montagnarde1793: (babet/lebas)
[personal profile] montagnarde1793

I think, though I don't have proof, that I've come up with the theory that makes the most sense regarding Edmée-Louise-Clémence and it's one of my back-posts that has given me the key: one from nearly two years ago in which I posted an article I had found, and which says, among other things:

"Son fils [celui de Le Bas] épousa à Paris, (1er arrondissement), le 2 octobre 1817 une parente, Edmée-Louise-Clémence Duplay, née à Paris le 27 floréal an 7 (16 avril 1799), fille de Mathieu-Jacques, menuisier et d’Agathe-Edmée Buchon époux"

"His [Le Bas's] son married a relative, Edmée-Louise-Clémence Duplay, born in Paris on 27 Floréal Year 7 (16 April 1799), daughter of Mathieu-Jacques, cabinetmaker, and Agathe-Edmée Buchon, husband and wife, in Paris (1st arrondissement) on 2 October 1817"

(It goes on to say that he was employed in the bureau of hospices, but I think it's confusing him with his cousin Jacques-Maurice Duplay.)

At any rate, here's my theory. I've read various places that Simon Duplay, son of Mathieu Duplay, had a brother called Jacques. My theory is that this Mathieu-Jacques is Simon's brother and that therefore Mathieu Duplay is Edmée-Louise-Clémence's grandfather, not her father. This makes a lot more sense generationally and allows her to be born at the date given here.

...Does anyone know of a program for constructing family trees? I think I'm going to need one to keep proper track of all the Duplays and Le Bas.

In other back-post related news, remember this post? No? Well...

Charlotte Robespierre has occupied opinion more. M. Lenotre [Lenôtre], in his last volume [2] consecrated an entire chapter to her, and the Conventionnel Le Bas’s son has traced her biography in a few lines that destroy, by their severity, the credibility of an anecdote once recounted by Jules Simon in le Temps: “One day when I was dining in the home of my history professor, M. Philippe Le Bas,” said Jules Simon, “I saw an old maid, well preserved, with upright carriage, dressed, very nearly, as under the Directory, without luxury, but with particular cleanliness enter the salon. Mme Le Bas, his mother, (formerly Mlle Duplay) and M. Le Bas treated her with deference, almost as a queen. She spoke little during the meal, politely, with gravity: ‘What do you think of her? M. Le Bas asked me when we were alone in his office. – But who is she? –What? I didn’t tell you? She’s Robespierre’s sister.’ I was then a first year student at the École Normale.” The first year student at the École Normale since became an eminent man, a remarkable philanthropist, and yet he came to lack indulgence for those of his former professors who had welcomed him, however, with kindness: his heart being excellent, I like to believe that the fault lay in his memory alone; unsurprising that it could have served him ill as he wrote his chronicle. “Charlotte Robespierre,” said Philippe Le Bas in his Dictionnaire encyclopédique de l’Histoire de la France, “did not blush to receive a pension from her brothers’ assassins, which, 6,000 francs at first, then successively reduced to 1,500, was given her by all the successive governments until her death (1834). She has left Memoirs, which contain curious information, but where the false is too often mixed in with the true.” I do not think that the conscientious savant who wrote those lines ever treated Mlle Robespierre like a “queen”: it is “solicitor” that Jules Simon meant to write.[*]

[2]
Vieilles maisons, vieux papiers (1900).
[*] Translator's note: Concerning this incident, J. Lucas-Dubreton writes, in
La royauté bourgeoise: 1830, that "When Jules Simon, just newly arrived from his Bretagne, was received for a lunch at the house of the same Mme Le Bas, he saw an old person before whom everyone bowed down in the place of honor: Éléonore Duplay, Robespierre’s fiancée.(1)" I find this assessment of the situation more likely than that given here. Jules Simon could very easily have mistaken the woman he had seen for Charlotte Robespierre, even – or perhaps especially – long after the fact. (One way this could have happened, for example, is that, if he recalled having been told that the woman was Robespierre’s fiancée but was not aware that Robespierre had ever had one – and knew he had a sister – he could easily have assumed he had misremembered what he had been told.) It would have been much more difficult, it seems to me, to forget his hosts’ attitude towards the woman in question than to forget her exact identity, since it is the former and not the latter that makes up the substance of his recollection. (1) Jules Simon mistakenly believed he found himself facing Robespierre’s sister. – I owe this rectification to the obligingness of M. G. Lenotre.

