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1. In The Theatre National
And yet people found the opportunity to amuse themselves, to dance and to go
to the theatre, to enjoy music and open-air cafes and promenades in the Palais
New fashions in dress made their appearance, milliners produced fresh
"creations," and jewellers were not idle. A grim sense of humour, born of the very
intensity of ever-present danger, had dubbed the cut of certain tunics "tete
tranche," or a favourite ragout was called "a la guillotine."
On three evenings only during the past memorable four and a half years did the
theatres close their doors, and these evenings were the ones immediately
following that terrible 2nd of September the day of the butchery outside the
Abbaye prison, when Paris herself was aghast with horror, and the cries of the
massacred might have drowned the calls of the audience whose hands upraised
for plaudits would still be dripping with blood.
On all other evenings of these same four and a half years the theatres in the Rue
de Richelieu, in the Palais Royal, the Luxembourg, and others, had raised their
curtains and taken money at their doors. The same audience that earlier in the
day had whiled away the time by witnessing the ever-recurrent dramas of the
Place de la Revolution assembled here in the evenings and filled stalls, boxes,
and tiers, laughing over the satires of Voltaire or weeping over the sentimental
tragedies of persecuted Romeos and innocent Juliets.
Death knocked at so many doors these days! He was so constant a guest in the
houses of relatives and friends that those who had merely shaken him by the
hand, those on whom he had smiled, and whom he, still smiling, had passed
indulgently by, looked on him with that subtle contempt born of familiarity,
shrugged their shoulders at his passage, and envisaged his probable visit on the
morrow with lighthearted indifference.
Paris--despite the horrors that had stained her walls had remained a city of
pleasure, and the knife of the guillotine did scarce descend more often than did
the drop-scenes on the stage.
On this bitterly cold evening of the 27th Nivose, in the second year of the
Republic--or, as we of the old style still persist in calling it, the 16th of January,
1794--the auditorium of the Theatre National was filled with a very brilliant
The appearance of a favourite actress in the part of one of Moliere's volatile
heroines had brought pleasure-loving Paris to witness this revival of "Le
Misanthrope," with new scenery, dresses, and the aforesaid charming actress to
add piquancy to the master's mordant wit.
The Moniteur, which so impartially chronicles the events of those times, tells us
under that date that the Assembly of the Convention voted on that same day a
new law giving fuller power to its spies, enabling them to effect domiciliary
searches at their discretion without previous reference to the Committee of
General Security, authorising them to proceed against all enemies of public
happiness, to send them to prison at their own discretion, and assuring them the