Anna Letitia Barbauld: Voice of the Enlightenment
The biographies of women writers of the eighteenth-century have been multiplying in the wake of cautions against sweeping narratives about women at particular moments in time. To study the uniqueness of an author’s circumstances and motivations is to take women’s studies more seriously. Anna Letitia Barbauld has been relatively illusive to those who have tried to piece together her biography, and much debate had surfaced around how to reclaim a woman who was so maligned in her time. Yet, Barbauld’s life story is particularly interesting, since she successfully published throughout the later half of the eighteenth century and well into the nineteenth in a wide range of genres, including poetry, devotional pieces, educational texts, sermons, essays and political tracts, literary criticism, and the correspondence of Samuel Richardson. Most importantly Barbauld engaged with pressing questions of her time, including civic humanism, slavery, and Dissenter rights.
Part of the problem in retelling her story is that a major portion of Barbauld’s writing work was done alone in her twenties, between 1763 and 1773, long before she was a well-known author. Because of the private nature of this writing, very little of her poetry before 1772 can be dated, which unfortunately means that her poetic development can also not be traced. Also Barbauld did not immediately publish her texts. Instead she circulated them among her friends in and from her hometown of Warrington. Many of these readers who celebrated her poems facilitated her more public life as an author. However, today the pervasiveness of her writing and her influence in such a wide variety of spheres, including her progressive views on children’s education, has often been overlooked.
McCarthy’s biography works through Barbauld’s life chronologically, emphasizing the role of Dissenter ideology in her intellectual formation. A thoughtful family tapestry illustrates her childhood, even when information is minimal. The narrative progresses through Barbauld’s education in science, reading, French, and Stoicism, as well as her close relationship with her brother, John Aiken and Joseph and Mary Priestly, who fostered her ideas about liberty. It details to the greatest extent possible Barbauld’s “Land of Matrimony,” alluding to her ultimate mysterious marriage to Rochemont Barbauld, which began happily and may have been strengthened by his dissenting beliefs embraced after the tutelage of Anna Letitia’s father and to which Anna Letitia passionately identified. However, it was also marred by Rochemont’s psychological breaks. Barbauld’s faith was central to her; however, rather than doctrine and sobermindedness, McCarthy shows that Barbauld was more interested in devotion and intimacy with God. To that end, he points to her understanding of grace, noting that “conspicuously absent from Hymns [in Prose for Children], to the annoyance of religious conservatives in years to come, was any conception of sin and punishment.” (212).
The Palgrave school for boys was a formative time for Barbauld, as she had grown up around boys and later taught future “patriots and citizens.” Her educational writing, Lessons for Children and Hymns, as well as “On Education” were inspired by her students and their son, Charles. McCarthy explains that Lessons can be aligned with “Enlightenment programs of educational reform” and is part of “Barbauld’s project of creating a better kind of citizen.” Lessons and Hymns exceeds previous children’s curriculum in scope and ambition as well as in “stylistic grace,” “subtlety,” “philosophical stature,” and “intellectual inventiveness.” (214) These Lessons and Hymns, in fact, earned her the moniker as “a star of infant education.” (192) After running the school and traveling to London and Paris, she and her husband settled north of London in Hampstead, where Barbauld became a more public figure, publishing essays and poems in the Monthly Magazine and writing against the slave trade. As “the highest literary character in England,” she edited Samuel Richardson’s letters, selected essays for the Spectator, introduced twenty-eight novels and twenty-one British novelists (which included a defense of the novel as a valuable genre (428)), and reviewed for the Monthly Magazine.
Barbauld’s essays against slavery, employing her “rhetorical jujitsu” (322), brought her both praise and scorn. Her sophisticated writing was often misunderstood, and her “The Rights of Woman” is easily read out of context (352). In “What is Education” and “On Prejudice,” Barbauld “articulated a basic idea of existentialism ninety years before Martin Heidegger was born.” McCarthy also provides many engaging readings of Barbauld’s work alongside Hume, Blake, Hutchinson, and Epictetus. Because Barbauld called attention to these matters of social justice McCarthy sees her as “a point of concentration for a male fear and resentment of women that ordinarily circulates more diffusely” (454). However, Barbauld’s life work in some ways ends in frustration, as she saw little progress in her struggle for justice. Even without the satisfaction of witnessing the fruit of her labor, she continued to promote women’s minds through her writing, and she befriended and supported many intelligent young women. Contrary to earlier claims, gender is not the reason that Barbauld hesitated to publish. McCarthy shows that Barbauld’s reticence had more to do with her family than with threats of being thought unfeminine (107).
Although it is a hefty read, at 725 pages, what could be cut? Perhaps some would find the extended descriptions of cultural and political moments, the extra example, the contemporary with a similar or slightly different point unnecessary. However, these are well-chosen and carefully integrated and result in a fascinating comprehensive narrative. McCarthy asserts in his afterward “Wisdom in Time of Need” that Barbauld teaches wisdom, but that “literary modernists” resist this, “scorning writing intent on ‘reforming’ them.” McCarthy’s interest in Barbauld’s ethical agency is clear throughout this biography. Since Barbauld herself took her didacticism quite seriously, this does not seem out of place.
McCarthy’s notes and citations are impressively extensive and his integration of fact and narrative result in fascinating reading. Though perhaps difficult because of lack of evidence, a chronological list of all of Barbauld’s works would have been helpful for most readers. However, this omission also points to McCarthy’s attention to accuracy, as much of her work is difficult to date. He is careful not to embellish, staying loyal to the evidence and being reluctant to overly conjecture. Anna Letitia Barbauld: Voice of the Enlightenment is a comprehensive and convincing tour de force, which expertly demonstrates Barbauld’s influence and public role in the second half of the eighteenth century and well into the nineteenth. It weaves a detailed, informative, and often riveting story of one woman author’s far reaching influence and will be enjoyed by a wide range of readers.
The Political Philosophy of Thomas Paine
Constructing knowledge through institutions, people and culture is the generally accepted method of social research. The study of prominent personalities and their works helps contextualize the historical period itself. Methodologically, this genre of literature draws deeply on a hermeneutic approach and archival materials. Diachronic historicism, as it is known, helps communicate between the past and present by reading time, space and literature together. Following this methodology in The Political Philosophy of Thomas Paine, Jack Fruchtman takes up the responsibility of constructing the relevance of the eighteenth century in the history of the United States through an examination of Thomas Paine and his major works.
As Fruchtman shows in the introduction, Thomas Paine was, more than anything else, a thinker of immense creativity whose visionary ideology was marred with contradictions. Simultaneously, he was an arm of the liberal camp and a spokesperson of religious fantasy with conservative economic policies. Born in 1737 as an Englishman in Thetford, in the English county of Norfolk, Paine rose to prominence with his multifaceted activities as author, pamphleteer, radical, inventor and intellectual. His capacious intellect spans political science, secularism, religion, state, empire and colonialism with much food for thought.
The book demonstrates that Thomas Paine (1753-1825) was one of the rare intellectual-activists constantly engaged with what later seemed to be contradictory viewpoints and wobbly stands. Scholars tend to differ in their view of Paine and his ideology but accept that his ideas and foresight forged America as a nation of great potential.
Overall, the book is an example of balanced criticism and praise. Structurally, it is divided into six chapters that propose challenging arguments, not unlike the many recent biographies of the lives of leading figures of the United State’s formative era. A wider readership and interest in this type of study have produced studies on the lives of George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson and have brought this scholarship into the public arena. (1) This peculiar phenomenon of love for the founding-fathers, known as “Founders Chic” receives much attention from contemporary American society, providing the immediate social framework for the book.
