shall say this of him, again: That he is a Reality, and no Simulacrum: a living son of Nature our general Mother; not a hollow Artfice, and mechanism of Conventionalities, son of nothing, brother to nothing. In which little word, let the earnest man, walking sorrowful in a world mostly of ‘Stuffed Clothes-suits,’ that chatter and grin meaningless on him, quite ghastly to the earnest soul,–think what significance there is!
Of men who, in such sense, are alive, and see with eyes, the number is now not great: it may be well, if in this huge French Revolution itself, with its all-developing fury, we find some Three. Mortals driven rabid we find; sputtering the acridest logic; baring their breast to the battle-hail, their neck to the guillotine; of whom it is so painful to say that they too are still, in good part, manufactured Formalities, not Facts but Hearsays!
Honour to the strong man, in these ages, who has shaken himself loose of shams, and is something. For in the way of being worthy, the first condition surely is that one be. Let Cant cease, at all risks and at all costs: till Cant cease, nothing else can begin. Of human Criminals, in these centuries, writes the Moralist, I find but one unforgivable: the Quack. ‘Hateful to God,’ as divine Dante sings, ‘and to the Enemies of God,
‘A Dio spiacente ed a’ nemici sui!’
But whoever will, with sympathy, which is the first essential towards insight, look at this questionable Mirabeau, may find that there lay verily in him, as the basis of all, a Sincerity, a great free Earnestness; nay call it Honesty, for the man did before all things see, with that clear flashing vision, into what was, into what existed as fact; and did, with his wild heart, follow that and no other. Whereby on what ways soever he travels and struggles, often enough falling, he is still a brother man. Hate him not; thou canst not hate him! Shining through such soil and tarnish, and now victorious effulgent, and oftenest struggling eclipsed, the light of genius itself is in this man; which was never yet base and hateful: but at worst was lamentable, loveable with pity. They say that he was ambitious, that he wanted to be Minister. It is most true; and was he not simply the one man in France who could have done any good as Minister? Not vanity alone, not pride alone; far from that! Wild burstings of affection were in this great heart; of fierce lightning, and soft dew of pity. So sunk, bemired in wretchedest defacements, it may be said of him, like the Magdalen of old, that he loved much: his Father the harshest of old crabbed men he loved with warmth, with veneration.
Be it that his falls and follies are manifold,–as himself often lamented even with tears. (Dumont, p. 287.) Alas, is not the Life of every such man already a poetic Tragedy; made up ‘of Fate and of one’s own Deservings,’ of Schicksal und eigene Schuld; full of the elements of Pity and Fear? This brother man, if not Epic for us, is Tragic; if not great, is large; large in his qualities, world-large in his destinies. Whom other men, recognising him as such, may, through long times, remember, and draw nigh to examine and consider: these, in their several dialects, will say of him and sing of him,–till the right thing be said; and so the Formula that can judge him be no longer an undiscovered one.
Here then the wild Gabriel Honore drops from the tissue of our History; not without a tragic farewell. He is gone: the flower of the wild Riquetti or Arrighetti kindred; which seems as if in him, with one last effort, it had done its best, and then expired, or sunk down to the undistinguished level. Crabbed old Marquis Mirabeau, the Friend of Men, sleeps sound. The Bailli Mirabeau, worthy uncle, will soon die forlorn, alone. Barrel-Mirabeau, already gone across the Rhine, his Regiment of Emigrants will drive nigh desperate. ‘Barrel-Mirabeau,’ says a biographer of his, ‘went indignantly across the Rhine, and drilled Emigrant Regiments. But as he sat one morning in his tent, sour of stomach doubtless and of heart, meditating in Tartarean humour on the turn things took, a certain Captain or Subaltern demanded admittance on business. Such Captain is refused; he again demands, with refusal; and then again, till Colonel Viscount Barrel- Mirabeau, blazing up into a mere burning brandy barrel, clutches his sword, and tumbles out on this canaille of an intruder,–alas, on the canaille of an intruder’s sword’s point, who had drawn with swift dexterity; and dies, and the Newspapers name it apoplexy and alarming accident.’ So die the Mirabeaus.
New Mirabeaus one hears not of: the wild kindred, as we said, is gone out with this its greatest. As families and kindreds sometimes do; producing, after long ages of unnoted notability, some living quintescence of all the qualities they had, to flame forth as a man world-noted; after whom they rest as if exhausted; the sceptre passing to others. The chosen Last of the Mirabeaus is gone; the chosen man of France is gone. It was he who shook old France from its basis; and, as if with his single hand, has held it toppling there, still unfallen. What things depended on that one man! He is as a ship suddenly shivered on sunk rocks: much swims on the waste waters, far from help.
Easter at Saint-Cloud.
The French Monarchy may now therefore be considered as, in all human probability, lost; as struggling henceforth in blindness as well as weakness, the last light of reasonable guidance having gone out. What remains of resources their poor Majesties will waste still further, in uncertain loitering and wavering. Mirabeau himself had to complain that they only gave him half confidence, and always had some plan within his plan. Had they fled frankly with him, to Rouen or anywhither, long ago! They may fly now with chance immeasurably lessened; which will go on lessening towards absolute zero. Decide, O Queen; poor Louis can decide nothing: execute this Flight-project, or at least abandon it. Correspondence with Bouille there has been enough; what profits consulting, and hypothesis, while all around is in fierce activity of practice? The Rustic sits waiting till the river run dry: alas with you it is not a common river, but a Nile Inundation; snow melting in the unseen mountains; till all, and you where you sit, be submerged.
Many things invite to flight. The voice Journals invites; Royalist Journals proudly hinting it as a threat, Patriot Journals rabidly denouncing it as a terror. Mother Society, waxing more and more emphatic, invites;–so emphatic that, as was prophesied, Lafayette and your limited Patriots have ere long to branch off from her, and form themselves into Feuillans; with infinite public controversy; the victory in which, doubtful though it look, will remain with the unlimited Mother. Moreover, ever since the Day of Poniards, we have seen unlimited Patriotism openly equipping itself with arms. Citizens denied ‘activity,’ which is facetiously made to signify a certain weight of purse, cannot buy blue uniforms, and be Guardsmen; but man is greater than blue cloth; man can fight, if need be, in multiform cloth, or even almost without cloth–as Sansculotte. So Pikes continued to be hammered, whether those Dirks of improved structure with barbs be ‘meant for the West-India market,’ or not meant. Men beat, the wrong way, their ploughshares into swords. Is there not what we may call an ‘Austrian Committee,’ Comite Autrichein, sitting daily and nightly in the Tuileries? Patriotism, by vision and suspicion, knows it too well! If the King fly, will there not be Aristocrat-Austrian Invasion; butchery, replacement of Feudalism; wars more than civil? The hearts of men are saddened and maddened.
Dissident Priests likewise give trouble enough. Expelled from their Parish Churches, where Constitutional Priests, elected by the Public, have replaced them, these unhappy persons resort to Convents of Nuns, or other such receptacles; and there, on Sabbath, collecting assemblages of Anti- Constitutional individuals, who have grown devout all on a sudden, (Toulongeon, i. 262.) they worship or pretend to worship in their strait- laced contumacious manner; to the scandal of Patriotism. Dissident Priests, passing along with their sacred wafer for the dying, seem wishful to be massacred in the streets; wherein Patriotism will not gratify them. Slighter palm of martyrdom, however, shall not be denied: martyrdom not of massacre, yet of fustigation. At the refractory places of worship, Patriot men appear; Patriot women with strong hazel wands, which they apply. Shut thy eyes, O Reader; see not this misery, peculiar to these later times,–of martyrdom without sincerity, with only cant and contumacy! A dead Catholic Church is not allowed to lie dead; no, it is galvanised into the detestablest death-life; whereat Humanity, we say, shuts its eyes. For the Patriot women take their hazel wands, and fustigate, amid laughter of bystanders, with alacrity: broad bottom of Priests; alas, Nuns too reversed, and cotillons retrousses! The National Guard does what it can: Municipality ‘invokes the Principles of Toleration;’ grants Dissident worshippers the Church of the Theatins; promising protection. But it is to no purpose: at the door of that Theatins Church, appears a Placard, and suspended atop, like Plebeian Consular fasces,–a Bundle of Rods! The Principles of Toleration must do the best they may: but no Dissident man shall worship contumaciously; there is a Plebiscitum to that effect; which, though unspoken, is like the laws of the Medes and Persians. Dissident contumacious Priests ought not to be harboured, even in private, by any man: the Club of the Cordeliers openly denounces Majesty himself as doing it. (Newspapers of April and June, 1791 (in Hist. Parl. ix. 449; x, 217).)
Many things invite to flight: but probably this thing above all others, that it has become impossible! On the 15th of April, notice is given that his Majesty, who has suffered much from catarrh lately, will enjoy the Spring weather, for a few days, at Saint-Cloud. Out at Saint-Cloud? Wishing to celebrate his Easter, his Paques, or Pasch, there; with refractory Anti-Constitutional Dissidents?–Wishing rather to make off for Compiegne, and thence to the Frontiers? As were, in good sooth, perhaps feasible, or would once have been; nothing but some two chasseurs attending you; chasseurs easily corrupted! It is a pleasant possibility, execute it or not. Men say there are thirty thousand Chevaliers of the Poniard lurking in the woods there: lurking in the woods, and thirty thousand,– for the human Imagination is not fettered. But now, how easily might these, dashing out on Lafayette, snatch off the Hereditary Representative; and roll away with him, after the manner of a whirlblast, whither they listed!–Enough, it were well the King did not go. Lafayette is forewarned and forearmed: but, indeed, is the risk his only; or his and all France’s?
Monday the eighteenth of April is come; the Easter Journey to Saint-Cloud shall take effect. National Guard has got its orders; a First Division, as Advanced Guard, has even marched, and probably arrived. His Majesty’s Maison-bouche, they say, is all busy stewing and frying at Saint-Cloud; the King’s Dinner not far from ready there. About one o’clock, the Royal Carriage, with its eight royal blacks, shoots stately into the Place du Carrousel; draws up to receive its royal burden. But hark! From the neighbouring Church of Saint-Roch, the tocsin begins ding-donging. Is the King stolen then; he is going; gone? Multitudes of persons crowd the Carrousel: the Royal Carriage still stands there;–and, by Heaven’s strength, shall stand!
Lafayette comes up, with aide-de-camps and oratory; pervading the groups: “Taisez vous,” answer the groups, “the King shall not go.” Monsieur appears, at an upper window: ten thousand voices bray and shriek, “Nous ne voulons pas que le Roi parte.” Their Majesties have mounted. Crack go the whips; but twenty Patriot arms have seized each of the eight bridles: there is rearing, rocking, vociferation; not the smallest headway. In vain does Lafayette fret, indignant; and perorate and strive: Patriots in the passion of terror, bellow round the Royal Carriage; it is one bellowing sea of Patriot terror run frantic. Will Royalty fly off towards Austria; like a lit rocket, towards endless Conflagration of Civil War? Stop it, ye Patriots, in the name of Heaven! Rude voices passionately apostrophise Royalty itself. Usher Campan, and other the like official persons, pressing forward with help or advice, are clutched by the sashes, and hurled and whirled, in a confused perilous manner; so that her Majesty has to plead passionately from the carriage-window.
Order cannot be heard, cannot be followed; National Guards know not how to act. Centre Grenadiers, of the Observatoire Battalion, are there; not on duty; alas, in quasi-mutiny; speaking rude disobedient words; threatening the mounted Guards with sharp shot if they hurt the people. Lafayette mounts and dismounts; runs haranguing, panting; on the verge of despair. For an hour and three-quarters; ‘seven quarters of an hour,’ by the Tuileries Clock! Desperate Lafayette will open a passage, were it by the cannon’s mouth, if his Majesty will order. Their Majesties, counselled to it by Royalist friends, by Patriot foes, dismount; and retire in, with heavy indignant heart; giving up the enterprise. Maison-bouche may eat that cooked dinner themselves; his Majesty shall not see Saint-Cloud this day,–or any day. (Deux Amis, vi. c. 1; Hist. Parl. ix. 407-14.)
The pathetic fable of imprisonment in one’s own Palace has become a sad fact, then? Majesty complains to Assembly; Municipality deliberates, proposes to petition or address; Sections respond with sullen brevity of negation. Lafayette flings down his Commission; appears in civic pepper- and-salt frock; and cannot be flattered back again;–not in less than three days; and by unheard-of entreaty; National Guards kneeling to him, and declaring that it is not sycophancy, that they are free men kneeling here to the Statue of Liberty. For the rest, those Centre Grenadiers of the Observatoire are disbanded,–yet indeed are reinlisted, all but fourteen, under a new name, and with new quarters. The King must keep his Easter in Paris: meditating much on this singular posture of things: but as good as determined now to fly from it, desire being whetted by difficulty.
Easter at Paris.
For above a year, ever since March 1790, it would seem, there has hovered a project of Flight before the royal mind; and ever and anon has been condensing itself into something like a purpose; but this or the other difficulty always vaporised it again. It seems so full of risks, perhaps of civil war itself; above all, it cannot be done without effort. Somnolent laziness will not serve: to fly, if not in a leather vache, one must verily stir himself. Better to adopt that Constitution of theirs; execute it so as to shew all men that it is inexecutable? Better or not so good; surely it is easier. To all difficulties you need only say, There is a lion in the path, behold your Constitution will not act! For a somnolent person it requires no effort to counterfeit death,–as Dame de Stael and Friends of Liberty can see the King’s Government long doing, faisant le mort.
Nay now, when desire whetted by difficulty has brought the matter to a head, and the royal mind no longer halts between two, what can come of it? Grant that poor Louis were safe with Bouille, what on the whole could he look for there? Exasperated Tickets of Entry answer, Much, all. But cold Reason answers, Little almost nothing. Is not loyalty a law of Nature? ask the Tickets of Entry. Is not love of your King, and even death for him, the glory of all Frenchmen,–except these few Democrats? Let Democrat Constitution-builders see what they will do without their Keystone; and France rend its hair, having lost the Hereditary Representative!
