by Thomas Flichy de La Neuville
During the period of relative peace which took place during the second half of the eighteenth century, authoritarian seducers vegetated at the periphery of power, contenting themselves with satiating their appetites on female prey. Seduction, the artificial deception of others, had sometimes the attractive face of persuasion. Yet, a sovereign desirous of reigning with justice had to avoid it.
To seduce was namely to imitate Satan, the seducer of the whole world, the homicidal angel and the father of lies. The old covenant granted to the successor of David the spirit of fear of the Lord, but the latter had not been dazzled by “the seductive brilliance of the mighty.”
The theologian and writer Fénelon reminded his illustrious pupil that, in a century where Satan seemed forgotten, the ego remained the great deceiver. A very high virtue was therefore required from the Prince: “The gods, O Telemachus, will ask you more than Idomeneus, because you have known the truth from your youth, and have never been indulged by the seductions of a man.”
However, seduction seemed to progress along with the century. It touched the bodies and the souls. In 1765, a priest published a little book entitled The Cry of Truth against the Seduction of the Century; twenty years later, Fournel published a Treatise on Seduction.
Around 1770, as the crisis emerged, Fenelon wrote: “The submission of inferiors is not enough, we must win the hearts.” Diderot went further, justifying in advance the advent of an empire of seduction: “authority presupposes merit, power, bonds, and empire, ascendant.” In a dazzling intuition, Diderot, felt, however, the danger of his proposal: “A jealous power is formidable.”
Indeed, but it was too late, for authoritarian seducers were already leaving their dark caves in order to seize power. The most famous was naturally the one who had eliminated all his rivals. Like Genghis Khan, the authoritarian seducer Bonaparte had a look that instantly froze his interlocutors. Cambacérès spoke of an eye which went across one’s head. By turns gentle, caressing or imperious, the First Consul knew how to push cynicism and ambition to the very end.
Women were not insensitive to the new sovereign. The Duchess d’Albrantes wrote: “It is difficult, or rather impossible, to restore the charm of his countenance when he smiled with a gentle thought. There was soul on his lips and in his eyes.” The Emperor of Russia who was sensitive to the magical power of his looks said once: “I have loved nothing more than this man.” Following Paul I of Russia, whose passion for Bonaparte was great, Alexander I declared at the end of his reign: “What a career he lost! He could have given peace to Europe, and he did not do it! The charm is broken.”
And thus, despite the formidable machinery of espionage, which provided to Bonaparte timely information about his opponents, the fall was as spectacular as the climb had been artificial. A jealous power is great, but fortunately it only lasts a short time. The authoritarian seducers, who are currently feeling at home on the geopolitical stage, should may be remember this.