Only about 100 pages were on the Revolution itself, which I thought was both a shortcoming - in the sense that, considering the title, you wouldn't necessarily expect more than a third of the book to be, essentially, a drawn-out introduction - and an asset, because it allows Mossé to explain the points of Ancient History most referenced by the Revolutionaries to a general audience no longer likely to be familiar with them and to show how very Enlightenment figures had already made use of Greek and Roman references. I actually feel she could have done more with that last point, that maybe she could have discussed how much of the Revolutionaries' interpretations of Antiquity were direct and how much filtered through Rousseau, say, or Mably's interpretations. Not that that's a question that could be definitively answered, but it might be worth exploring.
Mossé repeatedly makes the assertion that most of the Revolutionaries knew Antiquity pretty much exclusively through Plutarch. It would be interesting to investigate the truth of this, since it seems to me that Plutarch, though clearly widely read, would have been one of the least likely candidates to be taught in schools, considering that most collèges had greatly de-emphasized Greek in the period when the Revolutionaries would have been in school. Which begs the question, if Plutarch was their only acquaintance with Antiquity, then what Latin texts were they reading in school? Since I'm currently researching a paper on collèges and universités in 18th century France, I can safely say that not much has been written about the curricula at most of these schools (Louis-le-Grand and the other collèges of the Université de Paris forming a notable exception), for one reason or another, and there would have been even less in 1989 when this book was published.
In any case, this book presents an excellent summary and has given me a lot of possible further leads for research, so I can't complain about it. Besides, it's refreshing to see a historian of Ancient Greece who can write intelligently about something so far removed from her subject as the Revolution. There are so many historians who are fine writing about anything but the Revolution, but then someone go haywire whenever they mention it. And that's even among 18th century French historians whose main focus is not the Revolution. (Take Robert Darnton for example. His studies on the Ancien régime are brilliant, but he has a less than perfect understanding of Revolutionary mentalities and becomes very condescending along ideological lines when it comes time to talk about the Revolution.)
On the other hand, most of the studies I've found of representations of Antiquity during the Revolution are by historians of Greece or Rome. It would be nice, I think, to get the perspective of a few historians for whom Antiquity is less familiar than the Revolution to complement that of these historians for whom the opposite is true. I also felt - and it's possible I'm wrong, since I haven't done enough of my own research on the topic yet - that Mossé perhaps overemphasized Greece because that's her speciality. She herself seemed to admit as much, with the statistics she provided on the number of citations of Rome vs Greece (citations of the former were far higher), but statistics can sometimes be misleading. I was also somewhat disappointed that she didn't call Desmoulins out on his "citation" of Tacitus, which as has been demonstrated - and can be verified by actually reading Tacitus with Desmoulins' passage in mind - is not actually in there.
Probably though, the single most important thing that annoyed me about this book had nothing to do with the content, which, aside from the few misgivings I've already spoken about, really was excellent, was its lack of footnotes/endnotes. Mossé quotes a lot of different sources, but more often than not, fails to give exact locations for them. She lists sources in the back, but it's not particularly helpful to know that a quote came from somewhere in the thousands of pages of the Archives parlementaires. It really makes it much more frustrating than it needs to be to look them up. (This would be the negative example for why I love footnotes. The positive example being that I managed to cram 65 of them into a 14 page paper last year, as you may recall.)
I should say, before I sign off, that I apologize for any incoherence in the above assessments. I blame it on the fact that it's nearly one in the morning. The bottom line is, I highly recommend this book as an overview, but be aware that it's not perfect.
I should really be working. I have two articles to read by tomorrow and then two essays and three exams for next week. But I cannot concentrate. Every time I start to work on one thing, I just keep thinking about all the other things I have to do. It doesn't help that my weekend is entirely full and our reading period here at Oberlin is a single day (Monday, in this case). >.>;
Still, I wanted to post just to say that one of my essays in on music during the Revolution, which makes me exceedingly happy, despite everything I have to do. It's going to be base on the last part of my presentation on 18th century French music, concerning which: I was rather surprised and gratified to see that not only did the prof like my presentation, about five or six of my fellow students (out of a class of fourteen) came up to be afterwords and congratulated me, the typical comment going something like this, "You did a great job; your presentation was really interesting and the music you played was beautiful." I think the music can probably take more credit for that than me, but still, it's nice to see I'm not the only one who finds this stuff interesting.
