Letters From Tocqueville by John Lukacsn”I am rich in letters. …”nAlexis de Tocqueville: SelectednLetters on Politics and Society,nedited by Roger Boesche; translatednby James Toupin and RogernBoesche, Berkeley: University ofnCalifornia Press; $24.95.nAlexis de Tocqueville was an immenselynprolific writer. His friendnGustave de Beaumont wrote that “fornone volume he published he wrote ten;nand the notes he cast aside as intendednonly for himself would have servednmany writers as text for the printer.”nThe publication of his collected worksnand letters began in Paris 3 5 years ago:n16 volumes have now been printed,nbut there are many more to come. Hisnpublished works, besides Democracy innAmerica, include his Recollections (ofnthe year 1848) and his great unfinishednhistory of the Old Regime and thenFrench Revolution; in addition to numerousnsmaller booklets, articles,nspeeches, and the still unpublishednmemoranda, instructions, and dispatchesnthat he composed during hisnshort tenure (1849) as Foreign Ministernof the Second French Republic.nHe wrote many thousands of letters,nsome of which are still in the stocks ofnFrench manuscript dealers (two ofnthem are in my possession). Thirtynyears ago, when I was engaged innserious research and writing aboutnTocqueville, I came to the conclusionnthat his letters may be as important asnhis books: perhaps not so much for thenpurposes of his eventual biographernbut because we may find in his lettersnthe expression of his thoughts andnideas about an immense variety ofnimportant themes that we cannot findnelsewhere. I cannot even begin to listnthese themes: They include tremendousntopics, ranging from Christianityn]ohn Lukacs is professor of history atnChestnut Hill College. His mostnrecent hook is OutgrowingnDemocracy: A History of the UnitednStates in the Twentieth Centuryn(Doubleday).n-Horace Walpolento race, from Plato’s mind to the limitationsnof the Newtonian system, fromnIndia and China to America and thenprospects of the English-speakingnworld.nCorrespondence was very importantnto him. He did not lead a very busynsocial life. For months he was fairlynisolated in the manor of Tocqueville.nHe depended on his friends. He sawnfriendship as one of the greatest gifts inna man’s life; toward his friends he wasnwarmly emotional and sentimental.nHe needed their presence and theirnletters; they were a sounding-board fornhis ideas and opinions but not merelynin a passive sense; he listened avidly tontheir opinions. Goethe once said thatn”to communicate our thoughts to othersnis nature; to assimilate what isncommunicated to us, with understanding,nis culture.” Alexis denTocqueville was a good listener. Therenwas another motive behind this tremendousncorrespondence. Tocquevillenhad a quick mind; and he was a born,nthat is, compulsive, writer. Letter-nnnwriting served him as a diary wouldnanother thinker, and in some of hisnletters we find the germ of ideas henwould later develop in a book.nAnd now we have a selection of hisnletters, in English. Except for thenearly, unreliable, and heavily amended,ndeleted, and “corrected” edition ofnhis letters in the Beaumont edition ofnhis “collected works,” published shortlynafter Tocqueville’s death, this is thenfirst chronological, not topical, selectionnof the letters. (The volumes in thenOeuvres Completes are organized accordingnto their recipients, or to theirngeneral contents. So was my publicationnof the Toequeville-Gobineau correspondencenin 1959.) A reviewer innThe New Republic praised the chronologicalnapproach, saying that in thisnway we get a more rounded picture ofnTocqueville’s person. He was wrong.nThe editors of this volume themselvesnmake bold to say that “this volume ofnselected letters offers a more completenpicture of Tocqueville than previouslynavailable.” They are wrong. Theirnbook is premature, inadequate, imperfect,nand sloppy. Their mistakes andnmistranslations run into hundreds.nThey do not know French wellnenough: A cabaret is not a cabaret butna low-class wine-shop; an idee-mere isnasagssi;;–nSEPTEMBER 1986 / 29n