(Lo-tech website, text based and intended to bring to mind, by association, the graphic bleakness of Pasolini’s The Gospel According to Matthew)
Date: April 2013 – March 2014.
www.theasif.info: FEATURING: Introductory TEXT for INVISIBLE CELLS AND VANISHING MASSES –PHILOSOPHY FOR THE CRIMINALLY INSANE POST-NIETZSCHE- available KINDLE BOOKS from May 2013. This is to be published on Kindle alongside a SECOND EDITION of ART AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE (first published Harvester Press, 1978).
Also featured, and retained by lack of public demand, the text of TAKING THE PISS, THE CONFESSIONS OF MADAME ROUSSEAU (Scroll to locate)
Rumpledsilkskin’s present sojourn in philosophy, which was a return to philosophy, has come to a conclusion. For the next year Rumpledsilkskin will concentrate on making what he calls analogues/icons, the main subject matter of which will concern the paintings of Alf Dubbo. These paintings are fictions and feature in Patrick White’s RIDERS IN THE CHARIOT. As a consequence theasif.info will exist in stasis, with the exception of notification about Kindle editions of BEYOND ART, ROGER TAYLOR’S LOVE POEMS FOR MARLY and THE UN-HOLY BIBLE ACCORDING TO RUMPLEDSILKSKIN, when ready.
Rumpledsilkskin has little respect for blurbs or summaries. INVISIBLE CELLS AND VANISHING MASSES is a difficult 250,000 word text. Its individual cells have the conceit of being prison sentences during which the prisoner battles with concepts of confinement and escape. A sense of the clamour of these battles is all Rumpledsilkskin feels able to offer as introduction to the whole. Rumpledsilkskin writes,
Part of my subject matter is to give serious treatment to the notion of “getting out of it”, another part concerns who is to get out. The inevitabilities of the poor are the factum, the starting point. What does Bear the surfboard-maker in Big Wednesday say as the surf heroes ride the unprecedented? “Oh! I’m just the garbage man.” Generally the poor are addressed to improve them, educate them, edify them, empower them, sensitise them, quiet them, control them. These are the stratagems for creating illusions of change. So it is argued, the rich are going to have to overcome hell of a hump to get into heaven, whereas queuing garbage men are the last made first. For this illusory privilege they are exhorted to love those who trespass against them. My work is firmly set in the notion of irreconcilable enemies. Being poor is to confront reality as problematic, something to defend oneself against, something to be escaped from. “Getting out of it” is defence and escape, and virtuality is one of the forms of “getting out of it”. Socially developed and controlled forms of virtuality are generally commodified, but commodified entertainment is bootlegged like booze and has its non-commodified forms like poteen and alpine eau de vie. And, of course the objects of art can be appropriated for any purpose whatsoever, just as art has appropriated the objects of not art as objects of art.
This philosophical journey begun a long time ago, whichever moment it was when it began, is now to be completed in these cells. There was no way for me to have envisaged this precise ending at the outset, despite a determination to arrive where I am. The destination is virtuality and class and underclass and escape. The possibilities of virtuality have multiplied since I started my kind of life. Those possibilities are part and parcel of the aspirations of self-consciousness and autonomy, and all these particles including the aspirations were all interwoven, even if unrecognised, in the embryonic vision. And so, my kind of life, my sentence, starts by revisiting and reflecting on various stopping points on the journey, as well as striking out across a vast territory still uncrossed. Following will not be easy, it will not be an instant thing, and the subject matter is irreducibly difficult. For escape none of this is necessary, but for the defence of escape it may well be, certainly nothing “out there” goes half far enough.
There is a collectiveness to vanishing, a shared conspiracy. This is a global, empirical scepticism. The alternative worlds that are turned to and created take both individual and collective forms. There is nothing solipsistic about mass disappearance. Moreover, vanishing is always double-edged. Spasmodically the masses reappear. Suddenly they are in the streets pointing. The excesses of the existing order do not go unnoticed. Or they reappear as heroes to fulfil their own fantasies. But the masses will never again sacrifice a generation or two for a future that never comes. The masses are playing the long game now. The masses are playing games.
And the clamour includes this digressive prolegomenon
The Norwegian would not be a problem if he kept the world he inhabits to himself, just as his private fantasy.
His actual behaviour is unintelligible if thought embedded in wholesome Scandinavian society. Instead, there, like everywhere, is as tight as an asthmatic seizure. Screaming Nordic noir! Pus-filled globules are expelled from the congested mass as the social body struggles for its breath. It is asked “Why?” That is why, no longer inexplicable horror.
Murdering someone is thought clearly wrong but imagining murdering someone is less clear-cut. We might then say the Norwegian could imagine whatever he liked. This is close to the foundation of the argument in INVISIBLE CELLS AND THE VANISHING MASSES (ICVM). But nothing is clear-cut. In Elizabethan political culture (Elizabeth I) treason laws forbade any subject to “compass” (imagine) the death of a monarch. Today militant Islam is just as eager to repress deviant daydreams. How though do you police these prescriptions? Not by means of any regard for the truth. Instead truth gives way to suspicion and policing suspicion requires a reign of terror, in which case imagining is left intangible, the threat to it accidental.
The Australian Outback is a harsh place, and how did the aborigine cope there? By means of great material ingenuity but also by means of dreamtime. Walkabout is inhabiting a fantasy landscape formed out of stories about the old woman and the old fella. There is an element of religious belief about this but it is more comic than zealous, more fall-about than solemn. Unless seduced by bourgeois élitism Abos repudiate high seriousness. Dreamtime is for having a good time. It allows you to eat your babies when you’re starving.
Communism is the utilitarian solution to perennial exploitation of the masses. It was once popular aspiration, now it sounds like “smoking is good for you”. ICVM will demonstrate the rationality of communism and will expose the repression of this truth. However, although communism’s moment could come again, its use in ICVM is as an exemplar or measure, rather like the kingdom of heaven is used to measure earthly reality, or like Rousseau’s general will measures existing power relations. Moreover, one reading of communism’s end-game is of virtual existence in a virtual universe, and what ICVM argues is not only is a strand of this always possible but now its possibility is extensive, yet it only exists by proxy in the form of mutant virtuality, which is virtual escape nonetheless but, therefore, dismissible by the media as criminal insanity. Maybe this is where everything is stuck for a virtual eternity.
If you think that working hard, rolling up your sleeves and doing the right thing is sick, if you think that all of morality and all of politics is sick, if you think all religion is sick, if you think the pursuit of knowledge and progress and economic growth is sick, if you think all of these are diseases of private property, and if you think virtual existence for its own sake is freedom or escape, then you must be criminal and insane. Musn’t you? This is not the prerogative of a starry few, as Nietzsche thought, but the mass nebulae of the celestial herd. This criminality and insanity is the commonsense repudiation of received sense, and things are so fixed that what repudiates received sense is axiomatically criminal and insane. These then are the norms and whatever challenges them. Hegemony creates this criminal insanity.
People are leaving the social space but media society does its utmost to prevent this. Every pretext is used. The economic crisis is used to preach the doctrine of all being in it together. The Olympics presents an idea of the world coming together. Every trick is used to secure a global, secure, benign community of consumers. Awaiting the aftermath of global bonding in the stadia is a giant landscape of corporate selling.
In opposition to received sense what we have is a dialectical materialist treatment of virtuality, and this generates both a critique of morality, politics, culture, religion, global capitalism, science, philosophical logic, theory of mind, celebrity, as well as a defence of the unnoticed, anonymity and dreamtime.
What is completely wrong with professional psychiatry’s analysis of mass killers, apart from the spurious idea that it is the first port of call in order to achieve understanding, is that it supposes everything is revealed by the set of lonely, angry fantasists. How imprecise is this? It is from this set also that critical theory emanates. “All the lonely people where do they all come from?” The antidote to conformist socialisation is what inflates the set beyond any of the uses of psychiatric explanation. As though the distinction between fantasy and reality is self-evident. Was monetarism fantasy or reality? Was Thatcher essentially lonely? Certainly she was angry. Oh, but she was a mass killer too! So the theory is correct then! But something has gone wrong. “Of course it has, don’t you know that everything is measured by received sense?” Well yes everything is but as every madman complains “You measure with electro-convulsive shock and how long is an electro-convulsive shock? Oh yes! However long you say it is.”
The vanishing masses and their invisible cells now have a startling analogue or image. The Dutch artscientist, Jailia Essaidi in collaboration with Dr Abdoel El Ghalbzouri are progressing a new material. Some are calling it Rumpled Silk Skin. Human skin and spider silk have been synthesised by way of first adding spider genes to the genome of goats, then separating from goat’s milk its resulting silky content, and then spinning and weaving this content into a material on which human cells are grown. Why should you do this? Jailia was inspired by a tale about Genghis Khan’s horsemen riding into battle wearing silk vests as armour against enemy arrows. Jailia tried firing bullets at her Rumpled Silk Skin to find that although at full speed the bullets penetrated at reduced speed they did not. She said, moving the idea even further, “…why bother with a vest: imagine replacing keratin, the protein responsible for the toughness of human skin, with this spider silk protein.”
The idea of Rumpledsilkskin (this web-sites avatar and co-author of the forthcoming ICVM) predates this armour of mass defence by some 40 years. Both ideas point to protection from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortunes!
Marlyannova (Rumpledsilkskin’s web-girl)
The philosophy of virtuality: a virtual allotment for the cultivation of virtual escape.
The Website of the Philosopher Rumpledsilkskin.
Now and then truth (contingent truth): - no allocation of infertile space happens except within the medium of the commodity and all resistance to and escape from the commodity is contained within this medium.
Digging: all theory and argument will be at least double dug, meaning there will be no substitute for hard-graft, heart-stimulation, and sound-beds in an old English style. Means of production will be spade striking the old rocks of logic, objectivity and truth value and barrowing off-site, all post-modernist, polystyrene packaging.
Weeding: meticulous hoeing, burrowing out, poisoning, flame gunning of civilised cultivations in their theoretical forms - dialectical and apocalyptic weeding! Rank and gross, tap and fibrous rooted, weed-binding possessors of nature, include: - Morality, Politics, Culture, Religion, Free- Market Apologia, State, Law, Education, Family. (Marx identified these weeds but was an inconsistent or lazy weeder.)
Fertilising: scattering images and fictions in the spirit of virtuality, dressing virtual soil in readiness for main-crop seemings.
Planting: intercropping, and irregular planting throughout four seasons, free from global warming but contributing to same.
Perennial Harvesting: Materialist Virtuality, As Ifness, Modernism (hybrid), Invisible Cells, Optical Density, Simulacra, Subterraneans, Indeterminism, Rational Schizophrenia, the Unnoticed. (Irregular allotment visitors take home emptier baskets, but emptier baskets are easier to carry. You pays no money and takes your choice.)
Composting: “Art an Enemy of the People”, “Beyond Art”, “Invisible Cells”, “Mme Rousseau”, Historical Materialism, Fact/Value distinction, Ideological and Commodity theories of Art. Sartre. Marx. Unamuno. Richard Jefferies. Jean Seberg. Genet. Patrick White. David Mercer. Viviane Forrester. Michael Heim. (A virtual future’s past.)
Pest Control: Dialectical spraying: - determinism (evolutionary, neuro-physiological, philosophical, A.I. nonsense), non-dialectical conceptual analysis, sluggish Heideggerian and Post-Modernist abstraction. Plus days of reckoning, Rumpledsilkskin confronts his critics.
ON THE VIRTUAL ALLOTMENT:-
Taking the Piss, the Confessions of Madame Rousseau is a play of the most original, exciting, chaotic, radical and disgusting imaginings. Not kitchen-sink, not moonshine, but tragic-historical. Putrefying aristocracy and a blood-bath at the French Revolution! The time of Mme R, née Thérèse Levasseur! The play, a belated invitation to join Thérèse at Place de la Revolution for a headless party, but, also, an invitation to celebrate and honour Thérèse (before this never celebrated apart from a remote mountain in Alaska being named Mount Levasseur, only because of its proximity to Rousseau Peak). Thérèse Levasseur on Wikipedia merits less than twenty lines. Generous compared to her usual neglect. Wikipedia says,“She was a barely literate seamstress who may have borne him” (Jean Jacques Rousseau) “as many as five children, all of whom were given away to Enfants Trouves foundling home...They met in March 1745, at the hotel where he was staying, and she was employed as a chambermaid, and although they never married, she remained his companion until his death. They went through a legally invalid marriage ceremony at Bourgoin on August 29, 1768. Therese provided Rousseau with support and care, and when he died, she became the sole heiress of his belongings, including manuscripts and royalties. After Rousseau’s death in 1778, she married valet Jean-Henri Bally in November 1779. They live together in Le Plessis-Belleville until her death in 1801.”
