Theory & Praxis

 Books of Theory, Philosophy, Social Analysis and Praxis

Émile Barrault [unsigned], Aux Artistes: du passé et de l'avenir des Beaux-Arts (Doctrine de Saint-Simon). (To the Artists: On the Past and Future of the Fine Arts (Doctrine of Saint-Simon) ). (1830) Alexandre Mesnier: Paris. Stab-Stitched Paperback Octavo, 84 pp. w/ catalogue numbers in ink on front cover, "Barrault / E." & other markings in pencil on flyleaf, deep dog-ear on page 38.

Utopian Socialism played an important role in radical Romanticism, and the most visible and active Socialist community in their milieu was Saint-Simonism. Both movements were fringe forces in the intellectual community prior to the July Revolution of 1830, and both exploded suddenly into popular consciousness in its wake; inevitably, Saint-Simonian ideas were an important influence on the emerging Romanticist avant-garde, though the nature of that influence was complex and often indirect. Their periods of most intense group activity co-incided almost exactly.

During this brief period of freedom of speech in the wake of the revolution, Saint-Simonists established a commune in Paris in which the genders were (theoretically) equal, set up soup kitchens and free schools in working-class neighbourhoods throughout Paris, attracted thousands of workers, students and women to weekly lectures, acquired the ex-Romanticist newspaper The Globe as their public organ and began a journal for self-taught working-class writers as well as the first Feminist newspaper in France. They distributed many pamphlets mapping out their vision of a new socialist society; this pamphlet is one of those, issued within months of the Revolution, printed crookedly on cheap paper and stab-bound with string to make as inexpensive as possible to buy.

While mainstream Liberal Romanticism was tolerated, and then adopted by the "Bourgeois King" in exchange for tolerance of the Monarchic system itself, Saint-Simonism soon became a major target of the new Orleans regime. A smear campaign by government-associated newspapers was followed by censorship of the newspapers and lectures, a series of police raids on two subsequent communes, and sensational trials. By 1835 the popular movement had died out, though a small community continued on France, Northern Africa and the United States into the 1860s.

The Saint-Simonists made a particularly strong appeal to architects, musicians, artists and writers, who they saw as essential to giving birth to a new consciousness. Their publications and lectures were attended to by many Romanticists, including Franz Liszt, George Sand, and several of the Bouzingo group. Copies of this pamphlet were almost certainly owned or borrowed by a number of them; though unsigned, a previous owner of this copy attributes it, like some other sources, to Émile Barrault.

Opinion within the Saint-Simonist movement was divided, however, as to what forms the called-for artistic evolution should take. The influence of this debate on radical circles in late 1830 has not been documented, at least in English; but this little book may offer some clues once it is fully examined. Barrault admits in his opening that he himself can propose no definite programme--he confesses ignorance of the arts, and proclaims that the artists, poets, playwrights and musicians must themselves invent Saint-Simonist culture; he can merely explain to them the nature of their challenge, and how the arts will fit into the Saint-Simonist worldview. 

Barrault's confession, while frank, begs the question of why he has undertaken the job; especially since the Saint-Simoinists had already published on the question several years earlier. In 1825, another Saint-Simonist, Olinde Rodrigues, had published a sixty-page tract on the subject, in which the term "avant-garde" itself had first been used in an essay--and from which some of the Romanticists had already taken up the term to refer to themselves by 1829. 

In the interim, Rodrigues and Léon Halévy (Saint-Simon's personal secretaries before his death) had split away from the main branch of the movement, eschewing the (idiosyncratic) religious emphasis of its interpretation. I have not yet had time to examine Rodrigues' essay (I am only one person, after all), and I am not aware of any comprehensive paraphrase of his theory in English. However, the fact that the organisation felt the need to issue a new essay on radical art, even if by a writer who did not feel fully qualified for the task, seems to imply a doctrinal or strategic conflict with Rodrigues and Halévy. This inference is strengthened by the fact that Halévy was himself a Romanticist poet with strong connections to the avant-garde, was published in several volumes of the Annales Romantiques anthologies (including the 1832 and 1834 volumes in this archive), and was a personal friend of Petrus Borel, and therefore probably of Philothée O'Neddy and Alphonse Brot--all co-founders of the Bouzingo group, the latter of whom had become in 1829 the first person to describe the group in print using Rodrigues' terminology, as "the avant-garde of Romanticism". (See the "Personal Artifacts" tab for the letter from Halévy in the Revenant Archive.)

