College prizes

Thursday, 23 October 2014 13:35
montagnarde1793: (Default)
Over four years ago, I discussed this topic in a comment thread at the community revolution_fr. I figure I should post it here to make it more findable, as I think I had originally intended to do anyway. And here, is, of course, the source.

It's a question of the academic competitions between the different colleges of the University of Paris and the prizes various revolutionary figures won in them. For those curious as to why there are fewer first prizes among the revolutionary generation than previous generations, it's not, contrary to what some have suggested, a symptom of the former's relative mediocrity. In previous generations, each college awarded its own prizes, whereas in the decades preceding the Revolution, all the colleges were competing for the same prizes.

Let's start with Robespierre:

Maximilianus Maria Isidorus de Robespierre
Atrebas (né à Arras)
e collegio Ludovici Magni

Maximilien Marie Isidore de Robespierre
Atrebas (born in Arras)
From the collège Louis-le-Grand

Concours de 1771
Classe de quatrième
6e accessit de version latine

Competition of 1771
Fourth Class [Robespierre entered Louis-le-Grand in the Fifth but won no prize that year. The easiest class was the Seventh, then the Sixth, and so on to the Second. Students in these classes were called Grammarians. Next came Rhetoric, and then Philosophy, which included Math, Physics, Logic, Metaphysics and Ethics. This is where secondary education ended. Students could then go on to study Theology, Medicine or Law. Robespierre chose the latter--to clarify, not all scholarships allowed students to choose; some only covered one or two of the higher faculties, most often Theology.]
6th honorable mention - Latin translation ["Accessits" are something akin to "honorable mentions." There were only two prizes awarded, after which these  honorable mentions began.]

Concours de 1772
Classe de quatrième (vétérans)
2e prix de thème latin
6e accessit de version latine

Competition of 1772
Fourth Class (veterans) [Repeating classes does not always indicate failure the first time around. Students repeated classes (especially rhetoric, but also others, as can be seen here) for a variety of reasons, typically most importantly because a given subject was important to them and they wanted to make sure they had as firm a grounding as possible in it. Students would have to repeat classes if they did not pass the exams given at the end of each year, as in the case of La Revellière-Lépeaux, who had to repeat his Second before he could move on to Rhetoric for that reason, but given that Robespierre had won a prize the first time around, this does not seem to be case here.]
2nd prize - Latin theme [A composition in Latin on a given topic.]
6th honorable mention - Latin translation

Concours de 1774
Classe de seconde
4e accessit de vers latins
4e accessit de version latine

Competition of 1774 [Robespierre won no prizes in the Third]
Second Class
4th honorable mention  - Latin verse [Students would have to take a Latin prose piece and recompose it into verse, poetically and in keeping with the meter]
4th honorable mention - Latin translation

Concours de 1775
Classe de rhétorique (nouveaux)
2e prix de vers latins
2e prix de version latine
4e accessit de version grecque

Competition of 1775
Rhetoric Class (new students)
2nd prize - Latin verse
2nd prize - Latin translation
4th honorable mention - Greek translation

Concours de 1776
Classe de rhétorique (vétérans)
3e accessit de version latine.

Competition of 1776
Rhetoric Class (veterans)
3rd honorable mention - Latin translation

And now for some contemporaries:

Joannes Maria Hérault de Séchelles
ex Harcurio (collège d'Harcourt)
(Hérault de Séchelles, le conventionnel)

Jean-Marie Hérault de Séchelles
From the collège d'Harcourt
(Hérault de Séchelles, the member of the Convention)

Concours de 1770
Classe de troisième
4e accessit de vers latins

Competition of 1770
Third Class
4th honorable mention - Latin verse

Concours de 1771
Classe de seconde
2e prix de version latine

Competition of 1771
Second Class
2nd prize - Latin translation

Andreas Maria de Chénier
e Regia Navarra (collège de Navarre)

André-Marie de Chénier
Born in Constantinople
From the collège de Navarre

Concours de 1778
Classe de rhétorique (nouveaux)
1er prix de discours français
1er accessit de version latine

Competition of 1778 [Someone who knows more about Chénier will have to let me know whether the reason we have only prizes for one year is because this is the only year he attended collège in Paris, or whether he attended other years without winning anything - which seems unlikely, given his success in the year we do have information for.]
Rhetoric Class (new students)
1st prize - French discourse
1st honorable mention - Latin translation

Lucius Simplicius Camilla Benedictus des Moulins
Guisius Laudunensis (né à Guise)
e collegio Ludovici Magni

Lucien-Simplice-Camille-Benoist Desmoulins
Born in Guise
From the collège Louis-le-Grand

Concours de 1774
Classe de cinquième
2e prix de version latine

Competition of 1774
Fifth Class
2nd prize - Latin translation

Concours de 1775
Classe de quatrième
2e prix de thème latin
1er prix de version latine

Competition of 1775
Fourth Class
2nd prize - Latin theme
1st prize - Latin translation

Concours de 1778
Classe de rhétorique
9e accessit de discours français

Competition of 1778
Rhetoric Class
9th honorable mention - French discourse

montagnarde1793: (citoyen)
So I really don't post here anymore because it obliges me to post in English and to translate anything French I do want to post, because that's this blog's modus operandi, but I figure I can do a little post on revolutionary ministers and mayors, since I was answering a question on the subject anyway.

