it, had the appearance of a mane. . . . His head had an awe-inspiring ugliness of which the effect, like lightning, was electric and terrifying. 20
Hugo concludes that the Revolution opened up the great testament of history. Mirabeau, Robespierre, and Napoleon have inscribed their particular word on the pages of history, but who will sign the book in 1834? Not a revolutionary, but a man of progress, like Hugo himself, who will carry out the long laborious harvest of the seed sown by revolutionaries. " Mirabeaus are no longer necessary; therefore, they are no longer possible."21
As the political climate changed further in the 1840s, the power of the myth of Mirabeau to speak to the time, to regulate the popular perception of the Revolution, and to reflect the hesitancies of the July Monarchy began to disappear. Robespierre was to supersede Mirabeau as the dominant personality of the Revolution. By 1847, Borély, the procureur général, opened himself to dismissal by Guizot merely for suggesting that a statue to the memory of Mirabeau be erected in Aix-en-Provence.
In his first two lectures of his course on the Revolution at the College de France, Michelet portrayed Mirabeau as the symbol of the people, using Montigny and Hugo among his sources. For this he was roundly denounced. In his published work he defends Mirabeau but in a moderate, less enthusiastic way. 22
Lamartine takes into account some of the mythemes surrounding Mirabeau in his Histoire des Girondins, also published in 1847, but his final judgment is severe. When viewed as a whole, the Revolution was much more than speech, and speech could never be mistaken for action. As Mirabeau's ascendancy waned, "his genius had paled before that of the revolution itself; dragged inevitably to a precipice by the very chariot which he had launched on its course, he clung in vain to the tribune."23 A new agenda for political action had now displaced the aristocratic Mirabeau. Vergniaud, the Mirabeau of the Girondins, now becomes the sublime orator, but the myth that symbolized the Revolution as a speech act has begun to crumble. 24
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Publication information: Book title: The French Revolution of 1789 and Its Impact. Contributors: Gail M. Schwab - Editor, John R. Jeanneney - Editor. Publisher: Greenwood Press. Place of publication: Westport, CT. Publication year: 1995. Page number: 111.
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