?

Log in

No account? Create an account
Anne

simone_remy in melkam

Camille's last prison letter from BHVP original

This must be the most famous of Camille's letters; it was partially translated, illustrated and printed in The Times, shortly after his execution and has been written about and set to music [see Matton p227]         Duodi germinal, 8 heures du matin [April 1]
The kindliness of sleep has halted my suffering. One is free when one sleeps; there is no sense of captivity; heaven has taken pity on me. Only a moment ago I saw you in a dream, I embraced you all in turn, you, Horace and Daronne who was there in the house; but our little one had lost an eye because of an infection which had taken a hold of him, and the sadness of this event awoke me.

I found myself back in my cell. It was almost light. Unable to see you or to hear your replies, for you and your mother were speaking to me; I got up in order to speak to you and write at least. But on opening the windows the thought of my solitude, the dreadful barriers and the bolts which separate me from you, overcame all my spirit’s resolution. I dissolved in tears, or rather I sobbed, crying in my tomb Lucile! Lucile! Oh my dear Lucile, where are you [here can one really see the trace of a tear].
Yesterday evening I experienced a similar moment and my heart was broken in the same way when I saw your mother in the garden. A convulsive movement threw me to my knees against the barriers; I clasped my hands as if to beg for her pity, she, who I am sure, sighed on your breast. Yesterday I saw her sadness [here can be seen the trace of another tear] by her handkerchief and her veil which she lowered, unable to bear the sight. When you come back ask her to sit a little closer with you, so that I can see you better. It seems to me that there is no danger.
My glasses are not much good; I wish you would buy me a pair like the ones I had six months ago, not made of silver, but of steel, with two arms which attach to the head. You should ask for number fifteen: the merchant will know what that means; But above all, Lolotte, I beg you for our eternal love, send me your picture; your painter will have compassion for me, who suffers only for having too much compassion for others; he will give you two sittings a day. In the horror of my prison the day I receive your portrait will be a celebration for me, a day of joy and intoxication. While I am waiting send me a lock of your hair; I will place it next to my heart.
My dear Lucile! I have gone back to the first days of our love, when a person would be of interest to me simply because they had come from you. Yesterday, when the citizen who carried my letter returned
‘Well! Did you see her?’ I asked him, just as I asked the abbe Landreville once before, and I was surprised to find myself looking at him as if there was still something of you, of your presence remaining on his clothes. He is a charitable soul since he took my letter without censoring it. It appears that I will see him twice a day, morning and evening. This messenger of our misery is becoming as dear to me as the messenger of our pleasures once was.
I have discovered a crack in my room; I put my ear to it and heard someone groaning; I tried a few words, I heard the voice of an invalid who was clearly suffering. He asked my name, I told him
‘Oh my God’ he cried on hearing the name; he fell back on the bed from which he had risen, and I distinctly recognised the voice of Fabre d’Eglantine
‘Yes, I am Fabre’ he said to me ‘but you? Here? Then has the counter revolution come’
However, we dared not speak together for fear of the hatred which would begrudge us this feeble consolation and if they heard us would separate us and confine us more narrowly; because his room is heated and mine would be quite acceptable if it were not a prison.
But my dear love, you cannot imagine what it is like to be held in secret, without knowing the reason, without having been interrogated, without receiving a single journal! It is a living death; you exist only to sense that you are in a coffin!
They say that innocence is calm and courageous. Ah my dear Lucile, my dear love! My innocence is most often feeble, like that of a husband, that of a father, that of a son. If it were Pitt or Cobourg who were treating me so harshly; but my colleagues! But Robespierre, who has signed the order of my imprisonment, but the republic, after everything I have done for her! This is the prize I receive for all my virtue and sacrifice!
