Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Look Up

David is considering accepting a job in this building, in San Francisco, of which he took the picture after his interview. The offices are in the top two floors. To imagine being able to look at that spectacular view of the bay every day makes me a little breathless. Terry and I lived in SF for two years when we first got married.  We owned and boarded two horses in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area with its thousands of acres of riding trails. I don't think I was mature enough to fully appreciate it then. There's not a more beautiful city in the whole country.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Emily Jane

Katie's expression looks like a combination of excitement and amazement as she and Kyle hold their first baby, Emily Jane, born this afternoon.  My mother would be so very touched to know that her name was passed on to Katie's daughter.  Congratulations to them and, indeed, to our whole family for this precious addition.  Love, love, love to my niece and her little family.

The Twin Towers: Still there, but not

Micah took this tonight from the rooftop terrace of her dorm.  You can barely, barely make out two beams of light that rise to the heavens in place of the two towers.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

To Citoyenne Sourdille Lavatelle

"Adieu, kind and affectionate wife, and adieu forever.  It is two o'clock, and I hope at three to be on my way to the Place de la Révolution.  You see, my dearest, that by four o'clock I shall be happier, or at least not so unhappy as thou.  Thou art the only person who made me cling to life, and for some time I was afraid of having lost thee.  Thy silence, unbroken since the 30 Pluviose, made me think that thou hadst succumbed to the innumerable blows which thou hast undergone for some time, and then my days were numbered.  I defended myself with courage and firmness.  I shall show this up to the last moment, and I shall leave, I hope, the name of an honest man.  I have not written to thee a longer letter, but I wish to converse a last time with thee.  I swear to thee that under the fatal knife my thoughts will be fixed on thee.  Live for my sons, my mother, my aunt.  Bid my sister farewell, and receive the tenderest kisses.  I have swallowed thy ring. (Italics added.)  It was bound never to quit me.  Adieu, my dearest.  I send thee a thousand kisses."        From Pierre Jean Sourdille-Lavatelle, aged 30, barrister, a prominent Girondon at Laval.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Fouquier-Tinville presiding over the trial of Marie Antoinette

I've posted Marie Antoinette's last letter (to her husband's sister, Madame Elisabeth) in the past, but don't know how to link to it.  It's well-worth reading and can be found by entering "letter" in this blog's search box.  If I get side-tracked by the vast, and dear to my heart, subject of Marie Antoinette, I'll never get back to the general topic of letters. is stock full of interesting topics including Marie Antoinette's trial.  I believe there's even an English translation of the trial transcript on the website.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Setting the scene

One of my favorite memories of my last trip to Paris is walking alone, in drizzling rain, on the last night in the city.  This is the Palais de Justice and the attached (on the right side) antechamber to the guillotine, the Conciergerie prison.  I could just stand there for hours, by myself, and consider all that has happened there. I'm going to post letters and excerpts of letters written from within these walls, by prisoners, to their loved ones, hours before their deaths.  Get ready, I have two books full of those letters.  Aren't I a fun person?

The Corner of Twelve

If mediums are real, they'd surely be able to channel spirits here, where prisoners were held, in groups of twelve, and allowed to say their good-byes through the gate, before being taken to the guillotine. The sink mentioned in the post below is visible in the left foreground.  The Corner of Twelve is in the background of the picture, below, of the Women's Courtyard.  Perhaps you're like me and like the big picture.

The Women's Courtyard

Most female prisoners were allowed to enjoy fresh air, conversation, and diversion in this, the Women's Courtyard, attached to the Conciergerie prison in Paris.  Marie Antoinette wasn't afforded this luxury.  Exactly where her cell was located is unclear, especially because sections of the prison have been modified, but both exhibits linked to her (the mock cell and the cell attached to the chapel built in her memory by Louis XVIII during the Bourbon Restoration which is thought to be the actual site of her cell) are close to the trough-like sink, on the wall, that appears almost in the center of the picture.  The proximity of this sink, where women gathered to wash their clothing, to Marie Antoinette's cell, may have enabled her to listen to their conversation and vicariously enjoy their brief moments of sisterhood.  I hope she was able to and that it brought her consolation rather than a more lonely existence.  What I really hope is that some compassionate women were able to do what they do well - express their support and understanding.  Where would we women be without each other?

"My sister-in-law, also, is a mother."

In autumn of 1792, the Marquis de la Rouerie (who had fought in the American Revolution under the name of Colonel Armand) organized an insurrection in Brittany with the hope of rescuing Louis XVI.  The King was executed before their plan came to fruition.  de la Rouerie died heartbroken, the insurrection collapsed, and documents related to it were buried in a bottle in a garden.  Through the treachery of a Doctor Chévetal, the bottle and it's contents were unearthed and twelve of the conspirators were condemned to death.  One of the five related farewell letters was written by a Françoise Desilles, aged 24.  Madame Desilles was arrested, in error, but refused to save her life by revealing the name of her sister-in-law, the actual conspirator.  When urged to do so, for the sake of her children, she replied,  "My sister-in-law also is a mother."  The following is Françoise's June 18, 1793 farewell letter to her sister-in-law:  "My lot is cast, dearest.  Do not be grieved, but view the event with as much tranquillity as I do.  It is not without regret that I quit an existence which promised me happy days.  I have one favor to ask,  You know what is the fate of my unfortunate children.  Be a mother to them, dearest;  let them find in you an affectionate and beloved mother.  Adieu, dear.  I will not further prolong the time that I am spending in conversing with you.  I have to approach the Supreme Being, at whose feet I cast myself.  The resignation given me by the sweet persuasion that He will forgive me gives me joy.  Speak of me to my children, but repel all bitterness.  My trials are coming to an end, but yours will last.  Adieu, dear.  Cherish my memory, but do not lament my fate.  I beg you, dear, to arrange with my sisters the education of my children.  They have no resource but you three, and it is to you three that I confide them to serve them as a mother."