The Goncourt Journal

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The Goncourt Journal

On this page: {Into by Becker to the Brothers Goncourt

Intro by George Becker

"Paris Under Seige, 1870-1871", Edited and translated by George Becker, w/hist intro by Pual H. Beik, LCCN DC'314'G6433 (Cornell Univ Press, Ithaca, NY, 1969). NB: Freely rel-formated, punctuation changed, and British spelling used; we, appologise for the in-conveniences. [P. 1]

The Brothers Goncourt

by George J. Becker When Jules de Goncourt died on 1870.06.20, his elder brother Edmond, aged 48, felt that life was over for him too. At one point, during the last agonising weeks of Jules' illness, he had even tried to steel himself to killing his brother and commiting suicide. Discovering himself incapable of this, in the numbness of his grief he took consolation in the belief that his own precarious health did not leave him long to live. He did in fact live for 26 years, and, something he had thought impossible, in his solitary state he produced novels, plays, books on art, and above all: Continued the incomparable Journal. ... [P. 1-2] [The Journal covers the range of years:] 1851.12.02 thru 1896.07 [in a most detailed, and almost daily manner]. [P.3] (Quoted from the Preface of the Journal] This journal was begun on 1851.12.02, the day our first book was put on sale, which was also the day of the coup d'état. The entire manuscript was, so to speak, written by my brother, under our joint dictation, which was the way we worked in these memoirs. At my borther's death, considerting that our literary work was finished, I resolved to seal up the journal at the entry for 1870.01.20, the last tlines traced by his hand. But, then I was impelled by the bitter desrire to recount to myself the last months and the death of the beloved, and almost immediately the tragic events of the siege and the Commune impelled me to continue this journal, which is still from time to time the confidant of my thoughts. [P. 3] ... [Upon Edmond's death, with his instructions that the Journal be published 20 years after his death (ie, 1916), and what with one thing and another, it was not published in the entirity until 1955, when the first of the TWENTY-TWO voluems appeared from the presses of the Imprimérei Nationale de Monaco.]

B/G by Paul Beik

"Paris Under Seige, 1870-1871", Edited and translated by George Becker, w/hist intro by Pual H. Beik, LCCN DC'314'G6433 (Cornell Univ Press, Ithaca, NY, 1969). NB: Freely rel-formated, punctuation changed, and British spelling used; we, appologise for the in-conveniences. BEGIN BLOCK QUOTE [P. 10]

The Terrible Year

by Paul H. Beik. In the Paris of today one may walk from the Opéra to the Bourse alon the Rue du 4 Septembre, named for the day in 1870 when the Second Empire fell. The Franco-Prussian War had begun in July and had gonee badly for the French, but the shocking news of Emperor Napoléon III's caputre at Sedan was decisive. A crow of perhaps 200_000 people gathered in Place de la Concorde adjorning the park of the Tulieries Palace, where Empress Eugénie was in residence with the four year old heir to the throne, and eventually forced its way across the bridge over the Seine to the Palais Bourbon, the meeting place of the Legislative Corps. When the guards of the building failed to check the flow of humanity, the legistarlure was dispersed and a republic proclaimed, France's Third, for which a provisiona Government of National Defence was shortly organised in a manner caluclated to pre-occupy and pacify the crowds. The crowds then marched along the quays of the Sein to the Hôtel dde Ville, the Paris city hall, about a mile to the east, where they heard the announcement of a new group of ministers. These events -- war, defeat, the fall of the Empire -- were only the first of what Victor Hugo was to call l'Année (the Terrible Year). It was also to bring a second war, [P.11] that of the Republic against the Prussians, a four-month seige of Paris, the proclaiming of teh German Empire in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, the fall of Paris, a divisive national election, a humuliating peace, and a civil war culiminating in a bloody invasion of the capital by French armies follwing a second seige. The year was rich in collective experiences as weell as individual folly and some pesonal successes. For France, it marked a passage to the laster quarter of the 19th century (1800c), to a moderate republic, a new colonial empire, the Russian alliance, and a show of convalescence from the trauma of the Paris Commune, making possible further efforts to integrate the lower classes into the national community. Not all of the aspects of the Terrible Year can be described in a brief introduction, but some perspective on events may be provided by placing them in their political and geographical setting.

