montagnarde1793: (I did it for the lulz)

A while back I posted a link to an article analyzing the repertory of those of Robespierre's books that were confiscated post-Thermidor. I've just found another, much earlier article which does much the same thing for Robespierre, Saint-Just, Couthon, and, bizarrely, Louis Capet (!!!)'s libraries. Here's a link to the section on Saint-Just and the beginning of the section on Couthon.

Saint-Just even has the excellent good taste to have Françoise de Graffigny's Lettres d'une Péruvienne, one of my favorite 18th century novels. ♥

montagnarde1793: (République française)
Apparently, Hamel got his whole "Robespierre = Jesus" thing from Garat*:

"Robespierre, que l'Europe croit voir à la tête de la Nation française, vit dans la boutique d'un menuisier, dont il aspire à être le fils ; et ses moeurs ne sont pas seulement décentes, sans aucune affectation et sans aucune surveillance hypocrite sur lui-même, elles sont aussi sévères que la morale du Dieu nourri chez un charpentier de la Judée."

("Robespierre, whom Europe believes it sees at the head of the French Nation, lives in the shop of a cabinetmaker, whose son he aspires to be[come]; and his habits are not only decent, without any affectation and without any hypocritical surveillance on himself, they are as strict as the moral code of the God fed in the home of a Judaean carpenter.")


*Yes, I know, he probably didn't need Garat to pick up on the ambiant 19th century culture of "The Republic: brought to you by Christianity (somehow)", but, Garat, you're not helping. >.>;
montagnarde1793: (serment des horaces)

Have some more Brutus and Cassius.

Act II, Scenes IV and V )

In other news, I may be going to Arras this Saturday to discuss plans for the new museum which will hopefully be put together in Robespierre's house there, (and for which you should all sign the petition). I don't have any ideas in particular and I don't know anyone there, but I figure I should go... Hopefully it won't end too badly. >.>;
montagnarde1793: (âme virile)

Never fear, I'm going to endeavor to answer this question myself. Having looked at every souce I could possibly find that mentions Éléonore Duplay, I must observe that every secondary source that claims she was a student of Regnault's (and cites a source for this) cites the same memoirs, by a certain Albertine Clément-Hémery, who claimed to have been a fellow student of Éléonore's in Regnault's atelier de jeunes filles. No other primary sources mention that Éléonore studied painting, which means that the only real evidence that we have are these memoirs and her alleged self-portrait (which obviously had to have been painted by someone with some technical knowledge).

Now, the chapter of these memoirs concerning Regnault's studio  has been published on Gallica and I've been able to read it - and translate the relevant parts for you - and there are a few things I notice about it that make me rather suspicious. The first is that Clément-Hémery spends the whole chapter calling Éléonore Eugénie. Now, since she calls nearly all the other students by their last names, this point alone doesn't necessarily invalidate her testimony; it's quite possible that she didn't know or didn't remember - since they would likely not have been on a first name basis - Éléonore's first name and it's clear that she only refers to her by her first name in these memoirs to keep the reader in suspense as to her real identity, which isn't revealed until the end of the chapter.

Of course, that's not all. Aside from the author's overactive imagination (aside from the fanciful incidents depicted below, Clément-Hémery also informs us that she could see Charlotte Corday and Antoinette pass beneath the windows of the studio on their way to execution, which, as Lenôtre points out, is an impossibility), she's also under the impression that Éléonore was blonde, which tends to tip me off right away that either she had never actually met her or she associated with her so little that that is the kind of detail she could have forgotten. She also thinks that Éléonore and Charlotte Robespierre were friends, though she admits to having that one on hearsay, so we might fairly let it pass.

As for the rest, let me put the relevant text in front of you, and then I'll tell you my hypothesis.

A Studio... )

So here are my thoughts: Does this chapter prove absolutely, even in conjunction with her alleged self-portrait, that Éléonore really studied under Regnault? No. To really affirm that absolutely we would need other outside evidence. Perhaps it exists somewhere; apparently someone wrote a thesis on Regnault (which is unfortunately only available in a hard to access art library in London) which lists forty-one of his female students, but I don't know if Éléonore is listed there and even if she is, the source might once again be Clément-Hémery.

However, I'm not convinced that it disproves Éléonore's art student status either. If you leave aside all the obviously made up incidents (I haven't read every session of the Jacobin Club, but I'll eat my hat if any of them turns up a denunciation of Regnault for wearing a beard) and the errors mentioned above (name, hair-color, etc.), it's not at all impossible that Éléonore and Clément-Hémery were in the studio at the same time.

Let me explain my reasoning by starting from what we know. First, to clarify, it seems likely enough that Clément-Hémery really was a student of Regnault's; several of the students she mentions are known to have been Regnault's students because they went on to have careers. It's theoretically possible that she invented the whole story out of whole cloth, but let's assume for the sake of argument that she didn't - especially since these kinds of memoirs usually have a least a grain of truth in them. Clément-Hémery tells us herself that in 1793-1794, she was 14 and then 15 years old, which would make her a full decade younger than Éléonore. It seems unlikely that they would have had much to do with each other, especially if Clément-Hémery and her friends were the bunch of giggling aristocratic idiots she depicts them as - which I have no reason to doubt. It's quite likely that they would have taken no notice of each other.

