Letter of Henri Rochefort on Louise Michel (1)
Dieppe, July 6, 1883.
My Dear Citizen Argyriadès,
I have only known our friend aboard the warship that transported us to New Caledonia. But I know that during the siege she had heroically fait le coup de l’eu against the Prussians, under whose guns she went to gather the wounded. It is likely that none of those who condemned her could have accomplished such exploits.
I have recounted before the court of assizes her devotion for her fellow deportees, to whom she gave even her coat and her socks, keeping for herself only a nasty calico dress and a linen scarf, which she laughingly called the “corbeille de noces” of Mr. Mac-Mahon.”
In New Caledonia, we could not offer her a cake worth three sous (on shore where they were dying of hunger, such a cake constituted a princely gift) but she would run off to share it with her companions in deportation. All her food and clothing went to others. I saw very well how she could die, but I wondered on what she lived.
Moreover, this passion for self-sacrifice had long been hers. Her uncle told me that as a little girl, she returned every day from school without her socks and shoes, which she had given to schoolmates poor than her or to beggars that she encountered.
That is all that I know, dear citizen, but it seems to me that it is sufficient to enlighten your listeners about that incorrigible “pillager.”
A thousand brotherly wishes,
(1) Citizen Argyriadès suggesting in 1883 to have a conference on our friend Louise Michel, asked for some details from Rochefort, who wrote to him this interesting letter.
[Almanach de la Question Sociale pour 1894, pp. 73-74.
Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur.]