Thus will King Louis fly; one sees not reasonably towards what. As a maltreated Boy, shall we say, who, having a Stepmother, rushes sulky into the wide world; and will wring the paternal heart?–Poor Louis escapes from known unsupportable evils, to an unknown mixture of good and evil, coloured by Hope. He goes, as Rabelais did when dying, to seek a great May-be: je vais chercher un grand Peut-etre! As not only the sulky Boy but the wise grown Man is obliged to do, so often, in emergencies.
For the rest, there is still no lack of stimulants, and stepdame maltreatments, to keep one’s resolution at the due pitch. Factious disturbance ceases not: as indeed how can they, unless authoritatively conjured, in a Revolt which is by nature bottomless? If the ceasing of faction be the price of the King’s somnolence, he may awake when he will, and take wing.
Remark, in any case, what somersets and contortions a dead Catholicism is making,–skilfully galvanised: hideous, and even piteous, to behold! Jurant and Dissident, with their shaved crowns, argue frothing everywhere; or are ceasing to argue, and stripping for battle. In Paris was scourging while need continued: contrariwise, in the Morbihan of Brittany, without scourging, armed Peasants are up, roused by pulpit-drum, they know not why. General Dumouriez, who has got missioned thitherward, finds all in sour heat of darkness; finds also that explanation and conciliation will still do much. (Deux Amis, v. 410-21; Dumouriez, ii. c. 5.)
But again, consider this: that his Holiness, Pius Sixth, has seen good to excommunicate Bishop Talleyrand! Surely, we will say then, considering it, there is no living or dead Church in the Earth that has not the indubitablest right to excommunicate Talleyrand. Pope Pius has right and might, in his way. But truly so likewise has Father Adam, ci-devant Marquis Saint-Huruge, in his way. Behold, therefore, on the Fourth of May, in the Palais-Royal, a mixed loud-sounding multitude; in the middle of whom, Father Adam, bull-voiced Saint-Huruge, in white hat, towers visible and audible. With him, it is said, walks Journalist Gorsas, walk many others of the washed sort; for no authority will interfere. Pius Sixth, with his plush and tiara, and power of the Keys, they bear aloft: of natural size,–made of lath and combustible gum. Royou, the King’s Friend, is borne too in effigy; with a pile of Newspaper King’s-Friends, condemned numbers of the Ami-du-Roi; fit fuel of the sacrifice. Speeches are spoken; a judgment is held, a doom proclaimed, audible in bull-voice, towards the four winds. And thus, amid great shouting, the holocaust is consummated, under the summer sky; and our lath-and-gum Holiness, with the attendant victims, mounts up in flame, and sinks down in ashes; a decomposed Pope: and right or might, among all the parties, has better or worse accomplished itself, as it could. (Hist. Parl. x. 99-102.) But, on the whole, reckoning from Martin Luther in the Marketplace of Wittenberg to Marquis Saint-Huruge in this Palais-Royal of Paris, what a journey have we gone; into what strange territories has it carried us! No Authority can now interfere. Nay Religion herself, mourning for such things, may after all ask, What have I to do with them?
In such extraordinary manner does dead Catholicism somerset and caper, skilfully galvanised. For, does the reader inquire into the subject-matter of controversy in this case; what the difference between Orthodoxy or My- doxy and Heterodoxy or Thy-doxy might here be? My-doxy is that an august National Assembly can equalize the extent of Bishopricks; that an equalized Bishop, his Creed and Formularies being left quite as they were, can swear Fidelity to King, Law and Nation, and so become a Constitutional Bishop. Thy-doxy, if thou be Dissident, is that he cannot; but that he must become an accursed thing. Human ill-nature needs but some Homoiousian iota, or even the pretence of one; and will flow copiously through the eye of a needle: thus always must mortals go jargoning and fuming,
And, like the ancient Stoics in their porches With fierce dispute maintain their churches.
This Auto-da-fe of Saint-Huruge’s was on the Fourth of May, 1791. Royalty sees it; but says nothing.
Royalty, in fact, should, by this time, be far on with its preparations. Unhappily much preparation is needful: could a Hereditary Representative be carried in leather vache, how easy were it! But it is not so.
New clothes are needed, as usual, in all Epic transactions, were it in the grimmest iron ages; consider ‘Queen Chrimhilde, with her sixty semstresses,’ in that iron Nibelungen Song! No Queen can stir without new clothes. Therefore, now, Dame Campan whisks assiduous to this mantua-maker and to that: and there is clipping of frocks and gowns, upper clothes and under, great and small; such a clipping and sewing, as might have been dispensed with. Moreover, her Majesty cannot go a step anywhither without her Necessaire; dear Necessaire, of inlaid ivory and rosewood; cunningly devised; which holds perfumes, toilet-implements, infinite small queenlike furnitures: Necessary to terrestrial life. Not without a cost of some five hundred louis, of much precious time, and difficult hoodwinking which does not blind, can this same Necessary of life be forwarded by the Flanders Carriers,–never to get to hand. (Campan, ii. c. 18.) All which, you would say, augurs ill for the prospering of the enterprise. But the whims of women and queens must be humoured.
Bouille, on his side, is making a fortified Camp at Montmedi; gathering Royal-Allemand, and all manner of other German and true French Troops thither, ‘to watch the Austrians.’ His Majesty will not cross the Frontiers, unless on compulsion. Neither shall the Emigrants be much employed, hateful as they are to all people. (Bouille, Memoires, ii. c. 10.) Nor shall old war-god Broglie have any hand in the business; but solely our brave Bouille; to whom, on the day of meeting, a Marshal’s Baton shall be delivered, by a rescued King, amid the shouting of all the troops. In the meanwhile, Paris being so suspicious, were it not perhaps good to write your Foreign Ambassadors an ostensible Constitutional Letter; desiring all Kings and men to take heed that King Louis loves the Constitution, that he has voluntarily sworn, and does again swear, to maintain the same, and will reckon those his enemies who affect to say otherwise? Such a Constitutional circular is despatched by Couriers, is communicated confidentially to the Assembly, and printed in all Newspapers; with the finest effect. (Moniteur, Seance du 23 Avril, 1791.) Simulation and dissimulation mingle extensively in human affairs.
We observe, however, that Count Fersen is often using his Ticket of Entry; which surely he has clear right to do. A gallant Soldier and Swede, devoted to this fair Queen;–as indeed the Highest Swede now is. Has not King Gustav, famed fiery Chevalier du Nord, sworn himself, by the old laws of chivalry, her Knight? He will descend on fire-wings, of Swedish musketry, and deliver her from these foul dragons,–if, alas, the assassin’s pistol intervene not!
But, in fact, Count Fersen does seem a likely young soldier, of alert decisive ways: he circulates widely, seen, unseen; and has business on hand. Also Colonel the Duke de Choiseul, nephew of Choiseul the great, of Choiseul the now deceased; he and Engineer Goguelat are passing and repassing between Metz and the Tuileries; and Letters go in cipher,–one of them, a most important one, hard to decipher; Fersen having ciphered it in haste. (Choiseul, Relation du Depart de Louis XVI. (Paris, 1822), p. 39.) As for Duke de Villequier, he is gone ever since the Day of Poniards; but his Apartment is useful for her Majesty.
On the other side, poor Commandment Gouvion, watching at the Tuileries, second in National Command, sees several things hard to interpret. It is the same Gouvion who sat, long months ago, at the Townhall, gazing helpless into that Insurrection of Women; motionless, as the brave stabled steed when conflagration rises, till Usher Maillard snatched his drum. Sincerer Patriot there is not; but many a shiftier. He, if Dame Campan gossip credibly, is paying some similitude of love-court to a certain false Chambermaid of the Palace, who betrays much to him: the Necessaire, the clothes, the packing of the jewels, (Campan, ii. 141.)–could he understand it when betrayed. Helpless Gouvion gazes with sincere glassy eyes into it; stirs up his sentries to vigilence; walks restless to and fro; and hopes the best.
But, on the whole, one finds that, in the second week of June, Colonel de Choiseul is privately in Paris; having come ‘to see his children.’ Also that Fersen has got a stupendous new Coach built, of the kind named Berline; done by the first artists; according to a model: they bring it home to him, in Choiseul’s presence; the two friends take a proof-drive in it, along the streets; in meditative mood; then send it up to ‘Madame Sullivan’s, in the Rue de Clichy,’ far North, to wait there till wanted. Apparently a certain Russian Baroness de Korff, with Waiting-woman, Valet, and two Children, will travel homewards with some state: in whom these young military gentlemen take interest? A Passport has been procured for her; and much assistance shewn, with Coach-builders and such like;–so helpful polite are young military men. Fersen has likewise purchased a Chaise fit for two, at least for two waiting-maids; further, certain necessary horses: one would say, he is himself quitting France, not without outlay? We observe finally that their Majesties, Heaven willing, will assist at Corpus-Christi Day, this blessed Summer Solstice, in Assumption Church, here at Paris, to the joy of all the world. For which same day, moreover, brave Bouille, at Metz, as we find, has invited a party of friends to dinner; but indeed is gone from home, in the interim, over to Montmedi.
These are of the Phenomena, or visual Appearances, of this wide-working terrestrial world: which truly is all phenomenal, what they call spectral; and never rests at any moment; one never at any moment can know why.
On Monday night, the Twentieth of June 1791, about eleven o’clock, there is many a hackney-coach, and glass-coach (carrosse de remise), still rumbling, or at rest, on the streets of Paris. But of all Glass-coaches, we recommend this to thee, O Reader, which stands drawn up, in the Rue de l’Echelle, hard by the Carrousel and outgate of the Tuileries; in the Rue de l’Echelle that then was; ‘opposite Ronsin the saddler’s door,’ as if waiting for a fare there! Not long does it wait: a hooded Dame, with two hooded Children has issued from Villequier’s door, where no sentry walks, into the Tuileries Court-of-Princes; into the Carrousel; into the Rue de l’Echelle; where the Glass-coachman readily admits them; and again waits. Not long; another Dame, likewise hooded or shrouded, leaning on a servant, issues in the same manner, by the Glass-coachman, cheerfully admitted. Whither go, so many Dames? ‘Tis His Majesty’s Couchee, Majesty just gone to bed, and all the Palace-world is retiring home. But the Glass-coachman still waits; his fare seemingly incomplete.
By and by, we note a thickset Individual, in round hat and peruke, arm-and- arm with some servant, seemingly of the Runner or Courier sort; he also issues through Villequier’s door; starts a shoebuckle as he passes one of the sentries, stoops down to clasp it again; is however, by the Glass- coachman, still more cheerfully admitted. And now, is his fare complete? Not yet; the Glass-coachman still waits.–Alas! and the false Chambermaid has warned Gouvion that she thinks the Royal Family will fly this very night; and Gouvion distrusting his own glazed eyes, has sent express for Lafayette; and Lafayette’s Carriage, flaring with lights, rolls this moment through the inner Arch of the Carrousel,–where a Lady shaded in broad gypsy-hat, and leaning on the arm of a servant, also of the Runner or Courier sort, stands aside to let it pass, and has even the whim to touch a spoke of it with her badine,–light little magic rod which she calls badine, such as the Beautiful then wore. The flare of Lafayette’s Carriage, rolls past: all is found quiet in the Court-of-Princes; sentries at their post; Majesties’ Apartments closed in smooth rest. Your false Chambermaid must have been mistaken? Watch thou, Gouvion, with Argus’ vigilance; for, of a truth, treachery is within these walls.
But where is the Lady that stood aside in gypsy hat, and touched the wheel- spoke with her badine? O Reader, that Lady that touched the wheel-spoke was the Queen of France! She has issued safe through that inner Arch, into the Carrousel itself; but not into the Rue de l’Echelle. Flurried by the rattle and rencounter, she took the right hand not the left; neither she nor her Courier knows Paris; he indeed is no Courier, but a loyal stupid ci-devant Bodyguard disguised as one. They are off, quite wrong, over the Pont Royal and River; roaming disconsolate in the Rue du Bac; far from the Glass-coachman, who still waits. Waits, with flutter of heart; with thoughts–which he must button close up, under his jarvie surtout!
Midnight clangs from all the City-steeples; one precious hour has been spent so; most mortals are asleep. The Glass-coachman waits; and what mood! A brother jarvie drives up, enters into conversation; is answered cheerfully in jarvie dialect: the brothers of the whip exchange a pinch of snuff; (Weber, ii. 340-2; Choiseul, p. 44-56.) decline drinking together; and part with good night. Be the Heavens blest! here at length is the Queen-lady, in gypsy-hat; safe after perils; who has had to inquire her way. She too is admitted; her Courier jumps aloft, as the other, who is also a disguised Bodyguard, has done: and now, O Glass-coachman of a thousand,–Count Fersen, for the Reader sees it is thou,–drive!
Dust shall not stick to the hoofs of Fersen: crack! crack! the Glass-coach rattles, and every soul breathes lighter. But is Fersen on the right road? Northeastward, to the Barrier of Saint-Martin and Metz Highway, thither were we bound: and lo, he drives right Northward! The royal Individual, in round hat and peruke, sits astonished; but right or wrong, there is no remedy. Crack, crack, we go incessant, through the slumbering City. Seldom, since Paris rose out of mud, or the Longhaired Kings went in Bullock-carts, was there such a drive. Mortals on each hand of you, close by, stretched out horizontal, dormant; and we alive and quaking! Crack, crack, through the Rue de Grammont; across the Boulevard; up the Rue de la Chaussee d’Antin,–these windows, all silent, of Number 42, were Mirabeau’s. Towards the Barrier not of Saint-Martin, but of Clichy on the utmost North! Patience, ye royal Individuals; Fersen understands what he is about. Passing up the Rue de Clichy, he alights for one moment at Madame Sullivan’s: “Did Count Fersen’s Coachman get the Baroness de Korff’s new Berline?”–“Gone with it an hour-and-half ago,” grumbles responsive the drowsy Porter.–“C’est bien.” Yes, it is well;–though had not such hour-and half been lost, it were still better. Forth therefore, O Fersen, fast, by the Barrier de Clichy; then Eastward along the Outward Boulevard, what horses and whipcord can do!