Having been asked about the influence of the Executive Counsel and the mayors of Paris during the Revolution, here's (a modified version of) my response:

It really depends on the mayor or the minister, as well as the era, how much influence they had. Ministers gradually lost most of their influence in the course of 1793-1794, even being replaced by "executive commissions" in Germinal Year II, but up until then they were pretty important figures.

And just who were these mayors and ministers? For the latter group, here is a list, translated from Soboul's Dictionnaire historique de la Révolution française:

"The ministers are listed in their respective rubrics according to the following chronological periods:
1) May 1789-beginning of August 1792 (monarchy)
2) August 1792-1794
3) November 1795-10 November 1799 (Directory)
The dates mentioned indicate the cessation of each minister's powers.

Foreign Affairs (Exterior Relations, under the Directory)
1) de Montmorin, 11 July 1789; de la Vauguyon, 16 July 1789; de Montmorin, 2 November 1789; de Lessart, 15 March 1792; Dumouriez, 10 June 1792; (de Naillac, interim minister); de Chambonas, 23 July 1792; Bigot de Sainte-Croix
2) Lebrun-Tondu, 6 June 1793; Deforgues, 4 April 1794; Goujon (commissionner), 15 May 1794; Herman (commissionner), 27 July 1794

Finances (Public Contributions, as of 1792)
1) Necker, 11 July 1789; de Breteuil, 16 July 1789; Necker, 4 September 1790; Lambert, 30 November 1790; (de Lessart, intermin minister, 18 March 1791); Tarbé, 15 March 1792; Clavière, 10 June 1792; Duranthon, 10 July 1792; Beaulieu, 21 July 1792; Le Roux de la Ville
2) Clavière, 13 June 1793; Destournelles, 1 April 1794 [not replaced]
3) (Gaudin, nominated but does not accept); Faypoult, 3 April 1796; (Camus, does not accept); Ramel-Nogaret, 23 June 1799; Robert Lindet

1) de Puységur, 11 July 1789; de Broglie [pronounced "de Breuille"], 16 July 1789; de la Tour du Pin-Gouvernet, 16 November 1790; Duportail, 7 December 1791; de Narbonne-Lara, 11 March 1792; de Grave, 4 May 1792; Servan, 13 June 1792; (Dumouriez, interim minister, 26 June 1792); de Lajard, 20 July 1792, d'Abancourt.
2) Servan, 19 October 1792; Pache, 4 March 1793; Beurnonville, 4 April 1793; Bouchotte, 30 June 1793; (de Beauharnais, nominated but does not accept; Alexandre, does not accept); Bouchotte, 4 April 1794 [not replaced]
3) Aubert-Dubayet, 3 April 1796; Petiet, 16 July 1797; (Hoche, too young, does not accept); Schérer, 15 May 1798; Milet-Mureau, 20 June 1799; Bernadotte, 20 August 1799; Dubois-Crancé.

1) de Saint-Priest, 24 Dec. 1790; de Montmorin, 21 Jan. 1791; Cahier de Gerville, 15 Mar. 1792; Roland, 10 June 1792; Mourgues, 18 June 1792; Terrier de Monciel, 17 July 1792; (Champion de Villeneuve then de Joly, interim ministers).
2) Roland, 21 January 1793; Garat, 14 May 1793; Paré, 4 Apr. 1794; Herman (commissionner), 15 May 1794.
3) Benezech, 16 July 1797; François de Neufchâteau, 7 Sept. 1797; Letourneux, 15 May 1798; François de Neufchâteau, 23 June 1799; Quinette.

1) de Barentin, 3 Aug. 1789; Champion de Cicé, 21 Nov. 1790; Duport-Dutertre, 15 Mar. 1792; (Roland, interim minister, 24 Mar. 1792); Duranthon, 3 July 1792; de Joly.
2) Danton, 23 September 1792; (François de Neufchâteau, does not accept); Garat, 20 March 1793; Gohier, 4 Avr. 1794.
3) Merlin de Douai, 4 Jan. 1796; Génissieu, 3 Avr. 1796; Merlin de Douai, 6 Sept. 1797; Lambrechts, 20 June 1799; Cambacérès.

1) de la Luzerne, 26 Oct. 1790; Claret de Fleurieu, 17 Mar. 1791; Thévenard, 17 Sept. 1791; Bertrand de Molleville, 15 Mar. 1792; de Lacoste, 20 July 1792; Dubouchage.
2) Monge, 10 Apr. 1793; Dalbarade, 4 Apr. 1794 [not replaced]
3) (Pléville Le Peley, does not accept); Truguet, 16 July 1797; Pléville Le Peley, 16 May 1798; Bruix, 10 Sept. 1798; Bourdon de Vatry.

General Police (ministry created 4 Jan. 1796)
3) Merlin de Douai, 3 Apr. 1796; Cochon-Lapparent, 16 July 1797; Lenoir-Laroche, 26 July 1797; Sotin, 15 Feb. 1798; Dondeau, 16 May 1798; Lecarlier, 3 Nov. 1798; Jean-Pierre Duval, 23 June 1799; Bourguignon-Dumolard, 20 July 1799; Fouché."

