“I have good and well been called to the honours of presiding over a savvy company, on the first beautiful day I forget my dignity and I run to gambol with the farmer’s women of your neighbourhood. But since rumour, which publishes the bad much sooner than the good, has educated you on the very day of this fatal secret, do at least close it up within yourself. […] Allow, that my fugacious reign goes by without me having to blush before the eyes of my comrades, that on that day when I have to appear publicly at the head of this company, I will be allowed to endorse my task with dignity, and that in the midst of the seriousness of the function people will see me fulfill, no one will be able to say: he has been dancing at the village fair of Late.”
Maximilien Robespierre to Ferdinand Dubois-Fosseux, on October, 28th (?) 1786. Cited after Hervé Leuwers.
I did not find a village named “Late” - with this very orthography. However, when searching “Dubois-Fosseux’s neighbourhood” - meaning the area around the very small village of Fosseux, near Arras, I found a town named Lattre-St. Quentin, short Lattre. The town’s homepage informs us that the site consisted of two large properties (”ferme”), of which one, the less imposing, had belonged in the 17th century to a family “Cornu”, which happens to be the maiden name of Robespierre’s grandmother on the maternal side. And indeed, the information continues:
“Maximilien Robespierre, lawyer in Arras, came playing in lattre during his childhood. He spent his holidays at his grand-mother’s at the hamlet of Bel-Avesnes” (Source)
Obviously, Robespierre continued to visit Lattre as an adult, too, for a weekend’s vacation or a rural dance.
In the letter, he uses the term “ducasse”, which I translated as “village fair”. However, “ducasse” is the northern French term for “dedication”, meaning the dedication of a church and annual festivals in honour to the patron saint. St. Quentin’s saint’s day is celebrated on 31st October, which fits the datation of the letter, given that a ducasse lasted several days.
It was, to bring things to a full circle, no other than Philippe Lebas, the son of Robespierre’s revolutionary friends, who dedicated an entry to the northern French “ducasse” in his universal encyclopedia. See the entry on Google books.
A testimony of lover’s misunderstanding, by Saint-Just
She arrived with very slow steps. She came in, embraced him, squeezed his hand. He reproached her softly her long absence and her silence. She answered nothing. He led her by his hand, and, arrived at his apartment, he offered her the most tender caresses. She smiled and did not utter a word. They both lied down on a bed, she tasted not pleasure but took great part in that of her friend. She placed her hands around the skin of his body, she crossed her legs on his legs. He asked her whether she did not love him anymore. She kissed him and kept a deep silence. “Let me open your mouth”, he added, “with a kiss.” She smiled. Afterwards he made her a reproach for not having written to him. “I had to come”, she answered – “Previously, when you came you brought me several letters.” She answered nothing. “I will leave you”, he says. She does not say a word. “Why are you so sad?” – “Because you told me that you will leave me.” – “You were sad before.” She says nothing. “But”, he added, “Whereby will we end? We will have to part, you do not think about the future.” – “I have stopped thinking about it. I do not know why. It seems to me that I will always find you here.” – “You become indifferent, but why such sadness?” – “You want me to follow you, I could never resolve myself to that. I will promise it in order to bind you to your advancement. We will see afterwards, but I could never resolve myself to that, this is what pains me, I think about it all the time.” – “In that case let us forget each other immediately. Go, cheer up. When we have to part one day, let us spare us more regrets. Adieu, I will have another woman and I will bring you my little children, you will love them like your own.” – “No”, she screamed, “I do not want to.” She burst out in tears while she kept hugging him many times. “Let us get over our weakness”, he carried on, and he repeated to her that he would take another woman which would be like her and that would bring her his little children. “You see how I know how to take my side. I would take it as well if you were unfaithful. Are you not jealous?” – “No.” – “Do you love me?” – “Yes, I love you.” – “Well, we have to forget each other, to part and not to see each other again.” She cries. He did not hesitate to show her that he loved her still the same, he made her promise to visit him the day after tomorrow, she took the secret of her sadness with her. When she got out, she felt rather calm and she went. She had promised her friend to tell him a lot of things. She had written so much of it to her friend, and when he asked her to she did not answer. On the go he told her: “Three things bother you, what you confided to me formerly.” She wanted to know [some words unreadable]. He led her out and they embraced tenderly.
He said to himself: “Either she does not trust me or she is jealous or she has an intention that she does not dare to tell me.”
