A king's last days: true and false memoirs of Louis XVI's valet - British Library Research Repository
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A king's last days: true and false memoirs of Louis XVI's valet



In the 1790s English society enjoyed the frisson of horror at events across the Channel. There were of course more serious concerns over the war with France, the high price of food and, among the upper classes, fears that Republicanism would spread to England. Emigres crowded into London. In such an atmosphere, a tremendous stir was created by the publication in London in 1798 of the memoirs of Jean-Baptiste Clery, the valet of the executed Louis XVI, who shared his last imprisonment in the Temple: Journal de ce qui s'est passe d la Tour du Temple, pendant la captiviti de Louis XVI, rai de France. Fanny Burney, who was to marry an emigre, wrote to her father that 'M. CIery's book has half killed us; we have read it together, and the deepest tragedy we have yet met with is slight to it'. She praised the 'evident worth and feeling of the writer' and claimed to have undergone 'a soul-piercing experience'. Clery himself read the text to audiences and achieved great, but short-lived, celebrity. Six thousand copies were sold in three days, and it was immediately reprinted.


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21 Oct 2019
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