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  • 1837
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Raging multitudes surround the Hotel-de-Ville, crying: Arms! Orders! The Six-and-twenty Town-Councillors, with their long gowns, have ducked under (into the raging chaos);–shall never emerge more. Besenval is painfully wriggling himself out, to the Champ-de-Mars; he must sit there ‘in the cruelest uncertainty:’ courier after courier may dash off for Versailles; but will bring back no answer, can hardly bring himself back. For the roads are all blocked with batteries and pickets, with floods of carriages arrested for examination: such was Broglie’s one sole order; the Oeil-de- Boeuf, hearing in the distance such mad din, which sounded almost like invasion, will before all things keep its own head whole. A new Ministry, with, as it were, but one foot in the stirrup, cannot take leaps. Mad Paris is abandoned altogether to itself.

What a Paris, when the darkness fell! A European metropolitan City hurled suddenly forth from its old combinations and arrangements; to crash tumultuously together, seeking new. Use and wont will now no longer direct any man; each man, with what of originality he has, must begin thinking; or following those that think. Seven hundred thousand individuals, on the sudden, find all their old paths, old ways of acting and deciding, vanish from under their feet. And so there go they, with clangour and terror, they know not as yet whether running, swimming or flying,–headlong into the New Era. With clangour and terror: from above, Broglie the war-god impends, preternatural, with his redhot cannon-balls; and from below, a preternatural Brigand-world menaces with dirk and firebrand: madness rules the hour.

Happily, in place of the submerged Twenty-six, the Electoral Club is gathering; has declared itself a ‘Provisional Municipality.’ On the morrow it will get Provost Flesselles, with an Echevin or two, to give help in many things. For the present it decrees one most essential thing: that forthwith a ‘Parisian Militia’ shall be enrolled. Depart, ye heads of Districts, to labour in this great work; while we here, in Permanent Committee, sit alert. Let fencible men, each party in its own range of streets, keep watch and ward, all night. Let Paris court a little fever- sleep; confused by such fever-dreams, of ‘violent motions at the Palais Royal;’–or from time to time start awake, and look out, palpitating, in its nightcap, at the clash of discordant mutually-unintelligible Patrols; on the gleam of distant Barriers, going up all-too ruddy towards the vault of Night. (Deux Amis, i. 267-306.)

Chapter 1.5.V.

Give us Arms.

On Monday the huge City has awoke, not to its week-day industry: to what a different one! The working man has become a fighting man; has one want only: that of arms. The industry of all crafts has paused;–except it be the smith’s, fiercely hammering pikes; and, in a faint degree, the kitchener’s, cooking off-hand victuals; for bouche va toujours. Women too are sewing cockades;–not now of green, which being D’Artois colour, the Hotel-de-Ville has had to interfere in it; but of red and blue, our old Paris colours: these, once based on a ground of constitutional white, are the famed TRICOLOR,–which (if Prophecy err not) ‘will go round the world.’

All shops, unless it be the Bakers’ and Vintners’, are shut: Paris is in the streets;–rushing, foaming like some Venice wine-glass into which you had dropped poison. The tocsin, by order, is pealing madly from all steeples. Arms, ye Elector Municipals; thou Flesselles with thy Echevins, give us arms! Flesselles gives what he can: fallacious, perhaps insidious promises of arms from Charleville; order to seek arms here, order to seek them there. The new Municipals give what they can; some three hundred and sixty indifferent firelocks, the equipment of the City-Watch: ‘a man in wooden shoes, and without coat, directly clutches one of them, and mounts guard.’ Also as hinted, an order to all Smiths to make pikes with their whole soul.

Heads of Districts are in fervent consultation; subordinate Patriotism roams distracted, ravenous for arms. Hitherto at the Hotel-de-Ville was only such modicum of indifferent firelocks as we have seen. At the so- called Arsenal, there lies nothing but rust, rubbish and saltpetre,– overlooked too by the guns of the Bastille. His Majesty’s Repository, what they call Garde-Meuble, is forced and ransacked: tapestries enough, and gauderies; but of serviceable fighting-gear small stock! Two silver- mounted cannons there are; an ancient gift from his Majesty of Siam to Louis Fourteenth: gilt sword of the Good Henri; antique Chivalry arms and armour. These, and such as these, a necessitous Patriotism snatches greedily, for want of better. The Siamese cannons go trundling, on an errand they were not meant for. Among the indifferent firelocks are seen tourney-lances; the princely helm and hauberk glittering amid ill-hatted heads,–as in a time when all times and their possessions are suddenly sent jumbling!

At the Maison de Saint-Lazare, Lazar-House once, now a Correction-House with Priests, there was no trace of arms; but, on the other hand, corn, plainly to a culpable extent. Out with it, to market; in this scarcity of grains!–Heavens, will ‘fifty-two carts,’ in long row, hardly carry it to the Halle aux Bleds? Well, truly, ye reverend Fathers, was your pantry filled; fat are your larders; over-generous your wine-bins, ye plotting exasperators of the Poor; traitorous forestallers of bread!

Vain is protesting, entreaty on bare knees: the House of Saint-Lazarus has that in it which comes not out by protesting. Behold, how, from every window, it vomits: mere torrents of furniture, of bellowing and hurlyburly;–the cellars also leaking wine. Till, as was natural, smoke rose,–kindled, some say, by the desperate Saint-Lazaristes themselves, desperate of other riddance; and the Establishment vanished from this world in flame. Remark nevertheless that ‘a thief’ (set on or not by Aristocrats), being detected there, is ‘instantly hanged.’

Look also at the Chatelet Prison. The Debtors’ Prison of La Force is broken from without; and they that sat in bondage to Aristocrats go free: hearing of which the Felons at the Chatelet do likewise ‘dig up their pavements,’ and stand on the offensive; with the best prospects,–had not Patriotism, passing that way, ‘fired a volley’ into the Felon world; and crushed it down again under hatches. Patriotism consorts not with thieving and felony: surely also Punishment, this day, hitches (if she still hitch) after Crime, with frightful shoes-of-swiftness! ‘Some score or two’ of wretched persons, found prostrate with drink in the cellars of that Saint- Lazare, are indignantly haled to prison; the Jailor has no room; whereupon, other place of security not suggesting itself, it is written, ‘on les pendit, they hanged them.’ (Histoire Parlementaire, ii. 96.) Brief is the word; not without significance, be it true or untrue!

In such circumstances, the Aristocrat, the unpatriotic rich man is packing- up for departure. But he shall not get departed. A wooden-shod force has seized all Barriers, burnt or not: all that enters, all that seeks to issue, is stopped there, and dragged to the Hotel-de-Ville: coaches, tumbrils, plate, furniture, ‘many meal-sacks,’ in time even ‘flocks and herds’ encumber the Place de Greve. (Dusaulx, Prise de la Bastille, p. 20.)

And so it roars, and rages, and brays; drums beating, steeples pealing; criers rushing with hand-bells: “Oyez, oyez. All men to their Districts to be enrolled!” The Districts have met in gardens, open squares; are getting marshalled into volunteer troops. No redhot ball has yet fallen from Besenval’s Camp; on the contrary, Deserters with their arms are continually dropping in: nay now, joy of joys, at two in the afternoon, the Gardes Francaises, being ordered to Saint-Denis, and flatly declining, have come over in a body! It is a fact worth many. Three thousand six hundred of the best fighting men, with complete accoutrement; with cannoneers even, and cannon! Their officers are left standing alone; could not so much as succeed in ‘spiking the guns.’ The very Swiss, it may now be hoped, Chateau-Vieux and the others, will have doubts about fighting.

Our Parisian Militia,–which some think it were better to name National Guard,–is prospering as heart could wish. It promised to be forty-eight thousand; but will in few hours double and quadruple that number: invincible, if we had only arms!

But see, the promised Charleville Boxes, marked Artillerie! Here, then, are arms enough?–Conceive the blank face of Patriotism, when it found them filled with rags, foul linen, candle-ends, and bits of wood! Provost of the Merchants, how is this? Neither at the Chartreux Convent, whither we were sent with signed order, is there or ever was there any weapon of war. Nay here, in this Seine Boat, safe under tarpaulings (had not the nose of Patriotism been of the finest), are ‘five thousand-weight of gunpowder;’ not coming in, but surreptitiously going out! What meanest thou, Flesselles? ‘Tis a ticklish game, that of ‘amusing’ us. Cat plays with captive mouse: but mouse with enraged cat, with enraged National Tiger?

Meanwhile, the faster, O ye black-aproned Smiths, smite; with strong arm and willing heart. This man and that, all stroke from head to heel, shall thunder alternating, and ply the great forge-hammer, till stithy reel and ring again; while ever and anon, overhead, booms the alarm-cannon,–for the City has now got gunpowder. Pikes are fabricated; fifty thousand of them, in six-and-thirty hours: judge whether the Black-aproned have been idle. Dig trenches, unpave the streets, ye others, assiduous, man and maid; cram the earth in barrel-barricades, at each of them a volunteer sentry; pile the whinstones in window-sills and upper rooms. Have scalding pitch, at least boiling water ready, ye weak old women, to pour it and dash it on Royal-Allemand, with your old skinny arms: your shrill curses along with it will not be wanting!–Patrols of the newborn National Guard, bearing torches, scour the streets, all that night; which otherwise are vacant, yet illuminated in every window by order. Strange-looking; like some naphtha- lighted City of the Dead, with here and there a flight of perturbed Ghosts.

O poor mortals, how ye make this Earth bitter for each other; this fearful and wonderful Life fearful and horrible; and Satan has his place in all hearts! Such agonies and ragings and wailings ye have, and have had, in all times:–to be buried all, in so deep silence; and the salt sea is not swoln with your tears.

Great meanwhile is the moment, when tidings of Freedom reach us; when the long-enthralled soul, from amid its chains and squalid stagnancy, arises, were it still only in blindness and bewilderment, and swears by Him that made it, that it will be free! Free? Understand that well, it is the deep commandment, dimmer or clearer, of our whole being, to be free. Freedom is the one purport, wisely aimed at, or unwisely, of all man’s struggles, toilings and sufferings, in this Earth. Yes, supreme is such a moment (if thou have known it): first vision as of a flame-girt Sinai, in this our waste Pilgrimage,–which thenceforth wants not its pillar of cloud by day, and pillar of fire by night! Something it is even,–nay, something considerable, when the chains have grown corrosive, poisonous, to be free ‘from oppression by our fellow-man.’ Forward, ye maddened sons of France; be it towards this destiny or towards that! Around you is but starvation, falsehood, corruption and the clam of death. Where ye are is no abiding.

Imagination may, imperfectly, figure how Commandant Besenval, in the Champ- de-Mars, has worn out these sorrowful hours Insurrection all round; his men melting away! From Versailles, to the most pressing messages, comes no answer; or once only some vague word of answer which is worse than none. A Council of Officers can decide merely that there is no decision: Colonels inform him, ‘weeping,’ that they do not think their men will fight. Cruel uncertainty is here: war-god Broglie sits yonder, inaccessible in his Olympus; does not descend terror-clad, does not produce his whiff of grapeshot; sends no orders.

Truly, in the Chateau of Versailles all seems mystery: in the Town of Versailles, were we there, all is rumour, alarm and indignation. An august National Assembly sits, to appearance, menaced with death; endeavouring to defy death. It has resolved ‘that Necker carries with him the regrets of the Nation.’ It has sent solemn Deputation over to the Chateau, with entreaty to have these troops withdrawn. In vain: his Majesty, with a singular composure, invites us to be busy rather with our own duty, making the Constitution! Foreign Pandours, and suchlike, go pricking and prancing, with a swashbuckler air; with an eye too probably to the Salle des Menus,–were it not for the ‘grim-looking countenances’ that crowd all avenues there. (See Lameth; Ferrieres, &c.) Be firm, ye National Senators; the cynosure of a firm, grim-looking people!

The august National Senators determine that there shall, at least, be Permanent Session till this thing end. Wherein, however, consider that worthy Lafranc de Pompignan, our new President, whom we have named Bailly’s successor, is an old man, wearied with many things. He is the Brother of that Pompignan who meditated lamentably on the Book of Lamentations:

Saves-voux pourquoi Jeremie
Se lamentait toute sa vie?
C’est qu’il prevoyait
Que Pompignan le traduirait!

Poor Bishop Pompignan withdraws; having got Lafayette for helper or substitute: this latter, as nocturnal Vice-President, with a thin house in disconsolate humour, sits sleepless, with lights unsnuffed;–waiting what the hours will bring.

So at Versailles. But at Paris, agitated Besenval, before retiring for the night, has stept over to old M. de Sombreuil, of the Hotel des Invalides hard by. M. de Sombreuil has, what is a great secret, some eight-and- twenty thousand stand of muskets deposited in his cellars there; but no trust in the temper of his Invalides. This day, for example, he sent twenty of the fellows down to unscrew those muskets; lest Sedition might snatch at them; but scarcely, in six hours, had the twenty unscrewed twenty gun-locks, or dogsheads (chiens) of locks,–each Invalide his dogshead! If ordered to fire, they would, he imagines, turn their cannon against himself.

Unfortunate old military gentlemen, it is your hour, not of glory! Old Marquis de Launay too, of the Bastille, has pulled up his drawbridges long since, ‘and retired into his interior;’ with sentries walking on his battlements, under the midnight sky, aloft over the glare of illuminated Paris;–whom a National Patrol, passing that way, takes the liberty of firing at; ‘seven shots towards twelve at night,’ which do not take effect. (Deux Amis de la Liberte, i. 312.) This was the 13th day of July, 1789; a worse day, many said, than the last 13th was, when only hail fell out of Heaven, not madness rose out of Tophet, ruining worse than crops!

