How a 19th-Century Frenchman Nailed Love for All Time

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For all of the works of prose that focus on the subject of love—surely the greatest theme and mystery in literature—it’s curious how rarely authors get clinical about the subject. To break it down. To pin it to a dissecting tray, fold back the layers, and say, “see that part over there? That makes for skipped heart beats. This part here, that takes care of the arousal. This middle bit, that’s when you know you’re hooked.”

But if ever there was a born literary dissector, that would be the Frenchman Marie-Henri Beyle, better known as the novelist Stendhal. He went by a lot of different names in France in the first half of the 19th century, being King Pseudonym. He disliked his father, thinking he wasn’t creative enough, and doted on his mother, who died when he was seven.

He dug the military and the theater, serving in Napoleon’s army, engineering a rescue on a river that was much discussed, then sojourning in Italy where he picked up some dandified ways, which played well in Paris, where he went through woman after woman. You might say Stendhal dated serially; or you might say he had a thing for racking up sexual conquests.

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How Orson Welles Nailed a Redneck Cop for Blinding a Black Man

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Who was the South Carolina cop who beat a black U.S. Army veteran and crushed both his eyeballs in February 1946? As Richard Gergel writes in Unexampled Courage: The Blinding of Sgt. Isaac Woodard and the Awakening of President Harry S. Truman and Judge J. Waties Waring, Hollywood’s enfant terrible Orson Welles mounted a radio campaign to find out. In the first of his broadcasts, reading from Woodard’s affidavit, Welles got some of the facts wrong. (The recording is at the end of this excerpt.) But over the next few weeks the error was corrected and the police chief who blinded Woodard was found.

[On] Sunday, August  25, an exuberant Welles opened his radio broadcast with these dramatic words: “This is Orson Welles speaking. The place was Batesburg. Isaac Woodard thought it happened in Aiken. He was wrong . . . The blame belongs . . . in Batesburg. Batesburg, South Carolina.” Welles then described the work of his investigators in locating a minister and several workmen who had observed the police chief of Batesburg and a highway patrolman pouring “buckets of water over the head and body of a soldier.” Welles reported the officers were “washing away” blood and between each pouring asking the soldier, “Can you see yet?” According to Welles, he simply responded no. That soldier was Isaac Woodard.

But Welles was not finished. He explained that when he brought the Woodard story to national attention, “the name of the guilty policeman was unknown and it looked as though it always would be. I promised to get that name, I have it now.” Welles then dramatically disclosed to his national audience the name of Woodard’s attacker:

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