Epistles Of The French Revolution English Literature Essay

“ It is with sorrow that I pronounce the fatal truth: Louis ought to die instead than a 100 thousand virtuous citizens ; Louis must decease that the state may populate ” A Maximilien Francois Robespierre

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“ Justice has its choler, my Godhead Bishop, and the wrath of justness is an component of advancement. Whatever else may be said of it, the Gallic Revolution was the greatest measure frontward by world since the coming of Christ. It was unfinished, I agree, but still it was sublime. It released the untapped springs of society ; it softened Black Marias, appeased, tranquilized, enlightened, and set fluxing through the universe the tides of civilisation. It was good. The Gallic Revolution was the anointment of humanity. ” Victor Hugo

“ Liberty, equality, fraternity, or decease ; – the last, much the easiest to confer, O Guillotine! ”

Charles Dickens ( A Tale of Two Cities )

Helen Maria Williams was a adult female in front of her clip. While composing letters place to England during the Gallic Revolution, the convulsion and political turbulence around her closely mimicked the convulsion she was sing personally. An friendless amongst her friends, Williams ‘ observations and devastation are evident in her Letterss Written in France, in the Summer of 1790, a aggregation of her Hagiographas to friends and household still in England. As a adult female efficaciously on the front lines of war, Williams was able to capture the world of the revolution and record her observations in Letters, the recognized composing medium of adult females. Romanticism was an rational motion which began around the latter half of the eighteenth century and is was defined largely by alteration. Most humanistic disciplines, like music, poesy, literature, and even political relations began to accommodate in response to the disruptive societal clime seen in France during the Revolution. Romanticism emphasized emotion, imaginativeness, and originality, which was in blunt contrast to the scientific discipline, ground and order defined by the “ Age of Enlightenment ” which came after the Revolution. Romanticism, as opposed to Enlightenment, concentrated more on the single author or creative person themselves, as opposed to the province or ground. Both ocular humanistic disciplines and literature, from the Romanticism motion, elevated and famed Nature as a wild Being, instead than as something that can easy be explained ground or survey. The Romanticism motion in literature evolved in response to the Gallic Revolution and instead than concentrate on ground and reason to explicate nature and adult male, Romanticism focused more on emotions and feelings to explicate and portray them. The poesy and Letters of Helen Maria Williams espouse the Romanticism ideals as they portend the hereafter of feminism and adult females who live their lives for themselves.

Helen Maria Williams straight confronted the ideals of the Revolution. Williams had relocated to Paris in 1792, and she was imprisoned for a short clip in the Bastille during the Reign of Terror. Both her clip in prison, and the atrociousnesss she witnessed during the Revolution, personally influenced her and straight influenced the tone of much of her work. While captive, Williams wrote many of her verse forms, like “ Sonnet to the Curlew ” , which trade with freedom and yearning. In the “ Curlew ” verse form, Williams identifies with a curlew and wants she could be every bit free as he is upon the air current. As Williams faced the Revolution of France, she began to confront a revolution of her ain that was reminiscent of the ideals of both Romanticism and Feminism.

During her early old ages in France, Williams began a relationship with John Hurford Stone, a married Englishman and extremist militant. Though Stone divorced in 1794, it is ill-defined whether Williams and Stone of all time married and their relationship caused a dirt in England which resulted in Williams being personally attacked by the British imperativeness. Before Williams foremost visited France in 1790, she had been celebrated as a all right, feminine poet. After publically placing with the Revolution, Williams was denounced as a unblushing adult female who had developed debased political and sexual propensities. She had become a adult female who had “ betrayed both her state and her sex ” ( Blakemore 676 ) . In a Gentleman ‘s Magazine, a referee of her Letterss from France said of Williams

“ [ s ] he has debased her sex, her bosom, her feelings, her endowments in entering such a tissue of horror and villainousness and make bolding to diss a regular authorities and a happy people [ i.e. , the English ] with such inside informations, whose consequence, we defy her to demo has yet been productive of one individual good ” ( Adams 114 ) .

Horace Walpole, Earl of Orford, referred to Williams as “ a scribbling slattern ” in his Correspondence and in Anti-Jacobin Review and Magazine, Williams was portrayed as Lechery in a emanation of the Seven Deadly Sins. The magazine went so far as to province,

“ [ Williams has ] an inveterate hatred of all bing constitutions, by an earnest desire to advance their devastation, and by a disdain of truth, decency, and decorousness, which constitute the general features of a female head infected with the toxicant of democracy ” ( Blakemore 676 ) .

