The Works of Thomas Carlyle/Volume 3/The French Revolution, Volume 2/Book 3
How true, that there is nothing dead in this Universe; that what we call dead is only changed, its forces working in inverse order! 'The leaf that lies rotting in moist winds,' says one, 'has still force; else how could it rot?' Our whole Universe is but an infinite Complex of Forces; thousandfold, from Gravitation up to Thought and Will; man's Freedom environed with Necessity of Nature: in all which nothing at any moment slumbers, but all is for ever awake and busy. The thing that lies isolated inactive thou shalt nowhere discover; seek everywhere, from the granite mountain, slow-mouldering since Creation, to the passing cloud-vapour, to the living man; to the action, to the spoken word of man. The word that is spoken, as we know, flies irrevocable; not less, but more, the action that is done. 'The gods themselves,' sings Pindar, 'cannot annihilate the action that is done.' No: this, once done, is done always; cast forth into endless Time; and, long conspicuous or soon hidden, must verily work and grow for ever there, an indestructible new element in the Infinite of Things. Or, indeed, what is this Infinite of Things itself, which men name Universe, but an Action, a sum-total of Actions and Activities? The living ready-made sum-total of these three,—which Calculation cannot add, cannot bring on its tablets; yet the sum, we say, is written visible: All that has been done, All that is doing, All that will be done! Understand it well, the Thing thou beholdest, that Thing is an Action, the product and expression of exerted Force: the All of Things is an infinite conjugation of the verb To do. Shoreless Fountain-Ocean of Force, of power to do; wherein Force rolls and circles, billowing, many-streamed, harmonious; wide as Immensity, deep as Eternity; beautiful and terrible, not to be comprehended: this is what man names Existence and Universe; this thousand-tinted Flame-image, at once veil and revelation, reflex such as he, in his poor brain and heart, can paint, of One Unnameable, dwelling in inaccessible light! From beyond the Star-galaxies, from before the Beginning of Days, it billows and rolls,—round thee, nay thyself art of it, in this point of Space where thou now standest, in this moment which thy clock measures.
Or, apart from all Transcendentalism, is it not a plain truth of sense, which the duller mind can even consider as a truism, that human things wholly are in continual movement, and action and reaction; working continually forward, phasis after phasis, by unalterable laws, towards prescribed issues? How often must we say, and yet not rightly lay to heart: The seed that is sown, it will spring! Given the summer's blossoming, then there is also given the autumnal withering: so is it ordered not with seedfields only, but with transactions, arrangements, philosophies, societies, French Revolutions, whatsoever man works with in this lower world. The Beginning holds in it the End, and all that leads thereto; as the acorn does the oak and its fortunes. Solemn enough, did we think of it,—which unhappily, and also happily, we do not very much! Thou there canst begin; the Beginning is for thee, and there: but where, and of what sort, and for whom will the End be? All grows, and seeks and endures its destinies: consider likewise how much grows, as the trees do, whether we think of it or not. So that when your Epimenides, your somnolent Peter Klaus, since named Rip van Winkle, awakens again, he finds it a changed world. In that seven-years sleep of his, so much has changed! All that is without us will change while we think not of it; much even that is within us. The truth that was yesterday a restless Problem, has today grown a Belief burning to be uttered: on the morrow, contradiction has exasperated it into mad Fanaticism; obstruction has dulled it into sick Inertness; it is sinking towards silence, of satisfaction or of resignation. Today is not Yesterday, for man or for thing. Yesterday there was the oath of Love; today has come the curse of Hate. Not willingly: ah, no; but it could not help coming. The golden radiance of youth, would it willingly have tarnished itself into the dimness of old age?—Fearful: how we stand enveloped, deep-sunk, in that Mystery of Time; and are Sons of Time; fashioned and woven out of Time; and on us, and on all that we have, or see, or do, is written: Rest not, Continue not, Forward to thy doom!
But in seasons of Revolution, which indeed distinguish themselves from common seasons by their velocity mainly, your miraculous Seven-sleeper might, with miracle enough, awake sooner: not by the century, or seven years, need he sleep; often not by the seven months. Fancy, for example, some new Peter Klaus, sated with the jubilee of that Federation day, had lain down, say directly after the Blessing of Talleyrand; and, reckoning it all safe now, had fallen composedly asleep under the timber-work of the Fatherland's Altar; to sleep there, not twenty-one years, but as it were year and day. The cannonading of Nanci, so far off, does not disturb him; nor does the black mortcloth, close at hand, nor the requiems chanted, and minute-guns, incense-pans and concourse right over his head: none of these; but Peter sleeps through them all. Through one circling year, as we say; from July the 14th of 1790, till July the 17th of 1791: but on that latter day, no Klaus, nor most leaden Epimenides, only the Dead could continue sleeping: and so our miraculous Peter Haus awakens. With what eyes, O Peter! Earth and sky have still their joyous July look, and the Champ-de-Mars is multitudinous with men: but the jubilee-huzzahing has become Bedlam-shrieking, of terror and revenge; not blessing of Talleyrand, or any blessing, but cursing, imprecation and shrill wail; our cannon-salvoes are turned to sharp shot; for swinging of incense-pans and Eighty-three Departmental Banners, we have waving of the one sanguineous Drapeau Rouge.—Thou foolish Klaus! The one lay in the other, the one was the other minus Time; even as Hannibal's rock-rending vinegar lay in the sweet new wine. That sweet Federation was of last year; this sour Divulsion is the selfsame substance, only older by the appointed days.
No miraculous Klaus or Epimenides sleeps in these times; and yet, may not many a man, if of due opacity and levity, act the same miracle in a natural way; we mean, with his eyes open? Eyes has he, but he sees not, except what is under his nose. With a sparkling briskness of glance, as if he not only saw but saw through, such a one goes whisking, assiduous, in his circle of officialities; not dreaming but that it is the whole world: as indeed, where your vision terminates, does not inanity begin there, and the world's end clearly disclose itself—to you? Whereby our brisk-sparkling assiduous official person (call him, for instance, Lafayette), suddenly startled, after year and day, by huge grapeshot tumult, stares not less astonished at it than Peter Klaus would have done. Such natural-miracle can Lafayette perform; and indeed not he only but most other officials, non-officials, and generally the whole French People can perform it; and do bounce up, ever and anon, like amazed Seven-sleepers awakening; awakening amazed at the noise they themselves make. So strangely is Freedom, as we say, environed in Necessity; such a singular Somnambulism, of Conscious and Unconscious, of Voluntary and Involuntary, is this life of man. If anywhere in the world there was astonishment that the Federation Oath went into grapeshot, surely of all persons the French, first swearers and then shooters, felt astonished the most.
Alas, offences must come. The sublime Feast of Pikes with its effulgence of brotherly love, unknown since the Age of Gold, has changed nothing. That prurient heat in Twenty-five millions of hearts is not cooled thereby; but is still hot, nay hotter. Lift off the pressure of command from so many millions; all pressure or binding rule, except such melodramatic Federation Oath as they have bound themselves with! For Thou shalt was from of old the condition of man's being, and his weal and blessedness was in obeying that. Wo for him when, were it on the best of the clearest necessity, rebellion, disloyal isolation, and mere I will, becomes his rule! But the Gospel of Jean-Jacques has come, and the first Sacrament of it has been celebrated: all things, as we say, are got into hot and hotter prurience; and must go on pruriently fermenting, in continual change noted or unnoted.
'Worn out with disgusts,' Captain after Captain, in Royalist mustachioes, mounts his war-horse, or his Rozinante war-garron, and rides minatory across the Rhine; till all have ridden. Neither does civic Emigration cease; Seigneur after Seigneur must, in like manner, ride or roll; impelled to it, and even compelled. For the very Peasants despise him, in that he dare not join his order and fight. Can he bear to have a Distaff, a Quenouille sent to him: say in copper-plate shadow, by post; or fixed up in wooden reality over his gate-lintel: as if he were no Hercules, but an Omphale? Such scutcheon they forward to him diligently from beyond the Rhine; till he too bestir himself and march, and in sour humour another Lord of Land is gone, not taking the Land with him. Nay, what of Captains and emigrating Seigneurs? There is not an angry word on any of those Twenty-five million French tongues, and indeed not an angry thought in their hearts, but is some fraction of the great Battle. Add many successions of angry words together, you have the manual brawl; add brawls together, with the festering sorrows they leave, and they rise to riots and revolts. One reverend thing after another ceases to meet reverence: in visible material combustion, château after château mounts up; in spiritual invisible combustion, one authority after another. With noise and glare, or noiselessly and unnoted, a whole Old System of things is vanishing piecemeal: the morrow thou shalt look, and it is not.
Sleep who will, cradled in hope and short vision, like Lafayette, who, 'always in the danger done sees the last danger that will threaten him,'—Time is not sleeping, nor Time's seed-field.
That sacred Herald's-College of a new Dynasty; we mean the Sixty and odd Billstickers with their leaden badges, are not sleeping. Daily they, with pastepot and cross-staff, new-clothe the walls of Paris in colours of the rainbow: authoritative-heraldic, as we say, or indeed almost magical-thaumaturgic; for no Placard-Journal that they paste but will convince some soul or souls of men. The Hawkers bawl; and the Balladsingers: great Journalism blows and blusters, through all its throats, forth from Paris towards all corners of France, like an Æolus' Cave; keeping alive all manner of fires.