Now, at a later point in time, it's quite possible that someone who did know Éléonore or who was at least aware of her presence in the studio, mentioned to Clément-Hémery that she had been there - perhaps even in a similar conversation to the one depicted at the end of the memoirs where "Eugénie"'s identity is revealed. That would explain her knowledge of the rumors regarding Éléonore (oddly, this isn't the only source to allege that Éléonore and Robespierre were secretly married with Saint-Just as a witness, as absurd as the idea might seem) as well as certain errors, particularly regarding her appearance. If this hypothesis is correct, then Clément-Hémery filled in the traits she would have imagined Éléonore to have had and added details on the "Terror" to make her account more interesting.

These memoirs ring most true when Clément-Hémery talks about knowing nothing about politics and about these years being the happiest of her life - in those moments they recall Élisabeth Le Bas's memoirs, and if Élisabeth Le Bas, while being married to a Conventionnel and living in the same house as Robespierre could be as little affected by political questions as she seems to be in her memoirs, how much more true is that likely to be for a 14 year-old boarding school student who, even as she peppers her account with your standard Romantic fantasies on the "Terror", admits to having been ignorant and sheltered?

In short, my supposition is that Clément-Hémery and possibly Éléonore studied under Regnault without interacting with each other in particular, that someone later informed Clément-Hémery (rightly or wrongly) that Éléonore had been in Regnault's studio in 1793-1794, and that Clément-Hémery then made up everything in her memoirs concerning Éléonore and anything political. At least part of what she recounts of herself and her circle of friends may be true, as well as some variant of the final conversation presented here, but that's about it.

EDIT: It should also be noted that neither the famous passage about Éléonore's believing she was loved when really she was feared nor anything about her fellow students' supposedly explicitly calling her Mme Robespierre are anywhere to be found in these memoirs. The first is a summary by Lenôtre, the second, while I supposed it could be considered to be implied if we are to believe that some of the students thought that Éléonore and Robespierre were married, simply isn't there. (Which, btw, makes Hilary Mantel's statement that "'Eléonore thought she was loved,' said a fellow-student, 'but really she only scared him.'" doubly erroneous, since not only did Clément-Hémery never say this, but even Lenôtre's summary isn't referring to Robespierre's relationship with Éléonore, but to the fear of Éléonore among her fellow students alleged by Clément-Hémery.)

Endless lulz

Saturday, 12 March 2011 17:30
montagnarde1793: (OMSBWTF?)

I think I may have found the origin of the whole "Éléonore eavesdrops on all of Robespierre's conversations" trope (to be fair, it could technically really be Victoire, but that seems unlikely): in the Memoirs anecdotiques of some guy named Lombard de Langres. Here's the passage in question, in which Robespierre and Danton have an argument right before the fall of the Dantonistes. Yes, it's one of *those* scenes. In any case, I'm assuming the author's "source" for this scene is the mysterious conventionnel T*, who supposedly has ties to both Robespierre and Danton and who is portrayed as the only other person present (well, aside from Éléonore). Assuming this T* exists, I could probably figure out who he is if I cared enough, but I don't, so we'll just preserve his anonymity. Besides, whether he exists or not, his information is rather doubtful, as this passage implies and as others indubitably prove.

Page 115:
"La conversation s'échauffait, et Danton hors de lui semblait ne vouloir plus garder de mesure, lorsque la fille du menuisier Dupleix [Duplay], chez lequel était logé Robespierre, sortit subitement d'un cabinet ou alcôve enfoncé, d'où probablement elle avait tout entendu, et dit à Robespierre : Il y a là-bas plusieurs députations qui attendent depuis longtemps, ne voulez-vous pas les recevoir ? Qu'on les fasse monter, dit Robespierre. Alors, cessant toute discussion, et laissant Robespierre plus animé contre lui que jamais, Danton s'éloigna, suivi de T*."

("The conversation was heating up, and Danton, beside himself, seemed not to want to keep any measure of moderatoin, when the daughter of the cabinetmaker Dupleix [Duplay], in whose house Robespierre was a lodger, suddenly came out of a little room or hidden alcove, from which place she had probably heard everything, and said to Robespierre: There are several deputations here who have been waiting a long time, do you not want to receive them? Let them come up, said Robespierre. Then, ceasing all discussion, and leaving Robespierre more animated against him than ever, Danton went away, followed by T*.")

...Don't ask me why all the names are italicized. I haven't the slightest clue.

EDIT: To compound the dubiousness, d'Abrantès reports the same anecdote. Also, apparently the mysterious T* is actually Tallien, of all people. Because obviously Tallien was so close to Robespierre. *headdesk*

Page 36:
"La conversation prenait le ton d'une dispute et d'une vive querelle... Au moment où Robespierre allait répliquer, mademoiselle Duplaix [Duplay] sortit d'un appartement intérieur, et dit à Robespierre :
     - Maximilien, il y a là plusieurs députations des départements qui veulent te voir ; elles attendent depuis longtemps : les ferai-je entrer ?...
     - Fais les monter, dit Robespierre.
     Danton fut alors entraîné presque violemment par Tallien au moment où sa colère lui donnait une telle fureur qu'il serait peut-être porté à quelque extrémité envers Robespierre, qui, toujours armé, toujours entouré de vingt ou vingt-cinq misérables qu'il appelait sa garde, aurait tué ou fait massacrer Danton sur l'heure, sous le prétexte de tentative d'assassinat."

