A Place of Greater Safety

92, '93, '94. Liberty, Equality, Fraternity or Death.

All that evening he talked to the Candle of Arras, in a low confidential tone. When you get down to it, he thought, there's not much difference between politics and sex; it's all about
power. He didn't suppose he was the first person in the world to make this observation. It's a question of seduction, and how fast and cheap you can effect it: if Camille, he thought, approximates to one of those little milliners who can't make ends meet - in other words, an absolute pushover - then Robespierre is a Carmelite, mind set on becoming Mother Superior. You can't corrupt her; you can wave your cock under her nose, and she's neither shocked nor interested: why should she be, when she hasn't the remotest idea
what it's for?

Already d'Anton did not believe this. He recognized it as a disclaimer that Camille would issue from time to time in the hope of disguising the fact that he was an inveterate hell-raiser.

As Danton sees it, the most bizarre aspect of Camille's character is his desire to scribble over every blank surface; he sees a guileless piece of paper, virgin and harmless, and persecutes it till it is black with words, and then besmirches its sister, and so on, through the quire.

CAMILLE DESMOULINS: For the establishment of liberty and the safety of the nation, one day of anarchy will do more than ten years of National Assemblies.

DANTON: Could you indeed? It's you idealists who make the best tyrants.
ROBESPIERRE: It seems a bit late to be having this conversation. I've had to take up violence now, and so much else. We should have discussed it last year.

Fabre looked up, his mobile face composed. "Good-bye," he said. "Georges-Jacques--study law. Law is a weapon.

God knows what risks we take, God knows all that Danton has done. God and Camille. God will keep his mouth shut.

Gradually, you see, our people are coming into the power they have always thought is their due.

He feared, in his secret heart, that one day in company the baby would sit up and speak; that it would engage his eyes, appraise him, and say, 'You prick.

He looked the Prince up and down, like a hangman taking his measurements. 'Of course there will be a revolution,' he said. 'You are making a nation of Cromwells. But we can go beyond Cromwell, I hope. In fifteen years you tyrants and parasites will be gone. We shall have set up a republic, on the purest Roman model.

He saw that it was the gaps that were important, the spaces between the threads which made the pattern, and not the threads themselves.

[H]ope takes you by the throat like a stranger, it makes your heart leap...

I know she’s rather plain, but every girl has a right to conceal that fact from people who haven’t seen her.

Inside his copy of The Social Contract he keeps a letter from a young Picard, an enthusiast called Antoine Saint-Just: “I know you, Robespierre, as I know God, by your works.”
When he suffers, as he does increasingly, from a distressing tightness of the chest and shortness of breath, and when his eyes seem too tired to focus on the printed page, the thought of the letter urges the weak flesh to more Works.

Just think, she said to herself. I could be living on the Right Bank. I could be married to a senior clerk at the Treasury. I could be sitting with my feet up, embroidering a linen handkerchief with a rambling-rose design. Instead I'm on the rue des Cordeliers in pursuit of a baguette, with a three-inch blade for comfort.

My father doesn’t have views. He would like to, but he can’t take the risk.

Robespierre has never forgiven his friends the injuries he has done them, nor the kindnesses he has received from them, nor the talents some of them possess that he doesn’t.

Saint-Just read for the next two hours his report on the plots of the Dantonist faction. He had imagined, when he wrote it, that he had the accused man before him; he had not amended it. If Danton were really before him, this reading would be punctuated by the roars of his supporters from the galleries, by his own self-justificatory roaring; but Saint-Just addressed the air, and there was a silence, which deepened and fed on itself. He read without passion, almost without inflection, his eyes on the papers that he held in his left hand. Occasionally he would raise his right arm, then let it fall limply by his side: this was his only gesture, a staid, mechanical one. Once, towards the end, he raised his young face to his audience and spoke directly to them: “After this,” he promised, “there will be only patriots left.

Talking to Robespierre, one tried to make the right noises; but what is right, these days? Address yourself to the militant, and you find a pacifist giving you a reproachful look. Address yourself to the idealist, and you’ll find that you’ve fallen into the company of a cheerful, breezy professional politician. Address yourself to means, and you’ll be told to think of ends: to ends, and you’ll be told to think of means. Make an assumption, and you will find it overturned; offer yesterday’s conviction, and today you’ll find it shredded. What did Mirabeau complain of? He believes everything he says. Presumably there was some layer of Robespierre, some deep stratum, where all the contradictions were resolved.

The maid found a handkerchief of hers, under the bed in which she had died. A ring that had been missing turned up in his own writing desk. A tradesman arrived with fabric she had ordered three weeks ago. Each day, some further evidence of a task half finished, a scheme incomplete. He found a novel, with her place marked.

And this is it.

The main thing is, the constraints have come off style. What we are saying now is that the Revolution does not proceed in a pitiless, forward direction, its politics and its language becoming ever more gross and simplistic: the Revolution is always flexible, subtle, elegant.

The prose,” Robespierre said. “It’s so clean, no conceits, no show, no wit. He means every word. Formerly, you see, he meant every other word. That was his style.

The reader may ask how to tell fact from fiction. A rough guide: anything that seems particularly unlikely is probably true.

There is no need for unanimity,” Saint- Just said. “It would have been desirable, but let’s get on. There are only two signatures wanting, I think, besides those who have refused. Citizen Lacoste, you next— then be so good as to put the paper in front of Citizen Robespierre, and move the ink a little nearer.

The weight of the old world is stifling, and trying to shovel its weight off your life is tiring just to think about. The constant shuttling of opinions is tiring, and the shuffling of papers across desks, the chopping of logic and the trimming of attitudes. There must, somewhere, be a simpler, more violent world.

This revolution - will it be a living?'
'We must hope so. Look, I have to go, I'm visiting a client. He's going to be hanged tomorrow.'
'Is that usual?'
'Oh, they always hang my clients. Even in property and matrimonial cases.

This was an idea peculiar to Camille, Maximilien thought, that the worse things get, the better they get. No one else seems to think this way.

We may be tainted with pragmatism, but it only needs a clash of personalities to remind us of our principles.

When it was time to write, and he took his pen in his hand, he never thought of consequences; he thought of style. I wonder why I ever bothered with sex, he thought; there's nothing in this breathing world so gratifying as an artfully placed semicolon.