Here is a sampling of references to the castle before it fell, giving some idea of how it was seen.
- The Encyclopedia: a definition
BASTILLE, small castle in the antique style fortified with turrets. That of Paris, built in 1169.
- Mercier: the book peddlers
The squealers war above all against peddlers, men who deal in the only good books one can still read in France, and in consequence banned. They are horribly mistreated; all the police bloodhounds chase after these poor men who have no idea what they are selling, and who would hide the bible under their coats, if the lieutenant of police decided to ban the bible. They are put in the bastille for trivial brochures which will be forgotten the next day.
Mercier, Tableaux de Paris, Chapter 66
- Abbe Galiani: why the French are so clever
The sublime oratory...is the art of saying everything without being put in the Bastille in a country where it is forbidden to say anything. The constraint of decency and the constraint on the press have been the causes of the perfection of wit and the taste for turning a phrase among the French.
The Abbe Galiani, quoted in Grimm, Correspondance Litteraire T10 - 1772 (505)
- Grimm: good for sales
Until now the wise precautions of the government have always effectively protected us from the venom of the Encyclopedia, while the provinces and foreign countries are abandoned to the action of its poison. They have even put M. Le Breton, first ordinary printer to the King, in the Bastille, for having sent twenty or twenty-five copies to Versailles to different subscribers.... The indiscreet printer who is left with a half-interest in the costs and in the profits of this immense enterprise left the Bastille after eight days of prison. This Encyclopedia, despite all the travails it has suffered, or rather by the celebrity which these persecutions have brought it, will have produced a profit of some one hundred thousand crowns to each of the entrepreneurs. And so booksellers love nothing so much as authors whose authors are harassed: fortune lies at the end.
Grimm, May 1766, Correspondance Litteraire, T.7 (44-45)
- Grimm: the audience deserved the Bastille
September 1773...Two days after this famous judgement, "la Reconciliation normande" was shown at the Comedie-Francaise. There is in this play a scene where Falaise, speaking of the trial for which he has been brought, says: "In an obscure cause, Well-paid judges will see more clearly than us" The reference was unfortunately understood. The hall echoed with such mad and willful applause that it was impossible to finish the play. The orchestra seats, and all the boxes which were complicit in this insolence, merit at least the Bastille. I agree; but in recognizing their wrong, I like, I admit, to see myself carried for a moment to Rome or to Athens, to admire how much the taste for the arts, and above all for that of spectacle, inclines spirits to enjoy liberty and to give way to sallies of a lively and petulant gaiety.
Grimm, Correspondance Litteraire T10 - 1772 (294)
NOTE: This reminds me of an anecdote, under Communism in Eastern Europe, I believe in Czechoslovakia, when audiences regularly applauded a provocative line in a work seemingly unrelated to current events. The authorities warned that if audiences continued these outbursts, performances would be cancelled.
- Grimm: not quite right for the royal kids
September 1777 - PROVERB, by M. Sedaine This proverb was composed to be played by the princess of Piedmont, Mme Elisabeth of France, and M. the Count of Artois, in their childhood. The same author wrote several others for the same purpose; but they were not considered as appropriate, and they have not been played, because the scene takes place in the Bastille, and a prisoner breaks open its doors, which sets a very bad example.
Grimm, Correspondance Litteraire T11 - 1775 (519)
- Anonymous: Brutus in the Bastille
History has the proof in hand,
By example men are formed.
If God sent the Romans
To the poor century where we are,
Cato would turn in every wind,
Lucretius would be a girl,
Messaline would go to a convent,
And Brutus himself would go to the Bastille
Satirical verse quoted by Grimm, May 1776, Correspondance Litteraire T14 - 1784 (372)
- Sedaine: The mouse and the lion, retold in the Bastille
Grimm reviews Sedaine's play, "Le Comte Albert", a retelling of La Fontaine's fable of "the Rat and the Lion" which tells how "a man of quality" saves the life of a poor man being attacked in the street, and soon after is put in the Bastille. "Arrived in this castle, which M. Sedaine satisfied himself with designating by the name of the quarter of Paris in which it is situated," the hero is recognized by a turnkey - the very man he saved. Who of course helps him to escape. Grimm, December 1785, Correspondance Litteraire T14 - 1784 (487-488)
NOTE: On the one hand, Sedaine would probably have never written such a piece before Linguet's book became popular; on the other nor did he seem to feel safe actually naming the prison.