Halévy's Romanticist activity thus seem distinctly at odds with this pamphlet, for after initially refusing to commit on the Romanticist-Classicist debate, Barrault goes on eventually to dismiss Romanticism--especially its Frenetic tendencies--which he considers too idiosyncratic to provide the basis for orderly social co-ordination, referring to its "bizarre monstrosities," its "profound sorrows, desolations, and desolation," its destructive "irony" and "horrors of doubt and anarchy". This seems--tentatively--to imply that the advent of radical Romanticism was bound up with a crisis in Saint-Simonist activism, the nature of which will be better revealed once Rodrigues' text is more thoroughly examined. When O'Neddy, for instance, recalled that the Bouzingo group were engaged with Saint-Simonism, it seems that their engagement must have been shaped in large part by these competing elements within the movement; this potentially clarifies the ambivalent attitude that their activity and writing reveals toward the larger, more publicly visible Saint-Simonist group who had published this pamphlet. The owner of this copy may have been closer to the "avant-garde" than to the main branch of Saint-Simonism; they cut the pages and read up to the discussion about the decay of religion and "organic" vs. "critical" epochs on page 38, which they dog-eared deeply, then stopped reading: the rest of the pages remain uncut.

A hypothetical trajectory of Saint-Simonist/Romanticist relations from 1825-1830 might be sketched out thus:
  • In 1825, Rodrigues publishes his Saint-Simonist tract on ""L'artiste, le savant et l'industriel" (The Artist, the Scientist, and the Industrialist"), where the term 'avant-garde' is coined.
  • In 1829 Alphonse Brot uses the term to refer to radical Romanticism and the group soon to become the Petit-Cénacle/Jeunes-France/Bouzingo, clearly implying that it exercised at least some influene over their thinking and practice. 
  • By or around this time, Rodrigues and Halévy have split from the main Saint-Simonist group, and the latter is writing in the community that Brot had called 'the avant-garde of Romanticism'--indeed, is or will soon become close to some of the group's co-founders, likely including Brot himself.
  • In Feb. 1830, the Romanticists fight the "Battle of Hernani" and begin their cultural revolution; in July, the Bourbon monarchy is overthrown but replaced by the Orleans Monarchy. The main Saint-Simonist group, disapproving of Rodrigues' ideas as they were being (at least to some degree) appropriated by the Romanticist avant-garde, feel the need to issue a new treatise on Saint-Simonist art to replace his, upon different doctrinal grounds.
Further research will confirm, disprove, or alter this hypothesis...


The Bible of Nature, and Substance of Virtue: Condensed From the Scriptures of Eminent Cosmians, Pantheists, and Physiphilanthropists, of Various Ages and Climes. 1849. 2nd Revised Ed. G. Vale: New York. Inscribed "Lydia Moon to Henry [M??????]", and Maurice McClue / Angola, Indiana".

This interesting volume, published 15 years before Darwin's research, is assembled around the rejection of creationism and/or a personified deity; the frontispiece, in the style of an alchemical emblem, portrays a King and a Pope threatening the seven-breasted female figure of Nature, while man in a turban (likely representing Philosophy) lays at her feet a scroll with the words, "Revelation of Nature / Reason Humanity Justice." The caption reads:
NATURE nursing in vain her warring children, benighted by the artifices of Priestcraft and Politics; Philosophy consumes their screen in order to display the universality of transmutations:
For the Self and Nature link'd in one great frame,
Shows true Self-love and Nature's as the same.
Eternal matter to one centre brings
Men changed to beasts, and insects changed to kings.
Who dares with force on nature's chain to strike,
On man or insects, jars the chain alike
On Self, which changing never quits the chain
In life or death, transmits or joy or pain.
The book does not propose any particular doctrine, but rather compiles texts from a wide range of theologians, philosophers, pantheists, heretics,  agnostics, theosophists, mystics, prophets, satirists, and proponents of both established and obscure sects. Those quoted include Pythagoras, Cicero, Montaigne, Epictetus, Thomas More, Erasmus, Milton, Locke, Hobbes, Jonathan Swift, Spinoza, Rousseau, Erasmus Darwin (Charles' grandfather, himself the author of a late eighteenth-century version of evolution), Pope, the feminist-anarchist couple Mary Wollstonecraft & William Godwin, their son-in-law Percy Shelley, Thomas Paine, Jefferson, the utopian socialist Robert Owen, Byron, and many others–including even passages from Ecclesiastes and Christ himself. The collection does put particular emphasis on the syncretic ideas of the Hindu-inspired illuminist John Stewart, of whom the editor appears to have been a disciple or admirer.

