Introduction to The Fall of Robespierre

By Daniel E. White

  1. The Fall of Robespierre was written by a pair of undergraduates who had known each other for less than ten weeks. When the two met in mid June 1794 (probably between the 16th and the 19th), Samuel Taylor Coleridge was twenty-one and Robert Southey was nineteen. While on a walking tour from Cambridge to Wales, Coleridge, of Jesus College, had stopped off at Oxford to visit an old school friend, who in turn introduced him to Southey, of Balliol. Striking up an immediate friendship, they promptly hatched the well-known Pantisocracy scheme, accounts of which can be found in various sources such as Richard Holmes' Coleridge: Early Visions (1989) and W. A. Speck's Robert Southey: Entire Man of Letters (2006).[1] In short, as Coleridge wrote to a prospective participant, "A small but liberalized party have formed a scheme of emigration on the principles of an abolition of individual property" (CL 1.96), with the plan calling for "Twelve gentlemen of good education and liberal principles . . . to embark with twelve ladies in April next" (Sandford 1.97). Choosing their destination took some thought. In the preceding April Joseph Priestley had left England and settled in the Susquehanna Valley. After considering their alternatives, Coleridge and Southey opted for Pennsylvania and Priestley over Kentucky and its proponent, Mary Wollstonecraft's lover Gilbert Imlay.[2] In order to abolish individual property, however, they would need to raise cash: "They calculate that every gentleman providing £125 will be sufficient to carry the scheme into execution" (Sandford 1.98). Part of Coleridge's contribution would come from his proposed Imitations from the Modern Latin Poets, which never materialized although advertisements would find their way into Benjamin Flower's The Cambridge Intelligencer (14 June and 26 July 1794) and the end matter of The Fall of Robespierre. Southey hoped for revenue from sales of the volume of Poems he and Robert Lovell were jointly planning to publish, as well as from subscriptions to Joan of Arc, which he had written in the previous August and was still trying to publish, with only fourteen of the necessary fifty subscriptions in hand a year later (NL 1.65).[3] But another possibility presented itself after 16 August, when the news broke in England of Robespierre's downfall on 27-28 July, or, by the revolutionary calendar, 9-10 Thermidor Year II.

  2. Still ignorant over two weeks later of the startling events in Paris, Coleridge and Southey set out from Bristol on 14 August, a Thursday, for a walking tour of Somerset, accompanied by Southey's dog Rover. At Nether Stowey they stopped to introduce themselves to the family of Thomas Poole, a twenty-eight-year-old tannery owner who would have been known to the two for his democratic leanings. A confused account of Robespierre's death appeared on Saturday in The Times, which, along with the other papers, had already reported rumors on the 14th and 15th, with the full account of the Thermidorian coup following in The Times and The Morning Chronicle on the 18th, by which time they were able to reproduce the reports from the Gazette Nationale ou Le Moniteur Universel for 26-31 July.[4] Word of the transactions in Paris reached Nether Stowey during this visit. The famous description of Coleridge and Southey's response comes from Margaret Ellen Sandford's Thomas Poole and his Friends (1888), in which she transcribes from the Latin diaries of John Poole, whose political sensibilities were very different from those of his cousin Tom. "Ego maxime indignor," John wrote, and Sandford assesses the incident as follows:

    [P]utting this and that together, it is easy to understand that the death of Robespierre was certain to be mentioned as an awful event and the leading topic of the day, and that the talk of isti duo ignoti [these two strangers] was wild enough to be the origin of the most extravagant rumours, as it became embedded in fragments in the gossip of a scandalised neighbourhood; where it was soon 'well known' that one of Tom Poole's literary friends—was it the young man Col[e]ridge, or the young man Southey? they were not quite sure; but it was certainly one of them—had positively said that Robespierre was a ministering angel of mercy, sent to slay thousands that he might save millions. Let us be accurate. It was not positively certain whether the words were hundreds and thousands, or thousands and millions; but that Robespierre had been called a 'ministering angel of mercy' everybody knew for a fact. (Sandford 1.104-5)
    Soon after their return to Bristol on 22 August, they rapidly composed a blank verse drama on the subject. The draft, it seems, took little more than two days: "Poor Robespierre!" Southey announced to his friend Horace Walpole Bedford on 3 September, "Coleridge and I wrote a tragedy upon his death in the space of two days! so good that he has it now in town to get printed" (NL 1.72-3), and in a letter of October Coleridge described the play (in Latin) as "a little volume which poured from me in a sudden heat . . . It flowed forth in a matter of two days" (CL 1.121).[5] Years later Southey would recall the history of The Fall of Robespierre to Coleridge's nephew Henry Nelson Coleridge in these terms:
    It originated in sportive conversation at poor Lovell's, and we agreed each to produce an act by the next evening;–S.T.C. the first, I the second, and Lovell the third. S.T.C. brought part of his, I and Lovell the whole of ours; but L.'s was not in keeping, and therefore I undertook to supply the third also by the following day. By that time, S.T.C. had filled up his. A dedication to Mrs. Hannah More was concocted, and the notable performance was offered for sale to a bookseller in Bristol, who was too wise to buy it. Your Uncle took the MSS. with him to Cambridge, and there rewrote the first act at leisure, and published it. (LR 1.3n)
    The Bristol bookseller who "was too wise to buy it" was Joseph Cottle, so the play ultimately appeared in late September (CL 1.110) from the press of Benjamin Flower of Cambridge. According to the title page, The Fall of Robespierre was simply "By S. T. Coleridge, of Jesus College, Cambridge": "It would appear ridiculous to put two names to such a Work," Coleridge had written to Southey in advance of publication, "But if you choose it, mention it–and it shall be done–To every man, who praises it, of course I give the true biography of it–to those, who laugh at it, I laugh again–and I am too well known at Cambridge to be thought the less of" (CL 1.106).[6] In a letter of 21 October (CL 1.117), Coleridge reported that 500 copies had been printed. 100 were sent to be sold by booksellers in Bath, 100 in London, and 25 in Norwich, and Coleridge sold 30 privately (of which 25 went to George Dyer), making presents of an additional 6. "The rest," Coleridge wrote, "are dispersed among the Cambridge Booksellers," anticipating that "all that are in Cambridge will sell–a great many are sold." At one shilling a copy, the authors would "only get 9 pence for each Copy from the Booksellers," and if we generously assume that all the booksellers' copies sold, and estimate that Coleridge and Southey managed to sell 50 copies privately, and if we then subtract "nearly 9 pound" for "Expences of Paper, Printing, and Advertisements," the resulting profits would have been a little over £10. Not bad for two days' work, but Coleridge nonetheless concluded, "We ought to have charged 1s-6d a copy."

  3. There are certainly reasons to join Richard Holmes in dismissing the play as a mere "farrago of rhetorical bad verse, remarkable only for the swiftness of composition" (74), but there are also reasons to take it seriously, including the fact that the process of composition as well as the play itself involve so much levity and flippancy. Having spent considerably more time editing this hypertext edition of The Fall of Robespierre than its authors took writing it, I find one line in a letter from Southey to his friend C. W. Williams Wynn in early September 1794 to be particularly telling: "vexed as I really am at the death of Robespierre I never laughed more than whilst dealing with the subject" (Tilney 150). In the following paragraphs I would like to suggest why and how the play should be taken seriously, in the process introducing some of the ways several critics have done so, and I'll then conclude by proposing that the very frivolity of the play is also worthy of legitimate consideration.