- Louis de Brancas, count of Lauraguais: Memoirs
London is a great abyss, dug first by the Danes, the Normans and unceasingly the French, in which sinks perpetually gold and the idiocies of the universe. An Italian, a Frenchman, though they merited the rope in their country, run to this one. One does not fail to say in landing that he escapes the Inquisition, the other the Bastille. It is enough for this to be possible to seem a frightful truth. If they have the art, customary with then, to excite the slightly barbarous mix of pity and derision, they are given a glass of beer in the first tavern. They note politely that in England one drinks to liberty, while elsewhere one only hopes for it.
Memoire for myself; by me Louis de Brancas, count of Lauraguais, quoted in Grimm, Correspondance Litteraire, T10 - 1772 (224)
- Smollett: The Adventures of Roderick Random
At these words, the chevalier in green started up in a great passion, and laying his hand on the hilt of his hanger, exclaimed, "Ah! foutre!" The Englishman on the other hand, grasping his cane cried, "Don't foutre me, sirrah, or by G--d I'll knock you down." The company interposed, the Frenchman sat down again, and his antagonist proceeded--"Lookey, Monsieur, you know very well that had you dared to speak so freely of the administration of your own country in Paris as you have done of ours in London, you would have been sent to the Bastille without ceremony, where you might have rotted in a dungeon, and never seen the light of the sun again.
Smollett: The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle
A lady of distinguished character having been lampooned by some obscure scribbler, who could not be discovered, the ministry, in consequence of her complaint, ordered no fewer than five-and-twenty abbes to be apprehended and sent to the Bastille, on the maxim of Herod, when he commanded the innocents to be murdered, hoping that the principal object of his cruelty would not escape in the general calamity; and the friends of those unhappy prisoners durst not even complain of the unjust persecution, but shrugged up their shoulders, and in silence deplored their misfortune, uncertain whether or not they should ever set eyes on them again.
- The youngest prisoner?
Not including, of course, those born there.
Year 1732. The little Saint-Pierre, girl seven to eight years old, convulsionist. Her detention lasted over a year.
The Bastille registers, cited in the Bastille Devoilee, cited in Grimm, Correspondance Litteraire, T15 1787 (495)
- A prisoner's letter
Having reproduced Pellisary's letter in "Memoirs", I have only recently encountered this further glimpse of life inside the castle:
Tort de la Sonde was put in the Bastille castle at the request of M. de Guines, ambassador to London. We have found, among the archives of the Bastille, this letter...
'Paris, July 24, 1771 To M. de Sartine, Lieutenant-general of police, My lord, I wanted to wait for my interrogations to end to beg you to grant the following favors: 1 - The permission to have a violin, in taking the precaution of only renting one with a mute and which muffles the sound, to the point of not hearing it from one end of the room to the other. It is less to distract myself that I take the liberty of asking you for this favor, my lord, then to maintain the little talent that I have to husband a resource which, given the uncertainty of my future state, will perhaps be very essential to me. M. the commissioner de Rochebrune, who is said to be a musician, has been kind enough to let me hope that he will make some efforts to obtain an instrument for me, if you deign not to oppose it. 2 - To permit that at an hour of the day I may take a walk, accompanied by a guard, in the garden or on the towers, on condition of withdrawing this permission, when the open air will have dissipated the very frequent spells I have had for a month. 3 - To ask M. the Major to take 150 pounds from the money he has of mine and to have them sent to my father, whose address I will give him. I do not ask to write him, my lord, only that I be allowed to continue to give him help without which he will be reduced to dire necessity; I have the honor to be, with the most profound respect, My lord, your very obedient servant.' [NOTE: Rarely was this standard formula used more literally.]
The request was favorably received. Tort [whose unfortunate name means 'wrong' in French] had been at the Bastille since April 28, 1771, he left on the following January 26.
Intermediaire des Chercheurs, Year 4 (1895-2), July 10, 1895 (11-12)
- Louis XV and the Man in the Iron Mask
M. de la Borde, Louis XV's valet, had a certain intimacy with his master, and frequently showed curiosity about the Man in the Iron Mask (which was, in reality, of black velvet.) But Louis was close-lipped:
'I regret it, but his detention did no harm to anyone but himself and prevented great disasters; you cannot be told.' And on this subject, he recalled that in his childhood he had shown the greatest curiosity concerning the story of the Iron Mask, and that he was always told that he could not know it before his majority; that the day of his majority he had asked about it, that the courtesans who beseiged the room of his door gathered all around him asking questions, that he had told them: 'You cannot know it.'