And speaking of music, you, maelicia, will certainly not be surprised - though, I predict, rather disturbed - to learn that in "La Pernette," an ancestor to "Ne pleure pas, Jeannette," apparently,
("The hero (which is to say Pierre) changed according to region and era; the people of the west, for example, made him into a Chouan").
...And now back to Bernier's letter to Colbert. >.>;
After reading this, you may see while I am currently physically ill. And this isn't even the worst of them!
And worse, they can't be reasoned with!
...Because of this, there is no coherent opposition, and thus, less informed people are likely to believe these idiots.
My poor eyes are bleeding now!
From the Marie-Antoinette movie message boards (
On the plus side I do have a lovely new fic (Maxime/Saint-Just; Maxime/Eléonore) if anyone is interested:
Oh, and: see icon. XD I couldn't resist!
First we were lined up against a wall by the National Guard for no apparent reason.
Then we were led into a "cafe"--really a place with clusters of tables and chairs where the walls were lined with stalls. Vendors were selling bread, "wine" (it was really grape juice), pastry (one wonders how they got any pastry, considering the lack of both flour and sugar), and flowers for bits of colored paper meant to serve as money (not referred to as assignats, but I assume that was the general idea).
We were told that there was to be a confrontation between the "Jacobins" and the "Girondists" (whatever happened to Montagnards and Girondins?). And indeed, we were treated to a display of a deformed, hideous, and snarling Robespierre and Marat seated at a table next to a dignified, handsome, well-dressed pair of "Girondists" (one of them, we were told was Brissot; the other, a woman, was unnamed) and arguing among themselves over the necessity for the creation of a Committee of Public Safety. The "Girondists" of course, were properly horrified, while Marat growled and Robespierre made properly evil gestures.
Then broadsheets were passed around; the king, we were told, has just been executed. A severed head of rubber was subsequently brought in on the end of a pike and girl placed a top hat (a top hat?) on it in saying, "I crown your majesty."
Immediately following this, a girl was caught stealing a loaf of bread and we learned the tragic story of how she had conceived a child out of wedlock, her had lover left her, she had been left to raise the child on her own, and now her evil!sans-culotte father was preventing them from having enough food (?).
Then, Charlotte Corday came, introduced herself to Marat, and informed him she had a list of the names of "Girondist" leaders (keeping in mind that this is in an indoor market/cafe). Undertaker!Robespierre (long black pants and all) excused himself; the "Girondists" stayed for some reason. Corday gives Marat the list (of completely made-up pseudo-French names); he read it and assured her they will all be guillotined; then, with a cry of "so it's true: you are a butcher! Those names were false!" she took out a small plastic pistol (yes, you read that right) and shot him.
From there we were somewhat roughly led next door to the "Tribunal" (three girls dressed in the fashion of the early 18th century behind a table, surrounded by wooden benches and a chair for the accused). Charlotte Corday of course, gave a brave and dignified defense of her actions to the bloodthirsty!mob (who seemed to be playing a game of musical chairs; they kept moving in circles around the room and shoving people from their seats). Robespierre stood near the front, looking sinister, of course (for some reason he was not wearing a wig; he had his hair parted and slicked back). By this time he was being referred to as "chairman" of the Committee of Public Safety (maybe he made the transformation en route to the Tribunal?).
Some audience members were pulled to the front; accused of being her accomplices, they were asked to prove their patriotism by their ability to do the "national dance" (the Carmagnole?), recite the "national motto" (liberty, equality, fraternity), and name the national bird (?). Naturally none of them knew, and all the suspects (including Corday of course) were led outside and loaded into a tumbrel.
We followed the tumbrel, of course, to a guillotine set up outside. It was dark outside and there was a red light on behind it. Charlotte Corday was forced to mount the scaffold and started to give a speech; their Robespierre (who naturally had to be at the execution) interrupted her with rhetoric intended to make him look like evil incarnate--not that the costume needed any help with that. Then a man in black robes (Sanson =/= the Grim Reaper, damn-it!) dropped the mechanism serving as a guillotine on her and she could no longer be seen (I'm not entirely sure how it worked).
The next part happened rather quickly, but I remember their Robespierre started to give another speech, the suspects tried to escape, and then a shot rang out (I think it was the National Guard, but I don't quite recall); you'll remember the young mother from earlier? It was, of course, her child who was shot. As she lay with her child in her lap, sobbing, the "Girondist" woman admonished everyone for their blood-thirst (along the lines of "look what you've done") and informed us that this was not the Revolution they had fought for (how ironically true).
