The articles of furniture are worthy of the light by which
they are exhibited, and the apartments they serve to decorate.
I must first observe, that the Governor contracts with the
Ministry to supply them; and this is one of the trifling perquisites
attached to his immense revenue, which I shall take
notice of presently. He may frame excuses for himself, with
regard to the inconveniences of the prison, because he cannot
change the situation of places; he may palliate the niggardly
distribution of wood; under the pretext of saving the King’s
money; but on the head of furniture, which is entirely his own
affair, and for which he is paid, he can have neither excuse
nor palliation: his parsimony in this particular is at the same
time both cruel and dishonest!
Two mattrasses half eaten by the worms, a matted elbow
chair, the bottom of which was kept together by pack-thread,
a tottering table, a water pitcher, two pots of Dutch ware, one
of which served to drink out of, and two flagstones to
support the fire, composed the inventory of mineBST. I was
indebted only to the commiseration of the turnkey, after
several months confinement, for a pair of tongs and a fireshovel.
I could not possibly procure dog-irons; and whether it
may be considered as the effect of policy, or want of feeling,
what the Governor does not think proper to furnish, he will
not suffer the prisoner to provide at his own expence. It was
eight months ere I could gain permission to purchase a teapot;
twelve before I could procure a chair tolerably steady and
convenient; and fifteen ere I was allowed to replace, by a
vessel of common ware, the clumsy and disgusting pewter
machine they had assigned me.
The sole article I was allowed to purchase in the beginning of my imprisonment, was a new blanket; and the manner by
which I obtained this privilege was as follows.
It is well known that in the month of September the
moths which prey upon woolen stuffs are transformed into
butterflies. On the opening of the cave into which I was
introduced, there arose from the bed, I will not say a number,
or a cloud, but a large thick column, of these insects, which
instantly overspread the whole chamber. The sight caused me
to start back with horror; when I was consoled by one of my
conductors with the assurance, that before I had lain there two
nights, there would not be one left.
In the evening the Lieutenant of the Police came
according to custom, to bid me welcome; when I expressed
such a violent dislike to a flock-bed so full of incumbents, that
they were graciously pleased to permit me to put on a new covering,
and to have the mattrass beaten, all at my own expence.
As feather-beds are entirely prohibited in the Bastille, no
doubt, less because they are considered as too great a luxury
for persons to whom the Ministry wishes to give a lesson of
mortification, I was very desirous that every three months my
miserable mattrass should be suffered to undergo the same
kind of renovation. Yet the proprietary Governor opposed it
with all his might not withstanding it would have cost him
nothing, “for”, said he, “we must not use them to too much
BST The furniture was rarely praised. Dumouriez: “An old bed of very bad
and very dirty serge, a close-stool, a wooden table, a straw chair and a
pitcher were all its furnishings.” (II, 28). The Bastille devoilée lists the
following as standard: “A bed of green serge with curtains of the same; a
straw mat and a mattress; a table or two, two pitchers, a candleholder and
a tin goblet; two or three chairs, a fork, a spoon and everything needed to
light a fire; by special favor, weak little tongs and two large stones for an
andiron.” (La Bastille devoilée, cited in Coeuret, 54-55).