Throats or Journals there are, as men count, to the number of some Hundred and thirty-three. Of various calibre; from your Cheniers, Gorsases, Camilles, down to your Marat, down now to your incipient Hebert of the Père Duchesne; these blow, with fierce weight of argument or quick light banter, for the Rights of Man: Durosoys, Royous, Peltiers, Sulleaus, equally with mixed tactics (inclusive, singular to say, of much profane Parody), are blowing for Altar and Throne. As for Marat the People's-Friend, his voice is as that of the bullfrog, or bittern by the solitary pools; he, unseen of men, croaks harsh thunder, and that alone continually,—of indignation, suspicion, incurable sorrow. The People are sinking toward ruin, near starvation itself: 'My dear friends,' cries he, 'your indigence is not the fruit of vices nor of idleness; you have a right to life, as good as Louis xvi., or the happiest of the century. What man can say he has a right to dine, when you have no bread?' The People sinking on the one hand: on the other hand, nothing but wretched Sieur Motiers, treasonous Riquetti Mirabeaus: traitors, or else shadows and simulacra of Quacks to be seen in high places, look where you will! Men that go mincing, grimacing, with plausible speech and brushed raiment; hollow within: Quacks political; Quacks scientific, academical: all with a fellow-feeling for each other, and kind of Quack public-spirit! Not great Lavoisier himself, or any of the Forty, can escape this rough tongue; which wants not fanatic sincerity, nor, strangest of all, a certain rough caustic sense. And then the 'three thousand gaming-houses,' that are in Paris; cesspools for the scoundrelism of the world; sinks of iniquity and debauchery,—whereas without good morals Liberty is impossible! There, in these Dens of Satan, which one knows, and perseveringly denounces, do Sieur Motier's mouchards consort and colleague; battening vampyre-like on a People next-door to starvation. 'Ô Peuple!' cries he ofttimes, with heart-rending accent. Treason, delusion, vampyrism, scoundrelism, from Dan to Beersheba! The soul of Marat is sick with the sight: but what remedy? To erect 'Eight Hundred gibbets,' in convenient rows, and proceed to hoisting; 'Riquetti on the first of them!' Such is the brief recipe of Marat, Friend of the People.
So blow and bluster the Hundred and thirty-three: nor, as would seem, are these sufficient; for there are benighted nooks in France, to which Newspapers do not reach; and everywhere is 'such an appetite for news as was never seen in any country.' Let an expeditious Dampmartin, on furlough, set out to return home from Paris, he cannot get along for 'peasants stopping him on the highway; overwhelming him with questions': the Maître de Poste will not send out the horses till you have well-nigh quarrelled with him, but asks always, What news? At Autun, in spite of the dark night and 'rigorous frost,' for it is now January 1791, nothing will serve but you must gather your wayworn limbs and thoughts, and 'speak to the multitudes from a window opening into the market-place.' It is the shortest method: This, good Christian people, is verily what an august Assembly seemed to me to be doing; this and no other is the news:
Now my weary lips I close;
Leave me, leave me to repose!
The good Dampmartin!—But, on the whole, are not Nations astonishingly true to their National character; which indeed runs in the blood? Nineteen hundred years ago, Julius Cæsar, with his quick sure eye, took note how the Gauls waylaid men. 'It is a habit of theirs,' says he, 'to stop travellers, were it even by constraint, and inquire whatsoever each of them may have heard or known about any sort of matter: in their towns, the common people beset the passing trader; demanding to hear from what regions he came, what things he got acquainted with there. Excited by which rumours and hearsays, they will decide about the weightiest matters; and necessarily repent next moment that they did it, on such guidance of uncertain reports, and many a traveller answering with mere fictions to please them, and get off.' Nineteen hundred years; and good Dampmartin, wayworn, in winter frost, probably with scant light of stars and fish-oil, still perorates from the Inn-window! This People is no longer called Gaulish; and it has wholly become braccatus, has got breeches, and suffered change enough: certain fierce German Franken came storming over; and, so to speak, vaulted on the back of it; and always after, in their grim tenacious way, have ridden it bridled; for German is, by his very name, Guerre-man, or man that wars and gars. And so the People, as we say, is now called French or Frankish: nevertheless, does not the old Gaulish and Gaelic Celthood, with its vehemence, effervescent promptitude, and what good and ill it had, still vindicate itself little adulterated?—
For the rest, that in such prurient confusion, Clubbism thrives and spreads, need not be said. Already the Mother of Patriotism, sitting in the Jacobins, shines supreme over all; and has paled the poor lunar light of that Monarchic Club near to final extinction. She, we say, shines supreme, girt with sunlight, not yet with infernal lightning; reverenced, not without fear, by Municipal Authorities; counting her Barnaves, Lameths, Pétions, of a National Assembly; most gladly of all, her Robespierre. Cordeliers, again, your Hébert, Vincent, Bibliopolist Momoro, groan audibly that a tyrannous Mayor and Sieur Motier harrow them with the sharp tribula of Law, intent apparently to suppress them by tribulation. How the Jacobin Mother Society, as hinted formerly, sheds forth Cordeliers on this hand, and then Feuillans on that; the Cordeliers 'an elixir or double distillation of Jacobin Patriotism'; the other a wide-spread weak dilution thereof: how she will reabsorb the former into her mother bosom, and stormfully dissipate the latter into Nonentity: how she breeds and brings forth Three Hundred Daughter Societies; her rearing of them, her correspondence, her endeavourings and continual travail: how, under an old figure. Jacobinism shoots forth organic filaments to the utmost corners of confused dissolved France; organising it anew:—this properly is the grand fact of the Time.
To passionate Constitutionalism, still more to Royalism, which see all their own Clubs fail and die, Clubbism will naturally grow to seem the root of all evil. Nevertheless Clubbism is not death, but rather new organisation, and life out of death: destructive, indeed, of the remnants of the Old; but to the New important, indispensable. That man can coöperate and hold communion with man, herein lies his miraculous strength. In hut or hamlet, Patriotism mourns not now like voice in the desert: it can walk to the nearest Town; and there, in the Daughter Society, make its ejaculation into an articulate oration, into an action, guided forward by the Mother of Patriotism herself. All Clubs of Constitutionalists, and suchlike, fail, one after another, as shallow fountains: Jacobinism alone has gone down to the deep subterranean lake of waters; and may, unless filled in, flow there, copious, continual, like an Artesian well. Till the Great Deep have drained itself up; and all be flooded and submerged, and Noah's Deluge out-deluged!
On the other hand, Claude Fauchet, preparing mankind for a Golden Age now apparently just at hand, has opened his Cercle Social, with clerks, corresponding boards, and so forth; in the precincts of the Palais Royal. It is Te-Deum Fauchet; the same who preached on Franklin's Death, in that huge Medicean rotimda of the Halle-aux-bleds. He here, this winter, by Printing-press and melodious Colloquy, spreads bruit of himself to the utmost City-barriers. 'Ten thousand persons of respectability' attend there; and listen to this 'Procureur-Général de la Vérité, Attorney-General of Truth,' so has he dubbed himself; to his sage Condorcet, or other eloquent coadjutor. Eloquent Attorney-General! He blows out from him, better or worse, what crude or ripe thing he holds: not without result to himself; for it leads to a Bishopric, though only a Constitutional one. Fauchet approves himself a glib-tongued, strong-lunged, whole-hearted human individual: much flowing matter there is, and really of the better sort, about Right, Nature, Benevolence, Progress; which flowing matter, whether 'it is pan-theistic,' or is pot-theistic, only the greener mind, in these days, need examine. Busy Brissot was long ago of purpose to establish precisely some such regenerative Social Circle: nay he had tried it in 'Newman-street Oxford-street,' of the Fog Babylon; and failed,—as some say, surreptitiously pocketing the cash. Fauchet, not Brissot, was fated to be the happy man; whereat, however, generous Brissot will with sincere heart sing a timber-toned Nunc Domine. But 'ten thousand persons of respectability': what a bulk have many things in proportion to their magnitude! This Cercle Social, for which Brissot chants in sincere timber-tones such Nunc Domine, what is it? Unfortunately wind and shadow. The main reality one finds in it now, is perhaps this: that an 'Attorney-General of Truth' did once take shape of a body, as Son of Adam, on our Earth, though but for months or moments; and ten thousand persons of respectability attended, ere yet Chaos and Nox had reabsorbed him.
Hundred and thirty-three Paris Journals; regenerative Social Circle; oratory, in Mother and Daughter Societies, from the balconies of Inns, by chimney-nook, at dinner-table,—polemical, ending many times in duel! And ever, like a constant growling accompaniment of bass Discord: scarcity of work, scarcity of food. The winter is hard and cold; ragged Bakers'-queues, like a black tattered flag-of-distress, wave out ever and anon. It is the third of our Hunger-years, this new year of a glorious Revolution. The rich man when invited to dinner, in such distress-seasons, feels bound in politeness to carry his own bread in his pocket: how the poor dine? And your glorious Revolution has done it, cries one. And our glorious Revolution is subtilely, by black traitors worthy of the Lamp-iron, perverted to do it, cries another. Who will paint the huge whirlpool wherein France, all shivered into wild incoherence, whirls? The jarring that went on under every French roof, in every French heart; the diseased things that were spoken, done, the sum-total whereof is the French Revolution, tongue of man cannot tell. Nor the laws of action that work unseen in the depths of that huge blind Incoherence! With amazement, not with measurement, men look on the Immeasurable; not knowing its laws; seeing, with all different degrees of knowledge, what new phases, and results of event, its laws bring forth. France is as a monstrous Galvanic Mass, wherein all sorts of far stranger than chemical galvanic or electric forces and substances are at work; electrifying one another, positive and negative; filling with electricity your Leyden-jars,—Twenty-five millions in number! As the jars get full, there will, from time to time, be, on slight hint, an explosion.
SWORD IN HAND
On such wonderful basis, however, has Law, Royalty, Authority, and whatever yet exists of visible Order, to maintain itself, while it can. Here, as in that Commixture of the Four Elements did the Anarch Old, has an august Assembly spread its pavilion; curtained by the dark infinite of discords; founded on the wavering bottomless of the Abyss; and keeps continual hubbub. Time is around it, and Eternity, and the Inane; and it does what it can, what is given it to do.
