Friday, 26 October 2018

Robespierre's nose

I have been very happy to have comments by the art historian Marianne Gilchrist - aka "Silverwhistle" - on several of my posts. In September she published an article on the website ARBR (Amis de Robespierre pour le Bicentenaire de la Révolution) which pulls together some of her thoughts on that all-important question:  what did Robespierre look like?

According to Marianne, Robespierre's most easily recognisable feature is his nose, which was narrow and pointed, and slightly turned-up at the end.  This can be seen clearly in the better authenticated portraits, for instance the famous Carnavalet portrait, the bust by Deseine and several of the higher-quality engravings:

A particularly precious piece of evidence is provided by the little physionotrace engraving of Robespierre (reproduced by Buffenoir, "Portraits de Robespierre", Annales Révolutionnaires (Paris 1908) vol.1(4) p.646-7. Plate 31A)

The physionotrace was a mechanical device which made it possible to trace a rapid profile from life.  This could then be worked up into a full-size  portrait, or used to create a small copper plate for engravings.  There is no reason at all to doubt that Robespierre really did sit for a physionotrace: the atelier of Fouquet and Chrétien in the Cloître Saint-Honoré was just round the corner from his lodging with the Duplays.

The text on the engraving reads "The Incorruptible Robespierre - Deputy of the National Constituent Assembly" and "Drawing by Fouquet, engraved by Chrétien, inventor of the physionotrace, Cloître Saint-Honoré Paris in 1792" 

A drawing in the Château de Versailles (Inv.Dess.857) can tentatively be identified as the original grand trait from which the engraving was made;  according to Marianne, the dimensions of this portrait (44 x39cm)  are typical for the workshop - the picture has been trimmed, possibly removing Fouquet's signature in the process. (A similar grand trait in the Musée Carnavalet is signed behind the head).  

In both pictures the profile of the nose is unmistakeable.

Marianne finishes with some comments on the so-called "death-mask" of Robespierre, with reference to an article by Hervé Leuwers et Guillaume Mazeau, published in 2014, following the appearance of the Froesch/Charlier facial reconstruction.   According to this, the Tussaud death mask is "certainly false".  There is a certain resemblance to the authenticated portraits of Robespierre when viewed from the front, but the profile is wrong.  The nose of the mask is too short and straight and lacks the pointed end.  The pock marks on the mask are also much heavier than those in evidence on the physionotrace portrait and are wrongly distributed.


Mariannne Gilchrist, "Le nez de Robespierre, c’est la clé de sa portraiture" ARBR, 16 Sept.2018

Hervé Leuwers et Guillaume Mazeau, « ‪Madame Tussaud et le masque de Robespierre. Exercices d’histoire autour de la médiatique reconstitution d’un visage‪ », Annales historiques de la Révolution française, 2014/1 (n° 375), p. 187-198

Hervé Leuwers and Guillaume Mazeau add a little bit more information regarding the provenance of the Robespierre death-mask.

They make it clear that all the existing and documented copies of the mark definitely derive from the same original.  The various casts, in Aix-en-Provence, the Musée de l'homme, Paris and the Hutton Collection in Princeton, are all identical. The firm of Lorenzi, founded in 1871, still offers copies commercially - one was used for the Derniers portraits exhibition at the musée d’Orsay in 2002. These casts too are of identical dimensions.

Hector Fleischmann in 1911 listed a plaster cast belonging to Dominique-Vivant Denon, plus three other examples which were said to derive from a mould belonging to François-Louis-Hébert Turbri.   From Fleischmann's photographs, it would appear that these masks too are the same. The cast in the collection of Gabriel Thomas is almost certainly the bronze owned today by the musée Grévin. 

The most natural assumption is that Turbri purchased Denon's plaster cast in 1826 when it was sold on his death, perhaps together with the mould - or maybe he had a mould created from it. The connection is strengthened by two pieces of evidence which suggest the Denon mask was the same as all the others.  Firstly, the dimensions given in the inventory of the Denon sale are identical with those advertised for the Lorenzi copies (and thus all extant examples).  Secondly, Hervé Leuwers and Guillaume Mazeau  refer to a lithograph, possibly by Denon, which shows two sketches of the mask - and presumably give a clue as to what it looked like.  I can't find this on the internet. (The references given are to two exhibition catalogues, one for 1999 and the other for the Derniers portraits exhibition in 2002.).   Maybe this drawing by Denon from the Metropolitan Museum, labelled no.2, corresponds to one of the two views - certainly it recalls the (fat-nosed) casts.

Dominique-Vivant Denon, Severed head, said to be that of
Maximilien-François-Marie-Isidore de Robespierre.

In Fleischmann's account,  there is no tradition concerning the Tussaud Robespierre, although the plaster cast in Aix-en-Provence used by Froesch and Charlier was one of several copies of the London mask ordered by Alexandre Dumontier, who founded the Society of Phrenology of Paris in the 1830s.  The copy in the  Musée de l'homme is presumably another.  Buffenoir in 1909 credited the Tussaud mask with primacy, but this is not at all established.  All we really know for certain, is that the Curtius/Tussaud waxworks featured the heads of several guillotined Revolutionaries from the late 1790s onwards, and that Vivant Denon owned a plaster cast of a lifemask in his collection by at least 1817, when Lady Morgan remarked on it.