Paine’s conflicting political ideologies were the product of his reactions and responses to his immediate surroundings. The life of Paine bore the signs of an insecure, broken, solitary, and rootless background. These circumstances forced him to become a wanderer, (16) influencing his life and ideologies to a great extend, compelling him to always seek alternatives. Paine’s engagement with the political atmosphere started in 1768 in the Sussex town of Lewes, where his flair for debate won the hearts of many commentators. (18) These pursuits garnered for him fame among debating clubs in the United States where he received fair criticism that shaped young Paine’s political choices. His style is reminiscent of Marxist methodology, and by calling attention to this aspect of his ideas, the book may be considered a contribution to the debates on political activism. Thus Paine became synonymous with nation building.
The moral foundation of Paine’s ideology was his belief in the existence of God as the powerful source of creation. The debates on Paine’s idea of God constitute the focal point of the second chapter. Paine is examined as a devoted theist, a premise aimed at examining his journey from Quakerism to Deism. Paine’s Quakerism was fueled through his anger against the rule of hierarchies in the established religions. This disagreement with the hegemony of established religious institutions brought Paine close to radical-atheist positions, which (30) can be seen in his argument that the Pope was the anti-Christ, and that Jesus Christ was an ordinary human being without any superhuman traits.(32) The development of eighteenth-century scientific rationality is examined in the light of Paine’s idea that human beings constitute the only creature of God because they have been equipped to produce like God himself. The influence of mounting scientific reason undergirded his argument that knowledge of the unnatural could be attained through science and reason. (37)
Chapter three examines Paine’s thought through his major work, Common Sense. Paine is presented as an individual who succeeded in moving beyond the dichotomies of blind faith and fanaticism, and as a secular individual, he was devoted to the creation of a secular state in United States. (56) While the chaotic era of American civil war is examined as a product of distinct angularities, the book argues that Common Sense was the first printed book that truly addressed American freedom. (62) Paine sought a peaceful civilization devoid of monarchs. (64) Common Sense was the most radical book of the eighteenth century for it spoke against monarchy, hereditary succession, aristocratic rank and privilege. (66)
One of the most distinguishing aspects of Thomas Paine’s treatise on the state was his emphasis on the secular state devoid of any monarchical despots. Chapter four examines Paine’s ideas on state, secularism and revolution. For him secularism was not the negation of religion but the absorption of religious sentiment in a different context. This context, according to him, was the freedom of the individual to choose his religious faith, thereby limiting state intervention in individual freedom. Fruchtman argues that Paine’s skepticism to state originated from his experience with the authoritarian monarchs and bureaucrats. This very skepticism enabled Paine to assert that once America became a free nation, it could create a constitution that would preserve “above all things the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience.” (93) As a revolutionary thinker belonging to the eighteenth century, his thoughts were shaped by other enlightenment thinkers. Moreover, Paine could easily recognize the impact of French and American revolutions, but at the same time he also urged that “a constitution is the property of a nation and not of those who exercise the government”. (97) He was influenced by Rousseau’s teachings about the role of individuals in deciding the politics of a country and drew heavily on the notion of popular sovereignty. This idea of the common man distinguished Paine from his contemporaries. He also argued that common man has the ability to take political decisions, and thereby ensured the way for socially and publicly debated policies in the state. (99)
In Paine’s imagination, a strong commercial republic supported by a standing army constituted of citizen militia offered a model for the future of America. Based on this idea of nation as premise, chapter five deals with the theoretical environments of Paine’s conception of the nation in the making. Moreover, a comparative examination of Paine’s theory with Hamilton is conducted, with areas of convergence and divergence being strictly followed. (102-03) Furthermore, the chapter demonstrates that both Hamilton and Paine were ardent opponents of slavery and Paine’s opposition was constituted by his belief in human rights and love for humanity. While this chapter extensively uses the comparative method, the politics and ideas of both Paine and Hamilton are examined critically with emphasis on Rousseau’s influence on Paine. (120-21)
Proceeding further from these ideological examinations, chapter six presents a small hypothetical study on the political environment during Paine’s final years. Interestingly, chapter six opens the debate by indicating that Paine, the one time spokesperson of revolution, disavowed all revolutionary politics under the shadow of the guillotine in France when he was arrested and put in prison in 1793. After spending ten months in prison, the chapter shows that a matured Paine came out, someone who was never ready to listen to or make ultra-radical claims. (135-36) As promised by the author in the introduction, the book presents Thomas Paine’s life and ideas in a rational framework with a logically coherent methodology. As Fruchtman concludes, in the final years of his life, Paine became paranoid about those who he thought were undermining the American republic. (146) The political events in the final years of Paine’s life, as the chapter shows, disturbed him very much, and he struggled to balance his criticism of people who made different political choices. As these issues and writings suggest, he was an active and engaged man committed to the cause of America, who spent his final years enmeshed in political debate and conflict.
The Political Philosophy of Thomas Paine, is a lucid, theoretically sound attempt to contextualize Thomas Paine and his works. As we have observed, the methodology of diachronic historicism is beautifully applied in this book, which critically examines the works of Paine. The book will also contribute to the understanding of the American Civil War and the development of a secular polity in the Western world. It will appeal to scholars, researchers, students and the general public interested in the history of eighteenth century America.
Correspondance de Pierre Bayle, Vol. 7, juillet 1686-décembre 1688
Volume 7 of the magnificent new edition of the Correspondance de Bayle covers the period from July 1686 to December 1688. For this period, Pierre Desmaizeaux’s edition of his missives in the Oeuvres diverses contained ten letters; this volume contains 132 (nos. 588-719). It also corrects a number of errors in Labrousse’s Inventaire de la correspondance de Pierre Bayle (1961)(e.g. 157, 227). It is a pleasure to read, partly because almost any possible questions one may have about people, places, or events mentioned in the letters are answered in the notes. The volume is a window looking out onto the intellectual life of the late seventeenth century.
This period in Bayle’s life covered the last year that he edited the Nouvelles de la République des Lettres (NRL), which explains why many of the letters are from writers who want him to review their books, and from those who are either happy or unhappy with his reviews. One of the unhappy readers was Queen Christina of Sweden, who wrote to him, at first through an anonymous intermediary, to complain of Bayle’s treatment of her in print. The editors agree with a recent identification of the intermediary as Giovanni-Francesco Albani, later Pope Clement XI. Christina was upset that when she wrote to protest the violence used against the Huguenots Bayle remarked that this showed that she still had Protestant feelings. This could, of course, be interpreted as a charge that her conversion to Catholicism was insincere. She demanded and received an apology. The publicity from publishing the correspondence with her surely did Bayle’s reputation no harm.
Bayle was at the center of the history of philosophy of the time. It seems like almost everyone in the Republic of Letters cared about Bayle’s opinion. Scientists and philosophers who wrote to Bayle in these years included Robert Boyle and Leibniz. One of his correspondents mentions a visit to Spinoza years before (477). The volume contains an entire short book by Antoine Arnauld, who published a Dissertation sur le pretendu bonheur des plaisirs des sens (1687) in the form of an answer to Bayle’s comments in the NRL in favor of Malebranche (373-428).
Arnauld was concerned to defend strict morals against the perceived dangers of libertinism or Epicureanism. The latter is indeed a current in some of the letters. A number of Bayle’s correspondents were self-described Epicureans, such as François Bernier and the baron Des Coutures. Of course, exactly what that meant, other than having some knowledge of Epicurus and Lucretius, was not always clear. There is one place where Bayle writes of the “talents that make you prefer the pleasures of the earth to the practice of the virtues”, which the editors most likely rightly identify as a lapsus in which he meant to say the opposite (10). (They note that it also could have been a misprint of the nineteenth century German editor.) If the recipient of the letter, one of the Dohnas, was indeed a vulgar Epicurean and thus what Bayle wrote was not a lapsus, that would change our understanding of Bayle’s remark. Bayle may have been an Epicurean, although probably not of the vulgar variety, which makes one think of Freudian slips. Later, another Dohna revealed his high-mindedness or his lack of subtlety by inviting Bayle to refute atheism with the same vigor with which he had refuted idolatry and superstition in the Pensées diverses (260).
