"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Birthdays Today

Really good birthdays today.   First, John Jay, the co-author with Madison and Hamilton of the Federalist Papers, was born today in 1745.   Jay was also President of the Continental Congress for part of the Revolutionary War, and the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court appointed by Washington.  A great American, a great man, perhaps marginally overshadowed by other founding fathers.  

Also born today, in 1821, the great French novelist, Gustave Flaubert.   Flaubert's two greatest works Madame Bovary and A Sentimental Education, probably both make my list of the greatest 25 or so novels ever written, with Madame Bovary in the top ten.  Flaubert's writing style is the main source of the best of modern fiction, with its precision and concreteness, and its avoidance of the empty or florid phrase.  

Also born today, in 1863, was Edvard Munch, whose paintings are among the most famous of the 20th Century:

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