  4. In 1794 no figure exerted more force within the constellation of Coleridge's and Southey's radical politics than Robespierre, and, if properly contextualized, the play can serve as a crucial document in any attempt to understand their political development. According to Book 10 of The Prelude, when Wordsworth heard the news that Robespierre and his followers had been executed, it was one of the happiest moments of his life: "O friend, few happier moments have been mine / Through my whole life than that when first I heard / That this foul tribe of Moloch was o'erthrown, / And their chief regent levelled with the dust" (1805:10.466-69). On the opposite side was Southey's hyperbolic response: allegedly, he "laid his head down upon his arms and exclaimed, 'I had rather have heard of the death of my own father'" (Sandford 1.102; here it is obligatory to point out that Southey's father was already dead at the time). A more plausible reaction on Southey's part comes in his letter of 7 September, shortly after the composition of the play: "The death of Robespierre is one of those events on which it is hardly possible to speak with certainty. The charges brought against him after his execution are most futile and contemptible; on the other hand I see much to commend in the Convention" (NL 1.75). Whether or not the former anecdote is apocryphal, the "friend" addressed in The Prelude responded to the news in a manner closer to Southey than to Wordsworth. Coleridge shared Southey's sense of uncertainty, combining identification with and sympathy for Robespierre's genius and will with horror at the excessive violence of the Terror. For Carl Woodring, "Coleridge's disappointment with Robespierre belonged to an emotional identification with him that later generations have been unable to grasp–have apparently dreaded to touch" (194). Fully grasping this identification, Nicholas Roe subsequently demonstrated in Wordsworth and Coleridge: The Radical Years (1988) that Coleridge recognized much of himself in the complexities and contradictions of Robespierre's visionary imagination (210-23). In a letter of 3 September summarizing their common ground, Southey included a sentence of Coleridge's that found its way into the Dedication of the play: "I believe him to have been sacrificed to the despair of fools and cow[ards]. Coleridge says 'he was a man whose great bad actions cast a dis[astrous] lustre over his name.' He is now inclined to think with me that the [actions] of a man so situated must not be judged by common laws, that Robespierre was the benefactor of mankind and that we should lament his death as the greatest misfortune Europe could have sustained" (NL 1.73).

  5. Along with passages such as those I've been citing from Coleridge's and Southey's letters, this edition includes many of the major contexts required for an understanding of how the figure of Robespierre actively transformed significant aspects of Coleridge's radicalism. By moving among the text of the play, our annotations, and contextual materials, for instance, it will be found that his rejection of "Bad means for a good end" (CN 1.56) was worked out explicitly through a comparison between Brissot and Robespierre.[7] Similarly, in Conciones ad Populum (1795), Coleridge divided "the professed Friends of Liberty" (CC 1.37) into four classes, with the fourth—"that small but glorious band, whom we may truly distinguish by the name of thinking and disinterested Patriots" (CC 1.40)—characterized by "patience," which he defined in a letter to Thelwall as precisely the virtue which Robespierre lacked: "In his not possessing this virtue, all the horrible excesses of Robespierre did, I believe, originate" (CL 1.283). And the introduction of the character of Adelaide in Act 1 is an early instance of the anti-Godwinian assertion of the domestic affections within what might be called Coleridge's politics of retirement, which Nigel Leask has proposed "was a complement, rather than an alternative, to political intervention in the 1790s" (13), and which Richard Holmes connects to the Rousseauism of the Pantisocracy scheme and Coleridge and Southey's "underlying philosophical belief in the essential innocence of man once retired from corrupt European civilisation in the rural 'cottag'd vale'" (74).

  6. A less charted but equally intriguing area of investigation opened up by the "Historic Drama" involves the specific, material source of its historicity: newspapers. "It was written with newspapers before me," Southey recalled, "as fast as newspaper could be put into blank verse" (LR 1.3n), and Woodring offers that "Few belletristic works signed by major writers can ever have come hotter from the chronicled events" (195). As the comparison pages in the "Journalistic Contexts" section of this site will show, Coleridge and Southey relied primarily on The Times and The Morning Chronicle for 18 August, as well as Felix Farley's Bristol Journal for 23 August. For some readers, the fact that the verse borders on plagiarism, especially in Act 2, provides further grounds for dismissal. Jonathan Wordsworth accordingly felt the need to defend the play in his Introduction to the Woodstock facsimile edition: "It presents the facts as they are known, and, in Acts II and III especially, is often very close to The Times narrative. Neither Southey, nor Coleridge, . . . is guilty of merely versif[y]ing the prose. Events that were dramatic on the day, and deadened in the telling, are given a new vividness. We get a genuine sense of the connivance and fear, the uneasy alliances, the in-fighting, the rhetoric, of the Convention" (np). But what strikes me about the newspaper reports is the extent to which events are not deadened in the telling. On the contrary, if we place ourselves in the summer of 1794, a unique time for English journalism, and look at the material form itself in which news of Revolutionary events reached English readers, the newspaper reports come to life. The reports themselves often took the shape of dramatic publication, mimicking the succession of