There is a good deal of humor in the letters. For example, he excuses the excesses in a book by Pierre Jurieu with the ironic claim that the author is probably not experienced in polemics (364). Everyone knew that Jurieu was indeed very experienced in polemics. Bayle also observes that when Jean Le Clerc accuses others of odium theologicum he ends up painting his own portrait (19).
There are also many little gems in the notes. Du Rondel writes to Bayle about Gijsbert Kuiper’s edition of ancient texts about Harpocrates, the ancient god of silence. The editors call attention to the recent edition of Harpocrates that makes the point that total transparency tends to the totalitarian, and that various sorts of silence and even dissimulation may be the principal condition of civil liberty (352). Bayle’s Commentaire philosophique came out in several parts in 1686-88 and he mentions it often in letters, but he is always careful to maintain the pose that it is not by him. Bayle knew when to be silent, and what to hide, but on the whole one cannot accuse this very prolific author of keeping too much to himself.
Selling Beauty: Cosmetics, Commerce, and French Society, 1750-1830
As slim and elegant as a tube of lipstick, this volume traces the history of the French cosmetics trade from the thick fard of the mid-eighteenth century to the wan visages of the Romantic era. Fittingly for a book about truth in advertising, Martin has titled hers Selling Beauty. She is concerned with the marketing of cosmetics, not their history, use, and fabrication. (For that, readers should consult Catherine Lanoë’s comprehensive 2008 book La poudre et le fard: Une histoire des cosmétiques de la Renaissance aux Lumières, or Rosemarie Gerken’s more focused 2007 study La Toilette: die Inszenierung eines Raumes im 18. Jahrhundert in Frankreich). Within those parameters, she has succeeded in crafting a thoughtful and thought-provoking text that will resonate across disciplines.
Between 1750 and 1830, a bewildering variety of store-bought beauty concoctions replaced traditional home remedies. There was a corresponding increase in cosmetics advertisements, which Martin’s research combines with information gleaned from beauty manuals, medical treatises, patents, legal documents, trade cards, and inventories. Bankruptcy records proved particularly fruitful; even successful merchants struggled financially due to changing fashions and cutthroat competition. These at times dry archival records are enlivened by famous names: Casanova, the actress Mademoiselle Clairon, chemist Antoine Lavoisier (who, as patent inspector, tried to settle the tedious–as he considered it–question of whether or not rouge was medically safe), and Antoine Claude Maille, a vinegar and rouge merchant whose name survives in the modern-day mustard empire.
Cosmetics fell through the cracks in France’s strictly regulated guild system. This was both a boon and a hindrance; “in the traditional guild workshop, the corporation set standards for artisans to follow, encouraging perfection but not innovation” (64). Public fears of charlatanism—and merchants’ fears of counterfeiters—encouraged new marketing strategies, including touting guarantees of satisfaction and patents. “Guarantees from a commerce renowned for its falsity were worth more than a multitude of royal titles” (66). Though patents were shockingly easy to obtain—and rarely offered real protection against counterfeiting—they lent unregulated products an appearance of legitimacy, innovation, and safety.
Another, even more surprising strategy was the introduction of fixed prices, “meant to reassure the client” (66). These “fixed” sums actually varied a good deal, but it was according to the type of container purchased rather than the seller’s whims. Decorative containers—including rouge pots made of Sèvres porcelain—allowed cosmetics to be “both an expensive luxury and a fairly affordable high-quality necessity” (67). Continuing Cissie Fairchilds’ argument, Martin calls cosmetics the ideal “populuxe” product, as “they were easy to make and to transport,” and “their perishable nature meant constant demand” (3, 33). A thriving trade developed thanks to “the growing demand for affordable luxuries, the decline of guild monopolies, and the ease with which cosmetics could be manufactured” (33).
In this increasingly crowded market, merchants further differentiated their products by giving them distinctive names, often evoking the Orient. “Harem women, chosen by the sultan for his pleasure, represented true beauty” (134). But their allure was sanitized in cosmetics advertisements, stripped of any racial or sexual subtext. “Unlike the secretive and titillating descriptions of the harem in earlier literary works, the cosmetics advertised were commodities whose mystery had been completely revealed for the good of French women” (146). This was not entirely a commercial fabrication; many of the key ingredients in cosmetics were imported from the East.
Detractors attacked cosmetics as being not just unhelpful, but damaging to the skin—and morals. During the French Revolution, “honest self-presentation became essential to join the fraternity of citizens” (1). In order to survive commercially, sellers “repositioned what had been ostentatious elite products as purchases consistent with Enlightenment values” (2). However, as Martin points out, “criticizing artifice was a fairly easy task with few detractors. Replacing it with a new aesthetic of beauty was altogether more complicated” (75).
One group that made a credible effort was the medical profession. Doctors–“distancing themselves from the severe criticisms of philosophes, playwrights, and poets”–made medical arguments against cosmetics while also proposing healthy alternatives (108). Half of the beauty advice manuals published between 1750 and 1818 were written by doctors. “In the midst of public disapproval, this specialist knowledge gave women a means to reclaim beauty practices for themselves” (108). This “legacy of medical beauty” survives today in “pseudoscientific” brand names like Clinique and Laboratoire Garnier (116).
Though men gave up fard in the later eighteenth century, they continued to consume hair products. When hair powder and wigs went out of fashion around the time of the Revolution, other products rose up to take their place: dyes, potions to stop hair loss, and new, undetectable wigs. “That women might also need these was simply an additional benefit for the sellers” (156). Martin charts the rise of hair potions marketed to men, like Macassar oil, “an exotic solution to a prosaic problem” (167). Bear and beaver grease were similarly masculine remedies for a uniquely male predicament.
As it had with female cosmetics, “the medical profession . . . tried both to discredit and compete with this market” (170). For the first time, medicine paid serious attention to hair loss, forcing men “to enter into the commercial world of cosmetic practices in a period when most forms of male vanity were suspect” (155). The Napoleonic wars glorified young, fit men and launched a fashion for short hair and tight clothing, putting added focus on the ideal masculine physique–and added pressure on those who sought to achieve it without apparent effort.
If Selling Beauty ultimately reads more like a medical treatise on makeup than an alluring advertisement, it is partially due to the limitations of the source material; descriptions found in inventories are more quantative than qualitative, and visual sources cannot be trusted. As Martin points out, “there are inherent problems with using painting to reflect the use of cosmetics” (27). Nevertheless, one cannot help but wish for more images of painted beauties, expensive containers, and innovative hairpieces to supplement Martin’s vague and rather clinical descriptions of them. (It will come as no surprise to readers that the book was adapted from Martin’s dissertation.) Martin references exotic ingredients but gives no sense of why or in what quantities they were used, or how dangerous or counterproductive they really were (15). Of course, this information may be deemed incidental to the history of marketing, but one has to wonder if Martin has ever seen an eighteenth-century wig, or attempted to re-create any of the recipes she quotes, which might have supplied the sensual element that is conspicuously missing from the book.
When in doubt, Martin blames fickle fashion for trends that actually had multiple causes and lasted longer than the vagaries of fashion alone can explain. Much of the story of cosmetics in eighteenth-century France hinges on the persistent taste for white hair and skin, which Martin does not satisfactorily explain. With such a long and diverse period to cover, generalizations are inevitable, and it is sometimes unclear whether Martin is discussing the pre- or post-revolutionary period, or both. But she also demonstrates the efficacy of a beauty-based approach; in particular, she convincingly challenges longstanding assumptions about Nicolas René Jollain’s painting La toilette, which was altered to reflect post-Revolutionary concepts of femininity (96).
There is a good argument for not tarting up a subject that is already prone to sensationalism. Nevertheless, Selling Beauty could use a coat of lipstick.
