me: is teaching myself about the french revolution right now im

The Tennis Court Oath (Jacques-Louis David)

The Tennis Court Oath, June 20, 1789, by which deputies of the new National Assembly vowed to write a Constitution. This celebrated depiction by Jacques- Louis David well illustrates the spirit of ’89 and the extraordinary fervor with which patriots supported the Revolutionary changes. The president Bailly stands on a table to administer the oath. One can distinguish the abbé Sieyès, sitting just beneath Bailly; Mirabeau (right foreground, in a dark coat, striding forward); Barnave ( just behind Mirabeau); Robespierre (right of center, baring his breast with his two hands); Pétion in front of Robespierre with his back turned; Barère (sitting at left, writing his newspaper); and the trio of the Protestant Rabaut Saint-Etienne, the priest Grégoire, and the monk Dom Gerle (center foreground). 

The Coming of the Terror (Timothy Tackett)


Paris & the Revolution: Musée Carnavalet

This museum, dedicated to the history of Paris, has an immense collection about the French Revolution, including famous paintings & documents, like David’s Tennis Court Oath (1), the Declaration of Rights of Men and the Ciitzen (2) or Demachy’s  Festival of the Supreme Being (3),

portraits or busts of contemporaries, like Robespierre (1), Danton (2), Desmoulins (3) or Marat (4)

other wonderful things, like Couthon’s wheelchair (1), a mini-Guillotine (2), a model of the Bastille (3) or a revolutionary pocket watch (4)

All photos taken by me.

John Ashbery, "The Tennis Court Oath"

What had you been thinking about
the face studiously bloodied
heaven blotted region
I go on loving you like water but
there is a terrible breath in the way all of this
You were not elected president, yet won the race
All the way through fog and drizzle
When you read it was sincere the coasts
stammered with unintentional villages the
horse strains fatigued I guess … the calls …
I worry

the water beetle head
why of course reflecting all
then you redid you were breathing
I thought going down to mail this
of the kettle you jabbered as easily in the yard
you come through but
are incomparable the lovely tent
mystery you don’t want surrounded the real
you dance
in the spring there was clouds

The mulatress approached in the hall—the
lettering easily visible along the edge of the Times
in a moment the bell would ring but there was time
for the carnation laughed here are a couple of “other”
to one in yon house
The doctor and Philip had come over the road
Turning in toward the corner of the wall his hat on
reading it carelessly as if to tell you your fears were justified
the blood shifted you know those walls
wind off the earth had made him shrink
undeniably an oboe now the young
were there there was candy
to decide the sharp edge of the garment
like a particular cry not intervening called the dog “he’s coming! he’s coming” with an emotion felt it sink into peace
there was no turning back but the end was in sight
he chose this moment to ask her in detail about her family and the others
The person. pleaded—“have more of these
not stripes on the tunic—or the porch chairs
will teach you about men—what it means”
to be one in a million pink stripe
and now could go away the three approached the doghouse
the reef. Your daughter’s
dream of my son understand prejudice
darkness in the hole
the patient finished
They could all go home now the hole was dark
lilacs blowing across his face glad he brought you

The National Assembly taking the Tennis Court Oath (sketch by Jacques-Louis David).

The Third Estate declared themselves the National Assembly, an assembly not of the Estates but of “the People.” They invited the other orders to join them, but made it clear they intended to conduct the nation’s affairs with or without them. Louis XVI ordered the closure of the Salle des États where the Assembly met,  so the Assembly moved their deliberations to a nearby indoor  tennis court, where they proceeded to swear the Tennis Court Oath (20 June 1789), under which they agreed not to separate until they had given France a constitution.

Some Things I’d  Like to Get Off My Chest

“Tell me about the revolution!” or “Tell me about the civil war!”

- Please say American Revolutionary War or the American Civil War, because otherwise I’m just going to start talking about Cromwell or the Tennis Court Oath just to fuck with you.

“So about the Middle Ages…”

- I NEED A BALL PARK HERE. A century? ok what country? C’mon now.

“Oh you love Thomas Jefferson! You must hate all this hype about Hamilton.”


“The French are cowards.”


And finally, my fellow Americans….we would’ve lost the American Revolutionary War without the French navy, we lost the War of 1812, no the North is not the “hero” or “the good guys” of the American Civil War, we fucked up Reconstruction, we shouldn’t have bombed Japan, we lost the Vietnam War, and we all need to stop being so goddamn proud of ourselves.