The Confessions of Madame Rousseau tells much more. It dares to imagines how Thérèse’s fury and vengeance drives her to demand and exact from her “Jean Jacques” a theory of the sovereign people determined by the tyranny of the suppressed majority –dictatorship of the proletariat-. Goaded, Rousseau risks all. He writes The Social Contract (it becomes the little red book of the French Revolution). Thérèse’s endless, shrewish assaults sweep Rousseau far from his benign, socially acceptable Romanticism and media-reputation. For his creative pains he is reduced to a cringing, persecuted, paranoid pariah (Europe’s anti-Christ). And then the play imagines, as was rumoured, that Thérèse murders Rousseau, with a chamber-pot; ironically the symbol of all his frustrations. Later, fêted but incensed, Thérèse, in Paris, joins the pandemonium of poissardes and sansculottes applauding the retribution of the guillotine. But as testimony to the dialectic, the play remembers Thérèse’s love of Jean Jacques: a love that sees through his upper-class pretensions and Enlightenment celebrity. Thérèse identifies with and revels in Jean Jacques, the one time servant, who had the courage to pee in his master’s soup and then serve it to him. The camaraderie of servants!
The play is pantomime, commedia dell arte. It is intended as vulgar entertainment and contains scenes of peeing, hand-jobs, sado-masochism, fucking, murder and decapitation, all in the most light-hearted of tastes and simulations. It is not bourgeois drama. It desecrates the philosophically illiterate notion of bringing precious, subjective individuality alive on stage in the pretence that it will represent universals. It repudiates the development of character, but extols the development of the masses, a concrete universal. Taking the Piss The Confessions of Madame Rousseau is also as sad as Punch and Judy, or even Sweeney Todd, Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
theasif.info continues to publicise the adventures of Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov. The adventure, “Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov Meets Iosif Vissarianovich Dzhugashvili On Great Blasket Island” cements its moment of revisionism and daringly! ventures into a world of wanking and tractor drivers. It appears now not on this the plot page but at www.invisiblecells.wordpress.com, and appears there as a blog with a charming pictorial accompaniment. This is a change initiated by Marlyannova in an attempt to spread the words far and wide. The long promised Beijing adventure may go on-line sometime, but Vladimir Ilich is still actively seeking a wedding-guest and poetic inspiration.
A scan on essays from theasif.info erupted in Issue 28 of Mute, under the title “Art is Like Cancer”. A full-length version of this text was available online at Metamute. The erupted material then spread to www.tlaxcala.es and www.rebelion.org (for Spanish readers).
Very well rotted compost for these essays is available in Portuguese bags from the Brazilian publisher Conrad. The bags are labelled “Arte Inimiga Do Povo”, and are presented as a virtual defacement of the Guggenheim in New York. Still selling in S.America.
WHERE FLOWERS GROW: - Invisible Cells, a parallel allotment where an attempt is made to grow the same philosophical argument as here, only there as a work of fiction. Check it out. Follow the links at the end of each section*. INVISIBLE CELLS is an assault on the dominance of Marduk over the chaos of Tiamat, where ancient and modern ruins span the history of the Euphrates. To scan the content of INVISIBLE CELLS follow these links:- *
(Blackout. Lights. Alternating forget-me-not blue and primrose-yellow suffusing a bare space, apart from a central monolith, on which the light intensifies. This monolith changes colour throughout to reflect the mood and mostly stands for the guillotine, subject to directorial improvisations/visualisations. Centre stage Young Thérèse, minimally dressed as pastoral shepherdess, mimes to Gabriela Bürgler’s recording in French of the rage aria “Si des gallants de la ville” -from Rousseau’s Le Devin du Village and repeated, 1minute 48 seconds-. Scaramouche, like a coy stripper, sidles into view from behind the monolith. Instead of frou-frou feathers he conceals himself with a placard bearing the words in English of the aria being sung. He points to the words as they are sung, in pantomime fashion.
“If I had listened to the discourses
Of the fine gentlemen from town
Ah, then I’d easily have formed
Other loving relations!
As a fine lady,
I’d shine everyday;
With ribbons and lace
I’d enhance my natural grace.
For a faithless man’s love
I’ve ruined my happiness.
I preferred to be less beautiful
And to save my heart for him.”
As the aria ends Scaramouche comes out from behind the placard to reveal himself. He is dressed as Harlequin with a long-nosed mask, ginger, stalk-like hair, and a very over stuffed codpiece. At this revelation Young Thérèse, angry and abashed, flees the stage.)
SCARAMOUCHE. Anyone would think I was exposing myself (looking to where Young Thérèse exited and reaching for his codpiece rap-style) but quite the contrary, as you can see I’m masked. Hello then! You sunny tops, you frosty tops, you chocolate tops, you blackberry tops, you carrot tops and, not forgetting, the onion tops (confiding, friendly, and standing very proudly out front). Some girls are fantastic they stretch like black elastic! (Pauses, looking round.) Who am I you may ask? Sometimes I ask the same question of myself and sometimes I answer, Scaramouche, the Red, very, very frightening! At other times I say “no I’m not, I’m an actor, and my name is James Leblanche Stewart[ii]! Probably a Tory.” (Pause.) That’s a little joke, but it leads you no nearer the truth. Incidentally, my joke is a lot like most of the jokes in this play. No one gets them, apart from the odd lunatic, and deadhead! So they’re more of a quiz really. Like QI? And I’m your Stephen Fry? Not that I’m here to make a name for myself, I’m just here to help and to add colourful language. I’m on your side, one of you, I will come and sit with you all, and if you get bored you can fondle me, for the price of a haircut. Not cheap then! But not as dear as your seat would be if Stephen was our SCARAMOUCHE. Mind you a bi-polar SCARAMOUCHE would be very near the truth of our play. Later on I will ask if anyone can answer my quiz question... not difficult after our play becomes infamous, but whoever volunteers to help me will get a top prize! Oh! And by the way, any odd idiots who want to out themselves will be more than welcome.
So if I am more than a character in search of an author, if I am Scaramouche, if my part is written, why is that (appealing to audience speculation)? I will explain. One character in our play created the theory of DEMOCRACY. No, you have to say “democracy in the modern form”, that’s what he created, which I visualise as a sea of lovely orange flags. Now don’t fall asleep, as they say in the ads for hair shampoo, because democracy is what we are all asked by our governments to sacrifice our children for, if needs be, unless our government happens to be Taliban, whereupon the sacrifice of children is not a difference, although democracy is. Of course once upon a time all governments were the Taliban, so you can see what trouble our character might have got into. Our character also created pretty operas and he was pretty democratic about that too. At the time French opera was very formal, very Glyndebourne, but our character favoured new Italian forms. You know, unwashed peasants, gut-feelings, rancid salami, rustic Chianti, wild, wild in the country, that sort of thing. OPERA BUFFA[iii]. LOW LIFE. COMMEDIA DELL’ ARTE. All music to my down below. (Then suddenly.) And firstly that’s where Scaramouche comes in. The red braggart but yellow coward, straight from Commedia dell’Arte. Although, did you see me in the film[iv], my finest moment. When I stripped off, don’t get excited, only my mask dear, I was no longer Scaramouche, I was a Zorro, a swordsman, and I won the greatest sword fight in the history of cinema. (Clutches the codpiece, and then shadow- fencing, circles the space driving his foe back to the monolith, where magnanimously he spares whoever it might be and throws away the imaginary sword toward the audience. Then charges forward.) Oh I am sorry! Is anyone hurt? (But sardonically and turning away.) Theatre-going unlike motor racing is not supposed to be a dangerous activity! (Pause.) And secondly, that peasant pinko at the start, who was overwhelmed by my proportions, was Colette, a character in our character’s opera. “The Village Oracle”. [v] And just as I am based on our character’s love affair with a Neapolitan Punch and Judy show, so Colette is based on our character’s .........THÉRÉSE. She is the subject of our play. And her song? Phew! It is a rage aria like Beyoncé’s “Put a Ring on It”!
(Looks to the wings.) The director’s signalling (mimes with his hands the movement of the guillotine). Cheeky plum! They all say backstage I’m too verbose, and that I too much like hearing the sound of my own voice. But I’m chatty, gregarious, sanguine. And how can you have an autistic Scaramouche? It is a contradiction in terms. A shrinking violet wouldn’t be any help to you would it? Ok, Ok (to the wings, then accelerates.) I’ve tied up all the loose ends for now, you’re probably all in knots, but before you get too uncomfortable we head on. I will disappear and then reappear, only next time with my professional, hyperbolic voice, trés Scaramouche. So you just sit there. You don’t have to do anything. (Pause.) Yet! (Threatening.)
Revolutionary France: Paris 1790s: more than a decade since the death of Jean Jacques Rousseau - political philosopher, moralist, essayist, novelist, composer, naturalist, copyist, secretary, servant, cashier, walker, idler, womaniser, masturbator, citizen of Geneva, educationalist, absent father, exhibitionist, masochist, hermit, peasant-lover, noble-ass-licker, reluctant revolutionary, romantic, drop-out, victim of murder ? (Scaramouche exits to audience. Blackout.) )
(Spot reveals OLD THÉRÈSE standing, in costume - as in the drawing of her in old age but with a large leaved hat turned back from the face with a tricolour cockade – at the front of the space. The main space dimly lit. At centre, high backed chair with arms: left, a plain table with a few stools, on the table two pistols and an assortment of bowls, cutlery, glasses and wine: at the back of the space, right, an unmade Tracey Emin bed but with chamber pot –polystyrene, papier mâché, NHS style?- underneath.)
SCARAMOUCHE. (From the auditorium) The street: no one about apart from old Thérèse Levasseur - calls herself Mme Rousseau: was companion to Jean Jacques for 33 depraved years -.
(THÉRÈSE squats, pulling up her skirt and lowering her drawers: she piddles. She talks to herself.)
OLD THÉRÈSE. That’s better (pulling up her drawers and
gesturing to the ground). Free as pigeons now
(reflecting on revolutionary rights). Waddling down our
roads.... Platriere.....Grenelle.....(reminiscing) a jingle of hard-earned pension in me purse, ta! publisher Rey, (shakes purse to confirm content) still a tingle of passion in me poke
(wolf whistles and touches herself) a cockade in me ’at,
crapping and pissing where I likes. Do dicky birds pee?
(Laughs.) He would know something fucking useless like that.
I flutter off to Palais Royal for a little dindins, before taking my
perch, my honoured perch mind you (with pride), like a vulture
(taking herself down a peg or two) in our new place
(French pronunciation) Place de la Revolution. A place for
citizens, poissardes and the taking of nobs! (Laughs and
(Moves forward and addresses the audience as though she has just noticed them. Peering out at them.)
He pissed like a leaking tap, old cock, ‘til I siphoned him.
(reminiscing)... And the tall stories he would tell... me
bending and threading bougies. “Zulietta in Venice” was a trusty
tale/tail... “The Origins of a Disequilibrium of Bilge Water” he called it...... (then to herself) that fucking harlot made a spurting bean sprout of you.... my once upon a time, for all my life...
(Lights centre stage: JEAN JACQUES ROUSSEAU, in his Armenian get up, sitting on high backed chair: YOUNG THÉRÈSE, in belted jeans and white t-shirt, bending over him, trying to attach a catheter - at that time resembling instruments of torture - beneath the folds of his garments: OLD THÉRÈSE looks on.)
JEAN JACQUES. Let me tell you again Thérèse, my Lieutenant
Criminel, (as though it was a pet name, which it was)
of Zulietta (JEAN JACQUES in his prime, effusive).