As it turns out, we've all (Paul Coutant, J. Lucas-Dubreton, G. Lenotre, and I) underestimated just how much Jules Simon knew about the situation, probably for want of not having read his more complete account of the incident in question, which he published in his memoirs, but I have just done so and even translated it for you. Voyons ce que ça donne...
 

 

Premières années

Jules Simon

 

pp. 181-187

 

[…] Je dus à « mes opinions politiques » d’être admis de loin en loin chez quelques grands hommes : Alexandre Dumas, Victor Hugo, Sainte-Beuve, pour lesquels la politique d’opposition était plutôt un agrément qu’une profession. Je connus aussi Armand Carrel, aujourd’hui bien oublié, alors tout puissant sur l’esprit de la jeunesse. Mais tout se bornait à quelques mots échangés, à quelques poignées de mains, et, dans les occasions, à quelques discours que je prononçais au nom des étudiants de ma coterie. C’est par un universitaire que je fus vraiment introduit dans le monde républicain. M. Philippe Le Bas, mon professeur d’histoire à l’Ecole normale, m’accueillit chez lui, et me fit accueillir dans quelques familles restées fidèles aux souvenirs de 1793.

            C’était le fils du conventionnel Le Bas, ami et disciple de Robespierre. Il était fier de la renommée de son père. On raconte même qu’avant d’être membre de l’Institut, il se faisait annoncer dans les salons sous ce titre : « M. Philippe Le Bas, fils du conventionnel ». J’avais désiré voir de près des survivants de la Révolution ; mon succès dépassait mes espérances, puisque je me trouvais transporté d’emblée dans le monde de Robespierre. J’étais comme un jeune débutant qui aurait voulu goûter d’un vin généreux, et à qui on aurait versé abondamment de l’alcool. J’avais assez de fermeté pour m’accommoder à peu près des Girondins, mais je fus sur le point de perdre l’esprit en me trouvant au milieu des amis de Robespierre.

            La veuve du conventionnel Le Bas qui accoucha quelques semaines après [avant Thermidor] de celui qui devait être mon professeur, était une des filles du menuisier Duplay. Cette famille Duplay était devenue la famille de Robespierre. Il y demeurait ; il était, quand il mourut, fiancé de Mademoiselle Eléonore, la sœur de Mme Le Bas. La fiancée prit le deuil de Robespierre et le porta jusqu’à sa mort. Toute cette famille était étroitement unie, et le souvenir du grand mort ne contribuait pas peu à cette union. Le Comité de Salut Public, universellement condamné et maudit, avait encore quelques amis dans ce coin du monde ; et pour ces survivants, pour ces persistants, la famille Le Bas était l’objet d’un respect particulier.

            Du reste, le menuisier Duplay avait donné à ses filles une éducation excellente. Ce menuisier était un entrepreneur de menuiserie ; il remplit pendant quelque temps les fonctions de juge [juré] au Tribunal révolutionnaire. Son petit-fils, celui qui fut mon maître à l’Ecole normale, était l’homme le plus doux et le plus bienveillant du monde. Quand il n’avait plus à s’expliquer sur son père et les amis terribles de son père, il parlait et agissait en homme cultivé, ami de la paix, et préoccupé, par-dessus tout, de ses recherches d’érudition. Il avait été précepteur d’un prince. Il est vrai que ce prince était le prince Louis-Napoléon, celui-là même qui, contre toute attente, devint Empereur des Français. L’avènement de son élève au rang suprême ne changea rien ni aux idées de Philippe Le Bas, ni à sa conduite, ni à son langage, ni à sa vie. Il resta jusqu’à la fin tel que je l’avais connu en 1834, M. Philippe Le Bas, fils du Conventionnel.

            On savait parmi les familiers de M. Le Bas, que je ne connaissais personne à Paris ; et c’était une raison pour eux de m’inviter à dîner ou à déjeuner le dimanche. Je fus invité une fois avec des formes solennelles et mystérieuses qui me donnèrent lieu de penser que j’allais assister à quelque événement d’importance. J’arrivai à l’heure dite. Il y avait quelques convives, tous républicains avérés et rédacteurs des journaux du parti. Près d’une heure s’écoula ; la personne qui avait donné lieu à la réunion se faisait attendre. Je pense que tout le monde, excepté moi, était dans le secret ; mais j’étais trop timide pour faire une question. Enfin un grand mouvement se produisit, la famille se porta tout entière dans l’antichambre pour rendre la réception plus solennelle, et nous nous rangeâmes autour de la porte, pendant qu’à côté de nous on échangeait des propos de bienvenue.

