Follow-up on “Collectionner” colloquium


Looking at the business cards I received during the Grenoble & Vizille colloquium this past week conjures up the diverse viewpoints we heard from there: they are cut of cardstock in three different colors, textures, and sizes, printed in Russian, French, and Japanese. They recall people I barely met and may never see again: two middle-aged men and a young woman–funny, shy, gregarious, and remote. Their works, like the 17 others presented during the 30 hours (!) of the colloquium  surprised and delighted the audience. We may have struggled to sit still for so long, but we nevertheless thrilled with the discovery of kindred spirits and felt honored to be included in such an erudite group in such beautiful settings.

It was a specialists’ meeting, in which four groups–historians, museum curators, archivists, and a few literary types like me–shared industry secrets, lists of promising materials, and histories of collections near and far. Although joined by a fascination with the French Revolution, there was a striking disparity of focus and engagement with the political principles at stake. Our views ranged from the militant’s impatience and desire for action to the conservator’s careful habit of protecting old things of the past.

I came away refreshed, with my optimism renewed. Learning to laugh at our mistakes, accept our differences, and welcome young researchers into the field: these are things I will remember. Many thanks, organizers, for bringing us together this September for an event that we will never forget.

Exciting discoveries await at the “Collectionner la Révolution française” colloquium this week!


I am very excited and honored to be participating in the colloquium on “Collectionner la Révolution française” here in southeastern France this week. Talks start on Wednesday 9/23 at the Université de Grenoble and continue on Thursday and Friday in the magnificent surroundings of the Musée de la Révolution française situated high up in a mountain village called Vizille. (Ironically, it is an aristocratic chateau surrounded by sumptuous gardens, formerly owned by one of the richest families of France. Odd site for a collection in honor of the rabble-rousers who overthrew the monarchy!)

The line-up of speakers is dazzling. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an international cast of speakers in all my years as an academic. Not only are some of the most distinguished French scholars and archivists coming here from all corners of this country, people are also coming from Italy, Russia, the UK, and Japan (as well as me, from the USA). Check out the program below, and stand by for highlights!

BTW: In revising my paper, I gave it a new title: “Y a-t-il de collection ‘innocente’? La politique identitaire des livres rares à l’Université de Notre Dame (Indiana, USA).” I’ve decided to share some reflections on what I learned by exploring the Rare Book holdings in French at ND last summer, and what it taught me about the university’s original involvement with the children of South Bend. Makes for an interesting contrast with more recent priorities.  Some of the other papers titles promise to unveil equally tantalizing secrets discovered through rare tomes held by the Tsar of Russia, among others. Who says reading old books can’t be fun!?

Colloque international
Collectionner la Révolution française
Mercredi 23 après-midi, jeudi 24 et vendredi 25 septembre 2015

Société des études robespierristes, IHRF- Université Paris I-Panthéon Sorbonne, CRHIPA-Université Pierre Mendès France-Grenoble 2, Musée de la Révolution française-Domaine de Vizille

Mercredi 23 septembre (Domaine universitaire – Maison des sciences de l’Homme Alpes)

Session 1 / Qui sont les collectionneurs ? Entre notables et anonymes
Président de séance : Michel Biard / GRHis-Normandie Université
14h30 : Introduction : Michel Biard / GRHis-Normandie Université

14h45 : Alain Chevalier / Directeur du Musée de la Révolution française
Essai de répertoire raisonné des collections françaises d’objets révolutionnaires de 1789 à nos jours.

15h15 : Laurent Le Gall / Université de Brest
La Révolution en majesté : érudition locale et collection firent-elles bon ménage (1860-1914) ?

15h45 : Pause

16h : Raymond Huard / Université de Montpellier
Marcellin Pellet, républicain gardois et collectionneur.

16h30 : Serge Aberdam / Département de sciences sociales de l’INRIA
Collectionner les Billets de confiance révolutionnaires, approche anecdotique ou approche économique.

