PRECURSORS OF THE THEATER
and music Méhul, Lesueur, Gossec, Chérubini—and the Marseillaise. This mediocrity grieved the Committee, and called forth bitter words from Robespierre and Saint-Just. "Men of letters in general," said Robespierre in his speech of the 18th of Floréal (May 7, 1794), "have dishonored themselves in this Revolution, and to the everlasting shame of their minds the people's reason has taken the first place." As has been shown by Eugène Maron and Eugène Despois, the year 1793 marks the beginning of the extraordinary developments of the vaudeville.
But I understand: all the heroism of the nation had been flung into the battlefield, the assembly, and the riot. Who would have been such a dilettante as to write while the others were fighting? Cowards were the only ones who cultivated the arts. But is it not too bad to think that that sublime tempest passed away without leaving the trace of a work which shall live through the centuries?
Fifty years later one man sounded the echo of those first blasts. Michelet, who has transmitted to us not only the story of those heroic times, but the very soul, for it was in him; Michelet, who wrote the history of the Revolution like a man who had really lived through it, carries on, as it were instinctively, the tradition of the People's Theater. He expounded his ideas to his students with his customary eloquence: