ABSTRACT

The year 1788 had been an excellent one for Bernardin: his literary reputation was well established, and the immediate and outstanding success of Paul et Virginie, which was soon to appear as a separate edition, had brought him confidence and not a little work (something he had not anticipated). He had been treated moderately well by the monarchy, its servants, and its administrators, and had been particularly well supported by Hennin and by Mesnard. But this support was coming to an end. The Revolution would oblige Bernardin, and indeed many others, to make choices that they might have preferred to avoid: choices about allegiance, about active participation, about whether they should stay to live through the crisis, or whether they should emigrate and observe France from a distance. Mesnard was soon to leave office and would be of little help thereafter; Hennin was too close to the monarchy to be able to offer much practical support during the Revolution, and their friendship, so often described as 'ancienne', would die away, for reasons that remain unclear. Bernardin's final letter to Hennin dates from 1 January 1791 and accompanies his edition of La Chaumière indienne — a kind of étrenne, or new year's gift: and, as it turned out, a farewell gift. There is no evidence of further contact between the two men, and Hennin, as far as we can judge, did not acknowledge the book. This was by no means normal practice, for Hennin was meticulous in his records, even if, on occasion, he was slow to respond. But it is apparent from his correspondence with Bernardin that he was carrying an enormous workload; as he said in a letter of 29 January 1789, 'les affaires sont doublées depuis quelque temps et toute la fiance m'écrit'. 1