10. The Attempted Suicide Of Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort was one of the most popular French playwrights of the late 18th century. Several of his quotes, such as “War to the chateaux, peace to the cottages,” became well-known maxims of the time. With two different birth certificates on record for Chamfort, the circumstances of his birth are unclear. The first certificate lists a poor grocer named Nicolas Francois and his wife, Therese Croizet, as his parents. The second one lists his parents as unknown, suggesting he might have been adopted.
Despite his humble origins, Chamfort was a brilliant, witty student who attended school under a scholarship. After graduation, he became a teacher and writer. His plays soon won him wealthy patrons and acclaim from the Academie Francaise. Eventually, he became the secretary of the king’s sister.
However, once the revolution erupted, Chamfort joined the Jacobin Club as their secretary. He also wrote pro-revolutionary newspaper articles and political pamphlets. By 1793, disgusted by the violence of the radicals, he left for the moderate faction. His sharp criticism of his old friends led to his imprisonment for a couple of days.
Fearing he would soon be arrested again, he decided to commit suicide. In September of that year, he locked himself in his study and shot himself in the face, firing off his jaw and nose. Unfortunately, he survived the shot. He then grabbed a paper knife and frantically slashed at his throat and torso. But he survived this, too. One of his servants eventually discovered him, but Chamfort only lived for six more months, all of it in excruciating pain.