Gently! Gently! (Remonstrating at the introduction of the
catheter: moments of discomfort reoccur throughout the
narrative.) Oh! yes, a dazzling young woman.... coquettishly
dressed, nimble.... A brunette of twenty years.... (Delivery as
though he is used to addressing a larger audience, but
distracted by himself.) Her large, black, Oriental eyes darted
shafts of fire into my heart. I first met her on Olivet’s ship. Her
gondola drew up alongside and she came on board like a
whirlwind. She mistook me for one called Bremond.
ZULIETTA. (Runs on, ethnic style, nose rings, and circles
ROUSSEAU and the diligent THÉRÈSE, trailing a hand
across his shoulders: Italian accent.) My dear Bremond, oh!
Madonna, ‘ow long it is since I saw you. Bremond, you do still
love me, just a little, don’t you? (Pleading.)
(Walks forward to front stage, standing there with hands on hips, looking out: audience should admire her figure: OLD THÉRÈSE still looking on.)
(ZULIETTA runs to the table takes two pistols and springs towards ROUSSEAU: YOUNG THÉRÈSE taken aback drops the catheter, picks it up and retreats to the bed, perching.)
ZULIETTA. I knows what you prefer Bremond, I knows you. You’ll
find I knows you. On your knees! (Whispers, he obeys.)
ZULIETTA. Dare you?! Left or right? Don’t get confused, little hope
less man.... my left, my right. Which shall I fire? You tell me,
JEAN JACQUES. I kept my eyes tightly shut, my cheeks burning,
bright red. Perhaps five minutes passed, my state was such I
could tell the time no better than you Thérèse. I was very
excited, I did not know what I wished... this was my excitement.
I chose. “Left!” Zulietta had no hesitation, violently, with a
snarl, she pulled the trigger.... clunk.... nothing.... still alive!
(Lets out a cry of pain.) She span round and round, brandishing the pistol of her right hand above her head, and just as I settled into this new silence of resolution, she fired (pistol shot, very loud). Chunks of plaster fell from the ceiling. I stood, astonished, heart beating like a captive lark.
ZULIETTA. Now to make you drunk.
JEAN JACQUES. I was her willing slave. (The two actors mime in
the pauses between sentences.) She brought red wine and
two goblets. She untwined a rose-coloured bow from her lace
bodice and tied it, tight, around my engorged desire. She bound
me to the furniture with chains and locks. She read to me from
a disgusting book and showed me many disgraceful pictures.
She poured glass after glass down my awash gullet. The wine
was plummy red, staining my chin, splashing the fine linen of my
shirt front, and in those days I had no help for my laundry. When I started to complain... of needing to make
water, she tightened the knot and left me. I would have peed
straight onto the floor had I been able, instead my bladder
inflated. When she returned - hours later? (lights dim) – she
had me promising her anything! She released my chains, took
me to her bedroom (they move to the bed, YOUNG THÉRÈSE
slides off it and moves to the guillotine/monolith, resting herself against it, fidgeting with the catheter as though it was knitting) and faced me to a chamber-pot, quarter full and
smelly. She untied the bow, stood behind me, bringing feather-
like hands around my thighs, fanning me. I gushed, a ruby piss,
endlessly, brimming the pot. These attentions aroused me.
When I came, it resembled garrotting. Gobbets of semen and
blood dripped from me (sinks to the bed, sitting, ZULIETTA
moves to left stage, hands on hips again, looking off,
YOUNG THÉRÈSE returns to him, putting an arm around
him). I fainted, collapsing into a cold, vomiting heap.
Regaining consciousness there she was above and astride me,
even more dishabille than before. I looked up at her and noticed
she had only one nipple! (Spot, ZULIETTA exposes a
deformed breast.) She smiled at the horror on my face.
Thérèse, look at the horror on my face! Oh! thank you Thérèse
(said as though some perversion had taken place
between them, she shows him her breasts, fulsome, wholesome).
ZULIETTA. (Spins round, accusatory, pointing at ROUSSEAU.)
Females are disorder. Symmetry is for those who seek order.
Go and study mathematics and natural philosophy. Give up the
monstrous. (Storms off stage like a Scythian warrior. Blackout. Spot follows SCARAMOUCHE from audience to front stage. He squats.)
SCARAMOUCHE. (In camp gossip mode.) Did you see the way our Thérèse, Thérèse Levasseur, touched herself. I must have picked it up from her in rehearsals. (Claps in front the codpiece.) Do you like Venice? Used just to stink; now it sinks and stinks with Saga-louts. Not like it used to be in the days of Casanova and Byron and grand whores. Mind, mind, I wouldn’t have liked that cock-breaker, that Zulietta. I wouldn’t have taken my barge pole into her burnished gondola. Our character, Jean Jacques, was beavered by her for life. And he was just starting out when he was in Venice. He’d secured himself a position as secretary to the French Ambassador. Sort of on the up, after a vagrant youth. At sixteen, like his brother before him, he’d run away from his home in Geneva. Then poor lad, crossing the Alps, he was robbed. Homeless in Turin, he was taken in by a Catholic hospice, where the price of bed and board was to trade his Protestant faith and convert. His confirmation was handled by a spurting gay person, whom in his innocence Jean Jacques thought was an epileptic and not one of the gaiety. After that things improved! He became the toy boy of a sex-starved matron, the Madame de Warens! Which is an anagram for raw needs! Where do I get all this stuff from? (Pause.) Wikipedia!
However, in the next bit we are going to frighten you. We will threaten to show you what the mob once loved to watch: the red and the black. In these politically correct times, no one, not even clients of snuff movies, would admit in public to such a scarlet love. (Scaramouche stands. He does not gossip, he announces.)
For your eyes we bring you the smell of the Terror. All revolutions have this smell. It is the reek of the world, not evolving, but being changed. Pointedly! (Said knowingly.) Jean Jacques Rousseau’s body has been cold a long time, but the body politic has brought it in triumph from its quiet repose amidst the greenery at Ermenonville to the pandemonium of the Pantheon in Paris. In the streets of Paris lightning strikes the same place again and again, and a radiant guillotine sparks, playing god. Thérèse Levasseur, looking like Madame Défarge, is there to witness. She is addressed as Madame Rousseau, and wrestles with her 15 seconds of celebrity. The masses have taken off their ragged trousers and sing of the Palaise Royal, which they have looted and made into a friend of the people, full of bars and brothels and gambling houses. Politicians and terrorists addicted to the public space stalk this circus looking for someone to notice them. So in the battle for hearts and minds one, Jean Paul Marat, comes down from his high-placed seat in the Senate, known as the Mountain, to see if he can raise a laugh. He has friends, maybe the people, certainly Danton and Robespierre. He has enemies, the Girondists, delicate republicans, Whites not Reds, Quakers not Ranters, who would not make a revolution by breaking a king’s neck. One of their supporters, incensed, deranged, has travelled all by herself from Normandy. It is her first time in Paris. She has bought a kitchen knife. She intends to kill Marat, and her name, remembered alongside his, is Charlotte Corday.
(SCARAMOUCHE exits to audience. Guillotine/monolith lit as for action: electronic hum repeats: fades: sound track, outdoor acoustic, crowd noise - like football crowd - plus horses, drum rolls, fades in and out intermittently throughout the scene. Lights. OLD THÉRÈSE on chair, CITIZENS 1 and 2 beside her, wearing long shirts, no trousers, all looking to the guillotine, similarly the rest of the cast around the table: ensemble singing- “Le Palaise-Royal”. Attachment.)
CITIZEN 1. Hark my birds[vi] Madame..... Madame Rousseau are you
not, if I’ve not dropped my bacon[vii], Dame Guillotine will be the
end of rough justice. What do we want? (to the audience)
What do we want? Rough Justice!.... Barking glacier[viii] if you’ll
pardon my bum[ix] Madame!
GROUP AT TABLE. (A chorus of separate expletives) “Justine.”
De Sade’s “Justine”! Knitting needles! Watercress and gin!
Trousers! Off with their trousers!
CITIZEN 1. Ask them to stink[x] and what do you expect Madame.
Sans Culottes! But put a ding and dong [xi]on stage for a last act, if you get my royal clanger, and they’ll strut about as though they’re balls in deep-fry[xii], rich nutters[xiii] loosen your guts. Just string ‘em up from a lantern. That’s what we did to Baker François, for sitting on his ’ead[xiv]. Then we hauled him down and, paring your peelings[xv], we cut it off, neat as butchers, put it on a pike-staff and paraded it on Pont Royal. Pontific! I’d say.
CITIZEN 2. And how about you Madame? Did I hear my friend here
say Madame Rousseau? (With deference and
lasciviousness.) Have you pontifuckated?
OLD THÉRÈSE. We poissardes ponced about Versailles, Citizen. I was
there for that. Broad daylight and she was still abed. You
should have seen the look on a rich face. Marie Antoinette, a
slab of Viennese pastry, and fifty Parisian strumpets rampaging
the royal bedchamber....tugging on gowns and wigs, braying all
the names of the pig-sty. She snorts out of bed like a fast fart,
in a shift and petticoat, and, for some notion of hers, with
stockings in her hand (laughs) and scampers off down the
corridors of Versailles, poissardes, with fish knives out, in
pursuit. I couldn’t keep up, not enough puff you understand,
being a pensioner (with some pride).
(A stirring in the crowd, some clapping, shouts of “Marat”, “poxy Marat”, “friend of the people”. MARAT, strikingly ragged, moves from the table, where he has been sitting as one of the crowd, to stand in front the guillotine, holding a book. The crowd follows.)
CITIZEN 2. Your hubby’s for it now. In Marat’s hands. I wouldn’t like
to be that ragged book in those scaly claws[xvi]. Look Madame,
today he’s even losing leaves of skin from the visage. Sit on my
lap if you want a better pew. (Offers to sit beneath her in
the chair, she agrees.)
CITIZEN 1. Prey (emphasis for meaning)! Silence! For a maternal
rat[xvii] (to the crowd). Must make you proud though Madame
MARAT. Friends, Parisians and Citizens I know what you want. What
do you want? (Rabble rousing, but sounds reasonable, like Peter Mandelson.)
THE CROWD. Heads!
MARAT. What do you want?
THE CROWD. Heads!
MARAT. Well that’s what we’re goin’ to give ya..... And tails! And
tails! You old dames! What are they? Wicked! I passed three
tumbrels on my way to see you all. So be patient and we’ll give
you heads and tails. But first citizens let’s be just a shade
serious, just a whisker. The new Bible. Don’t forget the new
Bible. I’m holding it in my hand. The Bible of the Revolution
(raising his voice). THE DIVINE ROUSSEAU! THE DIVINE
THE CROWD. Rousseau! Rousseau! Rousseau! (mechanical chant)
MARAT. Yes, the divine Rousseau. The “Social Contract”, the new
bible, a new deal, fairness and a nice change. What’s it about? It’s about the Supreme Being. No, not God! No, not the King! No, not the Austrian patisserie! (some laughter from the crowd). No not Charlotte Corday (more laughter from the crowd and then MARAT in a sort of whisper)...... Are you here Charlotte? Somewhere in the crowd? I said are you here Charlotte?
CHARLOTTE CORDAY (from the crowd, stands on the table). I’m
here, Marat, waiting passionately for your back to turn. Let everyone see my blade. (Shouted loudly, brandishing a kitchen knife.) What do you see in this man? He is a dwarf. A monster with a misshapen body. He is covered with sores. He wears filthy clothes. Look at his bare legs thrust into broken boots and the dirty rags around his brow. Perhaps all men are thus. Never will you have to put Madame on my letters. Never will I renounce my precious liberty, my independence. And when Marat, the vilest of scoundrels, whose name is the name of countless crimes, when he falls under the avenging knife, the Mountain will tremble. Danton and Robespierre will pale, and all other brigands seated on their bloody thrones will shiver before the thunder that the gods, avengers of humanity, only suspend, in order to make their final downfall more awful.
(Disturbance in the crowd, some laughter.)
MARAT. That’s man’s talk. Poor noble Charlotte! Citizens she’s much
too romantic for Girondin reform. I invite her to my bath-tub.