Cited in Grimm, Correspondance Litteraire, T15 1787 (500)
October 1768 ... M. Bossu was put in the Bastille for the bad he said of M. de Kerlarec; but this punishment altered neither his good humor nor his veracity. He left this royal lodging after six weeks, as vigorous as when he went in; what's more, this punishment was very unjust. M. Bossu submitted the printing of his voyages to all the bookseller's rules. His book appeared with the approval and the privilege of the king; if anything reprehensible remained in it, it was the censor who should have answered for it.
Grimm, October 1768, T. 8 (187)
The Bastille seemed to me a tomb where I was buried alive, and my pain was in not being able to set a limit to this sepulchral life. I did not have death to fear, first because I was innocent, and then because I knew well that the Government preferred to condemn to a life sentence than to the death penalty those who displeased it. I overcame my pain and my boredom in the Bastille by reading, meditation, speech, composition; I think I came out of it better, but no wiser.
Brissot, Memoires, (I,7)
Books have been written on this subject. Here are just a few glimpses at existence at the prison, taken (for the most part) from my own notes to Linguet's Memoirs of the Bastille.
- Social life
The right to talk with other prisoners varied somewhat over time, but was also a function of a prisoner's status. In the seventeenth century, Cardinal de Retz was shocked that a number of prisoners had (he claims) as much freedom as the governor. Not only was he able to visit them, he conspired with some, meeting with them several times. Retz, Book I. Madame de Staal writes early on of the measures taken to ensure prisoners did not see each other, but she later managed to carry on an affair with one man and to be propositioned by at least one other. People also met in her apartment, to the point even of putting her in ill humor. The notorious Count de Cagliostro used to walk on the very tower where, unknown to him, his wife was held. Several prisoners had one or more roommates, sometimes quite a few in succession. Bucquoy and Latude - the castle's two most famous escapees - both worked with others to plan their escapes. Dumouriez was kept separate for a long time from his two servants, and found them depressing once they joined him.
Renneville says turn-keys took tips: "One turn-key, leaving here, bought a good piece of land for 80,000 francs with an estate that lets him live like a great lord."; "All the officers and especially the turn-keys did very well." But he then says that under the next governor, several were punished severely for accepting money to do favors for the prisoners. In a note to Renneville’ s account, Savine says they were not to accept any gratifications "except at [the prisoner’s] departure." Ru, a turn-key who was generally considered kind, complained bitterly that one prisoner only gave him three louis when he left. "A reasonable prisoner, when he leaves here, gives at the very least thirty louis."
This particular subject not only gives a particularly intimate glimpse of the life of a prisoner in France's most secretive prison, it was probably of unusual importance to the prisoners themselves. For someone living in one room day after day, with little exercise or entertainment, the highlight of the day would have been its three meals, which would have made the use of toilets that much more central to a prisoner's routine. Finally, this humble facility not only reflected the variations in class found throughout Old Regime France - the Bastille included - but played its part in at least one famous escape. Dumouriez, a favored prisoner, at one point was in the room above the chapel, considered an especially good one. By way of emphasizing its superiority, he said it had "the privy outside". Perhaps the Abbe Bucquoy was in the same room. He was one of the few prisoners to escape the Bastille, and found his facilities handy in planning his famous escape: "….he resolved to find his salvation in the privies, at the risk of plunging into fecal matter. The commodities of this room were on the ditch of the St. Antoine Gate. This was the luckiest thing in the world, except for the odor." Improbable as it seems, this may have in fact been an opening built into the (very thick) walls: "Near the door," said Renneville, "a smaller one led to latrines built into the thickness of the wall." Bournon says: "To almost all of the rooms of the castle was annexed, in the thickness of the wall, a nook serving as a privy." On the other hand, La Porte, writing in the seventeenth century, says he only had a terrine (an earthenware chamber-pot). He later says it was emptied by a soldier on the steps – meaning (one hopes) out the window from the steps? Most lists of furniture mention chamber-pots or close-stools (the French "pierced chair" – a seat with a hole in it). In one case, a chamber-pot was used as a weapon. In 1783, an order for furniture included "twenty-four chairs for commodes". Not every prisoner confined his needs to his chamber-pot. Renneville, horrified by the filth of his new room in the Bertaudière tower, was told that the previous prisoner had habitually urinated against the walls. Finally, though Linguet complains about how little domestic help the turnkeys gave the prisoners, in theory at least one of their duties (said the rules) was to "clean the commodes well every day".
