The quartier's literary lion, André B., has begun to wonder, repeatedly, if ever I'll mention him again.
If it's to describe how his conversation-dominating subject matter over Sunday lunch ranged unerringly -- and unperturbed by the presence of Jean-Paul's lovely Emma (14) -- from forms of torture to violence in society, barbarism, disturbing Manga films, football mobs and a certain perspective on the Japanese, he makes that hard.
Sam's Sunday miracle now digested, however -- the man made a sublime soufflé au chocolat for me alone, bless him, and that during Ramadan still -- I can go some of the way towards answering Baudier's pressing requirements for information.
These are they:
Q. In France, when was torture abolished as a means of punishment?
A. In the latter part of the 18th century.
Before then, nobles were beheaded, highway robbers executed publicly on the wheel, state criminals and would-be assassins of royalty torn limb from limb, forgers boiled alive, heretics burned at the stake, and domestic thieves hanged. (Quid online; Fr).
In 1789, Doctors Joseph Guillotin of Saintes and Antoine Louis of Metz proposed swift execution by machine. The guillotine was first tested on three human corpses and live sheep on April 17, 1792, the month after Louis XVI signed a law introducing beheading by this machine.
Nicholas Pelletier, condemned for violent rape, was the first person to be executed by "the widow" in Paris on April 25, 1792 (various sources).
Many a French-language website attributes the introduction of "humane" capital punishment to pressure notably from Voltaire (viz. his life at 'Philosophie', inter-copropriétés and some writing in 'Fragment sur le procès criminel de Montbailli', 1773, the tale of a singularly revolting execution).
In May 1791, Robespierre had proposed the abolition of the death penalty, but the following October, the King instead decreed that decapitation would do, while any torture during trial was banned.
Q. When was France's last execution on the wheel?
A. The last reference I can find to such a death dates to 1786. A very slow-loading page at Reims-Web, source of the postcard snap, declares that a woman named Jeanne Delozanne, or "La Grande Jeanette", had her legs broken in public in this fashion, apparently on the charming Place d'Erlon in Reims. This convicted accomplice to murder did not, however, die of that torture. Taken to another square, she was hanged.
Q. Who was the last person to be burned at the stake?
A. Possibly Benjamin Deschauffours, in 1726. Under Louis XV, this fellow was held to be guilty of stealing crown property, but executed, for diplomatic reasons, on conviction of "the sin of sodomy" (from a history of gay culture, Gaibeur's site Fr.).
However, a sodomy trial page by Claude Courouve and Jacques Girard reports subsequent, similar deaths. The last, according to them, was that of Jacques François Paschal, in 1783.
Law Professor Jean-Paul Doucet would have us know that luckier victims of the flames were "secretly strangled" beforehand (Dictionnaire de Droit Criminel, R for "Retentum").
Trials for sorcery were outlawed in 1670, again under "Sun King" Louis XIV (several sources). The wolf in me is interested to learn that lycanthropy was, under the Inquisition, considered a sin punishable at the stake.
Q. When was the Chevalier de la Barre executed?
A. François-Jean Lefebvre, known as the Chevalier de la Barre, was put to death on July 1, 1766, aged 19, for failing to bow before a royal procession and singing bawdy ditties. Christian Adnin, at the Chambre Noire, relates that he was accused, without proof, of mutilating a crucifix.
The fortunate fellow (also written up by Voltaire) was tortured during trial and sentenced to have his right hand cut off and his tongue pulled out. Then he was to be burned alive.
In a gesture of "clemency", Adnin recounts, he was decapitated before his bits were put to the flames.
And that's it.
It should, however, be recalled, cher Monsieur, that I was a reference librarian in a previous incarnation, not this one, at the age of 17. It was but an apprenticeship...
Though you at last get another write-up, could we perhaps, next time, lighten up? Even brighten up?
Especially in front of the children.
As for Emma and her dad, they went to see 'Matrix Revolutions'. Our Christmas plans duly laid. While I left Sam and two of his favourite ladies playing dominoes by low lamplight, to cheery music, awaiting the sunset and food.
7:38:47 PM link