In these same days, as Chronology will teach us, hot old Marquis Mirabeau lies stricken down, at Argenteuil,–not within sound of these alarm-guns; for he properly is not there, and only the body of him now lies, deaf and cold forever. It was on Saturday night that he, drawing his last life- breaths, gave up the ghost there;–leaving a world, which would never go to his mind, now broken out, seemingly, into deliration and the culbute generale. What is it to him, departing elsewhither, on his long journey? The old Chateau Mirabeau stands silent, far off, on its scarped rock, in that ‘gorge of two windy valleys;’ the pale-fading spectre now of a Chateau: this huge World-riot, and France, and the World itself, fades also, like a shadow on the great still mirror-sea; and all shall be as God wills.

Young Mirabeau, sad of heart, for he loved this crabbed brave old Father, sad of heart, and occupied with sad cares,–is withdrawn from Public History. The great crisis transacts itself without him. (Fils Adoptif, Mirabeau, vi. l. 1.)

Chapter 1.5.VI.

Storm and Victory.

But, to the living and the struggling, a new, Fourteenth morning dawns. Under all roofs of this distracted City, is the nodus of a drama, not untragical, crowding towards solution. The bustlings and preparings, the tremors and menaces; the tears that fell from old eyes! This day, my sons, ye shall quit you like men. By the memory of your fathers’ wrongs, by the hope of your children’s rights! Tyranny impends in red wrath: help for you is none if not in your own right hands. This day ye must do or die.

From earliest light, a sleepless Permanent Committee has heard the old cry, now waxing almost frantic, mutinous: Arms! Arms! Provost Flesselles, or what traitors there are among you, may think of those Charleville Boxes. A hundred-and-fifty thousand of us; and but the third man furnished with so much as a pike! Arms are the one thing needful: with arms we are an unconquerable man-defying National Guard; without arms, a rabble to be whiffed with grapeshot.

Happily the word has arisen, for no secret can be kept,–that there lie muskets at the Hotel des Invalides. Thither will we: King’s Procureur M. Ethys de Corny, and whatsoever of authority a Permanent Committee can lend, shall go with us. Besenval’s Camp is there; perhaps he will not fire on us; if he kill us we shall but die.

Alas, poor Besenval, with his troops melting away in that manner, has not the smallest humour to fire! At five o’clock this morning, as he lay dreaming, oblivious in the Ecole Militaire, a ‘figure’ stood suddenly at his bedside: ‘with face rather handsome; eyes inflamed, speech rapid and curt, air audacious:’ such a figure drew Priam’s curtains! The message and monition of the figure was, that resistance would be hopeless; that if blood flowed, wo to him who shed it. Thus spoke the figure; and vanished. ‘Withal there was a kind of eloquence that struck one.’ Besenval admits that he should have arrested him, but did not. (Besenval, iii. 414.) Who this figure, with inflamed eyes, with speech rapid and curt, might be? Besenval knows but mentions not. Camille Desmoulins? Pythagorean Marquis Valadi, inflamed with ‘violent motions all night at the Palais Royal?’ Fame names him, ‘Young M. Meillar’; (Tableaux de la Revolution, Prise de la Bastille (a folio Collection of Pictures and Portraits, with letter-press, not always uninstructive,–part of it said to be by Chamfort).) Then shuts her lips about him for ever.

In any case, behold about nine in the morning, our National Volunteers rolling in long wide flood, south-westward to the Hotel des Invalides; in search of the one thing needful. King’s procureur M. Ethys de Corny and officials are there; the Cure of Saint-Etienne du Mont marches unpacific, at the head of his militant Parish; the Clerks of the Bazoche in red coats we see marching, now Volunteers of the Bazoche; the Volunteers of the Palais Royal:–National Volunteers, numerable by tens of thousands; of one heart and mind. The King’s muskets are the Nation’s; think, old M. de Sombreuil, how, in this extremity, thou wilt refuse them! Old M. de Sombreuil would fain hold parley, send Couriers; but it skills not: the walls are scaled, no Invalide firing a shot; the gates must be flung open. Patriotism rushes in, tumultuous, from grundsel up to ridge-tile, through all rooms and passages; rummaging distractedly for arms. What cellar, or what cranny can escape it? The arms are found; all safe there; lying packed in straw,–apparently with a view to being burnt! More ravenous than famishing lions over dead prey, the multitude, with clangour and vociferation, pounces on them; struggling, dashing, clutching:–to the jamming-up, to the pressure, fracture and probable extinction, of the weaker Patriot. (Deux Amis, i. 302.) And so, with such protracted crash of deafening, most discordant Orchestra-music, the Scene is changed: and eight-and-twenty thousand sufficient firelocks are on the shoulders of so many National Guards, lifted thereby out of darkness into fiery light.

Let Besenval look at the glitter of these muskets, as they flash by! Gardes Francaises, it is said, have cannon levelled on him; ready to open, if need were, from the other side of the River. (Besenval, iii. 416.) Motionless sits he; ‘astonished,’ one may flatter oneself, ‘at the proud bearing (fiere contenance) of the Parisians.’–And now, to the Bastille, ye intrepid Parisians! There grapeshot still threatens; thither all men’s thoughts and steps are now tending.

Old de Launay, as we hinted, withdrew ‘into his interior’ soon after midnight of Sunday. He remains there ever since, hampered, as all military gentlemen now are, in the saddest conflict of uncertainties. The Hotel-de- Ville ‘invites’ him to admit National Soldiers, which is a soft name for surrendering. On the other hand, His Majesty’s orders were precise. His garrison is but eighty-two old Invalides, reinforced by thirty-two young Swiss; his walls indeed are nine feet thick, he has cannon and powder; but, alas, only one day’s provision of victuals. The city too is French, the poor garrison mostly French. Rigorous old de Launay, think what thou wilt do!

All morning, since nine, there has been a cry everywhere: To the Bastille! Repeated ‘deputations of citizens’ have been here, passionate for arms; whom de Launay has got dismissed by soft speeches through portholes. Towards noon, Elector Thuriot de la Rosiere gains admittance; finds de Launay indisposed for surrender; nay disposed for blowing up the place rather. Thuriot mounts with him to the battlements: heaps of paving- stones, old iron and missiles lie piled; cannon all duly levelled; in every embrasure a cannon,–only drawn back a little! But outwards behold, O Thuriot, how the multitude flows on, welling through every street; tocsin furiously pealing, all drums beating the generale: the Suburb Saint- Antoine rolling hitherward wholly, as one man! Such vision (spectral yet real) thou, O Thuriot, as from thy Mount of Vision, beholdest in this moment: prophetic of what other Phantasmagories, and loud-gibbering Spectral Realities, which, thou yet beholdest not, but shalt! “Que voulez vous?” said de Launay, turning pale at the sight, with an air of reproach, almost of menace. “Monsieur,” said Thuriot, rising into the moral-sublime, “What mean you? Consider if I could not precipitate both of us from this height,”–say only a hundred feet, exclusive of the walled ditch! Whereupon de Launay fell silent. Thuriot shews himself from some pinnacle, to comfort the multitude becoming suspicious, fremescent: then descends; departs with protest; with warning addressed also to the Invalides,–on whom, however, it produces but a mixed indistinct impression. The old heads are none of the clearest; besides, it is said, de Launay has been profuse of beverages (prodigua des buissons). They think, they will not fire,–if not fired on, if they can help it; but must, on the whole, be ruled considerably by circumstances.

Wo to thee, de Launay, in such an hour, if thou canst not, taking some one firm decision, rule circumstances! Soft speeches will not serve; hard grape-shot is questionable; but hovering between the two is unquestionable. Ever wilder swells the tide of men; their infinite hum waxing ever louder, into imprecations, perhaps into crackle of stray musketry,–which latter, on walls nine feet thick, cannot do execution. The Outer Drawbridge has been lowered for Thuriot; new deputation of citizens (it is the third, and noisiest of all) penetrates that way into the Outer Court: soft speeches producing no clearance of these, de Launay gives fire; pulls up his Drawbridge. A slight sputter;–which has kindled the too combustible chaos; made it a roaring fire-chaos! Bursts forth insurrection, at sight of its own blood (for there were deaths by that sputter of fire), into endless rolling explosion of musketry, distraction, execration;–and overhead, from the Fortress, let one great gun, with its grape-shot, go booming, to shew what we could do. The Bastille is besieged!

On, then, all Frenchmen that have hearts in their bodies! Roar with all your throats, of cartilage and metal, ye Sons of Liberty; stir spasmodically whatsoever of utmost faculty is in you, soul, body or spirit; for it is the hour! Smite, thou Louis Tournay, cartwright of the Marais, old-soldier of the Regiment Dauphine; smite at that Outer Drawbridge chain, though the fiery hail whistles round thee! Never, over nave or felloe, did thy axe strike such a stroke. Down with it, man; down with it to Orcus: let the whole accursed Edifice sink thither, and Tyranny be swallowed up for ever! Mounted, some say on the roof of the guard-room, some ‘on bayonets stuck into joints of the wall,’ Louis Tournay smites, brave Aubin Bonnemere (also an old soldier) seconding him: the chain yields, breaks; the huge Drawbridge slams down, thundering (avec fracas). Glorious: and yet, alas, it is still but the outworks. The Eight grim Towers, with their Invalides’ musketry, their paving stones and cannon-mouths, still soar aloft intact;–Ditch yawning impassable, stone-faced; the inner Drawbridge with its back towards us: the Bastille is still to take!

To describe this Siege of the Bastille (thought to be one of the most important in history) perhaps transcends the talent of mortals. Could one but, after infinite reading, get to understand so much as the plan of the building! But there is open Esplanade, at the end of the Rue Saint- Antoine; there are such Forecourts, Cour Avance, Cour de l’Orme, arched Gateway (where Louis Tournay now fights); then new drawbridges, dormant- bridges, rampart-bastions, and the grim Eight Towers: a labyrinthic Mass, high-frowning there, of all ages from twenty years to four hundred and twenty;–beleaguered, in this its last hour, as we said, by mere Chaos come again! Ordnance of all calibres; throats of all capacities; men of all plans, every man his own engineer: seldom since the war of Pygmies and Cranes was there seen so anomalous a thing. Half-pay Elie is home for a suit of regimentals; no one would heed him in coloured clothes: half-pay Hulin is haranguing Gardes Francaises in the Place de Greve. Frantic Patriots pick up the grape-shots; bear them, still hot (or seemingly so), to the Hotel-de-Ville:–Paris, you perceive, is to be burnt! Flesselles is ‘pale to the very lips’ for the roar of the multitude grows deep. Paris wholly has got to the acme of its frenzy; whirled, all ways, by panic madness. At every street-barricade, there whirls simmering, a minor whirlpool,–strengthening the barricade, since God knows what is coming; and all minor whirlpools play distractedly into that grand Fire-Mahlstrom which is lashing round the Bastille.

And so it lashes and it roars. Cholat the wine-merchant has become an impromptu cannoneer. See Georget, of the Marine Service, fresh from Brest, ply the King of Siam’s cannon. Singular (if we were not used to the like): Georget lay, last night, taking his ease at his inn; the King of Siam’s cannon also lay, knowing nothing of him, for a hundred years. Yet now, at the right instant, they have got together, and discourse eloquent music. For, hearing what was toward, Georget sprang from the Brest Diligence, and ran. Gardes Francaises also will be here, with real artillery: were not the walls so thick!–Upwards from the Esplanade, horizontally from all neighbouring roofs and windows, flashes one irregular deluge of musketry,– without effect. The Invalides lie flat, firing comparatively at their ease from behind stone; hardly through portholes, shew the tip of a nose. We fall, shot; and make no impression!

Let conflagration rage; of whatsoever is combustible! Guard-rooms are burnt, Invalides mess-rooms. A distracted ‘Peruke-maker with two fiery torches’ is for burning ‘the saltpetres of the Arsenal;’–had not a woman run screaming; had not a Patriot, with some tincture of Natural Philosophy, instantly struck the wind out of him (butt of musket on pit of stomach), overturned barrels, and stayed the devouring element. A young beautiful lady, seized escaping in these Outer Courts, and thought falsely to be de Launay’s daughter, shall be burnt in de Launay’s sight; she lies swooned on a paillasse: but again a Patriot, it is brave Aubin Bonnemere the old soldier, dashes in, and rescues her. Straw is burnt; three cartloads of it, hauled thither, go up in white smoke: almost to the choking of Patriotism itself; so that Elie had, with singed brows, to drag back one cart; and Reole the ‘gigantic haberdasher’ another. Smoke as of Tophet; confusion as of Babel; noise as of the Crack of Doom!

Blood flows, the aliment of new madness. The wounded are carried into houses of the Rue Cerisaie; the dying leave their last mandate not to yield till the accursed Stronghold fall. And yet, alas, how fall? The walls are so thick! Deputations, three in number, arrive from the Hotel-de-Ville; Abbe Fouchet (who was of one) can say, with what almost superhuman courage of benevolence. (Fauchet’s Narrative (Deux Amis, i. 324.).) These wave their Town-flag in the arched Gateway; and stand, rolling their drum; but to no purpose. In such Crack of Doom, de Launay cannot hear them, dare not believe them: they return, with justified rage, the whew of lead still singing in their ears. What to do? The Firemen are here, squirting with their fire-pumps on the Invalides’ cannon, to wet the touchholes; they unfortunately cannot squirt so high; but produce only clouds of spray. Individuals of classical knowledge propose catapults. Santerre, the sonorous Brewer of the Suburb Saint-Antoine, advises rather that the place be fired, by a ‘mixture of phosphorous and oil-of-turpentine spouted up through forcing pumps:’ O Spinola-Santerre, hast thou the mixture ready? Every man his own engineer! And still the fire-deluge abates not; even women are firing, and Turks; at least one woman (with her sweetheart), and one Turk. (Deux Amis (i. 319); Dusaulx, &c.) Gardes Francaises have come: real cannon, real cannoneers. Usher Maillard is busy; half-pay Elie, half- pay Hulin rage in the midst of thousands.

