Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

on the theatre of the world, and his friends indulged the same fond expectation. He applied to the study of the law, and already, in imagination, contemplated himself disputing with the first orators of the age the palm of eloquence. Experience, however, convinced his friends, and at length himself, that they had indulged a vain illusion. He discovered no taste or aptitude for the profession for which he was designed, became weary of study, was checked by the slightest difficulties; and being found destitute of those talents which were neeessary to his success as a public speaker, his benefactor, after a trial of sufficient length, refused to support him any longer, at a considerable and fruit less expence at Paris, but ordered him to return to Arras, where in an humble spliere, better suited to the mediocrity of his abilities, he might pursue his profession as a lawyer. - Robespierre was compelled to return to Arras; which, after the splendid dreams he had indulged of fame and honours in the capital, was an humiliation he felt keenly, but which he brooded over in silence ; for he never, on any occan sion, displayed his sensibility to mortifications, which was in proportion to his excessive vanity, but concentered within his vindictive soul bis dis grace, his resentment, and his projects of vengeance. From the period of his return to Arras may be dated his abhorrende of men of talents. Even that mo ment, instead of admiringigenius, he repined at its existence. The same feelings clung to bis base and envious spirit when he had usurped his dictatorial power. He made it pain of death to be author of -what he called seditious publications, by which means it was easy for him to involve men of letters in a general proscription. He suppressed every dramatic piece in which there were any allusions he disliked, or wherein the picture or history held up to view any feature of his own character. And

it was his plan to abolish theatrical entertainments • altogether ; for he considered the applause bestow

ed on fine poetry as something of which his - harangues were defrauded. He held up, men of

letters to the people as persons hostile to the cause ! of liberty, and incapable of raising themselves to the height of the revolution; and to make them still greater objects of mistrust' and suspicion, he had long instructed his agents to declaim' against them as statesmer; the meairingi of which word, in sthe dictionary of these conspirators, was.counter

revolutionist. Their system had even arrived at isome maturity, when Brissot, in his speech for an appeal to the people on the trial of the late king, thus pourtrays them : U15.Il semble à entendre ces hommes qu'on ne - puisse être à la hauteur de la révolution, qu'en

montant sur des piles de cadavres. '{ Il semble que le secret de l'homme d'état soit maintenant le secret des bourreaux. Veut-on faire entendre le langage de la saine politique ? on est soudoyé par des puissances étrangeres. Veut-on parler celui de la raison ? c'est de la philosophie toute-pure, s'écrie-ton; et on accoutume la multitude à mépriser sa - bienfaitrice, à diviniser l'ignorance*. - 4:46

. L'ignorafico de la multitude est le secret du pouvoir des agitateurs comme des despotes ; c'est là le secret de la durée de l'art de calomnier. Voilà pourquoi ils s'élevent contre la philosophie, qui

" According to these men, no one can possibly be at the height of the revolution without mounting on heaps of dead. It seems as if the knowledge of the staiesman was commensurate only with the skill of the executioner. If wè speak a language dictated by sound policy, we are in the pay of foreign powers. Do we speak that of reason. This is nothing, they exclaim, but the dreams of philosophy: and thus the multitude are instructed to despise their bene. factress, and deify ignorance.! 210702

veut

[ocr errors]

veut affermir la liberté sur la raison universelle: Voilà pourquoi ils plaisantent sur le systéme d'éducation, sur l'utilité des écoles, primaires. Il s'agit · bien de tout cela, c'est de massacres qu'il faut entretenir le peuple. Voilà pourquoi ils supposent, ils accusent sans cesse l'aristocratie du talent. Ah! pourquoi le talent? n'est-il qu'un être metaphysique ? Avec quel doux plaisir ces Vandales le nivelleroient, si leur faux pourroient l'atteindre* !" s. One of the objects of Robespierre’s resentment was M. Bitauby, a Prussian, well known in the literary world by his elegant translation of Homer into French. He was a member of the academy at Berlin, from which the king of Prussia ordered his name to be struck out, and the pension with which the great Frederic had rewarded his merit to be discontinued, on account of his avowed attachment to the principles of the revolution. M, Bitauby had fixed his residence at Paris several years previous to that event. I have been acquainted with him and his lady since my first arrival in France, and have never met with persons who -blended with the wisdom and seriousness of

age, so much of all that is amiable in youth. M. Bitauby, in the first days of the revolution, had been personally acquainted with Robespierre, who frequently dined at his house ; but he was not long in dis

