I was doing some work in a local coffee shop earlier this afternoon, where I met another scholar who struck up a conversation with me. When he learned of my research interests in literary representations of the Revolution, he referred me to this passage in Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee of which I was unaware, having never read the book:
There were two " Reigns of Terror," if we would but remember it and consider it; the one wrought murder in hot passion, the other in heartless cold blood; the one lasted mere months, the other had lasted a thousand years; the one inflicted death upon ten thousand persons, the other upon a hundred millions; but our shudders are all for the " horrors " of the minor Terror, the momentary Terror, so to speak; whereas, what is the horror of swift death by the axe, compared with life-long death from hunger, cold, insult, cruelty and heart-break? What is swift death by lightning compared with death by slow fire at the stake? A city cemetery could contain the coffins filled by that brief Terror which we have all been so diligently taught to shiver at and mourn over; but all France could hardly contain the coffins filled by that older and real Terror—that unspeakably bitter and awful Terror which none of us has been taught to see in its vastness or pity as it deserves.
Interesting. I don’t know much about Twain (or American literature in general), but I also found this quote:
When I finished Carlyle's French Revolution in 1871, I was a Girondin; every time I have read it since, I have read it differently – being influenced and changed, little by little, by life and environment ... and now I lay the book down once more, and recognize that I am a Sansculotte! – And not a pale, characterless Sansculotte, but a Marat.
Perhaps you guys are already familiar with this (the basic idea expressed by Twain is obviously nothing new), but I thought it was cool and wanted to share.