    The Times, 18 August 1794

    speeches and even stage directions associated with the printing of plays: "I invoke the shade of the virtuous Brutus," declaims Tallien in The Times, "[fixing his eyes upon the bust.) Like him, I have a poniard to rid my country of the tyrant, if the Convention do not deliver him to the sword of justice" (18 August 1794). Furthermore, we can see the interaction between the play and the papers, between drama and reportage, as part of a performative brand of Romanticism that increasingly seems to be a major element of the culture. In a chapter dedicated to the play in Tragedy Walks the Streets: the French Revolution in the Making of Modern Drama (2006), Matthew Stefan Buckley explores "the degree to which Coleridge's perception of the Revolution was, in the summer of 1794, mediated by the press—and particularly by the Times" (104). As the Revolution unfolded, the English newspapers proved increasingly adept at keeping pace with the rapidity of events in Paris. By early 1794, a network of correspondents transmitting French reports from the capital to Ostend in Flanders, from where a packet boat would bear them to London, had cut the average news lag to eight or nine days (Buckley 105-6). But over the course of the spring the delay steadily increased, and after the Law of 22 Prairial (10 June) and the Battle of Fleurus (26 June) the transmission of reports out of Paris and through the Netherlands became extremely precarious. During July, the average delay had reached over two weeks (Buckley 110). The expansions and contractions of time, so foreign to our sense of news, produced a distinct kind of aesthetic relationship between reader and event. During that uncertain summer, a heightened form of tension was built into the nature of the medium: not only were readers made aware that they were ignorant of events that had transpired long since the composition of the last available reports, but the fluctuations of empty time between reports could become suffused in and of themselves with something very like drama, prompting the imagination to provide a range of potential causes for the absence of news. After its confused and inaccurate account of 16 August, The Times reported, "Notwithstanding the wind has blown fair for the last three days, for the packets coming from Holland, the Mail from thence still continues due. The arrival of it, or of some Messenger from the Continent, was most anxiously expected yesterday; but neither had arrived at a late hour last night." Why had neither mail nor messenger arrived? Silence, in other words, could be deafening, and time could mean more than the mere measurement of the clock. When news did arrive, it therefore did not fill a vacuum but rather entered into a world already saturated by anxiety and conjecture concerning the characters, motives, causes, and effects of a Revolutionary plot unfolding in both chronological and dramatic time across the Channel. The form in which the medium communicated events thus corresponded to the manner in which time shaped their reception. Although drama and news remained distinct genres with overlapping but divergent modes of staging, the nature of the newspaper medium at that particular moment in journalistic history brought to the fore powerful analogies between the two, with respect to both the physical presentation of events and the way we can experience time as imbued with tension and meaning. News, as the selection above from The Times demonstrates, in this light became a kind of theater.

  7. Our contexts section provides a complete transcription of this and other newspaper reports, along with a comparison between passages from the play and those from the newspapers. The resulting comparisons could be taken as evidence that, because much of Acts 2 and 3 does consist of "newspaper . . . put into blank verse," the play lacks originality and inspiration, but I don't think these Romantic ideologies need to limit us from seeing other possibilities. If news transformed political event into performance, then The Fall of Robespierre transforms performance back into politics. Throughout the play, it is words, not actions, which wield power. Angela Esterhammer has suggested that for Coleridge in the 1790s "an opposition arises between the destructive speech acts of statesmen and institutions, and the redemptive utterances of nature, God, or some spirit that connects God and nature with the poet's soul. Both the negative, institutional utterances and the positive, spiritual utterances do things; but the former, while they may have the power to re-organize reality, are exposed as hollow or empty" (146). While Coleridge's "conversation poems" in particular explore the redemptive speech acts of "that eternal language, which thy God / Utters, who from eternity doth teach / Himself in all, and all things in himself" ("Frost at Midnight" 60-62; CC, the play stages a succession of "oaths," "accusations," and, above all, "denunciations": "I denounce St. Just" (2.182), says Tallien, and his speech, of course, is an action in and of itself.[8] Reeve Parker has coined a phrase which best captures the role of speech acts in the play: "In representing and shaping the Thermidor material Coleridge's effective dramaturgy . . . weaves a drama of discourse and pantomime not about revolutionary personalities or even about revolutionary intrigues but about events of discourse" (10).