            On n’annonçait pas dans cette modeste maison. Je vis entrer une femme âgée qui marchait péniblement et qui donnait le bras à la maîtresse de la maison. Elle était venue seule. On la salua très profondément ; elle répondit à ce salut en reine qui veut être aimable pour ses sujets. C’était une femme très maigre, très droite dans sa petite taille, vêtue à l’antique avec une propreté toute puritaine. Elle portait le costume du Directoire, mais sans dentelles ni ornements. J’eus sur le champ, comme une intuition que je voyais la sœur de Robespierre. Elle se mit à table, où elle occupa naturellement la place d’honneur. Je ne cessai de l’observer pendant tout le repas. Elle me parut grave, triste, sans austérité cependant, un peu hautaine quoique polie, particulièrement bienveillante pour M. Le Bas, qui la comblait d’égards ou, pour mieux dire, de respect. Quand la conversation devint générale, elle y prit peu de part ; mais écouter tout avec politesse et attention. S’il lui arrivait de dire un mot, tout le monde se taisait à l’instant. Je me disais qu’on n’aurait pas mieux traité une souveraine.

            Le nom de Robespierre ne fut pas même prononcé. Au fond, c’est à lui que tout le monde pensait, et c’est de lui qu’on parlait sans le nommer. C’était l’habitude dans ces familles dévouées. Je ne l’attribue à aucune appréhension de se compromettre en prononçant ce nom qui était là, révéré, et exécré partout ailleurs. On ne le prononçait pas, parce qu’il était sous-entendu dans tous les discours.

            Il y deux Robespierre : le Robespierre féroce et le Robespierre raisonneur et sentimental. Le culte de ses fanatiques s’adressait également au dictateur et à l’orateur humanitaire. Les revenants avec lesquels j’étais attablé n’appartenaient pas à 1834. Ils voulaient être, ils étaient de 1793. Les grandes tueries n’étaient pour eux que des actes nécessaires de gouvernement. A peine les Thermidoriens eurent-ils renversé le Comité de Salut Public qu’ils s’exercèrent à le copier. Au 18 Fructidor, La Revillère-Lepeaux, le plus dur des hommes, déporta des Directeurs, des représentants et des journalistes à Sinnamari. Pendant un quart de siècle, la proscription fut dans les mœurs. Je crois bien qu’on excusait les tueries de 1793 autour de moi, que peut-être même on les glorifiait. Mais on pensait surtout au disciple de Jean-Jacques Rousseau, aux discours contre la peine de mort et sur l’Etre suprême, à l’auteur de tant d’homélies attendrissantes sur la fraternité et la vertu. Je suis sûr que Charlotte le revoyait dans ses rêves, précédant la Convention à l’autel, le jour de la fête religieuse, en habit bleu clair et en cravate blanche, et portant dans ses bras une gerbe de fleurs.

            Melle Robespierre avait soixante-quatorze ans lorsque je la vis. Je savais qu’elle avait passionnément aimé ses deux frères et que, quand Maximilien s’était installé chez les Duplay, elle s’était montrée irritée et jalouse. Elle faisait à ces nouveaux amis un crime de leur amitié. Elle allait jusqu’à prétendre qu’Eléonore avait employé la ruse pour se faire épouser. Elle vécut loin d’eux après la catastrophe. Le Premier Consul lui fit une pension de 3.600 livres, qui fut plus tard réduite de plus de moitié, mais qu’elle toucha presque sans interruption jusqu’à sa mort. Elle vivait de cette faible ressource dans un isolement absolu. Elle publia des Mémoires qui roulaient sur des événements connus, et ne piquèrent point la curiosité. Je suppose qu’elle consentit à laisser faire cette publication dans un moment de détresse. Sans doute, elle avait voulu, aux approches de la mort, oublier son ancienne rancune. Elle s’était souvenue avec attendrissement d’une femme vénérable qui avait failli être la sœur de son frère. Elle avait voulu se rapprocher un moment de cet homme déjà célèbre, dont le père avait été le plus fidèle ami de Maximilien. Elle sentit enfin que ceux qui s’étaient rencontrés dans ces jours lugubres devaient être réunis dans le souvenir comme ils l’avaient été dans la vie.

