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Charlotte Smith,TheEmigrants(1793)
1791
September 13-14.Louis XVI formally accepts constitution.October 1.First meeting of Legislative Assembly.November 9.Assembly orders all émigrés to return under pain of death. Civil marriage and divorce instituted.November 11.King vetoes Assembly's ruling on émigrés.November 29.Decree of Assembly against non-juringpriests (i.e. those refusing to swear oath of allegiance to the State).December 19.King vetoes Assembly's decrees against non-juringpriests.
1792
February 9.Property of émigrés declared forfeit to the nation.April 20.France declares war on Austria.August 10-13.Storming ofTuileries. King imprisoned with his family.September 2Prussian army captures Verdun.September 2-6'September Massacres' - Paris crowd murder 1200.September 20French defeat Prussians atValmy.September 20-21 Final sessions of Legislative Assembly. First session of the Convention. Unanimous vote to abolish monarchy. Revolutionary calendar introduced.September 21-22.Year I of the First Republic proclaimed.October 10.Convention decree forbids use ofmadameand monsieur, and replaces them withcitoyenandcitoyenne.December 11.Trial of the king begins.
1793
January 21.Louis XVI executed.February 1.France declares war on Britain and Holland.February 13.First Coalition against France formed by Britain, Austria, Prussia, Holland, Spain and Sardinia.May – June.Insurrection leads to fall of Gironde and purge of all government committees except the Committee of Public Safety.July 17.Abolition of all feudal rights without compensation.July 27.Robespierre and St Just appointed to Committee of Public Safety.August 1.Metric system adopted in France.September 17.Law of Suspects and beginning of the Terror.October 10.Decree suspending constitution and sanctioning Revolutionary government for the 'duration of the war'.October 16.Execution of Marie Antoinette.
HistoricalContext
The "scene" of Book I is set in "November, 1792," six months after priests who refused to support the Constitutional Church were declared traitors, three months after the decree for their expulsion and the arrest of the royal family at theTuileries, two months after the September massacres (3 bishops and 220 priests among the slaughtered) and the confiscation of emigrants' property, and one month after the death penalty was established for any returnees. By November, Robespierre, the Terror's architect, had risen to power and Saint-Just was demanding judgment of Louis XVI as "a foreign enemy" of the Republic's "independence and unity"; in the same month, Smith was sheltering some emigrants in her own home.Book II is set six months later, in "April, 1793," after the king's execution (January) and England's declaration of war against France (February), with the queen and her children in prison. Smith completed the poem in May, published it that summer, and read its first reviews as Marie Antoinette was facing trial and execution (she went to the guillotine in October).
OpeningofBookI
SCENE, on the Cliffs to the Eastward of the Town ofBrighthelmstonein Sussex.TIME, a Morning in November, 1792.SLOW in the Wintry Morn, the struggling lightThrows a faint gleam upon the troubled waves;Their foaming tops, as they approach the shoreAnd the broad surf that never ceasing breaksOn the innumerous pebbles, catch the beamsOf the pale Sun, that with reluctance givesTo this cold northern Isle, itsshorten'dday.Alas! how few the morning wakes to joy!How many murmur at oblivious nightFor leaving them so soon; for bearing thusTheirfancied bliss (the only bliss they taste!),On her black wings away!—Changing the dreamsThatsooth'dtheir sorrows, for calamities(And every day brings its own sad proportion)For doubts, diseases, abject dread of Death,And faithless friends, and fame and fortune lost;Fancied or real wants; and wounded pride,That views the day star, but to curse his beams.
OpeningofBookII
SCENE, on an Eminence on one of those Downs, which afford to the South a View of the Sea; to the North of the Weald of Sussex.TIME, an Afternoon in April, 1793.LONG wintry months are past; the Moon that nowLights her pale crescent even at noon, has madeFour times her revolution; since with step,Mournful and slow, along the wave-worn cliff,Pensive I took my solitary way,Lost in despondence, while contemplatingNot my own wayward destiny alone,(Hard as it is, and difficult to bear!)But in beholding the unhappy lotOfthelornExiles; who, amid the stormsOf wild disastrous Anarchy, are thrown,Likeshipwreck'dsufferers, on England's coast,To see, perhaps, no more their native land,Where Desolation riots: They, like me,From fairer hopes and happier prospects driven,Shrink from the future, and regret the past.