Discourses of Tolerance and Intolerance in the European Enlightenment
As Peter Hanns Reill puts it in his introduction, tolerance, in its modern, positive sense is very much “a child of the Enlightenment.”(3) It is not difficult to locate instances of limited religious coexistence or grudging toleration in the medieval and early modern periods but these aberrations invariably derived from pragmatism: temporarily, there was more social and political sense in putting up with diversity than in following the usual pattern of imposing uniformity of belief and expunging heresy and dissent. A principled philosophical belief in the virtues of pluralism would not arrive on the European intellectual scene before the late seventeenth-century at the very earliest. Since we, too, are all children of the Enlightenment, we tend to see toleration in a positive light. We might even be minded to identify it as a sign of progress.
As Reill explains, however, such optimism (which can easily morph into Whiggish triumphalism) has been questioned in recent decades. Some philosophers and historians have identified the darker side of toleration. They have pointed to “the omnipresent gaze of a centralized domination” (4) which the enforcement of toleration requires. To create a tolerant society, there is often a need for an attentive, interventionist state. New norms of behaviour have to be created and policed (which, in itself, breeds suspicion of otherness) and, with no small amount of irony, the very survival of tolerance requires a new brand of intolerance — intolerance of intolerance itself. To enjoy freedom is to submit to previously unheard of levels of surveillance and moral scrutiny and this, by some accounts, is a hefty price to pay.
To venture down this theoretical avenue is a perilous undertaking and, while it provides a necessary corrective, it can also lead to exaggerated, perhaps even paranoid conclusions. It does remind us of one cardinal fact, however. The history of the rise of Western toleration is not nearly as straightforward as we used to imagine. It is important to jettison the rose-tinted historical spectacles and pay more attention to the many tensions and ambiguities that stemmed from the Enlightenment’s cautious embrace of tolerationism. This edited volume, a model of its type, does precisely that, and the contributors are to be heartily commended for their efforts.
After Reill’s impressive introduction, Hans Erich Bödeker offers a prologue in which he asks some very important questions about how we should study tolerance. There are two standard methodologies: seeing toleration’s rise as the consequence of social, economic and political shifts, or locating it firmly in the realm of the history of ideas. Both approaches have their virtues and have produced a great deal of important work but both have their drawbacks. There are competing risks, for instance, of either lapsing into vague abstraction or poring over legislative measures at the expense of studying the lived, day-to-day reality of toleration (or its absence). Bödeker, eager to cleanse both the theoretical and empirical stables, suggests that we ought to study the subject in the round and a good first step would be to examine the “structures of thought, patterns of argumentation, and the conceptual categories” (21) that underpinned attitudes towards toleration. He is also insistent that we should move beyond the religious dimensions of the issue (though these remain vitally important) and he offers several pointers towards future areas of research. Happily, many of them are represented in the book’s subsequent chapters.
The interaction between tolerance and religious belief will always be of pivotal importance and it is well studied in the first two-thirds of the volume. Geoffrey Symcox takes us to Savoy, a proudly Catholic state that was always obsessed with the dangers of dissent: a result, perhaps, of the memory of Calvin and Geneva shrugging of its authority during the Reformation era. For all the tides of Enlightenment, such fixations did not evaporate during the eighteenth century. Two groups felt the pinch. The Savoyard chapter of the Waldensians’ history had been truly awful: a tale of massacre and persecution. Matters began to improve during the eighteenth century, but as Symcox is eager to point out, the arrival of attenuated toleration had precious little to do with a principled belief in religious pluralism. Rather, it was the result of Savoy’s rulers succumbing to external political pressure. Those rulers’ policies tended to “veer opportunistically with each shift in the political situation” (40). The region’s Jews, by contrast, had enjoyed a relatively untroubled past. They had endured social exclusion, they had not been entitled to worship in public, and they had been made to wear symbols on their clothes. They had been spared the trials of ghettoization, however, but this all began to change in the late seventeenth-century. As Symcox concludes, this is a signal reminder that the emergence of centralized governments driven by reason of state did not always lead to increased toleration: in some instances, it had precisely the opposite effect.
A comparable warning is provided by Hartmut Lehmann’s chapter on dissenting Protestants in Württemberg. Tolerance here was much more expansive; echoing one of the themes of the introduction, Lehman explains, however, that this came at a cost: namely, ever-tightening political control and oversight. Sometimes, he opines,” the progress of Enlightenment cannot and should not be equated with a steady progress of religious tolerance.” (126) Similar hermeneutic spanners are thrown into the works by Frances Malino’s and David Sorkin’s chapters on the Jews of France and Germany. The most important is the reminder that, while the period witnessed increased toleration of Judaism, this was sometimes a double-edged sword. When it came to extending civil rights to Jews, there was a widespread notion that a quid pro quo was required. Jews would have to go through a process of ‘improvement’ and ‘regeneration’ and rid themselves of their ‘alien’ and ‘barbarous’ qualities in order to take their place as fully-fledged citizens. If this was toleration, it was of a decidedly repugnant variety.
The remaining chapters in the first part of the book offer some surprises. The late and much-missed Richard Ashcraft set himself the task of rehabilitating and revitalising John Locke’s reputation. He had two bugbears. The first was scholars who dismiss Locke because his philosophising was wrong-headed; the second, those who claim that his theories are no longer relevant. Ashcraft challenged any assumption that “arguments are, as it were, frozen in historical time and cannot be resuscitated for use by later thinkers.” (54) Richard Popkin also has assumptions to slay: in this case the belief that millenarian thought was always associated with intolerance. Popkin seeks to trace a tradition of “benign egalitarian millenarianism” (100) encapsulated by Ezra Stiles, the Chilean Jesuit Immanuel Lacunza, and Abbé Henri Gregoire.
Finally, Terence Ball tackles the often neglected subject of the emergence of political parties. This, he argues, was “a moral and intellectual achievement of no small importance” (73) and one of the crucial planks of modern toleration. Open, principled and heated debate was a sine qua non. For centuries the concept of factionalism had haunted the Western political imagination but, starting with Hobbes and progressing through the thought of Locke, Toland and Hume, a new paradigm began to emerge. The notion that principled opposition and political squabbling did not always have a deleterious impact began to take hold: a process, by Ball’s account, which culminated in the political activities of Jefferson and Madison.
The book’s second, shorter section moves into the social arena. Hans-Jürgen Lüsebrink analyses how talk of tolerance and rights influenced debate about race and slavery. Madelyn Gutwirth homes in on the fascinating subject of how eighteenth-century writers approached the “issue of exotic alterity through female personae” (170). She provides some insightful readings of Voltaire’s Zaïre, Marivaux’s La Colonie, and Staël’s Mirza and ends with the cheering thought that, while the period (including the French Revolution) did not secure many concrete victories for the cause of female equality, it at least unleashed a rhetoric that would be put to good use by women in the future. The book ends with two treatments of marginality — often a difficult concept to contemplate or locate in tolerationist discourses. Ann Goldberg looks at mental illness and the methods by which male masturbation was pathologised and demonised. By establishing a negative image of the male masturbator (defined by weakness, laziness and effeminacy) a dominant ideal of masculinity (defined by strength and discipline) was brought into sharper focus. Finally, Peter Becker introduces us to the German criminal subset of the Gauner: an expert in property crimes who was roundly condemned during the nineteenth century. Becker compares the attack on the Gauners with the relatively indulgent treatment of female prostitutes: a class perceived as a necessary evil and an outlet for male sexual passion. It is an appropriate way to end the volume because it reminds us that toleration only ever stretched so far and, even when it was advocated, the motives had at least as much to do with good, old-fashioned pragmatism as with enlightened theorising.
This is a first-rate contribution to the literature. Unlike so many edited volumes, it is much more than a random assemblage of essays. It asks fundamental questions about toleration: how was it defined, what was the difference between theory and practice, what was the precise trajectory of its arrival in various, different locations and social milieus? All of the contributions orbit this interpretative core and, as a result, the book possesses a winning coherency. It is essential reading for any student of the subject.
