“He sneered at all devotion in all parties….”


Extra Les Miserables meta very quickly but this has been on my mind and I had to share it – I don’t think anyone else has commented on it. So, Grantaire’s introduction – the first thing he mocks:

“This was his axiom: “There is but one certainty, my full glass.” He sneered at all devotion in all parties, the father as well as the brother, Robespierre junior as well as Loizerolles. “They are greatly in advance to be dead,” he exclaimed.”

and yet he cares for his friends “A profound contradiction; for an affection is a conviction”

How profound? Well, let’s take a quick look at Robespierre Junior and Loizerolles:

For the death of Augustin Robespierre, younger brother of Maximilien, I’ll quickly quote from Mary Young’s online biography:

“someone cried, ‘The blood of Danton chokes you!’ For the last time Maximilien’s voice was heard in the Convention. ‘So it’s Danton you’re avenging?’ he asked. This reminded them all of their cowardice when Danton was arrested and this doubled their rage. A deputy cried, ‘I demand the arrest of Robespierre’.

There was a second’s hesitation and then immense applause. Augustin struggled down to the floor of the Convention where his brother stood alone looking up at the tiers. He took Maximilien’s arm and shouted out, ‘I am as guilty as my brother; I share his virtues, I will share his fate. I demand a decree of accusation against me’. Maximilien tried to speak for his brother and force him back, but he still could not make himself heard.”

And the eyewitness report of Arnault, on the execution of the Robespierrists:

‘Before the head of Robespierre many heads fell, the proud Saint-Just, the ignoble Hanriot and also that of Robespierre the Younger, the accomplice of his brother’s revolt but not of his tyranny. The public exasperation was so great in the day of vengeance and so odious had been the object that this generous devotion did not obtain pity.’

Historiographical views are actually mixed on this, and Young argues that the younger Robespierre had enough political enemies to be executed either way – as a deputy/military commander he just wasn’t as closely involved as his brother with events in Paris.

Meanwhile, Loizerolles was the father of a lawyer held at St Lazare and sentenced to death, who presented himself in his place, and was guillotined on the 8th Thermidor in place of his own son, just one day before the fall of the Committee of Public Safety. There are two versions of the story – this, as told by his son himself, is almost certainly the accurate version, but the story seems to be then simplified. A Jadin opera of 1795, Loizerolles ou L’Héroïsme paternel, honoured his touching devotion and self-sacrifice, and his son Francois-Simon Aved de Loizerolles, who wrote poetry and survived thanks to the fall of Robespierre mentioned above, published a poem in 1813 memorialising his father’s devotion in three cantos.

Loizerolles was imprisoned with Andre Chenier in St Lazare, who was executed on 7th Thermidor, two days before the fall of Robespierre; Chenier is the poet whose death is lamented both by Jean Prouvaire and M. Gillenormand within the text of Les Miserables. According to Wikipedia (open source!): “In 1828, Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve praised Chénier as an heroic forerunner of the Romantic movement and a precursor of Victor Hugo. Chénier, he said, had “inspired and determined” Romanticism.”

The poem in honour of Loizerolles by his son also memorialises Chenier, including the detail that he recited the opening scene of Racine’s Andromaque, between Orestes and Pylades, with his friend Roucher as they were borne along in a tumbril to be executed.

That’s 7, 8, 9 Thermidor 1794, from “Andre Chenier” to “the father” to “the brother”, in terms of the French Revolutionary references to Enjolras’ friends from Jean Prouvaire onwards.

AND EXTRA EDIT TO SAY: the other comparison we get is Enjolras confining himself to Robespierre while Combeferre is into Condorcet and Danton, which is in very obvious contrast to actual Saint-Just & Robespierre’s dealings with Danton and Condorcet. Les Amis are shown in happy dissent and discussion with one another for good reason! It’s important to be able to deal with political disagreements non-fatally!

Uh, and the opening scene of Andromaque is indeed pretty appropriate and very sadly ironic for two people about to be executed:

ORESTES: “Yes, reunited with so true a friend

I think my destiny will soon amend

Harsh fortune seems already less severe

Because she’s brought about our meeting here

How strange that, landing on this bitter shore

Orestes should find Pylades once more”