Thibaudeau on the revival of culture (1795)


Antoine Thibaudeau was a moderate deputy in the Convention and an important figure in the Thermidorian reaction. Here he describes the revival of culture in Paris in 1795:


“Families and individuals whom the Terror had isolated began to meet again; social links were re-established. Dinners, balls and concerts were given. Since the possession of wealth was no longer a crime, luxury began to reappear little by little, not in its monarchical profusion but enough to obtain the necessities and pleasures of life. Instead of magnificence and pomp, we had neatness and elegance.

Entertainment then was a pleasure and not a duty. It was undertaken by those who could afford to pay for it, such as bankers, merchants and businessmen. The salons of noble families who had not emigrated were also open, beside those of the new people. For them, it was the pleasure of spending, for the others, the need for sociability, so powerful in France and especially in Paris.

One hoped to find patrons for his business ventures, another to recover his confiscated fortune or to obtain the striking off of his relatives or friends from the emigre lists. All wanted to win that importance gained in the world by contact with powerful or talented and distinguished people.

Paris again commanded the world of fashion and taste… This period saw the completion of that revolution in matters of private life which had begun as long ago as 1789. Classical antiquity, already introduced into the arts by the school of David, now spread its influence over women’s dress, in the hair styles of both sexes; the gothic, the feudal, and those bastard and eccentric designs invented by the slavery of courts came to dominate in regard to furnishings.”