Dangerously Amiable

Nathan Perl-Rosenthal

  • The Marquis: Lafayette Reconsidered by Laura Auricchio
    Vintage, 432 pp, £11.99, August 2015, ISBN 978 0 307 38745 5

Crossing the Atlantic in the age of sail was an ordeal not lightly undertaken. Storms and seasickness were inevitable – passengers often had to be carried ashore. Rival nations’ warships patrolled the main sailing routes, adding the danger of capture to the perils of the sea. But for most travellers, the worst part was the tedium. Despite this, many American and French political figures made multiple Atlantic crossings in the late 18th century. Benjamin Franklin, the first US ambassador to France, made four return trips. Thomas Paine made five. And Gilbert du Motier, marquis de Lafayette, made eight, six of them in as many years, starting in 1777, as he became involved in first the American Revolutionary War and then the French Revolution.

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