The Earthly City of the Eighteenth-Century Philosophes
We opened our examination and exploration of baroque spending and its implications by pointing to the palace and the formal garden. We might equally well have begun with the baroque city and its grand squares, avenues, and urban palaces and gardens and fountains, all of which were also signs of royal magnificence. But the baroque city was also a place of great contrast, of luxury and misery coexisting side by side. In 1771 Louis Sébastien Mercier published a vision of a reformed Paris which, though it did not abolish the baroque city, yet offered the image of a city which could be interpreted as that of the economists and philosophes, an image of what a successful Enlightenment might have pro-
duced. As the Physiocrats envisaged a natural order of work and virtue, so did Mercier dream of a Paris of work, virtue, enlightenment, and natural simplicity. In Mercier's Paris, as in Ledoux's ideal future city, the Physiocrats' assumptions as to a natural order based on the fertility of agriculture were reconciled with the Enlightenment respect for science and the liberal economists' acceptance of trade and commerce as productive forces.
Mercier's vision of the future took the form of a novel entitled L'An 2440, ou rêve s'il en fut jamais . The narrator of this tale or dream, born in Paris, like Mercier himself, in 1740, oversleeps seven hundred years and awakens to find himself still in the city of his birth. But the year is now 2440, and Paris is an improved and reformed city in which vice, luxury, poverty, and misery are no longer to be seen. This ideal Paris contrasts with the real Paris—both before the Revolution, as Mercier describes it in his twelve-volume Tableau de Paris , which appeared from 1782 through 1788, and after, as in his Nouveau Paris , published in 1800. In the real Paris the rich are set against the poor, luxury is juxtaposed with the utmost misery, and the city is plagued with pollution, noise, bad taste, and overcrowding, the result of sacrificing the provinces to a city that has become a monster.
In Mercier's dream Paris, some of the plans under discussion in Mercier's own time have at last come to fruition. The Louvre has been connected to the Tuileries, statues occupy the niches of the Pont Neuf, houses have been cleared from the Pont-aux-Changes (a demolition depicted by the painter Hubert Robert), the Bastille has been torn down, though not because of a revolution, and a Temple to Clemency has been erected on its site. Bouchardon's equestrian statue of Louis XV is still in its place and still much admired. Mercier thus finds himself in a renewed Paris, clean, airy, and spacious, supplied with ample water and graced with elegant fountains. The old steep Gothic roofs have disappeared, and houses are now topped with roof gardens.
As for Versailles, it lies in ruins, abandoned. The monarch resides in Paris, the capital of a flourishing state in which luxury is unknown and religion itself has become rational. Mercier visits the Temple of God, a rotunda with a magnificent glass dome supported by a single row of columns and entered through four great portals. The altar to the God of Reason is set in the center of the Temple, illuminated by the natural light of heaven penetrating through the top of the dome. The Temple has neither statues, allegorical figures, nor pictures of saints or martyrs. Religion has been purified of all superstition and the accretions of the ages. As such it is the very inverse of baroque religion, just as the Temple is the very inverse of the baroque church with its painted ceilings, representations of saints, candles, incense, chapels dedicated to the cult of saints, and dramatic altarpieces. Mercier's Temple is the Pantheon, now the home of a primal cult presented as a natural and rational religion.
This new, natural, rational religion is, ironically, the result of economy. Mercier's account of his Temple to the Deity should be read in conjunction with Diderot's article "Pain béni" (Communion bread) in the Encyclopédie . In that article Diderot argues against the use of bread in Communion, and the argument is entirely economic. He calculates that there are in the realm some 40,000 parishes in which such bread is distributed during Mass, sometimes twice a day, not counting confraternities. At forty sous (two livres) apiece, this comes to an expense of 80,000 livres; multiplying that by 52 Sundays yields the staggering sum of 4,000,000 livres per year. Think what four million livres a year could do for charity! Furthermore, the consecrated bread is no more sacred than the water used to bless it, so that water would suffice for Communion instead of wine. The same calculation is then applied to the candles used during Mass and generally burnt for religious purposes in church. This is dismissed as vain decor; any reasonable person would agree that three-fourths of the candles so used
could easily be saved. Given about 80,000 churches in France, Diderot figures that each church could save fifty livres per year; multiplying by 80,000 churches yields a savings of four million livres. The argument is worthy of the United States Congress discussing poor relief. It is also an irrefutable indication of the passing of the baroque mentality.
