her, and it was brought to completion because of her.
At cocktail or dinner parties, an innocente would sometimes intone, "What are you writing about?" I would launch into my subject. Ready to pass into a higher gear, I would suddenly be brought to a stall by a swift kick to the shin under the table. It was Sylviane's foot and it acted in deference to host and hostess. She was also intervening once again to save me from myself. She had seen guests' eyes glaze over, jaws slacken, and spoons discreetly being put back to rest on the table. I still think that Joly is important, as is obvious. But by her acts, I've come to look at my book in more realistic terms. It has been a painful lesson that has been delivered forcefully on several occasions. She always steps in when my enthusiasms or moroseness take a dangerous and ridiculous turn.
I never wanted to be misunderstood about such a thing, so I've never breathed this to any other human soul. But, you see, I too have a daimonion. I dedicate my book to it. And I hope that this once she figures out that I'm not kidding her.