Preface

A short and, as far as possible, accurate sketch of the character and public career of one of the most heroic and, as a natural consequence, one of the most calumniated champions the Proletariat has ever had, seemed to the author of this little book not inopportune at a time when the opportunist press is endeavouring to heap ridicule or calumny on all those who reject opportunist methods, and who aim at the fundamental reorganisation of society. The “People’s Friend,” whose part was played in the first acute crisis in the great struggle between the old and the new order, at the close of the last century, will always remain the most prominent type of the Revolution in its social aspect – a terrible portent to the oppressor, and a grateful memory to the oppressed. Marat did not owe his influence to any wit, for in that quality, generally so essential to the success of a journalist in France, he was unquestionably deficient. His style from a literary point of view, is monotonous and laboured. He owed his power to his intense earnestness and consistency. The biography of such a man can surely never lose its interest, and an apology is unnecessary for offering it to the public in a condensed form and at an almost nominal price.

It may be observed that all the histories of the French Revolution are written in a spirit necessarily hostile to Marat, and that the only literature, up to the present time, treating of his career from a friendly standpoint, consists (so far as the writer’s knowledge extends) in France, of M. Bourgeart’s exhaustive Vie de Marat in two volumes, and of a short annotated selection of his writings published by the late M. Vermorel; and in England of two articles, one in the Fortnightly Review for February, 1874, by Mr. Bowen Graves, and one in the Gentleman’s Magazine for November, 1877, by the author of the present sketch.

E.B.B.