Thus Fersen drives, through the ambrosial night. Sleeping Paris is now all on the right hand of him; silent except for some snoring hum; and now he is Eastward as far as the Barrier de Saint-Martin; looking earnestly for Baroness de Korff’s Berline. This Heaven’s Berline he at length does descry, drawn up with its six horses, his own German Coachman waiting on the box. Right, thou good German: now haste, whither thou knowest!–And as for us of the Glass-coach, haste too, O haste; much time is already lost! The august Glass-coach fare, six Insides, hastily packs itself into the new Berline; two Bodyguard Couriers behind. The Glass-coach itself is turned adrift, its head towards the City; to wander whither it lists,–and be found next morning tumbled in a ditch. But Fersen is on the new box, with its brave new hammer-cloths; flourishing his whip; he bolts forward towards Bondy. There a third and final Bodyguard Courier of ours ought surely to be, with post-horses ready-ordered. There likewise ought that purchased Chaise, with the two Waiting-maids and their bandboxes to be; whom also her Majesty could not travel without. Swift, thou deft Fersen, and may the Heavens turn it well!
Once more, by Heaven’s blessing, it is all well. Here is the sleeping Hamlet of Bondy; Chaise with Waiting-women; horses all ready, and postillions with their churn-boots, impatient in the dewy dawn. Brief harnessing done, the postillions with their churn-boots vault into the saddles; brandish circularly their little noisy whips. Fersen, under his jarvie-surtout, bends in lowly silent reverence of adieu; royal hands wave speechless in expressible response; Baroness de Korff’s Berline, with the Royalty of France, bounds off: for ever, as it proved. Deft Fersen dashes obliquely Northward, through the country, towards Bougret; gains Bougret, finds his German Coachman and chariot waiting there; cracks off, and drives undiscovered into unknown space. A deft active man, we say; what he undertook to do is nimbly and successfully done.
A so the Royalty of France is actually fled? This precious night, the shortest of the year, it flies and drives! Baroness de Korff is, at bottom, Dame de Tourzel, Governess of the Royal Children: she who came hooded with the two hooded little ones; little Dauphin; little Madame Royale, known long afterwards as Duchess d’Angouleme. Baroness de Korff’s Waiting-maid is the Queen in gypsy-hat. The royal Individual in round hat and peruke, he is Valet, for the time being. That other hooded Dame, styled Travelling-companion, is kind Sister Elizabeth; she had sworn, long since, when the Insurrection of Women was, that only death should part her and them. And so they rush there, not too impetuously, through the Wood of Bondy:–over a Rubicon in their own and France’s History.
Great; though the future is all vague! If we reach Bouille? If we do not reach him? O Louis! and this all round thee is the great slumbering Earth (and overhead, the great watchful Heaven); the slumbering Wood of Bondy,– where Longhaired Childeric Donothing was struck through with iron; (Henault, Abrege Chronologique, p. 36.) not unreasonably. These peaked stone-towers are Raincy; towers of wicked d’Orleans. All slumbers save the multiplex rustle of our new Berline. Loose-skirted scarecrow of an Herb- merchant, with his ass and early greens, toilsomely plodding, seems the only creature we meet. But right ahead the great North-East sends up evermore his gray brindled dawn: from dewy branch, birds here and there, with short deep warble, salute the coming Sun. Stars fade out, and Galaxies; Street-lamps of the City of God. The Universe, O my brothers, is flinging wide its portals for the Levee of the GREAT HIGH KING. Thou, poor King Louis, farest nevertheless, as mortals do, towards Orient lands of Hope; and the Tuileries with its Levees, and France and the Earth itself, is but a larger kind of doghutch,–occasionally going rabid.
But in Paris, at six in the morning; when some Patriot Deputy, warned by a billet, awoke Lafayette, and they went to the Tuileries?–Imagination may paint, but words cannot, the surprise of Lafayette; or with what bewilderment helpless Gouvion rolled glassy Argus’s eyes, discerning now that his false Chambermaid told true!
However, it is to be recorded that Paris, thanks to an august National Assembly, did, on this seeming doomsday, surpass itself. Never, according to Historian eye-witnesses, was there seen such an ‘imposing attitude.’ (Deux Amis, vi. 67-178; Toulongeon, ii. 1-38; Camille, Prudhomme and Editors (in Hist. Parl. x. 240-4.) Sections all ‘in permanence;’ our Townhall, too, having first, about ten o’clock, fired three solemn alarm- cannons: above all, our National Assembly! National Assembly, likewise permanent, decides what is needful; with unanimous consent, for the Cote Droit sits dumb, afraid of the Lanterne. Decides with a calm promptitude, which rises towards the sublime. One must needs vote, for the thing is self-evident, that his Majesty has been abducted, or spirited away, ‘enleve,’ by some person or persons unknown: in which case, what will the Constitution have us do? Let us return to first principles, as we always say; “revenons aux principes.”
By first or by second principles, much is promptly decided: Ministers are sent for, instructed how to continue their functions; Lafayette is examined; and Gouvion, who gives a most helpless account, the best he can. Letters are found written: one Letter, of immense magnitude; all in his Majesty’s hand, and evidently of his Majesty’s own composition; addressed to the National Assembly. It details, with earnestness, with a childlike simplicity, what woes his Majesty has suffered. Woes great and small: A Necker seen applauded, a Majesty not; then insurrection; want of due cash in Civil List; general want of cash, furniture and order; anarchy everywhere; Deficit never yet, in the smallest, ‘choked or comble:’– wherefore in brief His Majesty has retired towards a Place of Liberty; and, leaving Sanctions, Federation, and what Oaths there may be, to shift for themselves, does now refer–to what, thinks an august Assembly? To that ‘Declaration of the Twenty-third of June,’ with its “Seul il fera, He alone will make his People happy.” As if that were not buried, deep enough, under two irrevocable Twelvemonths, and the wreck and rubbish of a whole Feudal World! This strange autograph Letter the National Assembly decides on printing; on transmitting to the Eighty-three Departments, with exegetic commentary, short but pithy. Commissioners also shall go forth on all sides; the People be exhorted; the Armies be increased; care taken that the Commonweal suffer no damage.–And now, with a sublime air of calmness, nay of indifference, we ‘pass to the order of the day!’
By such sublime calmness, the terror of the People is calmed. These gleaming Pike forests, which bristled fateful in the early sun, disappear again; the far-sounding Street-orators cease, or spout milder. We are to have a civil war; let us have it then. The King is gone; but National Assembly, but France and we remain. The People also takes a great attitude; the People also is calm; motionless as a couchant lion. With but a few broolings, some waggings of the tail; to shew what it will do! Cazales, for instance, was beset by street-groups, and cries of Lanterne; but National Patrols easily delivered him. Likewise all King’s effigies and statues, at least stucco ones, get abolished. Even King’s names; the word Roi fades suddenly out of all shop-signs; the Royal Bengal Tiger itself, on the Boulevards, becomes the National Bengal one, Tigre National. (Walpoliana.)
How great is a calm couchant People! On the morrow, men will say to one another: “We have no King, yet we slept sound enough.” On the morrow, fervent Achille de Chatelet, and Thomas Paine the rebellious Needleman, shall have the walls of Paris profusely plastered with their Placard; announcing that there must be a Republic! (Dumont,c. 16.)–Need we add that Lafayette too, though at first menaced by Pikes, has taken a great attitude, or indeed the greatest of all? Scouts and Aides-de-camp fly forth, vague, in quest and pursuit; young Romoeuf towards Valenciennes, though with small hope.
Thus Paris; sublimely calmed, in its bereavement. But from the Messageries Royales, in all Mail-bags, radiates forth far-darting the electric news: Our Hereditary Representative is flown. Laugh, black Royalists: yet be it in your sleeve only; lest Patriotism notice, and waxing frantic, lower the Lanterne! In Paris alone is a sublime National Assembly with its calmness; truly, other places must take it as they can: with open mouth and eyes; with panic cackling, with wrath, with conjecture. How each one of those dull leathern Diligences, with its leathern bag and ‘The King is fled,’ furrows up smooth France as it goes; through town and hamlet, ruffles the smooth public mind into quivering agitation of death-terror; then lumbers on, as if nothing had happened! Along all highways; towards the utmost borders; till all France is ruffled,–roughened up (metaphorically speaking) into one enormous, desperate-minded, red-guggling Turkey Cock!
For example, it is under cloud of night that the leathern Monster reaches Nantes; deep sunk in sleep. The word spoken rouses all Patriot men: General Dumouriez, enveloped in roquelaures, has to descend from his bedroom; finds the street covered with ‘four or five thousand citizens in their shirts.’ (Dumouriez, Memoires, ii. 109.) Here and there a faint farthing rushlight, hastily kindled; and so many swart-featured haggard faces, with nightcaps pushed back; and the more or less flowing drapery of night-shirt: open-mouthed till the General say his word! And overhead, as always, the Great Bear is turning so quiet round Bootes; steady, indifferent as the leathern Diligence itself. Take comfort, ye men of Nantes: Bootes and the steady Bear are turning; ancient Atlantic still sends his brine, loud-billowing, up your Loire-stream; brandy shall be hot in the stomach: this is not the Last of the Days, but one before the Last.–The fools! If they knew what was doing, in these very instants, also by candle-light, in the far North-East!
Perhaps we may say the most terrified man in Paris or France is–who thinks the Reader?–seagreen Robespierre. Double paleness, with the shadow of gibbets and halters, overcasts the seagreen features: it is too clear to him that there is to be ‘a Saint-Bartholomew of Patriots,’ that in four- and-twenty hours he will not be in life. These horrid anticipations of the soul he is heard uttering at Petion’s; by a notable witness. By Madame Roland, namely; her whom we saw, last year, radiant at the Lyons Federation! These four months, the Rolands have been in Paris; arranging with Assembly Committees the Municipal affairs of Lyons, affairs all sunk in debt;–communing, the while, as was most natural, with the best Patriots to be found here, with our Brissots, Petions, Buzots, Robespierres; who were wont to come to us, says the fair Hostess, four evenings in the week. They, running about, busier than ever this day, would fain have comforted the seagreen man: spake of Achille du Chatelet’s Placard; of a Journal to be called The Republican; of preparing men’s minds for a Republic. “A Republic?” said the Seagreen, with one of his dry husky unsportful laughs, “What is that?” (Madame Roland, ii. 70.) O seagreen Incorruptible, thou shalt see!
The New Berline.
But scouts all this while and aide-de-camps, have flown forth faster than the leathern Diligences. Young Romoeuf, as we said, was off early towards Valenciennes: distracted Villagers seize him, as a traitor with a finger of his own in the plot; drag him back to the Townhall; to the National Assembly, which speedily grants a new passport. Nay now, that same scarecrow of an Herb-merchant with his ass has bethought him of the grand new Berline seen in the Wood of Bondy; and delivered evidence of it: (Moniteur, &c. (in Hist. Parl. x. 244-313.) Romoeuf, furnished with new passport, is sent forth with double speed on a hopefuller track; by Bondy, Claye, and Chalons, towards Metz, to track the new Berline; and gallops a franc etrier.
Miserable new Berline! Why could not Royalty go in some old Berline similar to that of other men? Flying for life, one does not stickle about his vehicle. Monsieur, in a commonplace travelling-carriage is off Northwards; Madame, his Princess, in another, with variation of route: they cross one another while changing horses, without look of recognition; and reach Flanders, no man questioning them. Precisely in the same manner, beautiful Princess de Lamballe set off, about the same hour; and will reach England safe:–would she had continued there! The beautiful, the good, but the unfortunate; reserved for a frightful end!
All runs along, unmolested, speedy, except only the new Berline. Huge leathern vehicle;–huge Argosy, let us say, or Acapulco-ship; with its heavy stern-boat of Chaise-and-pair; with its three yellow Pilot-boats of mounted Bodyguard Couriers, rocking aimless round it and ahead of it, to bewilder, not to guide! It lumbers along, lurchingly with stress, at a snail’s pace; noted of all the world. The Bodyguard Couriers, in their yellow liveries, go prancing and clattering; loyal but stupid; unacquainted with all things. Stoppages occur; and breakages to be repaired at Etoges. King Louis too will dismount, will walk up hills, and enjoy the blessed sunshine:–with eleven horses and double drink money, and all furtherances of Nature and Art, it will be found that Royalty, flying for life, accomplishes Sixty-nine miles in Twenty-two incessant hours. Slow Royalty! And yet not a minute of these hours but is precious: on minutes hang the destinies of Royalty now.
Readers, therefore, can judge in what humour Duke de Choiseul might stand waiting, in the Village of Pont-de-Sommevelle, some leagues beyond Chalons, hour after hour, now when the day bends visibly westward. Choiseul drove out of Paris, in all privity, ten hours before their Majesties’ fixed time; his Hussars, led by Engineer Goguelat, are here duly, come ‘to escort a Treasure that is expected:’ but, hour after hour, is no Baroness de Korff’s Berline. Indeed, over all that North-east Region, on the skirts of Champagne and of Lorraine, where the Great Road runs, the agitation is considerable. For all along, from this Pont-de-Sommevelle Northeastward as far as Montmedi, at Post-villages and Towns, escorts of Hussars and Dragoons do lounge waiting: a train or chain of Military Escorts; at the Montmedi end of it our brave Bouille: an electric thunder-chain; which the invisible Bouille, like a Father Jove, holds in his hand–for wise purposes! Brave Bouille has done what man could; has spread out his electric thunder-chain of Military Escorts, onwards to the threshold of Chalons: it waits but for the new Korff Berline; to receive it, escort it, and, if need be, bear it off in whirlwind of military fire. They lie and lounge there, we say, these fierce Troopers; from Montmedi and Stenai, through Clermont, Sainte-Menehould to utmost Pont-de-Sommevelle, in all Post-villages; for the route shall avoid Verdun and great Towns: they loiter impatient ’till the Treasure arrive.’
