THE BRITISH LIBRARY

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Exploring Europe at the British Library

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Discover the British Library's extensive collections from continental Europe and read news and views on European culture and affairs from our subject experts and occasional guest contributors. Read more

09 July 2018

Funding Victory: French posters from the end of the First World War

The British Library holds an important collection of French propaganda posters from the First World War. This striking material, often of high artistic quality, constitutes a fascinating means to reflect on the values and motivations as well as the challenges faced by French society at the time. Many posters dating from the end of the war call for the financial support of French civilians by subscribing to ‘Liberation Loans’, first to finance victory and, after the war, to fund ongoing reconstruction. These were government bonds issued through banks, given by individuals to the state at a fixed, low interest rate and redeemable after a given period. Subscribing to them was presented as an integral part of the war effort. The posters advertising them highlight a situation of economic strain (high government debt, inflation and currency devaluation), and its social and political repercussions, stressing the financial responsibility of civilians to support soldiers on the frontline.

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‘Souscrivez à l’emprunt de la Libération’, Tab. 11748.a., Box 5, No. 319.

The poster ‘Souscrivez à l’emprunt de la Libération’, illustrated by the artist and caricaturist Édouard-Alexandre Bernard, was issued in 1918 by the Comité national de prévoyance et d’économie, led by members of the government, businessmen and industrialists, academics and Church representatives, whose names are listed on the left-hand side: their authority and expertise support the poster’s message. The promotion of Liberation Loans links the relative strengths of the French and German currencies to the two countries’ military situations. On one side, the one franc coin seems to climb effortlessly up a slope, leading the way for a group of allied soldiers to ascend. The caption indicates that since the whole world trusts France's credit, the franc strengthens; meanwhile, since nobody trusts Germany's credit, its currency weakens. On the other side, a one mark coin rolls down a cliff. Barely supported by the soldiers who attempt to prevent its downfall, the wayward coin appears about to crush them.

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‘Souscrivez pour la Victoire’, Tab. 11748.a., Box 3, No. 250.

In these posters, subscription to war loans is presented as essential to support the army and hasten the victory of the French troops. The poster ‘Souscrivez pour la Victoire’, by Richard Gutz, advertises subscriptions through the Banque nationale de crédit. It displays in the sunset, a female allegory of Victory, winged, in armour and wrapped in the French flag, leading through the air cavalry and infantry who bear French, British, Japanese, American and Serbian flags. The perspective of their triumphant charge contrasts with the scene below, depicting a mass of wounded and dead soldiers on the battlefield. The poster thus also highlights the cooperation of the allied forces.

3subscribe-loan-central-company-provincial-banks
Souscrivez à l’emprunt à la Société centrale des banques de province’, Tab. 11748.a., Box 3, No 236. 

A poster by the illustrator and painter Eugène Courboin, ‘Souscrivez à l’emprunt à la Société centrale des banques de province’, reminds the viewer of the historical links between France and America and the need for reciprocal help. It shows a colourful Uncle Sam shaking hands with a statue of the Marquis de Lafayette, the French general who fought for the Americans in the War of Independence of 1776.

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‘La Marseillaise’, Tab. 11748.a., Box 2, No. 241.

Historical references and national symbols were a powerful way of exalting French patriotism, as in Jacques Carlu’s 1918 poster, dominated by the colours blue, white and red. La Marseillaise, the national revolutionary anthem written in Strasbourg in 1792 by Rouget de L’Isle (who features at the centre of the picture, one hand raised and the other on his chest), is described as returning triumphantly in 1918 with the allied armies (depicted behind Rouget). National and regional pride are stirred up by the allusion to Marseille and the reference to Alsace as a long-standing part of France. In the bottom left is a quote by the French Prime Minister Georges Clémenceau, ‘Allons donc enfants de la Patrie, allons achever de libérer les peuples’, which rewrites the national anthem by giving it an international scope: the liberation of the peoples.

5algerian-company-liberation-loan
‘Compagnie algérienne’, Tab. 11748.a., Box 6, No. 325. 

A Liberation loan poster from the Paris headquarters of the Compagnie algérienne was made by the Belgian artist Maurice Romberg de Vaucorbeil who had travelled to Morocco and created an extensive body of work in North Africa. It depicts a heroic Algerian warrior in traditional costume riding a beautiful black stallion, with an elaborate script and the Arabic inscription ‘In the name of God’. It reminds us of the crucial role played by the French colonies and French colonial troops during the war.

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‘Emprunt de la Libération’, Tab. 11748.a., Box 5 No. 289.

The posters also give insights into the hope for peace and reconstruction, with the return of demobilised troops after the war. The poster ‘Emprunt de la Libération’, 1918, signed by ‘Perbural’, advertised for subscriptions to the Société Marseillaise for industrial and commercial credit and deposits. A woman in regional dress reaches up to gather laurel leaves which fall as crowns on a crowd of French soldiers returning under the sunshine with the word ‘victory’ above them. Despite the importance of regional elements like the laurel and the traditional dress, if you look closely at this poster you can see that the Marseille address has been covered over by that of the Paris offices.

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‘Emprunt de la Libération, Chambre des notaires de Beauvais’, Tab. 11748.a, Box 6, No. 286.

Another poster advertising Liberation loans was issued by the Chambre des notaires de Beauvais. It features a black and white drawing by Lucien Jonas, an established painter who worked for the French Army and Navy during the war. In this case, the image does not depict armies but a single soldier bringing home two small girls. The elder wears a traditional Alsatian outfit (including the distinctive black bow headdress) and holding a French flag, while the younger wears the Lorraine cross and white bonnet. The image illustrates verses by Jules Favre, a statesman at the beginning of the Third French Republic, about the recovery of Alsace and Lorraine lost during the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71). Through liberation and victory, the happy scene, reminiscent of a joyful family reunion, embodies the territorial reunification of France at the end of the conflict.

Visual sources and ephemera are essential to our understanding of the First World War. Displaying nationalistic posters advertising the collecting of funds for the war effort to enable victory and support reconstruction at the time of the liberation of France emphasised the economic underpinning of the war and its monetary and social consequences. The posters illustrate the importance of financial history which is crucial to our understanding of the funding of the war and the social consequences of the economic situation. They carry powerful imagery and strong patriotic symbolism at regional, national and international levels. Although they display optimism and hope after the hardships of the war, the loan posters, which before and after the armistice appeal to civilian populations for the support of the army and the reconstruction of the country, demonstrate ongoing economic challenges and can also be seen to foreshadow indirectly the financial and political crises of the interwar period.