Journal inédit 1765-1766: Suivi du Mémoire remis par le duc de Choiseul au roi Louis
From 13 March 1765 until 21 April 1766 – a period of just over one year – Pierre –Étienne Bourgeois de Boynes (1718-1783) kept a diary almost daily. By the time Bourgeois began this journal, he was already rich, powerful, and a close advisor of King Louis XV. The son of an important government financier, he became Intendant of Franche-Comté in 1754, and soon thereafter, the king asked him to combine this role with that of the President of the Parlement of Besançon. When the parlement’s magistrates eventually revolted against his extraordinary authority, Bourgeois was forced to retire to his estate. Meanwhile, the King gave him a seat on the Royal Council. His experience made him a unique and powerful advisor as the parlements grew more restless and the crown grew more desperate for funds.
While the diary is relatively short and the time period brief, its publication is nonetheless a very significant development in the study of the eighteenth-century France because of the author’s importance and the events described by him. These were heady times for the reign of Louis XV. Following the disastrous results of the Seven Years War, France found itself short of cash but needing to rebuild its expensive navy. Unfortunately for the King, many powerful French nobles had different ideas. Feeling already pinched by special wartime taxes, disgusted by France’s military losses, infected by Montesquieu and others with Enlightenment worries about a despotic monarchy, nobles coalesced around the nine parlements and specialized tax courts (e.g., the Cours des Aides) to challenge the king’s authority over raising taxes during peacetime. In November 1763, the Parlement of Brittany, led by its procureur général, Louis René Caradeuc de La Chalotais, refused to register new taxes. The king responded by ordering the arrest of La Chalotais, instantly turning him into a national celebrity and transforming “the Brittany Affair” into a perceived bulwark against monarchical despotism. Over the next three years, as the case went through various legal proceedings, the Parlement of Paris and other French courts acted in solidarity with the Parlement of Brittany; increasingly it was clear to everyone that French political institutions were at a critical turning point.
None of this story is news to historians. At least since the 1970s, when Jean Egret and William Doyle published remarkable studies, the struggle between the parlements and the crown has been seen as the front-page story of Old Regime politics. Nor has Bourgeois de Boynes’s contribution been ignored. In the most recent history of this period, Julian Swann (Politics and the Parlement of Paris Under Louis XV, 1754-1774 [Cambridge, 1995]), makes use of the journal. Nonetheless, Swann, like all scholars before him, had to acquire permission from a family relative to access the privately-held papers. The diary’s publication brings Bourgeois’s perspective to center stage and will allow historians to better evaluate his own special role.
The journal is obsessively preoccupied with politics, and politics narrowly conceived as the struggle between the parlements and the crown for sovereign authority of the kingdom, or in the words of Bourgeois, to make certain that “nothing compromises or disadvantages royal authority (353).” Unlike Saint-Simon’s journals, or the diaries of closer contemporaries such as the Duc de Cröy, there is nothing about sexual intrigues, royal or otherwise; nor is there any discussion of philosophy, church affairs, literature or the arts. Even more curiously, there is hardly anything on foreign affairs. When we learn that the Duc de Choiseul (Minister of War and the Navy, and virtual prime minister) is ill with a kidney ailment, it is only because his absence creates problems for resolving the intricate discussions surrounding political affairs. In short, the diary is virtually silent on anything unrelated to the impending threat to the King’s perceived absolutism.
Bourgeois himself seems to have been the go-to person between the Royal Council and the ministers of state. In this regard, much of his business was done with Choiseul and others over supper, and he would apparently jot down what he learned when he got home. The diary therefore reads like a kind of log, so that Bourgeois could recall for himself where and when (and most importantly, from whom) he learned developments surrounding the parlementary remonstrances and the royal responses. Historians are familiar with the most famous of those responses, the 3 March 1766 “Séance de la flagellation,” in which Louis XV reasserted royal sovereignty over the resistance of the Paris Parlement. Bourgeois worried about the effectiveness of the king’s speech, and his rendering of the details leading up to the historic meeting are exceptionally rich and informative.
Ultimately Bourgeois’s journal vindicates Keith Baker’s notion that the struggle between crown and parlement was not so much between the forces of feudalism against modernization, but rather a clash between two competing world views of French political life, a discourse of justice versus a discourse of reason (see Keith Baker, Inventing the French Revolution [Cambridge, 1990], 109-127). Bourgeois believed that he was a servant for a modern administration seeking to improve government financing, in order to compete with new powers, such as Britain, Holland, and Prussia. Here we find Enlightened Absolutism in practice.
And yet, in what may be the most interesting dimension to the journal, Bourgeois reveals that while the ministers surrounding the king certainly viewed the crisis in stark terms, and did not hesitate to arrest and exile the leaders of the parlementary magistrates, the two camps never lost touch with one another. Avenues of communication were everywhere. For example, Bourgeois himself regularly dined with Chrétien Guillaume de Lamoignon de Malesherbes, President of the Cours des Aides and author of its most scandalous remonstrance. Despite Malesherbes’s liberalism, Bourgeois and Malesherbes remained close friends, and Bourgeois never hesitated to ask him for his sincere advice.
This edition is well edited, with an informative introduction by Marion F Godfroy, and appropriate editorial material, such as a chart of the Royal Council and two short essays on the state of France penned by Choiseul.
Faces of History: Historical Inquiry from Herodotus to Herder
To those interested in the history of history, Donald R. Kelley’s is a familiar name. Over the years Professor Kelley has made several significant contributions to the field of historiography, including his authorship or editorship of Foundations of Modern Historical Scholarship: Language, Law and History in the French Renaissance (1970), Historians and the Law in Postrevolutionary France (1984), Versions of History from Antiquity to the Enlightenment (1991), The Writing of History and the Study of Law (1997), History and the Disciplines: the Reclassification of Knowledge in Early Modern Europe (1997), and The Historical Imagination in Early Modern Britain: History, Rhetoric, and Fiction, 1500-1800 (1997). Much of that scholarship is in the background of the volume under review here. Kelley writes that the “essential purpose” of his book “is to present a critical survey and interpretation of the Western tradition of historical inquiry and writing from Herodotus and Thucydides down to the masterworks of the eighteenth century and the beginnings of ‘scientific history’ in the nineteenth” (xi). A striking feature of this survey is the perspective from which Kelley intends to make his observations, something he emphasizes clearly from the beginning:
What Herodotus was in the pristine condition of his own experiences is a matter of antiquarian debate, but the reception and interpretation of his work, which was ‘published’ and so separated from its creator more than twenty-four centuries ago, is something for readers, critics, and historians to discover and rediscover. The aim here is to observe Herodotus in hindsight—in a rear-view mirror, as it were, which may distort the features of the ‘father of history’ but which is the best we can do from our latter-day and fast-changing perspective. (19)
Given the spirit of that approach—in a book published some ten years ago now—it may not be inappropriate to look back at Kelley’s book from the perspective of 2008.
This is a volume which, in part, aims to discuss the limits of historical understanding. An underlying theme related to those limits is Kelley’s argument that “history” and “culture” are intimately connected and difficult to untangle. For instance, in his “Preface” he writes that “Culture is an ocean in which we swim, and despite the efforts of study and the wonders of technology, we remain—at least we historians remain—fish and not oceanographers” (x-xi). Surveying those waters, Kelley writes that “there are three general questions which must be asked about the art of history, indeed have been asked over the entire career of Western historiography, and those concern its scope, its method, and its purpose” (7). Kelley traces the process of defining answers to those questions and of setting the limits to historical understanding back to the two founding figures in the Western tradition of historiography—Herodotus and Thucydides.
“Herodotus’s work was, from a modern standpoint, primum in genere” (28), and he gave us history as “interstitial background investigations” (28). Thucydides, on the other hand and especially in his History of the Peloponnesian Wars, showed the power of history to concentrate on “the immediate experience” and political developments of one’s own times (29). Historians in the ancient Greek and Roman worlds—Polybius, Diodorus of Sicily, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Lucian of Samosata, Marus Porcius (Cato the Elder), Julius Caesar, Sallust, Livy, Tacitus, Ammianus Marcellinus—, those from Jewish and Christian antiquity, the Renaissance and the Reformation, built on those foundations establishing and entrenching the “noble dream” that the “historian’s sole task is to tell the tale as it happened” (47). However, readers of Eighteenth-Century Book Reviews Online are likely to have a specific interest in eighteenth-century historiography. What does Kelley find when he turns his historical eye to historical inquiry in the eighteenth century?
