Thermidor Fun Fact Day Forty-One: A child of the Revolution becomes its Historian

What nineteenth-century historian had a special connection to the Revolution, due to the fact that he was born in a disused church (une église désaffectée) in Paris, and grew up in the building housing a printing press where his folks worked making assignats among other things. [A hint: He expresses sympathy for the ordinary working man in Le Peuple (1846).]
a. Alphonse de Lamartine (1790-1869)
b. Adolphe Thiers (1797-1877)
c. Jules Michelet (1798-1874)
d. Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881)

Thermidor Fun Fact Day Thirty-Nine: Royal Survivors

Which member of the royal family survived the Terror? What was that person’s later name?
a. Le Dauphin Louis Charles, who became King Charles X.
b. Madame Élisabeth, who became la Marquise de la Rochejaquelein.
c. Marie-Thérèse, who became la Duchesse d’Angoulême.
d. Le Comte d’Artois, who became King Louis XVIII.

Thermidor Fun Fact Day Thirty-Eight: Defeated Tyrants: Napoleon and Robespierre thrown from the saddle

What great novel of the nineteenth century presents Napoleon as an “involuntary revolutionary” alongside a horseback-riding Robespierre who is thrown from his saddle; both of them meeting defeat on June 18, 1815?
a. Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
b. Victor Hugo, Les Misérables
c. Honoré de Balzac, Les Chouans
d. Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

Thermidor Fun Fact Day Thirty-Six: Baudelaire and regicide remorse?

Baudelaire’s poem, “L’Irréparable” (The Irreparable) sounds an awful lot like the slogan of royalists and émigrés of the 1790s. Here is the first stanza of the poem. Match up the meaning of the stanza with the royalist slogan below.

Pouvons-nous étouffer le vieux, le long Remords,
Qui vit, s’agite et se tortille,
Et se nourrit de nous comme le vers des morts,
Comme du chêne la chenille?
Pouvons-nous étouffer l’implacable Remords?

–Charles Baudelaire, Les Fleurs du mal (1857)

a. “Fais ce que voudras.”
b. “Oublier n’est pas pardonner.”
c. “Carpe diem. “
d. “Familles, je vous hais.”

Thermidor Fun Fact Day Thirty-Five: Bara the boy martyr lives on today

A facsimile of a 1794 pamphlet relating the inspiring tale of the boy soldier Joseph Bara, who died at age 14, can be found within the pages of what book by a contemporary French writer? Legend has it that when ordered to say “Vive le Roi,” he refused and was killed by the king’s troops. Bara was celebrated by Robespierre as a martyr to the Republic. In fact he would have been “pantheonized” if Thermidor had not put a wrench in Robespierre’s plans.

The juxtaposition of this pamphlet to the narrative listed below seems at first oddly assonant; one wonders what the author was thinking…until the last sentence: “Elles diront que la liberté n’est pas négociable.”

a. Leïla Sebbar, Le Pays de ma mère: Voyage en Frances [sic]
b. Thomas Piketty, Le Capital au XXIe siècle
c. Pierre Ronsanvallon, La Société des égaux
d. Marc Fumaroli, Exercices de lecture

Thermidor Fun Fact Day Thirty-Four: We know Les Misérables is about a revolution, but which one?

Readers of Victor Hugo’s great novel, and viewers of the many stage and screen adaptations over the years, will recall that there is a scene on the barricades, when workers and students rebel against a cold-hearted government. What revolution is that?
a. 1789-94
b. 1830, “Les trois glorieuses”
c. 1848
d. 1832

Thermidor Fun Fact Day Thirty-Two: Who is that mystery man in the Madeleine Cemetery?

In his popular novel, Le Cimetière de la Madeleine (The Madeleine Cemetery; 1800-01), J.-J. Regnault-Warin begins where Louis XVI’s life left off, in the Madeleine Cemetery. A curious, sensitive young man visits the cemetery one night and meets an elderly gentleman sitting in the dark singing a sad song. The old man recoils in fear of police, but when calmed, he gestures to the tombs at their feet, where lie his onetime friends and associates Malesherbes, Lavoisier, and King Louis XVI. Realizing their common nostalgia for the Bourbon monarchy, the two agree to continue the conversation the next night. It is only then that the youth realizes that this intriguing elder is none other than …. Twelve “nights” follow, revealing the secret history of Louis’s last years. Who is that mystery man?  
a. General Lafayette
b. Abbé Edgeworth
c. Joseph Priestley
d. Abbé Barruel

Thermidor Fun Fact Day Thirty-One: The Spirit of the Convention and the 19th-century novel

What nineteenth-century French novelist appears to have drawn inspiration directly from the quote below in his masterwork? It was spoken by a leader of the Convention in July 1794.

