Page:History of the Guillotine.djvu/66

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51
ITS FIRST VICTIM.

"Paris.—They made yesterday the first trial of the little Louison, and cut off a head. One Pelletier—not him[1] of the Actes des Apôtres—was the subject of the melancholy experiment. I never in my life could bear to see a man hanged; but I own I feel a still greater aversion to this species of execution. The preparations make one shudder, and increase the moral suffering; as to the physical pain, I caused a person to attend, who repeats to me that it was the matter of the twinkle of an eye. The people seemed to wish that M. Sanson had his old gallows and were inclined to say, —

Rendez-moi ma potence de bois,
Rendez-moi ma potence.[2]

The date of articles in a paper published the 27 th would be the 26 th, and of course the 'yesterday' of this extract would be the 25th; and we have found passages to the same effect in one or two other journals; and yet it is not absolutely certain that Pelletier was the first living body that the guillotine struck; for though he was certainly the first who suffered at

  1. M. Peltier (whose name was frequently mis-spelled Pelletier) luckily escaped to England soon after the 10th of August, or his execution would assuredly have very soon gratified M. Duplain's evident wish that he had been the sufferer. Duplain himself was guillotined 9th July, 1794.
  2. A parody of the burden of a popular song —

    Rendez-moi mon écuelle de bois,
    Rendez-moi mon écuelle—

    which had lately been rendered still more popular by a witty parody of it by Peltier against the Jacobin journalist Gorsas, who had said that the very shifts of the King's aunts—which had been seized from them in a popular riot—belonged to the people—

    Rendez-moi les chemises de Gorsas,
    Rendez-moi les chemises.