As for the mayors of Paris, the position was created 15 July 1789 for Bailly, who was then reelected 2 Aug. 1790; then Pétion was elected in his place 16 Nov. 1791, suspended by the departmental counsel 6 July 1792 and reinstated by the Legislative Assembly 13 July 1792. When Pétion was elected to the Convention on 9 Sept. 1792, Boucher-René replaced him as interim mayor, from 17 Sept. 1792. Pétion was reelected mayor on 17 Oct. 1792, but refused this time, whereupon Chambon was elected in his place. The Commune of Paris forced Chambon to step down 2 Feb. 1793 and Pache was elected in his place 14 Feb. 1793. 10 May 1794 Pache was arrested as an Hébertiste and Fleuriot-Lescot named in his place. The latter was guillotined with the Robespierristes 10 Thermidor Year II. He was the last mayor of Paris until 1848.

montagnarde1793: (République française)
Dear everyone,

The connection between the French Revolution of violence is real and important. There's revolutionary and counterrevolutionary violence, popular violence and individual violence, official* violence in all its myriad permutations, etc. No one is denying this. No one has ever denied this. No one. Ever. No seriously, I dare you to find me a person who has ever denied this.

*This is not always particularly clear-cut, needless to say.

However, aside from the caveat that the Revolution was not *uniquely* violent, which I would discuss, except that would just be another way of discussing violence, let's get a couple of things straight:

1) The Revolution is not exclusively about violence - especially in the literal sense of killing people. Even if you're among those who think - and please try, while you're over there being "objective" to recognize that this is in fact a debatable proposition - that violence is the very essence of the Revolution, you have to acknowledge that there are topics pertaining to the Revolution that can be studied without getting into a huge discussion on violence.

2) It's therefore all right to talk or publish about aspects of the Revolution without necessarily discussing how they relate back to the issue of violence. Why? Because no one would ever reach a complete understanding of the Revolution if it were only permissible to talk about one aspect of it, however important that aspect might be. Does this mean that any article on the Revolution that doesn't discuss violence is trying to sweep it under the rug? Obviously not; see above. This does mean, however, that those asshole "historians" who dismiss Florence Gauthier's work on natural rights philosophy not on its own merits but because it doesn't discuss violence are dismissing any attempts to understand the Revolution as anything other than the orgy of violence they've decided, a priori, that it should be.

3) You don't have to put a disclaimer at the beginning of your book deploring revolutionary violence. (Because it's never counterrevolutionary violence, is it?) If your book isn't about violence, it's off-topic; if your book is about violence, you're not displaying your objectivity, you're displaying your need to flatter your reader's prejudices. Look, either you're ultimately going to end up condemning revolutionary violence or justifying all or (more likely) part of it. In the former case, you obviously don't need the disclaimer, in the latter case the disclaimer is cowardly - as in "I just want to reassure you before we begin that I'm not one of *those* people, you know, the mythical evil scapegoats who are glad that the counterrevolution was so violently opposed to natural rights and popular sovereignty  so that revolutionaries could have a chance to kill people or who literally agree that every act of violence committed by someone claiming to be on the side of the Revolution was just fine" - and in any case, shouldn't the attempt to understand and break down the who-what-where-when-why of the revolutionary violence precede any judgments you might have to make?

4) If you're ever attending a talk or presentation or anything of that nature on the Revolution that isn't explicitly about violence, you're not doing anyone any favors by derailing the Q&A session afterwards in order to make the speaker address the issue. Moreover, if you do this and the speaker seems to brush off your question, do not assume that s/he doesn't know how to answer it. More likely s/he is just looking to spend the time it would have taken to given a thorough answer on something relevant to the talk. Note that if the subject is, say, women and suffrage in the French Revolution, it would be perfectly appropriate to ask about whether women were ever attacked for attempting to vote or whether they ever employed violence in order to obtain that right and in what contexts, or some other question directly relevant to the topic. An example of an inappropriate question would be "It sounded like you said something vaguely positive about the Revolution at some point in your talk. But what about the violence?" Now, this is an ignorant and douchey question at the best of times, but when it's off-topic, it's worse. If you really want to know about violence and the Revolution, there are plenty of books and articles and lectures devoted to that. Read the books and articles, go to the lectures. If you want to know what a given speaker thinks about violence in the Revolution, or any other topic unrelated to their talk, ask them afterwards. If you're not an asshole about it, they'll probably be perfectly willing to discuss the topic.

Now on to Part II of this ridiculous long post, the question of revolutionary violence itself:

5) When we do discuss revolutionary violence, let's acknowledge that it's a complicated question (or rather, an interlocking series of complicated questions) with no simple answers. I'm frankly not sure there was any way to avoid violence of some kind or another. If the Revolution hadn't happened, there would still be all the violence of the Ancien régime - and of course, revolutions do not happen by an individual conscious decision, so in that sense justifying or condemning the Revolution itself is an exercise in futility.

But taking the Revolution as a fact, you can then either condemn its ideas, in which case you're likely to condemn any attempt to defend them, violent or otherwise, or you support them.

If you support them but think that all violence and all repression is categorically wrong and refuse to defend the Revolution by anything that could be construed as violent means... Well, guess what, the counterrevolution hasn't disarmed (and I don't just mean the official ultra-royalist émigré army refractory priest type insurrection, I also mean the so-called "moderates" in the Assemblies with their abrogations of rights and their economic violence and their martial law). So either everyone follows your lead and the Revolution and its ideals are defeated and you lose your rights and probably your life as well, in which case counterrevolutionary violence still happens and you return to the violence of the Ancien régime and you nobody has any rights once again (which is probably not the outcome you were looking for if your revolutionary convictions were half as strong as your convictions about non-violence).

But the question becomes even more complicated once you'e accepted the principle that some form of revolutionary violence may be justified, because there again, there aren't necessarily simple lines to be drawn.