Pondering Mercier's dream Paris, one begins to see that, though expanded in space, it is a Paris reduced and diminished in life and spirit, a kind of Calvinist Geneva on the Seine. Remove from a city what the disciples of Rousseau and the economists called vice and luxury, and the city and its society become what the abbé Du Bos justly termed le séjour de l'ennui , the home of boredom. All is reduced to virtue, and the past and its riches, its religion, and its comforts have been eliminated. But then the Paris of 2440 presumably enjoyed full employment.
But vice and luxury are not the only things done away with in this Cartesian sweeping away of the errors of the past. Literature too has been almost entirely eliminated. As religion is reduced to bienfaisance , or good works, so literature is reduced to morality. When Mercier's narrator visits the Bibliothèque Royale, he finds the reading room has decreased to a very small space, and the 200,000 volumes and 70,000 manuscripts to a few hundred volumes, if that. The errors of the past have been burned away. What has been thought worthy remains, but abridged, expurgated, and amended in keeping with the true principles of morals. Homer, Sophocles, Euripides, Demosthenes, Plato, Plutarch, Herodotus, Sappho, Anacreon, and Aristophanes have been burned. Virgil, Pliny, Titus Livius, and Sallust survive, but Lucretius is reduced to extracts, as is Cicero. Ovid and Horace are expurgated, Seneca reduced to a fourth of his oeuvre; Tacitus can be read only with special permission, Catullus and Petronius have disappeared, Quintillian is reduced to one thin volume. English literature, on the other hand, shows the largest number of vol-
umes on the remaining shelves, where one can see Milton, Shakespeare, Pope, Young, and Richardson. Italian literature is represented by the Gerusalemme liberata and Beccaria's treatise on crime and punishment. French letters are as reduced as the Latin. All of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, however, survives, as too Montesquieu's Esprit des lois , the Bélisaire of Marmontel, the famous Telemachus of Fénelon, and Helvétius's scandalous work, De l'esprit , while the Encyclopédie has been re-edited on a better plan. Corneille, Racine, and Molière survive, along with La Fontaine, la Motte, J. B. Rousseau, and certain works of the eighteenth-century polemical lawyer Linguet—but also, and very significantly, Mirabeau's L'Ami des hommes , one of the literary monuments of Physiocracy. All too obviously, the antiquarian element inseparable from a library has been eliminated, along with the love of books and the love of reading. After all, according to Rousseau, in a virtuous society literature is superfluous, for virtuous citizens have no need of divertissement.
It is illuminating to contrast Mercier's future Royal Library with another fictional library of the eighteenth century, that of the great senator Pococurante of Voltaire's Candide . Pococurante is rich, but he is also bored. He is bored with the courtesans of Venice; he is beginning to be bored with the two lovely maids who serve Martin and Candide chocolate on their call to the senator; he is bored with his paintings, including his two Raphaels; and he easily becomes bored with that most baroque of art forms, the opera.
After an excellent dinner Candide and Martin are shown the library, where Candide spots a splendidly bound Homer which, he thinks, would be the delight of his old tutor Pangloss. But Homer holds no delight for Pococurante. He explains that once he was persuaded to believe that he found pleasure in reading Homer, but no more; indeed, all the sincere people he questions admit that the book falls out of their hands. But one must have him in one's library as a
monument from antiquity, just as antiquarians must have rusty medals in their cabinets. But what of Virgil, asks Candide? The second, fourth, and sixth books of the Aeneid are good enough, but the remainder are cold and boring; Pococurante prefers Tasso and the tales of Ariosto. And Horace, queries Candide? There are useful maxims to be found there, but as Pococurante explains: "Fools admire everything in a celebrated author. I only read to please myself, and I only like what suits me" (309).
Candide is impressed by such fastidious taste; Martin finds that Pococurante is simply dis -gusted. Pococurante is still a man of the Baroque: he reads for pleasure, he judges on the basis of pleasure, and so he may still be placed under the general baroque rubric which Catherine Kintzler has aptly referred to as the aesthetics of pleasure. But Pococurante's world is a world in transition, coming just before the end of the Baroque; for it is obvious that divertissement is failing, that men can have too much taste, too many pleasures, and that ennui will have to be overcome by means other than the divertissement of the arts.