You can rub my back and I’ll show you a radical constitution. But be careful virtuous Charlotte. We will spin you. Spin you as a debauchee, a mistress of priests and royalists, whose mouth is full with obscenities. Look is she already 4 months with child? I think she blushes! I think she’s smeared.
(Dutiful crowd amusement.)
CITIZEN 1. Would that radical constitution be a body politic or a
psoriatic body, Madame Rousseau, would you suppurate[xviii]?
OLD THÉRÈSE. You’re too wordy for me Monsieur. Living with a
wordsmith you learn to appreciate the spaces between words.
MARAT. Come now, calm down. Today we are blessed with the
presence of Madame Rousseau. (General applause.) She was
there at the birth of Supreme Being.
OLD THÉRÈSE (talking to herself). And many imperfect beings, if
anyone cares to listen.
MARAT (in oratorical style). Who is the Supreme Being? In this
book, Jean Jacques Rousseau declares the General Will is
supreme! Is sovereign! Not Louis! And what is the General Will? I read from the bible: - “Each one of us puts into the community his person and all his powers under the supreme direction of the general will; and as a body, we incorporate every member as an indivisible part of the whole.” We are the General Will. Not the king, not the legislative assembly, but you and I, all of us, indestructible, inalienable, incorrigible! And who dares quarrel with us? I read to you again the words of the divine Rousseau: “whosoever refuses to obey the general will shall be constrained to do so by the whole body, which means nothing other than that he shall be forced to be free”. Today we shall see a forcing to be free. (Said with menace.) I spoke to Corday of a radical constitution, to you I proclaim it. (Rabble rousing.) Universal suffrage, your right to insurrection, your right to work, your right to maintenance, your right to the happiness of the greatest number before all else, your right to masturbation, your right to be on a waiting list. We abolish all feudal rights, we abolish slavery in the French colonies, we abolish... (the speech interspersed with cheering, fades, lights dim, cast melts away to back stage, taking up positions around the table).
(Spot on THÉRÈSE)
OLD THÉRÈSE (talking to herself). Did I ever think you were a
divine being? If so I was very young and simple. You said I was
the Maid D’Orleans, when first we met, Monsieur (speaking
with deference as though a young girl). I don’t know if I
was there at the birth of Supreme Being, but, if you were
divine, certainly I was there at the death of God. That would be
“deicide”? Or am I saying the opposite of what I mean again?
Not that anyone suspected unholy crime. And who done it?
Surely not that young girl you saw for the first time, here in
Paris, waiting on tables at the Hotel Saint Quentin? Flustered
and blushin’, innocent of gentlemen’s ways, she was. Up to her
fucking armpits in soap-suds.
(Spot off. Lights back space, male cast seated around the table, meal-time at Hotel St Quentin: ROUSSEAU sitting at table. YOUNG THÉRÈSE waiting on table. Others with minimal props to indicate role.)
MONSIEUR de BONNEFOND. Thérèse Levastsewer, is that your
name girl? Levastsewer? (Men’s laughter at the table, not
YOUNG THÉRÈSE (waiting on table). Monsieur Bonnefond?
MONSIEUR de BONNEFOND. Your name girl, what is your name?
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. Thérèse Levasseur, Monsieur.
MONSIEUR de BONNEFOND. Exactly as I told you gentlemen. Meet
IRISH PRIEST. And where are you from girl? I doubt’s it’s France.
Bonnefond’s turd would miss its hole there[xix].
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. Orleans, your holiness.
MONSIEUR de BONNEFOND. You don’t have to call an Irish priest
“your holiness”, Thérèse. It’s quite the wrong form of address.
Irish priests will never be popes, they are much lesser
immortals, they’re called “pokes”[xx], my dear, after where they
come from. (Laughter.)
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. A “poke”, Monsieur?
(Male guffawing again.)
IRISH PRIEST. Thérèse from Whoreleon I’d be delighted, but only
after I’ve sampled yer lovely buns and jugs. He thinks I tell
A GASCON. She be blushin’, that girl be blushin’. Give us yer cheeks
luv and warm a Gascon’s gazpacho.
MONSIEUR de BONNEFOND. And what of our philosopher, our silent
oracle, has Jean Jacques Rousseau no words of corruption for
Thérèse Levastsewer from Whoreleon? Speak monsieur!
OLD THÉRÈSE. (Still in her chair.) And then he spoke to me for the
first time ever, like no one had ever spoken to me before.
(Said as though the universe might contain oracles.)
JEAN JACQUES. Take no notice of them. They are nondescript, here
today and gone tomorrow, like all hotel guests. Nothing in their minds apart from listening out for the indiscretions of strangers. They would not recognise the Maid of Orleans herself, even if standing before them in all her gleaming armour. I love quiet ways; I would give half my life to speak with you.
OLD THÉRÈSE. Gave nearly all my life to live with him.... And we did
speak in the days that followed. And like Saint Joan I heard
voices. He became my voices. All the different people in Jean
Jacques.... my voices .... until for a long time I had no voice of
(Cast exit: electronic hum: then fade: leaving OLD THÉRÈSE who moves to front stage looking back, and YOUNG THÉRÈSE and ROUSSEAU occupying the bed.)
JEAN JACQUES. You’re incomparable Thérèse, absolutely
incomparable. So innocent, so uncorrupted by the ways of the
world, so modest. So gentle but so lively. Your beauty, not
obvious, not such as to make you a victim of men’s desires, a
beauty that grows on me daily. With you beside me I could
withdraw from the world. Have nothing to do with its flattery.
Nothing to do with greatness. Nothing to do with literature. To be as I was intended. To have our own little house. Live modestly. I could earn a simple living, copying music at 10 louis a sheet. To eat peasant suppers at an open window, where we might sit opposite each other. The window our table. Just breathing the fresh air, watching the surrounding country, the passers-by. A quarter of a loaf of fresh bread, a few cherries, a morsel of cheese, a half pint of wine. Remaining ‘til midnight without suspecting how late. Kiss me Thérèse! Kiss me!
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. You know I do. (Pause, kissing.) Not that
though. Not that! (Resisting but warm, intimate.)
JEAN JACQUES. You’ll drive me mad. (Whispered, passionately.)
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. So! You’ll get me with child. (Petulantly.)
JEAN JACQUES. I’d take care of it. If it was mine.
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. The answer’s still no. What did you say? Bastard!
JEAN JACQUES. You have the heart of an angel, how can you say
“no”. You are twenty Thérèse, it would not be wicked. It would
be Parisian my sweet.
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. Well I’m from Orleans, and you’re from Geneva,
and you’re thirty something. You’re an old goat. And would you marry me?
JEAN JACQUES. You’ve no dowry.
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. Wicked sod. Wicked sod!
JEAN JACQUES. I will never desert you, but I will never marry you.
How about that! We are above the commonplace.
(Lights dim back stage. OLD THÉRÈSE thinking to herself front stage.)
OLD THÉRÈSE. Oh! Jean Jacques. How I got to know you. So high-
sounding. I fell in love with high-sounding. (Addressing the
audience.) But I soon found my ears deceived me. You were
ashamed of me (addressing ROUSSEAU), that’s why you
didn’t want us to be married. I was a laughing stock to your
clever friends. Grimm, Klupfel, Diderot, you all thought I was
stupid. Not a fit subject for the great Encyclopaedia you were all writing, which, like Eve’s apple, was supposed to contain all knowledge of everything, high and low. And what kind of person could have made a dictionary of my “odd” expressions... I didn’t rightly know the meaning of the words you used but I was trying to learn.... and then pore over it with Mme Luxembourg for her to split her smelly corset. I was able to read what you wrote! So my absurd mistakes became famous in society did they, and yet you was the tenderest, most sensitive, most feeling soul ever born, or so you kept saying. My once upon a time abuser! (With vehemence and disbelief.) For all those years I was your servant, your nurse, even your “aunt”, I was “Pope Joan”, “Lieutenant Criminel” (all of these quotations in a pseudo Jean Jacques voice) not even your mistress and never your wife, not until you thought I’d fish fagged you, but you even wriggled out of that. Once upon a time deceiver! And ’cause when we first met I wouldn’t let you act the goat how quickly you let St Joan’s ’alo slip. I was wet and open, your dewy angel at last, and you wouldn’t. I thought your being mad for me had made you mad like a Danish prince you told me about. But how
insulting! You was worried I’d been a cheap tart and might give
you pox. And I’d been worried you wouldn’t love me because
I’d let some clumsy oaf give me one when I was only thirteen.
(Repetitive clanking like a pile-driver at work, OLD THÉRÈSE to her chair. Lights. Crowd assemble.)
Executions. Happy hour. Here they come. (All to
her neighbours.) Look at that one there citizen (pointing out
at the audience) at the back of the first cart, he’s shat
himself already. Poor bugger, I don’t suppose he thought it
would ever come to this. They couldn’t have imagined this.
(And then to herself again.) I imagine each lady is Mme D’
Houdetot, women of some refinement and artistry, coming to
their sharp end... very gratifying. My little excess. More than I
bargained for, mind! Couldn’t have predicted the revolution.
Think of all those who died in the Bastille before it all came
down. All of France was the Bastille. All of Europe was the
Bastille. All women like me were the Bastille. The future is the
Bastille. And the Marquis de Sade, in the Bastille, shouts down the pissing tube[xxii] to let the world know it stinks. (Wandering.) This is just a moment of madness (with riveting sense). Remember our moments of madness Jean Jacques? (ROUSSEAU and YOUNG THÉRÈSE, wearing a scarf, wander to front stage, lights dim, spot front stage.) That’s when we were really free, just you and me. When I got to know the very best of you, a person unknown to any other. Two-faced buffoon, what else would you expect of the serving class?
JEAN JACQUES. I love walking Paris with you Thérèse. Sharing
everything. Two little nobodies with nothing important to say.
Just like it should be for everyone.
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. Tell me some more about all the bad things you’ve
JEAN JACQUES. Well there was this girl, what was her name.... ah
yes! I can just remember her, her name was Thérèse Levasseur.
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. Bugger! No one will ever remember me. Come on
don’t piss about, tell all, you know you like to.
JEAN JACQUES. This isn’t very elevated conversation Thérèse. I talk
with Diderot and the finest minds in Paris.
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. And I talk with all the fishwives, so don’t pretend
you know more than me. Go on tell me some more about what
a bad lad you were.
JEAN JACQUES. Have you ever peed in the soup? I suppose not. It
would be difficult for you to manage.
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. Well you can’t pee at all.
JEAN JACQUES. But when I could... freely.... buckets of it.... I used
to top up the soup pot in those houses where they made me
servile, and then watch the family spoon it down. There was a
M. Ducommun very partial to soup Rousseau. “Another ladle
Monsieur?” “ Thanks Jean Jacques, you’re most forthcoming.”
And I would smile.
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. Did you have the soup yourself?
JEAN JACQUES. If needs be. A servant has to pretend, unless
they’ve made you wash out your brain with their dirty laundry,
which happens. It was only out one end and in the other.
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. I pretends all the time serving tables.
JEAN JACQUES. That’s what we are Thérèse, pretenders. I always
stole from the big houses where I worked. I reasoned that if I
was to be beaten as a rogue I was entitled to behave like one. If I was caught I was flogged. I used to say to myself “never
mind! I am made to be flogged.” And I like being flogged.
Servants have resources. Unlike priests they turn punishment into pleasure. No, like priests!
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. I don’t know about that.
JEAN JACQUES. Mademoiselle Lambercier was one of the first to flog
me. I was just a young lad but in her sweaty exertion I
discovered my hard part in life. Pain and the hard-on became inseparable.
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. And what did you used to steal?
JEAN JACQUES. Never money. I was never covetous. I stole to
revenge myself. To revenge myself on those who would make
me subservient. I was apprentice to M. Ducommun, he was an
engraver. I stole his tools, his drawings, all those things which
gave him power. I thought I was robbing him of his power.
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. We’ve walked a long way today. Where are we
JEAN JACQUES. This is called Bois de Boulogne. Really Thérèse you
never know where you are.
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. I knows where I am well enough, I just don’t know
the names. I can always find me way.
JEAN JACQUES. Louis XIV made this park public. A gift to
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. That’s what nobs do. Little rewards one side of
Paris and the Bastille t’other side.