Irène Fabry-Tehranchi, Curator, Romance Collections

References/Further reading

Jim Aulich and John Hewitt, Seduction or instruction? First World War posters in Britain and Europe (Manchester, 2007)

James Aulich, War posters : weapons of mass communication (London, 2007). fm08/.1008

Pearl James, Picture this : World War I posters and visual culture (Lincoln, 2009). YD.2012.a.2087

Allons enfants : publicité et propagande, 1914-1918, dir. Christine Vial Kayser et Géraldine Chopin (Louveciennes, 2014) YD.2012.a.2087

Krieg auf Plakaten = La guerre par l'affiche, bearbeitet, übersetzt und erweitert von Franz Maier auf der Grundlage der französischen Fassung von Sylvain Chimello und Charles Hiegel (Koblenz, 2000) SF.279[Bd.85]

La guerre des affiches : 1914-1918, la Grande Guerre racontée par les images de propagande, dir. Laurent Giordano (Grenoble, 2013) LF.31.b.11339

Benjamin Gilles et Arndt Weinrich, Une guerre des images : 1914-1918 : France-Allemagne (Paris, 2014) YF.2016.b.2117

Rémy Paillard, Affiches 14-18 (Reims, 1986). Cup.921/88

British Library contribution to Europeana 1914-1918 

British Library World War One Learning Website 

 

06 July 2018

‘Youngest of the seven brothers’: Eino Leino (1878-1926)

‘Once upon a time, in a distant northern country, there lived a man who had seven sons and three daughters…’ This might be the beginning of a folk-tale – and indeed young Armas Einar Leopold Lönnbohm, the youngest of the seven, born on 6 July 1878, would grow up to lead a life shaped by myth and poetry.

Leino Portrait 2404.g.20 1Eino Leino as a young man. From L. Onerva, Eino Leino: runoilija ja ihminen (Helsinki, 1932) 2404.g.20.

At the time of his birth in Paltamo, Finland was still a Grand Duchy under Russian control, and as he grew up he became aware of the increasing friction between the Finnish people and their oppressors, culminating in the assassination in 1904 of Nikolai Bobrikov, the Governor-General of Finland, by the young Finnish patriot Eugen Schauman. Helen Dunmore’s novel House of Orphans (London, 2006; ELD.DS.193298) vividly evokes the atmosphere of that period and the fervour of the conspirators, afire not only with revolutionary zeal but with love of their country’s culture and literature.

Our hero’s father had changed his surname from the plain Finnish Mustonen (Black) to the Swedish Lönnbohm in the interests of his career, but as a loyal Finn the seventh son could not accept this, and it was under a new name of his own choice that he achieved fame as the poet Eino Leino.

Orphaned while he was still at school, the boy was taken in by relatives in Hämeenlinna, where he was educated at the local grammar school and subsequently entered the University of Helsinki. He was already showing signs of a precocious literary talent; at the age of 12 he published his first poem, and in 1896, when he was just eighteen, he brought out his first collection, Maaliskuun lauluja (‘Songs of March’). Two years later he and his elder brother Kasimir founded a literary magazine together; Kasimir became not only a poet in his own right but also a critic and theatre director.

Leino Maaliskuun laulujaCover of Maaliskuun lauluja (Helsinki, 1896) 011586.b.52.

Eino soon decided that academic study held little attraction for him, and left the university to become a journalist and literary critic for various Finnish newspapers. He also embarked on a career as a novelist, writing both historical fiction and works of social satire. In 1909-10 he travelled through Italy, Germany and Sweden, absorbing influences from European literature, including those of Gabriele D’Annunzio, Gerhart Hauptmann and Maurice Maeterlinck which inspired him to create a new Finnish theatrical tradition based on pure poetry rather than the naturalist drama typified by Ibsen. His poetry drew inspiration from Heinrich Heine and Johan Ludvig Runeberg, the poet whose words became the text of Finland’s national anthem, but also from the Kalevala, linking Finland’s present striving for independence with motifs from ancient legends. At the same time he sought to build bridges between Finland and the wider cultural legacy of Europe though his translations of Schiller, Racine, Corneille, Dante’s Divina Commedia (made in Rome in 1908-09) and Goethe’s Iphigenia auf Tauris (Helsinki, 1910; Ac.9080) and his essays on contemporary authors including Anatole France, Tolstoy, Ibsen and Strindberg.

Leino Dante 011420.d.22 Cover of Leino’s translation of Dante’s Paradiso (Porvoo, 1912) 011420.d.22

However, he experienced a constant tension between nationalist objectives and individualistic ideologies. Like W. B. Yeats, in his poetry he frequently uses symbols from folk poetry to contrast the heroism of the mythical past with the squalor and disillusionment of modern politics, and his early Symbolist dramas such as Sota valosta (‘War over light’: Helsinki, 1900; 11758.bbb.43) introduce the theme of decadence into a world peopled by heroes such as Väinämöinen, Ilmarinen and Lemminkäinen who are betrayed and rejected by a fickle populace greedy for material benefits rather than the light symbolized by Väinämöinen’s flaming sword.

When in 1905 political strike action against Russian rule brought into focus the differing political interests of the intelligentsia and the working classes, Leino’s pessimism increased as he witnessed the rise of the radical socialist workers’ movement and the clashes which occurred during the strike. From being an enthusiastic member of the Young Finland movement and ardent neo-romanticist, he became increasingly cynical; with the outbreak of the Finnish Civil War in 1917, Leino’s idealistic faith in national unity collapsed, and his influence as a journalist and polemicist diminished, although he was granted a state writer’s pension in the following year.

Leino’s personal life was similarly turbulent; he married three times, but possibly his most significant relationship was with the novelist L. Onerva (Hilja Onerva Lehtinen) whose two-volume biography of him, Eino Leino: runoilija ja ihminen (‘Eino Leino: the poet and the man’) reflects the complex intertwining of their equally strong creative personalities.

Leino Portrait 2404.g.20 2 Eino Leino in 1922. Portrait by Antti Favén, reproduced in L. Onerva, Eino Leino: runoilija ja ihminen.

After suffering years of health problems and financial instability, Leino died on 10 January 1926 in Tuusula and was buried in Helsinki’s Hietaniemi cemetery. His birthday is celebrated throughout Finland on 6 July, when the national flag will be flying all over the country in honour of Eino Leino Day, ‘the day of poetry and of summer’.

Susan Halstead, Subject Librarian (Social Sciences), Research Services

 

02 July 2018

A Spanish cricket aficionado in late 19th-century Surrey

Cricket, arguably more than any other sport, encourages the collection of statistics, as any listener to the BBC’s ‘Test Match Special’ knows. Wisden, or The Cricketer’s Almanack, was first published as early as 1864 and has been documenting matches and calculating players’ averages ever since. The nature of the sport lends itself to the accumulation and analysis of data: not just batting or bowling averages, but also all manner of records – from most runs off an over to the fastest hundred by an Australian in his (or her) debut test in England. The BBC’s first TMS scorers or, better, statisticians, Arthur Wrigley and Bill Frindall, acquired legendary status for their meticulous record keeping and anticipation of records about to be broken.