17h : Présentation du film La Révolution dans les cultures populaires édité à l’occasion de l’exposition temporaire Culture populaire et Révolution française XXème et XXIème siècles présentée au Musée de la Révolution française de juin 2013 à avril 2014.

17h30 : Échanges

20h : Dîner au centre-ville de Grenoble puis retour à l’hôtel Suisse Bordeaux 6 Place de la Gare, 38000 Grenoble

Jeudi 24 septembre (Musée de la Révolution française-Domaine de Vizille)

8h45 Gare routière de Grenoble : départ de la navette réservée pour le colloque en direction de Vizille
9h15 : Arrivée au Domaine de Vizille

Session 2 : Collections érudites, collections engagées
Président de séance : Alain Chevalier / Directeur du Musée de la Révolution française

9h30 : Tom Stammers / Université de Durham
Jean-Louis Soulavie : un collectionneur de l’histoire immédiate.

10h : Michela Lo Feudo / Université de Naples-Federico II
Champfleury collectionneur : cartographie d’une enquête entre Second Empire et Troisième République.

10h30 : Pause

10h45 : Jean-Marie Bruson / Musée Carnavalet
Le Comte Alfred de Liesville (1836-1885), collectionneur.

11h15 : Aurore Chéry / Université Jean Moulin Lyon 3
Collections, associations, expositions : stratégies royalistes pour le bicentenaire.
11h45-12h30 : Échanges

12h30 : Déjeuner au Musée de la Révolution française

Session 3 : Collections officielles et passions privées
Président de séance : Martial Poirson / Université Paris 8

14h : Yann Fauchois / Bibliothèque nationale de France
Constitution et signalement des fonds de l’époque révolutionnaire au département des imprimés de la Bibliothèque nationale (1790-1875).

14h30 : Yann Potin / Archives nationales, Pierrefitte-sur-Seine
L’impossible collection légale de la Révolution : les « séries révolutionnaires » des Archives nationales, de la section législative aux acquisitions autographes (1790-1834).

15h : Pause

15h15 : Martine Sin Blima-Barru / Archives nationales, Fontainebleau
L’archiviste, le collectionneur, le receleur ; les activités secrètes de Dubois, employé de la section législative des Archives nationales (1840-1844).

15h45 : Magali Charreire / Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3
Des enchères à la fiction : les collections de la Révolution française légitimées par un écrivain bibliophile romantique sous la monarchie de Juillet.

16h15-17h : Échanges
17h15 : Visite de l’exposition temporaire du Musée de la Révolution française : Rencontre avec Napoléon. Un empereur à cheval pour la postérité.
19h : Visite du Centre de documentation-bibliothèque Albert Soboul

20h : Dîner au Musée de la Révolution française
22h : Départ de la navette réservée pour le colloque en direction de Grenoble Gare routière

Vendredi 25 septembre (Musée de la Révolution française-Domaine de Vizille)

8h15 Gare routière de Grenoble : départ de la navette réservée pour le colloque en direction de Vizille
8h45 : Arrivée au Domaine de Vizille

Session 4 : Circulations et usages à l’échelle du monde
Président de séance : Pierre Serna / IHRF-Université Paris I-Panthéon Sorbonne

9h : Vladislava Sergienko / Université de Nice
La collection inconnue du Palais d’hiver à Saint Petersbourg : la correspondance des émigrés français acquise par le prince Lobanov-rostovski. Une passion ou un ordre du Tsar ?

9h30 : Guillaume Nicoud / Musée d’État de l’Ermitage, département des arts occidentaux, Saint Petersbourg, Russie
La Révolution au Palais d’Hiver : exposer la Révolution française dans l’Ermitage des Soviets.

10h: Andrei Sorokine et Elena Myagkova / Archives d’État Russe et de l’histoire sociale et politique, Moscou, Russie
La collection des objets et des écrits de la Révolution française aux Archives d’État Russe et de l’histoire sociale et politique.

