Commonplace Book: Inauguration Celebration Spectacular

Compelling passages, notable quotables, bon mots, disjecta, ephemera, and miscellany.




THE GRANDIOSE OR IMPERTURBABLE CUCKOLD is a man who is not affected by, or does not joke about, the cuckoldry he foresees, and maintains perfect calm, without stooping to any sort of reaction that would invite ridicule. Most married spouses among the wealthy fall into this category out of self interest.


THE BOORISH OR VILLAINOUS CUCKOLD is a yokel who earns the public’s enmity, who offends others by the contrast of his ugly conduct with the good form of his wife. Everyone then supports the lady and says: It would be a real shame if she were faithful to such a dirty dog.


THE COSMOPOLITAN OR HOSPITABLE CUCKOLD is a man whose home resembles a hotel owing to the quantity of suitors his wife brings into it from every country. He has coparceners and friends of all nations, who find elegant dining and warm hospitality at his home, and the sheer quantity of them puts his mind at ease, for they are so numerous that his suspicions are unable to rest on any of them.

22. THE LARGE-SCALE BANKRUPTCY embraces every class of society, comprises even small people, servants, and others who entrust their slim savings to a hypocrite. Soon bankruptcy spoliates hundreds of landlords, members of the lower middle class, and other good people. An entire city finds itself compromised. In general, this sort of bankruptcy particularly hurts non-merchants and greatly harms the profession by giving rise to rather unflattering thoughts concerning the honest fraternity of traders.



24. THE ATTILA BANKRUPCY is that which praises the glory of bankruptcy to the skies, and ravages a country as if an army of Vandals had passed through it. One can cite in the genre a famous bankruptcy carried out in Orléans around the year 1810, by an amateur named T. who came up short of 16 million so well spread throughout the poor city of Orléans that the populace was stunned. Desolation set in among all ranks of citizens. Fugitives spread as far as Lyon, saying: “Orléans is wiped out, we are all ruined, T. is making off with everything.” According to detailed reports, he had carried this exercise out in such a manner that every class was trapped and spoliated, from the rich capitalists down to the poor domestics who had been saving up some crowns their entire lives in order to deposit them with a mercantile intriguer who carried them off, shielded by the lovely principle: let the merchants do what they will, they know very well what best suits their interest.

Must we now be surprised that Bonaparte threw senatorial appointments at the speculators: he sensed that he owed respect to his ravaging colleagues; for a speculator, when he operates according to the rules, can wreak as much devastation as an army. It was thus a speculator who organized the famous famine of 1812, and in doing so toppled Bonaparte, who if not for that famine would perhaps be ruler of the world today: for it is certain that he would have gotten Russia to surrender without that artificial famine, which postponed the opening of the campaign by six weeks and led to the establishment of the peace between the Turks and the Russians and the curtailment of the French operation.

I’ve described the right and the center; there remains a wing to inspect.

What robberies! What a variety of crimes in just a single field of commercial exploits. I say “single,” for bankruptcy is only the thirty-first of the characteristics of this mendacious commerce, for which science claims utter freedom under the pretext that merchants know very well what best suits their interests. I have drawn attention to the fact that we do well to ask whether they know a little too well what their interests are and too little what is in the interest of the state and industry. If this second hypothesis is true, it means that science deceives us when it preaches that merchants must be given absolute freedom.

From The Hierarchies of Cuckoldry and Bankruptcy by Charles Fourier (Wakefield Press, 2011). Translated by Goeffrey Longnecker.


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