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Danton: Gentle Giant of Terror
In this new biography, David Lawday, author of the acclaimed Napoleon's Master, a life of Talleyrand, turns his focus to the life of Georges-Jacques Danton, tragic hero incarnate.
A beefy six-foot bull of a man, with a rude farmyard face to match, Danton was destined to bring a violent end to an absolute monarchy that had ruled for a thousand years. But it was not his alarming physique that placed him at the head of the Revolution. His weapon of revolt was his voice - a perpetual roll of thunder that spurred men to action without his quite knowing where he intended to drive them. To hear Danton was to hear the heartbeat of revolution. Together with the puritanical Robespierre - his rival to death and in most every way his opposite - Danton brought about something rare in history: a change in the human social order. The reckless ride from monarchy to republic was a mass social revolution that upended the most populous country in Europe - an upheaval so uniquely radical in spirit that formed the root - if not quite of that liberty and equality its makers dreamed of - at least of the liberal, democratic society in which a good part of the world is fairly content to live today. What manner of man makes such stupendous things happen?
With prose that is immediate and engaging, Lawday examines the personalities and the associations that inspired and fuelled the Revolution. The power of Danton's oratory, and his charismatic appeal, led him to the centre of power at the height of a period of turbulent change. But he was to become a victim of Revolution himself, facing the guillotine - defiant to the end - at the age of thirty-four.