It is, however, surprising to come across not only a Spanish cricket enthusiast in the late 19th century but one who compiled a book of cricket statistics devoted to an English county. The British Library holds a copy of Anthony Benítez de Lugo’s Surrey at the Wicket, which was printed in Madrid at his own expense in 1888. The full title is: Surrey at the wicket. A complete record of all the matches played by the county eleven since the formation of the club. Yearly and general batting and bowling averages with other informations [sic] interesting to Surrey cricketers.

Benitez de Lugo Surrey at the Wicket cover Original cover of Anthony Benítez de Lugo, Surrey at the Wicket… (Madrid, 1888)  X.449/2923

As the title indicates, the work documents the results of all matches played by Surrey, together with batting and bowling averages, year-by-year from 1844 until 1887. Surrey County Cricket Club was officially founded in 1845, but an 1844 match against the M.C.C. is included. Score cards are not included, which is initially confusing as the results tables always show Surrey as if batting first. Benítez de Lugo does not mention his sources of information. However, for the period after 1864 he would have had access to Wisden, and before that to press reports and to Frederick Lillywhite’s publications. The latter may have provided him with details of players’ height and weight. Most probably he had access to Surrey’s own records and, almost certainly, he kept records himself.

Benitez de Lugo Surrey at the Wicket tpTitle page of Surrey at the Wicket.

But who was our Spanish cricket enthusiast? He was born Antonio Benítez de Lugo y de la Cantera in Havana in 1857 and in 1893 he acquired the title of Marqués de Santa Susana, bestowed on him by María Cristina, Regent for Alfonso XIII, in recognition of his aunt Susana Benítez de Lugo’s charitable work in Cuba. However, it is not clear how he came to be interested in cricket nor when he began the compilation of statistics.

Benítez de Lugo went on to publish two further books of statistics, although sadly neither is in the British Library. The first, The Surrey Champion (1895), documented the career of the Surrey cricketer, Walter Read (1855-1907), who was most noted for a match-saving innings of 117 for England against Australia in 1884 when batting down at number 10. He also provided statistics for Read’s own Annals of Cricket (London, 1896; 07095.k.1), as Read acknowledged in his introduction: ‘thanks are due to the Marquis de Santa Susana for the exhaustive records of my own doings’ (p. 3).

Benitez de Lugo Walter ReadWalter Read By ‘A.R.’ from Richard Daft, Kings of Cricket (Bristol, 1893) 7912.aaa.1.

His final work, published in 1900, brought Surrey at the Wicket up to date down to 1899. His statistics were also deployed in the extensive Surrey Cricket. Its History and Associations of 1902, as is indicated by the acknowledgement ‘the whole of the statistics … are the work of the Marquis de Santa Susana’ (pp. v.-vi.). He is also described there as ‘one of the most enthusiastic followers of Surrey cricket’ (p. vi).

There are obvious gaps in this account. Keen followers of Surrey cricket and statisticians are invited to fill them in and to correct any errors.

Geoff West, Former Head of Hispanic Collections

References/Further reading

Anthony Benítez de Lugo, The Surrey Champion. A complete record of Mr Walter William Read’s performance for Surrey and in representational matches, 1873-1897 (Madrid, 1895). Private circulation. 100 copies.

Anthony Benítez de Lugo, A Summary of Surrey Cricket 1844-99. (Madrid, 1900). Private circulation.

The cricketer’s almanack for... 1864 [-1869], then John Wisden’s cricketers’ almanack for… 1870 [-1937]. (London, 1864-1937). RH.9.x.1533.

Fred Lillywhite, Frederick Lillywhite’s cricket scores and biographies of celebrated cricketers, from 1746. Vols. 3-4. (London, 1863-64) 7905.de.9.

E. W. Padwick, A bibliography of cricket. 2nd ed., rev. and enl. (London, 1984). British Library HLR 796.358.

Richard Everard Webster, Surrey Cricket. Its history and associations. Ed. Lord Alverstone... and C. W. Alcock. (London, 1902). 07905.i.47.

29 June 2018

Gӧrz, Gorizia, Gorica: digital scholarship brings a city’s history to life again

How to turn 47,000 pages of old newspapers into meaningful information?

For a research group at the University of Bristol, the answer is: big computers and historical context.

Led by Nello Cristianini,  Professor of Artificial Intelligence, the group digitised 47,000 pages of two Italian-speaking local newspapers from the city of Gorizia, using the facilities of FindMyPast, based at British Library in Boston Spa. Then they used optical character recognition (OCR) software to extract digital text, and finally compared it with the digital text of three Slovenian newspapers from the same place and time, to provide context.

Gorizia Corriere Corriere de Gorizia, an Italian newspaper from the city.

Gorizia lies at the crossroads of the Latin, Germanic and Slavic-speaking worlds, and its population reflects this. Until 1918, it was known as Görz, and was part of the Habsburg Empire, though latterly coveted by the young Kingdom of Italy. These last years before World War One were particularly notable, as the political and ethnic tensions within the empire and over its borders played out in the city itself. The two main linguistic communities, Italian and Slovenian, published their own newspapers, and the latter have been digitised by the Slovenian Digital Library. But until the Bristol University group started work, the Italian ones were preserved on microform alone in the Biblioteca Statale Isontina,  which first collected the paper versions.

Gorizia postcard YF.2007.a.13615The Corso Giuseppe Verdi in Gorizia, early 20th-century postcard, reproduced in Srečko Gombač, Brata Edvard in Josip Rusjan iz Gorice: začetki motornega letenja med Slovenci (Ljubljana, 2004) YF.2007.a.13615

The team, including computer scientists and a historian, carried out statistical analysis on the newspapers, looking at the frequency of different words or phrases. This process revealed the individual stories of thousands of people, but also the collective trends of a population in the years leading up to the War and the final days of Empire. As the city lies in a quiet corner of central Europe, now divided between Italy and Slovenia, many of these stories and trends had been forgotten until now.

Gorizia Cathedral (JA) Gorizia cathedral today (Photograph: Janet Ashton)

Professor Cristianini says: “In the space of a few decades, the town embraced new ways to communicate, such as the cinema and the telephone, along with new modes of transportation, like the car, the airplane, the bicycle and the train. Far from being a backwater in a decaying empire, this was a city with an eye on the future and an interest in new ideas – including political ones. It was, however, also a time in which new tensions emerged along ethnic lines and a time of rapid change, with problems and anxieties that sound very familiar to the modern ear. It is incredibly fortunate that the collection of newspapers in the Biblioteca Isontina library survived so many threats. We get a glimpse of the last years of a world heading towards a new chapter in its history during a period that transformed it beyond recognition. We see new technologies, new ideas, new economic opportunities, new cultural challenges and problems.”