OpeningofBookII (2)
…Somany years havepass'd,Since, on my native hills, Ilearn'dto gazeOn these delightful landscapes; and those yearsHave taught me so much sorrow, that my soulFeels not the joy reviving Nature brings;But, in dark retrospect, dejected dwellsOnhuman follies, and on human woes.—What is the promise of the infant year,The lively verdure, or the bursting blooms,To those, who shrink from horrors such as WarSpreads o'er the affrighted world? With swimming eye,Back on the past they throw their mournful looks,And see the Temple, which they fondlyhop'dReason would raise to Liberty,destroy'dBy ruffian hands; while, on theruin'dmass,Flush'dwith hot blood, the Fiend of Discord sitsIn savage triumph; mocking every pleaOf policy and justice, as sheshewsThe headlesscorseof one, whose only crimeWas being born a Monarch—Mercy turns,From spectacle so dire
WomenonPolitics
Preface toDesmond: But women it is said have no business with politics. — Why not? — Have they no interest in the scenes that are acting around them, in which they have fathers, brothers, husbands, sons, or friends engaged! — Even in the commonest course of female education, they are expected to acquire some knowledge of history; and yet, if they are to have no opinion of whatispassing, it avails little that they should be informed of whathas passed,in a world where they are subject to such mental degradation; where they are censured as affecting masculine knowledge if they happen to have any understanding; or despised as insignificant triflers if they have none. Knowledge, which qualifies women to speak or to write on anyother than the most common and trivial subjects, is supposed to be of so difficult attainment, that it cannot be acquired but by the sacrifice of domestic virtues, or the neglect of domestic duties. — I however, may safely say, that it was in theobservance,not in thebreachof duty, I became an Author; and it has happened, that the circumstances which have compelled me to write, have introduced me to those scenes of life, and those varieties of character which I should otherwise never have seen:Tho' alas! it is from thence, that I am too well enabled to describe fromimmediateobservation, 'The proud mans contumely,th'oppressorswrong; The laws delay, the insolence of office.’ But, while in consequence of the affairs of my family being most unhappily in the power of men whoseem to exercise all these with impunity', I am become anAuthor by profession,Preface toThe Emigrants: I am perfectly sensible that it belongs not to a feeble and feminine hand to draw the Bow of Ulysses.Example of unsought forliminality: in-between male and female, English and French, literally on the borders – very difficult and painful situation, revealing some basic humanity
Expertise
I mourn your sorrows; for I too have knownInvoluntary exile; and while yetEngland had charms for me, have felt how sadIt is to look across the dim cold sea,That melancholy rolls itsrefluenttidesBetween us and the dear regretted landWe call ourown…
ImperfectSympathies1
Whate'eryour errors, I lament your fate:And, as disconsolate and sadye hangUpon the barrier of the rock, and seemTo murmur your despondence, waiting longSome fortunate reverse that never comes;Methinks in each expressive face, I seeDiscriminated anguish; there droops one,Who in a moping cloister longconsum'dThis life inactive, to obtain a better,And thought that meagre abstinence, to wakeFrom his hard pallet with the midnight bell,To live on eleemosynary bread,And to renounce God's works, would please that God.And now the poor pale wretch receives,amaz'd,The pity, strangers give to his distress,Because these strangers are, by his dark creed,Condemn'das Heretics—and with sick heartRegretshis pious prison, and his beads.—
ImperfectSympathies2
Another, of more haughty port, declinesThe aid he needs not; while in mute despairHis high indignant thoughts go back to France,Dwelling on all he lost—the Gothic dome,That vied with splendid palaces; the bedsOf silk and down, the silver chalices,Vestments with goldenwroughtfor blazing altars;Where, amid clouds of incense, he held forthTo kneeling crowds the imaginary bonesOf Saintssuppos'd, in pearl and goldenchas'd,And still with more than living Monarchs' pompSurrounded; wasbeliev'dby mumbling bigotsTo hold the keys of Heaven, and to admitWhom he thought good to share it—Now alas!He, to whose daring soul and high ambitionThe Worldseem'dcircumscrib'd; who, wont to dreamOfFleuri, Richelieu,Alberoni, menWho trod on Empire, and whose politicsWere not beyond the grasp of his vast mind,Is, in a Land once hostile, stillprophan'dBy disbelief, and rites un-orthodox,The object of compassion—At his side,Lighter of heart than these, but heavier farThan he was wont, another victim comes,AnAbbé—who with less contracted browStill smiles and flatters, and still talks of Hope;Which, sanguine as he is, he does not feel,And so he cheats the sad and weighty pressureOf evils present;—Still, as Men misledBy early prejudice (so hard to break),Imourn your sorrows…