Williams was vilified by the imperativenesss, both at place and abroad, and it is apprehensible that she would seek a more hospitable venue to name place. For Williams, that welcoming topographic point was a state in the throes of civil war.

In June 1794, Williams and Stone fled to Switzerland after a jurisprudence was passed by Maximilien de Robespierre necessitating all aristocracy and aliens leave Paris under punishment of jurisprudence. Williams and Stone remained in Switzerland for 6 months, and she wrote Tour in Switzerland which dealt with subjects including political relations, history, and nature. In response to the effects of the revolution, Williams said that she appreciated what the Revolution had done for adult females ‘s rights, but she openly condemned the force needed to accomplish it. In her letters, Williams ‘ response to the Revolution varies, frequently comparing the feminine civilization of the Revolution with the “ Antient authorities of France ” and she condemns the force much as she had during the American Revolution.

aˆ¦The executioner held up the hemorrhage caput, and the guards cried ‘Vive La republique! ‘ [ ‘Long live the democracy! ‘ ] Some dipped their hankies in the blood-but the greater figure, chilled with horror at what had passed, desired the commanding officer would take them immediately from the topographic point. The hair was sold in separate braids at the pes of the scaffold ( 100 ) .

After depicting the scene of King Louis XVI ‘s decease by closure by compartment, Williams describes the wake in an about composure and calm voice, as though she had become asleep to the force of the Revolution

aˆ¦The devastation of the monarchy in France on the 10th of August-the horrors of the slaughter of the 2d of September, and so the decease of the male monarch, eventually alienated the heads of Englishmans from the Gallic revolution ; rendered popular a war, which otherwise no curate would hold dared to set about ; disgusted all wise, and shocked all human work forces ; and left to us, and all who had espoused the cause, no hope but that Heaven, which knows how to convey good out of immorality, would watch over an even so interesting to the public assistance to mankind as the Gallic revolution ; nor suffer the folly and frailty of the agents concerned in it, to botch the greatest and noblest endeavor of all time undertaken by a state ( 100 ) .

Laetitia Matilda Hawkins, a coeval of Williams, wrote a response to each of Williams ‘ letters warning Williams for her positions on the Revolution

Hawkins ‘s Letters conveys a sense of pressing crisis ; for her, the Revolution is a foreign invasion endangering English life and English womanhood-a Revolution turning the natural order upside down. She bases her response to Williams ‘s Letterss on a reading of the first two series ( in the Scholars ‘ Facsimiles & A ; Reprints edition, 1:1.1-223 ; 1:2.1-206 ) , in which Williams celebrates the function of adult females in the Revolution every bit good as their “ topographic point in the universe ” ( 1:1.27-8 ) ( Blakemore 677 ) .

Although Williams seemed to appreciate what the Revolutionary civilization did for adult females, she did non O.K. of the force used to accomplish the alteration. Williams was going a newer, more self-asserting and unchained adult female than she was earlier.

“ In the old ages predating the Gallic Revolution, a patriarchal political orientation stressing proper female behaviour, the “ natural domestic function of adult female, and her biddable subordination to her hubby ( underscored in assorted scriptural texts ) had been in topographic point for centuries ” ( Blakemore 673 ) .

After sing societal turbulence, imprisonment, expatriate from her adopted fatherland, and the loss of some of her closest friends, Williams emerged as a adult female who was non afraid to populate her life her ain manner.

In Paris, as in London, Williams was introduced to and hosted many outstanding intellectuals and literary figures in her salon, such as Thomas Paine and Mary Wollstonecraft. Williams ‘ salon rapidly became a meeting topographic point for outstanding Girondins, but as the Jacobins gained power, many of her friends were arrested and executed. Williams wrote in a manner acceptable for adult females ‘s Hagiographas, the epistolary. Despite the controversial content of her Letters, Williams ‘ Hagiographas received by and large positive reappraisals from many English magazines. What negative reaction her authorship received, was in response to the manner and vocabulary she chose because she would frequently utilize Gallic colloquialisms and spellings which alienated many of her English readers.

Williams lost about everything she held beloved during the Gallic Revolution. She had lost her fatherland, her freedom-for a clip, her friends, but she refused to lose herself. Because of Williams ‘ Letterss, readers have a adult female ‘s first-hand history of the political and societal turbulence seen during the Revolution. The singularity of the history contained within her Letters has assured Williams a topographic point in women’s rightist survey, irrespective if that was her original purpose. Williams personifies all the ideals of Romanticism within herself and her writings-emotional entreaty to trepidation, horror and awe-and the sublimity of wild nature.