Among the patterns the team extracted are timelines that pinpoint such significant events as the arrival of Halley’s Comet, the visits of the Emperor Franz Joseph, or the devastating 1895 earthquake in Ljubljana (then Laibach, capital of the Habsburg county of Carniola). Fascinatingly, they found that the earthquake was more noted in the Slovenian-speaking community than the Italian, since Ljubljana was already predominantly Slovenian-speaking itself and had less significance to the Empire’s Italians as a regional centre.

Gorizia bridge The Solkan Bridge, carrying the railway over the Soča river at Gorizia – revolutionary in its day as the largest stone arch ever used for a railway bridge (Photograph: Janet Ashton)

Other ground-breaking events in the city at the time included the construction of the new Transalpina/Bohinj railway, which carried tourists from Vienna to Lake Bled and further, but was also to be used for more prosaic reasons. Then, most glamorous of all, two local brothers named Edvard and Josip Rusjan  were among the first aviators in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

  Gorizia Rusjans
Edvard and Josip Rusjan adjusting the propeller on their aeroplane. Reproduced in Srečko Gombač, Brata Edvard in Josip Rusjan iz Gorice.

The team’s findings also highlight how the war transformed the city and its surrounding county into something entirely different. During the war the front lines crossed through Gorizia itself and the urban population was largely relocated. In 1918, Italy annexed it, and twenty years of fascism and then another war followed. After 1947, the border between Italy and Yugoslavia ran right through the former county, partly separating the city centre from some of its neighbourhoods. Until Slovenia joined Schengen in 2007, this border had real impact, leading to the growth of a “replacement” city, Nova Gorica, on the Yugoslav/Slovenian side, while historic Gorizia became something of a backwater, isolated from its hinterland and feeling neglected by Rome.

Gorizia 1917 9084.aaa.10

Above: View of the Castle in Gorizia in 1917, showing First World War bomb damage, from Enrico Galante, Gorizia e i campi di battaglia dell'Isonzo et del Carso (Gorizia, [1929]) 9084.aaa.10. Below: Gorizia Castle today (Photograph Janet Ashton)

Gorizia Castle (JA)

The project, from scanning and indexing to in-depth analysis, combined methodologies from both library science and historical research, as well as employing mathematical expertise, and illustrates how digital humanities is bridging the traditional boundaries between disciplines. A full study of the project’s methods and its findings, “Large scale content analysis of historical newspapers in the town of Gorizia, 1873-1914”, by N. Cristianini et al., has recently been published in the journal Historical Methods.

Janet Ashton, WEL Cataloguing Team Manager

27 June 2018

Georg Forster: from ‘Resolution’ to Revolution

When the naturalist Joseph Banks withdrew at short notice from James Cook’s second expedition to the South Seas in 1772 on HMS Resolution, the expedition’s sponsors needed to find a replacement quickly. The post was offered to the linguist, scientist and philosopher Johann Reinhold Forster, who accepted on condition that he could take his 17-year-old son Georg with him as an assistant.

Forsters portrait Allgemeine geographische Ephemeriden
Double portrait of Johann Reinhold and Georg Forster, from Allgemeine geographische Ephemeriden Bd. 12 (Weimar, 1803) PP.3950.

Despite his comparative youth, Georg Forster was already an experienced traveller. Born into a German-speaking family in what is now Poland, he had first accompanied his father on an expedition at the age of ten when Johann Reinhold accepted an invitation from the Russian government to visit and report on new settlements in the Volga region. The trip did not have its desired effect of boosting the Forster family’s fortunes – instead, in a pattern to be repeated, Johann Reinhold fell out with his sponsors – but it did teach Georg how to conduct scientific research and left him fluent enough in Russian to publish a translation of Mikhail Lomonosov’s history of Russia in 1767 when he was just 13.

More impressive still, the translation was not into the boy’s native German but into English. By this time the family was living in England, Forster senior having taken a teaching post at the Dissenting Academy in Warrington. When, once again, his short temper led to his dismissal he moved to London where he and Georg made a living teaching and translating until offered their place on the Resolution. Georg’s primary role on the expedition was as an artist, and the British Libray’s current exhibition, James Cook: The Voyages, displays four of his pictures: one (on loan from the Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales) shows the phenomenon of the ‘ice blink’, and the others (on loan from the British Museum) are of seabirds.

Forster Ice Blink
Forster’s painting of the ‘ice blink’ effect (Image © Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales)

As well as making drawings, Georg soon began to assist with his father’s scientific studies, and to study in his own right the cultures, arts and languages of the peoples they encountered. His observations show a nuanced understanding for a man of his times of cultural differences and similarities, and he would later argue against the philosopher Kant that ‘race’ could not be defined merely by skin colour but had to take into account linguistic and cultural aspects of different peoples.

Forster Plants IOL.1947.c.103
One of Georg Forster’s botanical drawings, from Characteres generum plantarum, quas in itinere ad insulas maris Australis, collegerunt, descripserunt, delinearunt … Joannes Reinoldus Forster ... et Georgius Forster (London, 1776) IOL.1947.c.103

When the Resolution return to London, the plan for Johann Reinhold (who had, inevitably, fallen out with Cook) to publish the official account of the voyage became mired in argument when he refused to have his text edited, and in the end it was Cook’s own account that was published. However, Georg felt unobliged by any formal agreements made between his father and the Admiralty, and published his own description of the voyage, based on the journals kept by both Forsters.

Forster artefacts 981.e.1-2.
Māori artefacts from Georg Forster, Dr. Johann Reinhold Forster’s und seines Sohnes Georg Forster’s Reise um die Welt ... während den Jahren 1772 bis 1775. in dem vom Capitain J. Cook commandirten Schiffe the Resolution ausgeführt. (Berlin, 1778) 981.e.1-2.

Georg’s work was a success, especially in Germany where it made his name in both popular and academic circles. He went on to hold teaching posts in Kassel and Vilnius, was made a member of several prestigious Academies, corresponded with the major intellectuals of the time, and continued to publish on exploration, including an account of Cook’s last voyage (on which, after his difficulties with Banks and the Forsters, Cook had refused to take a scientist).

In 1785 Georg married Therese Heyne, later one of Germany’s first professional female writers. The marriage was not a success and two years later, unhappy with both domestic and academic life in Vilnius, Georg agreed to join a planned Russian expedition to the Pacific. When the expediton was abandoned he accepted the position of Librarian at the University of Mainz. Therese joined him there, and began an affair with Ludwig Ferdinand Huber, a mutual friend of the couple whom she would marry after Georg’s death. Georg seems to have accepted this relationship and continued his friendship with Huber.

Forster portrait 10705.c.12.
Portrait of Georg Forster from Jacob Moleschott, Georg Forster der Naturforscher des Volks (Frankfurt a. M., 1854) 10705.c.12.

A journey through parts of Germany, the Low Countries, England and France gave rise to Georg’s most famous book after the account of Cook’s voyage. Ansichten vom Niederrhein, von Brabant, Flandern, Holland, England und Frankreich... describes the culture and history and policitcal and socuial conditions of the countries and regions in question. In the aftermath of the Storming of the Bastille, these were matters of great concern.