 I am not even clear what exact Tussauds possesses - I assume it is a cast, from which the mould for the various wax models is derived? 

I have previously reviewed the evidence for the possible creation of a Robespierre lifemask:

There is not a great deal new to be added. Personally, I still think even the Tussaud waxwork has a disturbing presence, and I would like to see some good side-on views before I rejected it out of hand. This cannot be just a forgery,  it is the face of a real person.  If not Robespierre, then who is it?

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

A people and its King..... (Jean-Clément Martin)

A new film on the French Revolution is a big event!

Un peuple, et son roi [One Nation, One King], directed by Pierre Schoeller, was premiered at the Venice Film Festival and went on general release in France on 26th September.  It is a film conceived on a lavish scale:  the cost of production was €16.9 million ($20.8 million) and there is a star-studded cast: Gaspard Ulliel (Basile), Louis Garrel (Robespierre) and Denis Lavant (Marat).  The film is reported to be presold, indeed already "sold out", in several countries - Spain, Portugal, Benelux, Switzerland, Greece, Hungary, plus Japan and China - but not as yet in the UK or US.
The main point of interest is director Pierre Schoeller's favourable approach to the Revolution and his determination to show events "from the point of view of ordinary people"  

The action encompasses most of the major events of 1791-93. The storyline, which is really little more than a vehicle, concerns a young convicted criminal called Basile (Gaspard Ulliel), who is liberated and follows  the King on his return from Varennes.  He subsequently falls in love with Françoise (Adèle Haenel) and becomes an insurgent.

I haven't seen the film, but the trailer (above) left me disappointed. The shots of the March on Versailles and the inside of the Assembly do not seem much more real than those of the French Revolution blockbuster by Robert Enrico and  Richard Heffron, which was made thirty years ago. The American reviews confirm this first impression. The critic in Hollywood Review described the production scathingly as "a wannabe epic about the French Revolution that’s so bad it almost makes you wish France were still a kingdom".  In his view the plot was thin and events too crowded in; political opinions were represented by slogans and historical figures reduced to caricatures. The deputies in the Assembly were just "men in foppish wigs spouting big ideas in tiny speeches".  Ouch!

Boyd van Hoeij " One Nation, One King': Film Review | Venice 2018", Hollywood Reporter,  09.08.2018.

Unsurprisingly, the film has been more favourably received in France where its pretentions have been taken much more seriously.  It has been advertised with the encomium "Magisterial. A Great Political Film". 

Pierre Schoeller takes himself very seriously indeed.  And to be sure he addresses two extremely serious topics: the role of "the people" in the French Revolution and the legitimacy of political violence. In his director’s statement, Schoeller says that he was inspired to make a film about the Revolutionaries because “these people built their sovereignty, established new relations of equality, ordained new rights (…). They have things to tell us.” He explains that he has organised his material around the concept of "le peuple décisif" and, as a secondary theme,  around the importance of women in Revolutionary events.

Several academic historians were consulted in the course production and others have given their considered response.  There is a feature based on the film in the magazine Historia for October with contributions by Olivier Coquard,  Hervé Leuwers, Thibaut Poiret, Jean-Clément Martin and Guillaume Mazeau.  Jean-Clément Martin has also published a long review essay:

Jean-Clément Martin,  "A propos du film de Pierre Schoeller, Un peuple et son roi. Comment analyser cette présentation d'une révolution populaire?"  Published 10th October and available on Academia.

Here is an English summary:

As one might expect, Professor Martin is sympathetic towards the enterprise of portraying  popular revolution.  He declines to criticise the cinematography, though he does admits that the drama is in danger of being stiffled by the film's didactic purpose (Au risque...que la dimension didactique étouffe le film.) and by the need to reference a whole host of Revolutionary events.


He begins by pointing out a few anachronisms. (In an epic of this scale, the struggle for historical accuracy is "no doubt lost in advance"):

  • The opening scene shows a traditional ceremony in which Louis XVI washes the feet of twelve poor children of Paris assembled in Versailles. The scene, with the children in their blood red dresses, prefigures the bloodshed to come.  The existence of such a ceremony was unknown even to Jean-Clément Martin but his researches confirmed  that it did exist, in stylised form,  almost down to the Revolution.  However, in 1787 Louis was accused of avoiding the occasion altogether.  This suggests a very different significance, implying the discomfiture of a modernising king.

  • Professor Martin takes issue with the women's dress, their appearance"en cheveux" and, particularly, the amount of cleavage on display. No doubt this makes for good cinema.  However, in 1789 women of the people would have demonstrated their respectability by wearing a fichu or scarf over their breasts. 
  • The march on Versailles in October 1789 is one of the major set-pieces.  But it seems to take place along a country lane.  In reality this was a major artiillery out of Paris which was constantly full of heavy, horse-drawn traffic.  Also, why are the urban women of Paris depicted carrying scythes and sickles? 

