On the whole, is it not, O Reader, one of the strangest Flame-Pictures that ever painted itself; flaming off there, on its ground of Guillotine-black? And the nightly Theatres are Twenty-three; and the Salons de danse are sixty: full of mere Egalite, Fraternite and Carmagnole. And Section Committee-rooms are Forty-eight; redolent of tobacco and brandy: vigorous with twenty-pence a-day, coercing the suspect. And the Houses of Arrest are Twelve for Paris alone; crowded and even crammed. And at all turns, you need your 'Certificate of Civism;' be it for going out, or for coming in; nay without it you cannot, for money, get your daily ounces of bread. Dusky red-capped Baker's-queues; wagging themselves; not in silence! For we still live by Maximum, in all things; waited on by these two, Scarcity and Confusion. The faces of men are darkened with suspicion; with suspecting, or being suspect. The streets lie unswept; the ways unmended. Law has shut her Books; speaks little, save impromptu, through the throat of Tinville. Crimes go unpunished: not crimes against the Revolution. (Mercier, v. 25; Deux Amis, xii. 142-199.) 'The number of foundling children,' as some compute, 'is doubled.'
How silent now sits Royalism; sits all Aristocratism; Respectability that kept its Gig! The honour now, and the safety, is to Poverty, not to Wealth. Your Citizen, who would be fashionable, walks abroad, with his Wife on his arm, in red wool nightcap, black shag spencer, and carmagnole complete. Aristocratism crouches low, in what shelter is still left; submitting to all requisitions, vexations; too happy to escape with life. Ghastly chateaus stare on you by the wayside; disroofed, diswindowed; which the National House-broker is peeling for the lead and ashlar. The old tenants hover disconsolate, over the Rhine with Conde; a spectacle to men. Ci-devant Seigneur, exquisite in palate, will become an exquisite Restaurateur Cook in Hamburg; Ci-devant Madame, exquisite in dress, a successful Marchande des Modes in London. In Newgate-Street, you meet M. le Marquis, with a rough deal on his shoulder, adze and jack-plane under arm; he has taken to the joiner trade; it being necessary to live (faut vivre). (See Deux Amis, xv. 189-192; Memoires de Genlis; Founders of the French Republic, &c. &c.)--Higher than all Frenchmen the domestic Stock- jobber flourishes,--in a day of Paper-money. The Farmer also flourishes: 'Farmers' houses,' says Mercier, 'have become like Pawn-brokers' shops;' all manner of furniture, apparel, vessels of gold and silver accumulate themselves there: bread is precious. The Farmer's rent is Paper-money, and he alone of men has bread: Farmer is better than Landlord, and will himself become Landlord.
And daily, we say, like a black Spectre, silently through that Life-tumult, passes the Revolution Cart; writing on the walls its MENE, MENE, Thou art weighed, and found wanting! A Spectre with which one has grown familiar. Men have adjusted themselves: complaint issues not from that Death- tumbril. Weak women and ci-devants, their plumage and finery all tarnished, sit there; with a silent gaze, as if looking into the Infinite Black. The once light lip wears a curl of irony, uttering no word; and the Tumbril fares along. They may be guilty before Heaven, or not; they are guilty, we suppose, before the Revolution. Then, does not the Republic 'coin money' of them, with its great axe? Red Nightcaps howl dire approval: the rest of Paris looks on; if with a sigh, that is much; Fellow- creatures whom sighing cannot help; whom black Necessity and Tinville have clutched.
One other thing, or rather two other things, we will still mention; and no more: The Blond Perukes; the Tannery at Meudon. Great talk is of these Perruques blondes: O Reader, they are made from the Heads of Guillotined women! The locks of a Duchess, in this way, may come to cover the scalp of a Cordwainer: her blond German Frankism his black Gaelic poll, if it be bald. Or they may be worn affectionately, as relics; rendering one suspect? (Mercier, ii. 134.) Citizens use them, not without mockery; of a rather cannibal sort.
Still deeper into one's heart goes that Tannery at Meudon; not mentioned among the other miracles of tanning! 'At Meudon,' says Montgaillard with considerable calmness, 'there was a Tannery of Human Skins; such of the Guillotined as seemed worth flaying: of which perfectly good wash-leather was made:' for breeches, and other uses. The skin of the men, he remarks, was superior in toughness (consistance) and quality to shamoy; that of women was good for almost nothing, being so soft in texture! (Montgaillard, iv. 290.)--History looking back over Cannibalism, through Purchas's Pilgrims and all early and late Records, will perhaps find no terrestrial Cannibalism of a sort on the whole so detestable. It is a manufactured, soft-feeling, quietly elegant sort; a sort perfide! Alas then, is man's civilisation only a wrappage, through which the savage nature of him can still burst, infernal as ever? Nature still makes him; and has an Infernal in her as well as a Celestial.
The French Revolution -by- Thomas Carlyle