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

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

CHAPTER TWO
The Intellectual Milieu

I. THE CIRCLE

The kernel of Calvet’s intellectual world was formed by a small group of his Avignon neighbours who shared his scientific and aesthetic interests. Although no one else permanently based in the city during Calvet’s life time enjoyed such a prominent place in the Republic of Letters, there was a clutch of minor érudits in his home town whose intellectual interests he had frequently fostered and with whom he regularly dined and conversed.1 Their number included the painter Jean-Baptiste Peru II, who sculpted Calvet’s bust, the numismatist and antiquarian Père Anselme, dean of the church of Saint-Pierre,2 the printer Jean-Joseph Neil,3 and several titled aristocrats and their relatives. Among these, the chief were Louis de Berton des Balbes de Quien, Duc de Crillon, and his brother the Abbé Louis-Athanase, the Marquis de Conceyl, a naturalist,4 and three bibliophiles: Joseph-François-Xavier de Seytres, Marquis de Caumont, whose father had been the leading Avignon érudit in Calvet’s youth;5 the Marquis de Pérussis;6 and the Marquis de Cambis-Velleron, famous for his collection of manuscripts.7 Surprisingly, given the broader social composition of the Republic, Calvet’s immediate set seems to have contained only three members of the Avignon medical community before 1789: the physician, botanist, and natural historian Dominique Vicary; an old school-friend, the surgeon Pierre-François-Bénézet Pamard, who shared Calvet’s enthusiasm for medical progress; and the apothecary and experimental

1 Calvet did not keep a diary, so his Avignon circle is primarily known through references in his correspondence with érudits elsewhere. Occasionally his Avignon friends wrote to him when they were away, and Calvet also wrote to them the occasional learned letter in answer to a request for information.

2 Anselme seems to have started collecting coins in the mid-1760s: see BMA MS 4447, fo. 21: Calvet to Vérone, 28 July 1767.

3 Neil is the only Avignon printer Calvet describes as a friend: e.g. BM Nîmes MS 140, fo. 196: Calvet to Séguier, 21 Mar. 1777. Several members of the Niel family were printers in the second half of the eighteenth century. Calvet never says which of them was his friend, but Jean-Joseph, as the most important, is the most likely.

4 Conceyl’s interest in natural history is first mentioned in a letter to Séguier written on 3 Feb. 1772: ibid., fo. 149.

5 His father Joseph, who died in 1745, was one of France’s leading antiquarians. Calvet eventually bought some of his collection: see below, Ch. 4, sect. 2.

6 Caumont and Pérussis also collected paintings, as did another one of Calvet’s aristocratic acquaintances, the Marquis de Crochans: see below, Ch. 7, sect. 3.

7 See Marquis de Cambis-Velleron, Catalogue misonnée des principaux manuscrits de J. L. D. de Cambis (Avignon, 1770).

-69-

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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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