With Mercier we are beyond the aesthetics of pleasure, in an enlightened world where the arts have been subjected to moral judgment. Pococurante may have been bored; he may not have touched most of his books; but he did not burn them. His library is still of the Baroque, full, splendid, rich, and the delight of those who, like Candide, have not been spoiled by wealth and pleasures. The contrast between Mercier's future library and that of Pococurante is the contrast between the Enlightenment with its utilitarian principles and the Baroque.
In the future Paris of 2440, it is not only the Royal Library which has changed. The French Academy, like the Royal Library, has also survived into the distant future, though transplanted to Montmartre and housed in another of the temples to be seen in the new Paris. The members of the new Academy are now housed in small rustic dwellings placed about the temple. The reason for these individual
dwellings are obvious: genius, thought, and reflection were associated with solitude, withdrawal into self, quiet, and friendship, rather than with the worldly endeavors, flattery, and intrigues of eighteenth-century literary Paris. As for the Cabinet du Roi, it too is transformed, into a vast Temple of Science formed of four immense wings and surmounted by the greatest dome ever seen. Mercier's description of this Temple of Science is reminiscent of one of Boullée's designs for his huge Metropolitan Church.
The Academy of Painting has also been reformed along moral-utilitarian lines, indeed along lines which might well have pleased art critics of the Diderotian persuasion as well as those who had urged a program for the production of history paintings that might depict, in visual form, the progress of history from the Dark Ages to the more enlightened ages. Significantly, the picture representing the eighteenth century is a figure of a woman bedecked with jewels and trailing her luxurious dress in the mud—a mixture of rags and riches, and as such an allusion to the illusion of luxury. The picture, as Diderot might have said, is "hieroglyphic," and patently a sign.
Amateurs, curieux , collectors, connoisseurs, antiquarians—these figures of the art world of baroque culture have of course no place in the Paris of 2440. In a sense, the new city takes no account of the sterile class simply because it has none. The city has become one vast moral, productive, economic-scientific center justified by and based on the natural order of things: "There is not a day man must remain unoccupied or useless: like nature, which never abandons its functions, man must reproach himself for leaving his. Rest is not idleness, inactivity is damage to the Fatherland, and the cessation of labor is in the end a diminutive form of death" (L'An 2440 , 1:111). Obviously unemployment has been eliminated along with luxury. Mercier's dream city is a very busy but also very virtuous hive, and his city comes as a latter-day answer to Mandeville's paradoxes.
The role of women, too, has changed considerably from what it had been in the baroque culture. There is no talk of royal mistresses, and in a city without luxury women are neither creatures of nor consumers of luxury. Rather, they have been turned into virtuous mothers, the consoling companions of men—yet subordinate to men, as is only natural. Consequently they are virtuous, honest, loving, sweet, modest, caring, and patient. Their accomplishments are no longer dancing and music; on the contrary, women study economics, the art of pleasing their husbands, and raising children. Clearly these women have been nurtured on the economic catechism rather than on licentious or frivolous novels. Their education precludes both Madame de Pompadour and Madame Bovary.
One may further surmise that this virtuous city precludes characters such as that grand baroque parasite, Rameau's nephew. Nor does one imagine Casanova in this dream Paris—though one can envision Diderot there, perhaps teaching a course on public morality, or economics as morality. For Mercier's dream Paris involves not only new monuments, but also a new morality of which the monuments are the signs.
Mercier's vision of the Paris of the future may seem to be that of a materialist; the survival of Helvétius's De l'esprit in the Royal Library is not insignificant. On the other hand, the preservation of all the works of Rousseau in the same collection points in another direction, as does also Mercier's account of the Temple of the Deity. This temple is not baroque, nor does its God emerge from any baroque vision, though He might have satisfied baroque metaphysicians. The Temple is erected rather to glorify Newton's God, the architect of the universe and its regular motions. Yet the sacred was not banished from this ideal city of Mercier and the philosophes, for the Temple was a direct link to a remote
past in which architecture had been connected with the sacred, with a forgotten language of signs, and with a primitive, natural, rational cult common to all mankind—a natural religion linked to agriculture, and far less abstract than that of the philosophers or metaphysicians. Dissatisfaction with the established, de-natured order of society led some critics to envision a reformed society based on a model which they found in a very distant past, a time they called the "primitive past," just after the state of nature envisaged by Rousseau but before the Tower of Babel. This primitive past was that of a lost agricultural state. Such considerations point to a link joining Mercier's vision of a future Paris with similar intellectual currents of the time: with the elucubrations of architects inspired by that same distant past, with the grand speculations and researches of Antoine Court de Gébelin on a lost primitive universal language, and, through him, with Physiocracy.