* « The ignorance of the multitude is the master spring of the power of anarchists as well as of despots : it is hy this they keep alive the breath of calumny. Furnished with this engine they make war on philosophy, which teaches us that universal reason is the only basis of liberty; and thus deride every plan of education, and deny the utility of public schools. These are reveries, say they ; the people must be regene, rated with blood. This is the reason why they are inveigh, ing so continually against the aristocracy of genius. Alas! why has knowledge only a metaphysical existence? With what complacency would not these 'Vandals bring it to their own level, if their destroying scythes could reach it!”

covering

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

lem

[ocr errors]

tack

le

covering the sanguinary and fanatical ideas of liberty which filled the soul of the tyrant, and which 50 much disgusted him that he gave up his acquaintance.

Robespierre did not forget the affront, which he Ah

had now the power to avenge. M. Bitauby and his wife were dragged to prison in the beginning of the winter, where they languished ten months; and deprived of those cares, which their age and infirmities required, they had almost sunk beneath their weight. Madame Bitauby's indisposition required medical assistance; but so many formalities were

necessary before a physician could be admitted into Here the prison, that, if the disorder was not of a linger

ing nature, the patient expired while the police were arranging the ceremonials previous to his relief. During the last months of Robespierre's

usurpation, the prisoners were refused the consolayeni tion of being attended by their own physicians.

Professional men were appointed by the police; and

as selections were made among those who were able to give clearer proofs of their Jacobin principles than of their medical skill, these revolutionary doctors sometimes robbed the revolutionary jury of their prey. A few however of these * Officers of health” possessed the negative merit

which Dr. Franklin ascribed to old and experienced prie physicians, “ they let their patients die,” for the the remedies they administered were of too harmless

a nature to be capable of doing mischief. : The physicians of the Conciergerie had as strong a pre

dilection for tisanne as Dr. Sangrado for hot water. ener Tisanne was the vivifying draught which was desigh tined to sooth all pains, and heal all 'maladies.

One day the doctor, after having felt a patient's beir pulse, said to the jailor, “ He is better this morn

. “Yes," answered the jailor," he is better, ng but the person who lay in this bed yesterday is

dead."

inte

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

1 thi

that

pols.

.

ing.'

dead.” “ Eh bien,” resumed the doctor coolly, “ qu'on dome toujours la tisanne."

M. and Madame Bitauby had an advocate in their distress whom it was difficult indeed to resist. This was an old servant of eighty years of age,

His figure was so interesting that Šterne's pencil only could sketch it well; and had Sterne seen him, he : would not have failed to draw his portrait. He pleaded the cause of his inaster with such pathetic eloquence, that, at the revolutionary committee, he soinetimes “ drew iron tears down Pluto's cheek.' But the old inan was eloquent in vain, and was sinking with despair into the grave when the revolution of the 9th of Thermidor restored his master and mistress to liberty.

The fate of Boucheu, author of a poem called« The Months,” excited particular sympathy. . He passed his time in prison, in educating one of his children, and this employment seemed to charm away his cares. The day he received his act of accusation, knowing well the fate that awaited him, he sent his son bome, giving him his portrait, which a painter who was his fellow prisoner had drawn, and which he ordered the child to give his mother. Below the picture he had written the following

lines:

“ Ne vous étonnez pas, objets charmans et doux,
Si quelqu'air de tristesse obscurcit mon visage ;
Lorsqu'un savant crayon dessinoit cette image,

On dressoit l'échafaud, st je pensois à vous.
- Low'd objects, cease to wonder when je trace...

The melancholy air that clouds ng facet; 70.
Ah! while the painter's skill this image drew

They rear'd the scaffold, and I thought of you! Là Voisier; the celebrated chemist, was 'put to death with the other farmers general. He requested a fortnight's respite to enable him to complete a

philosphical

[ocr errors]
« ElőzőTovább »