JEAN JACQUES. You worry about the Bastille don’t you Thérèse? Do
you think you’ll finish your days there?
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. Might.
JEAN JACQUES. They say there are not many prisoners there these
days. Mainly madmen.
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. Well I’m mad. Must be to go round with you.
JEAN JACQUES. Why’s it mad to be with me?
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. You’re so little for one thing, and you say dreadful
JEAN JACQUES. Thérèse? (An intonation she recognises
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. What here?
JEAN JACQUES. There’s nobody about. Make me bigger.
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. I could tie you to this tree with my scarf. (She
points to the guillotine.)
JEAN JACQUES. And you could break off a sapling.
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. (Loosely ties him to the guillotine and
unbuckles the belt from her jeans.) Listen to the birds Jean
Jacques and give thanks to his majesty. (She gets very close
to him, pushing her chin against his chest and swiping
JEAN JACQUES. Your majesty! Your majesty! Your subjects are in
chains! (Punctuated by sharp expulsions of air.)
(JEAN JACQUES and YOUNG THÉRÈSE continue. Blackout. SCARAMOUCHE to side space, front, spot.)
SCARAMOUCHE. (At pace, with all the fervour of the Left.)
The Bastille? Where inmates were cut off from any knowledge of
the outside world. During the arbitrary dictatorship of Louis XVI
prisoners would continue to petition Louis XV and the late Duke
de la Vrillière for release. Prisoners remained in the Bastille, not
because anyone desired that they should be there, but because
they were there, forgotten, unrecorded, criminals incriminated
by crimes of bureaucracy. The prisoner Linguet described his
incarceration. (SCARAMOUCHE exits to audience.)
(Lights. OLD THÉRÈSE and crowd still in situ. One of the CAST comes forward as LINGUET to squat at the front, addressing the audience, lights dim and spot on him.)
LINGUET. (With exotic foreign accent and a tinge of seedy
Perversion.) Immediately the den assigned to me had been
opened, there arose from the bed not a swarm, not a cloud, but
a wide, thick column of moths: it expanded, quickly inundated
the place. I drew back horrified. The dens are all fashioned in
the tower walls. Each one has a solitary loophole pierced in the
masonry and obstructed by three iron gratings, leaving a two
inch passage for the sight. In winter these vaults are ice-houses and in summer they are humid stoves where one is suffocated. They open directly on the moat where the great drain from the Rue Saint-Antoine discharges itself from which a putrid stench arises. The prisoners’ efforts to suck a little fresh air through this narrow pea-shooter of an opening often serves only to thicken the suffocating fetidness about them. There was
something frightful about the appearance of the walls in my
chamber. One of my predecessors had obtained permission to
daub his habitation as he liked. Each wall was encrusted with a
picture highly appropriate to the place - details of the Passion.
After the moths had evaporated and when my glance fell on
these panels - the tints being yet more sombre in the obscurity,
I could only see the agonised attitudes and the instruments of
torture. And then from other cells seeped the unmistakable ecstasy of self-abuse.
END OF PART 1.
(Lights. Return of the pile-driver clanking an infuriating, ceaseless rhythm, fades: YOUNG THÉRÈSE screaming on the bed, in attendance Mlles GOUIN and Mme LEVASSEUR. ROUSSEAU storms in. SCARAMOUCHE with the audience.)
JEAN JACQUES. Why is that? The other times she’s been fine.
Mlles GOUIN. I dunno Monsieur. This time it’s as though she’s
constipated. She don’t want to let it go. She could but she
won’t. ‘Ave words with her. ‘Elp her. ’Er mum’s ’ere, but I
think she’s just makin’ things worse. She needs to stop
screamin’ and start pushin’.
JEAN JACQUES. Thanks Mademoiselle Gouin. I’ll go to her.
Mme LEVASSEUR. Come on Thérèse! Be sensible! Push love! Thank
God you’re here. Come here and talk to her Monsieur. Tell her
she’s to be rid of it.
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. I am not to be rid of it! Not again! (lets out high
pitched scream, crying)
JEAN JACQUES. Thérèse!
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. You told me you’d take care of me babbies. That’s
what you said. I believed you. Why don’t you love our babbies? (Screams this at him.)
JEAN JACQUES. I do Thérèse. You know I do. I only take them
away because I love them. The State will bring them up far better than I can. I read to you from Plato, I explained.
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. But our State isn’t ruled by philosophydodas and I
want my babies. Can’t I keep this one Jean Jacques, just this
one? (Pleading.) It wouldn’t be any trouble to you, I’d see to
that. Flesh of our flesh, you know.
JEAN JACQUES. Philosophers can’t have families. I’m not suited.
Infants disturb reflection. They want to play all day and you
know how I like playing. I have to try to be serious, very
serious. I can have no distractions. I have to write thousands
upon thousands of words.... I cannot be a proper father as
well.... and if I cannot be a proper father I will be none at all.
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. Then I will not be a mother for a fourth time! I will be me little one’s coffin! (Shouting, screaming.) Explain
this to your society friends. Your maid’s stiff with an unborn,
dead child inside her. They’ll all know it’s yours, if it don’t come out the right way it’ll come out the wrong way. I do not mean to be obstinate Jean Jacques, but I will keep this child, or I won’t go on. (Shrieks with pain.)
Mme LEVASSEUR. In the name of God say something to satisfy her
Monsieur. My child will kill herself.
Mlles GOUIN. It’s life or death Monsieur!
JEAN JACQUES. Thérèse push! (Solicitous, earnest.) No I cannot,
I cannot, I cannot lose you, you hold my life together! (Announced as a personal discovery. Begins to cry.) Your bravery challenges my good sense.... Yes we will have this child.... flesh of our flesh, you said. Thérèse you’re right, I am wrong, I do want this child.
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. Promise! Promise me! (Crying, screaming.)
JEAN JACQUES. Please Thérèse! Do this for me! Feel my hand upon
your belly. I am the oracle, the lawgiver, you infect me with
sublime reason. I will have this miracle so as to educate all
children. If it’s a boy we will call him Emile and I will dedicate a book to his education, if a girl.... I like Sophie. What do you think?
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. Promise!
JEAN JACQUES. Yes, I promise.
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. On the good book!
JEAN JACQUES. Yes.
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. Mother fetch the book! On your father’s honour!
JEAN JACQUES. Yes.
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. On the life of Mme de Warens, your beloved
JEAN JACQUES. Yes!
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. On this book!
JEAN JACQUES. I swear. Live! Live! Push Thérèse! Push!
(Blackout. Electronic hum, louder than before, shutting out everything, like a baby in a black bin-liner. Lights. OLD THÉRÈSE enters, addressing the guillotine, front stage, looking up.)
OLD THÉRÈSE. “The terror!” Like God’s soles... rough and corny
justice... a great weight from on high... falling free... a sledge
from the summit... us giant people... revenge for all their sins.
It’s the waiting, the suspense, all this time, still not begun,
doing practice falls, showing them the lightning, terrifying them and we get more and more worked up... it’s all over in a slice... (Turns to the audience.) For a long time after, I didn’t think I’d get worked up ever again. I went sullen, numb, into myself. When I had my fifth, I didn’t make no trouble. After that there were no more. He robbed me of the whole brood. Sucked all the life out of me. Blew me up and down so many times until I was just a flabby old bag. Bundled them up, bothered to put a monogram in for the first one, and he carried them to the door of the Sisters of St Vincent de Paul. Five times he must have knocked on that door. “Foundlings!” I must have been deep asleep.... And then later... on a mission... in the valley of Montmorency, where the high and mighty had given him a hermitage to think in and me a kitchen with which to feed him... I seemed to awaken! (Said as though she had seen a vision, like Jean d’Arc.)
(Pastoral lights to centre stage OLD THÉRÈSE looking on, enter Mme d’EPINAY and YOUNG THÉRÈSE.)
Mme d’EPINAY. Thérèse where are you going girl on my land. Come
Walk with me! (Matriarchal, assertive, condescending.)
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. (Out of breath.) I can’t Madame. I have to
deliver a letter.
Mme d’EPINAY. For your master?
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. Yes Madame. I’m on my way to Eaubonne.
Mme d’EPINAY. To Comtesse d’Houdetot?
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. It is Madame. The letter is for her.
Mme d’EPINAY. You are obtuse Thérèse; you have an odd way of
understanding. The Comtesse is my sister-in-law, did you know
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. Yes Madame, but she is not very like Monsieur
Mme d’EPINAY. You have met with her then?
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. She has visited at the Hermitage, twice.
Mme d’EPINAY. Twice! I will walk with you Thérèse, a little of the
way. What did you think of the Comtesse, Thérèse?
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. I did not know what to think of her Madame. On
her first visit she was all covered with mud. Her coach got stuck
at Clairvaux mill, they were taking the short-cut. She had to get out and walk. We stripped her altogether and she went home in my clothes. I don’t know what she thought of them. And the second time she arrived on horseback, dressed like a man. She hasn’t returned me clothes yet, I expect she thinks they’re rags. (Laughs.) Jean Jacques was not too impressed the second time. I don’t think he likes that sort of thing... although he told me his own mother used to dress as a man... to be allowed to see the players out on the streets in Geneva... otherwise it was not permitted for women down there. Sorry I seem to be wandering.
Mme d’EPINAY. You call your master, Jean Jacques, Thérèse, a little
familiar is it not?
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. We are familiar Mme d’Epinay.
Mme d’EPINAY. So I have heard! Is your master writing anything at
present in my Hermitage?
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. He’s being a right good, little hermit.
Mme d’EPINAY. So?
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. I believe it’s called “Julie” Madame. He reads it to
mother and me in the evenings.
Mme d’EPINAY. And do you like it?
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. Mother doesn’t, but she says if it pays the bills
where’s the harm. As for myself it reminds me of things and
makes me cry. Jean Jacques thinks it must be very tender and
moving. It’s about Wolmar and Julie? All they do is write love-letters to each other. I think it would be better if they got down to business as they do in the books Monsieur Gauffecourt shows me[xxiii].
Mme d’EPINAY. And is it a love letter you carry to Comtesse
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. I should hardly think so. Her face is pitted with
small pox. Her complexion is coarse. She’s short-sighted and
her eyes are like saucers without tea cups.
Mme d’EPINAY. You underestimate her Thérèse. She’s very
accomplished and she attracts men. I would say her figure is
very neat, and her hair.... is a torrent of black curls flowing to
her knees you know.
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. I did see Madame, when she was stripped, but I
thought she was more like a black, shaggy sheep than a
waterfall, if you will not take offence, seeing she’s flock.
Mme d’EPINAY. I will remember that Thérèse (Laughs.) And it’s her
wit that draws gentlemen, and her dancing, and her piano playing to say nothing of the pretty verses that she writes. And Monsieur Rousseau has not noticed? I’m pleased. The two of us will share him, you for basics and me for a meeting of minds! (Laughs.) Anyway the Comtesse already has a lover, Saint-Lambert, a very physical and jealous young man, but I wouldn’t put it past her to try out the latest mind-teaser, just for amusement, just to prove she is clever enough.