As art critics found fault with the painting of the Baroque, so there also arose critics of architecture who found the modern style an aberration from the original laws of that art. While the abbé Laugier in his Essai sur l'architecture of 1753 posited the origin of architecture in the primitive hut and took as an example of pure architecture the Maison carrée at Nîmes, Jean-Louis Viel de Saint-Maux traced the origin of architecture to the sacred and to agricultural cults in his Lettres sur l'architecture des anciens , published from 1779 on and issued in a one-volume edition in 1787. In these letters he unraveled the symbolic meaning of architecture and its basic elements, such as the column, the capital, and the pediment. Architecture was linked to the sacred, to agriculture, to a lost language of symbols. This theory shifted the discussion of architecture away from such issues as relative versus absolute beauty, the emphasis on the orders, or the anti-luxury polemic launched by the abbé Laugier, and toward the function of architecture within the city and its relation to religion and nature.
Viel de Saint-Maux's interpretation of ancient architecture was based not only on accounts of monuments as given by travelers, ancient texts, and archaeology, but also on the work of Court de Gébelin, author of the nine-volume Monde primitif . Court de Gébelin fleshed out the abstractions of economic theory with a concrete historical and linguistic justification of these theories. It is as if Le Monde primitif were, so to speak, the Bible vis-à-vis the catechism of the economists. He presented the vision and even the reconstruction of a lost primitive society in which language, mankind, and nature were one harmonious unity.
Court's system was succinctly described and analyzed by the abbé Joseph-Marie Le Gros in his Analyse des ouvrages de Jean-Jacques Rousseau et de Court de Gébelin (1784), a most revealing work. The juxtaposition of Rousseau and Court de Gébelin is not fortuitous: both were Protestants, both were obsessed by the idea of the Fall, and both gave this idea a new interpretation, a historical meaning. For Rousseau, man fell from the state of nature, his version of the state of grace, into society and history; for Court, man fell from a grand natural order of primal unity into the present disorder.
According to Le Gros, Court's system rested on one fundamental assumption concerning human destiny: that "obedience to the great order is the sole road to perfection and happiness, and that disobedience is the inevitable road to depravity, ignorance, and misery" (126). Though instituted by God, this great order was materialistic, for it rested on man's physical needs, necessity, the resources of a region, and the proper road to happiness within that order. This insistence on human needs links Court's system to Quesnay's Essai physique sur économie animale of 1736, one of the founding texts of Physiocracy; in neither scheme was there any questions of saving souls, as was assumed in Christianity. There were three parts to Court's argument: the primitive world was good and happy because men obeyed the laws of the great order and were in harmony
with nature; the modern world is unhappy because it disobeys this great order; and the modern world is ready once more to take the road to happiness by again accepting the laws of this great natural order.
For Court de Gébelin, man was distinguished from other animals in his use of words, la parole , and in his use of agriculture. He was endowed with certain natural rights, in particular that of self-preservation, a right complemented by his first duty, to provide for his subsistence. His second duty derived from the first: to render agriculture as productive as possible, for a productive agriculture made possible the Physiocratic net product , which was the fundamental principle of economic science and the source of all prosperity. Agriculture was thus the foundation of all human activities, and religion itself in its original pristine state was agricultural. Contributing to the increase of the net product was thus fulfilling one's religious duty on earth. This original religion recognized a Supreme Being that had in the remote past been honored under the guise of the moon, the sun, the stars, and such elements as fire and water. Festivals were instituted to thank the Supreme Being for the bounty provided by nature. Prayers were directed to the Deity to bless the work performed over the seasons; religious holidays were thus grounded in plowing, sowing, and harvesting, with days of rest breaking up the labor of the year. Agriculture was not only the first art, it was also a difficult art, and accordingly had to be glorified and made more agreeable through festivals and various seasonal ceremonies. In these ancient festivals lie the beginnings of music, dance, and poetry.