  8. Such events of discourse constitute the prime movers of this quintessential drama of discourse, but there is another significant engine of plot in the play, as there was of politics in Paris. In his chapter on Thermidor in The Crowd in the French Revolution (1959), George Rudé found himself in the uncomfortable position of needing to "examine the causes of the abstention, rather than of the participation, of the persons most concerned. Yet this may be justified in the present instance by the fact that Robespierre's overthrow was the result rather of the defection of his former allies than of the revolutionary action of his opponents" (128). In this light, the crowd plays an interesting role in the play, as it did in the events of Thermidor, by not acting. William Jewett insightfully but not entirely accurately proposes that the play dramatizes the historical crowd's

    strategic nonact of refusing to serve as a personifiable agent. It was perhaps the first time that the revolutionary crowd declined to play the role of the people, so that it decided the course of events not by intervening as an actor but by standing by as disaggregated spectators. One can imagine British onlookers following the process by which agencies of representation aiming to unite the masses into the people—the rising popular press, generally, and on this occasion also the enforced spectatorship of Robespierre's Festival of the Supreme Being, which preceded Thermidor by a short two weeks—reversed field to turn the people back into the masses, depriving the people of the identity and mission that had been manufactured for it. (Fatal Autonomy 47) [9]
    In Act 1, Adelaide fears that opposition to Robespierre will provoke "Th' enthusiast mob, confusion's lawless sons" (1.248), but Tallien rightly predicts, "They are aweary of his stern morality, / The fair-mask'd offspring of ferocious pride. / The sections too support the delegates: / All–all is ours!" (1.249-52), and the act ends with a "(Cry from the street of–No Tyrant! Down with the Tyrant! )" (1.271sd).[10] Although Jewett is right that the climax of the play turns on the refusal of the sans-culloterie to support Robespierre and Henriot in Act 3, the play does portray the revolutionary crowd as a personifiable agent, the men of "Paris" (3.15, 106-7, 136), whose actions, like those of the delegates inside the Convention, primarily take the form of discourse. All seems lost when "the young ambitious bold St. Just / Harangues the mob" (3.23-4), and a Messenger reports, "Already I hear / The rattling cannon destin'd to surround / This sacred hall" (3.37-9), but the tide of events turns after Tallien addresses the citizens in the galleries, one of whom responds as follows:
                           Citizen from above.
                                                       We too swear
    To die, or save the country. Follow me.
                                          (All the men quit the galleries.) (3.46-7)
    The citizen here acts by swearing a collective oath, and when Bourdon l'Oise reports that he was able to clear the Commune by brandishing both his sword (3.56) and his rhetoric, the response is a "general shout," followed by "Applauses" and "Shouts from without":
    I spake of Liberty. Their honest hearts
    The general shout burst forth,
    "Live the Convention–Down with Robespierre!"
                (Shouts from without–Down with the tyrant!) (3.63-4)
    Although invisible and offstage, the act of the crowd "without," in the form of the personifiable and aggregated men of Paris, is here not just reported but is actually audible. Word of the ultimate event—"Robespierre has perished" (3.122)—follows immediately upon the Citizen's vow that "The men of Paris / Espouse your cause. The men of Paris swear / They will defend the delegates of Freedom" (3.105-8), leading to more "(Shouts without.)" (3.115sd) and "(Cry without–Down with the Tyrant!)" (3.119sd). The play's analysis of causes and effects on 9-10 Thermidor thus corresponds to that of Rudé, who writes, "When every allowance is made . . . for all the chances and mischances in a tangled series of events, the essential fact remains that [the Robespierrists] had lost the support of the Parisian sans-culottes" (137), an essential fact which Coleridge and Southey translate into the speech acts of the multitude outside, communicated through its aggregated applauses and shouts, signifying that it will not act to support Robespierre and Henriot against the Convention.