Anti-Nationalism
Ah! rather Fortune's worthlessfavourites!Who feed on England's vitals—PensionersOf base corruption, who, in quick ascentTo opulence unmerited, becomeGiddy with pride, and as ye rise, forgettingThe dust ye lately left, with scorn look downOn those beneath ye (tho' yourequalsonceIn fortune, andin worth superior still,They view the eminence, on which ye stand,With wonder, not with envy; for they knowThe means, by which yereach'dit, have been suchAs, in all honest eyes, degrade ye farBeneath the poor dependent, whose fad heartReluctant pleads for what your pride denies);Ye venal, worthless hirelings of a Court!Yepamper'dParasites! whom Britons payForforging fetters for them; rather hereStudy a lesson that concerns ye much;
Anti-Nationalism2
And, trembling, learn, that ifoppress'dtoo long,The raging multitude, to madness stung,Will turn on their oppressors; and, no moreBy sounding titles and parading formsBound like tame victims, will redress themselves!Then swept away by theresistless torrent,Not only all your pomp may disappear,But, in the tempest lost, fair Order sinkHer decent head, and lawless AnarchyO'erturncelestial Freedom's radiant throne;—As now in Gallia; where Confusion, bornOf party rage and selfish love of rule,Sully the noblest cause that everwarm'dThe heart of Patriot Virtue8—There ariseThe infernal passions; Vengeance, seeking blood,And Avarice; and Envy's harpy fangsPollute the immortal shrine of Liberty,Dismay her votaries, and disgrace her name.
VictimizedWomen
To a wild mountain, whose bare summit hidesIts broken eminence in clouds; whose steepsAre dark with woods; where the receding rocksAre worn by torrents of dissolving snow,A wretched Woman, pale and breathless, flies!And, gazing round her, listens to the soundOf hostile footsteps—No! it dies away:Nor noise remains, but of the cataract,Or surly breeze of night, that mutters lowAmong the thickets, where she trembling seeksA temporary shelter—clasping closeTo her hard-heaving heart her sleeping child,Allshe could rescue of the innocentgroupeThat yesterday surrounded her—Escap'dAlmost by miracle! Fear, frantic Fear,Wing'dher weak feet: yet, half repentant nowHer headlong haste, she wishes she had staidTo die with those affrighted Fancy paintsThe lawless soldier's victims—Hark!again
VictimizedWomen2
The driving tempest bears the cry of Death,And, with deep sullen thunder, the dread soundOf cannon vibrates on the tremulous earth;While, bursting in the air, the murderous bombGlares o'er her mansion. Where the splinters fall,Likescatter'dcomets, its destructive pathIsmark'dby wreaths of flame!—Then,overwhelm'dBeneath accumulated horror, sinksThe desolate mourner; yet, in Death itselfTrue to maternal tenderness, she triesTo save the unconscious infant from the stormIn which she perishes; and to protectThis last dear object of herruin'dhopesFrom prowling monsters, that from other hills,More inaccessible, and wilder wastes,Lur'dby the scent of slaughter, follow fierceContending hosts, and to polluted fieldsAdd dire increase of horrors—But alas!The Mother and the Infant perish both!
Thegrievingmother
Where the cliff,hollow'dby the wintry storm,Affords a seat with matted sea-weed strewn,A softer form reclines; around herrun,Onthe rough shingles, or the chalky bourn,Her gay unconscious children, soonamus'd;Who pick the fretted stone, or glossy shell,Or crimson plant marine: or they contriveThe fairy vessel, with itsribbandsailAnd gilded paper pennant: in the pool,Left by the salt wave on the yielding sands,They launch the mimic navy—Happy age!Unmindful of the miseries of Man!—Alas! too long a victim to distress,Their Mother, lost in melancholy thought,Lull'dfor a moment by the murmurs lowOf sullen billows, wearied by the taskOf having here, withswol'nand aching eyesFix'don the grey horizon, since the dawnSolicitouslywatch'dthe weekly sailFromher dear native land, now yields awhileTo kind forgetfulness, while Fancy brings,In waking dreams, that native land again!
