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Finally!! I just found an extract online of the amazing La Terreur et la Vertu, near the ending of the second part "Robespierre".

This is the antidote needed after Terror! Robespierre and the French Revolution.

This is Saint-Just -- with natural authority, dignity, and a grand, tragic, resolute and sublime aura:

My translation of the dialogue:

COUTHON – Yes, write. (reciting) “Citizen-soldiers, generals and officers, armies of the Republic. The National Convention has fallen in the hands of rascals...”

(Couthon's voice fades, as Robespierre slowly walks to Saint-Just, who's standing near the window of the Hôtel de Ville.)

ROBESPIERRE – Why don’t you say anything?

SAINT-JUST – You know it. “In the name of the French people…” What people? It is not here.

ROBESPIERRE – Why did you follow me?

SAINT-JUST – “You, who sustain the fragile patrie against the torrents of despotism and intrigue… I do not know you, but you are a great man. You are not only the deputy of a province; you are the one of humanity, and of the Republic.”

ROBESPIERRE – What is this?

SAINT-JUST – You don’t remember?


SAINT-JUST – One day, back in 1790, a young man from Blérancourt wrote a letter to a deputy he admired through his speeches. This deputy; it was you, Robespierre. This young man; it was I.

ROBESPIERRE – So, you wrote to me?

SAINT-JUST – And I did not change.

ROBESPIERRE – I was the loneliest man of the Constituante. And now, I am alone again. Always.


ROBESPIERRE – Everything is lost, isn’t it?

SAINT-JUST – Yes, it is lost. It could not be otherwise. Considering who we are, both of us. Considering what we think.

ROBESPIERRE – Why didn’t you help us? Give us any advice?

SAINT-JUST – We possessed seventeen companies of gunners and thirty-two cannons. The Convention only had one company. We had to, at 19:00, lead two companies in front of the main door of the Convention; at the East door, one company; at the West door, two companies. We had to, at 19:30, invade the committees and immediately arrest all the members. We had to, at 19:45, invade the Convention, proclaim the Constitution of 1793 and outlaw Tallien, Fréron, Barras and all the other rotten scoundrels. We had to send, at the School of Mars, two companies to rally the students, the officers and the troops. We had to, at 20:00, in Paris, proclaim the triumph of the Commune. And the Insurrection of the Apathetic would have been crowned the Insurrection of the Bold.

ROBESPIERRE – And you did nothing?

SAINT-JUST – If I had, would you have approved it?


SAINT-JUST – The People of 10 August had the right to invade the Tuileries. The People of the 31 May and of the 5 September, had the right to invade the Convention. Not the armies.


SAINT-JUST – Today, all that was left to us was the dictatorship of the armies. The military dictatorship. We would have been suspended in a void. Robespierre, consul of the Republic. Saint-Just, consul of the Republic.

ROBESPIERRE – Of which Republic?

Edit: And if someone feels adventurous enough to watch it all in French without subtitles, I think I just found the whole second film online: http://www.dailymotion.com/playlist/xrrkt_star_vin_la-revolution-francaise

This is brilliant. And how apt.


Jul. 17th, 2009 08:12 pm (UTC)
You can see the whole "Robespierre" part at dailymotion, just search for "terreur vertu". Unfortunately, the Danton part is not there. Sib.

p.s. As for SJ, I find him a bit to idealized there. Too calm in comparison to contemporary testimonies.
Jul. 17th, 2009 08:44 pm (UTC)
I just finished an essay to criticize the portrayal of Saint-Just in Terror! Robespierre and the French Revolution and in my conclusion, I oppose it to the portrait shown in LTELV. I recognise the idealization, however I imagine that the contrast of the two opposites give a nice (and much better, much more accurate) idea of the real complexity of his personality. I also think that the acting of Denis Manuel could represent the way Saint-Just idealized himself and the way he tried to act. It's perfectly possible he acted like that at certain chosen times, or more often than just in "acted, theatrical" times. It's perfectly possible that some of his contemporaries, particularly during his missions, saw him like that. It's very much the portrayal I can read from his decrees and proclamations and letters during his missions, and the portrayal I can read from most of his speeches and reports as well. This is how I perceive the "self-image" he constructed for himself, this "role" everybody speaks of.