            Je croyais rêver et je rêvais en effet. Les deux femmes qui étaient là, quel que fut leur nom, avaient vécu dans l’intimité de Robespierre, écouté sa parole comme celle d’un pontife, admiré sa vie comme celle d’un héros et d’un sage. Les questions se pressaient en tumulte dans mon esprit, et je me demandais avec effroi si j’oserais interroger mon maître et si je ne me laisserais pas opprimer une fois de plus par ma maudite timidité.

            Il me conduisit jusqu’à la porte pour me dire d’un air triomphant : « Comment la trouvez-vous ? » Je m’enfuis et je me dis tout en courant à travers les rues de Paris, que je n’étais pas à ma place dans ce monde-là. Tout, dans ce temple, était respectable, excepté le Dieu. J’eus le souvenir de mes morts et, en même temps, de ma haine.


>

 

 

Premières années

Jules Simon

 

pp. 181-187

 

[…] I owed to “my political opinions” being admitted every now and then to see certain great men: Alexandre Dumas, Victor Hugo, Sainte-Beuve, for whom the politics of opposition were rather a pleasant pastime than a profession. I also met Armand Carrel, today quite forgotten, then all powerful over the minds of youth. But it was all limited to a few words exchanged, a few handshakes, and, on occasion, a few speeches that I gave in the name of the students of my coterie. It was by an academic that I was really introduced into the republican world. M. Philippe Le Bas, my history professor at the École normale, welcomed me into his home and introduced me to a few families who had remained faithful to the memories of 1793.

            He was the son of the conventionnel Le Bas, the friend and disciple of Robespierre. He was proud of his father’s renown. They even say that before he was a member of the Institute he had himself announced in salons by this title: “M. Philippe Le Bas, son of the conventionnel.” I had wanted to see survivors of the Revolution up close; my success was greater than I had hoped for, since I found myself transported from the beginning into the world of Robespierre. I was like a young beginner who would have liked to taste a generous wine and for whom and abundance of alcohol had been poured. I had enough firmness to get used to the Girondins, more or less, but I was on the point of losing my wits upon finding myself amongst Robespierre’s friends.

            The conventionnel Le Bas’s widow, who gave birth a few weeks after [before Thermidor] to he who was to become my professor, was one of the cabinetmaker Duplay’s daughters. This Duplay family had become Robespierre’s family. He stayed with them; he was, when he died, betrothed to Mademoiselle Eléonore, Mme Le Bas’s sister. His fiancée put on mourning for Robespierre and wore it until her death. This whole family was closely bonded and the memory of the dead great man contributed not a little to this bond. The Committee of Public Safety, universally condemned and cursed, still had some friends in this corner of the world; and for these survivors, for these persistent ones, the Le Bas family was the object of a particular respect.

            Moreover, the cabinetmaker Duplay had given his daughters and excellent education. This cabinetmaker was an entrepreneur in cabinetmaking; for a certain time he fulfilled the functions of a judge [juror] of the Revolutionary Tribunal. His grandson, the one who was my master at the École normale, was the mildest and kindest man in the world. When he was not explaining himself about his father and his father’s terrible friends, he spoke and acted as a cultivated man, a friend of peace, and preoccupied above all with his erudite research. He had been the tutor to a prince. It is true that this prince was Prince Louis-Napoléon, the same who, against all expectation, became Emperor of the French. His student’s accession to the supreme rank in no way changed Philippe Le Bas’s ideas, nor his conduct, nor his language, nor his life. He remained until the end such as he was when I met him in 1834, M. Philippe Le Bas, son of the Conventionnel.

            It was known in M. Le Bas’s circle that I knew no one in Paris; and that was a reason for them to invite me to dinner or lunch on Sunday. Once I was invited with solemn and mysterious formalities which gave me reason to think that I was going to witness some important event. I arrived at the stated time. There were a few guests, all averred republicans and editors of journals of the party. Nearly an hour went by; the person who was the reason for the gathering was keeping us waiting. I think that everyone except me was in on the secret; but I was too shy to ask a question. At last there was a great movement and the whole family went to the antechamber to render the reception more solemn, and we lined up around the door, while beside us were exchanged words of welcome.