Addressing Revolutionary violence

Here we move on to the main core of Professor Martin's critique.  He complains that some of the more difficult episodes of Revolutionary violence are omitted from the film - for example, the deaths of the gardes du corps on 6th October 1789.  More fundamentally, although the events of 10 August are depicted in graphic detail, the September Massacres are mentioned only once, and that ambiguously (one of the characters wishes the victims paix à leurs âmes.).  Another silence concerns masculine reactions to feminine violence - which was negative among supporters as well as enemies of the Revolution. 

The Revolution of the People

Professor Martin contests the idea that there was ever a unified Revolutionary populace.  The film presents only a small sample of stereotypical "sans-culottes":  families of artisans and workers, with a few beggar children and a pittoresque vagabond thrown in for good measure.

In reality, the radical supporters of Revolution were socially divided. They included well-to-do employers like the rich brewer Santerre and Duplay, a master-carpenter. Such patrons continued to be nervous about the demands of their workers. It is shame that Pierre Schoeller omitted real radicals like the Enragé Varlet, who wanted to establish direct democracy and equality between the sexes.

Whole swathes of Parisian society are simply missing from the story:  the mass of middling people, domestic servants, priests and believers, provincials and immigrants. To illustrate the true complexity of allegiances, Professor Martin draws attention to his researches on  "les dames de la Halle" who led the October March, but who also demanded the preservation of Christmas and concerted together to oppose the radical femmes enragées.


Un peuple, et son roi - the title presents a dichotomy which is misleadingly simplistic.  Louis himself - played disconcertingly by the dark, lean Laurent Lafitte - is made into a pompous caricature, always sporting his decorations, and always shown in strange isolation.  Similarly the film sets up a artificial contrast between  the "people" and its representatives, those who act and those who debate. The political Revolution is represented entirely by the deputies who, apart from Marat, are portrayed as bewigged and impotent.  They are invariably seen in the Assembly,  with nothing shown of their lives or relations with others.  This is evidently misleading.  Danton, for instance, was heavily involved in the politics of his quartier, in the Cordeliers Club, in orchestrating the Revolution 10 August.  (The printer Momoro, who appears briefly,  was also a prominent figure in the Cordeliers.)  Even the aloof Robespierre had close relations with the martyred sans-culotte leader Lazowki, and drew a "garde du corps" from the Sections.

The proliferation of institutions - assemblies, delegations, committees - was one of the great characteristics of the period and its experiment in direct democracy.   It is historically false to show as spontaneous and disordered the departure of the insurgents by torchlight on 10th August;  the insurrection had been prepared several days in advance by the Comité de l'Evêché;  the deposition of the king had been debated for weeks by the Sections;  Danton, and even Pétion, were involved. Contrary to the impression given by the film, the action was the prerogative of armed men, with no women or children present.

A resolution?

The film ends with the death of Louis XVI.  The royal execution, as the accomplishment of popular Revolution, is linked metaphorically with the achievement by Basile, now a glassblower, of a perfect glass sphere.  Jean-Clément Martin again points to omissions and errors which subtly alter this final message.  There is no recognition of Louis's personal courage, no depiction of the intimidation which accompanied the vote for his death in the Convention (and the number of votes is wrong).  There is also no sense of the massive security which surrounded the execution;  Louis rode with two gendarmes, who personified the force of the state.  All these factors militate against the idea that the King's execution represented a unanimous popular will or a lasting resolution of the Revolutionary crisis.

Professor Martin's criticism is clearly of a piece with his insistence elsewhere on the importance of historical detail.  A film must necessarily be selective.  But, by ironing out the complexities, Pierre Schoeller has falsified the record.  The film claims erroneously that "popular identity is natural, consubstantial, identified with the poor". Thus is sidestepped  the whole fraught political debate about the nature of "the people", and the dilemma of the Rousseauist "general will".  Moreover, says Martin, the  justification offered for Revolutionary violence is a biased and misplaced one - it is "une légitimation dérangeante".

Sunday, 14 October 2018

The Frenchman and the "pot of porter"

This anecdote is again from Fanny Burney. In October 1792 Fanny and her half-sister Sarah were the guests of Sarah's uncle by marriage, Arthur Young,  at Bradfield Hall in Norfolk.  Here they met the exiled duc de La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt, who was renting a house in Bury-St-Edmunds. The  two men had struck up an unlikely friendship through their mutual interest in agricultural improvement. In 1784 Young had played host to La Rochefoucauld's two sons, and in 1787 and 1788, during his tour of France, he had visited the château de Liancourt and its great estates to admire the duc's innovations, which included a model farm and a  manufactory for linen and cotton cloth.  Young had since washed his hands of the constituants révolutionnaires and declared to Fanny that Liancourt deserved his misfortunes; but he consented, nonetheless, to invite him to dinner.

The duc as deputy to the Estates General in 1789
Engraving, Musée Carnavalet

François Alexandre Frédéric de La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt, had been one of the most conspicuous members of the liberal aristocracy.  In 1789, as representative of the nobility of Clermont-en-Beauvaisis at the Estates-General, he had been one of the forty-seven noble deputies who joined the Third Estate on 25th June in formal disobedience to the King.  As grand maître de la garde-robe, it had been he who had brought news to Louis of the fall of the Bastille: he is credited with the famous observation, "it  is not a revolt, Sire  - it is a revolution!".