Judge what a day this is for brave Bouille: perhaps the first day of a new glorious life; surely the last day of the old! Also, and indeed still more, what a day, beautiful and terrible, for your young full-blooded Captains: your Dandoins, Comte de Damas, Duke de Choiseul, Engineer Goguelat, and the like; entrusted with the secret!–Alas, the day bends ever more westward; and no Korff Berline comes to sight. It is four hours beyond the time, and still no Berline. In all Village-streets, Royalist Captains go lounging, looking often Paris-ward; with face of unconcern, with heart full of black care: rigorous Quartermasters can hardly keep the private dragoons from cafes and dramshops. (Declaration du Sieur La Gache du Regiment Royal-Dragoons (in Choiseul, pp. 125-39.) Dawn on our bewilderment, thou new Berline; dawn on us, thou Sun-chariot of a new Berline, with the destinies of France!
It was of His Majesty’s ordering, this military array of Escorts: a thing solacing the Royal imagination with a look of security and rescue; yet, in reality, creating only alarm, and where there was otherwise no danger, danger without end. For each Patriot, in these Post-villages, asks naturally: This clatter of cavalry, and marching and lounging of troops, what means it? To escort a Treasure? Why escort, when no Patriot will steal from the Nation; or where is your Treasure?–There has been such marching and counter-marching: for it is another fatality, that certain of these Military Escorts came out so early as yesterday; the Nineteenth not the Twentieth of the month being the day first appointed, which her Majesty, for some necessity or other, saw good to alter. And now consider the suspicious nature of Patriotism; suspicious, above all, of Bouille the Aristocrat; and how the sour doubting humour has had leave to accumulate and exacerbate for four-and-twenty hours!
At Pont-de-Sommevelle, these Forty foreign Hussars of Goguelat and Duke Choiseul are becoming an unspeakable mystery to all men. They lounged long enough, already, at Sainte-Menehould; lounged and loitered till our National Volunteers there, all risen into hot wrath of doubt, ‘demanded three hundred fusils of their Townhall,’ and got them. At which same moment too, as it chanced, our Captain Dandoins was just coming in, from Clermont with his troop, at the other end of the Village. A fresh troop; alarming enough; though happily they are only Dragoons and French! So that Goguelat with his Hussars had to ride, and even to do it fast; till here at Pont-de-Sommevelle, where Choiseul lay waiting, he found resting-place. Resting-place, as on burning marle. For the rumour of him flies abroad; and men run to and fro in fright and anger: Chalons sends forth exploratory pickets, coming from Sainte-Menehould, on that. What is it, ye whiskered Hussars, men of foreign guttural speech; in the name of Heaven, what is it that brings you? A Treasure?–exploratory pickets shake their heads. The hungry Peasants, however, know too well what Treasure it is: Military seizure for rents, feudalities; which no Bailiff could make us pay! This they know;–and set to jingling their Parish-bell by way of tocsin; with rapid effect! Choiseul and Goguelat, if the whole country is not to take fire, must needs, be there Berline, be there no Berline, saddle and ride.
They mount; and this Parish tocsin happily ceases. They ride slowly Eastward, towards Sainte-Menehould; still hoping the Sun-Chariot of a Berline may overtake them. Ah me, no Berline! And near now is that Sainte-Menehould, which expelled us in the morning, with its ‘three hundred National fusils;’ which looks, belike, not too lovingly on Captain Dandoins and his fresh Dragoons, though only French;–which, in a word, one dare not enter the second time, under pain of explosion! With rather heavy heart, our Hussar Party strikes off to the left; through byways, through pathless hills and woods, they, avoiding Sainte-Menehould and all places which have seen them heretofore, will make direct for the distant Village of Varennes. It is probable they will have a rough evening-ride.
This first military post, therefore, in the long thunder-chain, has gone off with no effect; or with worse, and your chain threatens to entangle itself!–The Great Road, however, is got hushed again into a kind of quietude, though one of the wakefullest. Indolent Dragoons cannot, by any Quartermaster, be kept altogether from the dramshop; where Patriots drink, and will even treat, eager enough for news. Captains, in a state near distraction, beat the dusky highway, with a face of indifference; and no Sun-Chariot appears. Why lingers it? Incredible, that with eleven horses and such yellow Couriers and furtherances, its rate should be under the weightiest dray-rate, some three miles an hour! Alas, one knows not whether it ever even got out of Paris;–and yet also one knows not whether, this very moment, it is not at the Village-end! One’s heart flutters on the verge of unutterabilities.
In this manner, however, has the Day bent downwards. Wearied mortals are creeping home from their field-labour; the village-artisan eats with relish his supper of herbs, or has strolled forth to the village-street for a sweet mouthful of air and human news. Still summer-eventide everywhere! The great Sun hangs flaming on the utmost North-West; for it is his longest day this year. The hill-tops rejoicing will ere long be at their ruddiest, and blush Good-night. The thrush, in green dells, on long-shadowed leafy spray, pours gushing his glad serenade, to the babble of brooks grown audibler; silence is stealing over the Earth. Your dusty Mill of Valmy, as all other mills and drudgeries, may furl its canvass, and cease swashing and circling. The swenkt grinders in this Treadmill of an Earth have ground out another Day; and lounge there, as we say, in village-groups; movable, or ranked on social stone-seats; (Rapport de M. Remy (in Choiseul, p. 143.) their children, mischievous imps, sporting about their feet. Unnotable hum of sweet human gossip rises from this Village of Sainte- Menehould, as from all other villages. Gossip mostly sweet, unnotable; for the very Dragoons are French and gallant; nor as yet has the Paris-and- Verdun Diligence, with its leathern bag, rumbled in, to terrify the minds of men.
One figure nevertheless we do note at the last door of the Village: that figure in loose-flowing nightgown, of Jean Baptiste Drouet, Master of the Post here. An acrid choleric man, rather dangerous-looking; still in the prime of life, though he has served, in his time as a Conde Dragoon. This day from an early hour, Drouet got his choler stirred, and has been kept fretting. Hussar Goguelat in the morning saw good, by way of thrift, to bargain with his own Innkeeper, not with Drouet regular Maitre de Poste, about some gig-horse for the sending back of his gig; which thing Drouet perceiving came over in red ire, menacing the Inn-keeper, and would not be appeased. Wholly an unsatisfactory day. For Drouet is an acrid Patriot too, was at the Paris Feast of Pikes: and what do these Bouille Soldiers mean? Hussars, with their gig, and a vengeance to it!–have hardly been thrust out, when Dandoins and his fresh Dragoons arrive from Clermont, and stroll. For what purpose? Choleric Drouet steps out and steps in, with long-flowing nightgown; looking abroad, with that sharpness of faculty which stirred choler gives to man.
On the other hand, mark Captain Dandoins on the street of that same Village; sauntering with a face of indifference, a heart eaten of black care! For no Korff Berline makes its appearance. The great Sun flames broader towards setting: one’s heart flutters on the verge of dread unutterabilities.
By Heaven! Here is the yellow Bodyguard Courier; spurring fast, in the ruddy evening light! Steady, O Dandoins, stand with inscrutable indifferent face; though the yellow blockhead spurs past the Post-house; inquires to find it; and stirs the Village, all delighted with his fine livery.–Lumbering along with its mountains of bandboxes, and Chaise behind, the Korff Berline rolls in; huge Acapulco-ship with its Cockboat, having got thus far. The eyes of the Villagers look enlightened, as such eyes do when a coach-transit, which is an event, occurs for them. Strolling Dragoons respectfully, so fine are the yellow liveries, bring hand to helmet; and a lady in gipsy-hat responds with a grace peculiar to her. (Declaration de la Gache (in Choiseul ubi supra.) Dandoins stands with folded arms, and what look of indifference and disdainful garrison-air a man can, while the heart is like leaping out of him. Curled disdainful moustachio; careless glance,–which however surveys the Village-groups, and does not like them. With his eye he bespeaks the yellow Courier. Be quick, be quick! Thick-headed Yellow cannot understand the eye; comes up mumbling, to ask in words: seen of the Village!
Nor is Post-master Drouet unobservant, all this while; but steps out and steps in, with his long-flowing nightgown, in the level sunlight; prying into several things. When a man’s faculties, at the right time, are sharpened by choler, it may lead to much. That Lady in slouched gypsy-hat, though sitting back in the Carriage, does she not resemble some one we have seen, some time;–at the Feast of Pikes, or elsewhere? And this Grosse- Tete in round hat and peruke, which, looking rearward, pokes itself out from time to time, methinks there are features in it–? Quick, Sieur Guillaume, Clerk of the Directoire, bring me a new Assignat! Drouet scans the new Assignat; compares the Paper-money Picture with the Gross-Head in round hat there: by Day and Night! you might say the one was an attempted Engraving of the other. And this march of Troops; this sauntering and whispering,–I see it!
Drouet Post-master of this Village, hot Patriot, Old Dragoon of Conde, consider, therefore, what thou wilt do. And fast: for behold the new Berline, expeditiously yoked, cracks whipcord, and rolls away!–Drouet dare not, on the spur of the instant, clutch the bridles in his own two hands; Dandoins, with broadsword, might hew you off. Our poor Nationals, not one of them here, have three hundred fusils but then no powder; besides one is not sure, only morally-certain. Drouet, as an adroit Old-Dragoon of Conde does what is advisablest: privily bespeaks Clerk Guillaume, Old-Dragoon of Conde he too; privily, while Clerk Guillaume is saddling two of the fleetest horses, slips over to the Townhall to whisper a word; then mounts with Clerk Guillaume; and the two bound eastward in pursuit, to see what can be done.
They bound eastward, in sharp trot; their moral-certainty permeating the Village, from the Townhall outwards, in busy whispers. Alas! Captain Dandoins orders his Dragoons to mount; but they, complaining of long fast, demand bread-and-cheese first;–before which brief repast can be eaten, the whole Village is permeated; not whispering now, but blustering and shrieking! National Volunteers, in hurried muster, shriek for gunpowder; Dragoons halt between Patriotism and Rule of the Service, between bread and cheese and fixed bayonets: Dandoins hands secretly his Pocket-book, with its secret despatches, to the rigorous Quartermaster: the very Ostlers have stable-forks and flails. The rigorous Quartermaster, half-saddled, cuts out his way with the sword’s edge, amid levelled bayonets, amid Patriot vociferations, adjurations, flail-strokes; and rides frantic; (Declaration de La Gache (in Choiseul), p. 134.)–few or even none following him; the rest, so sweetly constrained consenting to stay there.
And thus the new Berline rolls; and Drouet and Guillaume gallop after it, and Dandoins’s Troopers or Trooper gallops after them; and Sainte- Menehould, with some leagues of the King’s Highway, is in explosion;–and your Military thunder-chain has gone off in a self-destructive manner; one may fear with the frightfullest issues!
The Night of Spurs.
This comes of mysterious Escorts, and a new Berline with eleven horses: ‘he that has a secret should not only hide it, but hide that he has it to hide.’ Your first Military Escort has exploded self-destructive; and all Military Escorts, and a suspicious Country will now be up, explosive; comparable not to victorious thunder. Comparable, say rather, to the first stirring of an Alpine Avalanche; which, once stir it, as here at Sainte- Menehould, will spread,–all round, and on and on, as far as Stenai; thundering with wild ruin, till Patriot Villagers, Peasantry, Military Escorts, new Berline and Royalty are down,–jumbling in the Abyss!
The thick shades of Night are falling. Postillions crack the whip: the Royal Berline is through Clermont, where Colonel Comte de Damas got a word whispered to it; is safe through, towards Varennes; rushing at the rate of double drink-money: an Unknown ‘Inconnu on horseback’ shrieks earnestly some hoarse whisper, not audible, into the rushing Carriage-window, and vanishes, left in the night. (Campan, ii. 159.) August Travellers palpitate; nevertheless overwearied Nature sinks every one of them into a kind of sleep. Alas, and Drouet and Clerk Guillaume spur; taking side- roads, for shortness, for safety; scattering abroad that moral-certainty of theirs; which flies, a bird of the air carrying it!
And your rigorous Quartermaster spurs; awakening hoarse trumpet-tone, as here at Clermont, calling out Dragoons gone to bed. Brave Colonel de Damas has them mounted, in part, these Clermont men; young Cornet Remy dashes off with a few. But the Patriot Magistracy is out here at Clermont too; National Guards shrieking for ball-cartridges; and the Village ‘illuminates itself;’–deft Patriots springing out of bed; alertly, in shirt or shift, striking a light; sticking up each his farthing candle, or penurious oil- cruise, till all glitters and glimmers; so deft are they! A camisado, or shirt-tumult, every where: stormbell set a-ringing; village-drum beating furious generale, as here at Clermont, under illumination; distracted Patriots pleading and menacing! Brave young Colonel de Damas, in that uproar of distracted Patriotism, speaks some fire-sentences to what Troopers he has: “Comrades insulted at Sainte-Menehould; King and Country calling on the brave;” then gives the fire-word, Draw swords. Whereupon, alas, the Troopers only smite their sword-handles, driving them further home! “To me, whoever is for the King!” cries Damas in despair; and gallops, he with some poor loyal Two, of the subaltern sort, into the bosom of the Night. (Proces-verbal du Directoire de Clermont (in Choiseul, p. 189-95).)
Night unexampled in the Clermontais; shortest of the year; remarkablest of the century: Night deserving to be named of Spurs! Cornet Remy, and those Few he dashed off with, has missed his road; is galloping for hours towards Verdun; then, for hours, across hedged country, through roused hamlets, towards Varennes. Unlucky Cornet Remy; unluckier Colonel Damas, with whom there ride desperate only some loyal Two! More ride not of that Clermont Escort: of other Escorts, in other Villages, not even Two may ride; but only all curvet and prance,–impeded by stormbell and your Village illuminating itself.