  9. But we should not forget Southey's laughter, which can be taken seriously as well. If, to borrow Esterhammer's terms, the "institutional utterances" of the delegates which constitute the bulk of the play do "have the power to re-organize reality," they are also "exposed as hollow or empty" (146). One of the chief ways this is so involves the manner in which the play weaves a series of references to Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. Embedded in numerous speeches are attempts to define the speaker as the patriotic liberator and the speaker's opponent as the ambitious tyrant, an oratorical thrust and parry that seems to devolve at times into a kind of childlike game from one scene to the next: "I'm Brutus, you're Caesar. No, I'm Brutus, you're Caesar." Laughable in the play, such utterances did in fact reorganize reality during the spring of 1794, when a vogue for renaming swept through revolutionary France: Lyon became Commune-Affranchie, Saint-Marie became Sainte-Montagne, Saint-Chamond became Vallée Rousseau, and even the names of children followed suit, with Brutus among the favorites (Andress 287-8). In this light, we can accept Gregory Dart's reading of the play but perhaps draw a different set of conclusions: "in sanctioning the endless swapping and stealing of neo-classical identities they filled the stage with Brutuses who all sounded identical, collapsing political differences by merging the Robespierrists with their Thermidorian successors, and effectively conceding Burke's claim that there was absolutely no difference between them" (172). This seems absolutely right, and for Dart the concession undermines Coleridge and Southey's attempt to fit the progress of the Revolution into "traditional forms and narratives" (171). But by the same token the frivolity of these exchanges could also be seen as enforcing the play's skepticism regarding the successive acts of violence justified by and in fact committed through a relentless round of institutional discourse: both Robespierre and Tallien genuinely believe themselves to be Brutus and frame their rhetoric before the Convention accordingly, in the process emptying the identity of meaning and negating the opposition between speakers. As Southey wrote to Wynn, "Can you imagine a piece tolerable which represents both parties sincere in their own opinions & makes Barrere the only villain[?] Do believe me when I say we wrote a good drama" (Tilney 150). Whether or not we accept Southey's assessment that The Fall of Robespierre is a good drama, it is a play about uncertainty in which the only villain is in fact the opportunistic Barrere, whose status as such undercuts the triumphalist tones of the closing lines—"Sublime amid the storm shall France arise ..." (3.210)—while the two opposed parties of Thermidorian actors speak with an agency that is equally ridiculous and sincere, at once void and pregnant with consequence.

  10. In preparing this edition, I had the pleasure of working closely with two graduate students from the University of Toronto, Sarah Copland and Stephen Osadetz (now at Stanford), who joined the project as research assistants but proved to be real collaborators. In our discussions, our first concern was that most readers would not come to The Fall of Robespierre with a vivid sense of the various episodes and characters involved in the events depicted by Coleridge and Southey. We have thus provided detailed annotations offering historical and political background to the Thermidorian coup, along with a list of "French Revolutionary Figures Mentioned in the Play" (compiled primarily by Sarah and Steve). In the margins of the play itself, we have provided links ["NP"] to a page indicating newspaper sources for the adjacent lines, and our annotations are linked to several maps, which can be found in a section of their own along with a "Chronology of the French Revolution, 1789-94." In our "Letters, Reviews, and Literary Contexts" section, readers will find transcriptions of Coleridge's and Southey's letters pertaining to the play (all such passages quoted in this Introduction will be found there) as well as various other texts with which the play and our annotations intersect. The "Journalistic Contexts" section provides transcriptions of newspaper reports, a reproduction of the front page of The Times for 18 August 1794, a side-by-side comparison between The Times and the Morning Chronicle for 18 August, a side-by-side comparison between The Morning Chronicle for 18 August and the English papers' French source, the Moniteur for 29 July, and a page allowing readers to compare specific passages from the play with those from the papers. Sarah and Steve contributed to numerous notes, and their fine work will also be particularly apparent in the "Journalistic Contexts" section. Our hope is that the quantity and kinds of materials we've assembled, and the ways in which we've interwoven them with the play and our annotations, will allow readers to approach this site productively from a range of perspectives and to a variety of ends.


[1] Holmes 59-88, and Speck 42-61. See as well Roe, The Politics of Nature 52-55, 156-57, and "Pantisocracy."