“The Enlightenment conception of history, in its classic form,” he writes, “is based on one of the oldest historical conceits. Humanity is like individual members of the species, and the experience of the human race over time is much like the life of a person, from generation and growth to, presumably if not predictably, corruption and death” (215). In his survey of the historical writings of Giambattista Vico, Edward Gibbon—whose “own popular historiographical success had been opened a generation earlier by the Scottish historians, especially Hume and Robertson” (233)—Voltaire, and others, Kelley builds on the work of well-known scholars such as Ernest Cassirer, R.G. Collingwood, Paul Hazzard, Arthur Lovejoy, and James Westfall Thompson. His interpretation of eighteenth-century historiography is not always glowing, and, indeed, at times is downright ambivalent about the degree to which it struck new notes. For instance, he defends Carl Becker’s “ironic and paradoxical” thesis that sees Enlightenment history “constructed within the framework of an old, crypto-Christian vision of universal world order,” writing that “attempts to discredit Becker’s argument” are “naive” (244). After all, Voltaire and Condorcet “saw history as a sort of pilgrimage from error to truth, whose higher meaning might be deciphered by men of wisdom and good will. A proud and expansive, if flawed and culpable, humanity remained the center of concern; and while the words of praise, blame, and commemoration may have changed in many respects, much of the old music could still be heard by those who would listen” (244). That reading (and other sections of this survey), hints at a direction for historical inquiry that has become much more pronounced in the years since 1998—namely, giving more sustained attention to the contemporary reception of seminal works as a way to better appreciate and understand their nuanced contexts and meanings. Such an approach explains, in part, Johann Gottfried von Herder’s privileged place in Kelley’s pages.
“Herder’s contributions … were richer and fa[r]ther reaching than those of any academic. Herder’s path to historical studies was philosophical, literary, encyclopedic;” for Herder “ ‘each language has its distinct national character,’ which was in turn an expression of local conditions and experiences” (246). Kelley’s Herder strove to “understand the human spirit and its history” in its “unique” manifestations “and this led him to the new discipline that emerged in precisely those years in which he was formulating his philosophy of history—namely, cultural history” (247). For Kelley we ought not to forget that “the Enlightenment project included history as well as philosophy” (261).
So, in the end, what does this critical historiographical survey suggest to Kelley about the purpose of history? Or, to put that question another way, how does history look when seen through the rear-view mirror?
History is indeed a way of asking questions; its answers, however, must be local and provisional; and while they may be improved on or replaced as geographic and temporal horizons are extended or techniques are improved, they can never be complete until history becomes truly universal and is capable of prediction as well as retrodiction—and this is indeed a millennialist hope. History is a matter not of ‘endings’ but of ‘beginnings,’ not of doctrinal closure but (as philosophy started out to be) of exploratory pursuit and disclosure; and historicism, too, should be understood in such historicizing terms. (269)
That perspective is one which Kelley perceptively saw Enlightenment historians finding their way to when he suggested that the topic of eighteenth-century historiography remained ripe for further historical inquiry—a note that rings as true today as it did in 1998 when Faces of History was first published.
Correspondance de Graffigny, tome xi: 2 juillet 1750-19 juillet 1751, Letters 1570-1722
In Volume 11 of Françoise de Graffigny’s Correspondance with her longtime friend François Devaux, we find Graffigny at the pinnacle of her success as a writer. Her best-selling novel, Lettres d’une Péruvienne, had already brought her international attention in 1747. Now, three years later, she is hailed for her hit play, Cénie, at the Théâtre-Français. Well-wishers stream to her home to congratulate her in person. Graffigny herself is surprised at “la fureur que l’on a pour cette piece” [the furor people have for this play] (31). Reports stream in of weeping theater-goers and wild applause for her play (36, 57). Graffigny herself is moved to tears by her own creation: “Je ne sais, il ne m’a pas paru que la piece fut de moi. J’y ai pleuré comme a celle d’un autre” [I don’t know, it didn’t even seem like my own. I cried as if I was at someone else’s play] (253). The Parisian public embraces the new genre of the “larmoyant” that Cénie embodies, even perceiving it as a potential rival to the prestigious classical tragedy. Graffigny reports: “On pretend que si je donnois souvent de pareilles piece, je detruirois le gout de la tragedie, parce qu’on aime mieux pleurer sur des malheurs qui nous ressemblent que sur les gigantesque sentimens des heros tragique. La tragedie n’a rien a craindre” [People claim that if I offered such plays regularly, I would destroy the public’s taste for tragedy because people prefer to cry over the misfortunes of those who are like them than over the overblown feelings of tragic heroes. Tragedy has nothing to fear.] (16). The enthusiasm is so great that, Graffigny acknowledges: “Il n’y a nul exemple d’un succes comme le mien” [There is no other example of a success like mine] (64).
Great and small alike acclaim the play. Word of Graffigny’s success reaches the King’s chamber (54); Mme de Pompadour praises the play at Fountainbleu warmly, as does the Dauphin with his abundant tears (211), while Louis XV expresses his great admiration (267). King Stanislas, of her native Lorraine, must have Cénie performed at his court. In addition, her friends in the republic of letters–Duclos, Fréron, the abbé de Raynal, Destouches (292), and Prévost (355), among others–extol Cénie. Even the Jansenists “qui ont renoncé a la comedie comme a Satan” [who renounced the theater as they have Satan] and the Jesuits approve of the moral sentiments found in her play (38).
Amongst all the celebration, however, Graffigny remains humble and unpretentious; she is loathe to be taken for an ambitious woman author, which she fears will bring ridicule upon her. Nonetheless, she is touched profoundly by the respect others express for her moral feelings. She writes that what she appreciates most in her moment of glory is “surtout, l’air de respect pour mon coeur que cette piece inspire“ [overall, the air of respect for my heart that this play inspires] (44). Her most gratifying moments of celebrity occur when she is applauded by common folk, as when a female “merchant” wants to meet Graffigny after news of her triumph reaches Brussels. Of this genuine fan, Graffigny writes: “ces louanges neutres-la me font un bien infini” [that disinterested praise does me a world of good] (256). Her letters also reveal that Graffigny received anonymous fan mail (439), and many unsolicited requests from fans, such as the one from a mother who requested two free tickets to her play so that her daughter could “prendre des leçons d’honneur” [learn lessons about honor] there (31).
Naturally, Graffigny tries to parlay the success of her play into financial security for herself, something that has remained elusive her whole life. She calculates her portion of the receipts for each performance (21, 58) and plans on turning a crystal diamond-encrusted box from the empress of the Court of Vienna into cash for her household needs. She is disappointed that no such gifts were forthcoming from the French King or from the Comte de Claremont, to whom she dedicated her play (344). Graffigny is hopeful about her financial prospects but must keep working to secure her future. As publishers bid for her play (23), she also fears a pirated edition of Cénie might be made of a copy Devaux circulated among friends in Lorraine (13).
Not surprisingly, Graffigny’s social life is full of frequent visits from members of her social network, including Caylus, Duclos, Turgot, Nicole Quinault, Le Bret, Fontenelle, Marivaux, La Porte, Palissot, Helvétius, Martel, abbé Turgot, and abbé de Choiseul. While leading an active life, her constant lament is that she has no time to advance her writing projects and write personal letters. Moreover, despite her 55 years, Graffigny continues to attract an array of ardent male suitors. Even so, she jealously guards her independence: during this period: she breaks off her liaison with her younger protegé Le Bret (259, 347); she splits with her roommate and occasional lover, Valéré (267) because he is too controlling (she tells him “je veux vivre sans tiran” [I want to live without a master](283) ); and fights off the unwanted sexual advances of Joseph d’Arbaud, a militry man who, she reports, nearly rapes her (524). Turgot and Pallisot also become enamored admirers. A distinguished member of Parliament, Guillet de Blaru, or “Le Viel Amoureux” [the “Old Lover”], proposes a marriage of convenience; yet she cannot seriously consider such an arrangement despite the encouragement of her friends (413). As dearly as she desires financial security, in the end, Graffigny refuses to sacrifice her autonomy to secure it (419). Her efforts are better spent on a search for a new home according to her taste (115).