And Drouet rides and Clerk Guillaume; and the Country runs.–Goguelat and Duke Choiseul are plunging through morasses, over cliffs, over stock and stone, in the shaggy woods of the Clermontais; by tracks; or trackless, with guides; Hussars tumbling into pitfalls, and lying ‘swooned three quarters of an hour,’ the rest refusing to march without them. What an evening-ride from Pont-de-Sommerville; what a thirty hours, since Choiseul quitted Paris, with Queen’s-valet Leonard in the chaise by him! Black Care sits behind the rider. Thus go they plunging; rustle the owlet from his branchy nest; champ the sweet-scented forest-herb, queen-of-the-meadows spilling her spikenard; and frighten the ear of Night. But hark! towards twelve o’clock, as one guesses, for the very stars are gone out: sound of the tocsin from Varennes? Checking bridle, the Hussar Officer listens: “Some fire undoubtedly!”–yet rides on, with double breathlessness, to verify.
Yes, gallant friends that do your utmost, it is a certain sort of fire: difficult to quench.–The Korff Berline, fairly ahead of all this riding Avalanche, reached the little paltry Village of Varennes about eleven o’clock; hopeful, in spite of that horse-whispering Unknown. Do not all towns now lie behind us; Verdun avoided, on our right? Within wind of Bouille himself, in a manner; and the darkest of midsummer nights favouring us! And so we halt on the hill-top at the South end of the Village; expecting our relay; which young Bouille, Bouille’s own son, with his Escort of Hussars, was to have ready; for in this Village is no Post. Distracting to think of: neither horse nor Hussar is here! Ah, and stout horses, a proper relay belonging to Duke Choiseul, do stand at hay, but in the Upper Village over the Bridge; and we know not of them. Hussars likewise do wait, but drinking in the taverns. For indeed it is six hours beyond the time; young Bouille, silly stripling, thinking the matter over for this night, has retired to bed. And so our yellow Couriers, inexperienced, must rove, groping, bungling, through a Village mostly asleep: Postillions will not, for any money, go on with the tired horses; not at least without refreshment; not they, let the Valet in round hat argue as he likes.
Miserable! ‘For five-and-thirty minutes’ by the King’s watch, the Berline is at a dead stand; Round-hat arguing with Churnboots; tired horses slobbering their meal-and-water; yellow Couriers groping, bungling;–young Bouille asleep, all the while, in the Upper Village, and Choiseul’s fine team standing there at hay. No help for it; not with a King’s ransom: the horses deliberately slobber, Round-hat argues, Bouille sleeps. And mark now, in the thick night, do not two Horsemen, with jaded trot, come clank- clanking; and start with half-pause, if one noticed them, at sight of this dim mass of a Berline, and its dull slobbering and arguing; then prick off faster, into the Village? It is Drouet, he and Clerk Guillaume! Still ahead, they two, of the whole riding hurlyburly; unshot, though some brag of having chased them. Perilous is Drouet’s errand also; but he is an Old- Dragoon, with his wits shaken thoroughly awake.
The Village of Varennes lies dark and slumberous; a most unlevel Village, of inverse saddle-shape, as men write. It sleeps; the rushing of the River Aire singing lullaby to it. Nevertheless from the Golden Arms, Bras d’Or Tavern, across that sloping marketplace, there still comes shine of social light; comes voice of rude drovers, or the like, who have not yet taken the stirrup-cup; Boniface Le Blanc, in white apron, serving them: cheerful to behold. To this Bras d’Or, Drouet enters, alacrity looking through his eyes: he nudges Boniface, in all privacy, “Camarade, es tu bon Patriote, Art thou a good Patriot?”–“Si je suis!” answers Boniface.–“In that case,” eagerly whispers Drouet–what whisper is needful, heard of Boniface alone. (Deux Amis, vi. 139-78.)
And now see Boniface Le Blanc bustling, as he never did for the jolliest toper. See Drouet and Guillaume, dexterous Old-Dragoons, instantly down blocking the Bridge, with a ‘furniture waggon they find there,’ with whatever waggons, tumbrils, barrels, barrows their hands can lay hold of;– till no carriage can pass. Then swiftly, the Bridge once blocked, see them take station hard by, under Varennes Archway: joined by Le Blanc, Le Blanc’s Brother, and one or two alert Patriots he has roused. Some half- dozen in all, with National Muskets, they stand close, waiting under the Archway, till that same Korff Berline rumble up.
It rumbles up: Alte la! lanterns flash out from under coat-skirts, bridles chuck in strong fists, two National Muskets level themselves fore and aft through the two Coach-doors: “Mesdames, your Passports?”–Alas! Alas! Sieur Sausse, Procureur of the Township, Tallow-chandler also and Grocer is there, with official grocer-politeness; Drouet with fierce logic and ready wit:–The respected Travelling Party, be it Baroness de Korff’s, or persons of still higher consequence, will perhaps please to rest itself in M. Sausse’s till the dawn strike up!
O Louis; O hapless Marie-Antoinette, fated to pass thy life with such men! Phlegmatic Louis, art thou but lazy semi-animate phlegm then, to the centre of thee? King, Captain-General, Sovereign Frank! If thy heart ever formed, since it began beating under the name of heart, any resolution at all, be it now then, or never in this world: “Violent nocturnal individuals, and if it were persons of high consequence? And if it were the King himself? Has the King not the power, which all beggars have, of travelling unmolested on his own Highway? Yes: it is the King; and tremble ye to know it! The King has said, in this one small matter; and in France, or under God’s Throne, is no power that shall gainsay. Not the King shall ye stop here under this your miserable Archway; but his dead body only, and answer it to Heaven and Earth. To me, Bodyguards: Postillions, en avant!”–One fancies in that case the pale paralysis of these two Le Blanc musketeers; the drooping of Drouet’s under-jaw; and how Procureur Sausse had melted like tallow in furnace-heat: Louis faring on; in some few steps awakening Young Bouille, awakening relays and hussars: triumphant entry, with cavalcading high-brandishing Escort, and Escorts, into Montmedi; and the whole course of French History different!
Alas, it was not in the poor phlegmatic man. Had it been in him, French History had never come under this Varennes Archway to decide itself.–He steps out; all step out. Procureur Sausse gives his grocer-arms to the Queen and Sister Elizabeth; Majesty taking the two children by the hand. And thus they walk, coolly back, over the Marketplace, to Procureur Sausse’s; mount into his small upper story; where straightway his Majesty ‘demands refreshments.’ Demands refreshments, as is written; gets bread- and-cheese with a bottle of Burgundy; and remarks, that it is the best Burgundy he ever drank!
Meanwhile, the Varennes Notables, and all men, official, and non-official, are hastily drawing on their breeches; getting their fighting-gear. Mortals half-dressed tumble out barrels, lay felled trees; scouts dart off to all the four winds,–the tocsin begins clanging, ‘the Village illuminates itself.’ Very singular: how these little Villages do manage, so adroit are they, when startled in midnight alarm of war. Like little adroit municipal rattle-snakes, suddenly awakened: for their stormbell rattles and rings; their eyes glisten luminous (with tallow-light), as in rattle-snake ire; and the Village will sting! Old-Dragoon Drouet is our engineer and generalissimo; valiant as a Ruy Diaz:–Now or never, ye Patriots, for the Soldiery is coming; massacre by Austrians, by Aristocrats, wars more than civil, it all depends on you and the hour!– National Guards rank themselves, half-buttoned: mortals, we say, still only in breeches, in under-petticoat, tumble out barrels and lumber, lay felled trees for barricades: the Village will sting. Rabid Democracy, it would seem, is not confined to Paris, then? Ah no, whatsoever Courtiers might talk; too clearly no. This of dying for one’s King is grown into a dying for one’s self, against the King, if need be.
And so our riding and running Avalanche and Hurlyburly has reached the Abyss, Korff Berline foremost; and may pour itself thither, and jumble: endless! For the next six hours, need we ask if there was a clattering far and wide? Clattering and tocsining and hot tumult, over all the Clermontais, spreading through the Three Bishopricks: Dragoon and Hussar Troops galloping on roads and no-roads; National Guards arming and starting in the dead of night; tocsin after tocsin transmitting the alarm. In some forty minutes, Goguelat and Choiseul, with their wearied Hussars, reach Varennes. Ah, it is no fire then; or a fire difficult to quench! They leap the tree-barricades, in spite of National serjeant; they enter the village, Choiseul instructing his Troopers how the matter really is; who respond interjectionally, in their guttural dialect, “Der Konig; die Koniginn!” and seem stanch. These now, in their stanch humour, will, for one thing, beset Procureur Sausse’s house. Most beneficial: had not Drouet stormfully ordered otherwise; and even bellowed, in his extremity, “Cannoneers to your guns!”–two old honey-combed Field-pieces, empty of all but cobwebs; the rattle whereof, as the Cannoneers with assured countenance trundled them up, did nevertheless abate the Hussar ardour, and produce a respectfuller ranking further back. Jugs of wine, handed over the ranks, for the German throat too has sensibility, will complete the business. When Engineer Goguelat, some hour or so afterwards, steps forth, the response to him is–a hiccuping Vive la Nation!
What boots it? Goguelat, Choiseul, now also Count Damas, and all the Varennes Officiality are with the King; and the King can give no order, form no opinion; but sits there, as he has ever done, like clay on potter’s wheel; perhaps the absurdest of all pitiable and pardonable clay-figures that now circle under the Moon. He will go on, next morning, and take the National Guard with him; Sausse permitting! Hapless Queen: with her two children laid there on the mean bed, old Mother Sausse kneeling to Heaven, with tears and an audible prayer, to bless them; imperial Marie-Antoinette near kneeling to Son Sausse and Wife Sausse, amid candle-boxes and treacle- barrels,–in vain! There are Three-thousand National Guards got in; before long they will count Ten-thousand; tocsins spreading like fire on dry heath, or far faster.
Young Bouille, roused by this Varennes tocsin, has taken horse, and–fled towards his Father. Thitherward also rides, in an almost hysterically desperate manner, a certain Sieur Aubriot, Choiseul’s Orderly; swimming dark rivers, our Bridge being blocked; spurring as if the Hell-hunt were at his heels. (Rapport de M. Aubriot (Choiseul, p. 150-7.) Through the village of Dun, he, galloping still on, scatters the alarm; at Dun, brave Captain Deslons and his Escort of a Hundred, saddle and ride. Deslons too gets into Varennes; leaving his Hundred outside, at the tree-barricade; offers to cut King Louis out, if he will order it: but unfortunately “the work will prove hot;” whereupon King Louis has “no orders to give.” (Extrait d’un Rapport de M. Deslons (Choiseul, p. 164-7.)
And so the tocsin clangs, and Dragoons gallop; and can do nothing, having gallopped: National Guards stream in like the gathering of ravens: your exploding Thunder-chain, falling Avalanche, or what else we liken it to, does play, with a vengeance,–up now as far as Stenai and Bouille himself. (Bouille, ii. 74-6.) Brave Bouille, son of the whirlwind, he saddles Royal Allemand; speaks fire-words, kindling heart and eyes; distributes twenty- five gold-louis a company:–Ride, Royal-Allemand, long-famed: no Tuileries Charge and Necker-Orleans Bust-Procession; a very King made captive, and world all to win!–Such is the Night deserving to be named of Spurs.
At six o’clock two things have happened. Lafayette’s Aide-de-camp, Romoeuf, riding a franc etrier, on that old Herb-merchant’s route, quickened during the last stages, has got to Varennes; where the Ten thousand now furiously demand, with fury of panic terror, that Royalty shall forthwith return Paris-ward, that there be not infinite bloodshed. Also, on the other side, ‘English Tom,’ Choiseul’s jokei, flying with that Choiseul relay, has met Bouille on the heights of Dun; the adamantine brow flushed with dark thunder; thunderous rattle of Royal Allemand at his heels. English Tom answers as he can the brief question, How it is at Varennes?–then asks in turn what he, English Tom, with M. de Choiseul’s horses, is to do, and whither to ride?–To the Bottomless Pool! answers a thunder-voice; then again speaking and spurring, orders Royal Allemand to the gallop; and vanishes, swearing (en jurant). (Declaration du Sieur Thomas (in Choiseul, p. 188).) ‘Tis the last of our brave Bouille. Within sight of Varennes, he having drawn bridle, calls a council of officers; finds that it is in vain. King Louis has departed, consenting: amid the clangour of universal stormbell; amid the tramp of Ten thousand armed men, already arrived; and say, of Sixty thousand flocking thither. Brave Deslons, even without ‘orders,’ darted at the River Aire with his Hundred! (Weber, ii. 386.) swam one branch of it, could not the other; and stood there, dripping and panting, with inflated nostril; the Ten thousand answering him with a shout of mockery, the new Berline lumbering Paris-ward its weary inevitable way. No help, then in Earth; nor in an age, not of miracles, in Heaven!
That night, ‘Marquis de Bouille and twenty-one more of us rode over the Frontiers; the Bernardine monks at Orval in Luxemburg gave us supper and lodging.’ (Aubriot, ut supra, p. 158.) With little of speech, Bouille rides; with thoughts that do not brook speech. Northward, towards uncertainty, and the Cimmerian Night: towards West-Indian Isles, for with thin Emigrant delirium the son of the whirlwind cannot act; towards England, towards premature Stoical death; not towards France any more. Honour to the Brave; who, be it in this quarrel or in that, is a substance and articulate-speaking piece of Human Valour, not a fanfaronading hollow Spectrum and squeaking and gibbering Shadow! One of the few Royalist Chief-actors this Bouille, of whom so much can be said.
The brave Bouille too, then, vanishes from the tissue of our Story. Story and tissue, faint ineffectual Emblem of that grand Miraculous Tissue, and Living Tapestry named French Revolution, which did weave itself then in very fact, ‘on the loud-sounding ‘LOOM OF TIME!’ The old Brave drop out from it, with their strivings; and new acrid Drouets, of new strivings and colour, come in:–as is the manner of that weaving.