La Rochefoucauld had been an active member of the Feuillants,  had spoken in the Assembly in favour of liberty of conscience, and was the first to propose the abolition of hanging.  At the same time he continued to develop manufacturing  workshops at Liancourt and in 1790 installed a mechanical cotton mill.  After the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly he was nominated  Governor-General and Commandant of Normandy and Picardy.  Disillusioned with the course of the Revolution, he entertained vain hopes of bringing the royal family to Rouen and thence effecting their escape to Le Havre and Britain.  When Louis refused his offer, he placed at 150,000 livres, a substantial part of his fortune, at the King's disposal.  Finally La Rochefoucauld  was himself forced to flee.  When his cousin La Rochefoucauld d'Enville was killed at Gisors on 14th September 1792, he inherited the title of duc de La Rochefoucauld.

Fanny takes up the story:

The duc was in Rouen with four regiments under his command when news reached him of the 10th August.  He at once summoned his officers and men, and standing in the mist of them "he took of his hat and called out aloud, 'Vive le Roi!'".  Only his officers echoed him.  Again he called out and this time the soldiers responded in like kind. "In what manner he effected his escape out of Rouen he has never mentioned." Once at the coast, he and his groom embarked on a small boat, manned by two sailors; they "planted themselves at the bottom of the boat and were covered with faggots", and thus remained, "till they thought themselves at a safe distance from France".  At one stage alarmed and disorientated in the fog, they imagined they had been betrayed and were headed back to France.

Eventually they safely reached England.   It was at this point that La Rochefoucauld had his unfortunate encounter with the "pot of porter":

At length they landed—at Hastings, I think.  The boatman had his money, and they walked on to the nearest public-house. The duke, to seem English, called for “pot portere.”  It was brought him, and he drank it off in two draughts, his drought being extreme; and he called for another instantly.  That also, without any suspicion or recollection of consequences, was as hastily swallowed; and what ensued he knows not.  He was intoxicated, and fell into a profound sleep.  His groom helped the people of the house to carry him upstairs and put him to bed.  How long he slept he knows not, but he woke in the middle of the night without the smallest consciousness of where he was, or what had happened.

Porter - An English Beverage:  

See Gregg Smith,  "Porter", on
Porter was apparently first brewed by the Bell Brewery in Shoreditch in the 1720s.

This Gillray satire of 1799 is entitled "Effusions of a Pot of Porter"

He looked round the room with amaze at first, and soon after with consternation.  It was so unfurnished, so miserable, so lighted with only one small bit of a candle, that it occurred to him he was in a 'maison de force' — thither conveyed in his sleep.  The stillness of everything confirmed this dreadful idea. He arose, slipped on his clothes, and listened at the door.  He heard no sound.  He was scarce, yet, I suppose, quite awake, for he took the candle, and determined to make an attempt to escape.

Down-stairs he crept, neither hearing nor making any noise and he found himself in a kitchen.  He looked round, and the brightness of a shelf of pewter plates struck his eye; under them were pots and kettles shining and polished. “Ah! “? cried he to himself, “je suis en Angleterre.”  The recollection came all at once at sight of a cleanliness which, in these articles, he says, is never met with in France.

Next day, the Duke accepted Young's invitation to dinner and arrived at Bradfield Hall on horseback.  Since he was early, Fanny and Sarah were summoned to entertain him.  They found him in the drawing room playing with his favourite dog, which his groom had just brought back from France.  Here is Fanny's description:

He is very tall, and, were his figure less, would be too fat, but all is in proportion. His face, which is very handsome, though not critically so, has rather a haughty expression when left to itself, but becomes soft and spirited in turn, according to whom he speaks, and has great play and variety. His deportment is quite noble, and in a style to announce conscious rank even to the most sedulous equaliser. His carriage is peculiarly upright, and his person uncommonly well made. His manners are such as only admit of comparison with what We have read, not what we have seen; for he has all the air of a man who would wish to lord over men, but to cast himself at the feet of women....

He rapidly beguiled the two sisters, Sarah by playing with his dog like "a true French Polisson" and Fanny with attentive conversation about her novel Cecilia. The party enjoyed a pleasant dinner, in which Arthur Young comically interspersed French conversation with English words spoken in a French accent.  However,  the meal once over, Fanny reported that La Rochefoucauld gave way to melancholy: "Recollections and sorrow had re-taken possession of his mind;  and his spirit, his vivacity, his power of rallying were all at an end. He was strolling about the room with an air the most gloomy, and a face that looked enveloped in clouds of sadness and moroseness".  