("The conversation took the tone of a dispute and a lively quarrel... At the moment when Robespierre was going to reply, Mademoiselle Duplaix [Duplay] came out from an interior apartment and said to Robespierre:
     'Maximilien, there are several deputations from the departments that want to see you; they have been waiting a long time: shall I let them in...?'
     'Have the come up,' said Robespierre.
     Danton was then dragged away almost violently by Tallien at the moment when his anger put him in such a fury that he would perhaps have been carried to some extremity against Robespierre, who, always armed, always surrounded by twenty or twenty-five wretches whom he called his garde, would have killed Danton or had him massacred on the spot, on pretext of attempted assassination.")

...At least she doesn't explicitly accuse Éléonore of eavesdropping. On the other hand, I think accusing Robespierre of looking for excuses to have Danton murdered in his own room is sinking to a new low, even for someone like d'Abrantès.

I won't try to determine the real origin of this anecdote; whether both authors got it from Tallien or one got it from Tallien and the other copied it or one made it up and then the other copied it, it's obviously equally useless as a historical document. On the other hand, it does nicely demonstrate the fuckwittery of Thermidorian-influenced accounts...

montagnarde1793: (rousseau)
Or maybe just his fanboys. Hard to tell sometimes, really. Voltaire has his points; he's witty, his contes are entertaining, he wrote some pretty good plays, he fought against the Church and the persecution of huguenots, etc. On the other hand, he was pretty chummy with various despots, he was a huge asshole to Rousseau, he was anti-Semitic, and one can declare with quasi-absolute certainty that he would have detested the Revolution.

I just saw a documentary ("Quand l'Europe parlait français") which was ostensibly about, well, what it it says: how everyone and his fourth cousin twice removed spoke French in the 18th century. Well, all the educated people anyhow. (Since everyone knows that peasants and artisans don't count.) Really though, it spent enough time talking about Voltaire to be a documentary about him. Needless to say if you've read the title of this post, I was disappointed with the treatment. Basically, for Marc Fumaroli (and considering he's part of the academic establishment, I suppose I really shouldn't be surprised), the Revolution is nothing but a Rousseauist degeneration into violence (no seriously, he blames revolutionary repression on that one line from the Contrat social about forcing people to be free - color me naïve, but I always interpreted that line as "individuals can't just break any law they disagree with because then society would fall apart", which for the record is contrary to the Revolutionary system of putting natural rights above positive laws, but I wouldn't expect someone who sets out this kind of nonsense to understand such subtleties). If only we had stayed with Voltaire's "moderate" position of sucking up to despotic governments and only (very selectively) attacking certain abuses around the edges! The world would be so much of a better place, wouldn't it? /sarcasm

Fortunately, we cut to another talking head to assure us that the Revolution was not, in fact, responsible for the death of French-as-universal-language - you know, just for the death of salon culture and the amazingness that is rococo, apparently - that dubious honor falls on the industrial revolution. Because as everyone knows, language ineluctibly follows commerce. Which is natural. And thus French is doomed. Unless we "individually" - because we can't openly advocate returning to "enlightened despotism", now can we? - bring back certain parts of the Ancien Régime - which even certain "jacobins" who hate the Ancien régime because they're "ideologues"** would be unable to disdain entirely. Again, apparently.

I mean, I guess all this proves is that you can't admire Voltaire unequivocally and still support the Revolution, which is a fairly obvious point - well, except to certain reactionary conspiracy theorists, but let's not go there, shall we? But it pisses me off anyway, because there's been a lot of celebration of how wonderful Voltaire was these past few years, and I can't help but feel that it's precisely not in spite of what I would consider to be his faults, but because of them*. He's the incarnation of the "good", "moderate" philosopher that those in power and their supporters both in the 18th century and now can feel comfortable around while patting themselves on the back for being so enlightened. (The irony is, the documentary points out this relationship between despotic courts and philosophers like Voltaire in the 18th century, but completely misses that the modern academic establishment is using the figure of Voltaire in much the same way.)

*To be fair, this is much less true of the anti-Semitism than of the helping of despotic regimes to keep up their image.
**I am so sick of seeing that word used as if it were the ultimate in sophisticated insults.

Useful to note

Tuesday, 1 March 2011 02:04
montagnarde1793: (FdlÊS)

You know the polemic about the Duplays' house and whether or not any part of it was still standing in 1895 between Ernest Hamel and Victorien Sardou? Apparently - unless more recent evidence I've not seen contradicts this - Hamel was globally right. The archivist Ernest Coyecque found a document unknown to either of our polemicists in 1899 which seems to settle the question in favor of Hamel. You can read about it here, in the minutes of the Commission municipale du Vieux Paris. If anyone wants me to translate, I will.

In the meantime I'll be looking around for a full copy of the document in question - it seems like the kind of thing that ought to have been published in the AHRF, but who knows. I may also eventually scan and post Sardou and Hamel's plans for comparative purposes, but that won't be until July at the earliest, since I have neither their books on the subject nor a scanner here with me.

In other news, I was unaware until recently that the complete contents the dossier Le Bas in the Archives nationales (ie Le Bas's correspondance with Élisabeth and with his father) had been published, but this is indeed the case. Thanks to good old Buchez and Roux and their Histoire parlementaire de la Révolution française. You can find this wonderful resource here. I fully intend to translate all the letters not included in TOBALB, never fear. I also recently discovered, thanks to that new joint biography of Le Bas and Augustin Robespierre, that the dossier Le Bas does not actually contain all of Le Bas's correspondance and that for his letters to his siblings one must go to the departmental archives of Pas-de-Calais, something that I'm also going to try to do in the relatively near future.