This particular copy provides evidence of the ways in which the confluence of an array of systems and theories, including those that were quite obscure (for instance, the Physiphilanthropists, mentioned in the book's title, have not left enough evidence to come up once in a google search), affected and intersected with more sweeping cultural movements. Its first owners were probably most interested in the book's theological aspect, while a later owner responded to its theme of nature and mankind in reciprocal relationship.

It was first owned by Lydia Moon, whose family became one of the very first British converts to Mormonism. Born in Lancashire, England in 1811, she emigrated with her family to America in 1840 to join Joseph Smith and married in Indiana. (Since her father, husband, and the presiding priest all share the surname Moon, her groom was presumably a cousin at some remove.) The year after this book was published, she moved to Salt Lake City with her husband Henry Moon, who also inscribed this copy and later became a member of Brigham Young's inner circle, was named a Bishop in the Church of Latter-Day Saints, and married two additional wives.
It appears that the Moons passed the book along to a friend (whose name is illegible in the faded pencil) when they moved to Utah, and it eventually ended up in the hands of the early environmentalist Maurice McClue (1878-1957). A lawyer by trade, McClue devoted much of his life to exploring, recording and studying the local ecosystem around Steuben County, Indiana, and was an early proponent of conservation in the region. Both his newspaper articles and large amounts of his unpublished research, memoirs, and other writings have recently begun being edited and published to shed light on local history and culture, as well as ecology. His own local pride is evident in his inscription, "Maurice McClue / Angola, Indiana."
Adolphe Blanqui, Précis élémentaire d’économie politique (Basic Precepts of Political Economy). 1826. Bureau de l’Encyclopédie Portative, Paris. Quarterbound hardcover, 32 mo., 252 pp.
Blanqui was one of the leading theorists of Liberal economics in France, and at 35 became head of economics at the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers. He situated his theory in relation to the history of the economic discipline itself, and his work provided the foundation of most further historiographic study on economics in France. Among the first to advocate regulations to protect workers and improve conditions in large-scale industry, he was nonetheless by no means a radical. His younger brother Auguste Blanqui, however, would become the most visible socialist theorist and activist of his generation, contributing to the development of a highly theatrical form of insurrectionary activism that became known as ‘Romantic socialism’. Auguste openly led several armed revolts against a series of régimes, beginning in the Montaignard uprisings of the early 1830s, through the proletarian demonstration against the short-lived, limited-republican government of 1848, until 1870 when he was imprisoned after another uprising, less than a month before the advent of the Paris Commune, which included thousands of his followers.

Samuel T. Coleridge, Biographia Literaria. 1847. Wiley & Putnam, New York. Quarterbound Sextodecimo; Two volumes, 804 pp. Owned by the Peck Library, Norwich Free Academy (bookplate & catalog material).

The most influential theorist in British Romanticism, Coleridge began his career as a leftist Utopian orator and co-organiser of a projected Pantisocratic colony, soon became notorious with his Gothic-Romantic verses and plays after his co-publication with Wordsworth of the Lyrical Ballads, and introduced German Romanticist and Idealist philosophy into English intellectual discourse. Castigated by the bulk of the Romantic community after his apostasy and endorsement of Monarchism, he had nonetheless exerted a huge influence over Romanticist thought, especially in English. The Biographia was at once an autobiography, his most comprehensive philosophic statement, and a (sometimes plagiaristic) compendium of German and English Romantic theory.


Émile Dunaime, De l’état de la littérature actuelle, et notamment du romantisme, satire (The State of Current Literature, and especially of Romanticism, satire. (1840). Charpentier, Paris. Sole edition. 21 p.

 Read Online
After the 'Battle of Hernani' in 1830, mainstream Romanticism gained steadily in popularity and cultural influence over a decade, with the avant-garde gaining enough recognition to be on the cultural map. But by the beginning of the 1840s, a younger generation of Classicists--now finding themselves in the minority--launched a new campaign against Romanticism. In 1843 they managed to pack the audience of Hugo's play The Burgraves and tanked the play, in a reversal of Hernani 13 years earlier. Many Romantics seem to have seen this as the end of Romanticism as an evolving social idea; afterward mainstream productions ceased identifying themselves as 'romantique' while the avant-garde found new forms of expression and community in the Cult of Art, Bohemianism, Realism, and nascent Decadence.
This 20-page Classicist polemic pamphlet is a relic of that struggle, written in 1840 by Émile Dunaime, on whom I have found little information, though he may have been a librarian at the Louvre. Interestingly, it seems to have been one of the first books published by the avant-garde Charpentier press, which would go on to publish (among others) Gautier and many of the Parnasse Contemporain group, who would meld aspects of Classicism and Romanticism. An early owner of this copy added a thin wrap to the pamphlet, and inscribed the bibliographic information in pen, along with some now-inscrutable reference markings for their library or archive.