How the great Bastille Clock ticks (inaudible) in its Inner Court there, at its ease, hour after hour; as if nothing special, for it or the world, were passing! It tolled One when the firing began; and is now pointing towards Five, and still the firing slakes not.–Far down, in their vaults, the seven Prisoners hear muffled din as of earthquakes; their Turnkeys answer vaguely.

Wo to thee, de Launay, with thy poor hundred Invalides! Broglie is distant, and his ears heavy: Besenval hears, but can send no help. One poor troop of Hussars has crept, reconnoitring, cautiously along the Quais, as far as the Pont Neuf. “We are come to join you,” said the Captain; for the crowd seems shoreless. A large-headed dwarfish individual, of smoke- bleared aspect, shambles forward, opening his blue lips, for there is sense in him; and croaks: “Alight then, and give up your arms!” the Hussar- Captain is too happy to be escorted to the Barriers, and dismissed on parole. Who the squat individual was? Men answer, it is M. Marat, author of the excellent pacific Avis au Peuple! Great truly, O thou remarkable Dogleech, is this thy day of emergence and new birth: and yet this same day come four years–!–But let the curtains of the future hang.

What shall de Launay do? One thing only de Launay could have done: what he said he would do. Fancy him sitting, from the first, with lighted taper, within arm’s length of the Powder-Magazine; motionless, like old Roman Senator, or bronze Lamp-holder; coldly apprising Thuriot, and all men, by a slight motion of his eye, what his resolution was:–Harmless he sat there, while unharmed; but the King’s Fortress, meanwhile, could, might, would, or should, in nowise, be surrendered, save to the King’s Messenger: one old man’s life worthless, so it be lost with honour; but think, ye brawling canaille, how will it be when a whole Bastille springs skyward!–In such statuesque, taper-holding attitude, one fancies de Launay might have left Thuriot, the red Clerks of the Bazoche, Cure of Saint- Stephen and all the tagrag-and-bobtail of the world, to work their will.

And yet, withal, he could not do it. Hast thou considered how each man’s heart is so tremulously responsive to the hearts of all men; hast thou noted how omnipotent is the very sound of many men? How their shriek of indignation palsies the strong soul; their howl of contumely withers with unfelt pangs? The Ritter Gluck confessed that the ground-tone of the noblest passage, in one of his noblest Operas, was the voice of the Populace he had heard at Vienna, crying to their Kaiser: Bread! Bread! Great is the combined voice of men; the utterance of their instincts, which are truer than their thoughts: it is the greatest a man encounters, among the sounds and shadows, which make up this World of Time. He who can resist that, has his footing some where beyond Time. De Launay could not do it. Distracted, he hovers between the two; hopes in the middle of despair; surrenders not his Fortress; declares that he will blow it up, seizes torches to blow it up, and does not blow it. Unhappy old de Launay, it is the death-agony of thy Bastille and thee! Jail, Jailoring and Jailor, all three, such as they may have been, must finish.

For four hours now has the World-Bedlam roared: call it the World- Chimaera, blowing fire! The poor Invalides have sunk under their battlements, or rise only with reversed muskets: they have made a white flag of napkins; go beating the chamade, or seeming to beat, for one can hear nothing. The very Swiss at the Portcullis look weary of firing; disheartened in the fire-deluge: a porthole at the drawbridge is opened, as by one that would speak. See Huissier Maillard, the shifty man! On his plank, swinging over the abyss of that stone-Ditch; plank resting on parapet, balanced by weight of Patriots,–he hovers perilous: such a Dove towards such an Ark! Deftly, thou shifty Usher: one man already fell; and lies smashed, far down there, against the masonry! Usher Maillard falls not: deftly, unerring he walks, with outspread palm. The Swiss holds a paper through his porthole; the shifty Usher snatches it, and returns. Terms of surrender: Pardon, immunity to all! Are they accepted?–“Foi d’officier, On the word of an officer,” answers half-pay Hulin,–or half- pay Elie, for men do not agree on it, “they are!” Sinks the drawbridge,– Usher Maillard bolting it when down; rushes-in the living deluge: the Bastille is fallen! Victoire! La Bastille est prise! (Histoire de la Revolution, par Deux Amis de la Liberte, i. 267-306; Besenval, iii. 410- 434; Dusaulx, Prise de la Bastille, 291-301. Bailly, Memoires (Collection de Berville et Barriere), i. 322 et seqq.)

Chapter 1.5.VII.

Not a Revolt.

Why dwell on what follows? Hulin’s foi d’officer should have been kept, but could not. The Swiss stand drawn up; disguised in white canvas smocks; the Invalides without disguise; their arms all piled against the wall. The first rush of victors, in ecstacy that the death-peril is passed, ‘leaps joyfully on their necks;’ but new victors rush, and ever new, also in ecstacy not wholly of joy. As we said, it was a living deluge, plunging headlong; had not the Gardes Francaises, in their cool military way, ‘wheeled round with arms levelled,’ it would have plunged suicidally, by the hundred or the thousand, into the Bastille-ditch.

And so it goes plunging through court and corridor; billowing uncontrollable, firing from windows–on itself: in hot frenzy of triumph, of grief and vengeance for its slain. The poor Invalides will fare ill; one Swiss, running off in his white smock, is driven back, with a death- thrust. Let all prisoners be marched to the Townhall, to be judged!–Alas, already one poor Invalide has his right hand slashed off him; his maimed body dragged to the Place de Greve, and hanged there. This same right hand, it is said, turned back de Launay from the Powder-Magazine, and saved Paris.

De Launay, ‘discovered in gray frock with poppy-coloured riband,’ is for killing himself with the sword of his cane. He shall to the Hotel-de- Ville; Hulin Maillard and others escorting him; Elie marching foremost ‘with the capitulation-paper on his sword’s point.’ Through roarings and cursings; through hustlings, clutchings, and at last through strokes! Your escort is hustled aside, felled down; Hulin sinks exhausted on a heap of stones. Miserable de Launay! He shall never enter the Hotel de Ville: only his ‘bloody hair-queue, held up in a bloody hand;’ that shall enter, for a sign. The bleeding trunk lies on the steps there; the head is off through the streets; ghastly, aloft on a pike.

Rigorous de Launay has died; crying out, “O friends, kill me fast!” Merciful de Losme must die; though Gratitude embraces him, in this fearful hour, and will die for him; it avails not. Brothers, your wrath is cruel! Your Place de Greve is become a Throat of the Tiger; full of mere fierce bellowings, and thirst of blood. One other officer is massacred; one other Invalide is hanged on the Lamp-iron: with difficulty, with generous perseverance, the Gardes Francaises will save the rest. Provost Flesselles stricken long since with the paleness of death, must descend from his seat, ‘to be judged at the Palais Royal:’–alas, to be shot dead, by an unknown hand, at the turning of the first street!–

O evening sun of July, how, at this hour, thy beams fall slant on reapers amid peaceful woody fields; on old women spinning in cottages; on ships far out in the silent main; on Balls at the Orangerie of Versailles, where high-rouged Dames of the Palace are even now dancing with double-jacketted Hussar-Officers;–and also on this roaring Hell porch of a Hotel-de-Ville! Babel Tower, with the confusion of tongues, were not Bedlam added with the conflagration of thoughts, was no type of it. One forest of distracted steel bristles, endless, in front of an Electoral Committee; points itself, in horrid radii, against this and the other accused breast. It was the Titans warring with Olympus; and they scarcely crediting it, have conquered: prodigy of prodigies; delirious,–as it could not but be. Denunciation, vengeance; blaze of triumph on a dark ground of terror: all outward, all inward things fallen into one general wreck of madness!

Electoral Committee? Had it a thousand throats of brass, it would not suffice. Abbe Lefevre, in the Vaults down below, is black as Vulcan, distributing that ‘five thousand weight of Powder;’ with what perils, these eight-and-forty hours! Last night, a Patriot, in liquor, insisted on sitting to smoke on the edge of one of the Powder-barrels; there smoked he, independent of the world,–till the Abbe ‘purchased his pipe for three francs,’ and pitched it far.

Elie, in the grand Hall, Electoral Committee looking on, sits ‘with drawn sword bent in three places;’ with battered helm, for he was of the Queen’s Regiment, Cavalry; with torn regimentals, face singed and soiled; comparable, some think, to ‘an antique warrior;’–judging the people; forming a list of Bastille Heroes. O Friends, stain not with blood the greenest laurels ever gained in this world: such is the burden of Elie’s song; could it but be listened to. Courage, Elie! Courage, ye Municipal Electors! A declining sun; the need of victuals, and of telling news, will bring assuagement, dispersion: all earthly things must end.

Along the streets of Paris circulate Seven Bastille Prisoners, borne shoulder-high: seven Heads on pikes; the Keys of the Bastille; and much else. See also the Garde Francaises, in their steadfast military way, marching home to their barracks, with the Invalides and Swiss kindly enclosed in hollow square. It is one year and two months since these same men stood unparticipating, with Brennus d’Agoust at the Palais de Justice, when Fate overtook d’Espremenil; and now they have participated; and will participate. Not Gardes Francaises henceforth, but Centre Grenadiers of the National Guard: men of iron discipline and humour,–not without a kind of thought in them!

Likewise ashlar stones of the Bastille continue thundering through the dusk; its paper-archives shall fly white. Old secrets come to view; and long-buried Despair finds voice. Read this portion of an old Letter: (Dated, a la Bastille, 7 Octobre, 1752; signed Queret-Demery. Bastille Devoilee, in Linguet, Memoires sur la Bastille (Paris, 1821), p. 199.) ‘If for my consolation Monseigneur would grant me for the sake of God and the Most Blessed Trinity, that I could have news of my dear wife; were it only her name on card to shew that she is alive! It were the greatest consolation I could receive; and I should for ever bless the greatness of Monseigneur.’ Poor Prisoner, who namest thyself Queret Demery, and hast no other history,–she is dead, that dear wife of thine, and thou art dead! ‘Tis fifty years since thy breaking heart put this question; to be heard now first, and long heard, in the hearts of men.

But so does the July twilight thicken; so must Paris, as sick children, and all distracted creatures do, brawl itself finally into a kind of sleep. Municipal Electors, astonished to find their heads still uppermost, are home: only Moreau de Saint-Mery of tropical birth and heart, of coolest judgment; he, with two others, shall sit permanent at the Townhall. Paris sleeps; gleams upward the illuminated City: patrols go clashing, without common watchword; there go rumours; alarms of war, to the extent of ‘fifteen thousand men marching through the Suburb Saint-Antoine,’–who never got it marched through. Of the day’s distraction judge by this of the night: Moreau de Saint-Mery, ‘before rising from his seat, gave upwards of three thousand orders.’ (Dusaulx.) What a head; comparable to Friar Bacon’s Brass Head! Within it lies all Paris. Prompt must the answer be, right or wrong; in Paris is no other Authority extant. Seriously, a most cool clear head;–for which also thou O brave Saint-Mery, in many capacities, from august Senator to Merchant’s-Clerk, Book-dealer, Vice-King; in many places, from Virginia to Sardinia, shalt, ever as a brave man, find employment. (Biographie Universelle, para Moreau Saint- Mery (by Fournier-Pescay).)

Besenval has decamped, under cloud of dusk, ‘amid a great affluence of people,’ who did not harm him; he marches, with faint-growing tread, down the left bank of the Seine, all night,–towards infinite space. Resummoned shall Besenval himself be; for trial, for difficult acquittal. His King’s- troops, his Royal Allemand, are gone hence for ever.

The Versailles Ball and lemonade is done; the Orangery is silent except for nightbirds. Over in the Salle des Menus, Vice-president Lafayette, with unsnuffed lights, ‘with some hundred of members, stretched on tables round him,’ sits erect; outwatching the Bear. This day, a second solemn Deputation went to his Majesty; a second, and then a third: with no effect. What will the end of these things be?

In the Court, all is mystery, not without whisperings of terror; though ye dream of lemonade and epaulettes, ye foolish women! His Majesty, kept in happy ignorance, perhaps dreams of double-barrels and the Woods of Meudon. Late at night, the Duke de Liancourt, having official right of entrance, gains access to the Royal Apartments; unfolds, with earnest clearness, in his constitutional way, the Job’s-news. “Mais,” said poor Louis, “c’est une revolte, Why, that is a revolt!”–“Sire,” answered Liancourt, “It is not a revolt, it is a revolution.”

Chapter 1.5.VIII.

Conquering your King.

On the morrow a fourth Deputation to the Chateau is on foot: of a more solemn, not to say awful character, for, besides ‘orgies in the Orangery,’ it seems, ‘the grain convoys are all stopped;’ nor has Mirabeau’s thunder been silent. Such Deputation is on the point of setting out–when lo, his Majesty himself attended only by his two Brothers, step in; quite in the paternal manner; announces that the troops, and all causes of offence, are gone, and henceforth there shall be nothing but trust, reconcilement, good- will; whereof he ‘permits and even requests,’ a National Assembly to assure Paris in his name! Acclamation, as of men suddenly delivered from death, gives answer. The whole Assembly spontaneously rises to escort his Majesty back; ‘interlacing their arms to keep off the excessive pressure from him;’ for all Versailles is crowding and shouting. The Chateau Musicians, with a felicitous promptitude, strike up the Sein de sa Famille (Bosom of one’s Family): the Queen appears at the balcony with her little boy and girl, ‘kissing them several times;’ infinite Vivats spread far and wide;–and suddenly there has come, as it were, a new Heaven-on-Earth.

Eighty-eight august Senators, Bailly, Lafayette, and our repentant Archbishop among them, take coach for Paris, with the great intelligence; benedictions without end on their heads. From the Place Louis Quinze, where they alight, all the way to the Hotel-de-Ville, it is one sea of Tricolor cockades, of clear National muskets; one tempest of huzzaings, hand-clappings, aided by ‘occasional rollings’ of drum-music. Harangues of due fervour are delivered; especially by Lally Tollendal, pious son of the ill-fated murdered Lally; on whose head, in consequence, a civic crown (of oak or parsley) is forced,–which he forcibly transfers to Bailly’s.

