Paul-Louis Courier

Courrierist, lampooner, polemist
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prec Aux âmes dévotes Introduction to Procès de Paul-Louis Courier Suiv
the « Procès de Paul-Louis Courier »
(Trial of Paul-Louis Courier)

A t the beginning of July of 1821, acting as though he wished to rub salt in the wound, and convinced he would slip through the net, Courier published Aux âmes dévotes. (To the devote souls). He firmly sticks to his guns in this scathing lampoon, Simple discours, published at the end of April and against which an edict of seizure has been signed on May 24th. The Restoration lays into everybody who raises his head, rebels, satirizes, criticizes. To make one or more examples might quiet minds and extinguish the warlike fervours of the « bad subjects ». Thus, the Prosecution, represented by the royal public prosecutor Jacquinot, first contemplates to bring proceedings against Courier for three charges: offence against the King, incitement to offence against the King, and insult to public and religious morality. The same Jacquinot considers asking for up to twelve years of jail for the author of Chambord!
On August 28th, Courier appears, quite worried, in the Court of Assizes of Seine and with him, his printer Bobée; it’s understandable: on the 9th of the same month, Louis Augustin Cauchois-Lemaire had been sentenced by the same authority to three years imprisonment, a 6 000 franc fine and legal costs for the publication of a polemical book entitled Opuscules politiques. According to the judges, the text had incited to nothing less than civil war and to insults against the King and the Chambers...Is that all?
Finally, the only charge held against Courier is that of insult to public morality. The indictment will be led by the prosecuting attorney, M. de Broë. The verdict announced against Courier, who chose to keep silent during his trial so as not to worsen his case through possible clumsiness, sets the following sentence: two months of prison and a fine of two hundred francs. The printer Bobée leaves the hearing a free man.
The songwriter Béranger will congratulate the convict and proclaim to all points of the compass : « If I were Courier, I would not give these two months of prison for one hundred thousand francs. » He will have the opportunity to give this judgment to himself. He appears in turn at the Court of Assizes on December 8th of 1821 as a songwriter whose songs are charged with the same offense as the Simple discours; Béranger will be sentenced to three months, which he will serve in the cell left by ... Courier ten days earlier !

The day right after the judgment, the papers representing both sides brief about the hearing that pronounces the sentence against the lampoonist. In a letter dated August 30th to Mrs Soehnée, buyer-to-be of the Filonnière in 1824, Courier recalls these press reviews:

On a étrangement défiguré dans les journaux ma petite dispute avec le président des assises et le plaidoyer de mon avocat. Vous verrez bientôt de tout côté une histoire exacte avec l’esquisse de ce que j’avais dessein de dire après mon avocat si les instances de mes amis et de mon avocat lui-même ne m’eussent [imposé]1 de garder silence. Je ne sais trop si je fais bien de me laisser imprimer encore : après un succès il faudrait s’en tenir là, crainte de déchoir… mais on devient présomptueux surtout quand on reçoit vos éloges.

In fact, Courier works relentlessly writing a new lampoon. It is the Procès de Paul-Louis Courier, vigneron de la Chavonnière, condamné le 28 août 1821, à l’occasion de son discours sur la souscription de Chambord (Trial of Paul-Louis Courier, wine grower from the Chavonnière, sentenced on the 28th of August of 1821, on the occasion of his speech about the Chambord subscription ).The never-ending title of this new writing given to the public on the 30th of September without mention of the printer predicts its unequivocal and subversive content.
Judges and jury are ridiculed by the malice of the convict who has people laughing with him like Guignol coning the policeman or the judge. The prosecuting attorney is the most ripped to pieces in this matter. So much so that Courier, in his letters of that time, names his virulent attack against these events Mon Jean de Broë (My Jean de Broë).
This new text praises Courier to the skies. He opens his heart to his wife about it in a letter sent on the 4th of October: My paper is a great success, you cannot imagine it, the admiration, the enthusiasm, etc.
Some days later, on October 11th, Courier enters the Sainte Pélagie prison to serve his sentence. On the 14th, he receives the two books that compose l’Histoire de la peinture en Italie with the following dedication: « Tribute to the one who portrayed Jean de Broë. » handwritten by a certain Henri Beyle, known later under the pen name of...Stendhal. Great minds recognize each other.

[1] Mrs Geneviève Viollet-le-Duc adds this note : « strikethrough word » (Correspondance générale, volume 3, p. 294).  Note1


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