[2] Attributed by Joseph Cottle to "the inexperience of youth, acting on sanguine imaginations" (104), the scheme has often been treated as the fruit of naiveté, quixotism, and idiosyncracy—"When Coleridge and I are sawing down a tree we shall discuss metaphysics; criticise poetry when hunting a buffalo, and write sonnets whilst following the plough" (NL 1.72). The utopian plan, however, also needs to be seen as part of a larger social, political, and religious "movement among 'the friends of liberty'," as Holmes suggests (89): by late 1794, Thomas Cooper was advocating emigration to Pennsylvania, promoted in Some Information respecting America (1794), and Gilbert Imlay was encouraging emigration to Kentucky, publicized in A Topographical Description of the Western Territory of North America ... to which are added, the Discovery, Settlement, and Present State of Kentucky (1793). In January 1795 The British Critic reviewed Cooper's Some Information respecting America (27-9), joining a concerted push against these radical schemes in various pamphlets, such as Letters on Emigration. By a Gentleman, Lately Returned from America (1794), by John Hodgkinson, and Look Before You Leap; or, A Few Hints to such Artizans, Mechanics, Labourers, Farmers and Husbandmen as are Desirous of Emigrating to America, being a Genuine Collection of Letters, from Persons who have Emigrated (1796). According to The Gentleman's Magazine for April 1796, "It is computed, that, of 2000 persons who have emigrated to America within the last five years, fifteen hundred have returned, finding it totally impossible to maintain themselves and families from the produce; such is the extreme dearness of every article of domestic consumption" (347).

[3] Poems appeared in December bearing a 1795 imprint, and Joan of Arc was published in 1796, with some 450 lines contributed by Coleridge (RS 1.497).

[4] On 18 August The Morning Post carried the news of 9 Thermidor through to the early evening, when the Convention decreed the arrest of Robespierre; the events of 9-10 Thermidor appeared in The Morning Post on 19 August. The Star, an evening paper, followed The Times and The Morning Chronicle with the full story on 18 August.

[5] In a letter of 7 September it was down to a single day: "Coleridge and I wrote a tragedy upon the subject in 24 hours" (NL 1.75-6).

[6] The original plan, according to Southey, was to publish the play under the pseudonym "Lecoridge of both Universities" (Tilney 150), the anagram identifying Coleridge for sake of publicity in Cambridge, and "both Universities" giving a nod to Southey of Oxford. On The Fall of Robespierre with respect to Southey and Coleridge's collaboration and questions of authority, see Hickey 314-6.

[7] In the "Introductory Address" to Conciones ad Populum (published in November 1795), a reworking of the Moral and Political Lecture delivered in Bristol and then published in February 1795, Coleridge writes, "Robespierre . . . possessed a glowing ardor that still remembered the end, and a cool ferocity that never either overlooked, or scrupled, the means. What the end was, is not known: that it was a wicked one, has by no means been proved. I rather think, that the distant prospect, to which he was travelling, appeared to him grand and beautiful; but that he fixed his eye on it with such intense eagerness as to neglect the foulness of the road" (CC 1.35).

[8] Reeve Parker catalogues words that "convey the effects of discourse": "The speeches ... are replete with nouns and verbs like 'harangue,' 'eloquence,' 'tongue,' 'calumny,' 'debate,' 'acclaim,' 'proclaim,' 'voice,' 'talk,' 'speech,' 'assent,' 'conference,' 'discourse,' 'sworn,' 'herald,' 'outcry,' 'shout'; especially prominent are first-person performatives: 'advise,' 'call,' 'belie,' 'accuse,' 'buzz,' 'murmur,' 'name,' 'blaspheme,' 'dictate,' 'style' (as a verb), 'denounce' (and 'pronounce, 'contend,' 'preach,' 'charge,' 'invoke,' ' propose,' 'dare,' 'urge,' 'espouse'" (10).

[9] The Festival of the Supreme Being was held on 8 June, thus in fact preceding the Thermidorian coup by seven weeks.

[10] In the event, the sections did support the delegates: of the forty-eight sections, thirty-nine were in permanent session during the night of 9-10 Thermidor, and, before it became clear that the cause was lost, of these only two—the Observatoire and Châlier (or "Thermes de Julien") sections—initially demonstrated a willingness to act in support of Robespierre and the Commune (Rudé 139).