Personally, I think Denis Manuel's acting is generally brilliant and, in the Thermidor sequence, immensely poignant and touching. There's something in his eyes that amazes me, all this sense of mythical, resolute fatality that Saint-Just chose to accept in the last hours of his life, when he chose to remain silent and to shut himself out of the world.
Jul. 17th, 2009 08:52 pm (UTC)
I would be extremely interested in reading your essay.
I do not object to this part of the movie in particular, quite on the contrary, it is not only impressive, but it seems quite realistic - though not probable, and it fits in quite well in the sense of what you have just outlined.
It is the scenes from the CPS where it seems to me he is too "sweet" and too "reasonable".
Moreover, in his fashioning himself you are talking about, it seems from the sources that he succeeded to inspire fear, too - something not reflected in LTetlV. Sib.
Jul. 17th, 2009 09:08 pm (UTC)
It's being edited right now by estellacat, who's checking the transcripted quotes from the videos, some translations and my English (coz I speak French, and, erm, it's the first time I write such a long essay all in English). :D

Yes, I feel that this scene -- which is truly impressive, as you said; I'm always so impressed by it -- serves as a good "example" of their ideals, of their relationship, it serves to explain why it failed, why it had to fail, why there was no other ways. It's very "literary" in this sense (I don't know if that's the right term) or "philosophical". Or even, it almost gives a historical explation because the "suspended in a void" ("suspendu dans le vide") part is so often repeated by historians (Mathiez, Soboul) about what happened after the "Germinal Crisis", and how it can partially explain Thermidor. It's very Mathiézin (or Soboulien) on the whole. There were explanations from Mathiez that I've read which were portrayed almost the same way in the two films.

I don't know, I wouldn't think "sweet". I would think he's very composed and, yes, reasonable -- what I like in these films is his capacity to reason with the others, to try to conciliate as he tried to do before Thermidor. He appears much more self-controlled than Maxime -- which fits the legendary line he would have told him "Calm down; the empire belongs to the flegmatics" or something like that -- but he's still curt and abrupt, hence why I wouldn't say "sweet" (except when he speaks privately/intimately with Maxime: the tone of his voice amazingly changes). He's capable to retort to Collot or to Carnot in this -- that's what I like (and that's part of my essay as well).

As for the last thing you mention, I think it may have helped if we had had scenes of him in his missions. Of course, that was a made-for-TV film and it's obvious that they lacked the budget to do that, but it would have been awesome. Yes, I do believe that this complex personality could inspire "fear", mixed with "fascination" or "inspiration" (since he tried to "inspire" the Revolution after all) -- they all tried to mould themselves with the concept of the "sublime" (the culture of Year II being very much characterized by it) and I think Saint-Just is one of the revolutionaries who succeeded it best, with the myth he contributed to create around himself when he lived (particularly in his missions, he was very self-conscious of that).
Jul. 17th, 2009 09:30 pm (UTC)
I agree on how marxist the film is in the interpretation of the fall of the robespierristes as inevitable. I like the subtlety of incorporation of such a strong ideological proposal (it becomes unsubtle only in the Saint-Just's speach on the workers from the faubourgs). Agree or not with such ideological position, you still don't feel being forced (or intellectually raped :-) like with Schama.
As for Saint-Just, my opinion is somewhat more critical, I will take my time to think and then try to write something intelligent on that subject. For the moment, I must admit that your interpretation at least pays attention to the way his self-representation could be percieved by his contemporaries, something Mantel fails to do. She indirectly admits the limits of her "troubled teenager" interpretation when she says she is puzzled by the fact that Saint-Just did not seem ridiculous or childish to the people of his time. Any historical interpretation should focus in explaining that instead of devoting time to silly psychoanalysis.
p.s. Sweet was not the right word, "too kind" would have been better.
Jul. 17th, 2009 09:46 pm (UTC)
I should go to bed, I cannot write a sentence without misspelling anymore :-) I hope to find your essay here soon. I'll try to provide my critical opinion on the above-mentionned subject soon. Sib.
Jul. 17th, 2009 09:50 pm (UTC)
"Intellectually raped" -- good one, that's exactly how I feel. I feel Saint-Just's characterisation has been raped as well in this docudrama. I'm very disturbed, and can't get over this feeling really. I had never thought I would ever argue someday that even the psychotic Saint-Just in Wajda and the insufferable Saint-Just of LRF were better than what I've just seen. At least, they were still "dominating" -- bossy, giving orders, pushing people, furiously tearing things, sending evil!agents to beat up Desmoulins, etc., and when they were throwing tantrums, at least it was taken more "seriously" as in the sense that these Saint-Justs were then going to whine to evil!paranoid!dictator!Robespierre that they wanted someone's head. But the BBC!Saint-Just? My God: I'm still traumatized.

Oh, I've never been very objective when it comes to the subject of Saint-Just -- and I've never hidden it either. ;) That's why I study Robespierre in my thesis, and not Saint-Just, because I'm capable of being relatively more "detached" (yet, still...) with him than with Saint-Just. After all, there are important people (historians and others) who openly swoon over Marie-Antoinette or Napoléon Bonaparte (or Camille Desmoulins :P), so I allow myself to swoon on Saint-Just -- and to be self-righteously offended when his characterisation is totally mutilated as it was in that BBC crap.

You've got no idea how much I SCREAMED (okay, not really, but mentally at least) when I heard Hilary Mantel's infantilization of Saint-Just. She reactualized Courtois' report -- those are almost exactly his words. And, yes, especially that part "we can't imagine how they could have been impressed by him" -- well, it's odd, but I can? And many people can? And yet they're not necessarily "novelists"?

p.s. Okay, yes, I get it. ^^ I agree; he could get very "soft-spoken" or "kind" in his speeches in LTELV.
Jul. 17th, 2009 10:16 pm (UTC)
Such interesting discussion, I cannot but continue...Those who read this would have to suffer my deteriorating spelling once more.
Oh, please, do swoon as much as you feel like. I hope it will not be incompatible with having a critical debate on the topic :-)
And yes, the BBC Senzhoost has been beyond my capacity of comprehension. Isn't Hampson's Lucifer better than this dependent adolescent whiner? The BBC portrayal is so incompatible with any testimony on the behaviour of the man on 9th and 10th Thermidor, no wonder they did not show that part. I would be more receptive to a psychopatic depiction (though I would be critical with it, too, as I have developed an alergy to psychology in history), than to such radical misinterpretation.
As for Mantel: In the interpretation of history, it is fundamental to understand the people in the context of their period. So, more than Hilary's personal opinion on the "childishness" of Saint-Just's ideas (which I share to some extend: as a 20th-century-person), the relevant question for any serious historical document is how the man and his ideas were perceived by the contemporaries and why they were accepted, feared or admired. And there she fails totally.
Jul. 17th, 2009 10:34 pm (UTC)
Oh, I'm glad. ^^ And your spelling isn't so "deteriorated". XD

For months, I've screamed against the LRF!SJ and the Wajda!SJ, watching Wajda's film even made me sick for a week, for the matter, because it was completely strange and puzzling and absurd and impossible to understand, the actors were terrible, the music was terrible, the "tint" of the film (the "colouring", don't know if you see what I mean) was all creepy and terrible -- so, all right, we got that you were trying to illustrate the "Terror", Wajda, no need to make it all so painful to the eyes. And yet... THAT BBC THING, it topped it all on the level of "horror". In my Chart of "The (Relatively Recent) Most Horrible Films/Docudramas Ever Made on the French Revolution", it just took the first place. And it's gotten to such a dramatic point that, indeed, one almost regrets Hampson's Lucifer -- if his horrible, silly, irrational metaphor (and conclusion line -- wtf?) can demonstrate at least the usually hated sides of Saint-Just's attitude. But here: where has the man who wrote about his "dust" and his "independant life" gone? And anyway, I stop here for the moment, or it's my whole essay that I'm going to re-write. XD My rage, it just won't cease.

I understand the opinion of "childishness" -- after all Saint-Just was twenty-six: I think he was brilliant and talented, but his ideas still reflected "youth". (Like, say, some very, very huge simplifications like in the "Institutions républicaines".) There are some physical and mental limits impossible to break. But Mantel's personal opinion -- and I already hated Mantel before that for her characterisation of Saint-Just, Le Bas and Élisabeth, among many things, in her novel -- is belittling and, really, it illustrates the whole vibe I've felt of "Saint-Just needing to be put back to his place" -- I've felt that often, I've always found it to be very despicable and even more arrogant attitude. Also, Mantel's speech just satisfies a bunch of old and/or conservatives who hate it when the youngest generations are in charge. Some of these are afraid of a "generational overthrow". Is it the return of the spectre of Mai '68?
Jul. 17th, 2009 10:38 pm (UTC)
Je l'espère! :-D
Jul. 18th, 2009 10:39 am (UTC)
"The sense of humour" is a very powerful weapon, in a positive, but also in a negative sense. It is quite a typical way for the conformists to disqualify any attempt at change as ridiculous. A detached, ironical observer's role is so comfortable and so conservative.
Therefore, I think the destruction of a person's image through making him seem ridiculous, rather than dangerous and BAD, is very efficient, nowadays. Many do not mind being feared, they are scared of being mocked (and I can think of some cases when I love and admire the mocking approach, especially when it means taking a risk, but not this BBC document, totally conformist with the prevailing neo-liberal, classist, anti-French nationalist trend).
There is a great film which unmasks this negative, socially-paralyzing role of humour and wit, and it's not a coincidence that it is French and takes plays a couple of years before the Revolution: the film's name is Ridicule.
Jul. 17th, 2009 09:55 pm (UTC)
I know it sounds like a funny parallel, but it often reminds me of the final scene of the film 'Elizabeth'(with Cate Blanchet), in which she paints herself white in imitation of a statue of the Virgin Mary, "I have become a virgin".
Jul. 17th, 2009 09:59 pm (UTC)
Which part exactly? (Because it does sound like an interesting parallel...)
Jul. 17th, 2009 10:11 pm (UTC)


if the links work, it's towards the end of part 11 and the start of part 12 - obviously, the motives are different but there is the same sense of stripping yourself of earthly things (sex, etc) in the service of the national (or in this case, Tudor!) interest. It also reminded me a bit of something my neighbour, a judge, said about wearing the long white wig and court uniform: she liked it because it enabled her to cease being herself, with her own personal worries and household concerns, and to become an instrument and representative of the law.
Jul. 17th, 2009 10:15 pm (UTC)
Oh, yes, I remembered that scene. (It was a really striking one, I must say.) I wanted to know which part of my comment the parallel was about... I take it from what you say that it was the last part on Saint-Just's self-created myth?
Jul. 17th, 2009 11:27 pm (UTC)
Jul. 17th, 2009 11:22 pm (UTC)
(I hope this is what you meant, because I can't refrain from replying to this. I'll risk it anyway.)

I so agree with you. I mean, this is such a fascinating parallel, even if a bit funny -- I don't think Saint-Just would like being compared to an English Queen (and yet again to a woman -- it's growing old, isn't it?). But it's really, sincerely an interesting concept. My own "theory" of Saint-Just's psychology is that he tried to "regenerate" himself with the Revolution, that he was "born again" with it, and then he was convinced that the model -- his model, his inspiration, etc. -- could work with others as well. No religion could have done that conversion but a revolution did it...

Your parallel is really close to it: it's becoming a whole new public person, cutting away from the past, as the vids you linked show. Thus, it's really different from what an "average individual" (who is more private than public) would do in a "normal situation" -- hence why Hilary Mantel's psychologising of Saint-Just fails, or why it always fails when they do that and call him "a whiny, tantrum-y teenager". They fail to understand the particularities of that context, the incredible, unique and, yes, self-important way they felt. Saint-Just wanted to become that idealized, perfect citizen, perfect patriot, perfect representative of the People he wrote about.
Jul. 17th, 2009 11:49 pm (UTC)
Yes, Hilary Mantel thinks he doesn't evolve, just dismisses him as emo teen - I think she's missing out on a fascinating subject! He seems to be trying to incarnate his republican ideal - hence the stoical behaviour on 9 Thermidor (unless he was simply too tired to fight - he seems to have been awake almost all the night before!).
Jul. 18th, 2009 10:13 am (UTC)
You are so right. It is not the matter of moral judgement or intellectual analysis of ideas. It is one of the basic principles of a sensible approximation to history. She may find Saint-Just childish and ridiculous, and be surprised why his contemporaries did not see him as such (even Desmoulins, who mocked him for his self-important posing, did not see him as childish). However, for someone dealing with history, this surprise, or incomprehension, should be a starting-point for a productive historical analysis. Because what matters is not Mantel's personal sympathies, but how we explain a person in a particular historical context.
Jul. 19th, 2009 07:56 am (UTC)
Really? Granted, I've only read A Place of Greater Safety. But it seemed more to me like she views him as the cold, dark, manipulative embodiment of everything evil.
Jul. 19th, 2009 08:07 am (UTC)
Yes, but surprisingly she paints him in a very different way in the BBC document. S.
Jul. 19th, 2009 01:07 pm (UTC)
The second part of my comment was referring to the historical Saint-Just, rather than Mantel's. In her novel, she has him as Robespierre's bad fairy (I picture it like those classic Warner Bros. cartoons, where a tiny devil and a tiny angel pop up on Daffy Duck's shoulders! Desmoulins being the good angel...). In the TV programme, she had a slightly different take - now, he's an over-indulged child.


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