Saint-Just wrote this text at an unknown date, perhaps in the winter of the year II. It has been published together with the Institutions répubicaines. I have translated the version that Bernard Vinot quotes, which is, however, hugely edited and does not display Saint-Just’s unique spelling and punctuation. On the other hand, that means that the text (and above all, the dialogue) is comprehensible.
Whether the text is autobiographical or not, remains unclear. Many of Saint-Just’s biographers, however, claim that it may be autobiographical and speculate on the woman’s identity. Could it be Thérèse Gellé-Thorin?
However, if anyone knows more about this piece of literature, I would be happy to learn.
Thank you. I guess it is quite certain that Thérèse had at some point a relation with Saint-Just. As a letter by Thullier, Saint-Just’s friend from Blérancourt, indicates, when Thérèse left her husband Thorin in 1793 and went to Paris, people in Blérancourt guessed she had eloped with Saint-Just (which was not the case). If the woman is Thérèse and the text is autobiographical, my guess would be that it could be written or reminiscent of some time before Saint-Just’s departure for Paris in 1792, since he seems to be leaving for a longer or definite period. But that is speculation.
In his memoirs, Barére recalls the following incident:
“Robespierre, talking of [Saint-Just] in the Comité, said familiarly and in a way to talk about your closest friends: ‘Saint-Just is taciturn and observant, but I have noticed, as for his looks, he has much resemblance with Charles IX [French king 1560-1574].’ That did not much blandish Saint-Just, who was more profound and more able to revolutionise than was Robespierre.”
Gervais Simon (exh. 1812-1817) “Philologist Philippe Le Bas”, ca. 1820
Painted about 1820 (the sitter appears to be ca. 25 years of age), it is a rare (possibly also unique, for we were unable to find any other on the Web) miniature portrait of well-known French philologist and specialist in Classics, Philippe Le Bas (1794-1860). He was the son of famous French revolutionary, member of the National Convention, and follower of Robespierre, Philippe-Joseph Le Bas (1764-1794). Philippe Le Bas remained especially known to historians as tutor of future Emperor Napoleon III (between 1821 and 1823 he oversaw the latter’s scholarly performance at St. Anna Gymnasium for Humanities in Augsburg). From 1844 to 1860 he was Director of the Library of Sorbonne. From 1838 he was also a member of the Academie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres. In 1858 he became the Director of Institute de France.
The ancient Greek mythology knows several goddesses or god-like ladies who refused to be a subject to Aphrodite, goddess of love. They aimed at living independently and as eternal virgins. Of course, this was due to the generally inferior role women played in ancient Greece: for a woman, to be independent, celibacy was required. This was even true for goddesses. Still, many goddesses remained powerful despite being wifes and mothers. Thus, the decision to remain single and celibate was partly a choice based upon what today may count as aromantic asexuality. Then, it was dubbed as “their hearts being immune to Aphrodite”. The best known of them, and the most powerful of virginal goddesses, were Hestia, Athena, and Artemis. Of course, it is impossible to really say they were “aromantic” and/or “asexual”. Pre-modern societies simply did not think that way. However, I try to “update” their lifes. It’s for fun, obviously.
Hestia is one of the oldest deities on Mount Olympus. She is a daughter of Cronus, and hence a sister to Zeus. At an early age she decides to reject offers on marriage and remain single. Furthermore, she rejects Aphrodite’s values of fliurting, love and sleeping around to become a chaste guardian of the hearth. This roles sounds very oncool by today’s standards, but in fact, this made her one of the most important and most worshipped deities. The hearth, the fireplace, was considered the very center of society and life. It was the material symbol of nourishment and warmth without which no social coherence was possible. Because of this importance, Hestia became the guardian not only of domestic peace, but of political peace as well, even at Mount Olympus. Still, despite her importance (which increased in her Roman equivalent, Vesta), she was not very visible among the Olympian deities. She was more like the older sister whom everyone loves but noone really cares about unless she is not there anymore.
Athena is Hestia’s niece, being a daughter to Zeus. She is maybe the nerd among the Olympic deities, the goddess of science, mathematics, knowledge, wisdom, arts and crafts, inspiration and skill, as well as law and justice, civilization, and war strategy. Nowadays, she may have loved strategy games… This chill puts her in contrast to her brother ares, the god of warfare, who may have preferred splatter shooting games. With her very moderate temper, rationality and philosophy, but sense of justice and morality, the cool Athena presented the human ideal of ancient Athenians and became the patron of their polis. She remained single and a devoted virgin, which added to her credits and earned her the nickname of Athena Parthenos, the maiden Athena. Of course, the Athenian’s prudemorals of female sexuality played into that. too. However, like many virgin deities on Mount Olympus, male deities tried to rape her. Once, an assault by Hephaestus failed, the accidentally impregnated the soil instead of Athena, and Erichthonios was born (it was complicated…). He was handed over to Athena by Gaia, the “Earth”, and tried to find him a home. When that failed, Athena herself became his foster mother. How cool is that?
