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

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

CHAPTER SEVEN
The Revolutionary Climacteric

I. THE WEB AND THE ANGIEN RÉGIME

A number of Calvet’s immediate circle had been at some time in their lives part of the apparatus of the French state. Some—Bedos, Caylus, Calvière, SainteCroix, andCourtois—had served as officers in the armed forces, Calvière reaching the rank of lieutenant-général. Others—La Tourrette, Saint-Vincens, Vérone, and D’Ennery—were major office-holders, while Pellerin was a civil servant in a Paris ministry and Faujas a local-government official. La Tourrette in particular served the state in various ways: he was a councillor at the Lyons cour des monnaies (1749–63), director of the local veterinary school’s botanical garden, director of the town’s école de dessin, and a government inspector of books. Caylus and Calvière had also been close to the centre of power. The former had been a part of a court circle of writers, while the latter had been close to Madame de Pompadour and enjoyed a large government pension of 15,000 livres.1 The Abbé de Sade, too, had been a courtier for many years, initially coming to Paris as the representative of the Estates of Languedoc, and was equally beholden to the crown for some of his income.2 Indeed, before the Revolution the only laymen among Calvet’s close correspondents who had no affiliation with the state machine were the merchant Passinges, the lawyer Séguier (who did not practise), and the physicians Roustan, Paul, and Achard.3

However, despite the propinquity of so many of the circle to the state, there was little discussion of state affairs in Calvet’s correspondence before the outbreak of the Revolution. Court scandals, the rise and fall of ministries, the struggle between the crown and the parlements, and the expensive and debilitating wars of the period were almost never referred to. There is hardly any mention either of the French occupation of Avignon from 1768 to 1774, an event, one would think, that Calvet and his correspondents would have discussed at length. When major events did intrude in the correspondence, moreover, they did so tangentially. The old soldier GouCtois’s comments on the Seven Years War hardly suggest that he saw the Anglo-French struggle as

1 BMA MS 2356, fos. 3, 281: Calvet’s encomium of Calvière; Comte de Calvière to Calvet, 10 Jan. 1778.

2 He had a pension of 2,000 livres per annum from 1741.

3 François Paul would have liked a government office: he sought to become an inspector of books: see BMA MS 2353, fos. 145, 147: Paul to Calvet, 22 Nov., 29 Dec. 1768.

-335-

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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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