Glancing reluctantly in, once more, we discern little that is edifying: a Constitutional Theory of Defective Verbs struggling forward, with perseverance, amid endless interruptions: Mirabeau, from his tribune, with the weight of his name and genius, awing-down much Jacobin violence; which in return vents itself the louder over in its Jacobins Hall, and even reads him sharp lectures there. This man's path is mysterious, questionable; difficult, and he walks without companion in it. Pure Patriotism does not now count him among her chosen; pure Royalism abhors him: yet his weight with the world is overwhelming. Let him travel on, companionless, unwavering, whither he is bound,—while it is yet day with him, and the night has not come.
But the chosen band of pure Patriot brothers is small; counting only some Thirty, seated now on the extreme tip of the Left, separate from the world. A virtuous Pétion; an incorruptible Robespierre, most consistent, incorruptible of thin acrid men; Triumvirs Barnave, Duport, Lameth, great in speech, thought, action, each according to his kind; a lean old : on these and what will follow them has pure Patriotism to depend.
There too, conspicuous among the Thirty, if seldom audible, Philippe d'Orléans may be seen sitting: in dim fuliginous bewilderment; having, one might say, arrived at Chaos! Gleams there are, at once of a Lieutenancy and Regency; debates in the Assembly itself, of succession to the Throne 'in case the present Branch should fail'; and Philippe, they say, walked anxiously, in silence, through the corridors, till such high argument were done: but it came all to nothing; Mirabeau, glaring into the man, and through him, had to ejaculate in strong untranslatable language: 'Ce j— f— ne vaut pas la peine qu'on se donne pour lui.' It came all to nothing; and in the meanwhile Philippe's money, they say, is gone! Could he refuse a little cash to the gifted Patriot, in want only of that; he himself in want of all but that? Not a pamphlet can be printed without cash; or indeed written without food purchasable by cash. Without cash your hopefulest Projector cannot stir from the spot; individual patriotic or other Projects require cash; how much more do wide-spread Intrigues, which live and exist by cash; lying wide-spread, with dragon-appetite for cash; fit to swallow Princedoms! And so Prince Philippe, amid his Sillerys, Lacloses and confused Sons of Night, has rolled along: the centre of the strangest cloudy coil; out of which has visibly come, as we often say, an Epic Preternatural Machinery of Suspicion; and within which there has dwelt and worked,—what specialities of treason, stratagem, aimed or aimless endeavour towards mischief, no party living (if it be not the presiding Genius of it. Prince of the Power of the Air) has now any chance to know. Camille's conjecture is the likeliest: that poor Philippe did mount up, a little way, in treasonable speculation, as he mounted formerly in one of the earliest Balloons; but, frightened at the new position he was getting into, had soon turned the cock again, and come down. More fool than he rose! To create Preternatural Suspicion, this was his function in the Revolutionary Epos. But now if he have lost his cornucopia of ready-money, what else had he to lose? In thick darkness, inward and outward, he must welter and flounder on, in that piteous death-element, the hapless man. Once, or even twice, we shall still behold him emerged; struggling out of the thick death-element: in vain. For one moment, it is the last moment, he starts aloft, or is flung aloft, even into clearness and a kind of memorability,—to sink then for evermore!
The Côté Droit persists no less; nay with more animation than ever, though hope has now well-nigh fled. Tough Abbé Maury, when the obscure country Royalist grasps his hand with transport of thanks, answers, rolling his indomitable brazen head: 'Hélas, Monsieur, all that I do here is as good as simply nothing.' Gallant Faussigny, visible this one time in History, advances frantic into the middle of the Hall, exclaiming: 'There is but one way of dealing with it, and that is to fall sword in hand on those gentry there, sabre à la main sur ces gaillards là,' franticly indicating our chosen Thirty on the extreme tip of the Left! Whereupon is clangour and clamour, debate, repentance,—evaporation. Things riper towards downright incompatibility, and what is called 'scission': that fierce theoretic onslaught of Faussigny's was in August 1790; next August will not have come, till a famed Two Hundred and Ninety-two, the chosen of Royalism, make solemn final 'scission' from an Assembly given up to faction; and depart, shaking the dust off their feet.
Connected with this matter of sword in hand, there is yet another thing to be noted. Of duels we have sometimes spoken: how, in all parts of France, innumerable duels were fought; and argumentative men and messmates, flinging down the wine-cup and weapons of reason and repartee, met in the measured field; to part bleeding; or perhaps not to part, but to fall mutually skewered through with iron, their wrath and life alike ending,—and die as fools die. Long has this lasted, and still lasts. But now it would seem as if in an august Assembly itself, traitorous Royalism, in its despair, had taken to a new course: that of cutting off Patriotism by systematic duel! Bully swordsmen, 'Spadassins' of that party, go swaggering; or indeed they can be had for a trifle of money. 'Twelve Spadassins' were seen, by the yellow eye of Journalism, 'arriving recently out of Switzerland'; also 'a considerable number of Assassins, nombre considérable d'assassins, exercising in fencing-schools and at pistol-targets.' Any Patriot Deputy of mark can be called out; let him escape one time, or ten times, a time there necessarily is when he must fall, and France mourn. How many cartels has Mirabeau had; especially while he was the People's champion! Cartels by the hundred: which he, since the Constitution must be made first, and his time is precious, answers now always with a kind of stereotype formula: 'Monsieur, you are put upon my List; but I warn you that it is long, and I grant no preferences.'
Then, in Autumn, had we not the Duel of Cazalès and Barnave; the two chief masters of tongue-shot meeting now to exchange pistol-shot? For Cazalès, chief of the Royalists, whom we call 'Blacks or Noirs,' said, in a moment of passion, 'the Patriots were sheer Brigands,' nay in so speaking, he darted, or seemed to dart, a fire-glance specially at Barnave; who thereupon could not but reply by fire-glances,—by adjournment to the Bois-de-Boulogne. Barnave's second shot took effect: on Cazalès' hat. The 'front nook' of a triangular Felt, such as mortals then wore, deadened the ball; and saved that fine brow from more than temporary injury. But how easily might the lot have fallen the other way, and Barnave's hat not been so good! Patriotism raises its loud denunciation of Duelling in general; petitions an august Assembly to stop such Feudal barbarism by law. Barbarism and solecism: for will it convince or convict any man to blow half an ounce of lead through the head of him? Surely not.—Barnave was received at the Jacobins with embraces, yet with rebukes.
Mindful of which, and also that his reputation in America was that of headlong foolhardiness rather, and want of brain not of heart, Charles Lameth does, on the eleventh day of November, with little emotion, decline attending some hot young Gentleman from Artois, come expressly to challenge him: nay indeed he first coldly engages to attend; then coldly permits two Friends to attend instead of him, and shame the young Gentleman out of it, which they successfully do. A cold procedure; satisfactory to the two Friends, to Lameth and the hot young Gentleman; whereby, one might have fancied, the whole matter was cooled down.
Not so, however: Lameth, proceeding to his senatorial duties, in the decline of the day, is met in those Assembly corridors by nothing but Royalist brocards; sniffs, huffs and open insults. Human patience has its limits: 'Monsieur,' said Lameth, breaking silence to one Lautrec, a man with hunchback, or natural deformity, but sharp of tongue, and a Black of the deepest tint, 'Monsieur, if you were a man to be fought with!'—'I am one,' cries the young Duke de Castries. Fast as fire-flash Lameth replies, 'Tout à l'heure, On the instant, then!' And so, as the shades of dusk thicken in that Bois-de-Boulogne, we behold two men with lion-look, with alert attitude, side foremost, right foot advanced; flourishing and thrusting, stoccado and passado, in tierce and quart; intent to skewer one another. See, with most skewering purpose, headlong Lameth, with his whole weight, makes a furious lunge; but deft Castries whisks aside: Lameth skewers only the air,—and slits deep and far, on Castries' sword's-point, his own extended left arm! Whereupon, with bleeding, pallor, surgeon's-lint and formalities, the Duel is considered satisfactorily done.
But will there be no end, then? Beloved Lameth lies deep-slit, not out of danger. Black traitorous Aristocrats kill the People's defenders, cut up not with arguments, but with rapier-slits. And the Twelve Spadassins out of Switzerland, and the considerable number of Assassins exercising at the pistol-target? So meditates and ejaculates hurt Patriotism, with ever-deepening, ever-widening fervour, for the space of six-and-thirty hours.
The thirty-six hours past, on Saturday the 13th, one beholds a new spectacle: The Rue de Varennes, and neighbouring Boulevard des Invalides, covered with a mixed flowing multitude: the Castries Hôtel gone distracted, devil-ridden, belching from every window, 'beds with clothes and curtains,' plate of silver and gold with filigree, mirrors, pictures, images, commodes, chiffoniers, and endless crockery and jingle: amid steady popular cheers, absolutely without theft: for there goes a cry, 'He shall be hanged that steals a nail.' It is a Plebiscitum, or informal iconoclastic Decree of the Common People, in the course of being executed!—The Municipality sit tremulous; deliberating whether they will hang out the Drapeau Rouge and Martial Law: National Assembly, part in loud wail, part in hardly suppressed applause; Abbé Maury unable to decide whether the iconoclastic Plebs amount to forty thousand or to two hundred thousand.
Deputations, swift messengers,—for it is at a distance over the River,—come and go. Lafayette and National Guards, though without Drapeau Rouge, get under way; apparently in no hot haste. Nay, arrived on the scene, Lafayette salutes with doffed hat, before ordering to fix bayonets. What avails it? The Plebeian 'Court of Cassation,' as Camille might punningly name it, has done its work; steps forth, with unbuttoned vest, with pockets turned inside out: sack, and just ravage, not plunder! With inexhaustible patience, the Hero of two Worlds remonstrates; persuasively, with a kind of sweet constraint, though also with fixed bayonets, dissipates, hushes down: on the morrow it is once more all as usual.