Forster Ansichten
Ansichten vom Niederrhein, von Brabant, Flandern, Holland, England und Frankreich, im April, Mai und Junius 1790 (Berlin, 1791) 1049.e.9.

Like many German intellectuals, Georg welcomed the French Revolution. When French troops occupied Mainz in 1792 he joined the newly-founded Jacobin Club along with Huber, and was among the founders of the short-lived Mainz Republic and an editor of the revolutionary newspaper Die neue Mainzer Zeitung.


Forster Neue Mainzer Zeitung
First issue of Die neue Mainzer Zeitung, 1 January 1793. (Facsimile edition; Nendeln, 1976) P.901/1551

By the time the Mainz Republic fell in July 1793, Forster was in Paris where he witnessed the early months of the Terror but, unlike many early supporters of the Revolution, refused to denounce the violent turn that it had taken. He remained in Paris until his death in January 1794, a victim not of the Terror but of a sudden illness.

Forster’s unwavering support for the Revolution affected his posthumous reputation. Later commentators tended to be more interested in his political views – whether to praise or condemn them – than his scientific work. Nonetheless, his account of Cook’s voyage remained popular, and today he is recognised for the whole spectrum of his scientific, literary and political activities as a significant figure in late 18th-century scholarship.

Susan Reed, Lead Curator Germanic Studies

On Monday 2 July author and biographer A. N. Wilson will be discussing his 2016 novel Resolution, based on Forster’s life and his travels with Cook, at an event in the British Library Knowledge Centre. For further information and how to book, see https://www.bl.uk/events/a-n-wilson-resolution 

25 June 2018

Proto-internet trolls’: Johann Friedrich Struensee and freedom of expression in 18th century Denmark

Ever-present in the cultural imagination of Danish history, the story of Johann Friedrich Struensee — beyond the soap-opera of his rise to power — was a turning point in the history of publishing. The legacy of this Danish episode has been invigorated by the likes of Per Olov Enquist, in his 1999 novel Livläkarens Besök (The Visit of the Royal Physician), and Mads Mikkelsen, who portrayed the once de facto ruler in Nikolaj Arcel’s 2012 film En kongelig affære (A Royal Affair).

Engraving - before and in jailEngravings showing Struensee in charge and then in prison, from a collection of broadsides on Struensee and his downfall. (1881.b.46)

Struensee had accompanied King Christian VII as royal physician on a foreign tour in 1768 and had gained the trust of a regent prone to serious psychiatric episodes. Soon, not only had the doctor risen to become the King’s most trusted advisor in the Danish court, he had also become Queen Caroline Matilda’s lover – which fast became common knowledge. With the ear of the King, Struensee first appointed himself to the Privy Council before dismantling it in favour of a Cabinet in his control, supported by his ally Enevold Brandt. The increasing incapacity of the King gave Struensee the authority to pursue an Enlightenment agenda, which he did by issuing nearly 2000 decrees in his 16 months in power. This ground-breaking transformation in politics ruptured the link between King and people, and in its place offered the liberalizing but authoritarian rule of a non-Danish-speaking upstart. No matter how forward-thinking the legislation, Struensee would always be a German usurper, who had corrupted the royal court.

The very first of Struensee’s reforms was to declare the freedom of the press on 14 September 1770. Immediately, this freedom led to the creation of many new periodicals and newspapers, while also encouraging provincial printing beyond Copenhagen. 1771 saw pamphlets shift ‘in character from a debate on socio-political issues to direct criticism of those in power’ and often ‘the criticisms took the form of lampoons on the themes of sex and power’ (Horstbøll). Struensee took the brunt and so his introduction of the freedom of the press resulted in the use of the press against him.

Struensee's grave

A defaced memorial for Struensee but a memorial all the same, which might go some way to depicting his divided legacy.

As Jesper Mølby puts it in Robert Ferguson’s Scandinavians:

In some ways the most depressing part of it all is that Struensee gave people freedom of expression, and for the most part all anyone did with it was compose endless vulgar and offensive verses directed at Struensee himself and his affair with Caroline. In his bright and visionary Denmark people had been set free to express exactly what they felt and thought, to educate one another, criticize one another constructively, to fearlessly challenge the high and mighty. What he got instead was a society of proto-internet trolls. Shit. Piss. Fart. Willy. The king’s a nutcase. (Ferguson, pp. 153-154)

On 17 January 1772, Struensee and Brandt were arrested for usurping royal authority – the birth of Struensee’s and Caroline Matilda’s daughter, Louise Augusta, couldn’t have helped his case. In the three months during his imprisonment, illustrated broadsheets quickly distributed the popular criticism and hatred of the Counts Struensee and Brandt. The British Library has a collection of these broadsides, along with some leaflets and smaller single-sheet engravings.

Struensee's power grabThe Almighty steps in to reclaim Denmark from the power-grabbing Struensee and Brandt.

Eventually charged and sentenced to execution on 28 April 1772, Struensee and Brandt had their right hands cut off, then their heads and even genitals, before being drawn and quartered, each body part displayed for the audience, as is shown in the broadsheet below. Horstbøll confirms that the ‘theatrical execution of the count and the exhibition of his corpse’ was ‘the greatest sales success of all’ for its printer, Johan Rudolph Thiele, whose woodblocks were copied by many others.

Struensee's execution‘An accurate view of the execution of the Counts Struensee and Brandt’. The fourth quarter of Struensee’s body is being carried up to its display wheel.

Many of Struensee’s decrees were reversed following his execution and post-publication censorship returned on 20 October 1773. However, the floods of empowered publishers and voices could not be held back. A new publishing energy had been unleashed and the landscape was unalterably changed. As Henrik Horstbøll writes, ‘The period of the unlimited freedom of the press broke the bonds linking printed media to the institutions of the state and a new print culture arose in relation to the traditional literary market, which could not be reversed once freedom of the press became limited again.’

Struensee’s legacy remains therefore divided, as Michael Brengsbo suggests, between those who view him as ‘a cynic usurper, seducer, and fortune hunter’ those who remember ‘a tragic hero who really tried to enlighten the people and improve their lot […]’.

Pardaad Chamsaz, Curator Germanic Collections

References/Further Reading

Per Olov Enquist, Livläkarens besök  (Stockholm, 1999) YA.2001.a.7907 (English translation by Tiina Nunally, The Visit of the Royal Physician (London, 2002) Nov.2002/1089)

Michael Brengsbo, ‘Struensee and the Political Culture of Absolutism’ and Henrik Horstbøll, ‘The Politics of Publishing: Freedom of the Press in Denmark, 1770-1773, in Scandinavia in the Age of Revolution: Nordic Political Cultures, 1740-1820 (Farnham; Burlington, 2011) YC.2011.a.12626

Robert Ferguson, Scandinavians: In Search of the Soul of the North (London, 2016) YC.2017.a.13228

21 June 2018

Put on your sky-blue hat for a day at the races with Adèle Hugo

As the eyes of the racing world turn towards Royal Ascot this week, we may reflect that the British fascination with horse-racing is far from new. ‘Every year, the people of Jersey and the English feel the need to organize races,’ remarked Adèle Hugo in 1855. The circumstances in which she witnessed this phenomenon were not, perhaps, those which she might have wished, but her observations remain sharp and witty.