So then our grand Royalist Plot, of Flight to Metz, has executed itself. Long hovering in the background, as a dread royal ultimatum, it has rushed forward in its terrors: verily to some purpose. How many Royalist Plots and Projects, one after another, cunningly-devised, that were to explode like powder-mines and thunderclaps; not one solitary Plot of which has issued otherwise! Powder-mine of a Seance Royale on the Twenty-third of June 1789, which exploded as we then said, ‘through the touchhole;’ which next, your wargod Broglie having reloaded it, brought a Bastille about your ears. Then came fervent Opera-Repast, with flourishing of sabres, and O Richard, O my King; which, aided by Hunger, produces Insurrection of Women, and Pallas Athene in the shape of Demoiselle Theroigne. Valour profits not; neither has fortune smiled on Fanfaronade. The Bouille Armament ends as the Broglie one had done. Man after man spends himself in this cause, only to work it quicker ruin; it seems a cause doomed, forsaken of Earth and Heaven.
On the Sixth of October gone a year, King Louis, escorted by Demoiselle Theroigne and some two hundred thousand, made a Royal Progress and Entrance into Paris, such as man had never witnessed: we prophesied him Two more such; and accordingly another of them, after this Flight to Metz, is now coming to pass. Theroigne will not escort here, neither does Mirabeau now ‘sit in one of the accompanying carriages.’ Mirabeau lies dead, in the Pantheon of Great Men. Theroigne lies living, in dark Austrian Prison; having gone to Liege, professionally, and been seized there. Bemurmured now by the hoarse-flowing Danube; the light of her Patriot Supper-Parties gone quite out; so lies Theroigne: she shall speak with the Kaiser face to face, and return. And France lies how! Fleeting Time shears down the great and the little; and in two years alters many things.
But at all events, here, we say, is a second Ignominious Royal Procession, though much altered; to be witnessed also by its hundreds of thousands. Patience, ye Paris Patriots; the Royal Berline is returning. Not till Saturday: for the Royal Berline travels by slow stages; amid such loud- voiced confluent sea of National Guards, sixty thousand as they count; amid such tumult of all people. Three National-Assembly Commissioners, famed Barnave, famed Petion, generally-respectable Latour-Maubourg, have gone to meet it; of whom the two former ride in the Berline itself beside Majesty, day after day. Latour, as a mere respectability, and man of whom all men speak well, can ride in the rear, with Dame Tourzel and the Soubrettes.
So on Saturday evening, about seven o’clock, Paris by hundreds of thousands is again drawn up: not now dancing the tricolor joy-dance of hope; nor as yet dancing in fury-dance of hate and revenge; but in silence, with vague look of conjecture and curiosity mostly scientific. A Sainte-Antoine Placard has given notice this morning that ‘whosoever insults Louis shall be caned, whosoever applauds him shall be hanged.’ Behold then, at last, that wonderful New Berline; encircled by blue National sea with fixed bayonets, which flows slowly, floating it on, through the silent assembled hundreds of thousands. Three yellow Couriers sit atop bound with ropes; Petion, Barnave, their Majesties, with Sister Elizabeth, and the Children of France, are within.
Smile of embarrassment, or cloud of dull sourness, is on the broad phlegmatic face of his Majesty: who keeps declaring to the successive Official-persons, what is evident, “Eh bien, me voila, Well, here you have me;” and what is not evident, “I do assure you I did not mean to pass the frontiers;” and so forth: speeches natural for that poor Royal man; which Decency would veil. Silent is her Majesty, with a look of grief and scorn; natural for that Royal Woman. Thus lumbers and creeps the ignominious Royal Procession, through many streets, amid a silent-gazing people: comparable, Mercier thinks, (Nouveau Paris, iii. 22.) to some Procession de Roi de Bazoche; or say, Procession of King Crispin, with his Dukes of Sutor-mania and royal blazonry of Cordwainery. Except indeed that this is not comic; ah no, it is comico-tragic; with bound Couriers, and a Doom hanging over it; most fantastic, yet most miserably real. Miserablest flebile ludibrium of a Pickleherring Tragedy! It sweeps along there, in most ungorgeous pall, through many streets, in the dusty summer evening; gets itself at length wriggled out of sight; vanishing in the Tuileries Palace–towards its doom, of slow torture, peine forte et dure.
Populace, it is true, seizes the three rope-bound yellow Couriers; will at least massacre them. But our august Assembly, which is sitting at this great moment, sends out Deputation of rescue; and the whole is got huddled up. Barnave, ‘all dusty,’ is already there, in the National Hall; making brief discreet address and report. As indeed, through the whole journey, this Barnave has been most discreet, sympathetic; and has gained the Queen’s trust, whose noble instinct teaches her always who is to be trusted. Very different from heavy Petion; who, if Campan speak truth, ate his luncheon, comfortably filled his wine-glass, in the Royal Berline; flung out his chicken-bones past the nose of Royalty itself; and, on the King’s saying “France cannot be a Republic,” answered “No, it is not ripe yet.” Barnave is henceforth a Queen’s adviser, if advice could profit: and her Majesty astonishes Dame Campan by signifying almost a regard for Barnave: and that, in a day of retribution and Royal triumph, Barnave shall not be executed. (Campan, ii. c. 18.)
On Monday night Royalty went; on Saturday evening it returns: so much, within one short week, has Royalty accomplished for itself. The Pickleherring Tragedy has vanished in the Tuileries Palace, towards ‘pain strong and hard.’ Watched, fettered, and humbled, as Royalty never was. Watched even in its sleeping-apartments and inmost recesses: for it has to sleep with door set ajar, blue National Argus watching, his eye fixed on the Queen’s curtains; nay, on one occasion, as the Queen cannot sleep, he offers to sit by her pillow, and converse a little! (Ibid. ii. 149.)
In regard to all which, this most pressing question arises: What is to be done with it? “Depose it!” resolutely answer Robespierre and the thoroughgoing few. For truly, with a King who runs away, and needs to be watched in his very bedroom that he may stay and govern you, what other reasonable thing can be done? Had Philippe d’Orleans not been a caput mortuum! But of him, known as one defunct, no man now dreams. “Depose it not; say that it is inviolable, that it was spirited away, was enleve; at any cost of sophistry and solecism, reestablish it!” so answer with loud vehemence all manner of Constitutional Royalists; as all your Pure Royalists do naturally likewise, with low vehemence, and rage compressed by fear, still more passionately answer. Nay Barnave and the two Lameths, and what will follow them, do likewise answer so. Answer, with their whole might: terror-struck at the unknown Abysses on the verge of which, driven thither by themselves mainly, all now reels, ready to plunge.
By mighty effort and combination this latter course, of reestablish it, is the course fixed on; and it shall by the strong arm, if not by the clearest logic, be made good. With the sacrifice of all their hard-earned popularity, this notable Triumvirate, says Toulongeon, ‘set the Throne up again, which they had so toiled to overturn: as one might set up an overturned pyramid, on its vertex; to stand so long as it is held.’
Unhappy France; unhappy in King, Queen, and Constitution; one knows not in which unhappiest! Was the meaning of our so glorious French Revolution this, and no other, That when Shams and Delusions, long soul-killing, had become body-killing, and got the length of Bankruptcy and Inanition, a great People rose and, with one voice, said, in the Name of the Highest: Shams shall be no more? So many sorrows and bloody horrors, endured, and to be yet endured through dismal coming centuries, were they not the heavy price paid and payable for this same: Total Destruction of Shams from among men? And now, O Barnave Triumvirate! is it in such double-distilled Delusion, and Sham even of a Sham, that an Effort of this kind will rest acquiescent? Messieurs of the popular Triumvirate: Never! But, after all, what can poor popular Triumvirates and fallible august Senators do? They can, when the Truth is all too-horrible, stick their heads ostrich- like into what sheltering Fallacy is nearest: and wait there, a posteriori!
Readers who saw the Clermontais and Three-Bishopricks gallop, in the Night of Spurs; Diligences ruffling up all France into one terrific terrified Cock of India; and the Town of Nantes in its shirt,–may fancy what an affair to settle this was. Robespierre, on the extreme Left, with perhaps Petion and lean old Goupil, for the very Triumvirate has defalcated, are shrieking hoarse; drowned in Constitutional clamour. But the debate and arguing of a whole Nation; the bellowings through all Journals, for and against; the reverberant voice of Danton; the Hyperion-shafts of Camille; the porcupine-quills of implacable Marat:–conceive all this.
Constitutionalists in a body, as we often predicted, do now recede from the Mother Society, and become Feuillans; threatening her with inanition, the rank and respectability being mostly gone. Petition after Petition, forwarded by Post, or borne in Deputation, comes praying for Judgment and Decheance, which is our name for Deposition; praying, at lowest, for Reference to the Eighty-three Departments of France. Hot Marseillese Deputation comes declaring, among other things: “Our Phocean Ancestors flung a Bar of Iron into the Bay at their first landing; this Bar will float again on the Mediterranean brine before we consent to be slaves.” All this for four weeks or more, while the matter still hangs doubtful; Emigration streaming with double violence over the frontiers; (Bouille, ii. 101.) France seething in fierce agitation of this question and prize- question: What is to be done with the fugitive Hereditary Representative?
Finally, on Friday the 15th of July 1791, the National Assembly decides; in what negatory manner we know. Whereupon the Theatres all close, the Bourne-stones and Portable-chairs begin spouting, Municipal Placards flaming on the walls, and Proclamations published by sound of trumpet, ‘invite to repose;’ with small effect. And so, on Sunday the 17th, there shall be a thing seen, worthy of remembering. Scroll of a Petition, drawn up by Brissots, Dantons, by Cordeliers, Jacobins; for the thing was infinitely shaken and manipulated, and many had a hand in it: such Scroll lies now visible, on the wooden framework of the Fatherland’s Altar, for signature. Unworking Paris, male and female, is crowding thither, all day, to sign or to see. Our fair Roland herself the eye of History can discern there, ‘in the morning;’ (Madame Roland, ii. 74.) not without interest. In few weeks the fair Patriot will quit Paris; yet perhaps only to return.
But, what with sorrow of baulked Patriotism, what with closed theatres, and Proclamations still publishing themselves by sound of trumpet, the fervour of men’s minds, this day, is great. Nay, over and above, there has fallen out an incident, of the nature of Farce-Tragedy and Riddle; enough to stimulate all creatures. Early in the day, a Patriot (or some say, it was a Patriotess, and indeed Truth is undiscoverable), while standing on the firm deal-board of Fatherland’s Altar, feels suddenly, with indescribable torpedo-shock of amazement, his bootsole pricked through from below; he clutches up suddenly this electrified bootsole and foot; discerns next instant–the point of a gimlet or brad-awl playing up, through the firm deal-board, and now hastily drawing itself back! Mystery, perhaps Treason? The wooden frame-work is impetuously broken up; and behold, verily a mystery; never explicable fully to the end of the world! Two human individuals, of mean aspect, one of them with a wooden leg, lie ensconced there, gimlet in hand: they must have come in overnight; they have a supply of provisions,–no ‘barrel of gunpowder’ that one can see; they affect to be asleep; look blank enough, and give the lamest account of themselves. “Mere curiosity; they were boring up to get an eye-hole; to see, perhaps ‘with lubricity,’ whatsoever, from that new point of vision, could be seen:”–little that was edifying, one would think! But indeed what stupidest thing may not human Dulness, Pruriency, Lubricity, Chance and the Devil, choosing Two out of Half-a-million idle human heads, tempt them to? (Hist. Parl. xi. 104-7.)
Sure enough, the two human individuals with their gimlet are there. Ill- starred pair of individuals! For the result of it all is that Patriotism, fretting itself, in this state of nervous excitability, with hypotheses, suspicions and reports, keeps questioning these two distracted human individuals, and again questioning them; claps them into the nearest Guardhouse, clutches them out again; one hypothetic group snatching them from another: till finally, in such extreme state of nervous excitability, Patriotism hangs them as spies of Sieur Motier; and the life and secret is choked out of them forevermore. Forevermore, alas! Or is a day to be looked for when these two evidently mean individuals, who are human nevertheless, will become Historical Riddles; and, like him of the Iron Mask (also a human individual, and evidently nothing more),–have their Dissertations? To us this only is certain, that they had a gimlet, provisions and a wooden leg; and have died there on the Lanterne, as the unluckiest fools might die.
And so the signature goes on, in a still more excited manner. And Chaumette, for Antiquarians possess the very Paper to this hour, (Ibid. xi. 113, &c.)–has signed himself ‘in a flowing saucy hand slightly leaned;’ and Hebert, detestable Pere Duchene, as if ‘an inked spider had dropped on the paper;’ Usher Maillard also has signed, and many Crosses, which cannot write. And Paris, through its thousand avenues, is welling to the Champ- de-Mars and from it, in the utmost excitability of humour; central Fatherland’s Altar quite heaped with signing Patriots and Patriotesses; the Thirty-benches and whole internal Space crowded with onlookers, with comers and goers; one regurgitating whirlpool of men and women in their Sunday clothes. All which a Constitutional Sieur Motier sees; and Bailly, looking into it with his long visage made still longer. Auguring no good; perhaps Decheance and Deposition after all! Stop it, ye Constitutional Patriots; fire itself is quenchable, yet only quenchable at first!
Stop it, truly: but how stop it? Have not the first Free People of the Universe a right to petition?–Happily, if also unhappily, here is one proof of riot: these two human individuals, hanged at the Lanterne. Proof, O treacherous Sieur Motier? Were they not two human individuals sent thither by thee to be hanged; to be a pretext for thy bloody Drapeau Rouge? This question shall many a Patriot, one day, ask; and answer affirmatively, strong in Preternatural Suspicion.
Enough, towards half past seven in the evening, the mere natural eye can behold this thing: Sieur Motier, with Municipals in scarf, with blue National Patrollotism, rank after rank, to the clang of drums; wending resolutely to the Champ-de-Mars; Mayor Bailly, with elongated visage, bearing, as in sad duty bound, the Drapeau Rouge! Howl of angry derision rises in treble and bass from a hundred thousand throats, at the sight of Martial Law; which nevertheless waving its Red sanguinary Flag, advances there, from the Gros-Caillou Entrance; advances, drumming and waving, towards Altar of Fatherland. Amid still wilder howls, with objurgation, obtestation; with flights of pebbles and mud, saxa et faeces; with crackle of a pistol-shot;–finally with volley-fire of Patrollotism; levelled muskets; roll of volley on volley! Precisely after one year and three days, our sublime Federation Field is wetted, in this manner, with French blood.