The institution of representatives on mission is a great example of this.
Put yourself in the shoes of a conventionnel for a moment (I find it's always useful to put yourself in the shoes of whoever's actions you're trying to understand, though I'm told to be really objective you need to judge everything against what the "conventional wisdom" of your own time and place dictates, because this allows you to keep a *proper* distance). There's a war on. Whether you were for it or not, it's a fact now and there's nothing you can do about that. Let's put aside the possibility that you're actually a counterrevolutionary plant for a moment and assume you want to see the Revolution and the Republic succeed.

Most historians agree that France did not have the administrative apparatus in place in 1793 to win the war without recourse to the representatives on mission. This certainly seems to have been the appreciation at the time as well. Now, then as now, it was plain to see that if you give any group of people extraordinary powers there will be abuses. No matter how good you think you are at weeding out untrustworthy, corrupt or overly violence-happy individuals from this group, there will always be some who fool you. So do you reject the idea of representatives on mission out of hand and let the Republic fall (with all the attendent violence and loss of rights) or do you go ahead with it, doing your best to screen candidates before hand and to correct abuses when they do happen, by recalling representatives who abuse their powers? 

This is why these questions don't have  a simple answer. Because not only does violence - and not only violence but other negative outcomes, because while I respect one's right to believe that violence is the worst of all possible outcomes, that belief certainly doesn't go without saying - still happen as a result of rejecting violence, but adopting an institution that produces the mitraillades of Lyon or the noyades of Nantes as an inevitable side effect of its main purpose when your only other choice is to let the Republic die and its supporters and ideals with it does make you indirectly responsible for those abuses even as condemning them and doing everything you can to stop them works to clear you.

I'm sure every revolutionary would have prefered for the Revolution to have been possible without violence, but you'd have to be exceedingly naive to believe that this was actually the case.

To sum up: 1) the only way to eliminate all violence from the French Revolution is to live in an alternate reality in which those in power give that power up without a fight and in which Early Modern Europe was in general a non-violent place, 2) if your goal is simply not to be directly responsible for any kind of violence or repression or threat of violence nor to associate with anyone who is, I can respect that provided you accept the consequences of holding that point of view and that you realize that you're prioritizing non-violence over all other principles, 3) if you do decide to prioritize the people's rights over non-violence you may not always be able to keep violence from getting out of hand and you may not succeed, but this is the only option where you have even a possibility of seeing the Revolution and the Republic come to fruition.

When it comes to condemning revolutionary violence as a historian/modern person, there are really only seven possibilities:
1) You are in fact a counterrevolutionary
2) You're really naive enough to believe that the counterrevolution a) was a figment of revolutionaries' fevered imagination, b) was only violent in response to revolutionary violence and would have just allowed the Revolution to happen without a fight if the revolutionaries hadn't insisted on being so rude about it and had instead been kind and gentle and persuasive or somesuch
3) You are in favor of revolutionary ideals like natural rights, but you believe nothing can ever justify violence even in self defense and would rather die or be enslaved than inflict violence on anyone
4) You don't condemn all revolutionary violence in principle, but you draw the line at certain points of principle
4a) You're all right with certain other manifestations of violence or repression, but you think, say, the law of suspects was unnecessary
4b) You're all right with certain other manifestations of violence or repression, but you think, say, the law of suspects was necessary or at least justifiable based on results, but whatever the consequences, the principle behind the law is unacceptable to you
4c) You're all right with certain other manifestations of violence or repression, but you think, say, the law of suspects is wrong on principle and convince yourself that this in itself means that it was unnecessary (this could equally be considered a variation on 2)
5) You condemn the abuses stemming from an otherwise necessary principle (c.f above, representatives on mission)
6) You cynically use the condemnation of violence (often along with sweeping other instances of violence under the rug, as is convenient for your narrative) to conceal your real reasons for condemning some aspect of the Revolution (often overlaps with 1, feigned version of 2; can apply to revolutionary actors as well in the variant of using violence when convenient and condemning it when inconvenient, not out of scruple, but for advancement of a particular political agenda)
7) You condemn revolutionary violence in hindsight because the Revolution "failed"*
7a) For you, part or all of it would have been justifiable if the Revolution had "succeeded" according to your standards of success, but since it failed it was a waste
7b) For you, however laudable their ideals, all Revolutions are doomed to failure, so any violence employed to defend them is unjustifiable

*Also not as clear-cut a proposition as it might seem.

As to my feelings on the matter: I'm not going to like you if you're 1, but I can't fault you for hypocrisy unless you're also 6. If you're 2 I can't take you seriously and will often not be able to help suspecting that you're really 6. If you're 3, I disagree but respect your integrity. 4, both 4a and 4b, and 5, are where I see the most room for discussion. I think most people would actually probably fit somewhere there if they had to think about it. I certainly do. There can be disagreements in this territory, sometimes absolutely fundamental ones and naïveté and cynicism can come into play there too. A real case of 4c I can't respect because it's intellectually dishonest and/or naive, but it's often difficult in practice to distinguish it from 4a and 4b. 6 can overlap with everything and is for that reason is even more difficult to determine. I see 7 crop up a lot and I find it flippant and doctrinaire at the same time. Most 7s haven't seriously reflected on the situation or attempted to put themselves in an actor of the period's shoes, in my experience.