Life is not always easy for the children of famous writers, especially girls. We may recall the daughters of John Milton, diligently copying out their father’s work as his sight faded, or the tribulations of Dora Wordsworth and Sara Coleridge, described by Katie Waldegrave in The Poets’ Daughters (London, 2013; DRT ELD.DS.199292). Subjected to their fathers’ eccentricities, overbearing authority or intermittent neglect, they also suffered from the restrictions imposed on women of talent and spirit by the conventions and expectations of 19th-century society. When these were compounded by the disruption to family life resulting from a father’s political views, the outlook could be grim indeed.

Adele Hugo 3
Portrait of Adèle Hugo, reproduced in Leslie Smith Dow, Adèle Hugo: La misérable  Journal d’Adèle Hugo (Fredericton, N.B., 1993) YA.1995.a.4832

Such was the situation of Adèle Hugo. She was born on 28 July 1830, at the time of the fateful events leading to the overthrow of Charles X, and political turbulence was to mark her passage through life. Her early life was comfortably affluent; the youngest of the family, she grew up with her sister Léopoldine and brothers Charles and François-Victor in a cultured home where her talent for music was fostered. However, she never ceased to be aware that Léopoldine was her father’s favourite, and the feeling of inferiority was deepened when in 1843 the newly-married Léopoldine and her young husband drowned in a boating accident. Victor Hugo never recovered from the loss, which he explored in some of his most impassioned poetry.

His emotional suffering, however, did not prevent him from engaging in political activity as a pair de France and Member of Parliament, and penning outspoken pamphlets in which he opposed the death penalty and attacked Louis Napoleon’s seizure of power. In protest at the anti-parliamentarian constitution of 1851 Hugo left France, first for Brussels, then for Jersey, and finally for Guernsey.

Marine Terrace
Marine Terrace, where Victor Hugo and his family lived on Jersey from 1852-1855. Reproduced in Le Journal d’Adèle Hugo vol. 1 (Paris, 1968). X.906/288

At the time of her father’s decision to leave France Adèle was 21, and the relocation occurred at a point when she might reasonably have been expecting to marry and establish a position in Parisian society. Instead, she found herself living on a remote island whose social life did not provide the diversions and company to rival that of the City of Light. Nevertheless, in her diary she proved an apt and observant chronicler and critic of the circles in which she was obliged to move.

Adele MS facsimile
Manuscript pages from Adèle Hugo’s, journal reproduced in Le Journal d’Adèle Hugo vol. 1 

Among the amusements on offer were the races which she describes in her journal for June 1855 under the heading ‘Les Courses de Jersey’. Three months in advance posters could be seen advertising ‘Jersey Races: Cup de la Reine’, giving the local belles plenty of time to prepare their outfits: ‘delicious sky-blue hats’ worn with ‘superb green dresses (a ‘fashionable’ style only for the countryside)’ she remarks tartly, going on to describe ladies whose costumes of red, green, and yellow gave them the appearance of splendid parrots, topped off with ‘provincial marabou and diadems in artificial velvet, worthy of adorning the brow of a princess of the blood royal, and consequently in poor taste. It is not a steeple-chase for horses; it is a steeple-chase for women’. She gleefully notes the subterfuges of an Englishwoman who affects extra-long skirts to conceal her big feet, while another goes to the other extreme to display a skinny leg which she mistakenly believes slender.

Jersey Races 1862
An advertisement for the Jersey Races of 1862, a few years after Adèle’s visit, from the Jersey Independent and Daily Telegraph, 23 June 1862 (MFM.M86750-51)

As for the jockeys, she mocks them as ‘awful cretins, which provides the somewhat curious spectacle of donkeys on horseback’. Watching them from the grandstand are the young men belonging to the clubs: ‘beaux, English dandies, cretins, collectors of cretinous cravats, surmounted by side-whiskers (usually red). Here is the menagerie: geese, turkeys, ducks and donkeys assuming the names of lions, tigers and jackals’, braying and neighing in a cloud of malodorous breath as they place their bets:

“Look – a shilling (26 sous) if so-and so comes in with so-and-so,” says a lion, squeezed into an implacable suit.
“No,” replies a tiger, his neighbour, with an insurmountable stove-pipe of a hat on his head, and afraid of losing his 26 sous, “I’m not betting.”

Below the grandstand is an area where the visitors’ carriages are stabled; ‘from time to time starving horses try to gobble up a spectator, taking him for hay’; while above, Hugo’s fellow-exiles parade and an English officer, ‘the rossable Major Ross’, jockeys for position with the Hungarian General Perczel and comes off the worse. Alarmed at the prospect of a duel and possibly fighting for the first time in his life, the ‘false major’ apologizes profusely to the ‘genuine general’ and creeps away.

Adele Hugo Horse race 012627.m.19
A 19th-century horse-race, from G. Finch Mason, The Tame Fox, and other stories (London, [1897]) 012627.m.19.

Those who know Adèle Hugo chiefly through Isabelle Adjani’s portrayal of her in François Truffaut’s film The Story of Adèle H. (1975), crossing the Atlantic in desperate pursuit of yet another officer, the perfidious Lieutenant Pinson, may be agreeably surprised by the Jane Austen-like acuity of her diaries. She outlived her father, dying in 1915 in the asylum where she had been under treatment for schizophrenia. Painfully frustrating as her life may have been, it could not extinguish her capacity to express herself with piquancy and perception.

Susan Halstead, Subject Librarian (Social Sciences), Research Services.

18 June 2018

Flag Day celebrates the new ‘Maatjes’.

The famous ‘Maatjesharing’ is here again! Like the Scandinavians the Dutch celebrate the arrival of the first ‘Nieuwe’, or ‘virgin’ herring, in the month of June.

Herring2 RB.31.c.551
The herring. Illustration by Ebenezer Albin from Roger North, A treatise on fish and fish-ponds (London, [1825?]) RB.31.c.551

It all started last week with the traditional auction of the first barrel of ‘Nieuwe’ brought ashore. The auction raised a whopping €78,000 for charity

Over to London where on Friday the very first ‘London Haring Party’ (deliberately ‘haring’ , not ‘herring’) was held at the Dutch Church in Austin Friars in support of the Dutch Centre . The auction of a barrel of herring there did not quite make €78,000, but the £525 it did raise wasn’t at all bad. Congratulations to the Dutch Centre!