As the girl continued to weep over the dead child, their Robespierre had a rope fastened across the area around the guillotine; whoever was with him, he told us, would stay on one side; those with the "Girondists" would go to the other. After we had split into two camps (some of the actors warning us that if we stood with the "Girondists" we would be killed), undertaker!Robespierre led those of us (the majority) who had stayed on his side away; in parting he ordered a National Guardsman to shoot them. The Guard, quite naturally, said, "what?" Evil!Robespierre replied with the oh-so-original line, "did I stutter?" and led us away, some of the actors warning us not to look back. We heard gunfire behind us, and the reenactment was (mercifully!) over.
Just to vaguely assess the dates:
21 January, 1793: Louis Capet is executed.
2 June, 1793: The Girondins are arrested.
13 July, 1793: Marat is assassinated.
27 July, 1793: Robespierre joins the Committee of Public Safety.
We have problems, oh yes; we do.
...Why do I even try?
With all due respect, I feel compelled to say that, after awaiting this reenactment with much anticipation, I was deeply saddened by its portrayal of the Revolution and most especially, of Robespierre.
Some inaccuracies are, of course, to be expected, and even the worst of the not easily avoidable sort may be tolerated; as a teacher of history, I am sure you are aware of the true nature of Marat's assassination, and thus I will not dwell on it; I understand that a public shooting is much easier to portray in such a venue.
Therefore, I will arrive at my point(s):
The portrayal of the Girondins was entirely too kind; do not believe the Girondins any more scrupulous than the Montagnards (as a side note, I am sure you are aware that both Brissotins and Montagnards were members of the Jacobin club, and as such it is misleading to call their opponents "Jacobins"); their rhetoric was just as bloody as that of the Montagne. While they called for war with Austria, Robespierre was one of the few to oppose them; later they would refuse to fight the war they had so ardently called for, content instead to squabble with their former allies, the Montagnards. Few modern historians defend them; they were at best incompetent; at worst hypocrites. Nonetheless, with the Commune calling for their blood, Robespierre prevented 73 of them from being sent to the guillotine, and only the leaders (those that were caught, since others went to the provinces to stir up insurrections) were executed.
Now to the Terror: originally an idea of Danton's (the Committee of Public Safety, as I'm sure you are aware, was originally "his"), it was made necessary by war on all borders and civil war in the Vendee and elsewhere (partially created by the Gironde, either by calls to arms or previous incompetence in running the government). I notice that Danton was absent from this reenactment... I wonder why...
At any rate, Robespierre was made to look like a bloodthirsty dictator; I cannot believe that such vile representations of Thermidorian propaganda still exist! Surely you must know that this was not the case? For one, the Committee of Public Safety had no "chairman," a common enough misconception; more decrees are signed by just about every other member (where, by the way, were Saint-Just, Couthon, Collot d'Herbois, Lindet and the rest?). More disturbingly, according to historical record, Robespierre never attended trials, much less executions; he did not personally send anyone to the guillotine (although it is true he supported the Revolutionary Tribunal's verdicts); no one was sent to the guillotine without trial in Paris. Robespierre despised those responsible for the massacres in the provinces and had them recalled to Paris to account for their crimes (isn't it interesting to note that it was those same men who later executed him without a trial?). The most ghastly inaccuracy is the last; even the Thermidorians (who make such outrageous claims as Robespierre skinned priests to make shoes for the sans-culottes) do not attempt to say he had the Girondins and their supporters shot en masse, without even a trial. Even Robespierre's words are twisted; they are not his own; those meant to resemble them are taken out of context.
The crowd, the guards, and the execution were all excellent, but the calumny of Robespierre, so thoughtlessly repeated here was very upsetting to me; if your aim is to teach history, I must say, with regret, that you have fallen short.
Vertu et égalité,
Citoyenne S. L.,
Student of the French Revolution and Robespierriste
P.-S. A few suggestions of a more minor order, if I may:
1. Robespierre, unlike his friend and ally Saint-Just did not dress in all black, but he did wear culottes, a powdered wig, and glasses (he was myopic); he would have been horrified by the morbid ensemble he is given in this reenactment.
2. The Revolutionary Tribunal, did not operate in such a manner; Charlotte Corday was afforded a lawyer at her trial and however flimsy an indictment's support might argued to be, there was still at all times evidence presented and a vote taken by the jury.
3. Some of the costumes were far too nice to have been socially acceptable at this time; they date from earlier eras. Similarly, most people wore tricolor cockades and sashes to show their support of the Revolution.
