S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.
[A French poet; born in Constantinople, October, 1762; secretary of legation to England, 1787; committed to prison as a Girondist, after pursuing a moderate course in the Revolution; and executed, July, 1794, two days before the fall of Robespierre.]
I have done nothing for posterity; nevertheless [striking his forehead], there was something there! (Je nai rien fait pour la postérité; pourtant javais quelque chose là!)
Fournier hesitates at setting aside the touching story of Chénier and his friend Roucher reciting in the fatal cart the first scene of Andromaque, between Orestes and Pylades; and the despairing exclamation of the author of the Jeune Captive, that he had done nothing for posterity. I confess that I doubt, says the author of LEsprit dans lHistoire, while I regret my doubts. He adds, that the narrative of a romancier, Hyacinthe de Latouche, is drawn from contemporaneous accounts of suspicious authenticity, and names Alfred de Vigny as contributing, in his Stello, to fasten the romance upon history. Professor Caro, however, dismisses the scene as a pure invention, and traces the famous mot of the poet to the notes of a poem by Loizerolles, on the death of his father, who shared Chéniers prison.Études et Portraits, chap. xi. This same Loizerolles attributes to Chénier what history has assigned to his companion in prison, Trudaine, who was said to have drawn on the wall of his cell a tree, from which a branch had fallen, and above it the words, either in Latin, Fructus matura tulissem, as asserted by the Marquis de Saint-Aulaire, in the Lettres inédites de Mme. du Deffand, I. 103, note; or in French, Jaurais porté des fruits (I should have borne some fruit.)
If, however, doubt is to be thrown on all that Loizerolles and Latouche have written on this subject, the following exclamation of Chénier to Roucher must share the same fate: It is so beautiful to die young! (Il est si beau de mourir jeune!).