10h30 : Pause

10h45 : Julia V. Douthwaite / University of Notre Dame, USA
Peut-on collectionner innocemment ? Les fonds de l’ère révolutionnaire en Indiana, USA.

11h15 : Katherine Astbury et Clare Siviter Université de Warwick
La collection de pièces de théâtre d’Amédée Marandet (1863-1924) à la bibliothèque de l’Université de Warvick.
11h45-12h15 : Échanges

12h30 : Déjeuner au Musée de la Révolution française

Président de séance : Gilles Bertrand / Université Pierre Mendès France Grenoble 2

14h : Antonino De Francesco / Université d’Etat de Milan
Quelques considérations sur l’historiographie de la Révolution française d’après l’exemple de la collection Alphonse Aulard à Harvard.

14h30 : Yoshiaki Omi / Université Senshu, Tokyo
La quête de l’univers de la Révolution française dans la collection de Michel Bernstein.
15h-15h30 : Echanges et conclusion : Gilles Bertrand et Pierre Serna

Pour tout renseignement durant le colloque n’hésitez pas à contacter Hélène Puig au 06 74 57 38 71.

On Teaching, Revolution, and “Death in Venice”


Now that the new school year is upon us, and many of us college teachers are leading courses that take us far from what we consider our “real work” (that is, our scholarly writing), it can be hard to sustain a research agenda. This blog has shown various strategies I’ve tried over the years to avoid losing hold on a research interest while embracing and enjoying teaching.  Strategies include reflections on the contrast between hard-won measures to defend workers’ rights (such as Labor Day, est. 1894), and the modern-day imperative to keep businesses open 24/7 (“On Labor Day 2009”), the parallels between the Arab Spring of 2011 and the French unrest of 1789-94 (“Arab Protesters in the American Classroom”), and the marketing of French Revolution-themed toys and games (“Marie-Antoinette Action Figure”).

After six years on this blog, I’ve concluded that the best way to refresh curiosity about a topic is not necessarily to read more scholarly tomes, but rather to let your mind roam and unearth analogies farther afield. This weekend is a perfect example. Inspired by Tobias Boes, whose work I’ve been reviewing as part of a writing group we both belong to, I took the time to read  Thomas Mann’s story, “Death in Venice”  (1911).*

Wow.  Although I’m a little embarrassed that it took me so long to discover “Death in Venice,” in a way I’m glad. (What a waste to make 19-year-olds read this! How can they relate to it, except maybe to be creeped out by the old guy’s lecherous gaze on the handsome young Tadzio?)  I’m glad I waited until this moment, on the heels of my 40th high school reunion in Seattle this summer. After seeing my classmates face-to-face, and learning about the ravages that time has dealt our bodies and hearts, I can certainly identify with a character who inhabits an aging body that nevertheless continues to feel  the sweet old pull of desire.

A psychic “revolution” is what jars the protagonist (Aschenbach) out of his growing obsession with the Polish Adonis he admires every morning on the beach. It springs from his sense of propriety. It reminds him of the pleasant fullness he feels when gazing upon the awards he’s won, and confirms his superiority over everybody else. As the character thinks: “‘[Tadzio] is delicate, he is sickly … He will most likely not live to grow old.'” Thrilled by that weakness, which restores his mastery over the forbidden object of his desire, Aschenbach’s mind seeks out reasons to flee. As Mann notes, “He got out at San Marco , had his tea in the Piazza, and then, as his custom was, took a walk through the streets. But this walk of his brought about nothing less than a revolution in his mood and an entire change in all his plans” (34-35).

Thereafter the city turns ugly; the lagoon is “foul-smelling” and the narrow streets are described as inhabited by a “hateful sultriness” full of smells hanging low, “like exhalations, not dissipating” (35). Wandering through the crowds, Aschenbach ends up in the poor quarter, where “beggars waylaid him, the canals sickened him” until “he reached a quiet square, one of those that exist at the city’s heart, forsaken of God and man; there he rested awhile on the margin of a fountain, wiped his brow, and admitted to himself that he must be gone” (35).