Remy de Gourmont, The Natural Philosophy of Love. 1926. Trans. Ezra Pound. The Casanova Society, London. No. 651 of 1,500 copies.

Read Online

Despite the misleading stereotype of the Symbolists as irrational dreamers, they in fact engaged more consistently with the cutting-edge science of their time more than any previous literary movement; their approaches to language, rhythm, image, and speech were founded in cognitive and neural science while their theories on poetry and mysticism were developed in dialogue with emerging scientific hypotheses of time, space, and consciousness. The Natural Philosophy of Love is the Symbolist theorist Gourmont's extensive biological and anthropological study of sexuality, ranging from the process of plant pollenization to the sexual psychology of contemporary Europe. What little purchase Gourmont’s work briefly acquired in English shortly after his death—from the early 1920s to the mid ’30s—was not within the avant-garde (where most anglophones took their historiographic cues almost exclusively from André Breton), but either from the Vorticists such as Pound, Eliot, and Whydam Lewis (see ‘Historiography), or in Libertine/Erotica networks. This book partakes of both, translated by Pound and privately produced in a small print-run, in order to avoid censorship laws, by the libertine Casanova Society.

Félicité La Mennais [Lamennais], Paroles d'un croyantFourth Edition, 1834. Renduel: Paris. 239 pp. Paperback Octavo. w/illegible stamps and pencil marginalia by previous owner/s.

Lamennais was not only the most influential Romanticist theologian, but one of the most influential Leftist thinkers and activists of his generation. He built his career as an Ultramontane arch-conservative, but joined the exodus of monarchist intellectuals, including the Romanticists of the Muse group with whom he was in touch, toward the Left in the late 1820s. By 1830, he was the leader of a progressive Christian democratic movement advocating freedom of speech, press, and education, and faced increasing opposition from Papal authorities; sources disagree as to whether he was ever officially excommunicated, though his works were proscribed by the Vatican.

Lamennais was closely associated with Romanticist salons, publishers and journals, and exercised a major influence on the community. In fact, Saint-Beuve of the Cénacle group was one of his disciples during his gentler Liberal period, and served as Lamennais' agent for the publication of this book (apparently without thoroughly reading it) by Renduel, the most prominent Romanticist publisher, and one of the most extreme. (Gautier, in his roman-à--clef on The Jeunes-France, has an avant-gardist call a Romanticist Orgy, "as necessary to the manly life as a book published by Eugène Renduel.") This was during the time when the rift between the radical republicans of the Left and the Liberal Monarchists was ripping apart the Romanticist community.

In Paroles, Lamennais unleashed a new radicalism, condemned the Catholic Church on the basis of its complicity with monarchism, renounced his priesthood, and began to assemble a theory of Christian Socialism. The book was banned by the Vatican, and he would later spend several spells in prison. Saint-Beuve and many other moderate Liberal Romantics broke with the ex-priest, as a part of their campaign to suppress the more radical elements of the movement by shutting them out of journals, publishing houses, and salons while ignoring or lambasting their work in critical reviews, and publishing anonymous satires against avant-garde communities and lifestyles.

The latter, in return, welcomed Lamennais' work and thought; the atheist Bouzingo co-founder Philothée O'Neddy, for instance, even owned a catalog of Lamennais' personal library. Lamennais exercised a great influence until he was elected to the Chamber of Deputies in the wake of the 1848 revolution, only to be made persona non grata three years later by the dictatorship of Napoleon III after the coup d'etat. He died in poverty, and was buried in an unmarked grave.
Algernon Swinburne, A Study of Shakespeare. 1902. Fourth Edition. Chatto & Windus, London.


Laurent Tailhade, Lettres familières (Familiar Letters). Undated. Fourth Edition. Paul Ollendorff, Paris. 
Sidney & Beatrice Webb, The Decay of Capitalist Civilization. 1923. First Ed. Harcourt, Brace, New York.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Search This Blog