Calvet's Web: Enlightenment and the Republic of Letters in Eighteenth-Century France

By L. W.B Brockliss | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ONE
Esprit Calvet

1. THE LIFE1

Esprit-Claude-François Calvet was born in the papal enclave of Avignon on 28 November 1728 at 6 p.m. with two teeth. His father, Claude-Joseph, was 54, a man of some substance in the city living off a private income in his own house on the Rue Pugelle, which was located in the parish of Sainte-Madeleine, one of the rich quartiers of the city to the west of the Palais des Papes.2 ClaudeJoseph (see 111. 1) had married late, and his only immediate family were two sisters—Claire and Anne (see Fig. 1.1). Calvet’s mother, Marguerite, on the other hand, was only 29 and belonged to a large brood of three brothers and four sisters. She was the daughter of Esprit-François d’Hugues, and belonged to a family of merchants and lawyers with close links to the city government (see Fig. 1.2). The couple had married three years before on 9 January 1725, and Esprit-Claude-François was their first and only child.3

The Calvets were a prominent family both in Avignon and Villeneuve-lèsAvignon, the neighbouring town across the Rhône in the kingdom of France. One Gabriel Calvet had moved to the area from Toulouse in the mid-fifteenth century and his son and heir, Nicolas (died 1512), had had four surviving sons who went on to establish their own separate dynasties. Doubtless capitalizing on the fact that Gabriel was descended from a capitoul of Toulouse, two branches of the family at least established the right to be considered noble. At the turn of the eighteenth century a number of Calvets of Avignon were serving officers in the French army and navy; others were local lawyers and judges.4 Esprit-Claude-François belonged to a stem of the branch descended

1 There are only two substantial secondary accounts of Calvet’s life: Joseph-Xavier-Bénézet Guérin, Vie d’Esprit Calvet (Avignon, 1825); H. Labande, ‘Esprit Calvet et le XVIIIe siècle à Avignon’, MAV, 2nd series, 10 (1891), 249–75. Both draw heavily on Calvet’s MS autobiography, composed in 1806: ‘Vie de l’auteur écrite par lui-même, avec quelques additions historiques, physiques et littéraires’, BMA MS 2349, fos. 391–408 (cited below as ‘autobiography’).

2 After Calvet’s death, the Rue Pugelle was renamed the Rue Calvet. It no longer exists. Paul Pansier, Dictionnaire des ancimnes rues d’Avignon, reprint edn. (Marseilles, 1979).

3 BMA MS 2349, fo. 391r. BMA MS 5628, fos. 33, 37–47, 59, 112: family baptismal and death certificates (Calvet’s mother, his father and Calvet); contract of marriage between Claude-Joseph and Marguerite. ADV 3E5/1618, fos. 418–39: wills of Gabriel and Anne d’Hugues, 20 and 28 Sept. 1720.

4 BMA MS 2345, fos. 391–400, ‘généalogie de Maison Calvet’. Dated Aug. 1782. The result of Calvet’s own research into his family’s history, it lacks details on the branch founded by Nicolas’s third son. P. de Guilhermier, ‘Les Calvet de la Palun’, MAV, 5th series, 7 (1959–60), 88–120: an account of the branch descended from the fourth son, Jean II. The families of Toulouse town councillors or capitouls were automatically ennobled from 1675.

-20-

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Calvet's Web: Enlightenment and the Republic of Letters in Eighteenth-Century France
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xi
  • List of Illustrations xiii
  • List of Figures xv
  • List of Tables xvi
  • List of Abbreviations xvii
  • Biographical Note xviii
  • A Note on Terms xix
  • Currency Note xx
  • Introduction the Republic of Letters and Enlightenment 1
  • Chapter One - Esprit Calvet 20
  • Chapter Two - The Intellectual Milieu 69
  • Chapter Three - The Physician 126
  • Chapter Four - The Antiquarian 193
  • Chapter Five - The Natural Historian 242
  • Chapter Six - The Bibliophile 281
  • Chapter Seven - The Revolutionary Climacteric 335
  • Chapter Eight - Conclusion: Enlightenment and the Republic of Letters 390
  • Bibliography 413
  • Index 435
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