Arthur Young in  1794 by
George Dance, National Portrait Gallery
Young's residence of Bradfield Hall,  Bradfield Combust,
 about six miles south of Bury-St-Edmunds

The Diary and letters of Madame d'Arblay (Frances Burney), with notes by R.C. Ward.  Vol.3 (1792-1840), 1891, p.17

See also:

François de La Rochefoucauld, A Frenchman's year in Suffolk: French impressions of Suffolk life in 1784trans. Norman Scarfe, Suffolk Records Society. 2010. [Preview on Google Books]

St Edmundsbury Chronicle [Suffolk Local History]:  "Eighteenth Century and Napoleonic  wars"

In 1784 duc's two sons François and Alexandre, came to England with their Polish escort Maximilien de Lazowski. The party was persuaded to base itself at Bury where they met Arthur Young, and were taken by him on a five or six day tour of Suffolk and the Essex border.  François left a diary, which was translated and published by the Suffolk Records Society in 1988. He said that he liked Young, but disliked visiting Bradfield Hall, because Young kept an extremely poor table. As to Mrs Young, he found her so ill-tempered he suspected her of beating her husband.

Angel Hill, Bury St Edmunds

The history of the émigrés in Bury-St-Edmunds is a little confusing. The first party to arrive was Mme Genlis with the fourteen-year-old Madame Adélaïde d'Orléans and two companions, Mlle de Sercey and Pamela (later Lady FitzGerald).  She had travelled to London in October 1791 in the company of the two Deputies Pétion and Voidel, spent a few weeks in Bath, then continued unaccompanied to Bury.  She stayed initially in a house next to Angel Inn, which was probably the same one that the La Rochefoucauld party had occupied in 1784. 

This house, 2 Angel Hill, still stands today and  bears a  plaque commemorating the sejourn of Louis Philippe; but he was not with them; he spent seven months from August 1791 to March 1792 with his regiment at the citadel in Valenciennes,and had disapprovingly seen the women off in Calais.

Mme de Genlis then rented a small house, 84 Whiting Street, in the middle of the town.  Louis-Philippe reported that neither he nor his father were able to ascertain the reasons for this "bizarre choice".  The disgusted duc de La Rochefoucault, reported to Fanny Burney, who had met Mme Genlis on a previous visit,  that she had lived reprehensibly,"with several others, who appeared in various ways, as  artists, gentlemen, domestics, and equals".  She was also said to have "almost lived" on the hospitality of Sir Thomas Gage at Coldham Hall.   Having promised to stay a month in England, under the pretext of taking the waters in Bath for Madame Adelaide's health, she in fact stayed thirteen months. The duc d'Orléans was finally driven to send Hugues Maret, the duc de Biron's former secretary, to England with power of attorney to force her  to return his daughter. On his arrival, the party departed precipitately for Paris, leaving their debts behind them. The  duc de La Rochefoucault, who co-incided briefly, then took over the lease on the same house in Whiting Street: Fanny Burney confirms,:"The Duke is now actually in her house.  There was no other vacant that suited him so well".

See A Frenchman's Year in Suffolk, p.xxxv, note 20: 
There are some references to a house next to the Angel Inn, possibly the one which today has a plaque commemorating the later sejourn of Louis-Philippe.  On 14th February 1793, a five-bay, three-storeyed Georgian-fronted house in Whiting Street, now number 84, appeared in the rate book as "Duc de Lerincourt House - 12 rent, 1.4s rates".  This house was unoccupied the previous August.
In January 1814 a death notice appeared in the local press for one Alexandre Desoutre [elsewhere "de Soustrice"], aged 20, "natural son of M. Liancourt (now Duc de Rochfoucault) by his French servant, during his residence in Bury with Madame Genlis, and the ill-fated Pamela, afterwards Lady Edward Fitzgerald.  The bit about Mme Genlis is impossible for many reasons. 

At least we have a clue how a French noble passed his time in exile!

84 Whiting Street, Bury, the house leased by La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt in the 1790s.

Listing for 84 Whiting Street:

La Rochefoucauld stayed a year in Bury, by which time Suffolk was on a war footing -  Arthur Young himself formed the Suffolk Yeomanry and a troop of Light Dragoons was based in Bury in readiness to meet a French invasion.  The duc departed for Philadelphia in October 1794. 

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Juniper Hall - Pen portraits of the émigrés

Something of the life of the French exiles at Juniper Hall can be traced through the diaries and correspondance of Fanny Burney. The Burney family became intimately involved with the French émigrés.  Norbury Park, the grandest house in the vicinity was owned by  a family friend, William Lock,  a great patron of the arts, who had entertained Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Lawrence.  Fanny's married sister Susanna  Phillips  lived about three-quarters of a mile from Juniper Hall in the village of Mickleham.   In September 1792 Susanna wrote to Fanny with news of the recent arrivals:  "We shall shortly, I believe, have a little colony of unfortunate (or rather fortunate, since here they are safe) French noblesse in our neighbourhood."  She reported that Jenkinson had leased Juniper Hall.  The cottage at Westhamble was rented to Madame de Broglie, who had made a  fourteen-hour Channel crossing in open boat with her small son.  The owners were at first reluctant to let the property since they feared that "French papishes" would never pay the rent (Lock had been prepared to act as guarantor) [Diary and letters, p.16]

Norbury Park.  Engraving after J.P.Neale, 1829.
Susanna and her husband, Captain Molesworth Phillips - who had been present at the death of Cook -  were sympathetic towards Narbonne and the Constitutionalist cause; since Susanna spoke French, she soon became a regular visitor.

