Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar

By Marguerite Yourcenar

Written within the type of a testamentary letter from the Emperor Hadrian to his successor, the younger Marcus Aurelius, this paintings is as amazing for its mental intensity as for its actual reconstruction of the second one century of our period. the writer describes the e-book as a meditation upon historical past, yet this meditation is equipped upon in depth research of the private and political lifetime of a good and intricate personality as obvious by way of himself and his contemporaries, either buddies and enemies. Marguerite Yourcenar reconstructs Hadrian's hard early years, his triumphs and reversals, and his sluggish reordering of a war-torn global.

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Every morning for twenty years, old Euphorion has handed me my flask of oil and my sponge, but my knowledge of him ends with his acts of service, and his knowledge of me ends with my bath; any effort on the part of either emperor or slave to learn more straightway produces the effect of an indiscretion. Almost everything that we know about anyone else is at second hand. If by chance a man does confess, he pleads his own cause and his apology is made in advance. If we are observing him, then he is not alone.

Short of genius, such a career demands attentions and even stratagems for which I was little suited. Those set traps, always the same, and the monotonous routine of perpetual advances, leading no further than conquest itself, have palled on me. The technique of a great seducer requires a facility and an indifference in passing from one object of affection to another which I could never have; however that may be, my loves have left me more often than I have left them, for I have never been able to understand how one could have enough of any beloved.

But the taste for certain dangerous experiments has remained with me, indeed only too much so. My father, Aelius Hadrianus Afer, was a man weighed down by his very virtues. His life was passed in the thankless duties of civil administration; his voice hardly counted in the Senate. Contrary to usual practice, his governorship of the province of Africa had not made him richer. At home, in our Spanish township of Italica, he exhausted himself in the settlement of local disputes. Without ambitions and without joy, like many a man who from year to year thus effaces himself more and more, he had come to put a fanatic application into minor matters to which he limited himself.

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