I read a Danish translation of Carlyle's two-piece work, it is Uffe Birkedal who is a translator – he is very generous with many footnotes. It is from 1926; the opening is fantastic and about the aging King Louis XV lying dead – and no one in France cares, deprived of court, the king's son, and his Austrian wife, behind the big window in Versailles – "Oeil-de-Boeuf" ; or as it says in a footnote: "The hall next to the King's private rooms in the palace, thus named after its large round window. The word was also often used to denote the Hoffolk, who gathered there in the hope of representing the King. "
From the king's bedside, so to speak, Carlyle studies the beginnings of the French Revolution and takes more and more of its height as it really does, and you, the world to which it goes, and often with British sarcasm, about a whole people who goes to bed hungry and a court and a nobility give the bark. The book is full of hard-hitting aphorisms, such as the one about Louis XV who did not tolerate anyone talking about death, although sometimes, after hunting, he pondered death, and once he met a poor farmer with a poor tossed on a home-grown catafalk, asked who was dead, and answered that there was one the king had seen working in his neighborhood, whereupon the king asked what he died of, hunger, the farmer said, as the king tracked the horse.
The book is full of hard-hitting aphorisms.
Then the old king died behind the ox's eye, May 10, 1774, and a new era began, and this chapter begins with a quote from Montesquieu's "Happy the People, whose Yearbooks are boring"; it is a quote that Carlyle twists and does not quite want to grasp, and that Montesquieus also meant, put at the forefront: "Happy are the People whose Yearbooks are undescribed." For that was what happened in France; not what has been, but what came, and about what came, it was completely silent, and he asks if it was ominous, as the answer lies in the question, and an unhealthy peace rested over France for the next ten years after the old king's death.
And what came was silence, as if nobody wanted to know anything – everyone just wants to forget – and Carlyle calls what happens during Louis XVI, for a silly golden age: the golden age of paper, for bank paper you could buy when it was no more gold, before it became a veritable earthquake, and the king, who used to be a parrot, had also become a weather rooster; that was before he got a new finance minister: Jacques Turgot. Carlyle writes that Turgot had abilities, was honorable, had insight and heroic willpower, there was only one thing that made the nobility, the king and the clergy look red: Turgot believed that they should pay taxes as the people, and thus he got the pike.
It was the parliament in Paris that was the first sign of a storm after the silence, and that someone mentioned the word national assembly at the same time as the money decreased, and soon the golden age was over and 25 million French people left. . .