I AM going to begin with Edgar Quinet book La Révolution, published in 1865. It is not so much a history as an interpretation of the Revolution. One should not go to it for a thorough examination of the facts. But in spite of the lack of detail, his portrait of the man of the 18th Brumaire has historical significance. ( Quinet, it should be noted, closes the period of the Revolution with the coronation of the Emperor, that is, half way through Napoleon's career.)
Quinet, a friend of Michelet, had been, like him, a professor at the Collège de France. In 1844 and 1845 the two had caused a great sensation by their lectures on the Jesuits, which were tantamount to a declaration of war on Catholicism. Indeed Quinet, though in no way an atheist or a man without religious feeling, regarded Catholicism as the great impediment to the development of the French social heritage. From a strictly scholarly point of view his many writings on religious history, on German and Italian culture (he was acquainted, before Barni, with the German philosophers and poets, a most unusual accomplishment among his generation of Frenchmen), on the struggle for freedom in his own day and in antiquity, have little value. Quinet was a prophet, one of wide and real culture, and he preached his own undogmatic religion, his own anti-dictatorial liberalism. In 1851 he was obliged to leave France, and thenceforth lived in Switzerland. He was over sixty in 1865.
Quinet Révolution was received with some surprise. So fierce an attack on the Comité de salut public had not been expected from a combative anti-clerical, who would not have scrupled to use the university monopoly to propagate a deism better calculated, in his opinion, to develop the social heritage of France than Catholicism. Perhaps his view concerning State education accorded ill with his liberalism, which was nevertheless sincerely held.
In his view the Revolution, in its earliest phase, was most cer-