Introduction to Discours de la Lanterne aux Parisiens...............
The ever lovely Camille added some ridiculously long footnotes to The Lantern ~ I have put them in appendices to the relevant sections ~ they contain some familiar themes.
The Discours de la Lanterne aux Parisiens first appeared through Garnery as a 67 page brochure in octavo; it was preceded by a two page foreword in small type: This edition was unsigned. The second edition, corrected and augmented, was dated thus:
The first year of liberty in France
It contained 72 pages and also contained the dedicatory title To Our Lords in Parliament. This edition was signed ‘by the author of La France Libre’. The third edition, reviewed, corrected and considerably augmented is signed by Camille Desmoulins. The pagination is identical to the first edition, the author’s only deletion is the dedicatory title. This third edition is notable for its engraved frontispiece which shows the Hotel-de-Ville and the famous lantern, or lamppost.
TO OUR LORDS IN THE TOULOUSE PARLIAMENT
They have told me that you burnt La France Libre. All of Solomon’s books were burnt by King Ezechias in person on the steps of the temple; for fear that they should distract the people’s attention from Holy Scripture. This must console those writers whose work was burnt by the king’s people at the foot of the grand staircase. For myself, I thank you for these honourable flames. The fire which consumes the victim shows that she was acceptable to the gods; the fire which consumes a book shows that it was never displeasing to men. The flames which rise around these pages are like a halo which crowns the author.
So accept my gratitude for the homage paid to this second edition and may my dear Lanterne obtain the same favour from you! I doubt that this younger son will make as great a fortune as his older brother; but I beg you not to sow the seeds of jealousy in my family.
I am in haste to present it to you while there is still time. Why is it necessary for the kindly flames, which saw my leaflet reborn from the ashes and created a fourth edition for my bookseller, to be extinguished in your hands?
Alas nosseigneurs! Despite all the efforts of M. Cazalès and M. Martin de Castelnaudary, whose principles do your province such honour, it is very likely that La France Libre is the last work which your lordships will burn; I will have the immortal glory of ending the march which began with Solomon, doyen of authors who have been attacked and put on the index. It is only right that, in gratitude from me, you receive a title dedication, probably the last which will ever be addressed to you.
J’ai l’honneur d’etre etc.
L’auteur de la France Libre
The Lantern to Parisians
How can I thank you? You have made me the most famous and admired of all lanterns. What is Sose’s lantern or Diogenes’ lantern compared to me? They sought one man, but I have found 200,000. In a fierce dispute with my neighbour Louis XIII, I compelled him to admit that the soubriquet ‘Just’ was more suited to me than to him.
Every day I delight in the ecstasy of travellers from England, Holland or the Low Countries who look at me with admiration; I see they are amazed that a lantern has accomplished more in two days than all their heroes in 100 years. I don’t take it lightly, and I am surprised that they don’t hear me cry out
‘Yes, I am the queen of lanterns!’
Citizens, I want to be worthy of the honour that has been accorded me by their choice. The masses gather and renew themselves ceaselessly around me. I haven’t missed a word of what has been said: I have seen much, and now I too demand the right to speak.
I do not want to mention my criticisms of the nation [which I would sooner not have] before I pay her the compliments she deserves from me. In the recent ordinances we notice a completely new style. Not so much ‘Louis, by the grace of god’, more ‘the cartel is our pleasure’. The king does the army the honour of writing to it. He asks for the soldiers’ love. I am not happy that he asks for it in the name of his ancestors, and we can surely see that the bookseller Blaisot has not shown him a copy of the pamphlet which paints a portrait of his forefathers [although the work is courteous]. But the new secretary of war understands decorum, and that approach delights me.
Have you noticed that ‘Vive le roi’ is less commonly heard and now seems as outdated as ‘Montjoie Saint-Denis’? In the past, if the people of Paris had given a prince a vessel, or granted some request, instead of shouting ‘Long live the great town of Paris’, they cried ‘long live the king’. When we beat the imperial forces, instead of shouting ‘Long live the army! Long live Turenne’ the good people, sorely wounded, cried from inside their tents, ‘Vive le roi’, while a hundred leagues away the king would rest comfortably beneath his sensual pavilions or chase a fallow deer in the forest of Fontainebleau.
Recently though, on the night of August 4th , while the nobility and the commons were competing with each other to make sacrifices, divesting themselves of all envy; when throughout the national assembly we heard the touching words: ‘We are all friends, all equal, all brothers’ in place of ‘Vive le duc d’Aiguillon, vive Montmorency, vive Castellane, vive Mirabeau’ Mirabeau gave them as an example ‘Vive la Bretagne, vive le Languedoc, l’Artois and Béarn who sacrificed their privileges so nobly’.
Did we not see M. de Lally shouting at the top of his voice ‘Vive le roi, vive Louis XVI, the restorer of French liberty?’ That was two hours after midnight and the good Louis XVI, doubtless deep in slumber, was scarcely awaiting this proclamation to receive a medal on his awakening or that they would sing a heartfelt, false te deum for all the good which he had just brought about. M. de Lally, nothing but the truth is beautiful.
Today the national assembly seems to have a better sense of its worth. M. Target, on beginning his recent speech with the words ‘Sire, we bring ourselves to the feet of your majesty’ was met with cries of ‘down with the feet!’ The honourable member was consoled in his shame by the speech of thanks he had just received from the eel catchers of Melun for his deferment of the fishing rights.