Now, readers of “Death in Venice” will know that this revolution does not produce the results which seem inevitable. Despite his decision to flee the pestilence—and the frightening sensuality coursing in his veins–Aschenbach does not leave Venice. Rather he changes his mind again a couple pages later. He returns to the beach, the dining room, and the streets, stalking Tadzio and hungrily seeking chances to live in his presence, possibly to exchange words, or a touch.  He chooses to admit, for once, that he feels something for someone, and to live in the moment, dangerously, boldly, without a plan.

The moment is potent. It symbolizes his—that is the elite’s—false sense of transcendence over existence. It suggests the fallacy of choosing to experience life as an observer rather than as a fully engaged human being, with one’s flaws and longings as well as one’s finer points in full sight. The fact that he refuses the bourgeois moment of “revolution” (that is, revulsion and flight from humanity) to pursue his deepest longings may cause readers pain, but it should also force us to think about our own habits of repression and sublimation. It should make us think twice about who we grace with compassion and who we revile, and why.

Where others use the word as a synonym for upheaval, Mann seems to use the word “revolution” to signify a kind of resistance against life’s fleshy, smelly messiness and joy, a choice for the comfortable non-engagement of the academic, the ascetic, the genius, or saint.  I’m still not sure that I understand where this is leading, but the fact that I can’t stop thinking about it is reason enough to be glad.

*Thomas Mann, “Death in Venice” in Death in Venice and Seven Other Stories, trans. H.T. Lowe-Porter (New York: Vintage Books, 1963).

Bastille Day Anti-Quiz: Answers!

Answers to the daily mini-quizzes published as “From Prairial to Pop Culture: The French Revolution in 2015” (June 12 – July 13, 2015)

  1. June 12. No. 3. “Prairial” is the name of a popular revolt in Paris on May 20, 1795 against the policies of the Thermidorian Convention; widely considered the last popular revolt of the French Revolution begun in 1789.
  2. Jun 13. No. 2. “Those minorities” signifies members of the government, teachers, intellectuals and journalists, according to an angry flyer found nearby the Sorbonne in late May 2015.
  3. June 14. No. 1. Judging from the décor in this ad for Audible books, Le Rouge et le Noir / The Red and the Black by Stendhal would make the most sense.
  4. June 15. No. 2. “Fête Nat” is the name of the character played by Abdoulaye Diop in Coup de torchon (1981).
  5. June 16. No. 4. L’Assignat is the name of a restaurant near the Monnaie de Paris (the Paris Mint).
  6. June 17. No. 3. Le culte théophilanthropique was all the rage in the 1790s, including among statesmen such as La Revellière.
  7. June 18. No. 4. All of the incidents occur in the story “Robespierre et les deux orphelins, ou Histoire secrète des derniers jours de Robespierre.” (No wonder he stayed out of sight for so long!)
  8. June 19. No. 2. Jason Schwartzman, of Moonrise Kingdom, played Louis XVI in Coppola’s film.
  9. June 20. No. 3. “Hoppy” is the equivalent of Messidor.
  10. June 21.

No. 1. “We do not comprehend why Camille Desmoulins, who was so openly protected by Robespierre, is crushed in the triumph of this dictator,” are the last words of A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel.

No. 2. ” But I do not. I do not,” are the last words of Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly.

No. 3. “Surely, before the expiration of half a century, since the return of Louis, France will congratulate herself on another restoration,” states Anthony Trollope at the end of La Vendée.

No. 4  “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known,” are the final words of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.

  1. Jun 22

No. 1. “‘Remember me, but forget my fate'” echoes Patrice Higonnet at the end of Goodness beyond Virtue.

No. 2. “But that, as they say, is another story,” are the last words in Marisa Linton’s Choosing Terror.