(Lights dim on centre stage and return to OLD THÉRÈSE: musing)
OLD THÉRÈSE. (sits down and talks to the audience) After she
gave up keeping up, I parked my bum on her grass and had a
little think. Eventually my suspicions got the better of me and I
decided to open the bloody letter, which I was carrying so
dutifully and not for the first time... I struggled with the words,
but I was able to make it out. Some words stuck, glued to my
brain like sawdust. (All the quotes in JEAN JACQUES’ manner, highly impassioned.) “Beloved Sophie!” as if I would have had any of my children called by her name! “You intoxicate my sight. When I’m near you I’m seized with delightful shiverings. O contagious power of love.” Well that was just Jean Jacques being a soft shit. A woman in her birth fever goes over the top, and I’d come to think perhaps it was right a philosopher should feel free and not have to bother with family, after all really we was only employees and he was providing some sort of living for us, but to write about me, to her! And those hoity toities didn’t like Thérèse. “You ask about Thérèse and our relationship.” This I remember! “From the first moment when I saw her up to this day, I never felt the least spark of love for her. The sensual needs, which I satisfy in her person, are only for me those of sexual impulse, without being in any way connected with the individual.” He was lying, of course, habitually, the way servants do. “As you may well imagine we do not have sufficient ideas in common to make a great stock in conversation.” Well that was a soup I would have relieved myself in. “Our conversation is just gossip, scandal and feeble jokes, as operatic as washerwomen. When living as a hermit one feels the advantage of living with someone who knows how to think, as do you, my angel Sophie.”.... It was a pretty day... about a league from the Hermitage to Eaubonne... the name alone was enough to draw him there... and I was a strong walker, still am, that’s one thing kept us together, not that he knew.... thick about the down to earth, Jean Jacques. Mme d’Epinay said, “the little Levasseur is jealous” and that I was “the sly peasant type”. (Looking back to Mme d’Epinay.) So! I became a Jacobin, before my time, probably because I could never learn to tell it. At Eubonne, when I strolled in, I bumped into Saint Lambert, breasts first. I pretended to be sobbing and showed him the letter. He so much couldn’t bear to think of the Comtesse with Jean Jacques that he was compelled to comfort me, very eloquently. Gave me his shoulder to weep on, made me look up into his eyes and let me sigh my healthy breath, all fresh from the walk and the Montmorency air, into his flaring nostrils. That put an end to the Comtesse and the hermit. When push came to shove Jean Jacques was no match for Saint Lambert. And I should know! Mme d’Houdetot preferred a poke to a pen. I, on the other hand, preferred having someone to torment, someone to go round the bend with... all my life.
(Lights backstage, the bed, ROUSSEAU on all fours at the foot of the bed, YOUNG THÉRÈSE bending over him, belt in hand, cries of anguish from ROUSSEAU, intermittent dog barking: OLD THÉRÈSE looks on)
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. And when we were in Paris and newly together did
you, with Klüpfel and Grimm, used to go to the room of a twelve
year old girl and take turns with her, one after the other?
JEAN JACQUES. Yes, I did. (Lash.)
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. Baby-bonker! And you shagged with Mme de
Luxembourg and Mme de Chenonceaux and Mme d’Epinay and
Mme de Boufflers, to say nothing of the yak d’Houdetot?
JEAN JACQUES. Yes, Lieutenant Criminel! (Trance- like.)
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. So, by your own admission, that’s five more
lashes. (Lashes and screams.) And then you confess to
shagging Mamam, Mme de Warens, the tender heart who took
you in a waif and homeless, and whom you clung to as the
dearest mother a boy could wish for.
JEAN JACQUES. It is true aunt. It is true.
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. Another four for a mother-bonker. (Lashes.)
JEAN JACQUES. Do with me as you think fit nurse.
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. Don’t think you get off that easily. Don’t be silly
enough to believe in justice and symmetry and fancy dress.
You made that mistake once before. I will have much more than is fit, I will have you howling mad. How many for all the others whose names you cannot remember? Enough to make your back rise up like your Swiss Alps? What will you spit on for me?
JEAN JACQUES. Anything. Demand any penance. I do not deserve
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. Spit on the King of France, spit on his name.
JEAN JACQUES. I do Thérèse. (Spits.)
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. Spit on the Arts, all that painting and music and
literature. Never did the likes of me any good. Spit on all I have had to suffer for living with a fartist.
JEAN JACQUES. I spit.
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. Not that it’s been living. Spit on the Sciences and
Diderot’s Encyclopaedia.... for all I have had to suffer in the
name of progress.
JEAN JACQUES. Look at me, I do.
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. Spit on civilisation! Spit on all aristocrats who
have ever lived! Spit on all the swanky, furry muff you’ve ever
fingered! And when you cum, cum on all your tumblings, your
operas, your music, your romances. When you play willing
court jester to the high and mighty you betray us. You betray
the unnoticed. I want all this spit and cum in your writings from
now on.... otherwise I’ll brain you.... with the chamber-pot! (Said with menace, as though she has one to hand.)
(Electronic hum and clanking together, lights out back space, front space lit, acoustic fades: OLD THÉRÈSE turns to audience.)
OLD THÉRÈSE. The first skinny soul gets pushed onto the deck.
(Looking at guillotine.) The endings are to begin. The priest
approaches like a black quill. The blindfold is proffered and the
silk hose is torn, some twitching, some white bum showing.
(Changing the subject, or seeming to.) And I made
something of Jean Jacques. I pushed him further and further.
I got on his back day and night and drove him, further than the
donkey would have ever dared go. Closer and closer to the
unspeakable, nearer and nearer to breaking a leg, each time
risking just a little bit more, so that all we could talk about were the miseries of his life.
JEAN JACQUES. (Comes to front stage, talking as though to Hamlet’s ghost. Seeking approval and justification.) They will not understand that my enterprise is descriptive, explanatory, not prescriptive. I do not advocate revolution. I merely grope towards a science of society, an enterprise of the new Enlightenment. When I speak of the general will I speak of a social dynamic, a force within society, something as omnipresent as the force of gravity, something that will make a difference no matter what. Of course only that society which is fully under the dictates of the general will can be fully free and happy, but I am not saying this is a realisable utopia. No social order can hope to be permanent. The general will is latent, exerting an effect. It should be understood this is what I am saying. I am a social scientist, neutral, like Hobbes, only with a different analysis.
OLD THÉRÈSE. (To the audience.) I became much more than a
bedroom game. I was not to be denied revolution just because
half of Jean Jacques would doff his Armenian turban to the
perfumed persecutors of the hoi polloi. So I encouraged him to
be the little piss-taker he really was. I would say to him, “I
don’t know what you’re going on about most of the time. If it’s
not clear, no one’s going to listen to you! What you should say,
is: - if us servants and peasants and artisans ruled the world it
would be a different place and that’s what we want, not a better
place... just a bit of a change. The king and his cronies are all
nobs and impostors and they’ve imposed on us long enough, we
want everything at our level. How do you write that down in a
book? Come on you’re the professional.” (She turns to ROUSSEAU.)
JEAN JACQUES. I suppose you would say “Might is not right” and “the
general will is sovereign”.
OLD THÉRÈSE. That says what I’ve just said?
JEAN JACQUES. It does. More or less.
(YOUNG THÉRÈSE enters from back and walks forward
to address ROUSSEAU.)
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. Then in book form that is the most scandalous,
unthinkable thing anyone could publish right now! What do you
want to be Jean Jacques, a hack or the most original
revolutionary of your time? A boy who could piss in the soup is
a man who could drop shit on the throne. (Addresses the
audience.) And after he published all the things I wanted, like
saying art was tossing for nobs, and kings had no God-given
rights, and the rabble knew best, and even if they didn’t who
cares, and that wealth was always theft somehow or other, and
that children, wherever they are, should be brought up as
peasants, well! they went and threw his books at him! (Laughs.) That’s what fancy knickers do when you’re really messing with their privates.
(Blackout. Crowd noise, clanking, hum, drums, horses: lights: OLD THÉRÈSE takes to her chair flanked by the citizens: a tumbrel of guys -Guy Fawkes, in lewd poses, balloons for heads- and a large basket are brought by the cast to the guillotine, centre space.)
CITIZEN 2. Hold my hand Madame, the first head is about to fall.
OLD THÉRÈSE. Citizen, I need both my hands to cover my eyes.
CITIZEN 2. Can’t you bear to watch Madame?
OLD THÉRÈSE. Oh! I watch Monsieur, through the bars. (She
jumps to her feet, addresses the cast and the audience,
she has a demented presence.) We came to know what it
was to be prisoners, never free less on the run. At Neufchatel,
after his books was burnt in Paris and Parlement issued a
warrant for his arrest, we was cornered, just like those
shivering bodies waiting there in the death carts. But we had some protection. From Frederick the Great! A king! King of
Prussia. Just what Jean Jacques was all about. But it didn’t last. King’s are fickle. And the authorities had stirred up a mob
against us. Mobs are fickle. They used to come to the little
house in the middle of the night. I don’t think Madame Boy de
la Tour was best pleased when they bricked all her windows.
Nice little house she lent us. She fancied some literary fondant.
I was beside myself when they were baying for blood and
bunging missiles. I wanted Jean Jacques on his knees but by
then we was the same thing, like ivy’s part of the tree it
strangles. They wanted both our brains bashed out. (She
CITIZEN 1. Madame! (In consternation.)
OLD THÉRÈSE. Let go of me Jean Jacques. I will give them a taste
of my foul tongue.
(Voices in the crowd, but ghostly, like voices from long ago.)
Foul mouthed slut!
Seen ‘em through the window... at it like Satanists!
Bleedin’ writers never do a stroke of work!
The Antichrist! The Antichrist!
(One of the guys is guillotined, the crowd untying the balloon head and solemnly placing it in the basket: the sound of breaking glass in a remembered space, breakage after breakage, dog barking.)
SCARAMOUCHE. (From the audience and to the audience, pointing.) Headlines! The tops are coming off! The tops are coming off! See all about it!. We are showing you, showing you now. Some girls are delish they bend like sticks of liquorice!
OLD THÉRÈSE. (Screaming, directly at audience.) Poxy peasants! You need your souls inquisited! Your heads lopped! Do you really think his majesty cares whether you live or die?
CITIZEN 1. Madame, Madame Rousseau, are you alright? Come sit
down, these sights can churn the jelly.
CITIZEN 2. I’ll put an arm around her.
OLD THÉRÈSE. I thought I heard something.
CITIZEN 1. You did, the roar for a header, a bucketed, red ball.
Jack-in-the -Bins 1, Aristhrottleds 0. It’ll be a bit of a red wash
OLD THÉRÈSE. I thought I saw something Citizen.
CITIZEN 1. Well you’ve only to open his flies Madame.
OLD THÉRÈSE. Will you brush the glass from my hair citizen?
CITIZEN 2. My pleasure Madame.
CITIZEN 1. (Whispering.) Is she all bare, Citizen?
CITIZEN 2. Here or there, it’s all the same to me.
OLD THÉRÈSE. Nice, your hand is nice, mn! keep it there. (To
herself.) Any hand will do to stoke the fire. My poke caught fire when they was to excommunicate us. Hell fire! Perhaps it was my age though, or one more thing to bait Jean Jacques with.
What a to-do with men. Only John Bally was really up to it, he’s
still with me, here in Paris, only he gets pissed most nights: that’s another story. And what about Boswell? What did he say about me, (Pause) SCARAMOUCHE?
(SCARAMOUCHE leaps, startled, from his seat with the audience to side space, front.)
SCARAMOUCHE. (Stuttering.) I did not nod off, ever vigilant like Microsoft’s Office Assistant. I have to pretend that I’m shocked. To be addressed by the cast! The director yes! But the star of our show? Well! What am I to tell you? (To the audience.) You will have your revenge won’t you? (To OLD THÉRÈSE.) Our play might be called The Making of a Shrew.
OLD THÉRÈSE. What did Boswell say about me? (With impatience.)
SCARAMOUCHE. He sang your praises dear. You see (To the audience.) what happened was, our Jean Jacques, in fright and madness, fled as fast as he could to the asylum for the insane, well England, leaving her behind, but sending for her, because by then he couldn’t wipe his whatever without her giving a hand. And David, David Hume, you know the famous philosophical sceptic, who’d had a nervous breakdown himself by the way, and who had arranged Jean Jacques’ English asylum, secured her a chaperone for the journey, by the name of James Boswell. That’s right, that Boswell, Johnson’s acolyte, but, as they say, a man worth remembering in his own right. David was a bit sceptical about him though. He thought James a very good humoured and agreeable young gentleman but also very mad and with a rage for literature, which David equated, and quite rightly, with being a bit of a letch. David said he dreaded some event that would be fatal to Mademoiselle’s honour. Mmn! And after the event this James Boswell turned out to be less of a letch and more of a miserable and vindictive would-be libertine, saying about our Thérèse that she seduced him 13 times between Paris and London, and that he poor man had to drink to sustain his fading virility, and that he couldn’t understand how Jean Jacques could be so besotted with her to think her many children his. But the truth is, as Thérèse keeps telling me, James Boswell was not up to the normal passion of a healthy woman, nor are most men she says, and so these men, of course I’m one of the exceptions, put it about that women who are their natural selves are just whores. Whatever that means!