The origins of society were thus marked by unity: one language, one system of writing, one grammar, one religion, one cult, one government, one code of laws, one ethic. "The government," explained Le Gros, "was naturally composed of a single sovereign, a paterfamilias, fulfilling the functions of counselors, great property owners, cultivators, and salaried employees. In this type of agricul-
tural government, founded on nature, the sovereign gave no orders, because all the rights and duties were prescribed by Nature herself" (142). This ancient and natural system or order, a species of theocracy without priests, also implied an iconography. The ancient gods of the Greeks and Romans were assimilated to this original agricultural cult: Saturn was the inventor of agriculture, Mercury the inventor of the calendar and of astronomy, Hercules presided over the clearing of forests and the dredging of swamps, the Dioscorides were linked to commerce and navigation, Poseidon to fishing, Diana to hunting, and Bacchus to the grape harvest. The gods of fable had become the gods of agriculture. The gods who served the modern painter as mere decoration were in fact the signs of this ancient religion, whose forgotten meaning was the key to the mentality of the primitive world, just as its surviving monuments with their inscriptions and signs served to reconstitute the original language of mankind.
The modern world is the result of the loss of this natural, primitive great order and unity. The Fall was not a myth, but a series of historical events which occurred about 800 B.C. and may be attributed to the Chaldeans and the conquests of Nebuchadnezzar. These invasions and conquests were detrimental to the net product, and ushered in a long period of warfare in which the ancient order of the arts, the sciences, and even writing, that "primitive art invented in the very beginning and thus necessary to agricultural societies to maintain their prosperity" (142), was lost. The results of this fall and the ensuing period of strife were still evident in the eighteenth century, in which wars were fought with money rather than men, genius was stifled, and men feared thought and innovation. Modern cities were another sign of this distant fall; they were sources of corruption and the tangible evidence of modern man's decadence.
The idea of linking agriculture to the sacred and reinterpreting mythology in terms of an ancient agricultural
cult was not new. Both the abbé Pluche in his Histoire du ciel (1741) and Corneille de Pauw in his Recherches philosophiques sur les Egyptiens et les Chinois (1753) had pointed in the same direction. But both had posited a priestly class as keepers of the mysteries. In Court's system such a priestly class was not necessary, since the laws of the great order were known to all by way of nature. But there is something to be said for seeing the economists themselves as a kind of substitute priestly class which has rediscovered the ancient and natural order. Given that writing is necessary to an agricultural state, one can think of the economists as the scribes keeping accounts of the net product from season to season. The Physiocrats were not referred to as a sect gratuitously. They acted rather like a new priestly class—revealing the mysteries of economics with the help of a new vocabulary, bringing the word, showing the way to a happy society through increased net product and a system of distribution made visible by a sign, the Tableau économique of Quesnay. It remained only for some architect to actually create a new Jerusalem, in which nature and the city might work in harmony as part of the great order of nature.
The moral utiliarianism of Mercier, the emphasis on the sacred origins of architecture and its link to nature, and various assumptions of the Physiocrats were all to be echoed in the plans of Claude Nicolas Ledoux's ideal city.
Ledoux's L 'Architecture considérée sous le rapport de l 'art, des moeurs, et de la législation (1802), takes us beyond the Enlightenment of Voltaire, skepticism, reason, science, and common sense. But Ledoux's vision does not necessarily go beyond the Enlightenment of the Physiocrats and other dreamers and visionaries who conceived of an improved, reformed mankind and society, indeed perhaps a recovered great order. We are not suggesting that Ledoux read Court de Gébelin and then proceeded to draw up the plans for an ideal city which might reflect that great order. But Ledoux
must have elaborated his plans during the French Revolution, which was, among other things, an attempt to reform not only the state but society and mankind itself, so that to understand it, as Tocqueville rightly saw, one must think in terms of a religious phenomenon.
As an architect Ledoux was admirably suited to design such an ideal city. He had a great deal of experience behind him in both the private and the public spheres. Not only had he designed houses for Madame du Barry, and the Hôtel Thélusson for a rich Genevan banking family, but also the great customs wall around Paris, which was to make the collecting of customs for the Ferme Générale more efficient even as the city of Paris was made more beautiful; and he had even designed what may be called a factory town complete with working and living quarters, the salt works at Arc et Senans in the Jura foothills. He was also thoroughly versed in the theory and practice of the more baroque architecture parlante , or expressive architecture.