Considering which things, however, Duke Castries may justly 'write to the President,' justly transport himself across the Marches; to raise a corps, or do what else is in him. Royalism totally abandons that Bobadilian method of contest, and the twelve Spadassins return to Switzerland—or even to Dreamland through the Horn-gate, whichsoever their true home is. Nay Editor Prudhomme is authorised to publish a curious thing: 'We are authorised to publish,' says he, dull-blustering Publisher, 'that M. Boyer champion of good Patriots is at the head of Fifty Spadassinicides or Bully-killers. His address is: Passage du Bois-de-Boulogne, Faubourg St. Denis.' One of the strangest Institutes, this of Champion Boyer and the Bully-killers! Whose services, however, are not wanted; Royalism having abandoned the rapier method, as plainly impracticable.
TO FLY OR NOT TO FLY
The truth is, Royalism sees itself verging towards sad extremities; nearer and nearer daily. From over the Rhine it comes asserted that the King in his Tuileries is not free: this the poor King may contradict, with the official mouth, but in his heart feels often to be undeniable. Civil Constitution of the Clergy; Decree of ejectment against Dissidents from it: not even to this latter, though almost his conscience rebels, can he say Nay; but, after two months' hesitating, signs this also. It was 'on January 21st,' of this 1791, that he signed it; to the sorrow of his poor heart yet, on another Twenty-first of January! Whereby come Dissident ejected Priests; unconquerable Martyrs according to some, incurable chicaning Traitors according to others. And so there has arrived what we once foreshadowed: with Religion, or with the Cant and Echo of Religion, all France is rent asunder in a new rupture of continuity; complicating, embittering all the older;—to be cured only by stem surgery, in La Vendée!
Unhappy Royalty, unhappy Majesty, Hereditary Representative, Représentant Héréditaire, or howsoever they may name him; of whom much is expected, to whom little is given! Blue National Guards encircle that Tuileries; a Lafayette, thin constitutional Pedant; clear, thin, inflexible, as water turned to thin ice; whom no Queen's heart can love. National Assembly, its pavilion spread where we know, sits near by, keeping continual hubbub. From without, nothing but Nanci Revolts, sack of Castries Hôtels, riots and seditions; riots North and South, at Aix, at Douai, at, , Perpignan, at , and that incurable Avignon of the Pope's: a continual crackling and sputtering of riots from the whole face of France;—testifying how electric it grows. Add only the hard winter, the famished strikes of operatives; that continual nmning-bass of Scarcity, ground-tone and basis of all other Discords!
The plan of Royalty, so far as it can be said to have any fixed plan, is still, as ever, that of flying towards the frontiers. In very truths the only plan of the smallest promise for it! Fly to Bouillé; bristle yourself round with cannon, served by your 'forty-thousand undebauched Germans': summon the National Assembly to follow you, summon what of it is Royalist, Constitutional, gainable by money; dissolve the rest, by grapeshot if need be. Let Jacobinism and Revolt, with one wild wail, fly into Infinite Space; driven by grapeshot. Thunder over France with the cannon's mouth; commanding, not entreating, that this riot cease. And then to rule afterwards with utmost possible Constitutionality; doing justice, loving mercy; being Shepherd of this indigent People, not Shearer merely, and Shepherd's-similitude! All this, if ye dare. If ye dare not, then, in Heaven's name, go to sleep: other handsome alternative seems none.
Nay, it were perhaps possible; with a man to do it. For if such inexpressible whirpool of Babylonish confusions (which our Era is) cannot be stilled by man, but only by Time and men, a man may moderate its paroxysms, may balance and sway, and keep himself unswallowed on the top of it,—as several men and Kings in these days do. Much is possible for a man; men will obey a man that kens and cans, and name him reverently their Ken-ning or King. Did not Charlemagne rule? Consider, too, whether he had smooth times of it; hanging 'four-thousand Saxons over the Weser-Bridge,' at one dread swoop! So likewise, who knows but, in this same distracted fanatic France, the right man may verily exist? An olive-complexioned taciturn man; for the present, Lieutenant in the Artillery-service, who once sat studying Mathematics at Brienne? The same who walked in the morning to correct proof-sheets at Dole, and enjoyed a frugal breakfast with M. Joly? Such a one is gone, whither also famed General Paoli his friend is gone, in these very days, to see old scenes in native Corsica, and what Democratic good can be done there.
Royalty never executes the evasion plan, yet never abandons it; living in variable hope; undecisive, till fortune shall decide. In utmost secrecy, a brisk Correspondence goes on with Bouillé; there is also a plot, which emerges more than once, for carrying the King to Rouen: plot after plot emerging and submerging, like ignes fatui in foul weather, which lead nowhither. 'About ten o'clock at night,' the Hereditary Representative, in partie , with the Queen, with Brother Monsieur, and Madame, sits playing 'wisk, or whist. Usher Campan enters mysteriously, with a message he only half comprehends: How a certain Comte D'Inisdal waits anxious in the outer antechamber; National Colonel, Captain of the watch for this night, is gained over; post-horses ready all the way; party of Noblesse sitting armed, determined; will his Majesty, before midnight, consent to go? Profound silence; Campan waiting with upturned ear. 'Did your Majesty hear what Campan said?' asks the Queen. 'Yes, I heard,' answers Majesty, and plays on. ''Twas a pretty couplet, that of Campan's,' hints Monsieur, who at times showed a pleasant wit: Majesty, still unresponsive, plays wisk. 'After all, one must say something to Campan,' remarks the Queen. 'Tell M. D'Inisdal,' said the King, and the Queen puts an emphasis on it, 'That the King cannot consent to be forced away.'—'I see!' said D'Inisdal, whisking round, peaking himself into flame of irritancy: 'we have the risk; we are to have all the blame if it fail,'—and vanishes, he and his plot, as will-o'-wisps do. The Queen sat till far in the night, packing jewels: but it came to nothing; in that peaked flame of irritancy the will-o'-wisp had gone out.
Little hope there is in all this. Alas, with whom to fly? Our loyal Gardes-du-Corps, ever since the Insurrection of Women, are disbanded; gone to their homes; gone, many of them, across the Rhine towards Coblentz and Exiled Princes: brave Miomandre and brave Tardivet, these faithful Two, have received, in nocturnal interview with both Majesties, their viaticum of gold louis, of heartfelt thanks from a Queen's lips, though unluckily 'his Majesty stood, back to fire, not speaking'; and do now dine through the Provinces; recounting hairsbreadth escapes, insurrectionary horrors. Great horrors, to be swallowed yet of greater. But, on the whole, what a falling-off from the old splendour of Versailles! Here in this poor Tuileries a National Brewer-Colonel, sonorous Santerre, parades officially behind her Majesty's chair. Our high dignitaries all fled over the Rhine: nothing now to be gained at Court; but hopes, for which life itself must be risked! Obscure busy men frequent the back stairs; with hearsays, wind-projects, unfruitful fanfaronades. Young Royalists, at the Théâtre de Vaudeville, 'sing couplets'; if that could do anything. Royalists enough, Captains on furlough, burnt-out Seigneurs, may likewise be met with, 'in the Café de Valois, and at Méot the Restaurateur's.' There they fan one another into high loyal glow; drink, in such wine as can be procured, confusion to Sansculottism; show purchased dirks, of an improved structure, made to order; and, greatly daring, dine. It is in these places, in these months, that the epithet first gets applied to indigent Patriotism; in the last age we had Gilbert Sansculotte, the indigent Poet. Destitute-of-Breeches: a mournful Destitution; which however, if Twenty millions share it, may become more effective than most Possessions!
Meanwhile, amid this vague dim whirl of fanfaronades, wind-projects, poniards made to order, there does disclose itself one punctum-saliens of life and feasibility: the finger of Mirabeau! Mirabeau and the Queen of France have met; have parted with mutual trust! It is strange; secret as the Mysteries; but it is indubitable. Mirabeau took horse, one evening; and rode westward, unattended,—to see Friend Clavière in that country-house of his? Before getting to Clavière's, the much-musing horseman struck aside to a back gate of the Garden of Saint-Cloud: some Duke D'Aremberg, or the like, was there to introduce him; the Queen was not far; on a 'round knoll, rond point, the highest of the Garden of Saint-Cloud,' he beheld the Queen's face; spake with her, alone, under the void canopy of Night. What an interview; fateful, secret for us, after all searching; like the colloquies of the gods! She called him 'a Mirabeau': elsewhere we read that she 'was charmed with him,' the wild submitted Titan; as indeed it is among the honourable tokens of this high ill-fated heart that no mind of any endowment, no Mirabeau, nay no Barnave, no Dumouriez, ever came face to face with her but, in spite of all prepossessions, she was forced to recognise it, to draw nigh to it, with trust. High imperial heart; with the instinctive attraction towards all that had any height! 'You know not the Queen,' said Mirabeau once in confidence; 'her force of mind is prodigious; she is a man for courage.'—And so, under the void Night, on the crown of that knoll, she has spoken with a Mirabeau: he has kissed loyally the queenly hand, and said with enthusiasm: 'Madame, the Monarchy is saved!'—Possible? The Foreign Powers, mysteriously sounded, gave favourable guarded response; Bouillé is at Metz, and could find forty-thousand sure Germans. With a Mirabeau for head, and a Bouillé for hand, something verily is possible,—if Fate intervene not.