Despite the accolades from her friends and public, Graffigny’s ill health keeps her from fully enjoying her accomplishments. She writes: “Helas, je regarde depuis quatre mois le terme ou je suis comme le souverain bonheur; j’y suis et je ne le sens pas” [Alas, I look at what I’ve achieved in the last four months as my supreme happiness; I’ve succeeded, and I don’t feel it] (132). Her “grandes horreurs” [great horror], as she calls her bouts of vapors, convulsions, tremors and black moods, can so debilitate her that socializing with friends or working on new writing projects are impossible (32, 58). No matter, Graffigny pushes on. On her good days, she prepares her expanded edition of Lettres d’une Péruvienne (1752), her new play, Le Brioche, which will ultimately become her unsuccessful La Fille d’Aristide (1758), and her fairy-tale play, Phaza (1753), written for the Court of Vienna. Moreover, she avidly pursues her love of the theater, attending at least 22 shows during the course of the year (xviii).
In short, this latest volume of the Correspondance continues to enlighten modern readers about Griffigny’s daily life, struggles, and triumphs as well as provide an intimate glimpse into the workings of the Republic of Letters in mid eighteenth-century France. Graffigny’s letters are filled with news of the day; we read about such events as the secret of the impending marriage between Helvétius and her niece, Anne-Catherine (92), Voltaire’s trip to Prussia, Le Bret’s publication of the biography of Ninon de Lenclos, the disgrace of Piron, and the death of Mme de Tencin (195). The editors provide an Introduction, a Chronology of events, extensive footnotes (including excerpts from Devaux’s letters), an Index of expressions and nicknames, making this a highly readable correspondence, even if one is unfamiliar with the actors in Graffigny’s life. Eighteenth-century scholars owe a debt of gratitude to the outstanding team of editors and the University of Toronto for providing us with this truly remarkable 15-volume correspondence (when complete) of the celebrated woman of letters, Françoise de Graffigny.
Illusory Consensus: Bolingbroke and the Polemical Response to Walpole, 1730-1737
This book belongs to the growing number of revisionist studies challenging traditional perceptions of party politics during the eighteenth century. Alexander Pettit, concentrating on a seven-year period during the second decade of Robert Walpole’s administration, persuasively challenges the picture presented in works such as Isaac Kramnick’s Bolingbroke and His Circle (1968) of a unified and monolithic “Country” opposition to Walpole shaped and defined by Lord Bolingbroke’s political philosophy. The oppositional “consensus” promoted in the pages of Bolingbroke and Pulteney’s Craftsman was, Pettit argues, “illusory”: the opposition was what he pithily dubs a “disparate bunch that resisted, as it continues to resist, easy definitions” (30). Pettit sets out here to investigate some of the heterogeneous, cross-grained modes of opposition thought which owed little to Bolingbroke and were sometimes downright hostile to his ideas. The polemical literature generated by the likes of the non-juror, Matthias Earbery, defined by its High Church stance and its nostalgia for the close alliance between church and monarchy under Charles I, bears little resemblance to Bolingbroke’s deliberately bland platform of secular civic humanism. Far from “leading” the opposition, Bolingbroke, the former Jacobite turned Revolution Principle Whig, was viewed with profound suspicion by both Tories such as Earbery and (one might add) by opposition Whigs.
Although this book is shaped by a strong argument it does not set out to offer a full or comprehensive reappraisal of the composition and nature of Walpole’s opposition. Those unfamiliar with the period will find little to guide them through the main events and contours of the political scene: this is not a book for an uninitiated or even an undergraduate readership. Indeed, its focus is highly selective: it reads almost as a series of discrete, closely argued essays on various aspects of opposition polemic, including two chapters on Bolingbroke, one on the role of the 1688 Revolution in opposition debate, two on what Pettit has christened “Carolinism” (nostalgia for the reign of Charles I), and a rather detached last chapter interrogating conventional readings of opposition drama of the mid-1730s.
Although Bolingbroke features prominently in the book’s subtitle and in its first two chapters, Pettit knocks him from the pedestal on which Kramnick and others have placed him by immersing his writings in the context from which they emerged–the cut-and-thrust of daily ministerial and opposition journalism and propaganda, “a version of the political debate that would have been familiar to a coffee-house politician in the 1730s, but that several centuries’ emphasis on ‘high politics’ and ‘high literature’ have taught us to disregard” (29). Much excellent and detailed scholarship has gone into recreating these contexts. Particularly impressive is chapter one’s sustained reading of the –Remarks on the History of England and chapter two’s account of the historiographical debate over the use of analogy in a decade when writers on both sides ransacked the English past to praise or berate modern ministers and monarchs. The Remarks, enshrined as a “classic” of political thought by Kramnick’s 1972 edition, was, in fact, a series of ad hoc essays whose most vital characteristic was their intertextuality and contemporaneity. Unfortunately Pettit’s admirable reconstruction of the proper contexts for the Remarks is accompanied by a fair amount of dirt-dishing at Kramnick’s expense: “Surprisingly, Kramnick ignores the folios in his research” (51), “Kramnick consistently ignores the topical content of the Remarks” (52), “Mindful of Kramnick’s others [sic] deletions” (55). This verbal tic extends to his treatment of the inadequacies of other scholars: “Burtt does not say so, but they are the bases of Walpolite theories of government. . . . Nor does Burtt consider” (88).
Chapter three contains some shrewd analysis of the significance of 1688 in opposition debate. Pettit cleverly argues that the Revolution was the one point at which Bolingbroke’s cyclical theory of history intersected with the linear theory advanced by Walpole’s apologists. Bolingbroke saw 1688 as the most recent incident of the “ancient spirit of liberty” which returned through British history during periods such as Elizabeth I’s reign, whereas Walpole’s defenders, unabashed modernists, saw 1688 as a novel source of a modern liberty formalized by the Bill of Rights and safeguarded by the Hanoverian succession. One side claimed it as inheritance, the other as invention. Yet far from sharing this glorification of 1688, other opposition polemicists, such as the Tory authors of the Grub Street Journal, derided William III’s innovations. Pettit treads a very careful path around the recently controversial issue of Jacobitism, which he dismisses as an “imprecise term” for the 1730s. In so doing he seems to be defining a third kind of opposition position: Tory “Carolinism,” nostalgia for the close alliance between High Church and monarchy epitomized by the relationship between Laud and Charles I. Pettit is surely right to reinstate religious controversy into the political framework of the 1730s, notably in his discussion of the political row over dissent and the Quaker Tithe bill in the early 1730s. I am slightly uncomfortable about his invention of the term “Carolinism” for this phenomenon, if only because it inevitably calls to mind the reigning Hanoverian “Caroline,” consort of George II, who was heavily involved in ecclesiastical policy. It may be true, as Pettit argues, that the “Carolinists” criticized Walpole for severing the monarchical and ecclesiastical estates and thus reviving the republicanism of England under Oliver Cromwell. However, it might be added that a more substantial sector of the opposition–notably dissident Whigs–attacked Walpole’s ecclesiastical advisor, the High-Church Bishop Gibson, during the early 1730s for his odious similarity to Laud. Here I refer to Gibson’s intolerance of religious heterodoxy, tight control of ecclesiastical patronage, and desire to extend into civil life the jurisdiction of ecclesiastical courts.