            Visitors were not announced in that modest house. I saw an elderly woman who walked with difficulty and who gave her arm to the mistress of the house enter. She had come alone. Everyone bowed deeply to her; she responded to this greeting as a queen who wants to be amiable to her subjects. She was a very thin woman, standing very tall though she was short, dressed à l’antique with an entirely puritan neatness. Her dress was from the time of the Directoire, but without lace or ornaments. Right away I had a kind of intuition that I was seeing Robespierre’s sister. She sat down at the table where, naturally, she occupied the place of honor. I never ceased to observe her during the whole meal. She seemed grave to me, sad, yet without austerity; a bit haughty, though polite, particularly kind towards M. Le Bas, who overwhelmed her with regards, or, to say it better, with respect. When the conversation became general, she took little part in it, but listened to everything politely and attentively. If she happened to speak, everyone was silent right away. I thought to myself that a monarch would not have been treated better.

            Robespierre’s name was not pronounced. At bottom he was the one everyone was thinking of and he was the one they were talking about without naming him. That was the habit among these devoted families. I do not attribute it to any apprehension of compromising oneself by pronouncing that name that was revered there as it was execrated everywhere else. It was not pronounced because it was implied in everyone’s discourse.

            There are two Robespierres: the fierce Robespierre and the reasoning and sentimental Robespierre. The cult of these fanatics was addressed equally to the dictator and the humanitarian orator. The ghosts at whose table I sat did not belong to 1834. They wanted to be, they were of 1793. The great killings were for them necessary acts of government. The Thermidorians had barely overturned the Committee of Public Safety when they set about copying it. On 18 Fructidor, La Réveillère-Lepeaux, the harshest of men, deported Directors, representatives, and journalists to Sinnamari. For a quarter century proscription was a way of life. I well believe that they excused the killings of 1793 around me, that they maybe even glorified them. But they thought, above all, of the disciple of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, of his speeches against the death penalty and on the Supreme Being, of the author of so many touching homilies on fraternity and virtue. I am sure that Charlotte saw him again in her dreams, preceding the Convention to the altar, the day of the religious festival, in his light blue suit and white cravat, and bearing a bouquet of flowers in his arms.

            Melle Robespierre was sixty-four years old when I saw her. I knew that she had passionately loved her two brothers and that when Maximilien had moved in with the Duplays she had showed herself to be irritated and jealous. She treated the friendship of these new friends as a crime. She even went so far as to claim that Eléonore had tricked him into agreeing to marry her. She lived far from them after the catastrophe [of 9 Thermidor]. The First Consul gave her a pension of 3,600 livres, which was later reduced by more than half, but that she received almost without interruption until her death. She lived on that weak resource in absolute isolation. She published some memoirs revolving around well-known events and that did not pique one’s curiosity. I suppose that she consented to have these published in a moment of distress. She doubtless wanted, nearing death, to forget her old resentment. She had remembered a venerable woman who had nearly been her brother’s sister with emotion. She wanted for a moment to be near that already famous man whose father had been Maximilien’s most faithful friend. She felt at last that those who had met in those lugubrious days ought to be together in memory as they had been in life.

            I believed I was dreaming and I was indeed. The two women who were there, whatever their names, had lived as part of Robespierre’s private circle, listened to his words like to those of a pontiff, admired his life as that of a hero and a sage. Questions rushed about in a tumult in my mind, and I wondered fearfully if I would dare to interrogate my master or if I would not let myself be oppressed once more by my accursed shyness.

            He escorted me to the door to tell me with an air of triumph: “What do you think of her?” I fled and said to myself, running through the streets of Paris that I was not at home in that world. Everything in that temple was respectable except its God. I remembered my dead and at the same time, my hatred.

 



Clearly the woman Jules Simon saw was indeed Charlotte. For several reasons: 1. Éléonore was already dead in 1834, when he claims to have met Ph. Le Bas fils for the first time - and this checks out with his biography. 2. He knows enough about both Éléonore and Charlotte to be able to tell them apart. 3. He provides a plausible reason for her being there. It makes sense that a dying Charlotte - remember that she died in 1834 - would want to reconcile with the Le Bas before her death. It makes sense too that the Le Bas, encouraged by their circle, for whom Charlotte was more a symbol of her brother(s) than an individual, would respect the wishes of a dying woman, especially one who happened to be Robespierre's sister. Their negative judgment of her character in no way precludes this. J. Simon makes it clear that this meeting was considered something special and it would have been, if it were indeed the first (and probably last) meeting of Charlotte and the Le Bas in many years. J. Simon's bias then turns the respect and perhaps even, for some, reverence of Charlotte (in the latter case, as a symbol - J. Simon is doubtless correct in this respect) into "everyone was treating her like a queen." Everything checks out.

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