What has it been a long time since I have received a letter of yours; after a sad and exhausting illness, about five months ago, I had sent you a long epistle to Paris, that, to all appearance, has not reached you, for I have learnt shortly after that you have not been anylonger in the big city when my letter arrived there. Since then I could have been in doubt abbout your existence, if the goddess of the hundred voices had not, in publishing the seize of Toulon and the heroic deeds of our French Republicans, had not taught me at the same time how much you, by your example, have contributed to stirr the activity of our soldiers. After that memorable epoch you followed your military path and you went through it so far that I who had for a long time only the vastness of a bedroom, believed you at the end of the world. Now that you have returned to the banks of the Seine, I would like you to spent, if only the quarter of an hour, some time to converse with me, and to give me some signs of your moral and physical existence. I am much sorry that I have not come to Paris some days later, I would have had the sweet satisfaction to embrace you there, but I am lucky in nothing and the only thing that is given to me is to enjoy the happiness of my equals with whom I can identify myself easily. Charlotte Robespierre had promised me to give me a note as soon as you return to the capital. Since I have received no letter of hers on that subject, nor another letter of which she should have pointed out the reception, I figured out (as several persons have assured me) that you would come to Arras and that this was the reason for your sister’s silence. If it was possible that my hopes would be realised, I summon you, in the name of friendship, to take up lodgings at Régis’. You will remember that, in one of your previous letters, you invited me very cordially to preserve you my friendship: it is granted you for a long time, my dear Bonbon, but I inform you that you will only keep it to the conditions I just imposed on you. But if I would be deceived in such a sweet expectation, I will try to comfort myself in thinking that the true friends of the Patrie need to sacrifice her even the most affectionate sentiments of nature. If it is not possible for you to come and see your friends, tell me for how long you think you’ll stay in Paris. I will talk to you about a matter that concerns me as much as my coheirs and which is still in the office of our District. I have left a memoir for you with the citizeness Charlotte.
If you should see Isabelle Canone before I write to her, tell her that she will receive my letter in a short while. I have to be very occupied indeed for I have not found the moment to answer her last two letters. This would be the place to tell you about my journey to Paris if I wasn’t sure that one has taken care to teach you about it and that a citizeness, who on herself is more worth than a committee, had added to that a half-caustically jesting comment. However the case may be, I haven given to the citizeness Canone a great proof of devotion, and one of that kind, I dare say, that none of her friends would have been inclined to do given the circumstances in which she found herself. Nevertheless I had the grief to see that of all persons who had knowledge of my proceeding she was the one to have felt it the least. This undeniable indifference will not hinder me to be useful to her and to serve her with the same zeal on every occasion, for it is in my heart to oblige the unfortunates under the purview of my power. In the manner she announced me that she intends to return to Arras I believe it does not occur to her to give her friends a deliberative vote even in matters where they would have the right to give their opinion and where their counsil could be useful to her.
Augustin "Bonbon" Robespierre
What will I charge you with saying to Maximilien? Will I beg you to recall me to his remembrance? And where will you find the private man? Entirely belonging to the Patrie and the great interests of the entire humankind, Robespierre has ceased to exist for his friends. The human species that has been enslaved by the caste of tyrants has infinite obligations towards men of this kind, but the sensitive man, the disciple of Fénélon and of Jean-Jacques, feels that the earth would be for him a solitude if it had as inhabitants only men of this character.
Let’s pass onto less serious matters. All the friends are well. The honest Buissart, prophet of the Revolution, who, counting on the infallibility of his political barometers (since he has barometers of all kinds), wants to have always forseen the most important events six months beforehand, who, by his wisdom and his physico-political sagacity has anounced for two months the decline of the city of Arras, which, according to him, the revolutionary government, similar to boiling lava, will transform into a desert covered with ashes; well, the brave Buissart is still alive; he awaits with resignation that it will please the legislative power, wich means, his wife, to return honoring him with her presence. He hopes that, after she has given to the Committe of Public Safety every instruction to which her deep knowledge in politics grant their justness, she will come home to her Penates and take up the reins of domestic government and win back the occupations that the author of nature has particularly assigned to women. The doctor of Montpellier is rather well for a 70 year old, he will keep his boisterous vivacity until the last hour. Your relative Duruts [Du Rut] and his family enjoy good health. I believe that it is the same with your uncle Carault [Carraut] and his children. One of your cousins was about to marry one month ago. Everything was settled, the day fixed, the brothers informed, when suddenly an unfavourable wind arose, the beloved sweetheart saw his esperances being engulfed in the fierce sea of women. Ah! It is such a terrible thing, my dear Bonbon, that this Shetonien is the devil to pay. The eldest of the Carault is amiable and of an excellent character. I was sometimes tempted to line me up, but this frightening Tonien has always disconcerted me.
To leave this important topic to say a word to you about our victories, a happy transition. The successes of our armies would be marvelous indeed if we could just forget for one instance the difference between the slave who battles for his master and the citizen who fights for freedom. Although my heart widens at the news of each of our victories, I admit that I am not without slight worrying when I think of the way in which the Belgians treated the French after the withdrawal of this infamous Dumouriez. In my opinion, we would do good if we treat them as ennemies while observing the regards they have ground to expect from our generosity and wait with treating them as brothers until we knoew their true feelings. Besides, the observations to which a Régis Deshorties is capable have surely not escaped the pervasive eye of the Committee. Its activity and its foresight make themself noticeable in every part of the Republic. Embrace for me Charlotte Robespierre and her friends and receive the tender regards of you devoted fellow citizen and heartfelt friend.
The letter may have been one of the last letters Augustin Robespierre received. Its sender, François-Régis Deshorties, was his cousin, the step-son of his aunt Eulalie Robespierre-Deshorties. I don’t know much about him, he may have been born in 1759, and was an administrator of the Pas-de-Calais during the Republic (a successor of Lebas’). As his letter shows, he was before all a sensitive and lively friend of the Robespierres, an ironic and witty contemporary, and, as his sorrowful account suggests, a quite unlucky lover. As to the persons he mentions in his letter, I don’t know anything about Isabelle Canone (nor does Mathiez, who first published the letter). “Buissart” is Antoine-Joseph Buissart (1737-1820), a former colleague and close friend of the Robespierres, and his wife Charlotte Billion, who had been in Paris to make a complaint on Le Bon. The “doctor of Montpellier” seems to be Gabriel-François Du Rut, widower of another Robespierre aunt and a medicin. Obviously, there was more family on his side, but I don’t know anything about them. The uncle Carraut refers to the Robespierres’ uncle on their mother’s side, Augustin-Isidore Carraut (1737-1815). Artari suggests that “Tonien” is a ch’ti nickname for “Augustin”; “Shetonien” would then mean “cet Augustin” in the Northern France dialect. As to his descendance, I have only found one surviving daughter, Sabine-Joseph-Fraude, born in 1771, who was his youngest, and not eldest daughter.