These are my basic views. And really that's only the tip of the iceberg, as I imply with points 4 and 5 of my last list (sorry this post has so many lists!), here there be further complications. Which is at least one reason why every discussion on the French Revolution can't be about violence. We'd never get to discuss anything else, which would be sad. Also, come on, does anyone seriously believe that it's innocent that every discussion of the French Revolution has to be about violence? Seriously?


PS: TL;DR version: I am willing to talk about violence and the French Revolution at length (cf the rest of this post), but all our collective conversations about the French Revolution cannot and should not be about violence.

montagnarde1793: (sans-culottes)
So one of the things I decided to do to celebrate the 14 juillet (joyeux 14 juillet, d'ailleurs) was to see 25th anniversary production of "Les misérables" (the musical, obviously). And first, I really need to get this out of the way: it really is impossible to go back to the English version once you know the French versions. This obviously wasn't the production's fault, but both French versions (though especially the original concept album) far superior in terms of context, poetry, faithfulness to the spirit of the book, and so on.

Now to get the ideal version you would still need to mix and match between the French versions and there are still things from the book that could stand to be added. There are also places where the musical makes no sense in any language. Take, for example, the scene where Javert intercepts Jean Valjean coming out of the sewers with Marius. In both the English and revised French versions, Javert lets Jean Valjean go with Marius, we are led to assume, because, as Valjean says, Marius is "innocent." But in Javert's eyes, he's not; he was fighting on the barricade and Javert knows this. That's why he only lets him go in the book because he thinks he's dying.

I guess this kind of thing is nitpicky, but here's where we get into this new production in particular. It seems to me that if you haven't read the novel and have a limited knowledge of French history, you would find a lot of the musical confusing. This is to be expected, this is complicated, if somewhat watered down stuff. However, it seems to me that lines like the one I mentioned only further confuse audiences.

Even worse, in the new production, tricolor and republican motifs were present in places representing the establishment in scenes supposed to be taking place in 1823: Javert had a tricolor cockade on his hat, the tribunal in Arras was backgrounded with tricolor and the word "égalité" alongside of that of "justice." And, I don't know, maybe that's the kind of thing people wouldn't notice. And maybe it would have made it difficult to explain that the monarchy in power in 1823 is not the same one the 1832 insurrection is fighting and that the July Monarchy did make use of the tricolor. But there was no sense really that the revolutionaries are attempting to overthrow a monarchy in favor of a republic. I get the impression that just from watching the musical on its own, especially in this incarnation, one wouldn't really have a clear idea of what the insurrection was about. Epecially given the quick transitions that made "Do You Hear the People Sing?" rather anticlimactic (of course, part of that could just be for me that part of me was disappointed taht they weren't singing "À la volonté du peuple", so read into that what you will).

But enough whinging (Im not even going to discuss the singing, which was somewhat uneven...). Here's what did work: the new sets and costumes really do work to fill in the libretto's gaps in historical and geographical context. With the exception of the inappropriate tricolor cockade on Javert's hat in 1823, the clothes look like the clothes of the era. (Though they eventually keep Enjolras in that ridiculous vest - I guess because they think the audience might not recognize him otherwise...? And while we're on the subject. The Enjolras isn't blond, which I don't mind so much, but he has this really bizarre white streak in his hair. I don't know if that was just some thing the actor was doing or whether they wanted to make Enjolras look middle-aged instead of 22, but it really does not work.) The sets resemble what they ought to resemble - Paris looks vaguely like Paris, Montreuil-sur-mer actually has a port, and so on.

All in all, for what it was, it was done well and the changes - including slight lyrics changes in places (Enjolras no longer tells everyone to stay awake) - were generally for the better, but I really need to see it in French.

One last thing though: I can't remember, has Grantaire always been played as being especially attached to Gavroche? They're always hanging out together in all the barricade scenes and Grantaire gives this big cry of despair when Gavroche is shot. There were definitely people in the audience I saw it with who assumed that Gavroche was Grantaire's son (wouldn't that be a weird alternative universe), not Thénardier's.

Also, wow, this is crazy, I still don't have a Les misérables icon.

montagnarde1793: (la jeune fille à la colombe)
...Is anyone else depressed by people who seem otherwise intelligent and well-intentioned try to say things - or even worse, educate others - about the French Revolution and are so wide of the mark you wonder whether they even bothered applying their apparent intelligence and good faith to the question at all?

Well, I've just experienced this, and not for the first time. (Larry Gonick, I'm looking at you.) So I don't know if you've heard of John Green. He's a novelist, but I've not read any of his books. I know of him because he has a few vlogging series on youtube, which for the most part are cute, quirky, informative and sincere and one gets the impression from watching him and his brother, with whom he collaborates, that he genuinely wants to make the world a better place.


But his videos on the Revolution (which I'm not going to link to, as I'm sure he gets enough publicity without my help)? The worst I've seen in a long time. I started out with the "Reign of Terror" one - since those are usually the worst offenders, particularly with a title like that - and to be honest, I couldn't proceed past his assertion that price controls categorically failed and are somehow equivalent to stealing bread from all of Europe. I'm honestly at a loss as to how anyone could come to that conclusion. (Never mind the usual dross about Robespierre being "in charge" - or however he worded it - of the CSP and so on.)