Then came the moment everyone had been waiting for. Sure, the bitterballen were very nice, don’t get me wrong, but everyone was gagging to get their teeth into some herring!

You may get an idea about just how desperate we had all become from the photos below, taken about half a minute apart from each other, if that. The beer flowed freely and the live band sang Dutch hits. What’s not to like. I look forward to next year already.

Herring2 herringIMG_8673

Herring2 goneIMG_8679

Such a shame I couldn’t be in Scheveningen on Saturday to celebrate the 71st ‘Vlaggetjesdag’, which
opens the season for ‘Hollandse Nieuwe’. Fishing boats are decked out in colourful bunting, or flags (hence the name ‘Flag Day’) and the Dutch colours are everywhere, as is herring and other fish.

It is a real ‘street food festival’, with that very Dutch way of eating a herring that you won’t see anywhere else in the world. The way to do it is to take the whole herring by the tail, bend your head backwards and let the salty fish, well coated in a thick layer of chopped raw onions, slither down your throat. Yummy!

Herring2 eatingherring
The proper way to eat Dutch herring. (Photo from Flickr by wht-rotterdam.nl (no copyright indicated))

If this sounds like a bit too much, just ask for a ‘broodje haring’ (a herring roll) and you’ll be fine. That’s your weekly ration of Omega 3 and 6 sorted.

During the festival local women stroll around in their traditional finery, golden pins in their white caps, necklaces of red coral held by a golden clasp and a pastel green shawl.

Herring2 Scheveningencostume
Women in traditional Scheveningen costume, from Elsa Valeton, Dutch costumes (Amsterdam, 1959). 7745.bb.42

Herring has been a staple food for the Dutch for centuries. In the early days of the Dutch Golden Age herring was the bread and butter of the Dutch economy, in more than one sense. Due to wars, in particular the Anglo-Dutch wars of the mid-17th century, herring fishery declined in the Netherlands. It was not until the 19th century that it picked up again.

In his Overzicht der geschiedenis van de Nederlandsche Zeevisscherijen, Anthony Beaujon describes the ebb and flow of the Dutch sea fisheries over time. He wrote it first in English as ‘History of Dutch Sea-fisheries’, and submitted it as an entry to the competition launched on the occasion of the International Exhibition on Fisheries held in London in 1883, one of the largest exhibitions held at that time. Beaujon won the competition and later translated his book into Dutch. Strangely enough we hold the Dutch edition, but our catalogue does not show a record for the English edition. It may well be included in one of the many other titles published on the occasion of this exhibition

Herring2BeaujonTtlp
Title page of Anthony Beaujon, Overzicht der geschiedenis van de Nederlandsche Zeevisscherijen (Leiden, 1885.) 7290.e.11

Donald. S. Murray’s book ‘Herring Tales’ is a more recent history of herring and probably a bit more readable than Beaujon. His is a fascinating story of herring that connects Dutch, Scandinavian and British culture, perhaps more than anything else.

HerringtalesMurrayP1100623
Cover of Donald S. Murray’s Herring Tales: how the silver darling shaped human taste and history. London, 2015. (DRT ELD.DS.80434)

There is a third celebration that involves herring, white bread and butter which takes place in October, so I’ll be back with more about herring then.

Marja Kingma, Curator Germanic Studies, Dutch Language Collections.

15 June 2018

From Sokol to Symbolism: the short life of Karel Hlaváček

The tragic figure of the frail poet dying prematurely of consumption is one which haunts European literature from Keats to Jiří Wolker. Yet there can be few less likely candidates for this role than the Czech poet Karel Hlaváček. He was born into a solidly working-class family in Prague on 29 August 1874, the son of Josef Hlaváček and his wife Antonie. Bright and talented, the young Karel was educated at the high school in the Karlín district of Prague, where he became a keen member of the Sokol movement, founded in 1862 by Miroslav Tyrš and Jindřich Fügner. Ostensibly an organization aiming to promote physical fitness through gymnastics, this actually served as a cover for patriotic activities and provided a focus for national feeling among young Czechs under the oppressive regime of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Such was his enthusiasm that he was one of the founding members of a new branch of Sokol in his home district of Libeň and was chosen as its president.

Hlaváček’s parents could not afford to send him to university full-time, but he was able to attend lectures as an external student, and spent two years studying modern languages in this way. French held a particular attraction for him, and he soon became acquainted with the work of French Symbolist and Decadent writers including Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Verlaine and Mallarmé. At the same time his gifts as an artist were rapidly developing. His drawings and prints revealed his fascination with the morbid and demonic, including studies of devils, malevolent fauns and other supernatural beings. This made him a natural illustrator of works by authors who were in tune with the spirit of Decadence, including Arnošt Procházka, Otokar Březina, Jiří Karásek ze Lvovic and Stanisław Przybyszewski, as well as of his own poems. He had applied to the School of Applied Art (Uměleckoprůmyslova škola) in Prague, but predictably failed to gain admittance, and in fact never settled to any fixed occupation.

A fine physical specimen thanks to his Sokol training, Hlaváček was called up for his compulsory military service and despatched to serve in Trento in northern Italy in 1895. For the last two years he had been writing for the official Sokol magazine and in 1895 had acted as an organizer and publicist for the third pan-Sokol assembly in Prague. Although his departure for Trento interrupted this, it brought him into a new environment which confirmed his belief in the value of international contacts and active cooperation with writers of other nations on equal terms. It was also where he contracted the tuberculosis which was to kill him.

Hlaváček crystallized his ideas on this subject on an essay entitled ‘Nacionalism a internacionalism’, published in Moderní revue V (1896). He considered that Czech authors could only benefit from the spirit of internationalism, which would not dilute their Czech identity but would strengthen it. He had been contributing to this periodical (Prague, 1895-; P.P.4835.ub.) from its inception, and in doing so worked closely with some of the leading Czech literary figures of the fin-de-siècle, among them Antonín Sova, producing portraits and vignettes as well as illustrations.

His own first collection of verses, Sokolské sonety, came out in 1895, although he was later to repudiate it as his efforts to express Tyrš’s ideals in verse gave way to more daring experiments. Inspired by a collection of modern French poetry in translation published by Jaroslav Vrchlický (Prague, 1893; 1608/3839), he began to adapt the spirit of Symbolism and Decadence into Czech. In Pozdě k ránu (‘Late towards morning’; 1896), he created melancholy verses aiming to suggest the deep musical tones of the drum or viola, accompanied by his own illustrations in the spirit of Félicien Rops  and Edvard Munch.

Hlavacek Pozde k Ranu X.907-10067 Frontispiece from Pozdě k ránu (Prague, 1896) X.907/10067

The book subsequently inspired illustrations by other artists, including a series of lithographs by Karel Štik for a limited edition published to mark the 50th anniversary of Hlaváček’s death. The British Library’s copy, signed by the artist, includes a powerful portrait of the poet himself.