But surely, for one thing, the National Guard must have a General! Moreau de Saint-Mery, he of the ‘three thousand orders,’ casts one of his significant glances on the Bust of Lafayette, which has stood there ever since the American War of Liberty. Whereupon, by acclamation, Lafayette is nominated. Again, in room of the slain traitor or quasi-traitor Flesselles, President Bailly shall be–Provost of the Merchants? No: Mayor of Paris! So be it. Maire de Paris! Mayor Bailly, General Lafayette; vive Bailly, vive Lafayette–the universal out-of-doors multitude rends the welkin in confirmation.–And now, finally, let us to Notre-Dame for a Te Deum.

Towards Notre-Dame Cathedral, in glad procession, these Regenerators of the Country walk, through a jubilant people; in fraternal manner; Abbe Lefevre, still black with his gunpowder services, walking arm in arm with the white- stoled Archbishop. Poor Bailly comes upon the Foundling Children, sent to kneel to him; and ‘weeps.’ Te Deum, our Archbishop officiating, is not only sung, but shot–with blank cartridges. Our joy is boundless as our wo threatened to be. Paris, by her own pike and musket, and the valour of her own heart, has conquered the very wargods,–to the satisfaction now of Majesty itself. A courier is, this night, getting under way for Necker: the People’s Minister, invited back by King, by National Assembly, and Nation, shall traverse France amid shoutings, and the sound of trumpet and timbrel.

Seeing which course of things, Messeigneurs of the Court Triumvirate, Messieurs of the dead-born Broglie-Ministry, and others such, consider that their part also is clear: to mount and ride. Off, ye too-loyal Broglies, Polignacs, and Princes of the Blood; off while it is yet time! Did not the Palais-Royal in its late nocturnal ‘violent motions,’ set a specific price (place of payment not mentioned) on each of your heads?–With precautions, with the aid of pieces of cannon and regiments that can be depended on, Messeigneurs, between the 16th night and the 17th morning, get to their several roads. Not without risk! Prince Conde has (or seems to have) ‘men galloping at full speed;’ with a view, it is thought, to fling him into the river Oise, at Pont-Sainte-Mayence. (Weber, ii. 126.) The Polignacs travel disguised; friends, not servants, on their coach-box. Broglie has his own difficulties at Versailles, runs his own risks at Metz and Verdun; does nevertheless get safe to Luxemburg, and there rests.

This is what they call the First Emigration; determined on, as appears, in full Court-conclave; his Majesty assisting; prompt he, for his share of it, to follow any counsel whatsoever. ‘Three Sons of France, and four Princes of the blood of Saint Louis,’ says Weber, ‘could not more effectually humble the Burghers of Paris ‘than by appearing to withdraw in fear of their life.’ Alas, the Burghers of Paris bear it with unexpected Stoicism! The Man d’Artois indeed is gone; but has he carried, for example, the Land D’Artois with him? Not even Bagatelle the Country-house (which shall be useful as a Tavern); hardly the four-valet Breeches, leaving the Breeches- maker!–As for old Foulon, one learns that he is dead; at least a ‘sumptuous funeral’ is going on; the undertakers honouring him, if no other will. Intendant Berthier, his son-in-law, is still living; lurking: he joined Besenval, on that Eumenides’ Sunday; appearing to treat it with levity; and is now fled no man knows whither.

The Emigration is not gone many miles, Prince Conde hardly across the Oise, when his Majesty, according to arrangement, for the Emigration also thought it might do good,–undertakes a rather daring enterprise: that of visiting Paris in person. With a Hundred Members of Assembly; with small or no military escort, which indeed he dismissed at the Bridge of Sevres, poor Louis sets out; leaving a desolate Palace; a Queen weeping, the Present, the Past, and the Future all so unfriendly for her.

At the Barrier of Passy, Mayor Bailly, in grand gala, presents him with the keys; harangues him, in Academic style; mentions that it is a great day; that in Henri Quatre’s case, the King had to make conquest of his People, but in this happier case, the People makes conquest of its King (a conquis son Roi). The King, so happily conquered, drives forward, slowly, through a steel people, all silent, or shouting only Vive la Nation; is harangued at the Townhall, by Moreau of the three-thousand orders, by King’s Procureur M. Ethys de Corny, by Lally Tollendal, and others; knows not what to think of it, or say of it; learns that he is ‘Restorer of French Liberty,’–as a Statue of him, to be raised on the site of the Bastille, shall testify to all men. Finally, he is shewn at the Balcony, with a Tricolor cockade in his hat; is greeted now, with vehement acclamation, from Square and Street, from all windows and roofs:–and so drives home again amid glad mingled and, as it were, intermarried shouts, of Vive le Roi and Vive la Nation; wearied but safe.

It was Sunday when the red-hot balls hung over us, in mid air: it is now but Friday, and ‘the Revolution is sanctioned.’ An August National Assembly shall make the Constitution; and neither foreign Pandour, domestic Triumvirate, with levelled Cannon, Guy-Faux powder-plots (for that too was spoken of); nor any tyrannic Power on the Earth, or under the Earth, shall say to it, What dost thou?–So jubilates the people; sure now of a Constitution. Cracked Marquis Saint-Huruge is heard under the windows of the Chateau; murmuring sheer speculative-treason. (Campan, ii. 46-64.)

Chapter 1.5.IX.

The Lanterne.

The Fall of the Bastille may be said to have shaken all France to the deepest foundations of its existence. The rumour of these wonders flies every where: with the natural speed of Rumour; with an effect thought to be preternatural, produced by plots. Did d’Orleans or Laclos, nay did Mirabeau (not overburdened with money at this time) send riding Couriers out from Paris; to gallop ‘on all radii,’ or highways, towards all points of France? It is a miracle, which no penetrating man will call in question. (Toulongeon, (i. 95); Weber, &c. &c.)

Already in most Towns, Electoral Committees were met; to regret Necker, in harangue and resolution. In many a Town, as Rennes, Caen, Lyons, an ebullient people was already regretting him in brickbats and musketry. But now, at every Town’s-end in France, there do arrive, in these days of terror,–‘men,’ as men will arrive; nay, ‘men on horseback,’ since Rumour oftenest travels riding. These men declare, with alarmed countenance, The BRIGANDS to be coming, to be just at hand; and do then–ride on, about their further business, be what it might! Whereupon the whole population of such Town, defensively flies to arms. Petition is soon thereafter forwarded to National Assembly; in such peril and terror of peril, leave to organise yourself cannot be withheld: the armed population becomes everywhere an enrolled National Guard. Thus rides Rumour, careering along all radii, from Paris outwards, to such purpose: in few days, some say in not many hours, all France to the utmost borders bristles with bayonets. Singular, but undeniable,–miraculous or not!–But thus may any chemical liquid; though cooled to the freezing-point, or far lower, still continue liquid; and then, on the slightest stroke or shake, it at once rushes wholly into ice. Thus has France, for long months and even years, been chemically dealt with; brought below zero; and now, shaken by the Fall of a Bastille, it instantaneously congeals: into one crystallised mass, of sharp-cutting steel! Guai a chi la tocca; ‘Ware who touches it!

In Paris, an Electoral Committee, with a new Mayor and General, is urgent with belligerent workmen to resume their handicrafts. Strong Dames of the Market (Dames de la Halle) deliver congratulatory harangues; present ‘bouquets to the Shrine of Sainte Genevieve.’ Unenrolled men deposit their arms,–not so readily as could be wished; and receive ‘nine francs.’ With Te Deums, Royal Visits, and sanctioned Revolution, there is halcyon weather; weather even of preternatural brightness; the hurricane being overblown.

Nevertheless, as is natural, the waves still run high, hollow rocks retaining their murmur. We are but at the 22nd of the month, hardly above a week since the Bastille fell, when it suddenly appears that old Foulon is alive; nay, that he is here, in early morning, in the streets of Paris; the extortioner, the plotter, who would make the people eat grass, and was a liar from the beginning!–It is even so. The deceptive ‘sumptuous funeral’ (of some domestic that died); the hiding-place at Vitry towards Fontainbleau, have not availed that wretched old man. Some living domestic or dependant, for none loves Foulon, has betrayed him to the Village. Merciless boors of Vitry unearth him; pounce on him, like hell-hounds: Westward, old Infamy; to Paris, to be judged at the Hotel-de-Ville! His old head, which seventy-four years have bleached, is bare; they have tied an emblematic bundle of grass on his back; a garland of nettles and thistles is round his neck: in this manner; led with ropes; goaded on with curses and menaces, must he, with his old limbs, sprawl forward; the pitiablest, most unpitied of all old men.

Sooty Saint-Antoine, and every street, mustering its crowds as he passes,– the Place de Greve, the Hall of the Hotel-de-Ville will scarcely hold his escort and him. Foulon must not only be judged righteously; but judged there where he stands, without any delay. Appoint seven judges, ye Municipals, or seventy-and-seven; name them yourselves, or we will name them: but judge him! (Histoire Parlementaire, ii. 146-9.) Electoral rhetoric, eloquence of Mayor Bailly, is wasted explaining the beauty of the Law’s delay. Delay, and still delay! Behold, O Mayor of the People, the morning has worn itself into noon; and he is still unjudged!–Lafayette, pressingly sent for, arrives; gives voice: This Foulon, a known man, is guilty almost beyond doubt; but may he not have accomplices? Ought not the truth to be cunningly pumped out of him,–in the Abbaye Prison? It is a new light! Sansculottism claps hands;–at which hand-clapping, Foulon (in his fainness, as his Destiny would have it) also claps. “See! they understand one another!” cries dark Sansculottism, blazing into fury of suspicion.–“Friends,” said ‘a person in good clothes,’ stepping forward, “what is the use of judging this man? Has he not been judged these thirty years?” With wild yells, Sansculottism clutches him, in its hundred hands: he is whirled across the Place de Greve, to the ‘Lanterne,’ Lamp-iron which there is at the corner of the Rue de la Vannerie; pleading bitterly for life,–to the deaf winds. Only with the third rope (for two ropes broke, and the quavering voice still pleaded), can he be so much as got hanged! His Body is dragged through the streets; his Head goes aloft on a pike, the mouth filled with grass: amid sounds as of Tophet, from a grass-eating people. (Deux Amis de la Liberte, ii. 60-6.)

Surely if Revenge is a ‘kind of Justice,’ it is a ‘wild’ kind! O mad Sansculottism hast thou risen, in thy mad darkness, in thy soot and rags; unexpectedly, like an Enceladus, living-buried, from under his Trinacria? They that would make grass be eaten do now eat grass, in this manner? After long dumb-groaning generations, has the turn suddenly become thine?– To such abysmal overturns, and frightful instantaneous inversions of the centre-of-gravity, are human Solecisms all liable, if they but knew it; the more liable, the falser (and topheavier) they are!–

To add to the horror of Mayor Bailly and his Municipals, word comes that Berthier has also been arrested; that he is on his way hither from Compiegne. Berthier, Intendant (say, Tax-levier) of Paris; sycophant and tyrant; forestaller of Corn; contriver of Camps against the people;– accused of many things: is he not Foulon’s son-in-law; and, in that one point, guilty of all? In these hours too, when Sansculottism has its blood up! The shuddering Municipals send one of their number to escort him, with mounted National Guards.

At the fall of day, the wretched Berthier, still wearing a face of courage, arrives at the Barrier; in an open carriage; with the Municipal beside him; five hundred horsemen with drawn sabres; unarmed footmen enough, not without noise! Placards go brandished round him; bearing legibly his indictment, as Sansculottism, with unlegal brevity, ‘in huge letters,’ draws it up. (‘Il a vole le Roi et la France (He robbed the King and France).’ ‘He devoured the substance of the People.’ ‘He was the slave of the rich, and the tyrant of the poor.’ ‘He drank the blood of the widow and orphan.’ ‘He betrayed his country.’ See Deux Amis, ii. 67-73.) Paris is come forth to meet him: with hand-clappings, with windows flung up; with dances, triumph-songs, as of the Furies! Lastly the Head of Foulon: this also meets him on a pike. Well might his ‘look become glazed,’ and sense fail him, at such sight!–Nevertheless, be the man’s conscience what it may, his nerves are of iron. At the Hotel-de-Ville, he will answer nothing. He says, he obeyed superior order; they have his papers; they may judge and determine: as for himself, not having closed an eye these two nights, he demands, before all things, to have sleep. Leaden sleep, thou miserable Berthier! Guards rise with him, in motion towards the Abbaye. At the very door of the Hotel-de-Ville, they are clutched; flung asunder, as by a vortex of mad arms; Berthier whirls towards the Lanterne. He snatches a musket; fells and strikes, defending himself like a mad lion; is borne down, trampled, hanged, mangled: his Head too, and even his Heart, flies over the City on a pike.

Horrible, in Lands that had known equal justice! Not so unnatural in Lands that had never known it. Le sang qui coule est-il donc si pure? asks Barnave; intimating that the Gallows, though by irregular methods, has its own.–Thou thyself, O Reader, when thou turnest that corner of the Rue de la Vannerie, and discernest still that same grim Bracket of old Iron, wilt not want for reflections. ‘Over a grocer’s shop,’ or otherwise; with ‘a bust of Louis XIV. in the niche under it,’ or now no longer in the niche,– it still sticks there: still holding out an ineffectual light, of fish- oil; and has seen worlds wrecked, and says nothing.

But to the eye of enlightened Patriotism, what a thunder-cloud was this; suddenly shaping itself in the radiance of the halcyon weather! Cloud of Erebus blackness: betokening latent electricity without limit. Mayor Bailly, General Lafayette throw up their commissions, in an indignant manner;–need to be flattered back again. The cloud disappears, as thunder-clouds do. The halcyon weather returns, though of a grayer complexion; of a character more and more evidently not supernatural.

