Thursday, September 29, 2005

Robespierre

Admittedly, I started Robespierre: The Fool as Revolutionary a long time ago. I put it down because I thought it would be a biography of Robespierre, but it really is a tour of the French Revolution as a whole. Not much personal information about the Butcher of France, but it still is a decent book. It really should have decided whether or not it wanted to be about Robespierre or the French Revolution for the book follows many of the leaders of the Revolution and begins long before Robespierre arrives on the scene. Yet, it ends with Robespierre’s death and leaves the reader wondering what happened in the rest of the Revolution, and how did Napoleon arrive on the scene. It should have been one or the other.

Other than that disappoint point, Otto Scott does a wonderful job of exposing the horrors of the French Revolution by simply retelling how it happened. He does not try to analyze the Revolution, he just tells the story. It is enough to make one hate the French all over again. I must say I came out of the book feeling very sorry for the pitiful Louis 16th not to mention his son Louis 17th who died, not by the losing his head, but by sheer neglect. The guards just stopped feeding him, and stopped coming to check on him after they had killed both of his parents. He died of neglect. Barbaric. I learned a great deal of names and events that I will probably soon forget, but it was probably still worth it.

One thing I did learn that I found a great stroke of divine justice is that the event that brought Robepierre’s leadership of the Revolution to an end is a festival held by the Assembly to celebrate the existence of the Divine. Robespierre hated Christianity, but hated atheism as well since “the people believe there is a god.” Thus, for Robespierre it was an act of aristocracy to deny God existed. They held a giant festival where everyone was forced to wear their best suits, and the Assembly all bought new blue uniforms for “blue was a virtuous color.” Speeches were made, food eaten, it was just like old times in Paris, which is apparently what made people think Robespierre had become a “tyrant in the name of anti-tyranny.” Robespierre tried to kill himself to avoid the guillotine, but was too afraid and only shot his jaw off. So he ended up with his head in the basket like all of the people he had condemned before.

“Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, or Death!” France’s gift to the world.

3 Comments:

Mr. Baggins said...

Hey, Lee. Did your book mention Andre-Louis Moreau? I just read an historical novel by Rafael Sabatini called Scaramouche. He seemed to indicate that Andre-Louis was a real person. Wanted to know what your book thought of him.

Anonymous said...

My second edition of Otto Scott's book has as the subtitle, "Inside the French Revolution" in contrast to the first edition (which I also have) as Robspierre: The Voice of Virtue. Maybe he was attempting to address the same reaction as you had of the book not being quite a biography.
Wanda

Lee said...

Mr. Baggins,
I will have to look for Andre-Louis Moreau. I did put the book down for many months. I will get back to you on it.

Wanda,
Thanks for letting me know. It is good to know that maybe I am not the only one who felt a little disappointed and misled by the title.