OLD THÉRÈSE. Well at least Boswell tried.... as we
crossed the English drain, in a storm, in a tub. Jean Jacques
was gone to England, but he wasn’t going to get away from Thérèse that easily. I hadn’t finished with him then, or for a long time after.
(Lights dim. YOUNG THÉRÈSE and JAMES BOSWELL enter front space, spot. They take from tumbrel a male and female guy: with these guys they mime the substance of their conversation: sound of a gale rages. Rest of cast mime, slowly, restocking tumbrel, sombre, repetitive, slow-motion executions.)
JAMES BOSWELL. Well, I’m the son of a laird, James Boswell,
offspring of Lord Auchinleck, si I maight have some difficulty
statisfinin ya. Do ya demand satisfaction, or kin ya take it oor
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. Oh I take it and can’t leave it darlin’.
JAMES BOSWELL. Well, I kin certainly help you find yer man.
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. Oh! I’ve found my man. So, show me the nob of
JAMES BOSWELL. Ni laird, I’m the son of a laird, but I kin shew you
the nob of a laird’s son, if you’ll shew me a tail in a tub, and as
swiftly as you ken, please... Well that’s fine, I’ve ni objection to that whatsooever. Would ye like to come and sit the nob and we’ll let pitch and toss of the mer di the work. (Energetic sexual intercourse between the guys: all of them on all fours.) And how meeny times is that?
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. I’m not very good at counting, especially when
JAMES BOSWELL. I meke it seven Thérèse. Would you di me the
honour of ain eighth?
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. You won’t expire on me?
JAMES BOSWELL. Weel, will di this one for Corsica[xxiv] and Rousseau,
t’will fuel a revolutionary passion. I’m soore that’s twelve.
And hew was a Scot for you, was I greet?
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. James the Great? Sorry, don’t think so. More
like Robert the Bruce. I’ll give you marks for blind pestilence.
JAMES BOSWELL. Ni better than an insect then?
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. Not even as good as a fartist. (She pushes him
to one side, he goes off to the tumbrel, returning the
guys for execution: YOUNG THÉRÈSE takes the audience
into her confidence.) And when he’d finished exertions, he
loaded me with more teasels and brambles for her once upon a
time...(looking back at OLD THÉRÈSE) us riding out rest of
storm, him reading to me. William Shakespeare? About a
heath and a hovel and a hurricane. So later, with Boswell’s
Sassenachs, I was able to play fool to the loony lawgiver. We
was in all the papers, well, in the Lost and Found[xxv].
SCARAMOUCHE. Some girls are a thicket of delight they cast off their knickers every night!
(Formal voice.) On May the 1st 1767 Jean Jacques and Thérèse Levasseur fled in haste and fear their asylum at Wooton Hall in Derbyshire. They left their baggage behind. Unfamiliar with English geography they took various circuitous conveyances, travelled part of the way on foot, and for ten days were lost to the world! The newspapers advertised their disappearance. On May the 11th they turned up at Spalding in Lincolnshire.
(YOUNG THÉRÈSE climbs to her feet: cast members hurry to bring her a cloak, which she pulls around her: cast continue slow-miming the executions: ROUSSEAU in heavy overcoat enters and clasps her in his arms: the gale continues. They occupy front space. SCARAMOUCHE remains to the side, looking on.)
JEAN JACQUES. And you saw Davenport’s man sprinkling my
omelette with arsenic.
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. I told you, yes! White powder, yes. I knows
arsenic when I sees it. My dad used it for vermin.
JEAN JACQUES. Then it was imperative we left that miserable
house. Wooton Hall! I hate the name. Hume said it would be like a chateau. I can only think his knowledge of French is entirely apriori. It is so wretchedly wet and windy in this country. Where are we?
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. It’s this way to the sea.
JEAN JACQUES. What is it called and what is the name of the place
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. I don’t know names.
JEAN JACQUES. We have come without any luggage Thérèse.
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. I have the money, that’s all we need for now.
JEAN JACQUES. Why should we go to the sea?
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. How do you think we got here?
JEAN JACQUES. By getting lost?
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. Across the sea!
JEAN JACQUES. But you need a boat.
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. And where do you find boats?
JEAN JACQUES. Do you not think we should locate a town?
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. There will be a town. Spalding!
JEAN JACQUES. You have a name then. And you really think they
were going to poison me?
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. Spalding doesn’t sound like much of a name to
JEAN JACQUES. Sounds like a verb of torture. They want me to die
an agonising death. Hume hates me, Walpole hates me,
Johnson despises me, Davenport spalds me. No one likes me.
How can one so innocent, so free of any moral fault be so
disliked? It is envy.
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. Keep an eye out for bears. They said in this
country there are bears on the way to the sea.
JEAN JACQUES. Listen Thérèse. Do I hear one? Something roars.
(In a panic.)
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. It’s just the wind. It’s a naughty night for
swimming uncle. (Intimate tone, sustained in ensuing
dialogue, slow delivery.)
JEAN JACQUES. Why do you call me uncle?
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. You call me aunt. Aunt or uncle, brother or sister,
husband and wife what do titles matter, that’s what you say,
what you’ve written. It’s a brave night to cool a courtesan. Slip
into this field..... Standing in mud and water up to our
ankles.... (Whispering.) Let me make a church tower out of a
knave.... Do you like bloody brambles around your arse?
JEAN JACQUES. Should we not to our purpose Thérèse?
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. What’s purpose? You long to be as free as a
JEAN JACQUES. Ordinarily, yes, but, there is a storm in my mind
and I’m wet to the flesh and this is barbarous terrain and there
are bears and who is to say the rain is not poisoned.
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. Can you not feel the barb scratching yer
parchment, is it not all adding up?
JEAN JACQUES. Why you being so cruel to me? What have I done to
you for you to treat me so badly? Why do you torment me?
Why must you always increase my size? How can I let you
work me up so? (Rhetorical.) Why do you go with others
Thérèse? (Pointed.) Did you go with Davenport’s man? When I was writing down my “Confessions”, I thought I heard you with him, somewhere in that empty house, or was it the natural
breathing of English oak? Say it was just the living boards and not you being wooed!
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. In Woo ton Hall. His name was Daniel.
JEAN JACQUES. You do not know names.
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. Place names, I know the names of persons well
enough. Daniel! Shall I say it again? There I knew you’d like
it. Daniel! Oh! Daniel how big. Can you not stand this?
JEAN JACQUES. Promise. Never again Thérèse. No more Daniels.
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. Oh! it’s promises now is it? Promises you’re
wanting? Well, maybe, if you beg me to marry. I know it’s
against your principles, but come on try and I’ll train this
bramble to come up between your legs. How’s that poor Tom?
JEAN JACQUES. Prickly. Then marry me Thérèse! And this will be
the last time with that Daniel. Was he... fine?
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. Very fine. Asinine.
JEAN JACQUES. We will marry. I will arrange it. Make you mine,
only for me. I can’t bear you with this Daniel. It enrages me.
Look Thérèse! And I’m full of water.
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. Then I’ll lead you round the field like a carrot in a
donkey’s mouth.... now you’re up for it, like a sail in a tempest.
He that has a little tiny dip
With heigh, ho, the wind and the rain,
Must make content with his fortune fit,
Though the rain it raineth every day.
Boswell was a big dipper. Shall I tell?
SCARAMOUCHE. It’s the Punch and Judy Ride.
(Spot off. SCARAMOUCHE rejoins audience. Table moved to front space, draped in heavily embroidered curtain: church bells: YOUNG THÉRÈSE and ROUSSEAU at the table, divested of cloak and overcoat. Spot on them. Dimly lit main space, cast pause slow- miming of the executions and look on.)
JEAN JACQUES. A fresh Spring-like morning Thérèse. I feel a new
beginning. We will rise above the commonplace. But no tawdry, priest-bugged wedding for us. It is our own contract, in our own words. In centuries to come others will follow our example. What is a wedding? What is a marriage? What part does a society have in the intimate transactions of two souls? Whose business is it but ours? We make promises, categorical promises to each other. This morning we will be wed. I weep that our betrothal has been so long, but today we will be Monsieur and Madame Rousseau. There! I acknowledge you, in the eyes of the world.
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. (Yawning.) Bliss! To be married in Bourgoin,
such a little town, where we only arrived last night, where we
know absolutely no one. How did you think of this? You are a
man of your word Jean Jacques. What arrangements have you
made? (THÉRÈSE’s words delivered as though humouring a child.)
Jean Jacques. I wrote all night.
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. And?
JEAN JACQUES. The wedding contract! Our treaty with each other,
which we will sign. And I have on my best Armenian costume,
see, a little twirl, mademoiselle.
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. But my luggage is lost again. If I’m to be a bride,
what am I to wear?
JEAN JACQUES. That is a nuisance, to say nothing of the expense I
will be forced to bear, but for now I have taken down one of the
curtains. I know it seems not very much but an Indian sari is all
in the tucks and it will go very nicely with my outfit.
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. Well, I’d better get tucking. (But does’nt
bother.)Which church is it to be at?
JEAN JACQUES. We have no need of a church. We will be married
here, in our room, at the Fontaine d’Or, what could be more
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. You sure this thing will be legal? Who’s to say
anything is undertaken if there are no witnesses.
JEAN JACQUES. You want there to be witnesses?
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. Well it would make it a bit more like something
real don’t you think?
JEAN JACQUES. No problem. We’ll utilise the natural justice of the
street. Wait there, no! bind yourself in the sari, in readiness.
(ROUSSEAU jumps into the audience, his task to persuade two persons to come on stage, he furnishes them with their few lines of dialogue. If the audience is too few in number the cast is press-ganged)
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. (Singing.) Autrefois le rat de ville
Invita le rat de champs,
D’une facon fort civile,
A des reliefs d’ortolans.
(Enter ROUSSEAU with two members of the audience or cast.)
JEAN JACQUES. Such luck Thérèse. Downstairs at the bar, these
gentlemen. Unbelievable luck, the mayor of Bourgoin and his
MONSIEUR. Trésivre, Mademoiselle. Very pleethed to meet with
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. Very. (With irony.)
JEAN JACQUES. Gentlemen, the bride! You have’nt dressed, no
The MAYOR. You’d better be for real mate. If not you’ll get a good
JEAN JACQUES. You see how it is when you involve the law,
Thérèse. Let us proceed to the treaty between us, which these
good gentlemen will witness. There should be music.
(Suggestions of foul songs from the busy cast.) No matter. I will officiate. On this day 26th August 1768, Jean Jacques Rousseau citizen of Geneva and Thérèse Levasseur of Orleans marry with each other in the town of Bourgoin at the establishment of the Fontaine d’Or, before these witnesses here present, later to be signatories to this treaty. We, Jean Jacques Rousseau and Thérèse Levasseur, affirm the following: there is one chain, a chain which we shall ever wear, of which we may be justly proud and which binds us together: liberty is not to be found in any form of government, she is in the heart of the free man and woman, it is on this ground we chain ourselves: our love is founded on esteem which will last with life itself, on virtues which will not fade with fading beauty, on fitness of character which gives a charm to intercourse and will sustain us into old age: we are united until death do us part: our hearts are bound, and to each other we owe utmost fidelity: in marriage the man is the woman’s head and it is her duty to obey as is the will of nature, but where the woman is with virtue a man will be led by her: a woman controls a man by controlling herself, by making her favours scarce and precious, keeping him in her power by keeping herself at a distance: a happily married man honours his wife’s chastity without having to complain of her coldness…
The MAYOR. I’m warnin’ im, if he doesn’t get on with it he’s going to
get a hammerin. Do you hear me mush? Get finished!
JEAN JACQUES. (Accelerating.) ...inevitably pleasures are
destroyed by possession, and love above all others, but in its
place a gentle habit and the charm of confidence prevail: we will
live for the charms of home life and if the husband is happy at
home his wife will be a happy wife: this treaty is signed with
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. Lovely Jean Jacques! And to think you stayed up
all night to write it! And just in case I might have misunderstood what you intend. Well, we’d better get signing.
JEAN JACQUES. It is what you wanted?
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. Well, it’s better than ... no ring!
JEAN JACQUES. I have a ring. Look.