Thus, in any case, with what rubs soever, shall the Bastille be abolished from our Earth; and with it, Feudalism, Despotism; and, one hopes, Scoundrelism generally, and all hard usage of man by his brother man. Alas, the Scoundrelism and hard usage are not so easy of abolition! But as for the Bastille, it sinks day after day, and month after month; its ashlars and boulders tumbling down continually, by express order of our Municipals. Crowds of the curious roam through its caverns; gaze on the skeletons found walled up, on the oubliettes, iron cages, monstrous stone- blocks with padlock chains. One day we discern Mirabeau there; along with the Genevese Dumont. (Dumont, Souvenirs sur Mirabeau, p. 305.) Workers and onlookers make reverent way for him; fling verses, flowers on his path, Bastille-papers and curiosities into his carriage, with vivats.

Able Editors compile Books from the Bastille Archives; from what of them remain unburnt. The Key of that Robber-Den shall cross the Atlantic; shall lie on Washington’s hall-table. The great Clock ticks now in a private patriotic Clockmaker’s apartment; no longer measuring hours of mere heaviness. Vanished is the Bastille, what we call vanished: the body, or sandstones, of it hanging, in benign metamorphosis, for centuries to come, over the Seine waters, as Pont Louis Seize; (Dulaure: Histoire de Paris, viii. 434.) the soul of it living, perhaps still longer, in the memories of men.

So far, ye august Senators, with your Tennis-Court Oaths, your inertia and impetus, your sagacity and pertinacity, have ye brought us. “And yet think, Messieurs,” as the Petitioner justly urged, “you who were our saviours, did yourselves need saviours,”–the brave Bastillers, namely; workmen of Paris; many of them in straightened pecuniary circumstances! (Moniteur: Seance du Samedi 18 Juillet 1789 (in Histoire Parlementaire, ii. 137.) Subscriptions are opened; Lists are formed, more accurate than Elie’s; harangues are delivered. A Body of Bastille Heroes, tolerably complete, did get together;–comparable to the Argonauts; hoping to endure like them. But in little more than a year, the whirlpool of things threw them asunder again, and they sank. So many highest superlatives achieved by man are followed by new higher; and dwindle into comparatives and positives! The Siege of the Bastille, weighed with which, in the Historical balance, most other sieges, including that of Troy Town, are gossamer, cost, as we find, in killed and mortally wounded, on the part of the Besiegers, some Eighty-three persons: on the part of the Besieged, after all that straw-burning, fire-pumping, and deluge of musketry, One poor solitary invalid, shot stone-dead (roide-mort) on the battlements; (Dusaulx: Prise de la Bastille, p. 447, &c.) The Bastille Fortress, like the City of Jericho, was overturned by miraculous sound.



Chapter 1.6.I.

Make the Constitution.

Here perhaps is the place to fix, a little more precisely, what these two words, French Revolution, shall mean; for, strictly considered, they may have as many meanings as there are speakers of them. All things are in revolution; in change from moment to moment, which becomes sensible from epoch to epoch: in this Time-World of ours there is properly nothing else but revolution and mutation, and even nothing else conceivable. Revolution, you answer, means speedier change. Whereupon one has still to ask: How speedy? At what degree of speed; in what particular points of this variable course, which varies in velocity, but can never stop till Time itself stops, does revolution begin and end; cease to be ordinary mutation, and again become such? It is a thing that will depend on definition more or less arbitrary.

For ourselves we answer that French Revolution means here the open violent Rebellion, and Victory, of disimprisoned Anarchy against corrupt worn-out Authority: how Anarchy breaks prison; bursts up from the infinite Deep, and rages uncontrollable, immeasurable, enveloping a world; in phasis after phasis of fever-frenzy;–’till the frenzy burning itself out, and what elements of new Order it held (since all Force holds such) developing themselves, the Uncontrollable be got, if not reimprisoned, yet harnessed, and its mad forces made to work towards their object as sane regulated ones. For as Hierarchies and Dynasties of all kinds, Theocracies, Aristocracies, Autocracies, Strumpetocracies, have ruled over the world; so it was appointed, in the decrees of Providence, that this same Victorious Anarchy, Jacobinism, Sansculottism, French Revolution, Horrors of French Revolution, or what else mortals name it, should have its turn. The ‘destructive wrath’ of Sansculottism: this is what we speak, having unhappily no voice for singing.

Surely a great Phenomenon: nay it is a transcendental one, overstepping all rules and experience; the crowning Phenomenon of our Modern Time. For here again, most unexpectedly, comes antique Fanaticism in new and newest vesture; miraculous, as all Fanaticism is. Call it the Fanaticism of ‘making away with formulas, de humer les formulas.’ The world of formulas, the formed regulated world, which all habitable world is,–must needs hate such Fanaticism like death; and be at deadly variance with it. The world of formulas must conquer it; or failing that, must die execrating it, anathematising it;–can nevertheless in nowise prevent its being and its having been. The Anathemas are there, and the miraculous Thing is there.

Whence it cometh? Whither it goeth? These are questions! When the age of Miracles lay faded into the distance as an incredible tradition, and even the age of Conventionalities was now old; and Man’s Existence had for long generations rested on mere formulas which were grown hollow by course of time; and it seemed as if no Reality any longer existed but only Phantasms of realities, and God’s Universe were the work of the Tailor and Upholsterer mainly, and men were buckram masks that went about becking and grimacing there,–on a sudden, the Earth yawns asunder, and amid Tartarean smoke, and glare of fierce brightness, rises SANSCULOTTISM, many-headed, fire-breathing, and asks: What think ye of me? Well may the buckram masks start together, terror-struck; ‘into expressive well-concerted groups!’ It is indeed, Friends, a most singular, most fatal thing. Let whosoever is but buckram and a phantasm look to it: ill verily may it fare with him; here methinks he cannot much longer be. Wo also to many a one who is not wholly buckram, but partially real and human! The age of Miracles has come back! ‘Behold the World-Phoenix, in fire-consummation and fire-creation; wide are her fanning wings; loud is her death-melody, of battle-thunders and falling towns; skyward lashes the funeral flame, enveloping all things: it is the Death-Birth of a World!’

Whereby, however, as we often say, shall one unspeakable blessing seem attainable. This, namely: that Man and his Life rest no more on hollowness and a Lie, but on solidity and some kind of Truth. Welcome, the beggarliest truth, so it be one, in exchange for the royallest sham! Truth of any kind breeds ever new and better truth; thus hard granite rock will crumble down into soil, under the blessed skyey influences; and cover itself with verdure, with fruitage and umbrage. But as for Falsehood, which in like contrary manner, grows ever falser,–what can it, or what should it do but decease, being ripe; decompose itself, gently or even violently, and return to the Father of it,–too probably in flames of fire?

Sansculottism will burn much; but what is incombustible it will not burn. Fear not Sansculottism; recognise it for what it is, the portentous, inevitable end of much, the miraculous beginning of much. One other thing thou mayest understand of it: that it too came from God; for has it not been? From of old, as it is written, are His goings forth; in the great Deep of things; fearful and wonderful now as in the beginning: in the whirlwind also He speaks! and the wrath of men is made to praise Him.–But to gauge and measure this immeasurable Thing, and what is called account for it, and reduce it to a dead logic-formula, attempt not! Much less shalt thou shriek thyself hoarse, cursing it; for that, to all needful lengths, has been already done. As an actually existing Son of Time, look, with unspeakable manifold interest, oftenest in silence, at what the Time did bring: therewith edify, instruct, nourish thyself, or were it but to amuse and gratify thyself, as it is given thee.

Another question which at every new turn will rise on us, requiring ever new reply is this: Where the French Revolution specially is? In the King’s Palace, in his Majesty’s or her Majesty’s managements, and maltreatments, cabals, imbecilities and woes, answer some few:–whom we do not answer. In the National Assembly, answer a large mixed multitude: who accordingly seat themselves in the Reporter’s Chair; and therefrom noting what Proclamations, Acts, Reports, passages of logic-fence, bursts of parliamentary eloquence seem notable within doors, and what tumults and rumours of tumult become audible from without,–produce volume on volume; and, naming it History of the French Revolution, contentedly publish the same. To do the like, to almost any extent, with so many Filed Newspapers, Choix des Rapports, Histoires Parlementaires as there are, amounting to many horseloads, were easy for us. Easy but unprofitable. The National Assembly, named now Constituent Assembly, goes its course; making the Constitution; but the French Revolution also goes its course.

In general, may we not say that the French Revolution lies in the heart and head of every violent-speaking, of every violent-thinking French Man? How the Twenty-five Millions of such, in their perplexed combination, acting and counter-acting may give birth to events; which event successively is the cardinal one; and from what point of vision it may best be surveyed: this is a problem. Which problem the best insight, seeking light from all possible sources, shifting its point of vision whithersoever vision or glimpse of vision can be had, may employ itself in solving; and be well content to solve in some tolerably approximate way.

As to the National Assembly, in so far as it still towers eminent over France, after the manner of a car-borne Carroccio, though now no longer in the van; and rings signals for retreat or for advance,–it is and continues a reality among other realities. But in so far as it sits making the Constitution, on the other hand, it is a fatuity and chimera mainly. Alas, in the never so heroic building of Montesquieu-Mably card-castles, though shouted over by the world, what interest is there? Occupied in that way, an august National Assembly becomes for us little other than a Sanhedrim of pedants, not of the gerund-grinding, yet of no fruitfuller sort; and its loud debatings and recriminations about Rights of Man, Right of Peace and War, Veto suspensif, Veto absolu, what are they but so many Pedant’s- curses, ‘May God confound you for your Theory of Irregular Verbs!’

A Constitution can be built, Constitutions enough a la Sieyes: but the frightful difficulty is that of getting men to come and live in them! Could Sieyes have drawn thunder and lightning out of Heaven to sanction his Constitution, it had been well: but without any thunder? Nay, strictly considered, is it not still true that without some such celestial sanction, given visibly in thunder or invisibly otherwise, no Constitution can in the long run be worth much more than the waste-paper it is written on? The Constitution, the set of Laws, or prescribed Habits of Acting, that men will live under, is the one which images their Convictions,–their Faith as to this wondrous Universe, and what rights, duties, capabilities they have there; which stands sanctioned therefore, by Necessity itself, if not by a seen Deity, then by an unseen one. Other laws, whereof there are always enough ready-made, are usurpations; which men do not obey, but rebel against, and abolish, by their earliest convenience.

The question of questions accordingly were, Who is it that especially for rebellers and abolishers, can make a Constitution? He that can image forth the general Belief when there is one; that can impart one when, as here, there is none. A most rare man; ever as of old a god-missioned man! Here, however, in defect of such transcendent supreme man, Time with its infinite succession of merely superior men, each yielding his little contribution, does much. Force likewise (for, as Antiquarian Philosophers teach, the royal Sceptre was from the first something of a Hammer, to crack such heads as could not be convinced) will all along find somewhat to do. And thus in perpetual abolition and reparation, rending and mending, with struggle and strife, with present evil and the hope and effort towards future good, must the Constitution, as all human things do, build itself forward; or unbuild itself, and sink, as it can and may. O Sieyes, and ye other Committeemen, and Twelve Hundred miscellaneous individuals from all parts of France! What is the Belief of France, and yours, if ye knew it? Properly that there shall be no Belief; that all formulas be swallowed. The Constitution which will suit that? Alas, too clearly, a No-Constitution, an Anarchy;– which also, in due season, shall be vouchsafed you.

But, after all, what can an unfortunate National Assembly do? Consider only this, that there are Twelve Hundred miscellaneous individuals; not a unit of whom but has his own thinking-apparatus, his own speaking- apparatus! In every unit of them is some belief and wish, different for each, both that France should be regenerated, and also that he individually should do it. Twelve Hundred separate Forces, yoked miscellaneously to any object, miscellaneously to all sides of it; and bid pull for life!

Or is it the nature of National Assemblies generally to do, with endless labour and clangour, Nothing? Are Representative Governments mostly at bottom Tyrannies too! Shall we say, the Tyrants, the ambitious contentious Persons, from all corners of the country do, in this manner, get gathered into one place; and there, with motion and counter-motion, with jargon and hubbub, cancel one another, like the fabulous Kilkenny Cats; and produce, for net-result, zero;–the country meanwhile governing or guiding itself, by such wisdom, recognised or for most part unrecognised, as may exist in individual heads here and there?–Nay, even that were a great improvement: for, of old, with their Guelf Factions and Ghibelline Factions, with their Red Roses and White Roses, they were wont to cancel the whole country as well. Besides they do it now in a much narrower cockpit; within the four walls of their Assembly House, and here and there an outpost of Hustings and Barrel-heads; do it with tongues too, not with swords:–all which improvements, in the art of producing zero, are they not great? Nay, best of all, some happy Continents (as the Western one, with its Savannahs, where whosoever has four willing limbs finds food under his feet, and an infinite sky over his head) can do without governing.–What Sphinx- questions; which the distracted world, in these very generations, must answer or die!

Chapter 1.6.II.

The Constituent Assembly.

One thing an elected Assembly of Twelve Hundred is fit for: Destroying. Which indeed is but a more decided exercise of its natural talent for Doing Nothing. Do nothing, only keep agitating, debating; and things will destroy themselves.

So and not otherwise proved it with an august National Assembly. It took the name, Constituent, as if its mission and function had been to construct or build; which also, with its whole soul, it endeavoured to do: yet, in the fates, in the nature of things, there lay for it precisely of all functions the most opposite to that. Singular, what Gospels men will believe; even Gospels according to Jean Jacques! It was the fixed Faith of these National Deputies, as of all thinking Frenchmen, that the Constitution could be made; that they, there and then, were called to make it. How, with the toughness of Old Hebrews or Ishmaelite Moslem, did the otherwise light unbelieving People persist in this their Credo quia impossibile ; and front the armed world with it; and grow fanatic, and even heroic, and do exploits by it! The Constituent Assembly’s Constitution, and several others, will, being printed and not manuscript, survive to future generations, as an instructive well-nigh incredible document of the Time: the most significant Picture of the then existing France; or at lowest, Picture of these men’s Picture of it.

