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Reviewed by:
  • Commemorating Mirabeau: 'Mirabeau aux Champs-Élysées' and Other Texts ed. by Jessica Goodman
  • John R. Iverson
Commemorating Mirabeau: 'Mirabeau aux Champs-Élysées' and Other Texts. Edited by Jessica Goodman. (MHRA Critical Texts, 58.) Cambridge: Modern Humanities Research Association, 2017. 205 pp.

In this intriguing volume, Jessica Goodman unites five texts dating from the weeks following the death of Mirabeau on 2 April 1791. The longest of the five, Olympe de Gouges's Mirabeau aux Champs-Élysées, will be of interest to many readers due to recent scholarly attention that has been paid to playwright and pamphleteer Gouges. But the other works greatly illuminate Gouges's text and — due to their common premise of staging the arrival of Mirabeau in the afterlife — provide a platform for examining commemorative practices during the Revolutionary era. Like Mirabeau aux Champs-Élysées, L'Ombre de Mirabeau, a verse play by the obscure but prolific dramatist Jean-Élie Dejaure, was performed at the Comédie-Italienne, beginning on 7 May; it also uses the conceit of an assemblage of grands hommes in the afterlife to extol the virtues of the recently deceased orator and legislator. The third work, Mirabeau aux enfers, ou, La contre-révolution au Tartare — published but never performed — uses many of the same conceits but with much different intent; in this case, Mirabeau is unmasked as a murderous scoundrel whose machinations have plunged France into chaos. Two short manuscript works, Le Démosthène français, ou, L'arrivée de Mirabeau aux Champs-Élysées, and Le Panthéon français, ou, La désertion des Champs-Élysées, also adopt the 'arrival in the underworld' trope, but with further variations. The first of these, which may well have been performed in Paris at the Théâtre patriotique, is attributed to actor-author Charles Klairwal and was published in a Dutch translation, which Goodman traces to connections with the Dutch Patriot community in Dunkirk. The second is more concerned with the very idea of the French Panthéon, which was created in direct [End Page 601] response to Mirabeau's death; this play asks whether André Désilles, a military hero, will also be admitted to the newly designated temple. A short dossier is devoted, finally, to Jean-Baptiste Pujoulx's Mirabeau à son lit de mort, performed ten times from May to June 1791. Although the script of this work has not survived, Goodman has fittingly included a collection of reviews drawn from contemporary journals. All of these texts benefit from careful editing, with modernized spelling and punctuation; the abundant footnotes are extremely useful in clarifying the historical context and textual references; and the whole is preceded by Goodman's ambitious, insightful Introduction. Its treatment of the myriad responses to the sudden death of one of the most important leaders of the Revolutionary movement, what one might call the 'Mirabeau moment', is perhaps a bit too brief. But Goodman opens many other perspectives, situating these works with respect to the culte des grands hommes and the literary tradition of the dialogue of the dead, while reflecting broadly on the difficulties of the commemorative genre. Particularly interesting is her analysis of Mirabeau aux Champs-Élysées and Gouges's authorial strategies. This volume is an important contribution to scholarship on the Revolutionary period and, more generally, to our understanding of the commemorative practices of the late eighteenth century.

John R. Iverson
Whitman College


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