While 'fun' may not be the first word one associates with the Bastille, it had its moments (for those outside, anyway). In fact, if the castle still stood, no doubt a favored place to see the fireworks on Bastille Day would be... the Bastille!
On days of rejoicing when there is a display of fire-works or illuminations, the public are permitted even in crouds to ascend the Towers, that they may thence behold the sight to advantage. On such occasions they reflect the very image of peace and tranquility. All these gaping strangers are in perfect ignorance of what passes, and of what is shut up, within those impenetrable vaults, the outsides of which they gaze in with admiration.
Linguet, Memoires (88)
In the diverse quarters of Paris there were bonfires: called Saint Jean's, notably that of the Bastille for which the details are known; because a regulattion has been found in the archives of this ancient fortress for this date: in the morning, the cannon had three formidable discharges, in the evening, new salvos, accompanied by musket fire by the garrison troops, who stood at arms at the lighting.
Intermediaire des Chercheurs, Year 50, April 20, 1914 (522-523)
From CHEZ JIM Books:
An EIGHTEENTH CENTURY VEGETARIAN COOKBOOK:
APRES MOI LE DESSERT - VOLUME II
and a history of the CROISSANT:
AUGUST ZANG AND THE FRENCH CROISSANT
18th CENTURY RECIPE: Dishes from the Bastille
The subject of food in the Bastille is sufficiently varied to have merited a separate appendix in my edition of Linguet's Memoirs. In a nutshell, several ex-prisoners left very appetizing descriptions of their meals, though others (and one guard) referred to "meat worse than soldiers eat" (which makes one feel for the period's soldiers) and other less than desirable fare. Only prisoners who were being punished or intentionally treated harshly ever seemed to have been reduced to bread and water (or wine). Even the more favorable mentions of food are often limited to very simple dishes such as roasts, salads and soups. But a few more individual dishes are named, notably by Marmontel (who, on the first night of a brief stay, ate his servant's meal - which he found excellent - before seeing his own - even better - appear and giving to his servant) and Renneville (who experienced a wide range of treatments, and so meals, in the years he was in the Bastille.)
Probably the most colorful-sounding dish named by any writer was one of several served to Renneville when he was still well-fed: "a stew of béatiles". The Quebec Office of the French Language usually provides excellent bilingual definitions, but for this dish sticks to French:
Beatilles Note(s) : Terme ancien désignant divers menus articles (crêtes et rognons de coq, ris d'agneau, foie gras en dés, champignons) liés de velouté ou suprême, employés comme garniture de vol-au-vent, de bouchée ou de tourte. Cet apprêt, qui date de la Renaissance, fut importé d'Italie par Catherine de Médicis. Son nom vient du latin « beatus » (bienheureux), les béatilles étant, à l'origine, de petits objets de dévotion confectionnés par les religieuses.
This is worth translating:
Old term referring to diverse small items (coxcombs and kidneys, sweetbreads, cubed foie gras, mushrooms) bound with velouté ou suprême, used as a garnish for vol-au-vent, bouchée or tarte. This preparation, which dates from the Renaissance, was imported from Italy by Catherine de Médicis. Its name comes from the Latin "beatus" (happy), béatilles being, originally, small objects of devotion concocted by nuns.