Artemis may be the best-known aro ace goddess, and a symbol at that, since her main attribute is the arrow, which she really aced… She is Athena’s half-sister, the goddess of the wild animals, hunting, hunting, the untamed nature, but also of childbirth, of women and their diseases, and of the young girls. Artemis may or may not have been in love with Orion, a fellow hunter. However, when he became too eager, killing off all the wild animals, she arranged for him to be bitten to death by a scorpio. Many male gods tried to win her heart, and as we are talking about Greek mythology, they did so by traing to rape her. Clever Artemis anticipated their schemes and successfully escaped every time. She was surrounded by a bunch of nymphes and forest fairies of all kind who, like her, preferred to remain single. Well, it did not always work out. Some of them fell in love, others were “convinced” through rape. However, Artemis all-too-often turned out to be not a good ally, or maybe it was her father’s spitefulness shining through. While she saved her companion Arethusa, who was threatened with rape, her other companion, Callisto, was raped by Artemis’ father Zeus in the disguise of Artemis herself. When Callisto’s resulting pregnancy became known, the furious Artemis transformed her into a bear. Polyphonte got it worse: a dedicated aro-ace, she infuriated Aphrodite who wanted her to fulfill her female duties of, well, pleasing men and bearing children. She cast a spell over her which compelled Polyphonte to become sexually attracted to bears, which disgusted Artemis so much that she stirred the wild animals against her. Polyphonte, fearing for her life, was forced to leave Artemis.
The New Year’s party 1898/1899 celebrated by banned social democrats in Minusjnsk, Siberia. Among the guests were Lenin and Krupskaya. The other names I cannot decipher.
Krupskaya wrote about the party:
“We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves during the holidays in Minusjnsk and had a break that will last us for a long time. At Christmas almost the whole district was in town, so we saw the New Year in very pleasantly at a big party. When the company broke up everyone was saying “A wonderful New Year’s party!” The main thing was the splendid mood. We mulled some wine; when it was ready we put the hands of the clock at “12” and saw the old year out in proper style, everybody sang whatever he could and some fine toasts were pronounced - we drank ’To Mothers”, “To Absent Friends”, and so on, and in the end danced to a guitar. One of the comrades draws well and he has promised to draw some of the outstanding scenes of the New Year’s party - If he keeps his promise you will get a very good idea of our New Year’s eve. Altogether it was a real holiday.” (January 10th 1899, to Lenin’s mother)
“ First of all, let me tell you how we spent Christmas. We had a wonderful time. All the people from the district came into town, most of them for three or four days. There are very few of us in Shushenskoye and it was very pleasant to be among people. We now know everybody in the district. We had a real festive time - went skating. I was laughed at, but since Minusjnsk I have made progress. Volodya learned a lot of figures in Minusjnsk and he now amazes the Shushenskoye public with his “giant steps” and "Spanish leaps”. Another amusement was chess. People played literally from morning to night. Only Zina and I did not play. But even I caught the infection and played once against a poor player and checkmated him. Then we sang, in Polish and Russian. V.V. has a guitar and so we sang to guitar accompaniment. We also did some reciting and talked to our heart’s content. Best of all was our New Year’s party (Volodya, incidentally, was tossed, it was the first time I had seen that performance and I had a good laugh).” (January 24th 1899 to Lenin’s sister Maria)
Some portraits of Danton and his family, found here.
1st row: Georges-Jacques Danton, by some Gueuze (?)
2nd row: Danton’s mother, Jeanne Madeleine Recordain (1729-1813), with one of her grandsons, by Jean Baptiste Isabey – Danton’s older sister, Anne Madeleine Menuel (1755-1802), by Jean Louis Laneuville
3rd row: Danton’s first wife, Gabrielle Antoinette Charpentier (1760-1793), by Jacques Louis David – Danton’s second wife, Sébastienne Louise Gély (1776-1856), by Antoine Louis Sergent – Danton’s son, Antoine Danton (1790-1858), by an unknown painter.