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With all respect to Mr Robert Bowers (Letters, 7 November), my English is good enough to appreciate the various possible senses of the word “what”; and my French is good enough to recognise that Madame Roland’s exclamation referred not to the nature of the crimes committed in the name of liberty, as the mistranslation “what crimes!” suggests, but to their number.

Of course, this academic discussion is of minor importance: the central issue is the tragic fact that noble ideals, such as liberty, are often used to mask wicked and shameful actions: a fact which is as abundantly true in our own time as in the days of the French Revolution.

Derrick McClure

Rosehill Terrace