Catherine Delors

Mistress of the Revolution

Scholarly works on the French Revolution are heavily influenced by the author's personal outlook and political ideas. Since I was going to deal with partisan material anyway, and since the book is a memoir, albeit a fictional one, I decided to work mostly from actual memoirs and diaries. Of course, the authors are biased, though no less than scholars, and sometimes they make honest mistakes, especially when they write decades after the facts. But at least one gets an eyewitness's impression of the times, his or her gut reaction to historical events. And of course, one finds precious details on everyday life.

Here are my main sources in this regard. Some may only be available in French.

Female memoirists :
Madame Campan (First Chambermaid to Queen Marie-Antoinette)
Madame de Tourzel (Governess to the Royal Children from 1789 to 1792)
Marie-Thérèse de France (daughter of Louis the Sixteenth and Marie-Antoinette)
Madame Lebrun (court painter)
Lady Elliott
Comtesse de Genlis
Princesse de Tarente
Madame Tussaud
Madame de Stael
Comtesse de Boigne
Marquise de La Tour du Pin
Madame Roland

Male memoirists or diarists :
Duc de Lauzun
Comte de Tilly
Joseph Weber ( milk brother to the Queen)
Jean-Baptiste Cléry (valet to the King)
Prince de Ligne
Marquis de Bouillé
Vicomte de Chateaubriand
Baron de Bezenval
Georges Duval (attorney's clerk)
Gouverneur Morris (writer of the United States Constitution, Trade Representative in France at the time of the Revolution)

Obviously, some memoirists made more of an impression than others. It was difficult, for instance, not to fall in love with Lauzun. Pre-revolutionary Paris society comes to life under Madame Lebrun's pen. The passage of the novel on the September massacres was inspired by Madame de Tourzel, who was imprisoned at La Force at the time and an eyewitness.

I relied on the research done by Wallon in his Histoire du Tribunal Revolutionnaire de Paris avec le Journal de ses Actes (five volumes, every single case tried by the Tribunal reviewed) and, for the September massacres, on Caron's statistical analysis in Les Massacres de Septembre .

For raw data, I recommend the indispensable Royet site, which contains a great deal of minutes from the Jacobins, the Revolutionary Tribunal, the National Convention and the Municipality of Paris.

I cannot list here all of the excellent scholarly works on Marie-Antoinette, but I liked the thoughtful, balanced biography by Simone Bertière, Marie-Antoinette, l'insoumise . Chantal Thomas (also the author of the novel Farewell My Queen ) gives an excellent analysis of the pornographic pamphlets published about Marie-Antoinette in The Wicked Queen: The Origins of the Myth of Marie-Antoinette .

And of course, I reread the ever current The Old Régime and the French Revolution , by Tocqueville, and the classics, such as Thiers, Taine, Michelet, Mathiez. Among the recent publications, I found When the King Took Flight , by Timothy Tacket, and La République Jacobine , by Roger Dupuy, very enlightening.

The books of Louis-Sébastien Mercier, Le Tableau de Paris , and Le Nouveau Paris , international bestsellers at the time, also provided invaluable information about late 18 th century Paris. Arlette Farge's work, Vivre dans la rue à Paris au XVIIIe siècle , with its quotations of police reports, is also of the utmost interest.

Finally no book on old Paris can be written without many references to the Dictionnaire Historique des Rues de Paris , by Jacques Hilairet. Hilairet's perspective is strongly anti-revolutionary, but his erudition is stunning and irreplaceable.