Saturday, September 7, 2013

Ready Wit

One of the most widely published stories about the Abbé Maury relates an incident in which he was apprehended by the Paris mob who threatened to hang him from the nearest lantern which was their expedient way of dispensing with people with whom they disagreed or, occasionally, those who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Just in the nick of time, the Abbé is said to have said, "When you have put me in place of the lantern, will you see the better?"  The fickle mob laughed and Maury was spared.

The anecdote was also found in document that was found among my great-aunt Bet's papers, below.

Being related to Maury would bring me one step closer to vicariously touching the hem of Marie Antoinette's garment.  The story of the Abbé Maury and the lantern is related in Catherine Hyde's   notes to the Princesse de Lamballe's journal.  Now we're talkin' inside track.  And, I quote!:  "I remember one day, long previous to the time I now allude to, the Princess Lamballe told me the Queen had been informed by Mirabeau that the Abbé Maury was to make a motion in the Assembly, which, by a private understanding between the two, Mirabeau was to oppose, for the purpose of the better caring on the deception of their plans, an thereby ascertaining "HOW THE LAND LAY" with respect to some of the deputies, whom Mirabeau had not yet been abel to secure to the interest of the monarchy.  "I wish," said the Princess, "you would go in the Assembly to hear the discussions."  I said I would most willingly, as I was desirous of seeing Mirabeau's impetuosity contrasted with the phlegmatic proposition of the Abbé Maury.  It was on that very day, and in consequence of that very argument, that when the Abbé come for the assembly, the mob cried out, "a la lantern, M. l'Abbé"  The Abbé, turning round, replied, with the greatest sang froid, "Will your hanging me to the lamp-post make you see the clearer?"

So, you see, Mirabeau, one of the early leaders of the Revolution, who was surreptitiously working for the good of the monarchy, conspired with his known opponent, Abbé Maury, who was openly working for the good of the monarchy, to get a feel for where the Assembly's deputies stood on an issue favorable to the monarchy.

Marie Antoinette's hairdresser, Léonard, relates an incident in which he claims (there's no shortage of unlikely claims in his memoirs) that the King and Queen sent him, as their agent, to make overtures to Mirabeau who was one of their most vocal and high-profile opponents.  Léonard says he visited Mirabeau while the great orator was in bed and, during the course of their conversation, Mirabeau tells him, "Do not go and ally yourself against me with the Abbé Maury…"  The event may not have taken place, but in relating it, Léonard reinforces what has been recorded elsewhere, that Maury and Mirabeau were known to be on different sides of the issue.  Or so it seemed.

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