Worse than that though, I'm just incredibly disappointed. I guess I should know what to expect by now, of the mainstream anglophone world in particular, but it just depresses me immensely to see well-meaning, apparently otherwise intelligent people spreading misinformation about the Revolution. Especially when it doesn't seem like they have a particular political axe to grind, which would at least be understandable... Their understanding of the Revolution is just that unsophisticated and ill-informed. Which I suppose you could say makes it irresponsible for them to try to educate others on the subject, but to be honest, I don't think they can possibly really know enough to even realize how ill-informed they are. And that's the most depressing part of all. *sighs*
montagnarde1793: (Default)
J-J Rousseau a 300 ans aujourd'hui !

"Il est donc incontestable, et c’est la maxime fondamentale de tout le droit politique, que les peuples se sont donné des chefs pour défendre leur liberté et non pour les asservir."

- Discours sur l'origine et les fondements de l'inégalité parmi les hommes, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, éd. Gallimard, 1965, p. 110

montagnarde1793: (la jeune fille à la colombe)
Well, it's been a long time since I've posted, so I thought I'd take a break from my usual Revolutionary preoccupations to share an insight that took me an unfortunately long time to really understand. In fact, there are aspects of it I may still have wrong. It seems to me, however, that when most people, including myself, say anything, even things that are clearly meant for the consumption of others, they often don't even think to really attempt to inhabit the space from which their audience will receive their words. Even now, as I try to imagine who, if anyone, will read these words and what they will think of them, I find myself unable to make any prediction. Still, I've concluded that on every occasion it is necessary to try.

Because, honestly, I think that's where many understandings come from - not from Alice's desire to hurt Bob* (TV tropes annoys me in many ways, but Alice and Bob in place of person A and person B is a nice conceit), but from Alice's profound self-absorption - so easy to get into, especially on the internet - which prevents Alice from thinking about how  Bob will receive her comment, which Alice meant in regard to herself, but which Bob quite naturally assumed was meant in regard to him. This might lead Bob to feel understandably hurt, depending on the comment, as Bob can't be expected to read Alice's mind and know her intentions. It behooves Alice then, before this situation arises, to remember Bob and who he is, and how he is likely to receive her comments, because what could be innocuous when applied to Alice or in general, might unintentially become an attack when applied to Bob, depending on the circumstances. I think the internet, in many ways, allows and even encourages the Alices not to take the Bobs (and we've all been both) into sufficient consideration. The Bobs can understand that the narcissism of internet culture means that what might seem as an attack on them is often not intended that way, but it is ultimately the Alices' responsability to try their best to avoid this kind of situation, by remembering that the interet is not a void, but is in fact attached to living, feeling Bobs on the other end.

To the extent that I have been an Alice, I'd like to issue a general apology. I've been a Bob too, and I know the uncertainty and hurt of that situation, especially when Alice and Bob are friends.

*I don't mean to imply that Alice never means to attack/hurt/insult/bully Bob, but that's a different scenario, though sometimes, especially on the internet, it can be extremely difficult for Bob to know for sure whether Alice is just being thoughtless or whether she is actively trying to hurt him.

254 ans !

Sunday, 6 May 2012 13:48
montagnarde1793: (Maxime enfant)
 Joyeux anniversaire à Maximilien Robespierre !
montagnarde1793: (âme virile)

I should really be working on my thesis right now instead of posting, but I couldn't resist, if only because this is driving me mad. Remember that post I made a while back on Buonarroti's correspondance and his possible 19th century contact with the Duplays, Éléonore in particular? I somehow managed to overlook yet another piece of evidence in the same book:  It's another letter from Buonarroti to his friend Lemaire. In it he seems convinced that Éléonore Duplay would be unwilling to discuss Robespierre, possibly due to her brother's influence/intimidation...

But that's it, he doesn't elaborate. I want to know more, damnit! It's enormously frustrating, especially when one considers that there probably isn't any further documentation to be had (anything's possible, but I'm not getting my hopes up).

If I ever get the chance to go to whatever archive is storing Buonarroti's papers and read them, I will probably scour them obsessively for mentions of the Duplays... and still likely come up empty handed, or near to it.

...Why can't I just have a time machine already?

montagnarde1793: (Je voudrais te dire...) mort même est une faveur, puisque le tombeau nous rassemble: very apt lines for today, sung by Pylade to Oreste in Gluck's Iphigénie en Tauride, which our Revolutionaries could well have been familiar with.

I am commemorating this sad day in the usual fashion, wearing black and watching the second half of "La Terreur et la Vertu." I also got my wisdom teeth out yesterday, so while I can't quite say that I know what it's like to have one's jaw shattered - I imagine it's about a million times worse - I do empathize with Robespierre even more than I usually would, and so I wrote a fic from his point of view, but I don't know if I'll post it... we'll see.

In any case, it is my fervent hope that all the Robespierristes are resting from their travails in Jacobin Paradise.


EDIT: I painted this very stylized portrait of Éléonore Duplay post-Thermidor more than three years ago. Now seems as good a time as ever to share it with you:


Saturday, 11 June 2011 20:01
montagnarde1793: (babet/lebas)
I recently came across a page listing, among other things, all of Le Bas's siblings - all 15 of them - put together by another (indirect) descendant of his. I don't doubt that someone reading this will find some use or other for this information. I should point out however, that the page's author unfortunately doesn't cite his sources, so to really be sure of the information he presents one would have to re-do all his genealogical research.

He's also not exactly correct about Maurice Duplay. I can name at least three things he did after being acquitted after his first arrest: 1) getting arrested again in connection with the Conspiracy of Equals (and once more acquitted), 2) buying the house in the rue Saint-Honoré that he had been renting pre-Thermidor, 3) dying in 1820. But I suppose you can't blame the site's author for not getting all those details in, descending from one of Le Bas's sisters.

