Monday, February 25, 2013

Laugh while you can

This bit of humor may be the last for awhile.  Next, I'm going to post heartbreaking letters from Axel Fersen to his sister.  I can't think of anyone, except maybe my brother, Jerry, who would, like me,  appreciate the beauty of those letters.  But, post them I will.  Important to Madeleine.

Micah sent me the graphic.  She told me tonight, in an unrelated conversation, that she had posed herself a 30 Day Challenge, in which she will write a letter a day for thirty days.  So far, she's written Ben Franklin, several friends and the only person she could think of that she hates.  Next up, Dumbledore. She said it was her version of Lent.  Funny girl.

Fersen Letters: Execution

On October 14, Marie Antoinette is dragged before the Revolutionary Tribunal and after a sham of a trial (in which they accused her of treason and incest, among other crimes.) is sentenced to death.  After her execution on October 16, Fersen wrote to Sophie:  "My dear loving Sophie, Oh pity me, pity me!   The state I am in only you can conceive.  You alone are left to me.  Oh!  Do not abandon me.  She who was my happiness, she for whom I lived - yes, my dear Sophie, never have I ceased to love her.  No - I could not;  never for a moment could I cease to love her, for her I would have sacrificed all in all.  Well do I feel it now.  She, whom I loved so well, for whom I would have given a thousand lives, is no more.  Oh, my God!  Why overwhelm me thus?  What have I done to deserve your anger?  She lives no longer!  My cup is full to the brim, and I do not know how I am to live and bear my sorrow.  It is such that nothing can ever wipe it out.  I shall always have her image before me and in me;  the memory of all that she was to weep over for ever…  All is over for me.  Why did I not die by her side?  Why could I not spill my blood for her, for them?  I should not he to drag out an existence that will be perpetual pain and eternal regret.  My heart will bleed henceforth as long as it beats.  You alone can feel what I suffer, and I need your tenderness.  Weep with me, my gentle Sophie.  Let us weep for them, I have not the strength to write more.  I have just received the terrible confirmation of the execution.  Nothing is said of the rest of the family, but my fear is terrible.  Oh, my God!  save them!  Have pity on me!"

Fersen Letters: The End

The last letter in the collection is one in which Fersen wrote to Sophie about a Swedish political issue and closes the letter with these words: "…  I do not speak to you, my dear friend, of the state of my heart.  It is always the same.  To think of her, to regret her, therein lies my consolation;  to seek all I can find of hers and make it my treasure;  that is all I care for.  To speak intimately, therein lies my peace.  Her loss will be the sorrow of my whole life.  Never have I felt the value of all that I possessed and never have I loved her so well….  I do not tell you of my plans either;  I have none;  I feel incapable of making them.  Her children still are a cause of anxiety to me, their fate torments me.  That unfortunate daughter, what will she become?  What horror, what humiliation will she not have to submit to?  The son - what will he do?  My heart aches in thinking of it.  My God, will You not put a limit to such suffering, will You not punish so many crimes?  Good-bye, my gentle Sophie.  I finish because I only increase your sorrow with my own.  Always continue to love and pity your unhappy brother."

The portrait was done in 1800.  His life ended tragically (who'd have guessed, right?) in 1810.  That story can wait for another day, though.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Another purchased friendship

My picture ID came today.  I'm officially une Amie de Versailles.   I paid them for the privilege.  And, in return, they're going to let me pay them a little less for my ticket to the back rooms of the Petit Trianon.  Good deal.  I think.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Madame Du Barry

I really want to write about Marie Antoinette and Axel Fersen, and toss about the lovers or not question, but have to get my thoughts in order before attempting that.  The alternately swirling and frozen thoughts in my head are becoming a problem.  I made Sunday evening dinner plans with an AP French teacher from my school, so we could discuss a Marie Antoinette tour she'd like to put together and a French Rev presentation she'd like me to do for her classes.  At my favorite restaurant, at my favorite time.  The noise in my head caused me to completely forget.  I left her sitting in a booth at Black Walnut.

Anyway, whatever.  Back to Du Barry.  Yes, this lovely, warm, generous, ex-prostitute (supposedly) was Louis XV's last mistress.  Her association with the fourteen-year-old dauphine, Marie Antoinette, began with a tit-for-tat rivalry between their two cliques.  Marie Antoinette's refusal to speak to the King's mistress  practically became an issue of state.  They didn't become friends, but the animosity faded with time. Years after she left the palace at the time of Louis XV's death, immediately after the storming of Versailles, the Du Barry had an opportunity to show her good will.

An early Du Barry biographer writes:
"The gardes-du-corps who escaped the massacre of October 6 dragged themselves from Versailles to Louveciennes and the Comtesse du Barry nursed them at her château as their families would've done.  The Queen, informed in Paris of this generous conduct of the Comtesse, charged certain nobles who were in her confidence to go to Louveciennes and carry thither her sincere thanks.  Madame Du Barry then wrote the following letter to the Queen:  "Madame:  The young men who were wounded only regret that they did not die with their companions for a Princesse so completely worthy of such sacrifice as Your Majesty.  What I can do here for these brave chevaliers is much less than they deserve.  If I were here without servants and handmaidens I would wait upon your guards myself.  I comfort them and honor their wounds when I reflect that but for their willingness to die and their wounds Your Majesty might no longer be alive.  Louveciennes is at your disposal, Madame.  Is it not to your favor and kindness that I owe it?  Everything I possess I owe to the Royal Family.  I have too good a heart and too much gratitude to forget that.  The late King, by a sort of presentiment, made me accept a number of valuable presents before sending me from his person.  I have already had the honor of offering you these treasures at the time of the Assembly of Notables.  I offer it to you again, Madame.  You have so much expenditure to meet…  permit me, I beg you, to render back to Caesar, those things that are Caesar's.    Your Majesty's faithful subject and servant, Comtesse Du Barry"

The original letter has been lost and the biographer (Laffont d'Aussonne) paraphrased, according to my source.

Oh, and in keeping with my new practice of quoting other peoples' writing rather than going to the trouble of thinking…

The Life magazine article begins, "Madamoiselle de Coigny kept a corpse in her coach.  The Age of Reason was dawning in France - it was the 18th Century - and there were otherwise just not enough minutes in those days of wonderful Enlightenment for mademoiselle to pursue, like other dedicated bluestockings, the fascinating study of anatomy.  But with the corpse handy and her scalpel as keen as M. de Voltaire's wickedly witty mind, she could, while rattling over the Paris cobblestones, slice and eviscerate in daily officiation at the new faith whose deity was reason, whose ritual was science, whose high priests were philosophes…"  Did she really?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Growing up on Watergate Lane

Considering potential blog topics, but feeling that a (brief) break from the usual French Rev doom and destruction might be in order.  So, just for the hell of it…   Jimmy appears to be berating poor five-year-old Mary Beth into swallowing her swig of Falstaff.  He's probably just asking her if she wants to go through her addition flash cards or if he can teach her to ride a bike, but my version is funnier.  Oh, I bet he's quizzing her on geography the way he did, later, with his own precocious progeny.  Each expression seems to tell its own story.   Dee Dee Kirkpatrick, close family friend, handing back the can after bravely (expertly?) draining her portion.  Wendy, neighbor, gazing at Jimmy with a knowing I'm-on-to-you expression. And, me, wearing braces and my usual haunted childhood expression, just trying to make sense of it all.  With the tiniest hint of a smile.

There are a few more childhood pictures, farther down, and soul-purging family posts in the works.