First encounters

 Susanna Phillips (née Burney)
  By Edward Francisco Burney
National Portrait Gallery
In November 1792, Susanna went to call on her new neighbours for the first time: "Mrs. Lock had been so kind as to pave the way for my introduction to Madame de la Chàtre, and carried me on Friday to Juniper Hall"   She was favourably impressed, though slightly put out that the exiles had not yet breakfasted. The party at this time  consisted of  the duc de  Montmorency, Louis de Narbonne, the comtesse de la Châtre and her lover Jaucourt.  (Madame de Staël did not join them until December, after the birth of her son in Geneva)

Susanna first introduces Montmorency who had led the patriotic abolition of titles in the Assembly on 4th August 1789. She then moves on to the comtesse de la Châtre, who had received her guests with great politeness. "She is about thirty-three; an elegant figure, not pretty, but with an animated and expressive countenance; very well read, pleine d’esprit, and, I think, very lively and charming".   As to Narbonne: "He seems forty, rather fat, but would be handsome were it not for a slight cast of one eye".  A new arrival is Alexandre d'Arblay,  former aide-de-camp for Lafayette, and Fanny Burney's future husband:  a "true militaire, franc et loyal" [Diary and letters, p.28]

D'Arblay later visited the Phillips's house, where he plays affably with their son, and talked about Lafayette and his great friend Narbonne.  A few days later Narbonne himself called, bringing two volumes of Marmontel's newly published Contes moraux.  In "very depressed spirits", he explained how he had been obliged to resign as Minister of War due to the obstruction of the Jacobins and  the instability of the King, "for whom he nevertheless professes a sincere personal attachment: Louis, Narbonne remarked, "had no faith in himself and in consequence distrusted everyone else".

The comtesse de la Châtre, painted in  1789 by Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun
Metropolitan Museum
Here is another  letter from Susanna, dated 27 November 1792, which conveys well the slightly effusive banter affected by these grand French aristocrats in straited circumstances.

Phillips and I determined at about half-past one to walk to Junipère together.
M. d’Arblay received us at the door, and showed the most flattering degree of pleasure at our arrival. We found with Madame de la Châtre another French gentleman, M. Sicard, who was also an officer of M. de Lafayette’s.

M. de Narbonne said he hoped we would be sociable, and dine with them now and then.  Madame de la Chàtre made a speech to the same effect, “Et quel jour, par exemple,” said M. de Narbonne, “feroit mieux qu’aujourd’hui?”  Madame de la Châtre took my hand instantly, to press in the most pleasing and gratifying manner imaginable this proposal; and before I had time to answer, M. d’Arblay, snatching up his hat, declared he would run and fetch the children.

I was obliged to entreat Phillips to bring him back, and entreated him to entendre raison. . . . I pleaded their late hour of dinner, our having no carriage, and my disuse to the night air at this time of the year; but M. de Narbonne said their cabriolet (they have no other carriage) should take us home, and that there was a top to it, and Madame de la Châtre declared she would cover me well with shawls, etc. . . .

Then my dress: Oh, it was parfaite, and would give them all the courage to remain as they were, sans toilette: in short, nothing was omitted to render us comfortable and at our ease, and I have seldom passed a more pleasant day.....(Diary and letters, p.34-5)

On another day d'Arblay called at the cottage in Mickleham, and scolded Susanna for tidying away her husbands scattered clothing."I'll put on airs too - I won't come and see you any more except in white silk stockings -I've only got three pairs - in consequence I won't be able to come very often!"  Mrs Phillips remarks that he will force her to mind him no more than her brother James, who lived in the village.

Financial hardships

The rent for Juniper House was provided by Madame de Staël, who sent money orders to Narbonne under an assumed name.  The other exiles were largely
 destitute. Madame de Châtre explained to Susanna, that her (estranged) émigré husband had made over his fortune to her but she was unable to access it.  D'Arblay talked arily of his lost fortune:  "something immense, but I never remember the number of hundred thousand livres"(Diary and letters, p.34)..  In October 1792 the Convention declared all émigrés outlaws and began the sequestration of their property.  The English tutor Mr Clarke confided that the group had been reduced to nothing:  "All they can hope is, by the help of their parents and friends, to get together the wherewithal to purchase a cottage in America and live as they can. "(Diary and letters, p.34).  Jaucourt joked that he might be exempted by developing a vocation as a artist cook.