Some ‘Twelve unfortunately shot,’ reports Bailly, counting by units; but Patriotism counts by tens and even by hundreds. Not to be forgotten, nor forgiven! Patriotism flies, shrieking, execrating. Camille ceases Journalising, this day; great Danton with Camille and Freron have taken wing, for their life; Marat burrows deep in the Earth, and is silent. Once more Patrollotism has triumphed: one other time; but it is the last.
This was the Royal Flight to Varennes. Thus was the Throne overturned thereby; but thus also was it victoriously set up again–on its vertex; and will stand while it can be held.
In the last nights of September, when the autumnal equinox is past, and grey September fades into brown October, why are the Champs Elysees illuminated; why is Paris dancing, and flinging fire-works? They are gala- nights, these last of September; Paris may well dance, and the Universe: the Edifice of the Constitution is completed! Completed; nay revised, to see that there was nothing insufficient in it; solemnly proferred to his Majesty; solemnly accepted by him, to the sound of cannon-salvoes, on the fourteenth of the month. And now by such illumination, jubilee, dancing and fire-working, do we joyously handsel the new Social Edifice, and first raise heat and reek there, in the name of Hope.
The Revision, especially with a throne standing on its vertex, has been a work of difficulty, of delicacy. In the way of propping and buttressing, so indispensable now, something could be done; and yet, as is feared, not enough. A repentant Barnave Triumvirate, our Rabauts, Duports, Thourets, and indeed all Constitutional Deputies did strain every nerve: but the Extreme Left was so noisy; the People were so suspicious, clamorous to have the work ended: and then the loyal Right Side sat feeble petulant all the while, and as it were, pouting and petting; unable to help, had they even been willing; the two Hundred and Ninety had solemnly made scission, before that: and departed, shaking the dust off their feet. To such transcendency of fret, and desperate hope that worsening of the bad might the sooner end it and bring back the good, had our unfortunate loyal Right Side now come! (Toulongeon, ii. 56, 59.)
However, one finds that this and the other little prop has been added, where possibility allowed. Civil-list and Privy-purse were from of old well cared for. King’s Constitutional Guard, Eighteen hundred loyal men from the Eighty-three Departments, under a loyal Duke de Brissac; this, with trustworthy Swiss besides, is of itself something. The old loyal Bodyguards are indeed dissolved, in name as well as in fact; and gone mostly towards Coblentz. But now also those Sansculottic violent Gardes Francaises, or Centre Grenadiers, shall have their mittimus: they do ere long, in the Journals, not without a hoarse pathos, publish their Farewell; ‘wishing all Aristocrats the graves in Paris which to us are denied.’ (Hist. Parl. xiii. 73.) They depart, these first Soldiers of the Revolution; they hover very dimly in the distance for about another year; till they can be remodelled, new-named, and sent to fight the Austrians; and then History beholds them no more. A most notable Corps of men; which has its place in World-History;–though to us, so is History written, they remain mere rubrics of men; nameless; a shaggy Grenadier Mass, crossed with buff-belts. And yet might we not ask: What Argonauts, what Leonidas’ Spartans had done such a work? Think of their destiny: since that May morning, some three years ago, when they, unparticipating, trundled off d’Espremenil to the Calypso Isles; since that July evening, some two years ago, when they, participating and sacreing with knit brows, poured a volley into Besenval’s Prince de Lambesc! History waves them her mute adieu.
So that the Sovereign Power, these Sansculottic Watchdogs, more like wolves, being leashed and led away from his Tuileries, breathes freer. The Sovereign Power is guarded henceforth by a loyal Eighteen hundred,–whom Contrivance, under various pretexts, may gradually swell to Six thousand; who will hinder no Journey to Saint-Cloud. The sad Varennes business has been soldered up; cemented, even in the blood of the Champ-de-Mars, these two months and more; and indeed ever since, as formerly, Majesty has had its privileges, its ‘choice of residence,’ though, for good reasons, the royal mind ‘prefers continuing in Paris.’ Poor royal mind, poor Paris; that have to go mumming; enveloped in speciosities, in falsehood which knows itself false; and to enact mutually your sorrowful farce-tragedy, being bound to it; and on the whole, to hope always, in spite of hope!
Nay, now that his Majesty has accepted the Constitution, to the sound of cannon-salvoes, who would not hope? Our good King was misguided but he meant well. Lafayette has moved for an Amnesty, for universal forgiving and forgetting of Revolutionary faults; and now surely the glorious Revolution cleared of its rubbish, is complete! Strange enough, and touching in several ways, the old cry of Vive le Roi once more rises round King Louis the Hereditary Representative. Their Majesties went to the Opera; gave money to the Poor: the Queen herself, now when the Constitution is accepted, hears voice of cheering. Bygone shall be bygone; the New Era shall begin! To and fro, amid those lamp-galaxies of the Elysian Fields, the Royal Carriage slowly wends and rolls; every where with vivats, from a multitude striving to be glad. Louis looks out, mainly on the variegated lamps and gay human groups, with satisfaction enough for the hour. In her Majesty’s face, ‘under that kind graceful smile a deep sadness is legible.’ (De Stael, Considerations, i. c. 23.) Brilliancies, of valour and of wit, stroll here observant: a Dame de Stael, leaning most probably on the arm of her Narbonne. She meets Deputies; who have built this Constitution; who saunter here with vague communings,–not without thoughts whether it will stand. But as yet melodious fiddlestrings twang and warble every where, with the rhythm of light fantastic feet; long lamp- galaxies fling their coloured radiance; and brass-lunged Hawkers elbow and bawl, “Grande Acceptation, Constitution Monarchique:” it behoves the Son of Adam to hope. Have not Lafayette, Barnave, and all Constitutionalists set their shoulders handsomely to the inverted pyramid of a throne? Feuillans, including almost the whole Constitutional Respectability of France, perorate nightly from their tribune; correspond through all Post- offices; denouncing unquiet Jacobinism; trusting well that its time is nigh done. Much is uncertain, questionable: but if the Hereditary Representative be wise and lucky, may one not, with a sanguine Gaelic temper, hope that he will get in motion better or worse; that what is wanting to him will gradually be gained and added?
For the rest, as we must repeat, in this building of the Constitutional Fabric, especially in this Revision of it, nothing that one could think of to give it new strength, especially to steady it, to give it permanence, and even eternity, has been forgotten. Biennial Parliament, to be called Legislative, Assemblee Legislative; with Seven Hundred and Forty-five Members, chosen in a judicious manner by the ‘active citizens’ alone, and even by electing of electors still more active: this, with privileges of Parliament shall meet, self-authorized if need be, and self-dissolved; shall grant money-supplies and talk; watch over the administration and authorities; discharge for ever the functions of a Constitutional Great Council, Collective Wisdom, and National Palaver,–as the Heavens will enable. Our First biennial Parliament, which indeed has been a-choosing since early in August, is now as good as chosen. Nay it has mostly got to Paris: it arrived gradually;–not without pathetic greeting to its venerable Parent, the now moribund Constituent; and sat there in the Galleries, reverently listening; ready to begin, the instant the ground were clear.
Then as to changes in the Constitution itself? This, impossible for any Legislative, or common biennial Parliament, and possible solely for some resuscitated Constituent or National Convention,–is evidently one of the most ticklish points. The august moribund Assembly debated it for four entire days. Some thought a change, or at least reviewal and new approval, might be admissible in thirty years; some even went lower, down to twenty, nay to fifteen. The august Assembly had once decided for thirty years; but it revoked that, on better thoughts; and did not fix any date of time, but merely some vague outline of a posture of circumstances, and on the whole left the matter hanging. (Choix de Rapports, &c. (Paris, 1825), vi. 239- 317.) Doubtless a National Convention can be assembled even within the thirty years: yet one may hope, not; but that Legislatives, biennial Parliaments of the common kind, with their limited faculty, and perhaps quiet successive additions thereto, may suffice, for generations, or indeed while computed Time runs.
Furthermore, be it noted that no member of this Constituent has been, or could be, elected to the new Legislative. So noble-minded were these Law- makers! cry some: and Solon-like would banish themselves. So splenetic! cry more: each grudging the other, none daring to be outdone in self- denial by the other. So unwise in either case! answer all practical men. But consider this other self-denying ordinance, That none of us can be King’s Minister, or accept the smallest Court Appointment, for the space of four, or at lowest (and on long debate and Revision), for the space of two years! So moves the incorruptible seagreen Robespierre; with cheap magnanimity he; and none dare be outdone by him. It was such a law, not so superfluous then, that sent Mirabeau to the Gardens of Saint-Cloud, under cloak of darkness, to that colloquy of the gods; and thwarted many things. Happily and unhappily there is no Mirabeau now to thwart.
Welcomer meanwhile, welcome surely to all right hearts, is Lafayette’s chivalrous Amnesty. Welcome too is that hard-wrung Union of Avignon; which has cost us, first and last, ‘thirty sessions of debate,’ and so much else: may it at length prove lucky! Rousseau’s statue is decreed: virtuous Jean-Jacques, Evangelist of the Contrat Social. Not Drouet of Varennes; nor worthy Lataille, master of the old world-famous Tennis Court in Versailles, is forgotten; but each has his honourable mention, and due reward in money. (Moniteur (in Hist. Parl. xi. 473.) Whereupon, things being all so neatly winded up, and the Deputations, and Messages, and royal and other Ceremonials having rustled by; and the King having now affectionately perorated about peace and tranquilisation, and members having answered “Oui! oui!” with effusion, even with tears,–President Thouret, he of the Law Reforms, rises, and, with a strong voice, utters these memorable last-words: “The National Constituent Assembly declares that it has finished its mission; and that its sittings are all ended.” Incorruptible Robespierre, virtuous Petion are borne home on the shoulders of the people; with vivats heaven-high. The rest glide quietly to their respective places of abode. It is the last afternoon of September, 1791; on the morrow morning the new Legislative will begin.
So, amid glitter of illuminated streets and Champs Elysees, and crackle of fireworks and glad deray, has the first National Assembly vanished; dissolving, as they well say, into blank Time; and is no more. National Assembly is gone, its work remaining; as all Bodies of men go, and as man himself goes: it had its beginning, and must likewise have its end. A Phantasm-Reality born of Time, as the rest of us are; flitting ever backwards now on the tide of Time: to be long remembered of men. Very strange Assemblages, Sanhedrims, Amphictyonics, Trades Unions, Ecumenic Councils, Parliaments and Congresses, have met together on this Planet, and dispersed again; but a stranger Assemblage than this august Constituent, or with a stranger mission, perhaps never met there. Seen from the distance, this also will be a miracle. Twelve Hundred human individuals, with the Gospel of Jean-Jacques Rousseau in their pocket, congregating in the name of Twenty-five Millions, with full assurance of faith, to ‘make the Constitution:’ such sight, the acme and main product of the Eighteenth Century, our World can witness once only. For Time is rich in wonders, in monstrosities most rich; and is observed never to repeat himself, or any of his Gospels:–surely least of all, this Gospel according to Jean-Jacques. Once it was right and indispensable, since such had become the Belief of men; but once also is enough.
They have made the Constitution, these Twelve Hundred Jean-Jacques Evangelists; not without result. Near twenty-nine months they sat, with various fortune; in various capacity;–always, we may say, in that capacity of carborne Caroccio, and miraculous Standard of the Revolt of Men, as a Thing high and lifted up; whereon whosoever looked might hope healing. They have seen much: cannons levelled on them; then suddenly, by interposition of the Powers, the cannons drawn back; and a war-god Broglie vanishing, in thunder not his own, amid the dust and downrushing of a Bastille and Old Feudal France. They have suffered somewhat: Royal Session, with rain and Oath of the Tennis-Court; Nights of Pentecost; Insurrections of Women. Also have they not done somewhat? Made the Constitution, and managed all things the while; passed, in these twenty- nine months, ‘twenty-five hundred Decrees,’ which on the average is some three for each day, including Sundays! Brevity, one finds, is possible, at times: had not Moreau de St. Mery to give three thousand orders before rising from his seat?–There was valour (or value) in these men; and a kind of faith,–were it only faith in this, That cobwebs are not cloth; that a Constitution could be made. Cobwebs and chimeras ought verily to disappear; for a Reality there is. Let formulas, soul-killing, and now grown body-killing, insupportable, begone, in the name of Heaven and Earth!–Time, as we say, brought forth these Twelve Hundred; Eternity was before them, Eternity behind: they worked, as we all do, in the confluence of Two Eternities; what work was given them. Say not that it was nothing they did. Consciously they did somewhat; unconsciously how much! They had their giants and their dwarfs, they accomplished their good and their evil; they are gone, and return no more. Shall they not go with our blessing, in these circumstances; with our mild farewell?
By post, by diligence, on saddle or sole; they are gone: towards the four winds! Not a few over the marches, to rank at Coblentz. Thither wended Maury, among others; but in the end towards Rome,–to be clothed there in red Cardinal plush; in falsehood as in a garment; pet son (her last-born?) of the Scarlet Woman. Talleyrand-Perigord, excommunicated Constitutional Bishop, will make his way to London; to be Ambassador, spite of the Self- denying Law; brisk young Marquis Chauvelin acting as Ambassador’s-Cloak. In London too, one finds Petion the virtuous; harangued and haranguing, pledging the wine-cup with Constitutional Reform Clubs, in solemn tavern- dinner. Incorruptible Robespierre retires for a little to native Arras: seven short weeks of quiet; the last appointed him in this world. Public Accuser in the Paris Department, acknowledged highpriest of the Jacobins; the glass of incorruptible thin Patriotism, for his narrow emphasis is loved of all the narrow,–this man seems to be rising, somewhither? He sells his small heritage at Arras; accompanied by a Brother and a Sister, he returns, scheming out with resolute timidity a small sure destiny for himself and them, to his old lodging, at the Cabinet-maker’s, in the Rue St. Honore:–O resolute-tremulous incorruptible seagreen man, towards what a destiny!