But in truth and seriousness, what could the National Assembly have done? The thing to be done was, actually as they said, to regenerate France; to abolish the old France, and make a new one; quietly or forcibly, by concession or by violence, this, by the Law of Nature, has become inevitable. With what degree of violence, depends on the wisdom of those that preside over it. With perfect wisdom on the part of the National Assembly, it had all been otherwise; but whether, in any wise, it could have been pacific, nay other than bloody and convulsive, may still be a question.

Grant, meanwhile, that this Constituent Assembly does to the last continue to be something. With a sigh, it sees itself incessantly forced away from its infinite divine task, of perfecting ‘the Theory of Irregular Verbs,’– to finite terrestrial tasks, which latter have still a significance for us. It is the cynosure of revolutionary France, this National Assembly. All work of Government has fallen into its hands, or under its control; all men look to it for guidance. In the middle of that huge Revolt of Twenty-five millions, it hovers always aloft as Carroccio or Battle-Standard, impelling and impelled, in the most confused way; if it cannot give much guidance, it will still seem to give some. It emits pacificatory Proclamations, not a few; with more or with less result. It authorises the enrolment of National Guards,–lest Brigands come to devour us, and reap the unripe crops. It sends missions to quell ‘effervescences;’ to deliver men from the Lanterne. It can listen to congratulatory Addresses, which arrive daily by the sackful; mostly in King Cambyses’ vein: also to Petitions and complaints from all mortals; so that every mortal’s complaint, if it cannot get redressed, may at least hear itself complain. For the rest, an august National Assembly can produce Parliamentary Eloquence; and appoint Committees. Committees of the Constitution, of Reports, of Researches; and of much else: which again yield mountains of Printed Paper; the theme of new Parliamentary Eloquence, in bursts, or in plenteous smooth-flowing floods. And so, from the waste vortex whereon all things go whirling and grinding, Organic Laws, or the similitude of such, slowly emerge.

With endless debating, we get the Rights of Man written down and promulgated: true paper basis of all paper Constitutions. Neglecting, cry the opponents, to declare the Duties of Man! Forgetting, answer we, to ascertain the Mights of Man;–one of the fatalest omissions!–Nay, sometimes, as on the Fourth of August, our National Assembly, fired suddenly by an almost preternatural enthusiasm, will get through whole masses of work in one night. A memorable night, this Fourth of August: Dignitaries temporal and spiritual; Peers, Archbishops, Parlement- Presidents, each outdoing the other in patriotic devotedness, come successively to throw their (untenable) possessions on the ‘altar of the fatherland.’ With louder and louder vivats, for indeed it is ‘after dinner’ too,–they abolish Tithes, Seignorial Dues, Gabelle, excessive Preservation of Game; nay Privilege, Immunity, Feudalism root and branch; then appoint a Te Deum for it; and so, finally, disperse about three in the morning, striking the stars with their sublime heads. Such night, unforeseen but for ever memorable, was this of the Fourth of August 1789. Miraculous, or semi-miraculous, some seem to think it. A new Night of Pentecost, shall we say, shaped according to the new Time, and new Church of Jean Jacques Rousseau? It had its causes; also its effects.

In such manner labour the National Deputies; perfecting their Theory of Irregular Verbs; governing France, and being governed by it; with toil and noise;–cutting asunder ancient intolerable bonds; and, for new ones, assiduously spinning ropes of sand. Were their labours a nothing or a something, yet the eyes of all France being reverently fixed on them, History can never very long leave them altogether out of sight.

For the present, if we glance into that Assembly Hall of theirs, it will be found, as is natural, ‘most irregular.’ As many as ‘a hundred members are on their feet at once;’ no rule in making motions, or only commencements of a rule; Spectators’ Gallery allowed to applaud, and even to hiss; (Arthur Young, i. 111.) President, appointed once a fortnight, raising many times no serene head above the waves. Nevertheless, as in all human Assemblages, like does begin arranging itself to like; the perennial rule, Ubi homines sunt modi sunt, proves valid. Rudiments of Methods disclose themselves; rudiments of Parties. There is a Right Side (Cote Droit), a Left Side (Cote Gauche); sitting on M. le President’s right hand, or on his left: the Cote Droit conservative; the Cote Gauche destructive. Intermediate is Anglomaniac Constitutionalism, or Two-Chamber Royalism; with its Mouniers, its Lallys,–fast verging towards nonentity. Preeminent, on the Right Side, pleads and perorates Cazales, the Dragoon-captain, eloquent, mildly fervent; earning for himself the shadow of a name. There also blusters Barrel-Mirabeau, the Younger Mirabeau, not without wit: dusky d’Espremenil does nothing but sniff and ejaculate; might, it is fondly thought, lay prostrate the Elder Mirabeau himself, would he but try, (Biographie Universelle, para D’Espremenil (by Beaulieu).)–which he does not. Last and greatest, see, for one moment, the Abbe Maury; with his jesuitic eyes, his impassive brass face, ‘image of all the cardinal sins.’ Indomitable, unquenchable, he fights jesuitico-rhetorically; with toughest lungs and heart; for Throne, especially for Altar and Tithes. So that a shrill voice exclaims once, from the Gallery: “Messieurs of the Clergy, you have to be shaved; if you wriggle too much, you will get cut.” (Dictionnaire des Hommes Marquans, ii. 519.)

The Left side is also called the d’Orleans side; and sometimes derisively, the Palais Royal. And yet, so confused, real-imaginary seems everything, ‘it is doubtful,’ as Mirabeau said, ‘whether d’Orleans himself belong to that same d’Orleans Party.’ What can be known and seen is, that his moon- visage does beam forth from that point of space. There likewise sits seagreen Robespierre; throwing in his light weight, with decision, not yet with effect. A thin lean Puritan and Precisian; he would make away with formulas; yet lives, moves, and has his being, wholly in formulas, of another sort. ‘Peuple,’ such according to Robespierre ought to be the Royal method of promulgating laws, ‘Peuple, this is the Law I have framed for thee; dost thou accept it?’–answered from Right Side, from Centre and Left, by inextinguishable laughter. (Moniteur, No. 67 (in Hist.Parl.).) Yet men of insight discern that the Seagreen may by chance go far: “this man,” observes Mirabeau, “will do somewhat; he believes every word he says.”

Abbe Sieyes is busy with mere Constitutional work: wherein, unluckily, fellow-workmen are less pliable than, with one who has completed the Science of Polity, they ought to be. Courage, Sieyes nevertheless! Some twenty months of heroic travail, of contradiction from the stupid, and the Constitution shall be built; the top-stone of it brought out with shouting,–say rather, the top-paper, for it is all Paper; and thou hast done in it what the Earth or the Heaven could require, thy utmost. Note likewise this Trio; memorable for several things; memorable were it only that their history is written in an epigram: ‘whatsoever these Three have in hand,’ it is said, ‘Duport thinks it, Barnave speaks it, Lameth does it.’ (See Toulongeon, i. c. 3.)

But royal Mirabeau? Conspicuous among all parties, raised above and beyond them all, this man rises more and more. As we often say, he has an eye, he is a reality; while others are formulas and eye-glasses. In the Transient he will detect the Perennial, find some firm footing even among Paper- vortexes. His fame is gone forth to all lands; it gladdened the heart of the crabbed old Friend of Men himself before he died. The very Postilions of inns have heard of Mirabeau: when an impatient Traveller complains that the team is insufficient, his Postilion answers, “Yes, Monsieur, the wheelers are weak; but my mirabeau (main horse), you see, is a right one, mais mon mirabeau est excellent.” (Dumont, Souvenirs sur Mirabeau, p. 255.)

And now, Reader, thou shalt quit this noisy Discrepancy of a National Assembly; not (if thou be of humane mind) without pity. Twelve Hundred brother men are there, in the centre of Twenty-five Millions; fighting so fiercely with Fate and with one another; struggling their lives out, as most sons of Adam do, for that which profiteth not. Nay, on the whole, it is admitted further to be very dull. “Dull as this day’s Assembly,” said some one. “Why date, Pourquoi dater?” answered Mirabeau.

Consider that they are Twelve Hundred; that they not only speak, but read their speeches; and even borrow and steal speeches to read! With Twelve Hundred fluent speakers, and their Noah’s Deluge of vociferous commonplace, unattainable silence may well seem the one blessing of Life. But figure Twelve Hundred pamphleteers; droning forth perpetual pamphlets: and no man to gag them! Neither, as in the American Congress, do the arrangements seem perfect. A Senator has not his own Desk and Newspaper here; of Tobacco (much less of Pipes) there is not the slightest provision. Conversation itself must be transacted in a low tone, with continual interruption: only ‘pencil Notes’ circulate freely; ‘in incredible numbers to the foot of the very tribune.’ (See Dumont (pp. 159-67); Arthur Young, &c.)–Such work is it, regenerating a Nation; perfecting one’s Theory of Irregular Verbs!

Chapter 1.6.III.

The General Overturn.

Of the King’s Court, for the present, there is almost nothing whatever to be said. Silent, deserted are these halls; Royalty languishes forsaken of its war-god and all its hopes, till once the Oeil-de-Boeuf rally again. The sceptre is departed from King Louis; is gone over to the Salles des Menus, to the Paris Townhall, or one knows not whither. In the July days, while all ears were yet deafened by the crash of the Bastille, and Ministers and Princes were scattered to the four winds, it seemed as if the very Valets had grown heavy of hearing. Besenval, also in flight towards Infinite Space, but hovering a little at Versailles, was addressing his Majesty personally for an Order about post-horses; when, lo, ‘the Valet in waiting places himself familiarly between his Majesty and me,’ stretching out his rascal neck to learn what it was! His Majesty, in sudden choler, whirled round; made a clutch at the tongs: ‘I gently prevented him; he grasped my hand in thankfulness; and I noticed tears in his eyes.’ (Besenval, iii. 419.)

Poor King; for French Kings also are men! Louis Fourteenth himself once clutched the tongs, and even smote with them; but then it was at Louvois, and Dame Maintenon ran up.–The Queen sits weeping in her inner apartments, surrounded by weak women: she is ‘at the height of unpopularity;’ universally regarded as the evil genius of France. Her friends and familiar counsellors have all fled; and fled, surely, on the foolishest errand. The Chateau Polignac still frowns aloft, on its ‘bold and enormous’ cubical rock, amid the blooming champaigns, amid the blue girdling mountains of Auvergne: (Arthur Young, i. 165.) but no Duke and Duchess Polignac look forth from it; they have fled, they have ‘met Necker at Bale;’ they shall not return. That France should see her Nobles resist the Irresistible, Inevitable, with the face of angry men, was unhappy, not unexpected: but with the face and sense of pettish children? This was her peculiarity. They understood nothing; would understand nothing. Does not, at this hour, a new Polignac, first-born of these Two, sit reflective in the Castle of Ham; (A.D. 1835.) in an astonishment he will never recover from; the most confused of existing mortals?

King Louis has his new Ministry: mere Popularities; Old-President Pompignan; Necker, coming back in triumph; and other such. (Montgaillard, ii. 108.) But what will it avail him? As was said, the sceptre, all but the wooden gilt sceptre, has departed elsewhither. Volition, determination is not in this man: only innocence, indolence; dependence on all persons but himself, on all circumstances but the circumstances he were lord of. So troublous internally is our Versailles and its work. Beautiful, if seen from afar, resplendent like a Sun; seen near at hand, a mere Sun’s- Atmosphere, hiding darkness, confused ferment of ruin!

But over France, there goes on the indisputablest ‘destruction of formulas;’ transaction of realities that follow therefrom. So many millions of persons, all gyved, and nigh strangled, with formulas; whose Life nevertheless, at least the digestion and hunger of it, was real enough! Heaven has at length sent an abundant harvest; but what profits it the poor man, when Earth with her formulas interposes? Industry, in these times of Insurrection, must needs lie dormant; capital, as usual, not circulating, but stagnating timorously in nooks. The poor man is short of work, is therefore short of money; nay even had he money, bread is not to be bought for it. Were it plotting of Aristocrats, plotting of d’Orleans; were it Brigands, preternatural terror, and the clang of Phoebus Apollo’s silver bow,–enough, the markets are scarce of grain, plentiful only in tumult. Farmers seem lazy to thresh;–being either ‘bribed;’ or needing no bribe, with prices ever rising, with perhaps rent itself no longer so pressing. Neither, what is singular, do municipal enactments, ‘That along with so many measures of wheat you shall sell so many of rye,’ and other the like, much mend the matter. Dragoons with drawn swords stand ranked among the corn-sacks, often more dragoons than sacks. (Arthur Young, i. 129, &c.) Meal-mobs abound; growing into mobs of a still darker quality.

Starvation has been known among the French Commonalty before this; known and familiar. Did we not see them, in the year 1775, presenting, in sallow faces, in wretchedness and raggedness, their Petition of Grievances; and, for answer, getting a brand-new Gallows forty feet high? Hunger and Darkness, through long years! For look back on that earlier Paris Riot, when a Great Personage, worn out by debauchery, was believed to be in want of Blood-baths; and Mothers, in worn raiment, yet with living hearts under it, ‘filled the public places’ with their wild Rachel-cries,–stilled also by the Gallows. Twenty years ago, the Friend of Men (preaching to the deaf) described the Limousin Peasants as wearing a pain-stricken (souffre- douleur) look, a look past complaint, ‘as if the oppression of the great were like the hail and the thunder, a thing irremediable, the ordinance of Nature.’ (Fils Adoptif: Memoires de Mirabeau, i. 364-394.) And now, if in some great hour, the shock of a falling Bastille should awaken you; and it were found to be the ordinance of Art merely; and remediable, reversible!

