The Moderates are next to die but Charlotte Corday has her own plans.
Continuing Murders of Louis XVI and Murat; Civil War in France,
our selection from The French Revolution — A History by Thomas Carlyle published in 1837. The selection is presented in five easy 5 minute installments. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
Previously in Murders of Louis XVI and Murat; Civil War in France.
Such animating paragraphs we read in this new Newspaper; and fervors and eloquent sarcasm: tirades against the “Mountain,” from the pen of Deputy Salles; which resemble, say friends, Pascal’s Provincials. What is more to the purpose, these Girondins have got a General-in-chief, one Wimpfen, formerly under Dumouriez; also a secondary questionable General Puisaye, and others; and are doing their best to raise a force for war. National Volunteers, whosoever is of right heart: gather in, ye national Volunteers, friends of Liberty; from our Calvados Townships, from the Eure, from Brittany, from far and near: forward to Paris, and extinguish Anarchy! Thus at Caen, in the early July days, there is a drumming and parading, a perorating and consulting: Staff and Army; Council; Club of Carabots, Anti-Jacobin friends of Freedom, to denounce atrocious Marat. With all which, and the editing of Bulletins, a National Representative has his hands full.
At Caen it is most animated; and, as one hopes, more or less animated in the “Seventy-two Departments that adhere to us.” And in a France begirt with Cimmerian invading Coalitions, and torn with an internal La Vendee, this is the conclusion we have arrived at: to put down Anarchy by Civil War! Durum et durum, the Proverb says, non faciunt murum. La Vendee burns: Santerre can do nothing there; he may return home and brew beer. Cimmerian bombshells fly all along the North. That Siege of Mainz is become famed; lovers of the Picturesque (as Goethe will testify), washed country-people of both sexes, stroll thither on Sundays, to see the artillery work and counterwork; “you only duck a little while the shot whizzes past.” Conde is capitulating to the Austrians; Royal Highness of York, these several weeks, fiercely batters Valenciennes. For, alas, our fortified Camp of Famars was stormed; General Dampierre was killed; General Custine was blamed — and indeed is now come to Paris to give “explanations.”
Against all which the Mountain and atrocious Marat must even make head as they can. They, anarchic Convention as they are, publish Decrees, expostulatory, explanatory, yet not without severity; they ray forth Commissioners, singly or in pairs, the olive-branch in one hand, yet the sword in the other. Commissioners come even to Caen; but without effect. Mathematical Romme, and Prieur named of the Cote d’Or, venturing thither, with their olive and sword, are packed into prison: there may Romme lie, under lock and key, “for fifty days”; and meditate his New Calendar, if he please. Cimmeria, La Vendee, and Civil War! Never was Republic One and Indivisible at a lower ebb.
Amid which dim ferment of Caen and the World, History specially notices one thing: in the lobby of the Mansion de l’Intendance, where busy Deputies are coming and going, a young Lady with an aged valet, taking grave, graceful leave of Deputy Barbaroux. She is of stately Norman figure; in her twenty-fifth year; of beautiful still countenance: her name is Charlotte Corday, heretofore styled D’Armans, while Nobility still was. Barbaroux has given her a Note to Deputy Duperret — he who once drew his sword in the effervescence. Apparently she will to Paris on some errand? “She was a Republican before the Revolution, and never wanted energy.”
A completeness, a decision is in this fair female Figure: “by energy she means the spirit that will prompt one to sacrifice himself for his country.” What if she, this fair young Charlotte, had emerged from her secluded stillness, suddenly like a Star; cruel-lovely, with half-angelic, half-demonic splendor; to gleam for a moment, and in a moment be extinguished: to be held in memory, so bright complete was she, through long centuries! Quitting Cimmerian Coalitions without, and the dim-simmering Twenty-five Millions within, History will look fixedly at this one fair Apparition of a Charlotte Corday; will note whither Charlotte moves, how the little Life burns forth so radiant, then vanishes swallowed of the Night.
With Barbaroux’s Note of Introduction, and slight stock of luggage, we see Charlotte on Tuesday, July 9th, seated in the Caen Diligence, with a place for Paris. None takes farewell of her, wishes her Good-journey: her Father will find a line left, signifying that she has gone to England, that he must pardon her, and forget her. The drowsy Diligence lumbers along; amid drowsy talk of Politics, and praise of the Mountain; in which she mingles not: all night, all day, and again all night. On Thursday, not long before noon, we are at the bridge of Neuilly; here is Paris with her thousand black domes, the goal and purpose of thy journey! Arrived at the Inn de la Providence in the Rue des Vieux Augustins, Charlotte demands a room; hastens to bed; sleeps all afternoon and night, till the morrow morning.
On the morrow morning, she delivers her Note to Duperret. It relates to certain Family Papers which are in the Minister of the Interior’s hand; which a Nun at Caen, an old Convent-friend of Charlotte’s, has need of; which Duperret shall assist her in getting: this then was Charlotte’s errand to Paris? She has finished this, in the course of Friday — yet says nothing of returning. She has seen and silently investigated several things. The Convention, in bodily reality, she has seen; what the Mountain is like. The living physiognomy of Marat she could not see; he is sick at present, and confined to home.
About eight on the Saturday morning, she purchases a large sheath-knife in the Palais Royal; then straightway, in the Place des Victoires, takes a hackney-coach. “To the Rue de l’Ecole de Medecine, Number 44.” It is the residence of the Citoyen Marat! The Citoyen Marat is ill, and cannot be seen; which seems to disappoint her much. Her business is with Marat, then? Hapless beautiful Charlotte; hapless squalid Marat! From Caen in the utmost West, from Neuchatel in the utmost East, they two are drawing nigh each other; they two have, very strangely, business together. Charlotte, returning to her Inn, despatches a short Note to Marat; signifying that she is from Caen, the seat of rebellion; that she desires earnestly to see him, and “will put it in his power to do France a great service.” No answer. Charlotte writes another Note, still more pressing; sets out with it by coach, about seven in the evening, herself. Tired day-laborers have again finished their Week; huge Paris is circling and simmering, manifold, according to its vague wont: this one fair Figure has decision in it; drives straight — toward a purpose.
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