Paris and the Seige

[P.10, cont'd] The Paris of the seign that began in late Septembre 1870 was a city of 1_825_000 according to the census of 1866, but what with natural growth and the anticipatory influx of available troops, which more than compensated for the exodus of well-to-do families as the Germans approached, there may have been 2_000_000 people within the walls. These fortifications, suprising for the 1800c, had been urged upon King Louis Philippe in 1840 by
Adolphe Thiers, the tiny, dynamic historian-politician who was to play a leading role in the events of the Terrible Year. They consisted of a wall 30 feet (aprox 10 metres) high around the entire city, with protruding bastions, a 10-foot (3 metre) moat on the outher side, and a railroad on the inner side that could transport troops from one point to antoehr along the fourty-mile circumference [64 km, placing the nominal radius at approximately 10 km]. Beyond the wall [P.12] were sixteen forts, carefully placed so that their heavy guns commanded a wide belt of territory approaching the various prtes, the gateways into the city. THe fortifications were still formidable in spaite of improvements in artillery since the 1840's that made it possible, from such heights as Meudon and Châtillon, to bombard some of the forts and even some of the city -- the Left Bank in particular (the area south of the Seine). To besiege this immensity, and to cut off food supplies, the 147_000 Prussians had to spread out over a circumference of about 50 miles [Note 1] -- but for the seige to succeed, it was imperative [ie, from the POV of the Prussians], that the French forces from *outside* [emp mine] the capital be prevented from concentrating against the dispersed Prussians and that sorties, drives from whihtin (for Pairs only contained nearly hafl a million armed men), be checked. Like a wrestler dominating a larger opponent, the Prussian forces had to maintain holds at key points; that is why the defeat and immobilisation of Marshal MacMahon's French army at Sedan and of Marshal Bazaine's at Metz, which was surrendered on October 27 [1870], assumed importance. In the fall and winter of 1870, much depended on the French will to resist [Esp the bitter cold: Note 2], the strength of whichh was some-whjat un-evenly distributed among leaders and social groupings. THe Government of the National Defence in Paris consisted largely of republican deputies from the Legislative Corps of the Empire who, on Sept 4, had succeeded in getting themselves accepted by the crowds a the Hôtel de Ville and in excluding more militant figures such as the Jacobin radicle Charles Delescluze and the socialist Louis-Auguste Blanqui. [hard para-break inserted here] The president of the National Defence Government was General Louis Trouchu, military commander of Paris, who was politically moderate and extremely distrustful of the 384_000 members of the National Guard. [P.12] He prefered to rely on the [P.13] 72_000 regulars in the city and was in any case pessimistic about doing more than putting up an honourable show of resistance. Other members of the government were for the most part moderate republicans which as Jules Favre, vice-president and foreign minister, who consulted Bismarck about a possible armistice on the eve of the siege until he heard Bismarck's terms, and who later encouraged a similar mission by Adolphe Theirs, who definitely believed that the war should be stopped before France's losses multiplied. It impossible to measure or to ignore [emph mine] all-together the element of poliical and social caution in these men. They are not to be compared with Marshal Bazaine, whose surrenderat Metz was clearly facilitated by his lack of sympath for the republic. [But] neither were they as militant as their young colleague, the republican radical Léon Gametta, minister of the interior, who did his utmost to continue the war. Notes (this section only) [1] Nervously i speak: 40 vs 50 miles (as circumference bound (or not bound)... c = 2 x pi x r !! So (if i might be so bold as to at least *try* (i kah, i kahh ni'wah) to use the maths part of my brain (see map; nb: mr. stroke is NOT our friend). the delta-r (assuming a circle works out to 10.2km (the inner wall) and 12.74 km (the dist of the Prussians). Hmmm (sez Mr. R....) Pizo (rushes in, wait! i have a message (he collapses) and in walks Zeeba (adorned with royal purple robes) and she speaks (still wearing her "King Lear" beard) thus, that two and one-half kilometeres distance was the descrepancy between the weapons that they had, and the weapons that could breach. (some-where off in the distance, up on top of upon a hillock, Lear and the fool search for a lost set of "car keys"), meanwhile, the parade of ducks begins (all to the tune of the orchstral vers of Cage's 5th movement for piano toye, and just then Ursula k. Le Guin awakes from her slumber (now as dragon (or more properly dragoness) personified, she stirs and assumes the rolé of COLUMBE VOLANT!!) meanwhile (a million years in the future, Picasso, Cassat, and Stein discuss the re-rendering of "HairSpray", but suddenly, a dog barks and a tree sez "ow", but just then.... {Back to the TEXT} [2] Recall that particular winter was bitterly cold, as [[MILNER, 2000, London)] points out: About 30 December [1870], an extra-ordinary sculpture was erected at Bastion 84 [??--location--??] where the artists Bracquemond, Chapu, and Philipotteaux were stationed. Bracquemond had made an intricate study of the bastion itself which showed not only its strength, but indicated the wide vista that it commanded as a defensive position. Among other artists stationed at this bastion was the sculptor Falguiére who modelled an over life-size figure of Resistance made of snow built up around an armature of boards and rubble. His fellow guards delivered snow whilst Falguiére with the help of the sculptor Chapu, modeled the figure. The painter and print-maker Bracquemond drew the sculpture and later made an etching of it [LOCAL NOTE #148 (Seige) Los Angeles County Museum, Romantics to Rodin (Los Angeles, 1980), P.256; and Dayot, P.144 (L'Invasion, le Siège et la Commune, Paris, 1871 (Paris, 1901)]. Philipotteaux illustrated the scene. Years later, Falguiére produced a version of the scultpure which he cast in bronze. The naked embodiment of Reisstance is a young woman on a cannon, her arms folded in determination. The weather had to be bitterly cold to construct this frozen symbolic figure. [emp mine] Its white glow in the sunlight must have increased its effectiveness. Elsewhere on the ramparts around Paris there were few sculptures although a Republic made in the snow by Moulin Hippolyte was also recorded by Bracquemond. Mostly the scene must have been as Laçon depicted it -- a long, thin line of defences where the guards shivered through the long winter nights. Attack would come at an unknown time. For the present, these cold and hungry guards could only pick at the snow and wait for events. [Milner, OpCit, P.111] [Illustrations are from [MILNER, 2000, London], P.112] {Back to the TEXT} [3] {Back to the TEXT} [4] {Back to the TEXT} [5] {Back to the TEXT} [6] {Back to the TEXT} [7] {Back to the TEXT} [8] {Back to the TEXT} [9] {Back to the TEXT} END BLOCK QUOTE