Or has the Reader forgotten that ‘flood of savages,’ which, in sight of the same Friend of Men, descended from the mountains at Mont d’Or? Lank-haired haggard faces; shapes rawboned, in high sabots; in woollen jupes, with leather girdles studded with copper-nails! They rocked from foot to foot, and beat time with their elbows too, as the quarrel and battle which was not long in beginning went on; shouting fiercely; the lank faces distorted into the similitude of a cruel laugh. For they were darkened and hardened: long had they been the prey of excise-men and tax-men; of ‘clerks with the cold spurt of their pen.’ It was the fixed prophecy of our old Marquis, which no man would listen to, that ‘such Government by Blind-man’s-buff, stumbling along too far, would end by the General Overturn, the Culbute Generale!’

No man would listen, each went his thoughtless way;–and Time and Destiny also travelled on. The Government by Blind-man’s-buff, stumbling along, has reached the precipice inevitable for it. Dull Drudgery, driven on, by clerks with the cold dastard spurt of their pen, has been driven–into a Communion of Drudges! For now, moreover, there have come the strangest confused tidings; by Paris Journals with their paper wings; or still more portentous, where no Journals are, (See Arthur Young, i. 137, 150, &c.) by rumour and conjecture: Oppression not inevitable; a Bastille prostrate, and the Constitution fast getting ready! Which Constitution, if it be something and not nothing, what can it be but bread to eat?

The Traveller, ‘walking up hill bridle in hand,’ overtakes ‘a poor woman;’ the image, as such commonly are, of drudgery and scarcity; ‘looking sixty years of age, though she is not yet twenty-eight.’ They have seven children, her poor drudge and she: a farm, with one cow, which helps to make the children soup; also one little horse, or garron. They have rents and quit-rents, Hens to pay to this Seigneur, Oat-sacks to that; King’s taxes, Statute-labour, Church-taxes, taxes enough;–and think the times inexpressible. She has heard that somewhere, in some manner, something is to be done for the poor: “God send it soon; for the dues and taxes crush us down (nous ecrasent)!” (Ibid. i. 134.)

Fair prophecies are spoken, but they are not fulfilled. There have been Notables, Assemblages, turnings out and comings in. Intriguing and manoeuvring; Parliamentary eloquence and arguing, Greek meeting Greek in high places, has long gone on; yet still bread comes not. The harvest is reaped and garnered; yet still we have no bread. Urged by despair and by hope, what can Drudgery do, but rise, as predicted, and produce the General Overturn?

Fancy, then, some Five full-grown Millions of such gaunt figures, with their haggard faces (figures haves); in woollen jupes, with copper-studded leather girths, and high sabots,–starting up to ask, as in forest- roarings, their washed Upper-Classes, after long unreviewed centuries, virtually this question: How have ye treated us; how have ye taught us, fed us, and led us, while we toiled for you? The answer can be read in flames, over the nightly summer sky. This is the feeding and leading we have had of you: EMPTINESS,–of pocket, of stomach, of head, and of heart. Behold there is nothing in us; nothing but what Nature gives her wild children of the desert: Ferocity and Appetite; Strength grounded on Hunger. Did ye mark among your Rights of Man, that man was not to die of starvation, while there was bread reaped by him? It is among the Mights of Man.

Seventy-two Chateaus have flamed aloft in the Maconnais and Beaujolais alone: this seems the centre of the conflagration; but it has spread over Dauphine, Alsace, the Lyonnais; the whole South-East is in a blaze. All over the North, from Rouen to Metz, disorder is abroad: smugglers of salt go openly in armed bands: the barriers of towns are burnt; toll-gatherers, tax-gatherers, official persons put to flight. ‘It was thought,’ says Young, ‘the people, from hunger, would revolt;’ and we see they have done it. Desperate Lackalls, long prowling aimless, now finding hope in desperation itself, everywhere form a nucleus. They ring the Church bell by way of tocsin: and the Parish turns out to the work. (See Hist. Parl. ii. 243-6.) Ferocity, atrocity; hunger and revenge: such work as we can imagine!

Ill stands it now with the Seigneur, who, for example, ‘has walled up the only Fountain of the Township;’ who has ridden high on his chartier and parchments; who has preserved Game not wisely but too well. Churches also, and Canonries, are sacked, without mercy; which have shorn the flock too close, forgetting to feed it. Wo to the land over which Sansculottism, in its day of vengeance, tramps roughshod,–shod in sabots! Highbred Seigneurs, with their delicate women and little ones, had to ‘fly half- naked,’ under cloud of night; glad to escape the flames, and even worse. You meet them at the tables-d’hote of inns; making wise reflections or foolish that ‘rank is destroyed;’ uncertain whither they shall now wend. (See Young, i. 149, &c.) The metayer will find it convenient to be slack in paying rent. As for the Tax-gatherer, he, long hunting as a biped of prey, may now get hunted as one; his Majesty’s Exchequer will not ‘fill up the Deficit,’ this season: it is the notion of many that a Patriot Majesty, being the Restorer of French Liberty, has abolished most taxes, though, for their private ends, some men make a secret of it.

Where this will end? In the Abyss, one may prophecy; whither all Delusions are, at all moments, travelling; where this Delusion has now arrived. For if there be a Faith, from of old, it is this, as we often repeat, that no Lie can live for ever. The very Truth has to change its vesture, from time to time; and be born again. But all Lies have sentence of death written down against them, and Heaven’s Chancery itself; and, slowly or fast, advance incessantly towards their hour. ‘The sign of a Grand Seigneur being landlord,’ says the vehement plain-spoken Arthur Young, ‘are wastes, landes, deserts, ling: go to his residence, you will find it in the middle of a forest, peopled with deer, wild boars and wolves. The fields are scenes of pitiable management, as the houses are of misery. To see so many millions of hands, that would be industrious, all idle and starving: Oh, if I were legislator of France, for one day, I would make these great lords skip again!’ (Arthur Young, i. 12, 48, 84, &c.) O Arthur, thou now actually beholdest them skip:–wilt thou grow to grumble at that too?

For long years and generations it lasted, but the time came. Featherbrain, whom no reasoning and no pleading could touch, the glare of the firebrand had to illuminate: there remained but that method. Consider it, look at it! The widow is gathering nettles for her children’s dinner; a perfumed Seigneur, delicately lounging in the Oeil-de-Boeuf, has an alchemy whereby he will extract from her the third nettle, and name it Rent and Law: such an arrangement must end. Ought it? But, O most fearful is such an ending! Let those, to whom God, in His great mercy, has granted time and space, prepare another and milder one.

To women it is a matter of wonder that the Seigneurs did not do something to help themselves; say, combine, and arm: for there were a ‘hundred and fifty thousand of them,’ all violent enough. Unhappily, a hundred and fifty thousand, scattered over wide Provinces, divided by mutual ill-will, cannot combine. The highest Seigneurs, as we have seen, had already emigrated,–with a view of putting France to the blush. Neither are arms now the peculiar property of Seigneurs; but of every mortal who has ten shillings, wherewith to buy a secondhand firelock.

Besides, those starving Peasants, after all, have not four feet and claws, that you could keep them down permanently in that manner. They are not even of black colour; they are mere Unwashed Seigneurs; and a Seigneur too has human bowels!–The Seigneurs did what they could; enrolled in National Guards; fled, with shrieks, complaining to Heaven and Earth. One Seigneur, famed Memmay of Quincey, near Vesoul, invited all the rustics of his neighbourhood to a banquet; blew up his Chateau and them with gunpowder; and instantaneously vanished, no man yet knows whither. (Hist. Parl. ii. 161.) Some half dozen years after, he came back; and demonstrated that it was by accident.

Nor are the authorities idle: though unluckily, all Authorities, Municipalities and such like, are in the uncertain transitionary state; getting regenerated from old Monarchic to new Democratic; no Official yet knows clearly what he is. Nevertheless, Mayors old or new do gather Marechaussees, National Guards, Troops of the line; justice, of the most summary sort, is not wanting. The Electoral Committee of Macon, though but a Committee, goes the length of hanging, for its own behoof, as many as twenty. The Prevot of Dauphine traverses the country ‘with a movable column,’ with tipstaves, gallows-ropes; for gallows any tree will serve, and suspend its culprit, or ‘thirteen’ culprits.

Unhappy country! How is the fair gold-and-green of the ripe bright Year defaced with horrid blackness: black ashes of Chateaus, black bodies of gibetted Men! Industry has ceased in it; not sounds of the hammer and saw, but of the tocsin and alarm-drum. The sceptre has departed, whither one knows not;–breaking itself in pieces: here impotent, there tyrannous. National Guards are unskilful, and of doubtful purpose; Soldiers are inclined to mutiny: there is danger that they two may quarrel, danger that they may agree. Strasburg has seen riots: a Townhall torn to shreds, its archives scattered white on the winds; drunk soldiers embracing drunk citizens for three days, and Mayor Dietrich and Marshal Rochambeau reduced nigh to desperation. (Arthur Young, i. 141.–Dampmartin: Evenemens qui se sont passes sous mes yeux, i. 105-127.)

Through the middle of all which phenomena, is seen, on his triumphant transit, ‘escorted,’ through Befort for instance, ‘by fifty National Horsemen and all the military music of the place,’–M. Necker, returning from Bale! Glorious as the meridian; though poor Necker himself partly guesses whither it is leading. (Biographie Universelle, para Necker (by Lally-Tollendal).) One highest culminating day, at the Paris Townhall; with immortal vivats, with wife and daughter kneeling publicly to kiss his hand; with Besenval’s pardon granted,–but indeed revoked before sunset: one highest day, but then lower days, and ever lower, down even to lowest! Such magic is in a name; and in the want of a name. Like some enchanted Mambrino’s Helmet, essential to victory, comes this ‘Saviour of France;’ beshouted, becymballed by the world:–alas, so soon, to be disenchanted, to be pitched shamefully over the lists as a Barber’s Bason! Gibbon ‘could wish to shew him’ (in this ejected, Barber’s-Bason state) to any man of solidity, who were minded to have the soul burnt out of him, and become a caput mortuum, by Ambition, unsuccessful or successful. (Gibbon’s Letters.)

Another small phasis we add, and no more: how, in the Autumn months, our sharp-tempered Arthur has been ‘pestered for some days past,’ by shot, lead-drops and slugs, ‘rattling five or six times into my chaise and about my ears;’ all the mob of the country gone out to kill game! (Young, i. 176.) It is even so. On the Cliffs of Dover, over all the Marches of France, there appear, this autumn, two Signs on the Earth: emigrant flights of French Seigneurs; emigrant winged flights of French Game! Finished, one may say, or as good as finished, is the Preservation of Game on this Earth; completed for endless Time. What part it had to play in the History of Civilisation is played plaudite; exeat!

In this manner does Sansculottism blaze up, illustrating many things;– producing, among the rest, as we saw, on the Fourth of August, that semi- miraculous Night of Pentecost in the National Assembly; semi miraculous, which had its causes, and its effects. Feudalism is struck dead; not on parchment only, and by ink; but in very fact, by fire; say, by self- combustion. This conflagration of the South-East will abate; will be got scattered, to the West, or elsewhither: extinguish it will not, till the fuel be all done.

Chapter 1.6.IV.

In Queue.

If we look now at Paris, one thing is too evident: that the Baker’s shops have got their Queues, or Tails; their long strings of purchasers, arranged in tail, so that the first come be the first served,–were the shop once open! This waiting in tail, not seen since the early days of July, again makes its appearance in August. In time, we shall see it perfected by practice to the rank almost of an art; and the art, or quasi-art, of standing in tail become one of the characteristics of the Parisian People, distinguishing them from all other Peoples whatsoever.

But consider, while work itself is so scarce, how a man must not only realise money; but stand waiting (if his wife is too weak to wait and struggle) for half days in the Tail, till he get it changed for dear bad bread! Controversies, to the length, sometimes of blood and battery, must arise in these exasperated Queues. Or if no controversy, then it is but one accordant Pange Lingua of complaint against the Powers that be. France has begun her long Curriculum of Hungering, instructive and productive beyond Academic Curriculums; which extends over some seven most strenuous years. As Jean Paul says, of his own Life, ‘to a great height shall the business of Hungering go.’

Or consider, in strange contrast, the jubilee Ceremonies; for, in general, the aspect of Paris presents these two features: jubilee ceremonials and scarcity of victual. Processions enough walk in jubilee; of Young Women, decked and dizened, their ribands all tricolor; moving with song and tabor, to the Shrine of Sainte Genevieve, to thank her that the Bastille is down. The Strong Men of the Market, and the Strong Women, fail not with their bouquets and speeches. Abbe Fauchet, famed in such work (for Abbe Lefevre could only distribute powder) blesses tricolor cloth for the National Guard; and makes it a National Tricolor Flag; victorious, or to be victorious, in the cause of civil and religious liberty all over the world. Fauchet, we say, is the man for Te-Deums, and public Consecrations;–to which, as in this instance of the Flag, our National Guard will ‘reply with volleys of musketry,’ Church and Cathedral though it be; (See Hist. Parl. iii. 20; Mercier, Nouveau Paris, &c.) filling Notre Dame with such noisiest fuliginous Amen, significant of several things.

On the whole, we will say our new Mayor Bailly; our new Commander Lafayette, named also ‘Scipio-Americanus,’ have bought their preferment dear. Bailly rides in gilt state-coach, with beefeaters and sumptuosity; Camille Desmoulins, and others, sniffing at him for it: Scipio bestrides the ‘white charger,’ and waves with civic plumes in sight of all France. Neither of them, however, does it for nothing; but, in truth, at an exorbitant rate. At this rate, namely: of feeding Paris, and keeping it from fighting. Out of the City-funds, some seventeen thousand of the utterly destitute are employed digging on Montmartre, at tenpence a day, which buys them, at market price, almost two pounds of bad bread;–they look very yellow, when Lafayette goes to harangue them. The Townhall is in travail, night and day; it must bring forth Bread, a Municipal Constitution, regulations of all kinds, curbs on the Sansculottic Press; above all, Bread, Bread.