Following the proscription, several of the party elected to return to France within the  three-month period of grace: first Matthieu de Montmorency;  then the princesse de Broglie and comtesse de Châtre, with her lover Jaucourt left Juniper Hall to take refuge in Boulogne.  There was a moment of drama on 21st December 1792 when the comte de Châtre suddenly arrived at Norbury Park, on the very evening of his wife's departure.  The comte himself, who had also lost all his luggage, took the setback with good humour: "Now we can all starve merrily together".  Narbonne assured him gravely that he still had a few bottles of wine left and that, whilst he stayed with him, he should not be reduced to drinking beer. (Diary and letters, p.38-41)

Political events

The French exiles waited impotently for news of events in France. Susanna Phillips has only a few political comments.  She recalls a visit from the marquis de Girardin: 
Speaking of the hard-bought liberty his country had gained, "Bah!" cried M. Girardin, "can that be called liberty?"  "But they will have it," said M. de Jaucourt, energetically, "and what vexes me most is, that they will not allow me to say any good of it;  they have ruined the cause." " (Diary and letters, p.34;Kelly, p.25)

As the King's trial progressed,  the mood at Juniper Hall darkened.  Narbonne sought in vain to obtain a safe conduct in order to testify.  His despair moved Mrs Phillips who recounts his reading aloud from Necker's Défense du Roi, with much emotion.

FANNY BURNEY herself met the exiles for the first time in January 1793, on a visit to Norbury Park.  The news of Louis XVI's execution had just reached England where it struck like a thunderbolt: theatres were closed;  the Court and Parliament went into mourning.  On 8 January 1793 in England the Aliens Bill passed into law which required all French citizens to register as aliens.  According to Fanny Burney: "All the Constituents are now reviled as authors and originators of the misfortunes of France, from their arrogant self-sufficiency in their powers to stop, as well as begin, when they pleased."  She found the occupants of Juniper Hall in a state of consternation.   Her first letters are full of their shock and horror.  Thus on January 28th she wrote to  Dr Burney of Narbonne and d'Arblay's anguish:  "though two of the most accomplished and elegant men I ever saw, they break our hearts with the humilitation they fell for their guiltless BIRTH in that guilty country"  

First impressions of Madame de Staël

Madame de Staël left Geneva to join her lover Narbonne and the other exiles just before Christmas 1792 after birth of her son on 20th November.  She had left her parents' home in Geneva clandestinely and was escorted to Boulogne by Montmorency, arriving in England in the midst of the crisis surrounding the King's trial.  As the daughter of Necker, she  was already a hated and notorious figure among royalist émigrés. She was to stay for four months.

Here are Fanny Burney's first impressions (written to Dr Burney, 23rd February 1793); it is worth remembering that Madame de Staël  was still only twenty-six years old at this time:  "She is a woman of the first abilities, I think, I have ever seen; she is more in the style of Mrs. Thrale [her friend Hester Thrale/ later Piozzi, a well-known literary socialite]  than of any other celebrated character, but she has infinitely more depth, and seems an even profound politician and metaphysician." Fanny goes on to describe to her father Madame de Staël 's heroic conduct in saving Narbonne and other friends in the days preceding the September Massacres.   From her account, Fanny is able to give further moving details of the King's last moments: the little dauphin's pathetic plea to be allowed to beg for his father's life before the National Convention, the despairing shrieks of the royal  family, as Louis was taken from the Temple, the famous final words of the abbé Edgeworth,  "Fils de saint Louis, montez au ciel!"

Looking back later, Fanny again (slightly naively) took up the comparison with Mrs Thrale:

Mrs. Piozzi compared with Madame de Stael.
She had a great deal both of good and not good, in common with Madame de Stael Holstein. They had the same sort of highly superior intellect, the same depth of learning, the same general acquaintance with science, the same ardent love of literature, the same thirst for universal knowledge, and the same buoyant animal spirits, such as neither sickness, sorrow, nor even terror, could subdue. Their conversation was equally luminous, from the sources of their own fertile minds, and from their splendid acquisitions from the works and acquirements of others. Both were zealous to serve, liberal to bestow, and graceful to oblige; and both were truly high-minded in prizing and praising whatever was admirable that came in their way.

Neither of them was delicate nor polished, though each was flattering and caressing; but both had a fund inexhaustible of good humour, and of sportive gaiety, that made their intercourse with those they wished to please attractive, instructive, and delightful and though not either of them had the smallest real malevolence in their compositions, neither of them could ever withstand the pleasure of uttering a repartee, let it wound whom it might, even though each would serve the very person they goaded with all the means in their power. Both were kind, charitable, and munificent, and therefore beloved; both were sarcastic, careless, and daring, and therefore feared. The morality of Madame de Stael was by far the most faulty, but so was the society to which she belonged so were the general manners of those by whom she was encircled.

For a full set of English impressions of the new arrival, see Chapter 12 of Constance Hill's Juniper Hall:

"Conference de Madame de Staël" A gathering at Coppet c.1800
Engraving by Philibert-Louis Debucourt
Despite the circumstances, Madame de Staël's arrival was a breath of new life. Like a magnet, her presence drew company to Juniper Hall:  Beaumetz, Malouet, the Lameth brothers.  Talleyrand arrived from London on an extended visit.  Fanny's political prejudices were soon melted by the wit and grace of conversation.  Of Narbonne, she wrote to her father, "You could not keep your Heart from him if you saw him for only half an hour".  Talleyrand she approached with more mistrust, despite Madame de Staël's assurance that he was "the best of men".  She soon reported that both she and Susanna had been won over:  "His powers of entertainment are astonishing,both in information and in raillery".(Diary and letters, p.50-51)

d'Arblay.  Hill, Juniper Hall, p.53
At this time Fanny began to develop an emotional attachment to d'Arblay, under watchful eye of Madame de Staël, who admired her novels and appreciated the benign influence she was able to exercise. The older women, she wrote, had taken a fancy to her as a fellow writer and "bluestocking" (Kelly, p.36).  As to Fanny and her sister, she wrote to her father: "There can be nothing imagined more charming, more fascinating than this colony...Between their Sufferings & their agrémens they occupy us almost wholly"..(Diary and letters, p.50)