No. 3. “The French Revolution ended with the triumph of Hobbes over Rousseau,” notes Howard Brown in closing Ending the French Revolution.

No. 4. “Old and strong forces were woken by the Revolution, they began to know themselves in a new way, and they changed the world,” announces James Livesey at the end of Making Democracy in the French Revolution.

  1. June 23. No. 1. Jean-Jacques Rousseau is the author of the shocking quote, “Pectore si fratris gladium,” in his Discours sur l’origine et des fondements de l’inégalité parmi les hommes (1755).
  2. June 24. No. 1. The Constitution de l’An I / Year One was adopted today in 1793.
  3. June 25. No. 3. Françoise de Graffigny is the innovative author of the best-selling Lettres d’une Péruvienne (1747), where you’ll find that interesting early usage of classe to denote economics, not taxonomies.
  4. June 26. No. 4. The Conciergerie prison remains almost as ghoulish as in Marie-Antoinette’s day. You can easily imagine the large river rats scurrying down the halls.
  5. June 27: No. 4. Louis-Antoine de Saint-Just declared that happiness was a “new idea” in March 1794. Thanks to Laurent Loty from bringing this to light in his excellent article, « Des Lumières à la Révolution : le bonheur en Constitution », Les Cahiers de l’Observatoire du Bonheur, 2, numéro spécial « Bonheur et petits bonheurs » dirigé par Michèle Gally, 2011, pp. 12-15. You can also read his article on this blog, posted on September 24, 2011.
  6. June 28: 3. Abbé Barruel, author of Memoirs Illustrating the History of Jacobinism full of virulent charges of conspiracy: he claims the Revolution was the result of a long-term plot hatched by philosophes, freemasons, Illuminati, anarchists, and économistes. Notre Dame own three titles by Barruel, including the five-volume Mémoires pour servir à l’histoire du jacobinisme (1798-99); and the 1798 English translation in four volumes. It sounds like a lot, but that is a small fraction of his output.
  7. June 29: 4. All of the above. In other words, lots of people made profit out of the Revolution, but in the short run, things did not go better, they went worse, for the weak, vulnerable, and the poorest urban dwellers. It was not until the Third Republic that France would become the amazingly supportive state it became (at least in American eyes).
  8. June 30: No. 3. Les Enragés is the name of a political group. I like the way they describe it on Wikipedia: “la réflexion enragée d’une critique de la représentation nationale s’appuie sur une méfiance permanente envers les représentants du peuple.”  Hmm, sounds like some of my friends in Paris.
  9. July 1: No. 4. La mauvaise mère pardonnée par l’état is the correct answer, that is, an imaginary title. All the other books are real titles one can see on WorldCat.  Pierre Augustin de Beaumarchais, L’Autre Tartuffe ou la mère coupable, Paris, 1791. Pigault-Lebrun,  La mère rivale. Paris, 1791. Nicolas Thomas Barthe, La mère jalouse, Bruxelles, 1792.
  10. July 2: No. 1, Soupe Jacobine (actually “Jacobin sop”) is a medieval dish: a kind of French potage with cheese.  For a recipe and a great explanation of its history, see
  11. July 3: No 4., le traître or traitor, has been in existence since 1080, acc. to Le Grand Robert de la langue française.  The other three words were coined during the 1790s.
  12. July 4: No. 2. There was no république sœur named “La République deutsche.”
  13. July 5: No. 5, the Loire River, is in the names of the following six departments: Loire Atlantique (called “Loire-inférieure” until 1957); Maine et Loire; Saône et Loire; Indre et Loire; Haute-Loire; and Rhône et Loire.
  14. July 6: No. 4. All of the above. I don’t know about you, but I’m glad to finally know that.
  15. July 7: No. 4, a cherry, cerise. Seems fitting for this sweet, luxuriously green summer in South Bend.
  16. July 8: No. 1, Olympe de Gouges’s claim to fame is a rather humble little place near the old Bourse du travail in the 3rd arrondissement. You can get there by metro Filles du calvaire or Oberkampf, or bus Jean-Pierre Timbaud. While in the neighborhood, why not have a bite at the Caffé Soprano 2, rue Dupetit Thouars? possibly under the platane trees…. right across the street from the old Temple prison where the royal family awaited their fate! At least they put her in an interesting neighborhood!
  17. July 9: No. 3 Hoppy took the place of Messidor (June 20-July 19).
  18. July 10: No. 2, the poissarde or fishmonger, a fascinating figure in French literature. Check out the article on this blog entitled “How to Translate a Poissarde?” in homage to Sonja Stojanovic’s amazing translation of “Le Falot du peuple.”
  19. July 11: No. 3, “Madame Guillotine” will soon cut off their heads, said the mean Jacobin in Simon Bruté and the Western Adventure, by Elizabeth Bartelme (1959).
  20. July 12: No. 3. In fact, Camus writes that: “The Catholic Church, for example, has always admitted the necessity of the death penalty . . . not only as a means of legitimate protection, but also as a powerful means of salvation.” This comes about, Camus writes, because “even the worst criminal examines his own conscience when faced with the actuality of execution.” As a Swiss councilor wrote in 1937 and Camus cites:  “He repents, and his preparation for death is made easier. The Church has saved one of its members, has accomplished its divine mission.”  Albert Camus, “Reflections on the Guillotine,” 1st ed. 1957, repr. in Evergreen Review Reader, 1957-1967, ed. Barney Rosset (New York: Grove Press, 1968), 88-106.  Citation from p. 103.  That was news to me!
  21. July 13: No. 2. The Left was furious with Lennon’s revised “Revolution” because he withdrew his support for violent action. Watch the interviews about Lennon & Yoko Ono’s honeymoon where he explains why. (All you need is love.)