4. If the Brissotine was supposed to be Manon Roland, it should be known that she did not speak out in public, except at her trial, believing it out of place. If not, it's still not likely that a woman supporting the Gironde would be so outspoken.
I apologize for nit-picking, but I thought these points might be useful for future productions.
I seriously feel like crying now.
One support of this argument I find to be the most distasteful is that he and and the leaders of 20th century revolutions were both idealistic. I beg to differ! Robespierre may have had something of the idealist in him, but the leaders, at least, of 20th century revolutions were opportunistic and had a goal of dictatorship from the beginning, committing atrocities in the name of ideals they had duped the populace into believing in but clearly did not believe in themselves. Robespierre had no intention of ever being a dictator (and never became one, either!), and indeed when acting on 9 Thermidor would have usurped the power of the Convention, he could not do it.
Robespierre did not anticipate the necessity of the Terror, and did not, as it is often proposed wish to promote it indefinitely. It was not an issue involving a grab for power, but a measure taken to prevent others from abusing it. The Girondins were the cause of the war, exacerbated the civil war, and gave the first blow of the Terror. Are they therefore blameless? Is it therefore Robespierre's fault that the Montagne had to win the war the Girondins had no idea how to fight and prevent internal enemies from murdering the nascent Republic?
And how do these circumstances have anything in common with those of later 20th century revolutions? Do these revolutions even have a figure comparable to Robespierre? Not at all. But they had a precedent in the French Revolution--and the opportunity to learn from its mistakes. They chose not to take these lessons, and that makes their actions reprehensible. Who could claim similarly that Robespierre and his fellow-revolutionaries could have anticipated the 20th century? That they even shared common principles with these later revolutionaries? It is ludicrous to place the blame for actions taking place in the 20th century on the people of the 18th. These 20th century revolutionaries may have adopted Robespierre as their emblem, but is that proof that he would have liked them? From what I can tell his principles were vastly different from theirs. When are those who accuse Robespierre going to realize that so-called "Jacobinism" does not equal Bolshevism?
Oh, and one more thing:
Do those who accuse him of paranoia about plots realize that it was a plot which felled him?
So I will, for lack of any better ideas, quote my last letter to her:
Ce bouquin--celui d'Emile Zola--qu'est-ce que le titre?
This book--the one by Emile Zola--what is the title?
Je trouvais un site sur France ; peut-etre ca t'interesse? : http://www.understandfrance.org
I found a site on France; perhaps it will interest you?
C'est tres interessant. Je veux regarder <
It's very interesting. I want to see "La Haine" now to understand what has been going on in the "suburbs" of Paris and other French cities...
Je te manque beaucoup!
I miss you very much!
Vertu et egalite,
P.-S. : Un excerpt de "Le Bourgeois sans-culotte ou Le spectre du parc Monceau" par Kateb Yacine :
An excerpt from "The Bourgeois Sans-Culotte ou The Specter of Park Monceau" by Kateb Yacine:
Un spectre hante la France, le spectre du parc Monceau, le spectre de Robespierre, l'intrus, le mal-aime, le malfame, l'incontournable.
A specter haunts France, the specter of Park Monceau, the specter of Robespierre, the intruder, the badly-loved, the defamed, the uncontrollable one.
(On entend a nouveau le cri de mort de Robespierre)
(Robespierre's death-cry is heard anew)
Un spectre hante la France. Le spectre de Robespierre frappe a sa porte depuis deux siecles. Il n'a pas eu d'enfance, pas de jeunesse, pas de femme. Sa femme, c'etait la Republique.
A specter haunts France. The specter of Robespierre has knocked at her door for two centuries. He has not had a childhood, nor a youth, nor a wife. His wife, she was the Republic.
Republique, es-tu la?
Republic, are you there?
Entre la Republique : l'actrice qui fut Eleonore.
Enter the Republic: the actrice who was Eleonore.
Quelle Republique? La premiere? Elle est morte d'un coup d'Etat militaire que tu voyais venir en la personne de Bonaparte.
Which Republic? The first? She died from a military coup d'Etat that you saw come in the person of Bonaparte.
Entre Napoleon. Apres un tour de danse avec Eleonore, il quitte la scene, remplace par Petain, puis par de Gaulle.
Enter Napoleon. After a turn of dancing with Eleonore, he quits the scene, replaced by Petain, then by de Gaulle.
La deuxieme Republique? Elle est morte etouffee, entre deux empires. Et la troisieme fut victime, une fois de plus, d'un militaire, le marechal Petain, qui la sacrifia sous la botte nazie.