But figure under what thousandfold wrappages, and cloaks of darkness. Royalty, meditating these things, must involve itself. There are men with 'Tickets of Entrance'; there are chivalrous consultings, mysterious plottings. Consider also whether, involve as it like, plotting Royalty can escape the glance of Patriotism; lynx-eyes, by the ten thousand, fixed on it, which see in the dark! Patriotism knows much: knows the dirks made to order, and can specify the shops; knows Sieur Motier's legions of mouchards; the Tickets of Entrée, and men in black; and how plan of evasion succeeds plan,—or may be supposed to succeed it. Then conceive the couplets chanted at the Théâtre de Vaudeville; or worse, the whispers, significant nods of traitors in mustachioes. Conceive, on the other hand, the loud cry of alarm that came through the Hundred-and-Thirty Journals; the Dionysius'-Ear of each of the Forty-Eight Sections, wakeful night and day.
Patriotism is patient of much; not patient of all. The Café de Procope has sent, visibly along the streets, a Deputation of Patriots, 'to expostulate with bad Editors,' by trustful word of mouth: singular to see and hear. The bad Editors promise to amend, but do not. Deputations for change of Ministry were many; Mayor Bailly joining even with Cordelier Danton in such; and they have prevailed. With what profit? Of Quacks, willing or constrained to be Quacks, the race is everlasting: Ministers Duportail and Dutertre will have to manage much as Ministers Latour-du-Pin and Cicé did. So welters the confused world.
But now, beaten on for ever by such inextricable contradictory influences and evidences, what is the indigent French Patriot, in these unhappy days, to believe, and walk by? Uncertainty all; except that he is wretched, indigent; that a glorious Revolution, the wonder of the Universe, has hitherto brought neither Bread nor Peace; being marred by traitors, difficult to discover. Traitors that dwell in the dark, invisible there;—or seen for moments, in pallid dubious twilight, stealthily vanishing thither! Preternatural Suspicion once more rules the minds of men.
'Nobody here,' writes Carra, of the Annales Patriotiques, so early as the first of February, 'can entertain a doubt of the constant obstinate project these people have on foot to get the King away; or of the perpetual succession of manœuvres they employ for that.' Nobody: the watchful Mother of Patriotism deputed two Members to her Daughter at Versailles, to examine how the matter looked there. Well, and there? Patriotic Carra continues: 'The Report of these two deputies we all heard with our own ears last Saturday. They went with others of Versailles, to inspect the King's Stables, also the stables of the whilom Gardes-du-Corps: they found there from seven to eight hundred horses standing always saddled and bridled, ready for the road at a moment's notice. The same deputies, moreover, saw with their own two eyes several Royal Carriages, which men were even then busy loading with large well-stuffed luggage-bags,' leather cows, as we call them, vaches de cuir; 'the Royal Arms on the panels almost entirely effaced.' Momentous enough! Also 'on the same day the Maréchaussée, or Cavalry Police, did assemble with arms, horses and baggage,'—and disperse again. They want the King over the marches, that so Emperor Leopold and the German Princes, whose troops are ready, may have a pretext for beginning: 'this,' adds Carra, 'is the word of the riddle: this is the reason why our fugitive Aristocrats are now making levies of men on the frontiers; expecting that, one of these mornings, the Executive Chief Magistrate will be brought over to them, and the civil war commence.'
If indeed the Executive Chief Magistrate, bagged, say in one of these leather cows, were once brought safe over to them! But the strangest thing of all is, that Patriotism, whether barking at a venture, or guided by some instinct of preternatural sagacity, is actually barking aright this time; at something, not at nothing. Bouillé Secret Correspondence, since made public, testifies as much.
Nay, it is undeniable, visible to all, that Mesdames the King's Aunts are taking steps for departure: asking passports of the Ministry, safe-conducts of the Municipality; which Marat warns all men to beware of. They will carry gold with them, 'these old Béguines'; nay they will carry the little Dauphin, 'having nursed a changeling, for some time, to leave in his stead'! Besides, they are as some light substance flung up, to show how the wind sits; a kind of proof-kite you fly off to ascertain whether the grand paper-kite. Evasion of the King, may mount!
In these alarming circumstances, Patriotism is not wanting to itself. Municipality deputes to the King; Sections depute to the Municipality; a National Assembly will soon stir. Meanwhile, behold, on the 19th of February 1791, Mesdames, quitting Bellevue and Versailles with all privacy, are off! Towards Rome, seemingly; or one knows not whither. They are not without King's passports, countersigned; and what is more to the purpose, a serviceable Escort. The Patriotic Mayor or Mayorlet of the Village of Moret tried to detain them: but brisk Louis de Narbonne, of the Escort, dashed off at hand-gallop; returned soon with thirty dragoons, and victoriously cut them out. And so the poor ancient women go their way: to the terror of France and Paris, whose nervous excitability is become extreme. Who else would hinder poor Loque and Graille, now grown so old, and fallen into such unexpected circumstances, when gossip itself turning only on terrors and horrors is no longer pleasant to the mind, and you cannot get so much as an orthodox confessor in peace,—from going what way soever the hope of any solacement might lead them?
They go, poor ancient dames,—whom the heart were hard that did not pity: they go; with palpitations, with unmelodious suppressed screechings; all France screeching and cackling, in loud unsuppressed terror, behind and on both hands of them: such mutual suspicion is among men. At Arnay le Duc, above halfway to the frontiers, a Patriotic Municipality and Populace again takes courage to stop them: Louis Narbonne must now back to Paris, must consult the National Assembly. National Assembly answers, not without an effort, that Mesdames may go. Whereupon Paris rises worse than ever, screeching half-distracted. Tuileries and precincts are filled with women and men, while the National Assembly debates this question of questions; Lafayette is needed at night for dispersing them, and the streets are to be illuminated. Commandant Berthier, a Berthier before whom are great things unknown, lies for the present under blockade at Bellevue in Versailles. By no tactics could he get Mesdames' Luggage stirred from the Courts there; frantic Versaillese women came screaming about him; his very troops cut the wagon-traces; he 'retired to the interior,' waiting better times.
Nay in these same hours, while Mesdames, hardly cut out from Moret by the sabre's edge, are driving rapidly, to foreign parts, and not yet stopped at Arnay, their august Nephew poor Monsieur, at Paris, has dived deep into his cellars of the Luxembourg for shelter; and, according to Montgaillard, can hardly be persuaded up again. Screeching multitudes environ that Luxembourg of his; drawn thither by report of his departure: but at sight and sound of Monsieur, they become crowing multitudes; and escort Madame and him to the Tuileries with vivats. It is a state of nervous excitability such as few nations know.
THE DAY OF PONIARDS
Or, again, what means this visible reparation of the Castle of Vincennes? Other Jails being all crowded with prisoners, new space is wanted here: that is the Municipal account. For in such changing of Judicatures, Parlements being abolished, and New Courts but just set up, prisoners have accumulated. Not to say that in these times of discord and club-law, offences and committals are, at any rate, more numerous. Which Municipal account, does it not sufficiently explain the phenomenon? Surely, to repair the Castle of Vincennes was of all enterprises that an enlightened Municipality could undertake the most innocent.
Not so, however, does neighbouring Saint-Antoine look on it: Saint-Antoine, to whom these peaked turrets and grim donjons, all-too near her own dark dwelling, are of themselves an offence. Was not Vincennes a kind of minor Bastille? Great Diderot and Philosophes have lain in durance here; great Mirabeau, in disastrous eclipse, for forty-two months. And now when the old Bastille has become a dancing-ground (had any one the mirth to dance), and its stones are getting built into the Pont Louis-Seize, does this minor, comparative insignificance of a Bastille flank itself with fresh-hewn mullions, spread out tyrannous wings; menacing Patriotism? New space for prisoners: and what prisoners? A D'Orléans, with the chief Patriots on the tip of the Left? It is said, there runs 'a subterranean passage' all the way from the Tuileries hither. Who knows? Paris, mined with quarries and catacombs, does hang wondrous over the abyss; Paris was once to be blown up,—though the powder, when we went to look, had got withdrawn. A Tuileries, sold to Austria and Coblentz, should have no subterranean passage. Out of which might not Coblentz or Austria issue, some morning; and, with cannon of long range, 'foudroyer,' bethunder a patriotic Saint-Antoine into smoulder and ruin!
So meditates the benighted soul of Saint-Antoine, as it sees the aproned workmen, in early spring, busy on these towers. An official-speaking Municipality, a Sieur Motier with his legions of mouchards, deserve no trust at all. Were Patriot Santerre, indeed, Commander! But the sonorous Brewer commands only our own Battalion: of such secrets he can explain nothing, knows nothing, perhaps suspects much. And so the work goes on; and afflicted benighted Saint-Antoine hears rattle of hammers, sees stones suspended in air.
Saint-Antoine prostrated the first great Bastille: will it falter over this comparative insignificance of a Bastille? Friends, what if we took pikes, firelocks, sledge-hammers; and helped ourselves!—Speedier is no remedy; nor so certain. On the 28th day of February, Saint-Antoine turns out, as it has now often done; and, apparently with little superfluous tumult, moves eastward to that eye-sorrow of Vincennes. With grave voice of authority, no need of bullying and shouting. Saint-Antoine signifies to parties concerned there, that its purpose is, To have this suspicious Stronghold razed level with the general soil of the country. Remonstrance may be proffered, with zeal; but it avails not. The outer gate goes up, drawbridges tumble; iron window-stanchions, smitten out with sledge-hammers, become iron-crowbars: it rains a rain of furniture, stone-masses, slates: with chaotic clatter and rattle, Demolition clatters down. And now hasty expresses rush through the agitated streets, to warn Lafayette, and the Municipal and Departmental Authorities; Rumour warns a National Assembly, a Royal Tuileries, and all men who care to hear it: That Saint-Antoine is up; that Vincennes, and probably the last remaining Institution of the Country, is coming down.
