Fleeming Jenkin account of the 1848 Revolution in Paris

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
Fleeming Jenkin account of the 1848 Revolution in Paris
by Fleeming Jenkin

Jenkin witnessed the outbreak of the Revolution of 1848, and heard the first shot. In a letter written to an old schoolfellow at the time, he gives a boyish account of the circumstances. The family were living in the Rue Caumartin, and on the evening of February 23 he and his father were taking a walk along the boulevards, which were illuminated for joy at the resignation of Guizot. They passed the residence of the Foreign Minister, which was guarded with troops, and encountered a band of rioters marching along the street with torches, and singing the Marseillaise. After them came a rabble, some armed with sticks and sabres. 'I remarked to papa' (he writes), 'I would not have missed the scene for anything. I might never see such a splendid one ; when PONG went one shot. Every face went pale: R--R--R--R--R went the whole detachment [of troops], and the whole crowd of gentlemen and ladies turned and cut. Such a scene!---ladies, gentlemen, and vagabonds went sprawling in the mud, not shot but tripped up, and those that went down could not rise—they were trampled over ... I ran a short time straight on and did not fall, then turned down a side street, ran fifty yards, and felt tolerably safe; looked for papa; did not see him; so walked on quickly, giving the news as I went.'

Next day, while with his father in the Place de la Concorde, which was filled with troops, the gates of the Tuileries Garden were flung open, and out galloped a troop of cuirassiers, in the midst of whom was an open carriage containing the king and queen, who had abdicated. Then came the sacking of the Tuileries, the people mounting a cannon on the roof, and firing blank cartridges to testify their joy. 'It was a sight to see a palace sacked' (wrote the boy), 'and armed vagabonds firing out of the windows, and throwing shirts, papers, and dresses of all kinds out.... They are not rogues, the French; they are not stealing, burning, or doing much harm.'

(Memoir of Fleeming Jenkin, by Robert Louis Stevenson.)