A Romance of the French Revolution

Publication date: 1921

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The novel clearly begins in 1788, as we know from historical context, and the first chapter opens on "a November morning".  We know that the following day, when André-Louis rides to Rennes, is Wednesday ("that wicked speech of yours at Rennes on Wednesday", Chapter 1.IX) so it only remains to determine which Tuesday in November was Vilmorin's last.

We might try to eliminate Tuesday November 25 as follows:  André-Louis addresses Nantes as Omnes Omnibus on Thursday, two days after the opening.  In the description of subsequent events we learn that the outcome of his speech "may have strengthened the hand of Necker, when on the 27th of that same month of November he compelled the Council…" [Chapter 1.IX].  André-Louis could therefore not have spoken to Nantes on the 27th, and the opening could not be on the 25th.

This argument fails, however, because Sabatini is mistaken about the date of Necker's compulsion!  The text goes on to say that "on that date was published the royal decree ordaining [expanded representation of the Third Estate]".  In fact, the royal decree in question was published December 27, not November 27.  So we must look for other evidence.

During André-Louis' talk with Aline that Friday, we read

It was almost completely night by now; but from behind the wrack of clouds overhead a crescent moon sailed out to alleviate the darkness.
On Friday November 21, 1788, the moon was a day or so past third quarter, and so was not in the sky before midnight.  On the evening of November 14 the moon was absolutely full (full moon was earlier that very day) and could never be described as "crescent".  On November 28 the moon was less than a day past new, had set by complete night, was invisible before that anyway, and certainly could never have alleviated the darkness.

On November 7 the moon was barely past first quarter, rising near noon and setting near midnight.  Though it was a technically a bit more than what should be called a "crescent" moon, it clearly fits the description.  We conclude that Scaramouche opens on Tuesday November 4, 1788.

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Copyright © 2007 Larry Denenberg