(Speaking of discoveries and archives, did you know it's easier to get into the archives here than certain libraries? The main - and rather shocking - example being that if I want to go to the Archives nationales, I can go any time they're open with only a photo ID, obtain a reader's card and request whatever documents I like, whereas if I want to go to the Bibliothèque nationale, because I'm not yet a graduate student, I not only need a note from a professor, but a note that says exactly what I want to look at, for what purpose, and for how long. I understand that they would do this at the Archives nationales too if they could, but that they're required by law to let people in. Now there is a law I can get behind - and not only, obviously, for my own convenience...)

Also: I went to the Musée de la Révolution française in Vizille on Friday. It was awesome and epic and if anyone wants postcards, let me know; I have three: Liberty, the Republic, and Deseine's bust of Robespierre (though if you don't that's okay too; I'm seriously tempted to keep them for decorative purposes XD).
montagnarde1793: (babet/lebas)

(AKA That Original Book About Le Bas, or technically speaking, Autour de Robespierre : Le Conventionnel Le Bas in translation.)

Chapter IX, part 2 )

I'm speechless

Thursday, 17 February 2011 20:15
montagnarde1793: (Default)

I just received the following email:

Dear estellacat,

You're receiving this email because you're one of the maintainers of the community comsauvinnov. LiveJournal has recently implemented an additional role in community management. Moving forward, each community will have one designated Owner, who will be the only user permitted to perform high-level tasks, such as deleting maintainers or deleting/renaming the community. You can read more about the Owner role here:

Since comsauvinnov has multiple maintainers, it is now up to you and the other maintainers of the community to select which of you will be designated as Owner. A poll has been created for your community at this page. Visit this page and vote for which current maintainer you believe should be made Owner of the community. You can read more information on the election process at the above-referenced FAQ.

LiveJournal Team

Of course, in this case, this will have no effect, since that community has been dormant for years now, but the principle... All I can say is that this idea, so blithely forced upon us, should be both shocking and repugnant to all virtuous republicans. Imagine the real world equivalent:

Dear Citizen X,

You're receiving this email because you're a citizen of Country Y. The Oligarchy has recently implemented an additional role in country management. Moving forward, each country will have one designated Dictator, who will be the only one permitted to perform high-level tasks, such as the powers of the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary, not to mention the army. You can read more about the Dictator role in this brief pamphlet.

Since we want you to feel as if you still have some role in this, it is now up to you and the other citizens of your country to select who will be designated as Dictator. A number of polling places have been set up for your country at X locations. Visit your polling place and vote for which current oligarch you believe should be made the Dictator of your country. You can read more information on the election process in the above-referenced FAQ pamphlet.

The Oligarchy

...I think it's time for us to seriously consider (not for the first time, for many of us) whether LJ is a company we want to continue to support.

montagnarde1793: (âme virile)

So, apparently, maybe - it seems he's not quite sure, or something - Buonarroti may have corresponded with Éléonore Duplay:

He writes to some friend of his I'm not familiar with called Lemaire 22 February 1830:

"[...] Voici un petit mot pour Madame Lebas avec qui je n'ai jamais correspondu, conséquemment elle ne connoît pas mon écriture. J'ai eu il y a trente ans des liaisons de bouche et par écrit avec son Frère; mais j'ai lieu de présumer qu'il n'aimeroit pas à se souvenir de moi; je crois que j'écris quelquefois à Eléonore; enfin essaie et si tu peux tirer de cette famille quelque chose qui puisse remplir mon objet ce ne sera pas peine perdue. [...]"

I don't even know what that means, it's so ambiguous. I mean, I know what he means when he says he's never corresponded with Élisabeth Le Bas, that's obvious, and I'm pretty sure he thinks Maurice Duplay fils wouldn't be happy to hear from him because of the whole being-arrested-in-conjunction-with-the-Conjuration-des-Égaux issue, but there's nothing in the rest of the letter that makes it at all clear what he wants from the Duplays, and the line in bold above all makes no sense. What does he mean he believes he writes sometimes to Éléonore? It makes it sound like something he does on a regular basis and yet is unsure of having done. I'm so confused.

Anyway, apparently no one has ever gotten around to compiling Buonarroti's correspondence, so I suppose for the moment (if not forever, since there's no guarantee all his letters have survived) I'll just have to be in suspense. Now I really want to know what Buonarroti and Éléonore would be corresponding about though... (!!!)

montagnarde1793: (anti-Antoinette)
I just got back from a rather disappointing theatrical adaptation of Laclos's Liaisons dangereuses. Why was it disappointing, you might ask? Was the acting bad? No, far from it, the actors were mostly quite convincing, although there were a couple of unfortunate stumbles with the lines. Was it the mise-en-scène ? No, that also worked quite well, even though after having moved the main action of the story (never specified in the original novel, which was published in 1782) to 1788, they gave the characters not always 100% accurate costumes from circa 1770 (with rather modern-looking hair and incorrect lacing). But I appreciate the fact that they didn't try to modernize the setting - I often have the sneaking suspicion when I see that done that those responsible think their audience is made up of idiots incapable of drawing parallels to contemporary society if they see the characters in a historical context. Moreover, since the theatre is essentially a medieval stone-vaulted chamber dating from about the same time as the Conciergerie, it could have worked well that our narrator is in prison...

