“The Tiny Lights of a Parisian Glazier”, edited by Daniel Roche: a thoughtful master glazier


“The Faubourg and the Saint-Denis gate”, by Thomas Girtin (1801-1802).  Pen and sepia wash heightened with watercolor on thick paper.  On the road, a glazier.

“The Tiny Lights of a Parisian Glazier. Memories, Songs and Other Texts (1757-1802)”, by Jacques-Louis Ménétra, edited by Daniel Roche, with Pascal Bastien, Frédéric Charbonneau, Vincent Milliot, Philippe Minard and Michel Porret, Georg, 450 p., €25.

In 1982, the historian Daniel Roche, who died on February 19, published the diary of my life, by Jacques-Louis Ménétra, a Parisian glazier born in 1738 and died in 1812. He thus gave to read a unique account of the travels, thoughts and dreams of a craftsman of the Age of Enlightenment. The book was translated into English in 1986, with an afterword by Robert Darnton, and republished by Albin Michel in 1998. But the three hundred pages of the Log constitute only the first part of the “Miscellaneous Writings” collected by Ménétra in the imposing manuscript 678 of the Historical Library of the City of Paris. In the evening of his life, he brought together amorous and obscene poems, songs, epitaphs, plays on his disputes with the corporation, polemical replies to his accusers, political memoirs. It is this set that appears today under the title The Tiny Lights of a Parisian Glazier.

In his edition of the only LogDaniel Roche indicated that “Ménétra was very attached to what he wrote: he took the trouble to keep and then copy compositions made at various times in his life”. Editing them was his last major task. It was carried out thanks to the five historians who accompanied him and who added to the edition a very useful “Abecedary Ménétra”, where the continuities are woven between the two books, that of 1982 and that of today. today.

Menetra is not Rousseau. He will remain his life during a simple glazier, companion then master, and the story of his life is not linked to a change in social condition. He is attached to equality and he reproves the ” bad guys ” which make the inequality of conditions felt. He is loyal to his king, but keeps his distance from authority. He believes in God, but is violently anticlerical. Much to his wife’s chagrin, he prefers the pleasures of time spent with conniving friends to the accumulation, however primitive, of capital: “Interest was his dominant passion and me to cum. »

Jean-Jacques is his idol

He is not Rousseau, but Jean-Jacques is his idol: “You sought by your writings to make the people happy / When all the wicked sought to make you unhappy. » In the Log, Ménétra devotes several pages to his meeting with the great man, probably in 1770, during work done in the furnished apartment where Rousseau lived. A complicity is forged, made up of games of ladies at the Café de la Régence and walks. Real or partly fantasized, the friendship with Rousseau is one of the highlights of Menetra’s memories.

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