33:  ANSWERS PUBLISHED!   Happy Bastille Day!

From Prairial to Pop Culture. Day Thirty-One. On Albert Camus’s “Reflections on the Guillotine”: can you spot the faulty logic?

Albert_Camus,_ United Press International
In his powerful essay, “”Réflexions sur la guillotine” (1957), the French philosopher Albert Camus denounces capital punishment.* Remember that capital punishment in France was carried out by the guillotine from 1792, when the beheading machine was first used during the French Revolution, right up until 1981.
Let’s test your instincts on existentialism and the guillotine.

All of the following reasons, but one, are part of Camus’s rhetorical assault on the death sentence. Remember the continuum in Camus’s thought as seen in The Stranger: he admits human frailty and irrationality, all the while stressing the essential freedom of humans to chart their own course in life.
OK, knowing all that, it is your turn to pick. I falsified one of the answers below to make it look like a quote by Camus.
Which of the following arguments feels wrong here?
1. Capital punishment cannot provide a meaningful deterrent to crime because “many honest men are criminals without knowing it,” given the passionate, spontaneous character of murder, especially.
2. The fright factor is ineffective because “the State conceals the circumstances and even the existence of its executions,” by conducting such ceremonies at dawn and far from the public gaze.
3. The Catholic Church has always fought such punishment and has “never admitted the necessity of the death penalty.” The French people should follow the lead of this great spiritual force and submit to the Lord through their savior, Jesus Christ.
4. To decide that a man is to be definitively punished means denying him “any further opportunity whatsoever to make reparation for his acts.”

* Albert Camus, “Reflections on the Guillotine,” 1st ed. 1957, trans. Richard Howard. In Evergreen Review Reader, 1957-1967, ed. Barney Rosset (New York: Grove Press, 1968), 88-106.

From Prairial to Pop Culture. Day Thirty. Holy bakers and outlaw priests

Simon Bruté and the Western Adventure priests as bakers giving hostSimon Bruté and the Western Adventure priest on horseback

One of the intriguing connections between popular culture and literature that I’ve unearthed this summer is the figure of the criminal priest. He is only “criminal” because of the prohibition against Catholicism declared in the early years of the Revolution, and his only “crime” is to celebrate traditional masses after they have been outlawed.  This is a field rich with irony and pathos: perfect ingredients for story-telling.