Quick, then! Let Lafayette roll his drums and fly eastward; for to all Constitutional Patriots this is again bad news. And you, ye Friends of Royalty, snatch your poniards of improved structure, made to order; your sword-canes, secret arms, and tickets of entry; quick, by backstairs passages, rally round the Son of Sixty Kings. An effervescence probably got up by D'Orléans and Company, for the overthrow of Throne and Altar: it is said her Majesty shall be put in prison, put out of the way; what then will his Majesty be? Clay for the Sansculottic Potter! Or were it impossible to fly this day; a brave Noblesse suddenly all rallying? Peril threatens, hope invites: Dukes de Villequier, de Duras, Gentlemen of the Chamber give Tickets and admittance; a brave Noblesse is suddenly all rallying. Now were the time to 'fall sword in hand on those gentry there,' could it be done with effect.
The Hero of two Worlds is on his white charger: blue Nationals, horse and foot, hurrying eastward; Santerre, with the Saint-Antoine Battalion, is already there,—apparently indisposed to act. Heavy-laden Hero of two Worlds, what tasks are these! The jeerings, provocative gambollings of that Patriot Suburb, which is all out on the streets now, are hard to endure; unwashed Patriots jeering in sulky sport; one unwashed Patriot 'seizing the General by the boot,' to unhorse him. Santerre, ordered to fire, makes answer obliquely, 'These are the men that took the Bastille'; and not a trigger stirs. Neither dare the Vincennes Magistracy give warrant of arrestment, or the smallest countenance: wherefore the General 'will take it on himself' to arrest. By promptitude, by cheerful adroitness, patience and brisk valour without limits, the riot may be again bloodlessly appeased.
Meanwhile the rest of Paris, with more or less unconcern, may mind the rest of its business: for what is this but an effervescence, of which there are now so many? The National Assembly, in one of its stormiest moods, is debating a Law against Emigration; Mirabeau declaring aloud, 'I swear beforehand that I will not obey it.' Mirabeau is often at the Tribune this day; with endless impediments from without; with the old unabated energy from within. What can murmurs and clamours, from Left or from Right, do to this man; like Teneriffe or Atlas unremoved? With clear thought; with strong bass voice, though at first low, uncertain, he claims audience, sways the storm of men: anon the sound of him waxes, softens; he rises into far-sounding melody of strength, triumphant, which subdues all hearts; his rude seamed face, desolate, fire-scathed, becomes fire-lit and radiates: once again men feel, in these beggarly ages, what is the potency and omnipotency of man's word on the souls of men. 'I will triumph, or be torn in fragments.' he was once heard to say. 'Silence,' he cries now, in strong word of command, in imperial consciousness of strength, 'Silence, the thirty voices, Silence aux trente voix!'—and Robespierre and the Thirty Voices die into mutterings; and the Law is once more as Mirabeau would have it.
How different, at the same instant, is General Lafayette's street-eloquence; wrangling with sonorous Brewers, with an ungrammatical Saint-Antoine! Most different, again, from both is the Café-de-Valois eloquence, and suppressed fanfaronade, of this multitude of men with Tickets of Entry; who are now inundating the Corridors of the Tuileries. Such things can go on simultaneously in one City. How much more in one Country; in one Planet with its discrepancies, every Day a mere crackling infinitude of discrepancies,—which nevertheless do yield some coherent net-product, though an infinitesimally small one!
But be this as it may, Lafayette has saved Vincennes; and is marching homewards with some dozen of arrested demolitionists. Royalty is not yet saved;—nor indeed specially endangered. But to the King's Constitutional Guard, to these old Gardes Françaises, or Centre Grenadiers, as it chanced to be, this affluence of men with Tickets of Entry is becoming more and more unintelligible. Is his Majesty verily for Metz, then; to be carried off by these men, on the spur of the instant? That revolt of Saint-Antoine got up by traitor Royalists for a stalking-horse? Keep a sharp outlook, ye Centre Grenadiers on duty here: good never came from the 'men in black. Nay they have cloaks, rédingotes; some of them leather-breeches, boots,—as if for instant riding! Or what is this that sticks visible from the lapelle of Chevalier de Court? Too like the handle of some cutting or stabbing instrument! He glides and goes; and still the dudgeon sticks from his left lapelle. 'Hold, Monsieur!'—a Centre Grenadier clutches him; clutches the protrusive dudgeon, whisks it out in the face of the world: by Heaven, a very dagger; hunting-knife or whatsoever you will call it; fit to drink the life of Patriotism!
So fared it with Chevalier de Court, early in the day; not without noise; not without commentaries. And now this continually increasing multitude at nightfall? Have they daggers too? Alas, with them too, after angry parleyings, there has begun a groping and a rummaging; all men in black, spite of their Tickets of Entry, are clutched by the collar, and groped. Scandalous to think of: for always, as the dirk, sword-cane, pistol, or were it but tailor's bodkin, is found on him, and with loud scorn drawn forth from him, he, the hapless man in black, is flung all-too rapidly down stairs. Flung; and ignominiously descends, head foremost; accelerated by ignominious shovings from sentry after sentry; nay, as it is written, by smitings, twitchings,—spurnings à posteriori, not to be named. In this accelerated way emerges, uncertain which end uppermost, man after man in black, through all issues, into the Tuileries Garden; emerges, alas, into the arms of an indignant multitude, now gathered and gathering there, in the hour of dusk, to see what is toward, and whether the Hereditary Representative is carried off or not. Hapless men in black; at last convicted of poniards made to order; convicted 'Chevaliers of the Poniard'! Within is as the burning ship; without is as the deep sea. Within is no help; his Majesty, looking forth, one moment, from his interior sanctuaries, coldly bids all visitors 'give up their weapons'; and shuts the door again. The weapons given up form a heap: the convicted Chevaliers of the Poniard keep descending pell-mell, with impetuous velocity; and at the bottom of all staircases the mixed multitude receives them, hustles, buffets, chases and disperses them.
Such sight meets Lafayette, in the dusk of the evening, as he returns, successful with difficulty at Vincennes: Sansculotte Scylla hardly weathered, here is Aristocrat Charybdis gurgling under his lee! The patient Hero of two Worlds almost loses temper. He accelerates, does not retard, the flying Chevaliers; delivers, indeed, this or the other hunted Loyalist of quality, but rates him in bitter words, such as the hour suggested; such as no saloon could pardon. Hero ill-bestead; hanging, so to speak, in mid-air; hateful to Rich divinities above; hateful to Indigent mortals below! Duke de Villequier, Gentleman of the Chamber, gets such contumelious rating, in presence of all people there, that he may see good first to exculpate himself in the Newspapers; then, that not prospering, to retire over the Frontiers, and begin plotting at Brussels. His Apartment will stand vacant; usefuller, as we may find, than when it stood occupied.
So fly the Chevaliers of the Poniard; hunted of Patriotic men, shamefully in the thickening dusk. A dim miserable business; born of darkness; dying away there in the thickening dusk and dimness. In the midst of which, however, let the reader discern clearly one figure running for its life: Crispin-Catiline d'Espréménil,—for the last time, or the last but one. It is not yet three years since these same Centre Grenadiers, Gardes Françaises then, marched him towards the Calypso Isles, in the grey of the May morning; and he and they have got thus far. Buffeted, beaten down, delivered by popular Pétion, he might well answer bitterly: 'And I too, Monsieur, have been carried on the People's shoulders.' A fact which popular Pétion, if he like, can meditate.
But happily, one way and another, the speedy night covers up this ignominious Day of Poniards; and the Chevaliers escape, though maltreated, with torn coat-skirts and heavy hearts, to their respective dwelling-houses. Riot twofold is quelled; and little blood shed, if it be not insignificant blood from the nose: Vincennes stands undemolished, reparable; and the Hereditary Representative has not been stolen, nor the Queen smuggled into Prison. A day long remembered: commented on with loud hahas and deep grumblings; with bitter scornfulness of triumph, bitter rancour of defeat. Royalism, as usual, imputes it to D'Orléans and the Anarchists intent on insulting Majesty: Patriotism, as usual, to Royalists, and even Constitutionalists, intent on stealing Majesty to Metz: we, also as usual, to Preternatural Suspicion, and Phœbus Apollo having made himself like the Night.
Thus, however, has the reader seen, in an unexpected arena, on this last day of February 1791, the Three long-contending elements of French Society dashed forth into singular comico-tragical collision; acting and reacting openly to the eye. Constitutionalism, at once quelling Sansculottic riot at Vincennes, and Royalist treachery in the Tuileries, is great, this day, and prevails. As for poor Royalism, tossed to and fro in that manner, its daggers all left in a heap, what can one think of it? Every dog, the Adage says, has its day: has it; has had it; or will have it. For the present, the day is Lafayette's and the Constitution's. Nevertheless Hunger and Jacobinism, fast growing fanatical, still work; their day, were they once fanatical, will come. Hitherto, in all tempests, Lafayette, like some divine Sea-ruler, raises his serene head: the upper Æolus blasts fly back to their caves, like foolish unbidden winds: the under sea-billows they had vexed into froth allay themselves. But if, as we often write, the submarine Titanic Fire-powers came into play, the Ocean-bed from beneath being burst? If they hurled Poseidon Lafayette and his Constitution out of Space; and, in the Titanic melly, sea were mixed with sky?
The spirit of France waxes ever more acrid, fever-sick towards the final outburst of dissolution and delirium. Suspicion rules all minds: contending parties cannot now commingle; stand separated sheer asunder, eyeing one another, in most aguish mood, of cold terror or hot rage. Counter-Revolution, Days of Poniards, Castries Duels; Flight of Mesdames, of Monsieur and Royalty! Journalism shrills ever louder its cry of alarm. The sleepless Dionysius-Ear of the Forty-eight Sections, how feverishly quick has it grown; convulsing with strange pangs the whole sick Body, as in such sleeplessness and sickness the ear will do!
