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Tocqueville and His AmericaA Darker Horizon$
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Arthur Kaledin

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780300119312

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: October 2013

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300119312.001.0001

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(p.51) 4 Ambition
Tocqueville and His America

Arthur Kaledin

Yale University Press

Known for his persistent, painful self-doubt, Alexis de Tocqueville always saw himself at the edge of things. He experienced sharp swings between euphoria and melancholy and brooded much about the question of ambition. A good aristocrat, he tried to avoid being viewed as ambitious, which for him was a bourgeois vice. Tocqueville was a restless, dissatisfied individual who lived in an almost unremitting state of interior agitation and self-doubt. His ongoing confessional, self-portrait stood in contrast to his ideal self. Tocqueville's “beau réve” of leading France from its moral and political morass suggests an undeniable messianic tinge. The issue of ambition also resonated with class meaning, expressing dismay and self-doubt as a result of the silence with which Volume 2 of his book Democracy in America had been greeted by the “grand public.” Tocqueville was reminded several times by Pierre-Paul Royer-Collard to keep his distance from politics. Royer again recommended patience after Tocqueville lost in his first try for a seat in the Chamber of Deputies during the 1837 elections.

Keywords:   self-doubt, Alexis de Tocqueville, melancholy, ambition, self-portrait, France, class, Democracy in America, Pierre-Paul Royer-Collard

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