The Dictionnaire des Alimens calls them "Minutiae Esculente" - Succulent Minutiae? - and defines them as "little fine meats used in making tarts, stews, soups, &c such as sweetbreads, coxcombs, beef palate." (I, 122). Lovely as the name sounds - and appetizing as the dish probably was to gourmets of the time - it is in fact largely made up of organ meats. Though recipes for it seem rare in any era, they can still be found today: Ragout de béatilles
An American reader, at least, might think that coxcombs were very much an ingredient of the past, but in fact not only are they used in the preceding recipe, but in a number of others. The magazine Art Culinaire, for instance, offered this recipe (Issue 42 (26)) "Capon, Fricassée of, w/ Cocks Combs". They are also used in these:
Fritto Misto: mixed fried foods
Meat salad recipe - Quails roasted with ham, onions and carrots, set in aspic with truffles and served on a bed of rice "garnish in the center with a garnishing of cockscombs and small truffles"
For anyone who simply must be authentic, this seems to be the kind of thing people find in Chinatown. On the other hand, even in our period, it seems that some preferred to use a substitute:
To make artificial _Coxcombs._ From Mr. _Renaud._
Take Tripe, without any Fat, and with a sharp Knife pare away the fleshy part, leaving only the brawny or horny part about the thickness of a Cock's Comb. Then, with a Jagging-Iron, cut Pieces out of it, in the shape of Cocks Combs, and the remaining Parts between, may be cut to pieces, and used in Pyes, and serve every whit as well as Cocks Combs: but those cut in form, please the Eye best; and, as Mr. _Renaud_ observes, the Eye must be pleased, before we can taste any thing with Pleasure. And therefore, in Fricassees we should put those which are cut according to Art.
Richard Bradley, The Country Housewife and Lady's Director
A nineteenth century writer says that most "coxcombs" served then were actually beef palate. Surprisingly, recipes for béatille are rare (even though it reappears in the nineteenth century), and those I have found so far are for tarts, not stew. Still, for anyone who wants to treat their dinner guests like favored inmates of the Bastille, it should be easy enough to adapt the following to a stew:
You clean them [presumably the coxcombs] well in hot water; after which you lay them out in your pie plate, with mushrooms, truffles, sweetbreads, artichoke hearts, & Beef marrow, all seasoned with salt, pepper, nutmeg, a packet of fines herbes, & grated or melted lard. Cover & gild it...; & having cooked around too hours over a low flame, put in lemon and mutton juice when serving.
Le Cuisinier Royale et Bourgeois (474)
The Dictionnaire, having cribbed the recipe above, also offers:
Another way to make a Beatilles Tarte
Blanch veal, chop it up with beef or veal fat & a little fresh butter, white capon meat, some giblets of fowl which you put in whole, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, salt & pepper. Put all that on a fine pastry base in a pie plate; cover it with another piece of the same dough, gild your pie, set it to cook in the oven, or in the hearth, with fire above & below.
Renneville at one point says he had a slice of godiveau, which was probably not unlike this "Paté de Godiveau" described in Le Cuisinier Royal et Bourgeois (342):
Make a good Godiveau, with veal rouelle, beef marrow or fat, & a little lard; season with salt, pepper, cloves, nutmeg, fines herbes & spring onion: lay out your Paté on a fine dough base in the form you want, round or oval, & two or three fingers high: garnish it with mushrooms, sweetbreads, artichoke hearts, morels & chitterlings in the opening in the center, & when serving pour a white sauce over it.
Marmontel was given "a small plate of fried artichokes in a marinade". One New York restaurant offers an Italian dish: "Twice Fried Artichoke Crisp fried artichokes in a roman fashion, sprinkled with parsley and sea salt." that sounds much like the Cuisinier's recipe 106):
Cut them into slices, take out the choke, & bring them to a boil three or four times; set them to soak with vinegar, pepper, salt & spring onion; then flour them & fry them in refined lard or refined butter: serve with fried parsley.
His servant's meal - which he ate by mistake - included "a purée of white broad beans". Surprisingly, recipes for broad beans (a common enough item) are rare. This one is from Bonnefons' Delice de Campagne (153-154):
When broad beans are newest, prepare them without milling them (that is without taking off the skin) & fricassée them like tender peas, with browned butter, salt, spice & a little water to cook them; green savory is a fine herb which goes marvellously well with broad beans, & without which they cannot be well-seasoned, slices of lard & sweet cream, make them still tastier. When they are larger, mill them, & put in lettuce as with peas [to thicken a bit], & some purslane as well, without omitting the savory. Still larger ready to turn yellow, mill them, & cook them in steam with water, butter, spice & savory, then strain them through the strainer, & fricassée them in browned butter; on meat days cut up lard in little balls, & cook them in the frying pan with a little water first before putting in the paste of broad beans; for common household use, do not mill them, putting them simply to steam as above.