Pamphlet BX4060.A1 S25 ser. 1 v. 52 no. 10 is a satirical treatment of the life and politics of Jean-Paul Marat (1743-1793) entitled- Vie criminelle et politique de J.P. Marat, se disant l’Ami du peuple, adoré, porté en triomphe comme tel, et après sa mort, projeté saint par la jacobiniaille, ou, L’homme au 200,000 têtes, le vampire le plus remarquable de la République francaise .
Marat was a physician and scientist who became an important figure of the revolution as a politician and journalist and was elected to the National Convention in 1792. He was a staunch defender of the sans-culottes and an advocate for violence against the “enemies of the people.” He is often credited for inciting the violent September massacres during which a large number of the prisoners in Paris were murdered. In his journal, l’Ami du peuple, Marat attacked both the supporters of the monarchy and conservative revolutionaries, the Girondins. This tension between the radical and conservative revolutionary factions would become even more heated after Louis XVI was tried and executed and lead to the fall of the Girondins in May and June 1793. On 13 July 1793 Marat was assassinated in his bathtub by Charlotte Corday, a Girondin sympathiser.
Marat’s assassination made him a martyr for the revolution. His assassination became an important theme for artists of the revolution and political pamphlets celebrated his memory. It wasn’t until after the fall of Robespierre and end of the Terror that public opinion about Marat began to change and many of his busts and sculptures were destroyed.
The author of Vie criminelle et politique de J.P. Marat seeks to show his readers the ‘truth’ about Marat, saying: it is time to raise the veil which has covered this odious skeleton and establish the memory of this vampire thirsty for blood. (Il est temps de lever le voile, qui jusqu’alors à couvert ce squelette odieux, et d’etablir la mémoire de ce vampire altéré de sang.) The author calls out Marat for being the ‘provocateur of legal murders’ (“le provocateur des assassins juridiques“) .
The pamphlet provides a loose biography of Marat – telling of his days as a physician in Metz distributing his ‘pills and ointments,’ entry into the political arena, and assassination, while railing against his political policies and condemning him as a “secret friend of despotism…hypocrite partisan of tyranny.”
One particular paragraph that I particularly enjoyed falls towards the end of the pamphlet and speaks to those who uphold Marat as a sainted figure of the Republic:
“Jacobins adore Marat if you want; make a sainted shroud of his bloody shirt, relics of his bathtub, diadems of his old crown, a gospel of his journals or his monarchical constitution, you are free: the Indians adore the excrement of the grand lama, they are unsavory meals enough, everyone has his fancy, it is necessary to let each have, however absurd, what one must. But no one will force me to adore the image of a dead man that I have believed to be an assassin or insane.”
(Jacobins adorez Marat, si vous voulez; faites un saint-suaire de sa chemise ensanglantée, des reliques de sa baignoire, des diadêmes de sa vieille couronne, une évangile de ses journeaux ou même de sa constitution monarchique, vous êtes libres: les indiens adorent bien les excremens du grand lama, ils en sont même des repas assez ragoûtans; chacun à sa fantaisie, il faut la laisser à chacun, quelle qu’absurde qu’elle soit. Mais on ne peut pas me forcer d’adorer l’image d’un mort que j’ai cru un assassin ou un insensé.)
The other aspect of this pamphlet that drew my attention was the frontispiece which depicts three eras of Marat’s life (les tois epoques de la vie de Jean Paul Marat projette saint par la jacobinierie). The first image is captioned with the text “Marat a Metz vendant des phioles en 1787. ” The second, “Marat sortant du tribunal porte en triomphe,” and the third “Son buste traine dans l’egout Mt. martre par la jeunesse repubne.”