But that's where we start to get into some problems. (Which I might have known would happen, since the playwright refers to the Conciergerie itself in his "notes d'intention" as merely the place where Antoinette was imprisoned...) Okay, so the narrator, Madame de Rosemonde (Valmont's aunt, for those of you who, like me, are familiar with the story but might not remember the names of the more obscure characters) is in prison during the Revolution. Since we're not given a reason and since she claims to have already to lost a bunch of friends and relatives to the Revolution (presumably she means they were guillotined, since unfortunately we're treated to the usual nauseating counterrevolutionary equation Revolution = guillotine), I suppose we're meant to assume that she's imprisoned (and thus going to be executed - this is apparently determined from the very beginning and the ending doesn't disappoint on that score - apparently everyone ever imprisoned during the Revolution was executed *rolls eyes*) simply because she's an aristo. Or maybe it's because of her habit of giving equally nauseatingly smug and bien-pensant sermons on how "no good can come of evil" and the necessarily fratricidal horrors of a regime founded on bloodshed (which she does several times in the course of the action, once at length). Supreme Being, spare us! (Also, please spare us the Melodramatic Soundtrack of Sinisterness - I swear, it's worse than Danton!) She's also apparently imprisoned in her native province, which makes slightly more sense, as there were a handful of representatives on mission who might have her arrested simply for being dévote, but on the whole if that were the case she'd be far more likely to be shot (or drowned, if she were near Nantes) than guillotined.

In any case, Mme de Rosemonde, in this not-so-clever framing device is writing to Cécile de Volanges, who is somehow in a convent - hello, it's called basic research; the situation Mme de Rosemonde is in is *clearly* meant to be a representation of the Terror (if an incredibly stupid and distorted one right out of the fucking Scarlet Pimpernel, which you wouldn't even expect your average Francophone to have read, so there's another WTF right there) which means there are no more convents. Mme de Rosemonde keeps urging Cécile not to leave the convent and to wait the Revolution out because it can't last forever and things will eventually go back to being more or less like they used to be - which semi-prescience (after all, it's partially true, as we know, but there were also some things that were permanently different and even the Restoration didn't bring them back) is not treated as the prejudice of a privileged woman who can't even imagine the world's being different (which it is, at that point, unless she also has a fucking crystal ball), which would be a perfectly accurate portrayal (after all, there were counterrevolutionaries who thought like that), but rather taken as a given, which really doesn't work. Even leaving aside the fact that Cécile can't be in a convent, why the hell does the playwright think that someone who, as it's implied, is somehow marked for the guillotine would be able to escape simply by hanging out in a convent? WTF, again.

And then, even beyond the historical issues, there's the issue of the plot's just ending while leaving out major plot points and resolutions. What happens to Valmont? In the novel, he's killed in a duel by Danceny. All we get here is essentially that he was killed in a duel and that's how Mme de Rosemonde has his correspondence, but no how or why. So we have this major character who we are informed was killed in between the story and the framing device. A bit anti-climactic. Worse is Merteuil; we never find out what happens to her. Are we supposed to assume she's dead? One of Mme de Rosemonde's apparently many guillotined friends? In the novel she lives but contracts syphilis and becomes disfigured. There's no mention of that here. In the novel Cécile's miscarriage was what led to her convent retreat, but this is never even alluded to. Are we supposed to know the story so well that this doesn't matter, or does it simply not happen in the version of the story? In the novel the Présidente de Tourvel dies. Here, no mention is made of her fate. Again, are we supposed to assume that the playwright thought we would know the story well enough to assume her dead?

It just doesn't add up: the action is cut off in the middle. Merteuil declares war on Valmont, but we never see the results of that (ie, Merteuil tells Danceny that Valmont has been sleeping with Cécile, leading to the duel between Danceny and Valmont and the latter's death). At that point, Mme de Rosemonde is carted off to the guillotine and Cécile decides that when the Revolution is over she wants to become Just. Like. The Marquise de Merteuil. What. I mean, I guess in more capable hands that twist might be interesting but here it just seems tacked on.

In short, I'm not sure why all the critics are raving about this production: historically it's nonsense and narratively it makes no sense and fails to provide a satisfying conclusion to really any dimension of the plot. The costumes (minus the few admittedly nitpicky points I mention), the acting, and the mise-en-scène (minus the incredibly irritating music) were admittedly all quite good. But that's just not enough to make a decent play. Do yourself a favor and read the original novel; it's much better.
montagnarde1793: (République française)

I just finished watching a documentary on Toussaint Louverture on Arte (or rather, on Arte's website, since I don't exactly have access to the TV here) and I don't have too much to say about it, but I wanted to share my thoughts.

First, before I get into the nitpicking, I want to point out that for a documentary attempting to cover the entire Revolution of Saint-Domingue/Haïti in less than an hour, it wasn't bad.

However... I feel it could have been a lot stronger if it had taken a more global view of the said Revolution instead of trying to make it all about Toussaint. Because, as it was, in order to understand anything about Louverture, so much context needed to be given about the Revolution that it ended up being the Revolution with bits of Toussaint's biography tacked on and at that point why not excise the bits of biography and make the Revolution the centerpiece, using the extra time to go into more depth?

Well, anyway, to speak of what they did do rather than what they didn't... I'm pretty sure it was an American documentary - all the historians were dubbed anglophones - which would explain the fixation with, one might almost say fetishization of violence, which was especially blatant when it came time to talk about France, but was certainly a bit of a problem in the main narrative as well.

I remember one transition especially well: an image of 10 August came up, and I thought, well they're probably going to explain now why the Convention would have a different policy on slavery and the colonies than the Constituent Assembly (eg, because it's more radical/democratic/principled/republican/whatever descriptor works best for you). But, no, apparently not. Well, at least not yet. Instead of what I would consider to be the logical narration for a painting of 10 August, it doesn't even mention the word "republic" but instead goes on about... the Terror. Because we all know that "thousands of people" (their words, not mine) were being guillotined daily from 1792 on, right? The best thing is, then they just segue right into Sonthonax's (for some reason Polverel isn't mentioned; I guess he doesn't matter) being sent to Saint-Domingue and his abolition of slavery, then the abolition of slavery in all the French colonies by the Convention upon the arrival of the three representatives from Saint-Domingue. Because these things were in a accordance with the Convention's principles, the documentary rightly explains. However, someone who didn't know anything on the subject watching the documentary (ie, probably most of its audience) would not be out of line to ask: what principles? given that the only other significant thing that the documentary informs us that they did is chop heads off. Really, it's no wonder Americans (and anyone else who gets fed this kind of narrative) are confused: all the time that could have been spent explaining context is eaten up describing (occasionally imaginary) bloodshed.

When it comes to revolutionary violence in Saint-Domingue, we're at least given a reason for it: some combination of vengeance and the resistance of white planters (they don't really bring up the colonial lobby back in France, which is a shame, but I understand they were pressed for time... one more thing it would have been useful to describe instead of the head-chopping), but they go into far to much detail on the subject of massacres, fires, heads on pikes, etc. for so short a documentary in which they have so much material to get through.

Still, it's nice to see them attempting to contextualize the violence in Saint-Domingue at least (perhaps because people have a more visceral reaction to slavery as oppression than to feudalism or monarchy as oppression and therefore the use of violence to escape from it becomes more acceptable...?) Which is more than we see for France. Apparently there the violence was just for the lulz (and also totally one-sided). Whatever. Since the documentary wasn't actually about the French Revolution per se, I'm not quite as irate as I would be otherwise, but that kind of representation is still always uncalled for.

Don't get me wrong though, even with all those flaws it was still a pretty good overview that managed, despite the inevitable oversimplifications to introduce the different interests and principles in play and though someone completely ignorant of the period might be a bit confused about the events in France during the period, they would walk out with a basic knowledge of the events of the Revolution of Saint-Domingue/Haïti and their importance, which was probably the goal. (Just don't expect anything more sophisticated than that.)

montagnarde1793: (maximebust)
The vast majority of sources (from the most scrupulous of historians to the most questionable of novelists) call Robespierre's dog Brount. (Here and there I've seen Bruant or Blount, but very rarely.) No one seems to know where this name comes from - here and there people assert that the original Brount was "an obscure Englishman", which works until you realize that even the most thorough searches for the name Brount only ever come up with Robespierre's dog. (Must have been pretty damn obscure, I guess.)

But what are the sources on this? Are there even any primary sources that mention Robespierre's dog? (I seem to recall someone in Robespierre vu par ses contemporains mentioning Brount/Blount/Bruant, but not by name, I don't think...) It seems to be commonly agreed that someone gave him the dog on his trip back to Arras in 1791, but again, what are the sources? Perhaps he mentions it in his correspondance - I'll have to check that when I get home - but I somehow doubt it. Neither Charlotte Robespierre nor Élisabeth Le Bas mention it in their memoirs. We might consider Lamartine the most trustworthy of the non-primary sources for this kind of anecdote, since Élisabeth read over his manuscript and the passage on "Brount" seems to have escaped critique...

But if we assume that the dog's name was indeed Brount, the question remains, where did it come from? Bruant, one could see - it would be cute and ironic to name a large dog after all kind of small bird, especially considering Robespierre's love of birds - but not enough sources - and none that I would consider credible (for one thing, they're nearly all in English) - use the name. Blount would also make sense, especially given the obscure Englishman theory (though I'm not certain where that came from either - perhaps simply from the fact that "Brount"/"Blount" sounds English). If the obscure Englishman theory is correct, then Charles Blount seems a likely enough candidate (after all, there's obscurity and then there's obscurity; he had to have heard of him, at the very least). And since Robespierre seems to be fairly at home with references to 17th century England - and his books (the list of which is quite interesting on its own merits; I recommend checking it out) tend to indicate this to an even greater extent than his speeches - this seems all the more likely.

So if Robespierre did intend to name his dog after Charles Blount (or another Blount, though honestly I don't think the others I've come across would really fit the bill), then why does everyone insist that the dog's name was Brount? It seems to me that someone made an error, somewhere along the line. It could have been a misprint in whatever book Robespierre read about Blount in (or if he heard about Blount in conversation, a mistake on the part of whoever he was talking to). Robespierre could have read/heard "Blount" and remembered "Brount", or perhaps he simply pronounced it in such a way that other people thought he was saying "Brount". Perhaps it's a misprint of Lamartine's that Élisabeth overlooked. Perhaps Élisabeth herself was mistaken.

In short, there are so many possibilities that the question seems impossible to resolve (except for the happy spinner of fictions, who can choose whatever explanation best pleases him or her). How fortunate for us then, that it is a question of so little importance.