Purveyors prowl the country far and wide, with the appetite of lions; detect hidden grain, purchase open grain; by gentle means or forcible, must and will find grain. A most thankless task; and so difficult, so dangerous,–even if a man did gain some trifle by it! On the 19th August, there is food for one day. (See Bailly, Memoires, ii. 137-409.) Complaints there are that the food is spoiled, and produces an effect on the intestines: not corn but plaster-of-Paris! Which effect on the intestines, as well as that ‘smarting in the throat and palate,’ a Townhall Proclamation warns you to disregard, or even to consider as drastic- beneficial. The Mayor of Saint-Denis, so black was his bread, has, by a dyspeptic populace, been hanged on the Lanterne there. National Guards protect the Paris Corn-Market: first ten suffice; then six hundred. (Hist. Parl. ii. 421.) Busy are ye, Bailly, Brissot de Warville, Condorcet, and ye others!

For, as just hinted, there is a Municipal Constitution to be made too. The old Bastille Electors, after some ten days of psalmodying over their glorious victory, began to hear it asked, in a splenetic tone, Who put you there? They accordingly had to give place, not without moanings, and audible growlings on both sides, to a new larger Body, specially elected for that post. Which new Body, augmented, altered, then fixed finally at the number of Three Hundred, with the title of Town Representatives (Representans de la Commune), now sits there; rightly portioned into Committees; assiduous making a Constitution; at all moments when not seeking flour.

And such a Constitution; little short of miraculous: one that shall ‘consolidate the Revolution’! The Revolution is finished, then? Mayor Bailly and all respectable friends of Freedom would fain think so. Your Revolution, like jelly sufficiently boiled, needs only to be poured into shapes, of Constitution, and ‘consolidated’ therein? Could it, indeed, contrive to cool; which last, however, is precisely the doubtful thing, or even the not doubtful!

Unhappy friends of Freedom; consolidating a Revolution! They must sit at work there, their pavilion spread on very Chaos; between two hostile worlds, the Upper Court-world, the Nether Sansculottic one; and, beaten on by both, toil painfully, perilously,–doing, in sad literal earnest, ‘the impossible.’

Chapter 1.6.V.

The Fourth Estate.

Pamphleteering opens its abysmal throat wider and wider: never to close more. Our Philosophes, indeed, rather withdraw; after the manner of Marmontel, ‘retiring in disgust the first day.’ Abbe Raynal, grown gray and quiet in his Marseilles domicile, is little content with this work; the last literary act of the man will again be an act of rebellion: an indignant Letter to the Constituent Assembly; answered by ‘the order of the day.’ Thus also Philosophe Morellet puckers discontented brows; being indeed threatened in his benefices by that Fourth of August: it is clearly going too far. How astonishing that those ‘haggard figures in woollen jupes’ would not rest as satisfied with Speculation, and victorious Analysis, as we!

Alas, yes: Speculation, Philosophism, once the ornament and wealth of the saloon, will now coin itself into mere Practical Propositions, and circulate on street and highway, universally; with results! A Fourth Estate, of Able Editors, springs up; increases and multiplies; irrepressible, incalculable. New Printers, new Journals, and ever new (so prurient is the world), let our Three Hundred curb and consolidate as they can! Loustalot, under the wing of Prudhomme dull-blustering Printer, edits weekly his Revolutions de Paris; in an acrid, emphatic manner. Acrid, corrosive, as the spirit of sloes and copperas, is Marat, Friend of the People; struck already with the fact that the National Assembly, so full of Aristocrats, ‘can do nothing,’ except dissolve itself, and make way for a better; that the Townhall Representatives are little other than babblers and imbeciles, if not even knaves. Poor is this man; squalid, and dwells in garrets; a man unlovely to the sense, outward and inward; a man forbid;- -and is becoming fanatical, possessed with fixed-idea. Cruel lusus of Nature! Did Nature, O poor Marat, as in cruel sport, knead thee out of her leavings, and miscellaneous waste clay; and fling thee forth stepdamelike, a Distraction into this distracted Eighteenth Century? Work is appointed thee there; which thou shalt do. The Three Hundred have summoned and will again summon Marat: but always he croaks forth answer sufficient; always he will defy them, or elude them; and endure no gag.

Carra, ‘Ex-secretary of a decapitated Hospodar,’ and then of a Necklace- Cardinal; likewise pamphleteer, Adventurer in many scenes and lands,–draws nigh to Mercier, of the Tableau de Paris; and, with foam on his lips, proposes an Annales Patriotiques. The Moniteur goes its prosperous way; Barrere ‘weeps,’ on Paper as yet loyal; Rivarol, Royou are not idle. Deep calls to deep: your Domine Salvum Fac Regem shall awaken Pange Lingua; with an Ami-du-Peuple there is a King’s-Friend Newspaper, Ami-du-Roi. Camille Desmoulins has appointed himself Procureur-General de la Lanterne, Attorney-General of the Lamp-iron; and pleads, not with atrocity, under an atrocious title; editing weekly his brilliant Revolutions of Paris and Brabant. Brilliant, we say: for if, in that thick murk of Journalism, with its dull blustering, with its fixed or loose fury, any ray of genius greet thee, be sure it is Camille’s. The thing that Camille teaches he, with his light finger, adorns: brightness plays, gentle, unexpected, amid horrible confusions; often is the word of Camille worth reading, when no other’s is. Questionable Camille, how thou glitterest with a fallen, rebellious, yet still semi-celestial light; as is the star-light on the brow of Lucifer! Son of the Morning, into what times and what lands, art thou fallen!

But in all things is good;–though not good for ‘consolidating Revolutions.’ Thousand wagon-loads of this Pamphleteering and Newspaper matter, lie rotting slowly in the Public Libraries of our Europe. Snatched from the great gulf, like oysters by bibliomaniac pearl-divers, there must they first rot, then what was pearl, in Camille or others, may be seen as such, and continue as such.

Nor has public speaking declined, though Lafayette and his Patrols look sour on it. Loud always is the Palais Royal, loudest the Cafe de Foy; such a miscellany of Citizens and Citizenesses circulating there. ‘Now and then,’ according to Camille, ‘some Citizens employ the liberty of the press for a private purpose; so that this or the other Patriot finds himself short of his watch or pocket-handkerchief!’ But, for the rest, in Camille’s opinion, nothing can be a livelier image of the Roman Forum. ‘A Patriot proposes his motion; if it finds any supporters, they make him mount on a chair, and speak. If he is applauded, he prospers and redacts; if he is hissed, he goes his ways.’ Thus they, circulating and perorating. Tall shaggy Marquis Saint-Huruge, a man that has had losses, and has deserved them, is seen eminent, and also heard. ‘Bellowing’ is the character of his voice, like that of a Bull of Bashan; voice which drowns all voices, which causes frequently the hearts of men to leap. Cracked or half-cracked is this tall Marquis’s head; uncracked are his lungs; the cracked and the uncracked shall alike avail him.

Consider further that each of the Forty-eight Districts has its own Committee; speaking and motioning continually; aiding in the search for grain, in the search for a Constitution; checking and spurring the poor Three Hundred of the Townhall. That Danton, with a ‘voice reverberating from the domes,’ is President of the Cordeliers District; which has already become a Goshen of Patriotism. That apart from the ‘seventeen thousand utterly necessitous, digging on Montmartre,’ most of whom, indeed, have got passes, and been dismissed into Space ‘with four shillings,’–there is a strike, or union, of Domestics out of place; who assemble for public speaking: next, a strike of Tailors, for even they will strike and speak; further, a strike of Journeymen Cordwainers; a strike of Apothecaries: so dear is bread. (Histoire Parlementaire, ii. 359, 417, 423.) All these, having struck, must speak; generally under the open canopy; and pass resolutions;–Lafayette and his Patrols watching them suspiciously from the distance.

Unhappy mortals: such tugging and lugging, and throttling of one another, to divide, in some not intolerable way, the joint Felicity of man in this Earth; when the whole lot to be divided is such a ‘feast of shells!’– Diligent are the Three Hundred; none equals Scipio Americanus in dealing with mobs. But surely all these things bode ill for the consolidating of a Revolution.



Chapter 1.7.I.


No, Friends, this Revolution is not of the consolidating kind. Do not fires, fevers, sown seeds, chemical mixtures, men, events; all embodiments of Force that work in this miraculous Complex of Forces, named Universe,– go on growing, through their natural phases and developments, each according to its kind; reach their height, reach their visible decline; finally sink under, vanishing, and what we call die? They all grow; there is nothing but what grows, and shoots forth into its special expansion,– once give it leave to spring. Observe too that each grows with a rapidity proportioned, in general, to the madness and unhealthiness there is in it: slow regular growth, though this also ends in death, is what we name health and sanity.

A Sansculottism, which has prostrated Bastilles, which has got pike and musket, and now goes burning Chateaus, passing resolutions and haranguing under roof and sky, may be said to have sprung; and, by law of Nature, must grow. To judge by the madness and diseasedness both of itself, and of the soil and element it is in, one might expect the rapidity and monstrosity would be extreme.

Many things too, especially all diseased things, grow by shoots and fits. The first grand fit and shooting forth of Sansculottism with that of Paris conquering its King; for Bailly’s figure of rhetoric was all-too sad a reality. The King is conquered; going at large on his parole; on condition, say, of absolutely good behaviour,–which, in these circumstances, will unhappily mean no behaviour whatever. A quite untenable position, that of Majesty put on its good behaviour! Alas, is it not natural that whatever lives try to keep itself living? Whereupon his Majesty’s behaviour will soon become exceptionable; and so the Second grand Fit of Sansculottism, that of putting him in durance, cannot be distant.

Necker, in the National Assembly, is making moan, as usual about his Deficit: Barriers and Customhouses burnt; the Tax-gatherer hunted, not hunting; his Majesty’s Exchequer all but empty. The remedy is a Loan of thirty millions; then, on still more enticing terms, a Loan of eighty millions: neither of which Loans, unhappily, will the Stockjobbers venture to lend. The Stockjobber has no country, except his own black pool of Agio.

And yet, in those days, for men that have a country, what a glow of patriotism burns in many a heart; penetrating inwards to the very purse! So early as the 7th of August, a Don Patriotique, ‘a Patriotic Gift of jewels to a considerable extent,’ has been solemnly made by certain Parisian women; and solemnly accepted, with honourable mention. Whom forthwith all the world takes to imitating and emulating. Patriotic Gifts, always with some heroic eloquence, which the President must answer and the Assembly listen to, flow in from far and near: in such number that the honourable mention can only be performed in ‘lists published at stated epochs.’ Each gives what he can: the very cordwainers have behaved munificently; one landed proprietor gives a forest; fashionable society gives its shoebuckles, takes cheerfully to shoe-ties. Unfortunate females give what they ‘have amassed in loving.’ (Histoire Parlementaire, ii. 427.) The smell of all cash, as Vespasian thought, is good.

Beautiful, and yet inadequate! The Clergy must be ‘invited’ to melt their superfluous Church-plate,–in the Royal Mint. Nay finally, a Patriotic Contribution, of the forcible sort, must be determined on, though unwillingly: let the fourth part of your declared yearly revenue, for this once only, be paid down; so shall a National Assembly make the Constitution, undistracted at least by insolvency. Their own wages, as settled on the 17th of August, are but Eighteen Francs a day, each man; but the Public Service must have sinews, must have money. To appease the Deficit; not to ‘combler, or choke the Deficit,’ if you or mortal could! For withal, as Mirabeau was heard saying, “it is the Deficit that saves us.”

Towards the end of August, our National Assembly in its constitutional labours, has got so far as the question of Veto: shall Majesty have a Veto on the National Enactments; or not have a Veto? What speeches were spoken, within doors and without; clear, and also passionate logic; imprecations, comminations; gone happily, for most part, to Limbo! Through the cracked brain, and uncracked lungs of Saint-Huruge, the Palais Royal rebellows with Veto. Journalism is busy, France rings with Veto. ‘I shall never forget,’ says Dumont, ‘my going to Paris, one of these days, with Mirabeau; and the crowd of people we found waiting for his carriage, about Le Jay the Bookseller’s shop. They flung themselves before him; conjuring him with tears in their eyes not to suffer the Veto Absolu. They were in a frenzy: “Monsieur le Comte, you are the people’s father; you must save us; you must defend us against those villains who are bringing back Despotism. If the King get this Veto, what is the use of National Assembly? We are slaves, all is done.”‘ (Souvenirs sur Mirabeau, p. 156.) Friends, if the sky fall, there will be catching of larks! Mirabeau, adds Dumont, was eminent on such occasions: he answered vaguely, with a Patrician imperturbability, and bound himself to nothing.

Deputations go to the Hotel-de-Ville; anonymous Letters to Aristocrats in the National Assembly, threatening that fifteen thousand, or sometimes that sixty thousand, ‘will march to illuminate you.’ The Paris Districts are astir; Petitions signing: Saint-Huruge sets forth from the Palais Royal, with an escort of fifteen hundred individuals, to petition in person. Resolute, or seemingly so, is the tall shaggy Marquis, is the Cafe de Foy: but resolute also is Commandant-General Lafayette. The streets are all beset by Patrols: Saint-Huruge is stopped at the Barriere des Bon Hommes; he may bellow like the bulls of Bashan; but absolutely must return. The brethren of the Palais Royal ‘circulate all night,’ and make motions, under the open canopy; all Coffee-houses being shut. Nevertheless Lafayette and the Townhall do prevail: Saint-Huruge is thrown into prison; Veto Absolu adjusts itself into Suspensive Veto, prohibition not forever, but for a term of time; and this doom’s-clamour will grow silent, as the others have done.

So far has Consolidation prospered, though with difficulty; repressing the Nether Sansculottic world; and the Constitution shall be made. With difficulty: amid jubilee and scarcity; Patriotic Gifts, Bakers’-queues; Abbe-Fauchet Harangues, with their Amen of platoon-musketry! Scipio Americanus has deserved thanks from the National Assembly and France. They