Anyway, I'm feeling a lot better today.
I'm reading Duff Cooper's biography of Talleyrand- a diplomatist on a diplomatist. Duff pays lip service to the conventional view of Talleyrand as a weaselly roue (Duff was a bit of a roue himself- it goes with the job) but the picture he builds up is of a man who stood above his age- kindly and charming in private life, practical, humane and courageous in politics- a peacemaker in a time of war and revolution- and just about the only person at the court of Napoleon prepared to stand up to the little monster. If smaller minds, caught up in the political moment, thought of him as lacking principle it was because his loyalty to a vision of a Europe at peace through the balance of power transcended any loyalty he may have felt towards individuals or ideology. Such things were tools- he selected those best fitted to his purpose at any given time- and If a king broke or wore out he made another. He was very good at his job. He understood people individually and in the mass- and if his advice had been taken by those who found him indispensable but then ignored him the continent would have been spared much misery and millions of untimely deaths.