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“He is the most eloquent man of the age. Public assemblies are swayed by his voice, as the waves are hushed by the crash of the thunder” – about Mirabeau, by himself.

Gabriel Honoré de Riqueti, Comte de Mirabeau, was a revolutionary in the early days of the French Revolution. Despite a ruined reputation from a number of scandals, Mirabeau became a leading voice in the Revolution.

He was a powerful, persuasive figure, but he was also a philanderer, a gambler, and a convict.

He once convinced a prison doctor that it was medically necessary for him to ride a horse on the prison grounds.

He ran away to Amsterdam with a married woman before getting her committed to a convent.

By the Revolution he was plagued with ill health. Mirabeau used to deliver his speeches before the French parliament covered in leech marks, which was the treatment for jaundice.

First published in 1904, Willert does an excellent job of chronicling the life of a man who began his conversations with “pretentious and rather vulgar compliments” and yet had such a “winning smile” that could convince people to do anything.

An intellectual, yet entertaining read.

Paul Ferdinand Willert (1844-1912) was a Fellow of Exeter College, Oxford and a barrister. He also wrote Henry of Navarre and the Huguenots in France and The reign of Lewis XI. He married Henrietta Croft. They had one daughter.

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