Visions of Death

THE SEER WHO SEALED HIS OWN FATE

Writer Jacques Cazotte was greeted with incredulity when he told the guests at a Paris dinner party in 1788 what fates would befall them in the Revolution which would shortly overwhelm France. “You don’t have to be a prophet to foresee a revolution today,” someone scoffed. Most of the courtiers and writers present agreed.

There were cries of outrage and protest when Cazotte prophesied that the king would be executed-and so would most of the ladies present at the party.

What was surprising was that he was even more specific regarding certain people. Looking gravely at Nicolas Chamfort, a celebrated playwright who had risen from humble origins, Cazotte said, “You will cut your veins with a razor 22 times, but you will not die until some months later.”

To the Marquis de Condorcet, a philosopher-mathematician married to one of France’s most beautiful woman, Cazotte went on to assert that he would die on the floor of a prison cell by taking poison in an attempt to his cheat his executioner.

But the most astonishing prophecy was reserved for playwright and critic, Jean de la Harpe.  La Harpe was a very well-known atheist, but Cazotte predicted that the Revolution would make him a devout Christian.

So, what happened next?

Chamfort worked for the Revolution in its early days, but later went on to criticize its excesses. When faced with the threat of imprisonment in 1793, a desperate Chamfort tried but failed to kill himself by slashing his wrists, just as Cazotte had predicted. He would die a few months later.

Condorcet was elected to the Revolutionary Assembly. He was even its secretary for a while. So what went wrong? He was outlawed when he opposed the Reign of Terror. Two days after being imprisoned, he was found dead on the floor of his cell. He had cheated his executioner.

La Harpe was also ended up going to prison. But there, he began to reconsider his spiritual state and became an ardent Christian.

As for Cazotte, his visionary powers may have brought him a little happiness. For they enabled him to foresee the exact manner of his own death-arrest, release, re-arrest, and finally the guillotine!

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