Less excusably, he also seems to take André Dumont's (post-Thermidorian) testimony a bit too seriously.

Anyway, though, the names and dates seem to check out...
montagnarde1793: (wtfno)
This video is awful. I could elaborate, but really, it speaks for itself. WTF, seriously.

And another item in fun ways to not understand anything about the French Revolution: to take for granted anything Chateaubriand had to say about it. Because it's not like he's in any way an even slightly biased source. (This last reflection brought to you by an article by Ian MacGregor Morris called "From Ancient Dreams to Modern Nightmares: Classical Revolutions in Enlightenment Thought", published in a bi-lingual book of essays (Lumières et histoire or Enlightenment and History), which I found incredibly frustrating, though mostly just because none of them really focused on the influence of Antiquity during the Revolution, which is the current topic of my research and presumably what drove my professor to lend it it to me. Oh, well.

Completely unrelatedly, I'm also returning to the US on 30 June. Which is going to be extremely odd. I'm going to miss France next year. I suppose it's not drastic, as I'll be coming back a year from now for my Master, but still... I don't want to leave. Hélas.

Wait, what?

Monday, 30 May 2011 00:48
montagnarde1793: (République française)

I think the internet has just succeed in breaking my brain (yet again).

...I don't really have any kind of coherent commentary on that. I have some thoughts, but they're teetering dangerously on the dividing line between a positive and negative reaction. I mean, it's not completely awful because in a certain sense it's surprisingly accurate... but the tone is just so very grating. I don't know if I've gotten to the point that I can't appreciate crack/satire, but this just seems so trivializing to me. I'm not sure what it is about it that rubs me the wrong way. Maybe it's because it's not really a caricature of the Revolution using a facebook model but a caricature of facebook using the Revolution? That kind of narcissistic exhibitionism is really not the same as the Revolutionary culture of theatricality, which is about making heroic gestures of self-sacrifice, not childish self-aggrandizement. I don't know. Maybe it's just how un-French it is. Have I reached a point at which I no longer believe it's even possible to understand the Revolution in English? Or is the problem more internet-culture than Anglo-American culture? Or neither? Or both? Maybe there isn't a problem. Maybe it's awesome and I can't take a joke, although the latter suggestion is generally reserved for people's taking offense at something. And I'm not offended, just... bewildered, I guess. At this page's existence and at my reaction to it.

I just don't know. What do you think? I think it's pretty clear that whatever else we might say about it, it *is* trivializing. But is this always a bad thing?...

You're not original

Saturday, 28 May 2011 18:55
montagnarde1793: (I did it for the lulz)

To anyone who has ever considered writing about the French Revolution, can we please not see any more scenarios involving a tug-of-war over Robespierre's soul, with Saint-Just in the role of the little-devil-on-the-shoulder and someone else, frequently, but not always, Camille Desmoulins as the little angel? It's been done to death. Random Germans were already doing it in 1861 (though in this case with Éléonore Duplay taking the role often assigned to Camille). Not only does this tell us nothing about the Revolution, as the article I just linked to points out, it's also extremely tired from a literary standpoint.

So please, cut it out.

Emmanuel Lanne

Friday, 20 May 2011 00:52
montagnarde1793: (Default)

I've put this off long enough. As I mentioned a couple of posts back, Emmanuel Lanne, a good friend of Philippe Le Bas's, was executed on 17 Floréal Year III, essentially for being a judge at the Revolutionary Tribunal. I came across the letter he wrote on the eve of his execution in Buchez and Roux and I wanted to share it with you on the anniversary of his death, but since I was in the middle of writing a paper at the time, I was obliged to put it off. Here's the letter now:

Ma Flavie, je vais la mort... )

In other news, I'm thinking of adopting a more revolutionary penname. I'm obviously Estella/Estelle to everyone who knows me from LJ/deviantart, which is left over from my middle school LOTR obsession (if you don't get the reference, don't worry, you wouldn't unless you like reading hobbit genealogies), but I really think it's time to move on. There was some discussion in my seminar today about revolutionary first names, in which two historians who shall not be named because this post isn't f-locked and I do want to preserve some shred of anonymity, in the context of a larger discussion of cultural phenomena during the French Revolution briefly mentioned names that they likely would have adopted if they had been alive at the time (I must say, I found this absolutely adorable, though I may be the only one).

This got me thinking about a revolutionary name - or at least penname - for myself. Now, that would still leave the choice of one pretty wide open, since I could pick a name from Antiquity: Porcie, say, or Aspasie (for an interesting discussion of Robespierre's positive references to the latter - among other things - I recommend reading Fl. Gauthier's article in Républicanismes et droit naturel). I could pick a revolutionary value (though I might feel a bit like an allegory then, which would be odd): Liberté, Justice, Vertu, etc. I could pick my month or day of birth: Floréal or Aubépine. I could even theoretically take the name of a revolutionary martyr, but I would feel weird running around calling myself Marat or Lepeletier (or Couthon or Soubrany, for that matter). I would insert a poll, but I don't really feel like setting it up. Still, let me know your thoughts. (I'm leaning toward Floréal at this point, but I could be persuaded otherwise if anyone has a better idea...)

Bonne nouvelle !