People of France, you are still the same people; fun loving, kind and gently mocking. Your complaints are aired in the theatres and you go to your local polls to the tune of Malbroug. But on the night of August 4 these satirical people elevated themselves above all nations. Certainly we have seen other nations making sacrifices for patriotism; women donating their jewellery to the public purse. The women of Rome gave up their gold but they maintained their distinctions, chariots, litters, exclusive ornaments and the colour red; ‘otherwise’ they said ‘if the law of Appia is revoked we will be no more than children’. It has been reserved for Frenchwomen to renounce even these honours and to desire no distinctions other than those which virtue does not forbid: the blessings of the people.
French people, will you not created a commemorative celebration of this night when such great things were achieved as if by inspiration, without the delay of voting? Haec nox est [this is the night]. It is this night more than Holy Saturday, you could say, when we were led out of the miserable slavery of Egypt.
This night has eradicated the wild boar, the rabbits and all the game which has been devouring our harvest. This night has abolished tithes and casual labour. This night has abolished annates and exemptions; she has taken the keys of heaven from Alexander VI and given them to the good conscience. The pope can no longer raise taxes on the innocent embrace of male and female cousins. The loving uncle no longer needs to ask for an age dispensation in order to go to bed with his young niece. This night has destroyed the tyranny of the legal gown from the great prosecutor Séguier down to the last village attorney. By suppressing the corruption of the magistrates this night has gained the inestimable benefit for France of destroying the parliaments.
This night has abolished feudal justice, mainmort, conscription and has wiped all vestiges of serfdom from the land of France. This night has returned to the French the rights of man, which declare all citizens equal and equally eligible for all posts, and public offices; which has removed all civil, military and clerical appointments from the influence of money, birth and royalty; which has opened them up to the people and to merit. This night stopped the 80,000 livres pension of a woman of Béarn for degrading herself by introducing la Dubarry; and it stopped Mme d’Epresnil’s 20,000 livres pension for sleeping with a minister. This night has suppressed the holding of multiple benefices and deprived a cardinal from Lorraine of his 25 or 30 bishoprics, removed 1,500,000 livres from a prince of Soubise, stripped a baron of Besenval of his 7 or 8 commands in the province and banned the holding of multiple offices by a single man as we have observed in so many dedicatory titles and epitaphs.
This is the night which has made bishops of le curé Grégoire, le curé Thibaut, le curé du Vieux-Pouzauges and l’abbé Sieyès. She, it was, who took the red skull cap from their eminences to give them the skull cap of St Peter; who took the red, blue and green ribbons from their excellencies, from the grandees, from the seigneurs and from their highnesses:
Translated from a rhyme; ‘the insulting nobility wore, across their shoulders, that ribbon which vanity wove with its glittering hand.’
A ribbon of merit will replace this ribbon of patronage and a national order will replace the royal order.
This is the night which suppressed exclusive privilege and masterships. Whoever wants to trade with the Indies may go there. Whoever wants a shop may have one. The master tailor, the master cobbler and the master wigmaker will weep but their apprentices will rejoice and there will be inspiration in the attic windows.
This is the night when Justice finally threw out all the merchants from her temple and listened freely to the poor, the innocent and the oppressed. This night destroyed the order of advocates who had a monopoly on everything, including the right to plead, and claimed the right to operate in all of the kingdom’s disputes. Now any man who is secure in his professionalism, and enjoys the confidence of his clients will be allowed to plead. M. Erucius will be entered in this new charter even though he is illegitimate; M. Jean-Baptiste Rousseau even though he is the son of a shoemaker and M. Démosthène even though he has no respectable antechamber in his subterranean office.
Oh what a disastrous night for the grand chamber, the clerks, the ushers, the attorneys, the secretaries and under-secretaries, the fine supplicants, doormen, advocates, for the king’s men and all these predatory creatures.
A disastrous night for the state blood suckers, financiers, courtiers, cardinals, archbishops, abbots, canons, abbesses, priors and sub priors!
Oh but a delightful night, o vera beata nox [oh truly blessed night] for a thousand cloistered young monks when they are told that the National Assembly is going to cancel their imprisonment and that Abbé Fauchet, as a reward for his patriotism and in order to cause Maury to explode with anger, has become the patriarch of this new rule; when he takes his turn as president of the National Assembly he will signal his presidency with these words from Genesis which the Nonnains hoped never to hear again ‘increase and multiply’.
Oh happy night for the merchant, guaranteed the right to trade! Happy for the craftsman who is freed to work and whose eagerness will be encouraged, who will no longer need to work for a master and will receive his own salary!
Happy for the farmer whose property increases in value by at least ten per cent after the abolition of tithes and feudal rights!
Happy at last for all, now that the obstacles which barred the routes to honours and employment for almost everyone have been cast aside forever and now that there are no distinctions between the French people other than those of virtue and talent.
Immortal Chapelier! You, who presided over this glorious night, why did you end the meeting so early? How could you have been preoccupied with the time, in the midst of a gathering so full of enthusiasm and patriotism? Did you think you needed to worry about the time? With that outlook the Bastille would still be standing. How could you not have realised that, with a two hour extension of the meeting, French impetuosity would have brought about the destruction of all abuses? The Bastille was seen off in a single attack and in the morning the sun rose, in France, over a nation of brothers and on a republic as perfect as Plato’s.
 Other contemporaneous documents[Prudhomme] say Louis XIV
 Clearly La France Libre
 At a meeting of the communes May 25 Mirabeau made this declaration ‘I attach little importance to my title of count, which I would give to anyone who wanted it; my greatest title, the only one which does me honour is that of representing a great province and great number of my fellow citizens’ In fact Mirabeau was not present at the Aug 4 meeting and spoke of it slightingly and humorously in the ‘Courier de Provence’
 Malbroug s’en va-t-en guerre is an old French song about the battle of Blenheim