On my arrival I saw Herault de Séchelles, Simon, Feroux, Chaumette, Antonelle; they are not so unhappy: none of them are held in solitary confinement. It is I, who despite so much hatred and danger devoted myself to the republic for five years, I who have preserved my poverty in the midst of the revolution, I, who have no pardon to beg from anyone in the world but you my dear Lolotte who have granted me it because you know that in spite of my weaknesses my heart is not unworthy of you. It is I, who some men who called themselves my friends, who call themselves republicans, have cast into prison, in solitary confinement, as if I were a conspirator. Socrates drank the hemlock; but at least in prison he saw his friends and his wife. How much harder it is to be separated from you! The worst criminal would be too severely punished if he were torn from a Lucile other than by death which is at worst only a moment of pain compared to such a separation; but you would never have taken a guilty man for your husband and you have loved me solely because I live only for the happiness of my fellow citizens.
…. …they are calling for me………..at this moment the commissaires of the revolutionary tribunal are coming to interrogate me. They will only ask me this question; did I conspire against the republic. How laughable! In this way they insult the purest form of republicanism! I see the fate that awaits me. Farewell, my Lucile, my dear Lolotte, my good wolf, say goodbye to my father. You see in me an example of the barbarism and ingratitude of men. My final moments will not dishonour you. You see that my fears were not without foundation that my premonitions were always right.
I married a wife of heavenly virtues; I have been a good husband, a good son; I would also have been a good father. I bear the respect and regrets of all true republicans, of all men who love virtue and liberty. I am to die at thirty four years of age; but it is a miracle that for five years I have walked across so many precipices of the revolution without falling, and am still alive. I rest my head calmly on the pillow of my works, so numerous yet all exuding the same philanthropy, the same desire to render my fellow citizens free and happy and safe from the tyrant’s axe. I see clearly that power intoxicates almost all men, that all can say, like Denis of Syracuse:
‘Tyranny is a fine epitaph’
But desolate widow console yourself! Your poor Camille’s epitaph is more splendid: it is that of Brutus and Cato, the tyrant killers. Oh my dear Lucile! I was born to write poetry, to defend the unhappy, to make you happy and to create a paradise with your mother, my father and other people close to our hearts. I dreamed of a republic the whole world would adore. I could not believe that men could be so ferocious and so unjust. To think that a few jokes in my writing, against colleagues who had provoked me, would wipe out the memory of my services! I don’t hide from myself the fact that I am dying as a victim of these jokes and for my friendship with Danton. I thank my assassins for putting me to death with him and Philippeaux. Since my colleagues have been so cowardly as to abandon us and to listen to what lies I do not know, but for sure the most flagrant [possible translation=crude], I can say that we die, victimised for our courage in denouncing traitors, and for our love of truth. We can bear witness that we die as the last of the republicans.
Forgive me dearest friend, my true life, which I lost from the moment we were separated, I am occupying myself with my memories. I should much rather keep busy than forget you. My Lucile! My good Loulou! My cachan hen, I beg you don’t stay on the branch, or call to me with your cries; they tear me apart from the depths of my tomb. Keep scratching a living for your little one, live for my Horace, speak to him about me. You will tell him what he might not hear, that I would have loved him so much! Despite my torment I do believe there is a God. My blood will erase my faults, my human weaknesses; and God will reward those qualities that I possess, my virtues, my love of liberty. I will see you again one day, Oh Lucile! Oh Annette! Sensitive as I was of it, is death, which will deliver me from the sight of so many crimes, such a great misfortune?
From here the last part of his letter is written down the margin of the previous [fourth] page – there are still crossings out and some of it is very difficult to decipher but seems to follow the version printed in Matton [p226]
Farewell Loulou; farewell, my life, my soul, my divinity on earth! I am leaving you with good friends, whatever men there are of virtue and feeling. Farewell Lucile, my Lucile! My dear Lucile! Farewell Horace, Annette, Adele! Farewell my father! I sense the shores of life fleeing before me. Still I see Lucile! I see my best beloved, my Lucile! My bound hands embrace you, and my head, separated, still turns its dying eyes upon you!

Comments