Thursday, 19 May 2011 12:38
montagnarde1793: (maximebust)

So, as you may or may not already know (Did I post on this already? No time to check - class in five minutes), some descendant of Le Bas's decided to put up a bunch of documents, including some of Robespierre's manuscripts, up for auction - documents that historians didn't even know existed. There was some concern that they would be bought by a private collector or a library or archive outside of France, so there was a big campaign with newspaper articles and interviews and the Société des études robespierristes set up a public subscription (which I contributed to and which has raised more than 100,000 euros so far) to buy them.

Yesterday the auction took place, and the State bought them for nearly a million euros (they were estimated at 200,000-300,000). Of course, it's not entirely over yet, since it has 15 days to come up with the money (which will include public funds as well as the money from the subscription), but this means that those documents are headed for the Archives nationales. Which, I don't think I even need to emphasize, is excellent news.

(Here's a video on the subject if you can understand French, btw.)

montagnarde1793: (Maxime enfant)

My paper is not quite done, but before it's too late, let me just take a moment to say:


Unhappily, I've also learned that this day, apart from being the day of Robespierre's birth, is also the day of Emmanuel Lanne's execution (of which this is the 216th anniversary). Don't know who Emmanuel Lanne is? Never fear, you will soon! (Well, as soon as I finish this paper...) Here's a hint to tide you over: he signed the birth certificate of Philippe Le Bas fils.

Relatedly, and appropriately, though I don't agree with all his editorial decisions (Turgot? Christopher Columbus? Really?), Sylvain Maréchal replaced today's patron saint with Harmodius in his Almanach des républicains.

Also, for those of you who are not on my f-list and therefore don't know this already, an announcement: I am now on dreamwidth. You can find me there as[personal profile] montagnarde1793.

montagnarde1793: (babet/lebas)

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...

Follow the cut to the passage in question. )

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...
In the original French )


In translation )


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.

montagnarde1793: (la douce melancolie)

I know I promised to post on Simon Duplay, but due to transcibing issues, that post isn't ready yet. Instead, I present you with a curious little article. Now, you will observe that this article makes a number of mistakes: Éléonore was the eldest of Duplay's children; Jacques-Maurice did indeed marry and have children; Sophie's husband was called Auzat, not Augat; Victoire existed (really!); Jacques Duplay and Marie Bontemps had other children; etc.

However, one thing in particular struck me as odd. I knew that Philippe Le Bas fils married his cousin Edmée-Clémence Duplay, but I wasn't entirely sure how they were related. Now, if this short article is correct and Mathieu Duplay was her father, the very latest she could have been born is 1783 (and that's assuming she was born after his death, so it's even likely that she was born before that). This would make her at least eleven years older than Philippe and thus at least 34 to his 23 at their marriage in 1817. Now, stranger things have been known to happen (and obviously I have no problem with men marrying women more than ten years their senior if that's what they want to do, but if it's unusual now, it's doubly so for the 19th century), but I'm somewhat surprised that no one else has remarked upon this... Which makes me think it might be another error on the part of this account. However, for the moment I don't have any sources that would permit me to determine one way or the other....

This has been your daily portion of random. I would say more, but I have a concert to go to (Monteverdi's madrigals, if you must know).

Update: According to wikipedia, Edmée-Louise-Clémence Duplay was born 27 floréal an VII, which would make more sense. However, no source is cited and that still doesn't tell us who her parents were. Simon Duplay, perhaps? I know he had a son who became a doctor, but I don't know when (or if) he married. All I can find for certain is that she died in May of 1875.

Interesting to note as well, while it seems that Philippe Le Bas fils didn't have any children with his wife, he did have two illegitimate children (whom he apparently never officially recognized), which gives some ironic perspective to his insistance that his aunt, Éléonore, couldn't have possibly been sleeping with Robespierre, which information he of course implies comes from his mother - when he says that "we" have known Éléonore for over fifty years, he can't possibly be speaking for himself, since he was not yet forty at her death - but it will be noted that Élisabeth herself never thought this noteworthy enough to mention. Meanwhile, all the writers (Esquiros, Lamartine, etc.) who talked to Élisabeth Le Bas confirm that her son never left them alone with her and seemed to police what she told them in order to make sure they didn't publish anything contrary to what he conceived of as his family's honor. Which is not to imply that if he had let her say what she wanted she would have said that Éléonore was sleeping with Robespierre. Assuming she knew or cared, that's not necessarily the kind of thing she would broadcast either. In any case, Philippe obviously didn't know first hand and it's unlikely his mother or Éléonore herself would have discussed it with him, which makes me think he doth protest too much.

Also, while we're on the subject of Philippe Le Bas fils's children, the author of TOBALB (Paul Coutant) was married to his son Léon Grujon Le Bas (1834-1907)'s daughter Élisabeth-Clémence Grujon Le Bas (same source as above).

...One of these days I may construct a family tree to keep track of all the Duplays and Le Bas. >.>
montagnarde1793: (Maxime/Eleonore)

Not you too, Nodier!

I should probably be less surprised by now:

"Robespierre avoit pour sécretaire, à l'époque de sa mort, un jeune homme nommé Duplay, fils de son hôte le menuisier, et dont on prétend qu'il avoit secrètement épousé la soeur."

("Robespierre had for secretary, at the time of his death, a young man named Duplay, the son of his host the cabinetmaker, and whose sister they say he had secretly married.")

To get an idea of the plausibility of the final assertion, you would do well not note that Simon Duplay was not Maurice Duplay's son, but his nephew, and that he wasn't actually (contrary to popular belief) Robespierre's secretary either (more on that later).


montagnarde1793: (Default)

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