Lafayette, for his part, will lay down the command. He retires Cincinnatus-like to his hearth and farm; but soon leaves them again. Our National Guard, however, shall henceforth have no one Commandant; but all Colonels shall command in succession, month about. Other Deputies we have met, or Dame de Stael has met, ‘sauntering in a thoughtful manner;’ perhaps uncertain what to do. Some, as Barnave, the Lameths, and their Duport, will continue here in Paris: watching the new biennial Legislative, Parliament the First; teaching it to walk, if so might be; and the Court to lead it.
Thus these: sauntering in a thoughtful manner; travelling by post or diligence,–whither Fate beckons. Giant Mirabeau slumbers in the Pantheon of Great Men: and France? and Europe?–The brass-lunged Hawkers sing “Grand Acceptation, Monarchic Constitution” through these gay crowds: the Morrow, grandson of Yesterday, must be what it can, as To-day its father is. Our new biennial Legislative begins to constitute itself on the first of October, 1791.
The Book of the Law.
If the august Constituent Assembly itself, fixing the regards of the Universe, could, at the present distance of time and place, gain comparatively small attention from us, how much less can this poor Legislative! It has its Right Side and its Left; the less Patriotic and the more, for Aristocrats exist not here or now: it spouts and speaks: listens to Reports, reads Bills and Laws; works in its vocation, for a season: but the history of France, one finds, is seldom or never there. Unhappy Legislative, what can History do with it; if not drop a tear over it, almost in silence? First of the two-year Parliaments of France, which, if Paper Constitution and oft-repeated National Oath could avail aught, were to follow in softly-strong indissoluble sequence while Time ran,–it had to vanish dolefully within one year; and there came no second like it. Alas! your biennial Parliaments in endless indissoluble sequence; they, and all that Constitutional Fabric, built with such explosive Federation Oaths, and its top-stone brought out with dancing and variegated radiance, went to pieces, like frail crockery, in the crash of things; and already, in eleven short months, were in that Limbo near the Moon, with the ghosts of other Chimeras. There, except for rare specific purposes, let them rest, in melancholy peace.
On the whole, how unknown is a man to himself; or a public Body of men to itself! Aesop’s fly sat on the chariot-wheel, exclaiming, What a dust I do raise! Great Governors, clad in purple with fasces and insignia, are governed by their valets, by the pouting of their women and children; or, in Constitutional countries, by the paragraphs of their Able Editors. Say not, I am this or that; I am doing this or that! For thou knowest it not, thou knowest only the name it as yet goes by. A purple Nebuchadnezzar rejoices to feel himself now verily Emperor of this great Babylon which he has builded; and is a nondescript biped-quadruped, on the eve of a seven- years course of grazing! These Seven Hundred and Forty-five elected individuals doubt not but they are the First biennial Parliament, come to govern France by parliamentary eloquence: and they are what? And they have come to do what? Things foolish and not wise!
It is much lamented by many that this First Biennial had no members of the old Constituent in it, with their experience of parties and parliamentary tactics; that such was their foolish Self-denying Law. Most surely, old members of the Constituent had been welcome to us here. But, on the other hand, what old or what new members of any Constituent under the Sun could have effectually profited? There are First biennial Parliaments so postured as to be, in a sense, beyond wisdom; where wisdom and folly differ only in degree, and wreckage and dissolution are the appointed issue for both.
Old-Constituents, your Barnaves, Lameths and the like, for whom a special Gallery has been set apart, where they may sit in honour and listen, are in the habit of sneering at these new Legislators; (Dumouriez, ii. 150, &c.) but let not us! The poor Seven Hundred and Forty-five, sent together by the active citizens of France, are what they could be; do what is fated them. That they are of Patriot temper we can well understand. Aristocrat Noblesse had fled over the marches, or sat brooding silent in their unburnt Chateaus; small prospect had they in Primary Electoral Assemblies. What with Flights to Varennes, what with Days of Poniards, with plot after plot, the People are left to themselves; the People must needs choose Defenders of the People, such as can be had. Choosing, as they also will ever do, ‘if not the ablest man, yet the man ablest to be chosen!’ Fervour of character, decided Patriot-Constitutional feeling; these are qualities: but free utterance, mastership in tongue-fence; this is the quality of qualities. Accordingly one finds, with little astonishment, in this First Biennial, that as many as Four hundred Members are of the Advocate or Attorney species. Men who can speak, if there be aught to speak: nay here are men also who can think, and even act. Candour will say of this ill- fated First French Parliament that it wanted not its modicum of talent, its modicum of honesty; that it, neither in the one respect nor in the other, sank below the average of Parliaments, but rose above the average. Let average Parliaments, whom the world does not guillotine, and cast forth to long infamy, be thankful not to themselves but to their stars!
France, as we say, has once more done what it could: fervid men have come together from wide separation; for strange issues. Fiery Max Isnard is come, from the utmost South-East; fiery Claude Fauchet, Te-Deum Fauchet Bishop of Calvados, from the utmost North-West. No Mirabeau now sits here, who had swallowed formulas: our only Mirabeau now is Danton, working as yet out of doors; whom some call ‘Mirabeau of the Sansculottes.’
Nevertheless we have our gifts,–especially of speech and logic. An eloquent Vergniaud we have; most mellifluous yet most impetuous of public speakers; from the region named Gironde, of the Garonne: a man unfortunately of indolent habits; who will sit playing with your children, when he ought to be scheming and perorating. Sharp bustling Guadet; considerate grave Censonne; kind-sparkling mirthful young Ducos; Valaze doomed to a sad end: all these likewise are of that Gironde, or Bourdeaux region: men of fervid Constitutional principles; of quick talent, irrefragable logic, clear respectability; who will have the Reign of Liberty establish itself, but only by respectable methods. Round whom others of like temper will gather; known by and by as Girondins, to the sorrowing wonder of the world. Of which sort note Condorcet, Marquis and Philosopher; who has worked at much, at Paris Municipal Constitution, Differential Calculus, Newspaper Chronique de Paris, Biography, Philosophy; and now sits here as two-years Senator: a notable Condorcet, with stoical Roman face, and fiery heart; ‘volcano hid under snow;’ styled likewise, in irreverent language, ‘mouton enrage,’ peaceablest of creatures bitten rabid! Or note, lastly, Jean-Pierre Brissot; whom Destiny, long working noisily with him, has hurled hither, say, to have done with him. A biennial Senator he too; nay, for the present, the king of such. Restless, scheming, scribbling Brissot; who took to himself the style de Warville, heralds know not in the least why;–unless it were that the father of him did, in an unexceptionable manner, perform Cookery and Vintnery in the Village of Ouarville? A man of the windmill species, that grinds always, turning towards all winds; not in the steadiest manner.
In all these men there is talent, faculty to work; and they will do it: working and shaping, not without effect, though alas not in marble, only in quicksand!–But the highest faculty of them all remains yet to be mentioned; or indeed has yet to unfold itself for mention: Captain Hippolyte Carnot, sent hither from the Pas de Calais; with his cold mathematical head, and silent stubbornness of will: iron Carnot, far- planning, imperturbable, unconquerable; who, in the hour of need, shall not be found wanting. His hair is yet black; and it shall grow grey, under many kinds of fortune, bright and troublous; and with iron aspect this man shall face them all.
Nor is Cote Droit, and band of King’s friends, wanting: Vaublanc, Dumas, Jaucourt the honoured Chevalier; who love Liberty, yet with Monarchy over it; and speak fearlessly according to that faith;–whom the thick-coming hurricanes will sweep away. With them, let a new military Theodore Lameth be named;–were it only for his two Brothers’ sake, who look down on him, approvingly there, from the Old-Constituents’ Gallery. Frothy professing Pastorets, honey-mouthed conciliatory Lamourettes, and speechless nameless individuals sit plentiful, as Moderates, in the middle. Still less is a Cote Gauche wanting: extreme Left; sitting on the topmost benches, as if aloft on its speculatory Height or Mountain, which will become a practical fulminatory Height, and make the name of Mountain famous-infamous to all times and lands.
Honour waits not on this Mountain; nor as yet even loud dishonour. Gifts it boasts not, nor graces, of speaking or of thinking; solely this one gift of assured faith, of audacity that will defy the Earth and the Heavens. Foremost here are the Cordelier Trio: hot Merlin from Thionville, hot Bazire, Attorneys both; Chabot, disfrocked Capuchin, skilful in agio. Lawyer Lacroix, who wore once as subaltern the single epaulette, has loud lungs and a hungry heart. There too is Couthon, little dreaming what he is;–whom a sad chance has paralysed in the lower extremities. For, it seems, he sat once a whole night, not warm in his true love’s bower (who indeed was by law another’s), but sunken to the middle in a cold peat-bog, being hunted out; quaking for his life, in the cold quaking morass; (Dumouriez, ii. 370.) and goes now on crutches to the end. Cambon likewise, in whom slumbers undeveloped such a finance-talent for printing of Assignats; Father of Paper-money; who, in the hour of menace, shall utter this stern sentence, ‘War to the Manorhouse, peace to the Hut, Guerre aux Chateaux, paix aux Chaumieres!’ (Choix de Rapports, xi. 25.) Lecointre, the intrepid Draper of Versailles, is welcome here; known since the Opera-Repast and Insurrection of Women. Thuriot too; Elector Thuriot, who stood in the embrasures of the Bastille, and saw Saint-Antoine rising in mass; who has many other things to see. Last and grimmest of all note old Ruhl, with his brown dusky face and long white hair; of Alsatian Lutheran breed; a man whom age and book-learning have not taught; who, haranguing the old men of Rheims, shall hold up the Sacred Ampulla (Heaven- sent, wherefrom Clovis and all Kings have been anointed) as a mere worthless oil-bottle, and dash it to sherds on the pavement there; who, alas, shall dash much to sherds, and finally his own wild head, by pistol- shot, and so end it.
Such lava welters redhot in the bowels of this Mountain; unknown to the world and to itself! A mere commonplace Mountain hitherto; distinguished from the Plain chiefly by its superior barrenness, its baldness of look: at the utmost it may, to the most observant, perceptibly smoke. For as yet all lies so solid, peaceable; and doubts not, as was said, that it will endure while Time runs. Do not all love Liberty and the Constitution? All heartily;–and yet with degrees. Some, as Chevalier Jaucourt and his Right Side, may love Liberty less than Royalty, were the trial made; others, as Brissot and his Left Side, may love it more than Royalty. Nay again of these latter some may love Liberty more than Law itself; others not more. Parties will unfold themselves; no mortal as yet knows how. Forces work within these men and without: dissidence grows opposition; ever widening; waxing into incompatibility and internecine feud: till the strong is abolished by a stronger; himself in his turn by a strongest! Who can help it? Jaucourt and his Monarchists, Feuillans, or Moderates; Brissot and his Brissotins, Jacobins, or Girondins; these, with the Cordelier Trio, and all men, must work what is appointed them, and in the way appointed them.
And to think what fate these poor Seven Hundred and Forty-five are assembled, most unwittingly, to meet! Let no heart be so hard as not to pity them. Their soul’s wish was to live and work as the First of the French Parliaments: and make the Constitution march. Did they not, at their very instalment, go through the most affecting Constitutional ceremony, almost with tears? The Twelve Eldest are sent solemnly to fetch the Constitution itself, the printed book of the Law. Archivist Camus, an Old-Constituent appointed Archivist, he and the Ancient Twelve, amid blare of military pomp and clangour, enter, bearing the divine Book: and President and all Legislative Senators, laying their hand on the same, successively take the Oath, with cheers and heart-effusion, universal three-times-three. (Moniteur, Seance du 4 Octobre 1791.) In this manner they begin their Session. Unhappy mortals! For, that same day, his Majesty having received their Deputation of welcome, as seemed, rather drily, the Deputation cannot but feel slighted, cannot but lament such slight: and thereupon our cheering swearing First Parliament sees itself, on the morrow, obliged to explode into fierce retaliatory sputter, of anti- royal Enactment as to how they, for their part, will receive Majesty; and how Majesty shall not be called Sire any more, except they please: and then, on the following day, to recal this Enactment of theirs, as too hasty, and a mere sputter though not unprovoked.
An effervescent well-intentioned set of Senators; too combustible, where continual sparks are flying! Their History is a series of sputters and quarrels; true desire to do their function, fatal impossibility to do it. Denunciations, reprimandings of King’s Ministers, of traitors supposed and real; hot rage and fulmination against fulminating Emigrants; terror of Austrian Kaiser, of ‘Austrian Committee’ in the Tuileries itself: rage and haunting terror, haste and dim desperate bewilderment!–Haste, we say; and yet the Constitution had provided against haste. No Bill can be passed till it have been printed, till it have been thrice read, with intervals of eight days;–‘unless the Assembly shall beforehand decree that there is urgency.’ Which, accordingly, the Assembly, scrupulous of the Constitution, never omits to do: Considering this, and also considering that, and then that other, the Assembly decrees always ‘qu’il y a urgence;’ and thereupon ‘the Assembly, having decreed that there is urgence,’ is free to decree–what indispensable distracted thing seems best to it. Two thousand and odd decrees, as men reckon, within Eleven months! (Montgaillard, iii. 1. 237.) The haste of the Constituent seemed great; but this is treble-quick. For the time itself is rushing treble-quick; and they have to keep pace with that. Unhappy Seven Hundred and Forty-five: true-patriotic, but so combustible; being fired, they must needs fling fire: Senate of touchwood and rockets, in a world of smoke-storm, with sparks wind-driven continually flying!
Or think, on the other hand, looking forward some months, of that scene they call Baiser de Lamourette! The dangers of the country are now grown imminent, immeasurable; National Assembly, hope of France, is divided against itself. In such extreme circumstances, honey-mouthed Abbe Lamourette, new Bishop of Lyons, rises, whose name, l’amourette, signifies the sweetheart, or Delilah doxy,–he rises, and, with pathetic honied eloquence, calls on all august Senators to forget mutual griefs and grudges, to swear a new oath, and unite as brothers. Whereupon they all,