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. Don’t fit. (Amused.)
JEAN JACQUES. Try it on your little finger. There you are. Perfect!
It will impede you less.
The MAYOR. I’ve had enough of this! Beer money or I’ll have you
out the window!
JEAN JACQUES. Monsieur le Mayor, your signature and the purse is
yours to share. You can sign? Well, a mark will do.
MONSIEUR. Can I snog the bride?
YOUNG THÉRÈSE. If you call me Madame Rousseau you can.
Madame Rousseau is who I am and I’ll ram it down the gizzard
of anyone who says otherwise. This is what you intended husband, isn’t it? (Kisses the MONSIEUR.)
(Blackout: fog horn drowning out all else then clanking, interspersed with the fall of the guillotine and the crowd’s roar: guillotining restored to full lighting OLD THÉRÈSE still in chair with her CITIZENS.)
OLD THÉRÈSE. (In and out of her mind, various voices in her
head.) Now they’re coming, thick and fast, this is what I likes,
one after t’other, heads scattering like boule, blood splattered
JEAN JACQUES. (Comes to stand behind her chair, ghost-like,
desperate.) My belly adores your soup wife, it worships your
boiled beef and veal, it prays for your cabbage, it hymns your
turnips, it choirs your carrots, it communes with your pickled
trout, it benedict’s for your fruit and chestnuts.
OLD THÉRÈSE. You like some things about me then? (Out loud,
involuntary, only OLD THÉRÈSE is aware of ROUSSEAU.)
CITIZEN 2. Everything Madame.
JEAN JACQUES. (Leans over talking intimately to her.) More
than some things Thérèse! During the years of our union, my
dear, I have sought happiness only in yours: I have sought
only to make you happy. And I perceive with sorrow that
success has not attended my efforts..... My dear friend, not
only have you ceased to find pleasure in my company, but it
seems to be a great trial for you even to spend a few moments
with me, out of regard for me. You are happy with everyone
but me; all who surround you know your secrets but me.
OLD THÉRÈSE. Secrets? Well the valet, John, at Ermenonville, knew
how my title tickled. I turned it into one of my “odd
expressions” ...mad amorousseau... sex mad (Giggles.) What a mouthful.... that John was! (Laughs.) Is! Never kept my taste-studs secret from Jean Jacques though, especially during manual work... (The guillotine falls.) Oh! my god.
CITIZEN 1. You can cook cow. Axe-man’s severed the threads by
which it hung.
CITIZEN 2. She’s grinning!
(The guillotine falls again.)
OLD THÉRÈSE. Oh! my god, not another one!
VOICES. Down with the nobs!
OLD THÉRÈSE. Off with their nobs! (Shouts to the crowd.)
JEAN JACQUES. (More desperate.) And if I were to die Thérèse,
promise me to have nothing to do with priests. Priests come to
women when their husbands die. Nor have anything to do with
great persons, I know too many great persons and they will
come to comfort you. Particularly beware of literary men, they
have no sincerity and will be intent on enacting what they have
imagined. You should retire to the depths of a small province,
or some small city like Blois or even Orleans.
OLD THÉRÈSE. Citizen a word in your ear? After the death of his
divinity, all the great persons of the revolution came before me,
and for his soul’s peaceful repose I lapped them up. (Laughing
as though drunk.)
CITIZEN 2. Madame Rousseau, a hand on the gallows’ pole.
OLD THÉRÈSE. You’re bigger than you look.
CITIZEN 2. And a little manual work!
OLD THÉRÈSE. Work you up then, you vile little sod, up, get up,
there! (As though speaking to a dog, looking back over
her shoulder at ROUSSEAU, but working furiously on
CITIZEN 2.) A bougie in the front, a bougie in the back, a
bougie biting flesh... and I lie back and let John see the bush,
in full view, stretched on the rack, and anything he wanted to
do with me. Traitor to your class, traitor to your children,
traitor to me, and John dips me like fondue: I’ll bring you to
see... snivelling strings of snot! Come on! How much more
can you stand? How many times must I do this to you before
you die? Why don’t you die? Drink! Drink! As I pull and pull,
you drink and drink! Arsenic? Strychnine? Have I? (The hum,
the clanking, the rush of the guillotine increases in
intensity.) How about your heart bursting? Your brain seized
with apoplexy? Me handiwork sounds like a roll on the drum.
(Narrative building with process at guillotine.) Up! Up!
Higher! Into the mountains! Harder! Longer! Longer than a
horse, climbing your Mount Pilat. You may never return once upon a time, for all the hurt you’ve done me. You may never return, for all the hurt my sex endures, once upon a time. Shall I? This time? The last time? Shall I make it the last time? Shall you choose and do I do this just because I hate, or because I love, as I always have, as you don’t deserve? Will I have? Had the courage? Or just imagined on the day it coincides? Or are we mad? Driven each other mad, so we can’t tell tails from nobs?
CITIZEN 2. Oh that is very good Madame. You are some kind of
expert in arte amoris. For perfection, as the blade descends,
manic vigour on the drum!
OLD THÉRÈSE. There are too many voices in me head Monsieur.
They all come back to crazy me.
(ROUSSEAU and YOUNG THÉRÈSE make their way back to the bed and settle into sex. Executions end. Crowd exits, pulling tumbrel to one side.)
(As voices in head, pre-recorded.)
BONNEFOND. Thérèse Levastsewer.
JEAN JACQUES. I choose it Thérèse. Not left, right!
Push Thérèse. Live. Right!
MARAT. At the birth of supreme being.
JEAN JACQUES. I never felt the least spark of love for her.
VOICES IN UNISON. Thérèse Levastsewer.
JEAN JACQUES. I promise. I promise.
OLD THÉRÈSE. So I hit ‘im Citizen. (Mimed by ROUSSEAU and
YOUNG THÉRÈSE.) We was at Ermenonville thanks to
Monsieur de Girardin. Always borrowing somewhere to live.
Jean Jacques was sixty six years old. He was bent over and I
was holding him, like I’m holding you now, and I brought it
down upon his head. It seemed the only way. I must have
done it, I’d thought about it, so many times, just that way.
And the chamber pot was all broken over the floor, like mosaic,
and a pool of blood beside his bonks. “I arose and pierced the
silence with me screams,” that’s what they wrote. Feathers
ruffled, scratching at the floor like an enraged hen. Monsieur
de Girardin came, we had locked the door, but he had a key....
he found me covered with blood from my husband’s wound. He
was my husband.... the most famous man in Europe.... to
whom I’d given everything and in the end took it all back.
There was lots of rumours. Some said he committed suicide because he’d found out about me and John. Some said it was at the order of the king. What was accepted, in the end, was he’d
had a stroke and in the fall cracked his head on the floor, on stone tiles. I lay down beside him and put me arms around him. I remember he was as cold as the floor in next to no time. Then
I cried and cried for the love of women.... for the little nobody in Jean Jacques.... for all my babbies whether they live or not. But
how can a woman get sentimental in the head when it’s her lot to always have her hands in goo and her ass on the nest?
CITIZEN 2. Sorry there’s so much of it Madame.
CITIZEN 1. It was the last slice of bread Madame. It’s a waste of
young girls to take off the head when their titties hang like
CITIZEN 2. And I’ve been abstaining Madame. I will wipe it clean for
you…. with my neckerchief.
(Blackout: foghorn blotting out everything that’s gone
SCARAMOUCHE. (From The audience.) The remains of the great
have a varied fate. On the 4th July 1778 Rousseau was buried, as befits an artist, on the Ile des Peupliers, a tiny island in the lake of the Parc Ermenonville. On the 9th October 1794 Rousseau’s remains were removed from Ile des Peupliers and taken in triumph, as befits a hero, to the Pantheon in Paris. In 1814, with the return of the Bourbons, his remains were removed from the Pantheon and scattered as befits the unnoticed. Thérèse Levasseur, always largely unnoticed, dropped off the world murmuring in her final sleep, with some regret, for some reason or other...
OLD THÉRÈSE. (Spot: front stage. Behind her a basket full of balloons, the heads of the guillotined.) Because Rousseau did a poor girl who did not know how to read or write the honour of having her wash his linen and cook his soup and at times share his bed – must this poor girl be turned into a heroine? ... The widow of Jean Jacques for all my life.... The remains of doormats retain an imprint of all the traffic of the world, and with the unnoticed everything is noticed.
(Music: ROUSSEAU’S “Chanson de Negre” [sound recording available from Rousseau Association website, http://www.rousseauassociation.org/music/ChansondeNegre.aiff: duration 1min 50secs approx., fade up behind THÉRÈSE, she exits slowly.)
SCARAMOUCHE. (Walks slowly to the spot vacated by THÉRÈSE. He takes off the mask and unstuffs the codpiece.) That’s worse, reality! The moment of truth! I’m not SCARAMOUCHE. I’m just an actor. These words are not mine, they have been written, and I’ve done my best with them. Did THÉRÈSE murder JJR, as a matter of historical fact? There is some doubt about the cause of death and it was rumoured. We on the other hand have made a point. It is the moral of our story but our story is not moral. We say she killed him. And why? This is a play that tells you what to think, and so, deeply unfashionable, deeply and politically incorrect. We show and tell. Pictures without titles are like are like fruit without seed. Of course,we should leave it up to you, not take sides, be even handed, pluralist, bourgeois, democratic, fair. But we take sides and we lecture. Without our play THÉRÈSE is a barely discernible footnote to history. Her obscurity is not unique. Our play could have been called CAMILLE DONCIEUX, or HORTENSE FIQUET, or ROSE BEURAT[xxvi], ad infinitum. Victims of Culture. Victims of Class. Victims of Sexism. THÉRÈSE celebrates the identity of indiscernibles, the mass of the unnoticed. This identity and this mass, like JEAN JACQUES’ General Will, is an unseen, continuous, seismic pressure and then the Earth moves. It is a principle to displace the Darwinian survival of the fittest, it is the survival of what survives and the unnoticed survive by not being noticed. THÉRÈSE LEVASSEUR, MADAME ROUSSEAU, made the French Revolution, with others, the people, surrounded by the fittest, their exploiters, their abusers, their dope dealers, surrounded by the enemies of the people. If she killed, she killed as do the criminally insane. To wipe out the moral order. To wipe out the pretence that we are not enemies. To wipe out the denial of reality’s impossibility. To liberate the nonsense of her love.
(About to walk off, then turns realising something has been forgotten.)
One girl is a shrew she scolds like spurts of devil’s spew. Ours is a new form Polonius... porno-tragical- comical. And, as I ask every night, had I been James Lablanche Stewart who would I have been?
Someone (Or Someone else) should get a top prize (Or too). (Looks round the audience.) In keeping with our play, a top prize then for the person in the audience I have least noticed. (Takes a balloon and gives it to someone.) Sweet dreams all of you, and choirs of incubi and succubi sing you to your rest! (Blackout.)
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[i] Not in recording. Requires emphasised pointing.
[ii] Not explained until end of play and only then if explained by audience.
[iii] Rousseau supports Opera Buffa in the Querelle des Bouffons. This dispute symbolic of fundamental discord in French society. Rousseau himself thinking this dispute might lead to revolution!
[iv] Scaramouche with Stewart Granger.
[v] Le Devin du Village.
[viii] Barking for ruff ruff, glacier for just ice.
[xi] King and Queen.
[xiii] Rich for dough, nutters for nuts.
[xv] Sparing your feelings.
[xvi] Skin conditions, psoriasis.
[xvii] Play on Ma Rat
[xix] Levastsewer not being a pun in French for Levasseur.
[xx] Play on pig in a poke (bag) and fucks.
[xxi] Being a pig.
[xxii] The Marquis de Sade was in the Bastille at the time of the Revolution and used the sewage system, pipes from the cells to the moat below, to address revolutionary mob.
[xxiii] Thérèse’s introduction to pornography.
[xxiv] Rousseau wrote a constitution for Corsica which impressed Boswell.
[xxv] For Strat. This refers not to their loss of Sultan but to their getting lost in Lincolnshire. Scaramouche clarifies.
[xxvi] Doncieaux, Fiquet, Beurat unnoticed, servant wives of Monet, Cézanne, Rodin.