The second Republic? She died suppressed, between two empires. And the third was the victim, one time more, of a military man, the marshal Petain, who would sacrifice her under the nazi boot.
Republique, es-tu la?
Republic, are you there?
Quelle Republique? La quatrieme? Elle fit ses premiers pas avec un autre (encore un autre) militaire, le general de Gaulle. Il n'hesita pas a la supprimer, pour fonder, a son tour, la cinquieme Republique, nee de la guerre d'Algerie. Ainsi la Republique fut souvent renversee, d'un militaire a l'autre. Mais toujours elle se releve, avec le souvenir de son premier amant : Maximilien Robespierre.
Which Republic? The fourth? She took her first steps with another (yet another) military man, the general de Gaulle. He would not hesitate to suppress her, to found, in his turn, the fifth Republic, born of the war in Algeria. In such ways, the Republic was often overthrown, by one military man or another. But always she would rise again, with the memory of her first lover: Maximilien Robespierre.
Les militaires quittent la scene. Eleonore et Robespierre s'embrassent longuement, puis s'eloignent dans l'ombre.
The military men quit the scene. Eleonore and Robespierre kiss at length, then remove into the shadows.
I bet you've never been the Republic before.
I feel special;)
Salut a tous.......
There seems to be an odd proliferation of things to do with L'Autrichienne lately, but the French-English collaboration documentary (while it will obviously have a bias), should prove better than the Marie-Antoinette movie. (At least it covers the Revolution.) There's also a British documentary, but I don't know too much about that one (except it will be for L'Austrichienne, obviously).
They keep talking about how Marie-Antoinette has been mistreated by history! Sure, feel sorry for the rich queen. Why can't they make a pro-Maxime documentary or movie is what I want to know. They've managed to do it in print, why can't they do it in movies. (Although there is one notable exception--the French tv production from the 60s--you'd think they could make something a little bit more current and mainstream though.)
Sorry for the rant, but I had to post it someplace.
Additionally: three guesses as to my Halloween costume.
And: I need a better outlet! I need to finish my novel! I need to do my homework! *cries*
But: I did download some Simon and Garfunkel onto my iTunes, so life isn't complete crap.
What am I doing for Halloween?
What, if I may ask, is the "Reign of Terror"? Yes, I am honestly asking. I've never heard of it. Could the good people of the English-speaking world be confusing it with "La Terreur" or to put it in a way that is more acceptable to aforementioned people, the Terror? Ah, yes, that must be it. Where precisely does this term come from then, if not the French? I'm thinking perhaps from the likes of Carlyle, Dickens, The Baroness Orczy, and their ilk, to make the Revolution seem in the eyes of the English-speaking masses somehow sinister. What a coincidence that I am right!
Yet, if we hold this to be the case, why is this monicker so all-pervasive today? Who can say? Old habits die hard. But that is not an excuse!
I hate my life.
Did I mention I'm still doing my homework at 10:50 on a Sunday night?
After school, even effort is not praised as a virtue. America is about money. The monied are the American aristocracy. It has been said before, and better than my untrained ramblings can provide, but perhaps I can offer my own insight without giving offense to those more talented than I?
The poor no longer starve here. Instead they are fed on a cheap and greasy sustenance of not only food, but entertainment. Why should they revolt? They have rights; so they are told; and freedom. The people would not rise in revolution.
So perhaps I am the ony one who longs for it. Revolution. Such a perfect word--though the concept is imperfect. I want a revolution like the French Revolution. Those men who raised passionate voices and put quills to paper so their society could be free! These men were educated, brilliant. You had to be able to quote the great writers and philosophers of past ages to make it on the political stage. Today the only requirement is to look good on TV.
The people then were just as poor and uneducated as they are today, but they understood that their leaders should not be. To lead a country it is important, above all things, to be educated--not even in the modern sense of the word. A leader should have genius. A degree is not enough. A leader should also want the best for their people and for the world.
One might argue that I am too must of an idealist. It is quite possibly so. But is there truly any other way to be? If I have no talent for poetry or prose, or oratorium, let me at least cling to my ideals. What else is worth living for.
My unplanned writing is a miserable exercise as far as organisation is concerned. But so inspired, one must rant and leave correction and modification to a different date. A cry to revolution is a beginning, but it still is not enough.
My long dreamed for revolution is inevitably doomed, hypocritical. We have no king, every citizen has the right to a vote. The fault then lies in the people. But this is the cardinal sin; the people are everywhere good. They can have no fault. And yet the people's will has turned to madness.
Adieu for now,