Helen Maria Williams – Youth in their Celebration

When Williams arrived in Paris during the Summer of 1790 before the Festival of the Federation, she arrived to the center of the youthful spirit in France. The Federation, being the anniversary of the fall of the Bastille and the creation of the new constitution in France, is an important day for not only the French people as a whole but specifically for the youth in France, because this meant the beginning of a future of possibilities for France. In William’s words in her Letters Written in France, in the Summer of 1790, she finds that she can not give “an adequate idea of the behaviour of the spectators” because the youth of Paris are something too joyous to describe (pp. 105).Williams describes the general festivities on the landscape, the numbers of people, their labors at the Champ de Mars, and the soldiers’ march through the streets, but the best description she can give of what the people invoked inside of her is that it “addressed itself at once to the imagination, the understanding, and the heart” (pp.105).

Some of William’s inability to describe the emotions that the festivities invoked in her, in itself aid in giving an essence of youth to the festivities. When one tries to describe the sheer power of youth, it becomes surprisingly difficult because youth has the ability to be so many things at once. The youth can be the power of the soldiers’ movement as they march to the Champs de Mars, it can be the strength of the people, both young and old, men and women, as they aid in building up the amphitheatre around the Champ de Mars, or it can be the cheers and revelry of the people of France as they show their love for their new constitution and their new freedom. The respect given to Henry the Fourth during the march and the women holding their babies up, promising to ” imbibe…an inviolable attachment to the principles of the constitution”, gave an air of a respect for the past leading into a respect for the future, which is something the youth must be the first and the last to always have (pp.106).

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