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Talleyrand Paperback – March 30, 2001

4.5 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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About the Author

Politician, diplomat, scholar and bon viveur, Duff Cooper won the DSO in the Great War and married society beauty Lady Diana Manners. He had an important ministerial career in the 1920s and '30s which ended with his resignation from the Cabinet over the Munich Agreement. Called back to office by Churchill, his chequered wartime career culminated in a spell as Ambassador to France. After his retirement he returned to his first love, literature; his writing ranges across biography, poetry and fiction. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: Grove Great Lives
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; 1st Grove Press ed edition (March 30, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802137679
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802137678
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #193,001 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Talleyrand was one of the world's great "characters", a man of wonderfully succinct and wounding epigrams ("what's not to love-- he's so vicious" was his friend Montrond's assessment), and a man of tremendous skill and foresight in statecraft whose wisdom would do us a spot of good today ("true strength is that which moderates itself" and, faced with Napoleon's plan to cross the Neiman and invade Russia, the wonderful reply "to do what?"
As the "cult of Napoleon" rose in France, Talleyrand, along with Fouche and Marshal Marmont became reviled, the hated betrayers of the Emperor-- never mind that the Emperor was bleeding France white in pusuit of his own personal glory.
As a consequence, this book, written in the 1930s by a British diplomat, to some extent reintroduced the French to the talents of their greatest statesman. The definitive French biography of the same time, by Lacour Gayet, is more detailed, but ultimately diminishes Talleyrand's achievements.
Cooper is ideally placed to interpet Talleyrand-- the salon society that the Prince belonged to is now long gone, but Cooper has a first-hand sort of feeling for the ways in which upper crust Anglo-French society mixed social and policy issues, and the role that women played in the mix.
He also writes beautifully. Talleyrand is a tough brief in that regard-- the man writes so elegantly and sharply that mediocre writers just end up stringing together the bon mots-- not Cooper, whose own cleverness is on display, particularly in the descriptions of the Congress of Vienna.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
What a fun biography! Duff Cooper writes with the confidence of a man who has led an interesting life himself.
Talleyrand's years span some of the most fascinating times in France (in my opinion). He embodied the corruption of the old regime, the spirit of the revolution, and the hubris of Napoleon's empire. Through (and in spite of) it all, he seemed to keep a level head when those around him got carried away.
I found Talleyrand to be one of the most inspiring figures in history, and I think that is in no small part to Cooper's engaging writing style.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The best condensed book on " The Prince of Napoleonic Diplomacy", and the last one hundred days of the emperor's reign. Like Fouche a great visioner of the future and " Bon vivant ", who also knew when to keep a low profile at the right time . He sorted successfully his ups and downs and survived all the french revolution storm, from the reign of terror to the Vienna Congress.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This very charitable memoir requires the reader to have a good understanding of the history of revolutionary and post-revolutionary France. The prose is quite striking and the subject would approve of its quick flourishes and decisive wit.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Masterfully written biography of the French foreign minister and finagler who played pivotal roles behind the scenes during and after Napoleon's reign. Talleyrand was courageous in standing up for his principles, although in his view, one ought to be well paid for doing so. Duff Cooper's prose style is witty, engrossing, and provides an intriguing look at one of France's most legendary leaders.
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Format: Paperback
A good introductory book to Talleyrand. Unfortunately it does not contain references to qtotes, events or anything at all. There is not a single footnote in this book despite fact that author makes many references to quotes, memoirs, etc. Not surprising as the book was written in the 1930s. For a more scholarly (but dry) biography see Dwyer's biblio on Talleyrand (Longman Publishers).
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Format: Paperback
Talleyrand is possibly the most intriguing person to come out of the French Revolution. When he is not selling his services to the courts of Europe he is offering the Directory and Napoleon vital information as to how they should conduct foreign affairs. Cooper does a very good job of putting Talleyrand within the context of his times and makes diplomatic history come alive through his traitorous character. For those who understand the basics of the French Revolution and Napoleon this is a great book to expand their knowledge of how these events impacted Europe. If you are writing a diplomatic history this is an essential book that has to be understood. Cooper uses many of Talleyrands writing for his sources and gives the best impression available of the minister.
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There are few if any parallels to Charles-Maurice, Prince de Talleyrand, in the annals of diplomatic history. In modern times, there have been some examples of men who were able to somehow "dodge the raindrops" and serve for many years in high positions in tumultuous political environs. Anastas Mikoyan's ability to survive long and close proximity to Stalin is one notable instance; but he never possessed Talleyrand's gravitas and international influence, nor did he serve different, hostile regimes. No, Talleyrand is in a league of his own - more politically nimble and long-serving than even the satirical Vicar of Bray.

In this classic 1932 biography by Duff Cooper (a picaresque political character in his own right), the legendary French Foreign Minister is treated with respect, almost reverence, and not without a touch of personal fondness. The author clearly does not see Talleyrand as Napoleon came to see him: as nothing but "dung in a silk stocking." Cooper constructs a portrait of Talleyrand based in large part on the diaries of men and women who mixed socially with the legendary statesman in the salons of Paris, London and elsewhere. I have found that such sources are most enlightening and allow the reader to gain a more nuanced perspective and human reflection of the subject. The picture of Talleyrand that emerges is one of a world-class charmer, a conversationalist nonpareil. One gets the sense that Talleyrand would succeed as well in early twenty-first century Washington as he did in early nineteenth century Paris.

Much has been made of Talleyrand's unusual ability to survive the convulsions of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic period.
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