Since Royalists get Poniards made to order, and a Sieur Motier is no better than he should be, shall not Patriotism too, even of the indigent sort, have Pikes, secondhand Firelocks, in readiness for the worst? The anvils ring, during this March month, with hammering of Pikes. A Constitutional Municipality promulgated its Placard, that no citizen except the 'active' or cash-citizen was entitled to have arms; but there rose, instantly responsive, such a tempest of astonishment from Club and Section, that the Constitutional Placard, almost next morning, had to cover itself up, and die away into inanity, in a second improved edition. So the hammering continues; as all that it betokens does.
Mark, again, how the extreme tip of the Left is mounting in favour, if not in its own National Hall, yet with the Nation, especially with Paris. For in such universal panic of doubt, the opinion that is sure of itself, as the meagrest opinion may the soonest be, is the one to which all men will rally. Great is Belief, were it never so meagre; and leads captive the doubting heart. Incorruptible Robespierre has been elected Public Accuser in our new Courts of Judicature; virtuous Pétion, it is thought, may rise to be Mayor. Cordelier Danton, called also by triumphant majorities, sits at the Departmental Council-table; colleague there of Mirabeau. Of incorruptible Robespierre it was long ago predicted that he might go far, mean meagre mortal though he was; for Doubt dwelt not in him.
Under which circumstances ought not Royalty likewise to cease doubting, and begin deciding and acting? Royalty has always that sure trump-card in its hand: Flight out of Paris. Which sure trump-card Royalty, as we see, keeps ever and anon clutching at, grasping; and swashes it forth tentatively; yet never tables it, still puts it back again. Play it, O Royalty! If there be a chance left, this seems it, and verily the last chance; and now every hour is rendering this a doubtfuler. Alas, one would so fain both fly and not fly; play one's card and have it to play. Royalty, in all human likelihood, will not play its trump-card till the honours, one after one, be mainly lost; and such trumping of it prove to be the sudden finish of the game!
Here accordingly a question always arises; of the prophetic sort; which cannot now be answered. Suppose Mirabeau, with whom Royalty takes deep counsel, as with a Prime Minister that cannot yet legally avow himself as such, had got his arrangements completed? Arrangements he has; far-stretching plans that dawn fitfully on us, by fragments, in the confused darkness. Thirty Departments ready to sign loyal Addresses, of prescribed tenor: King carried out of Paris, but only to Compiègne and Rouen, hardly to Metz, since, once for all, no Emigrant rabble shall take the lead in it: National Assembly consenting, by dint of loyal Addresses, by management, by force of Bouillé, to hear reason, and follow thither! Was it so, on these terms, that Jacobinism and Mirabeau were then to grapple, in their Hercules-and-Typhon duel; Death inevitable for the one or the other? The duel itself is determined on, and sure: but on what terms; much more, with what issue, we in fain guess. It is vague darkness all: unknown what is to be; unknown even what has already been. The giant Mirabeau walks in darkness, as we said; companionless, on wild ways: what his thoughts during these months were, no record of Biographer, nor vague Fils Adoptif, will now ever disclose.
To us, endeavouring to cast his horoscope, it of course remains doubly vague. There is one Herculean Man; in internecine duel with him, there is Monster after Monster. Emigrant Noblesse return, sword on thigh, vaunting of their Loyalty never sullied; descending from the air, like Harpy-swarms with ferocity, with obscene greed. Earthward there is the Typhon of Anarchy, Political, Religious; sprawling hundred-headed, say with Twenty-five million heads; wide as the area of France; fierce as Frenzy; strong in very Hunger. With these shall the Serpent-queller do battle continually, and expect no rest.
As for the King, he as usual will go wavering chameleonlike; changing colour and purpose with the colour of his environment;—good for no Kingly use. On one royal person, on the Queen only, can Mirabeau perhaps place dependence. It is possible, the greatness of this man, not unskilled too in blandishments, courtiership, and graceful adroitness, might, with most legitimate sorcery, fascinate the volatile Queen, and fix her to him. She has courage for all noble daring; an eye and a heart: the soul of Theresa's Daughter. 'Faut-il donc, Is it fated then,' she passionately writes to her Brother, 'that I with the blood I am come of, with the sentiments I have, must live and die among such mortals?' Alas, poor Princess, Yes. 'She is the only man,' as Mirabeau observes, 'whom his Majesty has about him.' Of one other man Mirabeau is still surer: of himself. There lie his resources; sufficient or insufficient.
Dim and great to the eye of Prophecy looks that future. A perpetual life-and-death battle; confusion from above and from below;—mere confused darkness for us; with here and there some streak of faint lurid light. We see a King perhaps laid aside; not tonsured,—tonsuring is out of fashion now,—but say, sent away anywhither, with handsome annual allowance, and stock of smith-tools. We see a Queen and Dauphin, Regent and Minor; a Queen 'mounted on horseback,' in the din of battles, with Moriamur pro rege nostro! 'Such a day,' Mirabeau writes, 'may come.'
Din of battles, wars more than civil, confusion from above and from below: in such environment the eye of Prophecy sees Comte de Mirabeau, like some Cardinal de Retz, stormfully maintain himself; with head all-devising, heart all-daring, if not victorious, yet unvanquished, while life is left him. The specialities and issues of it, no eye of Prophecy can guess at: it is clouds, we repeat, and tempestuous night; and in the middle of it, now visible, far-darting, now labouring in eclipse, is Mirabeau indomitably struggling to be Cloud-Compeller!—One can say that, had Mirabeau lived, the History of France and of the World had been different. Further, that the man would have needed, as few men ever did, the whole compass of that same 'Art of Daring, Art d'Oser,' which he so prized; and likewise that he, above all men then living, would have practised and manifested it. Finally, that some substantiality, and no empty simulacrum of a formula, would have been the result realised by him: a result you could have loved, a result you could have hated; by no likelihood, a result you could only have rejected with closed lips, and swept into quick forgetfulness for ever. Had Mirabeau lived one other year!
DEATH OF MIRABEAU
But Mirabeau could not live another year, any more than he could live another thousand years. Men's years are numbered, and the tale of Mirabeau's was now complete. Important or unimportant; to be mentioned in World-History for some centuries, or not to be mentioned there beyond a day or two,—it matters not to peremptory Fate. From amid the press of ruddy busy Life, the Pale Messenger beckons silently: wide-spreading interests, projects, salvation of French Monarchies, what thing soever man has on hand, he must suddenly quit it all, and go. Wert thou saving French Monarchies; wert thou blacking shoes on the Pont Neuf! The most important of men cannot stay; did the World's History depend on an hour, that hour is not to be given. Whereby, indeed, it comes that these same would-have-beens are mostly a vanity; and the World's History could never in the least be what it would, or might, or should, by any manner of potentiality, but simply and altogether what it is.
The fierce wear and tear of such an existence has wasted out the giant oaken strength of Mirabeau. A fret and fever that keeps heart and brain on fire: excess of effort, of excitement; excess of all kinds: labour incessant, almost beyond credibility! 'If I had not lived with him,' says Dumont, 'I never should have known what a man can make of one day; what things may be placed within the interval of twelve hours. A day for this man was more than a week or a month is for others: the mass of things he guided on together was prodigious; from the scheming to the executing not a moment lost.'—'Monsieur le Comte,' said his Secretary to him once, 'what you require is impossible.'—'Impossible!'—answered he, starting from his chair, 'Ne me dites jamais ce bête de mot, Never name to me that blockhead of a word.' And then the social repasts; the dinner which he gives as Commandant of National Guards, which 'cost five hundred pounds'; alas, and 'the Syrens of the Opera'; and all the ginger that is hot in the mouth:—down what a course is this man hurled! Cannot Mirabeau stop; cannot he fly, and save himself alive? No! there is a Nessus-Shirt on this Hercules; he must storm and burn there, without rest, till he be consumed. Human strength, never so Herculean, has its measure. Herald shadows flit pale across the fire-brain of Mirabeau; heralds of the pale repose. While he tosses and storms, straining every nerve, in that sea of ambition and confusion, there comes, sombre and still, a monition that for him the issue of it will be swift death.
In January last, you might see him as President of the Assembly; 'his neck wrapt in linen cloths, at the evening session': there was sick heat of the blood, alternate darkening and flashing in the eyesight; he had to apply leeches, after the morning labour, and preside bandaged. 'At parting he embraced me,' says Dumont, 'with an emotion I had never seen in him: "I am dying, my friend; dying as by slow fire; we shall perhaps not meet again. When I am gone, they will know what the value of me was. The miseries I have held back will burst from all sides on France."' Sickness gives louder warning; but cannot be listened to. On the 27th day of March, proceeding towards the Assembly, he had to seek rest and help in Friend de Lamarck's, by the road; and lay there, for an hour, half-fainted, stretched on a sofa. To the Assembly nevertheless he went, as if in spite of Destiny itself; spoke, loud and eager, five several times; then quitted the Tribune—for ever. He steps out, utterly exhausted, into the Tuileries Gardens; many people press round him, as usual, with applications, memorials; he says to the Friend who was with him: 'Take me out of this!'
And so, on the last day of March 1791, endless anxious multitudes beset the Rue de la Chaussée d'Antin; incessantly inquiring: within doors there, in that House numbered, in our time, 42, the overwearied giant has fallen down, to die. Crowds of all parties and kinds; of all ranks from the King to the meanest man! The King sends publicly twice a-day to inquire; privately besides: from the world at large there is no end of inquiring. 'A written bulletin is handed out every three hours,' is copied and circulated; in the end, it is printed. The People spontaneously keep silence; no carriage shall enter with its noise: there is crowding pressure; but the Sister of Mirabeau is reverently recognised, and has free way made for her. The People stand mute, heart-stricken; to all it seems as if a great calamity were nigh: as if the last man of France, who could have swayed these coming troubles, lay there at hand-grips with the unearthly Power.
