Censorship was a sensitive matter in 1815. Although it was supposedly abolished on 24th March by Napoleon, this censorship report for a historical drama entitled Le Triomphe de Léon proves the contrary.
The young author of this play, intended for performance in Toulouse, had transposed the contemporary political situation onto the stage, with the parallels clearly intended to be enjoyed: Louis XVIII became Clovis, the Duke of Berry became the Duke of Cantorbury, and Marshal Soult was ‘disguised’ as Zoult.
The play was first banned at departmental level; this report renders the prohibition national. However, the playwright had still gone so far as to write the drama and to submit it to the authorities. He evidently believed there was the potential to perform it in Toulouse, far from Paris, which in turn questions Napoleon’s control of France during this turbulent period.
This report (translated in ‘Further Information’) also reveals how contemporaries perceived the events of the 100 Days. The official censors refer to this period as the ‘new Revolution’, which has been decided upon by a conveniently abstract ‘France’. The actual role of the people in this ‘France’ is small: the censors decide that such big political questions cannot be decided by the rowdy masses of the theatre pit.
Theatre of Toulouse
The Triumph of Léon, historical drama in three acts and in verse
[Note in different handwriting:] Postponed – Paris, 11th May 1815, Minister of the Police
A young man from Toulouse has imagined a transposition of the new Revolution, which has just replaced the Bourbon dynasty with that of Bonaparte for the second time. He has made light changes in the names of the characters. Louis XVIII is Clovis; the Count of Artois is the Count of Angoumais; the Duke of Angoulême is the Duke of Boheme; the Duke of Berry is the Duke of Cantorbury; and Marshal Soult has been disguised as Zoult, the confident of Clovis and the partisan of Léon. Knowing how inconvenient this masquerade is and how it is absurd to put these weighty political questions which France has just decided to the parterre, the extraordinary commissioner on mission in the department has provisionally forbidden the performance of this drama. We can only applaud this prohibition and make it definitive.
The examiners of theatre plays have the honour of suggesting to His Excellency that he refuse permission for the performance of the drama entitled the Triumph of Léon.
Paris, 11th May 1815
Théâtre de Toulouse
Le Triomphe de Léon, drame historique en trois actes et en vers
Ajourné, Paris le 11 mai 1815 Le ministre de la police générale
‘Un jeune homme de Toulouse a imagine à transporter sur la scène la nouvelle Révolution qui vient de substituer une seconde fois la dynastie de Bonaparte à celle des Bourbons. Il a fait une légère altération dans le nom des personnages. Louis XVIII est Clovis ; Le comte d’Artois le comte d’Angoumais; le duc d’Angoulême le duc de Bohèmes ; le duc de Berry le duc de Cantorbury ; et le Mcl Soult est travesti en Zoult confident de Clovis et partisan de Léon. On sait tout ce que cette mascarade a d’inconvenients et combien il est absurde de soumettre au jugement tumultueux du parterre les grandes questions politiques que la France vient de décider, le commissaire extraordinaire en mission dans le département a défendu provisoirement la représentation de ce drame. On ne peut qu’applaudir à cette prohibition et la rendre définitive.
Les Examinateurs des pièces de théâtre ont l’honneur de proposer à V. E. de refuser l’autorisation pour la représentation du drame intitulé le triomphe de Léon.
‘Paris le 11 mai 1815’