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This article is taken from PN Review 1, Volume 4 Number 1, October - December 1977.

Looking Back on Maurras C.H. Sisson


THE INFLUENCE of Charles Maurras is something I should like to shake off. Its work on me was done long ago, as far as I can judge, and I am puzzled that he has not fallen into place, with Eliot, say, or Yeats, as a figure to whom I acknowledge a debt from a distance: an historical debt which, unpaid as such things always are, no longer concerns one very much. With Maurras it is different. The seduction remains, even though I cannot read through any of his books with approval. And if I am asked to summarize his achievements, I find myself usually talking about his limitations, even his vices. If I am asked what books of his one should read, to get some idea of his importance, I do not know what to point to. Did he in fact write a satisfactory book? Each of the books is nothing, in itself, and the compendia he himself produced-such as the Essais politiques in the volumes of Oeuvres capitales he prepared during his final imprisonment-seem jejune and inadequate when one turns to them after a long acquaintance with his performance. They must be a poor starting-point to the reader who comes fresh to his work, and give nothing at all to the inquirer who does not come with a measure of sympathy and understanding, from the rumours he has heard of them. And it has to be admitted that an intelligent inquirer, interested in the political ...

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