EDIT: I am officially stupid. Élisabeth does mention that Robespierre's dog was called "Brount" in her memoirs... which I myself translated. *facepalm* However, I haven't seen the original manuscript, so it's possible the handwriting is ambiguous, and even if it really does say "Brount", that doesn't necessarily invalidate my theory...


Tuesday, 23 November 2010 21:49
montagnarde1793: (serment des horaces)
A couple of weeks ago - I meant to post on it at the time, but I got distracted - M. Belissa was explaining the theory of citizenship according to the Constitution of 1793. To illustrate the idea that culture had nothing to do with citizenship, he told us that it would not matter to Robespierre whether or not you ate camembert, because becoming a French citizen and eating French cheese really ought to be two concepts that have nothing to do with each other. (Besides, mimolette is better. That or comté. But I digress.) The point is, we can add this to our list of things that Robespierre doesn't care about, which, by the time we're done elaborating it, will, I think, prove most instructive. So:

Things Robespierre Doesn't Care About:
1. Marxists
2. Whether or not you eat camembert
3. (We'll just have to see what comes up)

In other news, [ profile] maelicia and I were looking for an equivalent to Capet for the British monarchy the other day, and, as it turns out, our own dear Revolutionaries have already done it for us. Apparently, "Georges Guelphe" was used in at least some circles to refer to the king of England at the time, more generally known as George III. I'm not sure quite what the origin of "Guelphe" might be, but until someone demonstrates that it should be otherwise, I'm going to refer to all British monarchs from the first George on as "Guelphe".

Also: talked to M. Belissa the other day about my thesis and he suggested, not perhaps un-sensibly, to limit myself to a concept like dictatorship or the figure of Brutus or something along those lines. He also suggested that I look at something like the "Révolutions de France et de Brabant" or the "Révolutions de Paris" as a source... There I'm less sure. I suppose the latter doesn't seem like too bad an idea, but the former ends too early for the kinds of things I was considering looking at, and then, of course, the idea of spending the next year and a half of my life analyzing Desmoulins, even at his least objectionable, isn't that appealing. Worse, I'm not even sure if there's going to be enough material in either of these journals to write 50+ pages on just a topic like "representations of Brutus", which means, as M. Belissa also warned me, that I could go through thousands of pages without finding what I'm looking for, after which I would have to start over with something else - and I don't even know what that something else would be at this point. *sighs* I guess I'm just going to have to get started and hope for the best...
montagnarde1793: (jupiter)
p. 528 (12 Thermidor, Year II): "15. Le Comité de salut public arrête que Le Bas, officer de l'état-major de l'armée de Sambre-et-Meuse, est destitué.
               CARNOT (1).

(1) Arch. nat, AF II, 305. - De la main de Carnot. Non enregistré."

Carnot, you vindictive bastard. Go jump in a lake. (In case it wasn't obvious, the "Le Bas" here mentioned is one of Philippe's brothers. For the report of his actual arrest by one of the representatives on mission, which actually took place before he received Carnot's order, see pp. 569-70. And to continue, p. 630 (16 Thermidor, Year II): "10. Le Comité de salut public arrête que Le Bas, adjudant général à l'armée de Sambre-et-Meuse, amené à Paris, par le citoyen Guilbert, lieutenant de gendarmerie, sera conduit de suite dans la maison d'arrêt dite des Carmes, sous la responsabilité dudit citoyen Guilbert, qui rapportera au Comité la décharge qui lui sera donnée par le concierge. Les pièces dont est porteur le citoyen Guilbert seront par lui déposées au Comité de salut public.

(2) Arch. nat. AF II, 305."

          Lille, 17 thermidor an II - 4 août 1794. (Reçu le 7 août.)
             'Citoyens collèges,
[...] Parmi les personnes que j'ai fait arrêter ici se trouve Victoire Duplay, fille du propriétaire de la maison où logeait Robespierre. Avant la découverte de la conspiration, je lui avais donné une passe pour retourner à Paris, mais, étant revenue depuis [à] Péronne, j'ai chargé le Comité révolutionnaire, le soir même qu'elle est arrivée, de la mettre en arrestation. Voulez-vous que je la fasse conduire à Paris par la gendarmerie nationale ?
[...] Salut et fraternité.
                                 Florent Guiot.'
[Arch. nat. F7 6(?)772. - De la main de Florent Guiot.]"


              Anvers, 18 thermidor an II - 5 août 1794.
'[...] J'ai fait arrêter et conduire à Lille, avec leurs correspondances, le général de brigade Nivet, l'adjudant général Calendini, le chef de brigade du 13e chasseurs à cheval Target, grands amis et agents très actifs des conspirateurs, et le directeur des charrois Auzat (1) avec sa femme, fille Duplay et belle-soeur de Le Bas.
[...] RICHARD.'

(1) Il y a dans l'orginal Auga [?]; mais c'est bien Auzat que s'appelait le gendre de Duplay. Voir Hamel, Histoire de Robespierre, t. I, p. 520."
montagnarde1793: (babet/lebas)

...Not found in That Orginal Book about him, but published for the first time in the AHRF in January-February 1925:


Original )

Translation )
montagnarde1793: (wtfno)

I just saw the phrase "règne de Robespierre" used in all seriousness in a serious work of history published this year, 2010.* The author wasn't even paraphrasing a primary source - let alone quoting one directly. No, she just apparently thinks this is the most appropriate term for the Republic, pre-Thermidor. And I was complaining about Luzzatto!