Thegrievingmother2
Versailles appears—its painted galleries,And rooms of regalsplendour; rich with gold,Where, by long mirrorsmultiply'd, the crowdPaid willing homage—and, united there,Beauty gave charms to empire—Ah! too soonFrom the gay visionary pageantrous'd,See the sad mourner start!—and, drooping, lookWith tearful eyes and heaving bosom roundOn drear reality—wheredark'ningwaves,Urg'dby the rising wind, unheeded foamNear her cold rugged seat:—To call her thenceA fellow-sufferer comes: dejection deepChecks, but conceals not quite, the martial air,And that high consciousness of noble blood,Which he haslearn'dfrom infancy to thinkExalts him o'er the race of common men:Nurs'din the velvet lap of luxury,And fed by adulation—couldhelearn,That worth alone is true Nobility?
fromKeats’sHyperion
…tellme, if this wrinkling brow,Nakedand bare of its great diadem,Peerslike the front of Saturn. Who had powerTomake me desolate? whence came the strength?Howwas itnurtur'dto such bursting forth,WhileFateseem'dstrangled in my nervous grasp?Butit is so, and I amsmother'dup,Andburied from all godlike exerciseOfinfluence benign on planets pale,Ofadmonitions to the winds and seas,Ofpeaceful sway above man's harvesting,Andall those acts which Deity supremeDothease its heart of love in.—I am goneAwayfrom my own bosom: I have leftMystrong identity, my real self,Somewherebetween the throne, and where I sitHereon this spot of earth. Search,Thea, search!Openthineeyes eterne, and sphere them roundUponall space: spacestarr'd, andlornof light;Spaceregion'dwith life-air; and barren void;Spacesof fire, and all the yawn of hell.—Search,Thea, search! and tell me, if thouseestAcertain shape or shadow, making wayWithwings or chariot fierce to repossessAheaven he lost erewhile: it must—it mustBeof ripe progress—Saturn must be King.
FromMilton’sParadiseLost,BookI
…Ohowfall'n! howchang'dFromhim, who in the happy Realms of LightCloth'dwith transcendent brightness didst out-shineMyriadsthough bright: If he whom mutual league,Unitedthoughts and counsels, equal hopeAndhazard in the GloriousEnterprize,Joyndwith me once, now misery hathjoyndInequalruin…
FromLord Byron’s ’Ode to NapoleonBuonaparte’
’TIS done—but yesterday a King!Andarm’dwith Kings to strive—And now thou art a nameless thing:So abject—yet alive!Is this the man of thousand thrones,Whostrew’dour earth with hostile bones,And can he thus survive?Since he, miscalled the Morning Star,Nor man nor fiend hath fallen so far.
FromKing Lear(inthestorm)
Lear [toPoorTom]:Thouart the thing itself:unaccommodated man is no more but such a poor bare,forked animal as thouart……Takephysic, pomp;Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel,
RecommendedLiterature
Andrews,Kerri."‘Herself [...] Fills The Foreground’: Negotiating Autobiography in theElegiac SonnetsandThe Emigrants. Charlotte SmithinEnglishRomanticism,ed.JacquelineM.Labbe.Pickering&Chatto, 2008. 13-28.Blank,Antje."ThingsasTheyWere: TheGothicofRealLifeinCharlotteSmith’sTheEmigrantsandTheBanishedMan”,Women'sWriting16:1 (2009) 78-93.Craciun,Adriana.BritishWomenWritersandtheFrenchRevolution.PalgraveMacmillan, 2005. 138-178.Labbe,JacquelineM.Charlotte Smith:Romanticism,poetryandthecultureofgender.Manchester UP, 2003. 116-141.Özdemir,Erinç."CharlotteSmith's Poetry as Sentimental Discourse”Studies in Romanticism50.3 (2011) 437-473.Rennhak,Katharina."Tropesof Exile in the 1790s: English Women Writers and French Emigrants”,European Romantic Review17:5 (2006) 575-592.Smith Hart,Monica."CharlotteSmith’sExilicPersona”,PartialAnswers8.2 (2010) 305-323.Wiley,Michael."TheGeography of Displacement and Replacement in Charlotte Smith’sThe Emigrants”,European Romantic Review17:1 (2006) 55-68.Wolfson,Susan J."CharlotteSmith's "Emigrants": Forging Connections at the Borders of a Female Tradition”Huntington Library Quarterly63.4 (2000) 509-546.

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