A Political Romance: Léon Gambetta, Léonie Léon and the by Susan K. Foley, Charles Sowerwine (auth.)

By Susan K. Foley, Charles Sowerwine (auth.)

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Additional info for A Political Romance: Léon Gambetta, Léonie Léon and the Making of the French Republic, 1872–82

Sample text

They were adults, aged 21 and 30. Their miniscule inheritance would be quickly spent. They faced poverty on their mother’s pension and penury on her death, when her pension would cease. Marriage was now out of the question. 25 The sisters’ options for supporting themselves were few, and all were unattractive. Moreover, the suddenness of their father’s decline gave them little time to adjust their expectations and devise a strategy for survival. They could, perhaps, have found positions as governesses, the conventional solution for gentlewomen fallen on hard times.

Moreover, his ‘wonderful eloquence’ – attested to by many others – enraptured her, stirring the emotions of a lover. ’40 The seductive power of Gambetta’s voice was even more powerful in those special moments when he declaimed a speech in private, just for her. Describing to Gambetta ‘the delightful emotions that your vibrant voice causes in me’, she added on one occasion: ‘Never has it sounded so harmonious to me as during our last meeting. I said to you: Speak, speak again, and I listened, my soul plunged in an indescribable intoxication.

Like a number of republican figures, Gambetta quietly distanced himself from both this suicidal uprising and the government that crushed it mercilessly. In June 1871, by-elections were held for a number of vacant seats in the Assembly. Gambetta re-entered the political fray and was elected by the firmly republican, working-class district of Belleville, on the northern outskirts of Paris. A scintillating orator and quick-witted debater, he soon emerged as the parliamentary leader of the republicans against the monarchists and Bonapartists.

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