Readers may recall Balzac’s thrilling story of outlaw clergy in “An Episode under the Terror,” which begins in a bakery where a nun is spending her last louis d’or on a batch of illegal hosts.  But I bet you have not heard of the holy bakers of Simon Bruté and the Western Adventure!*  It opens with a scene under the Terror as well, when young Simon was living in his hometown of Rennes, in western France.**

Thanks to the boy’s piety as well as his home’s location—in the Palais de Justice right next door to the town prison–Simon has a special job.  He works with two priests disguised as bakers who come to sell bread to prisoners.  After all the prisoners have received their ration of bread (and secretly, Holy Communion via the hosts hid in the bakers’ baskets), the republican guard yells out harsh words that break the tranquil moment captured in the illustration.

Fill in the blanks with the mean Jacobin’s words (or the most likely thing a mean Jacobin was imagined to say):

“Enough,” said the guard firmly. You’ve fed them enough for today. They’ll all be dead anyhow, so why fatten them up? _________________________ will see to their needs. Enemies of the Republic! They’ll eat no more bread.”

  1. Le croquemitaine (aka the bogey man, who will scare them straight)
  2. L’homme au sable (aka the sandman, who will give them sweet dreams)
  3. Madame Guillotine (aka the blade, that will cut off their heads)
  4. Père Duchêne (aka the group of lawyers who, volunteering their time in The “Père Duchêne Project,” saved many a prisoner from the Tribunal’s wrath)

*Elizabeth Bartelme, Simon Bruté and the Western Adventure (New York: P.J. Kenedy & Sons, 1959), 15.

** Simon Bruté is best known as the Bishop of the diocese of Vincennes, Indiana (1834-39)

From Prairial to Pop Culture. Day Twenty-nine. Of finance ministers and market women

Rutledge Necker

I just finished an amazing book on Necker, the finance minister under Louis XVI.* The most interesting discoveries for me were the revelation that Necker was a friend of the rich (although that was not a big surprise), that he had promised but reneged on his promise to help the poor (ditto), and that he apparently also reneged on a promise to a certain Comtesse de C. This last nugget is wrapped around an artful device by the writer, James Rutledge.
Tucked within the pages of vitriol about Necker’s financial double-dealings is the story of a certain Countess de … to whom he owed 1,000 louis and perhaps her virtue. When she refuses to drop her case or the demand for reparation, It appears that Necker has her mauled by a mob of unruly workers who demand that she say, “Vive Necker” [Long live Necker]. At that point, the countess refuses, but not before shifting tactics and shouting out, “Vive le Tiers” [Long live the third estate]. Thereby one with the cause of the people, she is embraced by the formerly hostile mob, who joins her in touting the Tiers! The inset tale ends with the mob inviting her to join them for a drink.
Prominent in the resolution to this drama is the work of a symbolic figure that is often found in revolutionary literature. She is typically portrayed as hot-tempered, sometimes drunkenly, and prone to funny malapropisms, but her sense of loyalty to her sisters in the marketplace is equal to none. What is she called?
1. A couturière or dressmaker
2. A poissarde or fish-monger
3. An épicière or grocer
4. A pastry-maker or pâtissière

*[James Rutledge], Vie privée et ministérielle de M. Necker, Directeur général des finances, par un citoyen. Geneva: Chez Pellet, 1790. With thanks to Princeton University who sent it here via Interlibrary Loan.

Below is the very odd illustration which opens the “Supplement” where more evil deeds are laid out for public view. Il looks like Necker is taking a sledge hammer to the foundation of the republic. At its top stand symbols of the ancien regime who seem to be aiming at him. If anyone has any idea other ideas about what this symbolism means, please write in!

Rutledge Supplement


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