Last glimpses of the colony

With the absence from Dorking of the Locks and Captain Phillips in February 1793, Fanny and Susanna were able for a time to enjoy the society at Juniper Hall.   But the scandal of Madame de Staël's relationship with Narbonne soon reached ears of Dr Burney, who advised his daughter against keeping company with the  émigrés .  Fanny was shocked, and   informed her father  that  Madame de Staël loved the handsome Narbonne with affection as though they were "two men". With Talleyrand and Montmorency also in residence, the exiles lived together  in "pure, but exalted & most elegant, friendship."  Later she came to know better.

On 31st January France declared war on Britain and Holland.  The inhabitants of Juniper Hall lay  low;  "I'm stiflling with good behaviour" wrote Madame de Staël to Edward Gibbon.  Fanny was more sternly warned off by a family friend, James Hutton.  On her return to London in February, she found that malicious rumours were indeed rife. She even sought an audience with the Queen at which she promised to break off relations.  Madame de Staël was puzzled and hurt by the new coldness of her friend, but d'Arblay sprang to her  defence.  His correspondance at this time marks the start of their relationship, which ended in their marriage four months later on 28th July 1793. By this time Madame de Staël had already England.  Narbonne stayed on at Juniper Hall for a few more weeks until the lease ran out at the beginning of September, then remained with the Phillips until June 1794, when he was expelled from England and sought refuge in Switzerland.  The new tenants at Juniper Hal were the royal family's doctor Sir Lucas Pepys and his family.


The Diary and letters of Madame d'Arblay (Frances Burney), with notes by R.C. Ward.  Vol.3 (1792-1840), 1891

Constance Hill, Juniper Hall, a rendezvous of certain illustrious personages during the French Revolution (John Lane, 1904)

Linda Kelly, Juniper Hall: an English refuge from the French Revolution (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1991)

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Juniper Hall - French exiles in Surrey

cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Ian Capper -
This solid-looking English house is Juniper Hall near Dorking,  which, during the French Revolution, became the somewhat unlikely refuge for Madame de Staël, her lover the comte de Narbonne and several other members of the exiled French liberal aristocracy.  Faced with hostile British conservative opinion in the capital, the group preferred to seek sanctuary in the English countryside.  It is not known why this particular house was chosen, though Mme de Broglie took a modest cottage in nearby Mickleham at roughly the same time.

Juniper Hall  c. 1844, 
Sketch in Dorking Museum
Then as now, Juniper Hall, was a substantial red-brick mansion, tucked at the bottom of a wooded hill with gardens looking out across fields and woods towards Box Hill; the cedars that shaded the entrance today were only a dozen years old in 1792.

The house had originally been a coaching inn, the Royal Oak alehouse.  Sir Cecil Bisshopp (d.1779), who purchased the estate in 1762, had it converted into a residence, adding two wings, a classical portico and tall arched windows. In 1779 the estate was sold to Mr David Jenkinson, an affluent lottery-keeper, who built himself a new house on the down opposite Norbury;  no doubt he was pleased to find suitable tenants.

Today the house is owned by the National Trust and is used as a Field Studies Council residential centre.

The only surviving 18th-century feature of the house is the drawing room, decorated with delicate plasterwork in Robert Adams style.  In all probability this is the work of Lady Templeton,  a gifted amateur artist who worked with Wedgwood. Swags and garlands, in white and gold and pastel colours, frame sculpted panels of showing classical scenes. The centrepiece is a tall carved fireplace in grey and white marble. The plaque on the wall above represents "Friendship comforting Affliction", one of Lady Templeton's favourite themes.

The Templeton Room, Juniper Hall
It was at Juniper Hall that Fanny Burney met her future husband, Alexandre d'Arblay, a former aide-de-camp to Lafayette.  The pair were married in July 1793 in the church at nearby Mickleham.  Modern stained-glass windows on the staircase at Juniper Hall, by Harry Stammers (1902 – 1969),  commemorate the couple.  Fanny is shown with a copy of her novel Evelina;  D'Arblay presents Fanny with a cabbage from the garden of their new home, Camilla Cottage.


Field Studies Council - Juniper Hall, virtual tour

Historic England - Listing for Juniper Hall.
Plans and "Heritage Statement" for proposed alterations at Juniper Hall, April 2018

Nicholas Lapthorn, "A brief history of Juniper Hall"  on Le Prince de Talleyrand [website]

Burford Corner, Westhumble.  The modest cottage where Mme de Broglie once stayed is/was behind this main building.

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