Hlavacek Pozde k Ranu LR.410.k.18 frontis Portrait of Hlaváček by Karel Štik from Pozdě k ránu (Prague,1948) L.R. 410.k.18.

In 1898, the year of his death, Hlaváček published one of his most famous works, Mstivá kantiléna (‘Vindictive cantilena’), widely regarded as the most significant verse work of Czech Decadent literature. Though comparatively short, it encompasses a wide range of European cultural references, including the Abbé Prevost’s Manon Lescaut and the Dutch Anabaptist rebels known as the Geuzen or Gueux, conjuring up a synaesthetic world of failed rebellion, bells which cannot ring, and legends of ‘the sin of the yellow roses’, ‘the moon which went blind through long weeping’ and ‘the beautiful dolphin’. Like his earlier poem ‘Upír’ which portrays an aristocratic vampire flitting through Prague and sorrowing as he plunges down on his pure victims, it captures the resonances of Decadence in a uniquely Czech fashion by exploiting the rhythms and resonances of the language.

Hlavacek Mstiva Kantilena X989-8471Frontispiece to Mstivá kantilena (V Praze, 1916) X.989/8471; a copperplate engraving by the author.

In that same year Hlaváček’s condition worsened and he died on 15 June 1898, just two months short of his 24th birthday. His contribution to Czech literature far exceeds the modest compass of his published work in the inspiration which it gave to those who would go on to build up links between the rest of Europe, especially France, and a country which just 20 years later would achieve not only cultural but national independence.

Susan Halstead, Subject Librarian (Social Sciences), Research Services

 

11 June 2018

The Reign of Terror ends

The bright dawn of the 1789 French Revolution did not last. By 1790 the Jacobin club (meeting in the Rue St Jacques) led by Maximilien Robespierre was the dominant political club in the country. It was more influential than the club of the Cordeliers (which met in the convent of the Cordeliers) led by Georges Jacques Danton, Jean-Paul Marat, Camille Desmoulins and Jacques Hébert.

Discours par Robespierre R.112
Cover page of a selection of works by and about Robespierre (Paris, 1791-4) R.112

The Legislative Assembly of 1791-2 consisted of the Plain – moderate republicans or monarchists who were influenced by the Girondists (from Gironde) – and the Mountain – those seated in the highest part of the hall, who were the most radical and included members of the Jacobin and Cordelier clubs.

In April 1792 the French declared war on Austria. That August the Tuileries palace was stormed by the Paris mob. The Provisional Government, with Danton as Minister of Justice, did nothing to prevent the September massacre of prisoners. In the same month the monarchy was abolished and 22 September became the first day of Year 1. On 21 January, 1793, Louis XVI was executed. In prison he had frequently read accounts of the execution of King Charles I of England in January 1649.

Louis XVI 10658.b.27
Louis XVI’s last meeting with his family on the eve of his execution, from Jean-Baptiste Cléry, Journal de ce qui s'est passé à la tour du Temple, pendant la captivité de Louis XVI., roi de France (Paris, 1816) 10658.b.27.

In April 1793 the Committee of Public Safety was formed. It included Danton, Robespierre and Saint-Just. In the years 1793-4 Robespierre came to dominate the government and massacres occurred in the regions. The Reign of Terror had begun. Philippe Égalité, formerly the Duc d’Orléans, the former King’s cousin, was executed on 6 October 1793. Marie Antoinette was executed on 16 October. Olympe de Gouges, a lively dramatist and writer in favour of women’s emancipation, was enthusiastic for the Revolution but denounced the Terror. She was tried on 4 November and executed the same day. Madame Roland was executed on 9 November, pausing before a statue of Liberty to cry out “Oh Liberty, how many crimes are committed in your name.” She had said farewell to her best female friend at a pre-arranged spot on her route to the scaffold to spare her the sight of her execution. Louis XVI had similarly spared his valet and friend Cléry this last painful duty. Monsieur Roland, also condemned, had escaped to Rouen, but on hearing of his wife’s death, committed suicide. Olympe de Gouges had written that women were not allowed the vote yet were considered responsible enough for their actions to be executed. There were many more humble victims than aristocratic ones, as people paid off old scores by denouncing people they disliked.

IMG_9630 F.856
Baron Honoré Riouffe, Mémoires d'un détenu, pour servir à l'histoire de la tyrannie de Robespierre. 2nd ed. (Paris, an III [1795]) F.857.(1.). The book recounts the  author’s experience of unjust 
imprisonment during the Terror

In November the worship of God was abolished and replaced by the Cult of Reason. Churches were closed. Danton and Desmoulins were executed on 5 April. In July a conspiracy against Robespierre lead to his and those of his younger brother, and his supporters Georges Couthon and Antoine Saint-Just, who was only 26. They were arrested on 27 July (9 Thermidor). They were released by friends but surprised at the Hôtel de Ville and executed the next day (10 Thermidor). Other colleagues followed them to the scaffold. The plotters were forced by public opinion to moderate their policies and the Reign of Terror was ended.

Robespierre Vie secrette F.R.64.(17.)
Title-page and frontispiece of Vie secrette, politique et curieuse de M. I. Maximilien Robespierre ... (Paris, an. II [1793 or 1794]) R.112(127)

The anonymous tract Portraits exécrables du traître Robespierre et ses complices begins with a description of Robespierre. He is 5 pieds (feet) 3 or 4 pouces (literally thumbs or inches) tall, smart, with a lively step, a brisk manner, wringing his hands nervously, his hair and clothes elegant, his face ordinary but fresh in colour and a naturally harsh voice. His discourse was sharp, and he argued clearly. (He had trained as a lawyer.) He was proud and sought glory; often bold he was sometimes vindictive. He was chaste by temperament. He liked to attract women and sometimes had them imprisoned so he could free them. He also liked to instil fear into part of the Convention. He had a would-be assassin killed.

IMG_9628 F.856
Portraits exécrables du traître Robespierre et ses complices ([Paris, 1794])  F.856 (2)

After his arrest, when he saw himself abandoned by his allies, and Couthon badly injured, he shot himself and was seriously but not fatally injured in the jaw. He was found on the floor. Couthon was dead but Robespierre was just about alive. He was mocked by those around him. Saint-Just, and two of his supporters (Claude) Payan and (René - François ) Dumas were brought in. Dumas was distracted, Saint-Just humiliated and Payan defiant and then fearful. Dumas asked for water which was given to him. A surgeon bandaged Robespierre’s injuries. The execution is not described except to say that after the execution the clothes of the victims were hardly disturbed although blood-stained.

Morna Daniels, Former Curator French Collections

References/Further reading

Audrey C. Brodhurst, ‘The French Revolution Collections in the British Library’,  British Library Journal (1976), 138-158.

Des McTernan, ‘The printed French Revolution collections in the British Library’, FSLG Annual Review, 6 (2009-10), 31-44.