Jacques Cazotte has just told the Duchess de Gramont that greater ladies than herself will be taken to the scaffold in the executioner’s cart, with their hands tied behind their backs. Madame de Gramont jokes that the prophet won’t even leave her a confessor. He replies:
“No, Madame, you won’t have one. No-one will. The last person to be executed who will have one, as a special favour, will be…”
He hesitates for a moment, but Condorcet wants to know who will be the happy mortal who will have this prerogative. Cazotte answers:
“It is the only one that will remain to him, Monsieur, and it will be the King of France.”
This time, the host, Prince de Beauvau, rises, along with everyone else, and goes towards Cazotte, saying:
“Monsieur Cazotte, this lugubrious pleasantry has lasted long enough. You have gone too far. I ask you to stop this conversation.”
Cazotte says no more. He is preparing to leave when Madame de Gramont, trying to lighten the atmosphere, goes towards him, saying:
“Sir Prophet, who tells us all of our good, or rather bad fortune, you say nothing of your own.”
“I, too, will die on the scaffold, Madame.”
He bows, and leaves.
Four years later, in 1792, La Terreur, announced by Cazotte, reigned over France. Heads were falling in the name of Liberty, Philosophy and Reason. And all the people designated at that dinner party at the home of Monsieur de Beauvau, died the way that Cazotte had predicted.
He, himself, was arrested on 11 September, and guillotined on the 25th, at seven o’clock at night, on the Place du Carrousel.
Cazotte was born in 1719 in Dijon where his father was a clerk of the court. At nineteen, he enters the Administration of the Marine Royale. A sinecure which allows him to write songs, fables and stories which he publishes with success. In 1747, he is sent to Martinique as Controller of the Iles-sous-le-Vent. There, he marries the daughter of a High Magistrate, the lovely Elizabeth Roignan, and continues to write works full of fantasy. This literary activity does not stop him from fulfilling the duties of his charge and energetically repelling, in 1759, an English attack on the Saint-Pierre fort.
In 1761, at the age of 42, he resigns, leaves the Antilles, returns to France and settles in a pretty house – part castle, part cottage – at Pierry, near Epernay. He becomes passionate about occultism and publishes, in 1772, Le Diable amoureux which is the first fantastic story to appear in France.
Some time after the publication of Le Diable amoureux, he receives, one evening, the visit of a stranger who uses bizarre signs. Cazotte asks him if he is mute. The man repeats his strange gestures. Cazotte starts to become annoyed, and asks him what it is that he wants from him. The stranger says:
“What? But I thought that you were one of us, and in the highest of grades.”
Cazotte tells him that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. The stranger replies:
“If you are not initiated, where have you found all that you have written in your Diable amoureux about the mysteries of the Kabbala, the power of numbers, the spirits of the air, etc.? It is impossible that you imagined all that… Are you a Free Mason?”
Cazotte denies it.
“Well then, Monsieur, either by intuition, or by luck, you have penetrated some secrets which are accessible only to initiates of the highest order. Perhaps it would be prudent, from now on, to abstain from such revelations.”
Cazotte swears that he only wanted to write a literary work, and that he knew no secrets. After a long interrogation, the stranger finishes by believing the incredible: Cazotte, by his own intuition, and perhaps by a gift of clairvoyancy, has found some important elements of the teachings reserved for the Initiated. Suddenly his tone changes:
“Since you are an intuitive profane, and not the unfaithful brother that I had supposed, I want to instruct you in our science. You have guessed too much to not know more.”
A first discussion takes place then, which will last until the next morning. And on that night, Cazotte begins to learn – he would later say – things “to make the hair on your head stand up.”
The following day, he accompanies his initiator to Lyon where he enters the sect of Martinezites, founded by Martinez Pasqualis.
Martinez Pasqualis is certainly one of the most mysterious characters in the Illuminism of the XVIII Century. He went from town to town and formed adepts who, after initiation, entered into the Ordre des Chevaliers Macons elus Cohens de l’Univers, which he had created.
His doctrine consisted in helping Man to find those faculties lost at the moment of the Fall of Adam, and to again resemble God… It is found in the book written by Martinez, himself, entitled: Traite de la Reintegration des etres dans leurs premieres proprietes, vertus et puissances spirituelles et divines.
Cazotte was initiated and we know that he participated in theurgical operations – or divine magic – during which he became – according to him – capable of “premonitory visions which passed in front of his internal eye with the rapidity of lightning”. He also started to enter into states of trance and ecstasy. Back in his Perry house, he set up a magic room where he locked himself for whole days to perform mysterious things which intrigued his family.
Cazotte is a man of many facettes. This occult activity did not prevent him from continuing to write light works and to receive his friends Condorcet, Beaumarchais and Chamfort in his home. It is said that they delivered themselves up to “mind debauchery”.
La Harpe published an account of the dinner in 1805. Some historians consider that the prophecy didn’t happen, because of the date of the publication. However, they forget that certain people knew about it before the Revolution:
Madame de Genlis affirms, in a letter to Deleuze, having heard many times, before the Revolution, La Harpe recount Cazotte’s prophecy with numerous details; the English writer William Burt in his book Observations on the curiosities of Nature, declares having been at Prince de Beauvau’s famous dinner, and having heard Cazotte’s prophetic words; Baroness Louise d’Oberkirch, childhood friend of Grand-Duchess Maria Feodorovna, reports in her Memoires, which end in 1789, that she had knowledge of the prophecy in the winter of 1788-1789, when she was in Strasbourg at the home of her friend, Mr de Puysegur. On the subject of a somnambulist who was making rather frightening predictions in Alsace, Baroness d’Oberkirch writes:
“I had just read, the day before, the famous prophecy of Monsieur Cazotte, sent to Russia by Monsieur de La Harpe, and that the Grand-Duchess had passed on to me”…
This last text alone, would be sufficient to authentify the prophecy.
The prophecy came true in all of its details: Condorcet poisoned himself in his prison cell, Chamfort cut his veins with a razor, Monsieur Vicq d’Azyr had them opened for him, Madame de Gramont was guillotined, and La Harpe became a Christian.