The devil in the holy water or the art of slander from Louis XIV to Napoleon /
Robert Darnton.
Philadelphia : University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010.
viii, 534 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.
9780812241839 (alk. paper)
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series title
series title
Philadelphia : University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010.
9780812241839 (alk. paper)
contents note
The armor-plated gazetteer -- The devil in the holy water -- The Parisian police unveiled -- The secret life of Pierre Manuel -- The end of the line -- Bibliography and iconography -- Reading -- Slander and politics -- The book police at work -- A double agent and his authors -- Secret missions -- Hugger-mugger -- Entrapment -- The view from Versailles -- The devil in the Bastille -- Bohemians before Bohemianism -- The Grub Street route to revolution -- Slander into terror -- Words and deeds -- Postscript, 1802 -- The nature of libels -- Anecdotes -- Portraits -- News -- Revolutionary metamorphoses -- Sex and politics -- Decadence and despotism -- Royal depravity -- Private lives and public affairs.
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2010-06-01:
In this fascinating consideration of a subcategory of forbidden books usually termed "libels," Darnton (Harvard) studies many of the pornographic and slanderous, if not seditious, libels that passed themselves off as the history, memoirs, or correspondence of the persons they slandered. Such illicit publications provided entertainment for the last years of the French monarchy and the revolutionary decade. Mentioning authors ranging from blackmailing hacks who practiced their trade on the Grub Streets of Paris, Brussels, and London to aristocratic, pornographic fantasizers (like Mirabeau) to such lighter wits as Crebillon fils, the author fills in a part of the picture leading to and through the French Revolution. Darnton quotes libelist Simon-Nicholas Henri Linguet, who summarized the importance of this form well: "A well-aimed libel can overturn everything, change and dominate opinion, destroy a man irrevocably." Such works had much to do with condemning Marie Antoinette and others to the guillotine. This study represents years of research and an enormous amount of material amassed by a superb cultural historian. Though not as well organized as most of his work, it is well written and a delightful read. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers. A. H. Pasco University of Kansas
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2009-10-26:
In this complement to his NBCC award-winning Forbidden Best-Sellers of Pre-Revolutionary France, Harvard librarian Darnton chronicles in scholarly detail (with 74 pages of notes) and well-selected illustrations the role of libel and slander in 18th-century France. He focuses on the political force of books, pamphlets and periodicals written by expatriates in London, Grub Street-type journalists who destroyed reputations and helped bring down governments. But he also shows how they created meaning and myths for the common people, revealing the wicked, privileged and lewd lives of kings, aristocrats, monks and ministers as well as their servants, mistresses and dancing masters. These anecdotes were distributed for political reasons, inventions that titillated and inflamed the public. They had such titles as Secret Memoirs, The Parisian Police Unveiled and The Private Life of Louis XV (the king's body "corrupted by pox and sapped of its virility"). Although the names and events are sometimes overwhelming, the tale is an intriguing one, and Darnton, our leading historian of the book, is the man to tell it. 47 illus. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Appeared in Library Journal on 2009-09-15:
This is another brilliant addition to the corpus of works produced by one of the world's most eminent historians of 18th-century France. Darnton (Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor & director, Harvard Univ. Lib.; Forbidden Best-Sellers of Pre-Revolutionary France) provides a detailed examination of the French literature of libel in the years of the French Revolution. The libelle, he explains, was a distinct genre and an enormous business that focused on exposing the scandalous and scurrilous ways of public political personalities. The attacks took a variety of forms-anecdotes, puzzles, biographies, caricatures, verbal portraits, and news reports. Rather than simply describing or summarizing such texts, however, Darnton interweaves a discussion of the writings, authors, subjects, and readers, as he traces how the targets of slander changed with the shifts in political climate. He also uses police archives and diplomatic records to describe the counter-institutions of the so-called book police-censors, spies, inspectors, and double agents. Most important is his assessment of why the whole "smutty subject" matters, combining historical, sociological, and anthropological analysis to explain the role libel played in creating a political and revolutionary culture where public opinion mattered. VERDICT Not likely to be accessible to general readers, this work is recommended for scholars of 18th-century French history and for university libraries.-Marie Marmo Mullaney, Caldwell Coll., NJ (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
This item was reviewed in:
Library Journal, September 2009
Publishers Weekly, October 2009
Choice, June 2010
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