The final chapter on historical drama, if something of a coda to the book, offers a valuable corrective to the critical tendency to oversimplify political propaganda on the stage. Focusing on what Robert D. Hume dubbed “application plays”–historical dramas designed to comment on current politics–Pettit shows that their Bolingbrokean rhetoric is often presented ironically or inconclusively. The failure of closure in which the Patriot king figure abdicates or remains unmarried and hence heirless points to an interrogation of, rather than an affirmation of, Patriot ideals.
One final caveat. Although Pettit has perhaps sensibly confined himself to the period 1730-37, the rationale for his terminal date seems disingenuous. He argues that if there was a “Bolingbrokean moment” it was over by 1737, since by this stage the Craftsman was on its last legs and Bolingbroke had returned to France. Well, Bolingbroke returned to England in March 1738 and spent many months that year with his friend Pope orchestrating the renewed Patriot campaign behind the scenes, editing opposition drama, and writing The Idea of a Patriot King. In 1738 the Prince of Wales looked in a strong position as a “center of union” for the opposition: this was the year that witnessed a flood of opposition writing, including Johnson’s London and Dialogues One and Two of Pope’s Epilogue to the Satires. If there was ever a “Bolingbrokean moment” I would locate it in 1738.
Hegel: A Biography
A series of impressive works over more than a decade has established Terry Pinkard as one of the leading exponents of a “new” non-metaphysical Hegel. First in Hegel’s Dia-lectic: The Explanation of Possibility (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1988) and then in Hegel’s Phenomenology: The Sociality of Reason (Cambridge: Cambridge Uni-versity Press, 1994), Pinkard has proposed a distinctly modernist Hegel. The concept of Geist, so central to Hegel’s philosophy, should, Pinkard has argued, be understood not as the abstract entity “Spirit” but as the concrete collective “mindedness” of the human community. Likewise, for Pinkard, the language of the “end of history” should be under-stood not as a conservative foreclosure of the future but rather as a liberal affirmation, in the wake of an age of democratic revolution, of an ongoing, open-ended ended process of critical reflection on the common good. Out of these reinterpretations has come a Hegel of immediate contemporary relevance. Hegel’s dialectical method offers a way to navi-gate the modern/postmodern divide between identity and difference, universal explana-tion and local knowledge. Hegel’s social and political philosophy offers – as Pinkard has made clear in works such as Democratic Liberalism and Social Union (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1987) – a way to allow liberalism to combine the language of the autonomy of the individual with the language of a community of value.
One of the purposes of Pinkard’s intellectual biography of Hegel is to summarize the ear-lier commentaries for a wider audience. Thus Pinkard interpolates a number of chapters devoted to the interpretation of Hegel’s major philosophical works — the Phenomenology of Spirit (chapter 5), the Science of Logic (chapter 8), and the Philosophy of Right (chap-ter 11) — amidst “more biographical” chapters. Like the earlier commentaries, these “philosophical chapters” combine a command of Hegel scholarship that is extensive and up-to-date with a lucid style that is entirely accessible to the non-philosopher and non-specialist.
Pinkard’s disciplined approach to philosophical exegesis is well suited to the book’s pri-mary purpose, which is to tell “the story of Hegel’s life.” The range and richness of his-torical reference in the earlier commentaries suggested that Pinkard was well qualified to tell this story. And Pinkard’s biography does not disappoint. The book provides a vivid portrait of Old Württemberg and the Protestant Seminary at Tübingen (chapters 1 and 2), of what it was like to live in early nineteenth-century Nuremberg (chapter 7), and of a Berlin poised between reform and reaction in the years 1818-1821 (chapter 10). Pink-ard’s Hegel is no ghostly specter lamenting on his deathbed that “nobody has ever under-stood me” — a report that Pinkard demonstrates is myth. Instead we have a Hegel who is very much flesh and blood. The Hegel inhabiting Pinkard’s pages is the student whose fondness for pub-crawling in Tübingen prompted a Seminary porter to an exasperated outburst: “Oh Hegel, you’re for sure going to drink away what little intellect you have!” He is the Privatdozent at the rapidly declining University of Jena with few prospects of a permanent position and with an illegitimate son by his landlady. He is the older man, now more established, who was enamoured of the countryside around the University of Heidelberg, who preferred Rossini’s Barber of Seville to Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, and who spent long hours playing the card game Whist with a variety of decidedly non-academic companions. In short, Pinkard renders Hegel a profoundly sympathetic, even poignant, figure to a contemporary audience: philosophical questions regarding the im-plications of social and political modernity acquire a quite “down-to-earth” address in Hegel’s own difficulties be they in establishing a career and supporting a family amid the upheavals of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries or be they in maintaining integrity and defending students and friends from charges of subversion in the aftermath of the Karlsbad Decrees.
The third and most ambitious purpose of Pinkard’s intellectual biography is to explore how Hegel’s life and Hegel’s work intersect. Here, however, Pinkard is less successful. In part, these difficulties arise from the fact that Pinkard, in a laudable desire to accom-modate “selective readers,” has “separated … off” the more philosophical chapters from the more biographical chapters. Such a strategy may well increase the value of Pinkard’s intellectual biography as a work of historical reference. But at the same time it tends to inhibit a creative dialogue between the narrative of the life and the exposition of the phi-losophy. The result is to reduce the value of Pinkard’s biography as a work of intellectual historical analysis.
Pinkard’s decision to separate the more philosophical chapters from the more biographi-cal chapters is also a response — again laudable in itself — to Hegel’s own strictures about reducing the philosophical to the personal. Yet, as Pinkard’s own interpretation of Hegel’s Geist should have suggested, such a separation is not the only response to the reduction-ism that Hegel rightly condemned. Indeed, for the intellectual historian, a network of traditions of discourse mediates the personal and the philosophical. To be sure, Pinkard locates Hegel at a crossroads between the “Good Old Law” traditions of the German hometowns and the respective rational reform programs of the Napoleonic and Prussian “revolutions from above.” Likewise, Pinkard follows the traditional trajectory of the de-velopment of Hegel’s idealism through a succession of encounters with the writings of Kant and Fichte and with the more immediately personal influence of Schelling and Hölderlin, who had been Hegel’s fellow students and most intimate friends at the Tübin-gen Seminary.
Nevertheless Pinkard neglects some of the more specific sources of Hegel’s engagement with modernity. Pinkard has, for example, little to say of Hegel’s reading in Scottish moral philosophy and political economy. There are just three passing references to Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, one reference to Adam Ferguson and none to Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments or to Sir James Steuart. Pinkard also struggles with Hegel’s Protes-tant commitments. Indeed so attenuated do these commitments become that Pinkard has difficulty answering the charges of pantheism and atheism that Hegel’s critics leveled against him with increasing frequency during the 1820s.
Such questions regarding Hegel’s sources are not mere quibbles. They point to an im-portant problem of historical understanding. To the extent that Hegel’s idealism drew more on a French program of rational reform than on Scottish moral philosophy and po-litical economy, to the extent that Hegel’s Protestant commitments were more anthropo-logical than theological, we have a Hegel who to use John Toews categories is a virtual left Hegelian. Yet it was precisely one of Hegel’s purposes during the later stages of his career to resist such a reading of his philosophy and to construct out of a reform-minded Christianity a response both to the extremes of the Prussian reaction and to the extremes of the French revolution.
These difficulties in historical understanding contribute to a problem in thinking about Hegel’s continuing relevance. During the decade after Hegel’s death in 1831, and for much of the next century and a half, his philosophy was largely eclipsed by left Hegelianism. Today, however, Feuerbach’s and Marx’s “philosophy of the future” has lost its youthful self-confidence and its sense of historical inevitability. It is perhaps not surprising therefore that, given the way that Pinkard constructs the context, the epilogue has nothing to say about the “possibility of a contemporary Hegel.” This silence is un-fortunate, for Pinkard is correct in believing that the study of Hegel has something to contribute to a more nuanced liberalism but only, I would argue, if the Hegel we are reading is not a modernized contemporary but the eighteenth and early nineteenth century philosopher whose understanding of the problems and promise of modernity derived from an engagement with Scottish political economy and Protestant civil piety.