« Mettez donc au-dessus de la porte des asiles des inscriptions qui annoncent leur disparition prochaine. Car si, la Révolution finie, nous avons encore des malheureux parmi nous, nos travaux révolutionnaires auront été vains. »

[Put up signs over the doors of poorhouses announcing that they will soon be gone. Because if, when the Revolution is over, we still have poor and unhappy people amongst us, our revolutionary efforts will have been in vain.]

a. Victor Hugo
b. J.K. Huysmans
c. Marcel Proust
d. Gustave Flaubert

Franco-American Trivia Bastille Day Quiz

1. “I think every woman should have a ___________________ ,” declared American culinary phenomenon Julia Child, host of the top TV series, The French Chef (1963-1973).
a. husband
b. family
c. dog
d. blowtorch

2. Duration is one of the differences between the American and French revolutions. Compared to the French case which ended more or less abruptly in 1794, Pierre Rosanvallon claims that “in America one can speak of a ____________________ revolution,” marked the by steady rise of the egalitarian ethos into the 1800s.
a. failed
b. continuous
c. dangerous
d. brief

3. A New York Times article of March 2013 mentioned Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette as precursors of a trend that is rising in the USA. What trend is that?
a. The habit of kissing a computer screen (or, in the 18th-century, a life-size doll) instead of a real person.
b. Unconsummated unions (le mariage blanc)
c. Proxy marriages, now via the Internet
d. All of the above

4. What French revolutionary leader was recently vilified in a poem published in a major American newspaper? The poem drew outrage for describing this man as a pathological killer, with lines such as: “Who wouldn’t like to have the power to kill / Friends and enemies at will.”
a. Jean-Paul Marat
b. Louis Antoine de Saint-Just
c. Georges-Jacques Danton
d. Maximilien Robespierre

5. What company was raked over the coals as “Marie-Antoinette’s Favorite Airline” in a January 2013 article by the Wall Street Journal?
a. American Airlines
b. Delta
c. Air France
d. United Airlines

6. When France refused to support the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, some high-ranking Republicans in Congress directed the three House cafeterias to change their menus and avoid use of the word “French.” Their alternative name for French fries, used from 2003 until 2006, was:
a. Impeach George W. Bush Fries
b. Freedom Fries
c. Pommes frites
d. Belgian Bites

7. Recent writers on economics and political history have made some astute comparisons between the USA and France–think of books by Thomas Piketty and Jean-Philippe Mathy–but no one seized the essential difference between our countries quite as well as an orator in September 1789. He declared: “France is not a collection of states. She is a unique being, composed of elementary parts.” Who was that orator?
a. Emmanuel Sieyès
b. Honoré Gabriel Riqueti, comte de Mirabeau
c. Maximilien Robespierre
d. Jean-Paul Marat

8. What American city has been sister-city of Paris since 1996?
a. New York
b. New Orleans
c. San Francisco
d. Chicago

9. What American has long been revered by French writers because of innovations in the detective genre and a morbid sense of humor, as witnessed in stories such as “Murders in the rue Morgue”?
a. Sara Paretsky
b. Nathaniel Hawthorn
c. Stephen King
d. Edgar Allan Poe

10. What French general was honored for his many contributions to the American war of independence, named an honorary citizen of the USA in 1781, and went on to lead the French National Guard during the Revolution of 1789-94? He was so revered among Americans that many places took his name, as we can easily see still today.
a. General Hoche
b. General LaFayette
c. General Bugeaud
d. General DeGaulle

1. d. blowtorch. Through her engaging spirit and sense of fun, Julia Child set off a culinary revolution in the USA during the 1960s and 1970s. Our current appreciation for local ingredients and artisanal products was shared by her in books such as Mastering the Art of French Cooking, 1961 (co-authored with Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle).
2. b. Continuous. As Rosanvallon writes, “What alarmed them was not the end of revolution but its continuation.” The Society of Equals, p. 61.
3. c. Proxy marriages. The article reads, “These are called proxy marriages, a legal arrangement that allows a couple to wed even in the absence of one or both spouses. They date back centuries: one of the most famous examples was between Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, who were first married in her native Austria in his absence, before she was shipped to meet him in France.” See Sarah Maslin Nir’s article of March 6, 2013.
4. d. The poem, “Robespierre” by Frederick Seidel, appeared in the June 5, 2014 edition of the New York Review of Books. The scholarly outrage appeared on H-France.
5. a. American Airlines. The article featured the lavish suites offered to company executives during trips to London.
6. b. Freedom Fries.
7. a. Emmanuel Sieyès, cited in Jean-Jacques Clère, article “Administrations locales” in Dictionnaire historique de la Révolution française, ed. Albert Soboul, p. 6. “La France n’est pas une collection d’États. Elle est un tout unique, composé de parties intégrantes,” (7 September 1789).
8. d. Chicago. Events include concerts, festivals, and wine tastings; see
9. d. Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1848) is cited with admiration by authors such as Baudelaire, Mallarmé, and the Surrealists of the 1930s. Baudelaire translated Poe’s work into French; the first volume, Histoires extraordinaires (Extraordinary Stories), was published in 1852.
10. b. Thanks to his enthusiastic and tireless support for the American War of Independence, LaFayette (also written Lafayette) became an American hero. (See also the Revolution in Fiction blog post for July 4, 2014, for more details on Franco-American collaboration during that war.)

Thermidor Fun Fact Day Thirty: David’s painting and the myth of Marat

Today is the 221st anniversary of Charlotte Corday’s assassination of Jean-Paul Marat, left-wing journalist and politician, author of the newspaper L’Ami du peuple. Marat’s fame would doubtless have waned years ago, if not for the gorgeous portrait by Jacques-Louis David called La Mort de Marat (1793). Produced by order of the Convention in response to the groundswell of anger after Marat’s murder, in David’s masterful hands Marat looks younger, more handsome, and healthier than he really was. He symbolizes the people’s triumph over adversity. That is why David represented Charlotte Corday as ………. in the painting.

a. crucified behind the martyred Marat

b. lying at the feet of the martyred Marat

c. peering in the window at Marat in the bathtub

d. absent


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