The silence of a whole People, the wakeful toil of Cabanis, Friend and Physician, skills not: on Saturday the second day of April, Mirabeau feels that the last of the Days has risen for him; that on this day he has to depart and be no more. His death is Titanic, as his life has been! Lit up, for the last time, in the glare of coming dissolution, the mind of the man is all glowing and burning; utters itself in sayings, such as men long remember. He longs to live, yet acquiesces in death, argues not with the inexorable. His speech is wild and wondrous: unearthly Phantasms dancing now their torch-dance round his soul; the soul itself looking out, fire-radiant, motionless, girt together for that great hour! At times comes a beam of light from him on the world he is quitting. 'I carry in my heart the death-dirge of the French Monarchy; the dead remains of it will now be the spoil of the factious.' Or again, when he heard the cannon fire, what is characteristic too: 'Have we the Achilles' Funeral already?' So likewise, while some friend is supporting him: 'Yes, support that head; would I could bequeath it thee!' For the man dies as he has lived; self-conscious, conscious of a world looking on. He gazes forth on the young Spring, which for him will never be Summer. The Sun has risen; he says, 'Si ce n'est pas là Dieu, c'est du moins son cousin germain.'—Death has mastered the outworks; power of speech is gone; the citadel of the heart still holding out: the moribund giant, passionately, by sign, demands paper and pen; writes his passionate demand for opium, to end these agonies. The sorrowful Doctor shakes his head: Dormir, 'To sleep,' writes the other, passionately pointing at it! So dies a gigantic Heathen and Titan; stumbling blindly, undismayed, down to his rest. At half-past eight in the morning, Doctor Petit, standing at the foot of the bed, says, 'Il ne souffre plus.' His suffering and his working are now ended.
Even so, ye silent Patriot multitudes, all ye men of France; this man is rapt away from you. He has fallen suddenly, without bending till he broke; as a tower falls, smitten by sudden lightning. His word ye shall hear no more, his guidance follow no more.—The multitudes depart, heart-struck; spread the sad tidings. How touching is the loyalty of men to their Sovereign Man! All theatres, public amusements close; no joyful meeting can be held in these nights, joy is not for them: the People break in upon private dancing-parties, and sullenly command that they cease. Of such dancing-parties apparently but two came to light; and these also have gone out. The gloom is universal; never in this City was such sorrow for one death; never since that old night when Louis xii. departed, 'and the Crieurs des Corps went sounding their bells, and crying along the streets: Le bon roi Louis, père du peuple, est mort, The good King Louis, Father of the People, is dead!' King Mirabeau is now the lost King; and one may say with little exaggeration, all the People mourns for him.
For three days there is low wide moan; weeping in the National Assembly itself. The streets are all mournful; orators mounted on the bornes, with large silent audience, preaching the funeral sermon of the dead. Let no coachman whip fast, distractively with his rolling wheels, or almost at all, through these groups! His traces may be cut; himself and his fare, as incurable Aristocrats, hurled sulkily into the kennels. The bourne-stone orators speak as it is given them; the Sansculottic People, with its rude soul, listens eager,—as men will to any Sermon, or Sermo, when it is a spoken Word meaning a Thing, and not a Babblement meaning No-thing. In the Restaurateur's of the Palais-Royal, the waiter remarks, 'Fine weather. Monsieur':—'Yes, my friend,' answers the ancient Man of Letters, 'very fine; but Mirabeau is dead.' Hoarse rhythmic threnodies come also from the throats of ballad-singers; are sold on grey-white paper at a sou each. But of Portraits, engraved, painted, hewn and written; of Eulogies, Reminiscences, Biographies, nay Vaudevilles, Dramas and Melodramas, in all Provinces of France, there will, through these coming months, be the due immeasurable crop; thick as the leaves of Spring. Nor, that a tincture of burlesque might be in it, is Gobel's Episcopal Mandement wanting; goose Gobel, who has just been made Constitutional Bishop of Paris. A Mandement wherein Ça ira alternates very strangely with Nomine Domini; and you are, with a grave countenance, invited to 'rejoice at possessing in the midst of you a body of Prelates created by Mirabeau, zealous followers of his doctrine, faithful imitators of his virtues.' So speaks, and cackles manifold, the Sorrow of France; wailing articulately, inarticulately, as it can, that a Sovereign Man is snatched away. In the National Assembly, when difficult questions are astir, all eyes will 'turn mechanically to the place where Mirabeau sat,'—and Mirabeau is absent now.
On the third evening of the lamentation, the fourth of April, there is solemn Public Funeral; such as deceased mortal seldom had. Procession of a league in length; of mourners reckoned loosely at a hundred thousand. All roofs are thronged with on-lookers, all windows, lamp-irons, branches of trees. 'Sadness is painted on every countenance; many persons weep.' There is double hedge of National Guards; there is National Assembly in a body; Jacobin Society, and Societies; King's Ministers, Municipals, and all Notabilities, Patriot or Aristocrat. Bouillé is noticeable there, 'with his hat on'; say, hat drawn over his brow, hiding many thoughts! Slow-wending, in religious silence, the Procession of a league in length, under the level sun-rays, for it is five o'clock, moves and marches: with its sable plumes; itself in a religious silence; but, by fits with the muffled roll of drums, by fits with some long-drawn wail of music, and strange new clangour of trombones, and metallic dirge-voice; amid the infinite hum of men. In the Church of Saint-Eustache, there is funeral oration by Cerutti; and discharge of fire-arms, which 'brings down pieces of the plaster.' Thence, forward again to the Church of Sainte-Geneviève; which has been consecrated, by supreme decree, on the spur of this time, into a Pantheon for the Great Men of the Fatherland, Aux Grands Hommes la Patrie. Hardly at midnight is the business done; and Mirabeau left in his dark dwelling: first tenant of that Fatherland's Pantheon.
Tenant, alas, who inhabits but at will, and shall be cast out. For, in these days of convulsion and disjection, not even the dust of the dead is permitted to rest. Voltaire's bones are, by and by, to be carried from their stolen grave in the Abbey of Scellières, to an eager stealing grave, in Paris his birth-city: all mortals processioning and perorating there; cars drawn by eight white horses, goadsters in classical costume, with fillets and wheat-ears enough;—though the weather is of the wettest. Evangelist Jean Jacques too, as is most proper, must be dug up from Ermenonville, and processioned, with pomp, with sensibility, to the Pantheon of the Fatherland. He and others: while again Mirabeau, we say, is cast forth from it, happily incapable of being replaced; and rests now, irrecognisable, reburied hastily at dead of night 'in the central part of the Churchyard Sainte-Catherine, in the Suburb Saint-Marceau,' to be disturbed no further.
So blazes out, far-seen, a Man's Life, and becomes ashes and a caput mortuum, in this World-Pyre, which we name French Revolution: not the first that consumed itself there; nor, by thousands and many millions, the last! A man who 'had swallowed all formulas'; who, in these strange times and circumstances, felt called to live Titanically, and also to die so. As he, for his part, had swallowed all formulas, what Formula is there, never so comprehensive, that will express truly the plus and the minus of him, give us the accurate net-result of him? There is hitherto none such. Moralities not a few must shriek condemnatory over this Mirabeau; the Morality by which he could be judged has not yet got uttered in the speech of men. We will say this of him again: That he is a Reality and no Simulacrum; a living Son of Nature our general Mother; not a hollow Artifice, 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,
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, lovable 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. 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 Honoré 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-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 quintessence 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.
- Dampmartin, passim.
- Mercier, iii. 163.
- See Hist. Parl. vii. 51.
- Ami du Peuple, No. 306. See other Excerpts in Hist. Parl. viii. 139–149, 428–433; ix. 85–93. etc.
- Dampmartin, i. 184.
- De Bello Gallico, lib. iv. 5.
- See Brissot, Patriote-Français Newspaper; Fauchet, Bouche-de-Fer, etc. (excerpted in Hist. Parl. viii. ix. et seqq.).
- Camille's Journal (in Hist. Parl. ix. 366–85).
- Moniteur, Séance du 21 Août 1790.
- Révolutions de Paris (in Hist. Parl. viii. 440).
- See Hist. Parl. vii. 316; Bertrand-Moleville, etc.
- Campan, ii. 105.
- Ibid. ii. 199–201.
- Dampmartin, ii. 129.
- Mercier, Nouveau Paris, iii. 204.
- Campan, ii. c. 17.
- Dumont, p. 211.
- Correspondance Secrète (in Hist. Parl. viii. 169–73).
- Carra's Newspaper, 1st Feb. 1791 (in Hist. Parl. ix. 39).
- Campan, ii. 132.
- Montgaillard, ii. 282; Deux Amis, vi. c. 1.
- Montgaillard, ii. 285.
- Deux Amis, vi. 11–15; Newspapers (in Hist. Parl. ix. 111–17).
- Weber, ii. 286.
- Hist. Parl. ix. 139–48.
- Montgaillard, ii. 286.
- See Mercier, ii. 40, 202.
- Ordonnance du 17 Mars 1791 (Hist. Parl. ix. 257).
- See Fils Adoptif, vii. l. 6; Dumont, c. 11, 12, 14.
- Fils Adoptif, ubi supra.
- Dumont, p. 311.
- Ibid. p. 267.
- Fils Adoptif, viii. 420–79.
- Fils Adoptif, viii. 450; Journal de la maladie et de la mort de Mirabeau, par P. J. G. Cabanis (Paris, 1803).
- Hénault, Abrégé Chronologique, p. 429.
- Fils Adoptif, viii. l. 10; Newspapers and Excerpts (in Hist. Parl. ix. 366–402).
- Hist. Parl. ix. 405.
- Moniteur, du 13 Juillet 1791.
- Ibid. du 18 Septembre 1794. See also du 30 Août, etc. 1791.
- Dumont, p. 287.