*Verjus, Anne, Le bon mari : Une histoire politique des hommes et des femmes à l'époque révolutionnaire, (Paris: Fayard, 2010), p. 35.

montagnarde1793: (OMSBWTF?)

I know I'm overly sensitive to these issues, so I'm going to lay it out for those of you who might judge with a cooler head than mine, but it seems to me that, like with the quote on the bookmark, this little half-paragraph that I just found in that same biography of Augustin by Luzzatto, while not false - it leaves out certain accounts that I think tend to tip the balance away from his conclusions, but of course this is a question that's extremely peripheral to the topic of the book and Luzzatto is hardly obliged to agree with my interpretations - is at least unnecessarily nasty in tone:

"Ils côtoyaient là le demi-monde [seriously?] de la maison Duplay, fourmillant de silhouettes féminines : la maîtresse de maison, Françoise, en conflit avec sa locataire Charlotte dès les premiers jours, ainsi que les quatre filles, toutes à marier [this is, in fact, not the case, since Sophie was already married and no longer present]. La plus jeune, Élisabeth, n'allait pas tarder à épouser le député montagnard Lebas ; quant à l'aînée, les parents Duplay la considéraient comme fiancée à Maximilien, lequel, pour sa part, ne semblait pas impatient d'obtenir ses faveurs [!]. Un témoignage tardif et perfide de Charlotte (dans un livre de souvenirs publié à titre posthume en 1835, Mémoires de Charlotte Robespierre sur ses deux frères) assure que Maximilien efforça même de se décharger d'Éléonore sur Augustin : "Tu devrais épouser Éléonore. - Ma foi, non, répondit mon jeune frère."

"There they mixed with the demi-monde [seriously?] of the Duplay house, swarming with feminine silhouettes: the mistress of the house, Françoise, in conflict with her lodger Charlotte from the beginning, as well as the four daughters, all unmarried [this is, in fact, not the case, since Sophie was already married and no longer present]. The youngest, Élisabeth, would soon marry the montagnard deputy Lebas; as for the eldest, the Duplay parents considered her betrothed to Maximilien, who, for his part, didn't seem impatient to obtain her favors [!]. A late and treacherous account by Charlotte (in a book of memoirs published posthumously in 1835, Charlotte Robespierre's Memoirs on Her Two Brothers) assures that Maximilien even tried to off-load Éléonore onto Augustin: "You should marry Éléonore. - Faith, no, replied by younger brother."

So yes, he calls it "perfidious" testimony, but on the other hand, Charlotte is the only one allowed to speak. With no counter-argument from other sources, this leaves us to infer that even if Charlotte was being malicious, she was probably more or less right. Luzzatto, of course, has every right to this interpretation, but he seems almost as maliciously pleased by it as Charlotte himself... at least to me. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but it just seems so unnecessary.


Monday, 15 November 2010 21:23
montagnarde1793: (Augustin)

Has anyone seen the bookmark they made for Sergio Luzzatto's biography of Augustin Robespierre? This is the quote they chose for it:

"Au cours de l'année qui, pour les frères Robespierre, devait être la dernière de leur vie, Augustin, bien plus que Maximilien, osa regarder en face la République jacobine et reconnaître ce qu'elle comportait d'ambiguïté, de fausseté, voire de laideur."

("In the course of the year which, for the Robespierre brothers, was to be the last of their life, Augustin, much more than Robespierre, dared to look at the Jacobin Republic straight on and recognize what it contained of ambiguity, falseness, even ugliness.")

Is it just me, or does this seem unreasonably vitriolic? I hope it doesn't set the tone for the book. I've never read anything by Luzzatto, but from what [ profile] maelicia has quoted of him, he never seemed to me like someone who thought the Republic of the Year II needed to be knocked down a few pegs.

It's not even that I think that assessment is entirely false; there were undoubtedly ambiguities and ugliness in what was going on in the Year II. But it seems to me that the implication of the quote is that Maxime was blind to this and that since he manifestly wasn't blind to what the future Thermidorians were doing, the only reading I can really take away from this is that what was wrong with the "République jacobine" was ideological and that Maxime was therefore blind to its faults for ideological reasons, which is absolutely ridiculous. To the extent that there were problems with the Republic in the Year II, they existed where it failed to live up to the ideals on which it was based, not because those ideals were inherently flawed. Maybe I'm misreading it, but that's what it seems to imply to me.

Moreover, this is not a case of debunking some sort of golden legend. It is not generally accepted among historians and certainly not among the general public, that the "République jacobine" = utopia. So no, you're not being original when you rather gratuitously point out that this was not so. That goes without saying. However, there are plenty of people under the false impression that it was a pure dystopia. Pointing out that those people are wrong would serve the truth better than knocking down straw-arguments.

(On the other hand, although I seriously doubt it, it's possible that Luzzatto really does portray the Republic in the Year II as some kind of paradise and this quote is there for nuance. But that wouldn't be very professional either.)

In any case, I'm sure it's not Luzzatto himself who chose that quote for the bookmark, but it's clearly something he wrote. Which invites the question: Seriously, people, is the only way we can make Augustin likeable to make Maxime blind and the Republic ugly? I thought we were over that. Apparently not.


montagnarde1793: (Default)

October 2014

5678 91011
19202122 232425


RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios