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Was it really true?

Did Robespierre really have glasses that were tinted green? Or was it some author's imagination? I've read it some books and they mentioned this and some others don't. And i was wondering if it was true or not. It sounds cool. Though it bogs my mind really.

I was just wondering about these weird details; Because i didn't think it was possible back then to do that. XD


( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 12th, 2008 09:24 pm (UTC)
If they could produce tinted glass(like for bottles), then they should have been able to make tinted glasses?

I've heard the it mentioned, but I can't remember where. I think one place that I saw it mentioned elaborated to say the green tint was to reduce glare, but most authors who mention it seem to do so to suggest vanity or because it fits with the whole "reptillian" thing.
Nov. 12th, 2008 09:48 pm (UTC)
For now, I know this: Alfred de Vigny, in Stello (1832), mentions them and Georges Duval does too in his memoirs. But the latter's memoirs are pretty much novelist crap (he was a dramatic author and he has a LOT of imagination to create himself new memories), thus both sources on Robespierre's glasses are fiction for now... However, Books Google also tells me that Du Sault in his Recueil d'anecdotes biographiques, historiques et politiques (1798) mentions them in an anecdote on Robespierre, but I can't access the text... Also, they are mentionned in the Mémoires d'un prêtre régicide (1829). If I could access Du Sault, I could confirm that they were stated before the romantic era.

I had read elsewhere, I think, that Robespierre wore "tinted" glasses, but they didn't specify. Elsewhere, that someone was playing on the "green" theme -- eyes, complexion even, veins (according to Staël) -- and the glasses were just one of these.
Nov. 12th, 2008 10:17 pm (UTC)
George Rudé, in his 'Great Lives Observed' book on Robespierre, quotes a reference from J.M. Thompson's 'English Witnesses of the French Revolution' - it's an English boy called John Millinghen who calls at the Duplay's house to appeal to Robespierre over the internment of a relative: "he was reading at the time, and wore a pair of green preservers: he raised his head, and turning up his spectacles on his forehead, received me most graciously"
However, I don't know anything about Millinghen or whether he's reliable or not. The description of him putting the glasses up on his head does tally with the famous pencil/crayon sketch of Robespierre.
I've got (or had, cos I can't find them!) a pair of 19thc green-tinted glasses, which I presume were for people with a light sensitive condition, like migraine.
Nov. 12th, 2008 10:23 pm (UTC)
Millingen - I've been spelling it wrong! It's on p 79-81 of Rudé, anyway.
Nov. 12th, 2008 11:40 pm (UTC)
Tinted glasses existed since the middle of the 18th century.
James Ayscough began experimenting with tinted lenses in spectacles in the mid-18th century. These were not "sunglasses" as such; Ayscough believed blue- or green-tinted glass could correct for specific vision impairments. Protection from the sun's rays was not a concern of his.
Nov. 12th, 2008 11:50 pm (UTC)
I've seen recent reports on the use, now, of red and green filters to help people with reading problems: I think it was because it somehow settles the way lettering is seen on white paper for some people previously diagnosed as dyslexic - so maybe this James Ayscough was exploring on similar lines?
Visors, worn on the forehead, were also used in the 19th and early 20thc,though I think they were to shield eyes from candles or other artificial light when reading - you still see them on old cartoons, 1930's Frank Capra films etc. with newspaper editors always wearing them.
Nov. 13th, 2008 12:00 am (UTC)
I don't think James Ayscough was thinking about dyslexia because it was dentified for the first time by Oswald Berkhan in 1881. I think he was exploring on sight problems as myopia or such like this. It was the very begining of the "scientific" glasses and the "modern sciences" (anntomy, medecine, chemistry, optics, etc.).
Nov. 13th, 2008 12:12 am (UTC)
I don't think the condition that the modern-day filters correct is actual dyslexia, but a reading problem that was 'diagnosed' as dyslexia, if you see what I mean - I think dyslexia has been used a lot recently as a catch-all word by teachers/lazy doctors for a variety of sight problems. With Robespierre, though, I've come across suggestions that he may have had migraines, in which case symptoms are light sensitivity, aura, fogginess and other visual weirdness: then again, these people were working long hours by artificial light, so must have all been wrecking their eyes!
Nov. 13th, 2008 01:41 am (UTC)
With Robespierre, though, I've come across suggestions that he may have had migraines, in which case symptoms are light sensitivity, aura, fogginess and other visual weirdness: then again, these people were working long hours by artificial light, so must have all been wrecking their eyes!

If it is true that Robespierre was both nearsighted and farsighted, then it would definitely not be surprizing if he suffered from migraines--I would find it highly unlikely if, in the eighteenth century, he had much luck in finding glasses that could do wonders for both.
Nov. 13th, 2008 12:16 am (UTC)
I think that also makes Robespierre - through Abel Gance's 'Napoleon' (or was it Griffith's 'Orphans of the Storm'? It's years since I saw either)the first cinema 'baddie' to wear dark glasses!
(He's almost always the 'baddie' in films...)
Nov. 13th, 2008 02:02 am (UTC)
I've seen a lot of references to it in history books, but as far as primary sources I can't add much to what's already here, except Augustin Cabanès' Cabinet secret de l'histoire has this reference (translated by me):

"Miss Williams, in her Memories, claims that he [Robespierre] wore at once green spectacles to rest his gaze and a pince-nez, that he sometimes put in front of his glasses in order to gaze upon his listeners."

Also, according to an issue of the AHRF from 1923, in an article entitled "Le capitaine Linde chez Robespierre," the former is supposed to have seen the latter wearing green glasses.

And Artarit, for once, asks a pertinent question after citing the note on Gérard's sketch of him which reads (my translation, again): "Green eyes, pale coloring, nankeen suit with green stripes, blue and white striped waistcoat, red and white striped cravat." He wonders, "Were the glasses really green? Or were they really confused with his eyes?" after which he cites the Miss Williams mentioned above.
Nov. 13th, 2008 12:47 pm (UTC)
The English boy quoted above describes Robespierre's eyes as 'fawn', though I'd think the artist's notes would be more reliable, as, if the sketch was a prep to be worked up for a portrait, the eyes are the pivotal point. Charlotte's eyes seem to be blue-green-grey on the portrait maelicia posted a while ago: http://pics.livejournal.com/maelicia/pic/001ag8qe . I suppose he could be described as cat-like regardless of eye colour, and 'tiger' seems to be a popular term of abuse or awe at the time, though I wondered if eye-colour was the source of the story that he was Irish (unusual, typically Irish eye colour, coupled with a desire to claim no native frenchman could ever be so horrible - I suppose as part of the long tradition of that cross-channel attribution of sexual diseases, perversions etc, French pox, capote anglaise, French letter, vice anglais etc.! )

I still see 'sea green Incorruptible' turn up a lot in British newspapers, tv etc - Carlyle, presumably derived from de Stael and her vampire-Lestat veiny Robespierre, seems to have set that one in stone, whatever the truth is. How reliable is the source Hilary Mantel uses in the quote for her TLS essay title, 'If you had seen his green eyes'?
Nov. 13th, 2008 05:48 pm (UTC)
Good question again! I can say only facts. He had very sensitive eyes (like mine), he wore glasses, it is sure. As Lisotchka mentioned "tinted glasses" (and sunglasses also) already existed in the 18th century. (Actually I know eskimos already wore sunglasses)
I read only two book about Robespierre, I don't remember that, tinted g. was mentioned, or not (my memory XD)I remember normal glasses. However I can imagine (or my subjective opinion)he wore green tinted glasses.
I'm sorry, I can't show reference....
Nov. 13th, 2008 09:03 pm (UTC)
Almost every books about Maximilien talks about that.
Green glasses were easily produced in XVII, there're also exemplars in museums nowadyas (I'm not sure, but I think I saw one pair in Musée Carnavalet also).
I don't remember if Charlott say something about it in her Mémoires, but if no one did it before, I could easily check on my own copy ;)

Edited at 2008-11-13 09:04 pm (UTC)
Nov. 13th, 2008 10:21 pm (UTC)
why do I wanna believe and keep thinking that the 18th century was still backwards? lmao

i guess that answers my question about them having those type of glasses. ^^
Nov. 18th, 2008 12:44 am (UTC)
Actually, tinted glasses were a fashion back then. I've found a link in which you can see all kind of XVIII Century eyeglasses. They are green ones, for sure, but also BLUE ONES! Go and see: you'll like them to die.


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