His friend the abbé Delille, the indefatigable versifier, tells us in his poem L'Imagination , written between 1785 and 1794, that Ledoux's ideal city was to be dedicated to Plato, the creator of an ideal Republic. This link to Plato is enough to make one doubt the validity of associating Ledoux with the Enlightenment, and certainly with the Enlightenment of a Voltaire or even a Rousseau. Yet there is one aspect of this city which does link it to the Enlightenment of the Physiocrats: the dream that in the ideal city mankind would find happiness. In Delille's words:
There would happiness be and there the human race
Admire the most beautiful phenomenon:
Modest dwellings and superb palaces,
Flowing fountains and clear rivulets,
The counters of Plutus, the father of fortune,
The forge of Vulcan and the workshop of Neptune,
The temple of Themis and the arsenal of Mars,
The storehouse of knowledge and the studio of art,
The circus of combat and the pomp of the stage,
Where Thalia smiles and Melpomene weeps;
All in that vast city's breast
Pleasure and necessity command,
All that may fecundate human industry,
Adorn, enrich, enlighten, and the fatherland defend.
Where Ampion had but built the fabulous walls of Thebes, Ledoux would build a world.
This world of Ledoux's, despite Delille's classical allusions and the supposed dedication to Plato, was very much of the eighteenth century, and founded on end-of-century realities. His ideal city may be read as a synthesis of the moral, economic, and aesthetic assumptions held by the economists and the philosophes of the late Enlightenment. The contradictions of baroque culture—reality and appearance, misery and luxury, vice and virtue, art and nature—are resolved and reconciled in this ideal city, and agriculture and commerce work in harmony therein. Ledoux's city may have been a utopian vision, but it was founded on the realities of capital, industry, labor, and the sacredness of property, and on the life, liberty, and happiness promised by the great order. And it was a liberty inseparable from the order of virtue—or the circle of the good, as Ledoux himself put it—since the architecture itself, through its forms, beauties, and charms, would induce the dwellers and workers of the city to be virtuous. As Ledoux wrote: "One may be virtuous or polished, as a pebble is rough or polished, by the rubbing of what surrounds us" (3). Architectural forms, surfaces, and effects of light and dark would affect the psyche by acting on the senses, so that the city would in effect be linked to the universal principles of attraction and repulsion.
Ledoux seems here to combine the sensationalism of Condillac, assimilated to architecture by Le Camus de Mézières in his Génie de l'architecture of 1782, with the Newtonian notion of cosmic attraction. In effect, the classical ideas of the beauties and harmonies of proportion are supported by the scientific laws of universal attraction, an
attraction determining not only the courses of celestial bodies but also of human beings. Ledoux's architecture is thus linked to the cosmos and its universal laws. He speaks of abundant harvests, full breasts, and grateful vegetation, of labor stimulating the resources of nature to production and fertility. His images are not only those of architecture and the Newtonian cosmos, but also reminiscent of an agricultural tableau, of men at work in harmony with nature. Buildings attract or repel by their effects on the soul; men and women are attracted by desire; commerce itself is seen as a form of attraction. Ledoux's universe is one of circulation; one may think of the mesmeric fluids which circulate throughout the cosmos. It partakes of the great order of things, in which the principles of nature are communicated directly to man with no intervention from a priestly class.
Architecture can also speak directly to man by acting directly upon the eye of man, thus in effect functioning like the natural signs which the abbé Du Bos had distinguished from the artificial signs of writing. True architecture is a primary language, a sign system more effective than abstract signs and reasoned precepts: "Give us models which speak to the eye; they will make a greater impression than precepts, than that multiplicity of writings which weigh upon thought only to confound it" (Ledoux, 52). The architecture parlante of the Baroque thereby turns into an architecture écriture . Ledoux's buildings in his ideal city are signs that signify their function in the cosmic order—from the regularity and solidity of the stock exchange, which regulates the flow of commerce, to the phallic design of his Oikema, which reforms vice by the principle of repulsion (the sight of vice will impel to virtue), to the central location of the director's house in his salt works, the various public buildings dedicated to harmony and justice, and the communal and even individual buildings designed around the functions of their inhabitants within the city and the great order underlying it.
In 1791 the Comte de Volney, another late eighteenth-
century philosophe, produced Les Ruines, ou méditations sur les révolutions des empires . In this well-known work a traveler to the ruins of Palmyra is surprised by the Spirit of the Ruins, lifted by that spirit over the world, shown the rise and fall of empires, and told the lesson of history. This turns out to be the lesson of the Physiocrats and Court de Gébelin: empires fall when they cease to obey the laws of nature, which are simple and clear—liberty, equality, justice. Ledoux conjured up a city which would never fall precisely because it was built on natural laws. This city, like the world of the Physiocrats, knew neither luxury nor idlers. Yet it was not without taste; for the recovered great order could not have failed to entail the recovery of true taste as well.