"Doing In" the Baroque
The critique of luxury, first from a moral, later from an economic and political point of view, cannot be separated from a critique of the art of the Baroque. Critics of luxury and its effects—moralists, economists, novelists, and philosophes—were paralleled by critics of the arts; indeed, the two groups of critics often overlapped, as music, painting, and even architecture came into question. The lines of argument in the critique of the arts might seem to involve only issues of art, taste, or, to use a word not then very current, aesthetics. But taste could hardly be separated from class; to question a taste was to question those it represented. It is for this reason that the mid-century querelle des bouffons was far more than a dispute over opposed types of opera, French and Italian.
Opera was a court art. It was born of the court ballet, tragedy (itself a noble art form), and the pastoral, again associated with the court. Lully had made of the lyrical tragedy, as opera was also called, a royal genre: the gods and heroes of fable and history were allegorized into images of contemporary kings, princes, ladies, and courtiers. Lully's type of opera did not remain static, however, and by mid-century it had become a spectacle not only of mythology and history but also of enchantment. Opera was the world of magic, fantasy, glory, and romance, made visible through the use of machines and exempted from the
demands of verisimilitude. Cervantes had laughed at the fantasies of Don Quixote, and the reader laughed with him; but neither Cervantes nor the reader would lose their sympathy for the don. The philosophes, however, much less sympathetic than Cervantes, would cast a cold eye on opera and turn a deaf ear to its music.
The quarrel of the buffoons was set off by a performance of Pergolesi's Serva padrona by an Italian troupe with Pietro Manelli and Anna Tonelli at the Royal Academy of Music on 1 August 1752. A war of pamphlets immediately arose. Some sixty pamphlets were produced ranging in tone and subject matter from sober aesthetic consideration to vituperative polemics. One might well argue that the Enlightenment as a philosophical movement began as much with this quarrel as with the first volume of the Encyclopédie and Rousseau's first discourse. Rousseau radicalized the debate over the preeminence of French or Italian music into something transcending a mere question of musical style. One may also consider the quarrel as signaling the end of the baroque world and of what Catherine Kintzler, in a brilliant study of Rameau, has called the "aesthetics of pleasure." The attack on Rameau, implicit in the debate, signified the breakup of that aesthetic. This attack on French opera was thus also an attack on the entire Rococo, for what else was a "rococo aesthetic" if not one of pleasure? The lines of demarcation between the Encyclopedists and their opponents were drawn in the course of this battle, with d'Alembert, d'Holbach, Grimm, Diderot, and Rousseau in the so-called queen's corner, and their adversaries in the king's corner and that of Madame de Pompadour: Fréron, implacable enemy of the philosophes, Cazotte, Pidansat de Mairobert, and Blainville. This querelle des bouffons thus also came to be known as the war of the corners—the queen's corner versus the king's corner. Henceforth the philosophes would dictate musical taste, and soon they would attempt to im-
pose their taste in painting and architecture as well. Taste could not be divorced from politics. Indeed, taste was politics.
French opera since Lully had evolved into a genre of pure spectacle. It belonged to the category of the marvelous. Stage machinery allowed the flight and descent of gods; apotheoses were staged, as were battles, victories, and festivities; the subject matter was drawn from mythology, fable, and history. Opera united all the arts: harmonic music, melodic song, dance, poetry, painting. And insofar as it had recourse to mechanics for its machinery, and its music was calculated to produce certain effects on the audience, it was a modern genre par excellence. Its modernity also lay in the fact that it was unliterary, it was a mixed genre. It posed questions concerning the relation of language to song, words to music, dance to plot, spectacle to psychological action.
To many writers opera seemed wholly unreasonable. "Opera," wrote Voltaire,
is a spectacle as bizarre as it is magnificent, in which eyes and ears are more satisfied than wit, where subservience to music makes the most ridiculous faults necessary, where one must sing at the destruction of a city and dance about a tomb: where one sees the Palace of Pluto and that of the Sun, gods, demons, magicians, prodigies, monsters, palaces built and destroyed in the wink of an eye. These extravagances are tolerated and even enjoyed, because at the opera one is in the land of fairies; and as long as there is spectacle, lovely dances, beautiful music, scenes of interest, one is content. (Lacombe, Poétique de Voltaire , 478)
Voltaire loved the theater, but it was classical tragedy and comedy he loved to act in, as it was classical tragedy
he continued to write. To be sure, Voltaire had collaborated with Rameau on the Princesse de Navarre , a comedy-ballet composed for the marriage of the Dauphin in 1745 and later reworked by Rousseau under the title Les Fêtes de Ramire . And in 1745, on the occasion of the victory of Fontenoy, Voltaire also wrote the libretto for Rameau's Le Temple de Gloire , an opera-ballet in which Louis XV was celebrated in the guise of Trajan. But on the whole this collaboration between the great poet and the great composer was anything but a success, even though Voltaire recognized Rameau as a great symphonist. The contention turned on the place of poetic discourse versus that of music, just as the later dispute between Rameau and Rousseau would involve the proper role of harmony versus melody.
The issue was thus still French opera as such; the question had not yet become the more general one of art and nature and society. Indeed, the quarrel of the buffoons had been preceded by a critique of French opera which pointed out all the purely artistic or aesthetic issues later to be raised in the course of the quarrel, not to mention other, extramusical factors. In February 1752, for example, Grimm had published a Lettre sur "Omphale," an opera not by Rameau but Destouches, in which he already showed his preference for Italian music, criticizing the French use of petits airs mixed into the recitative as against the well-defined Italian aria. At this time Grimm still considered Rameau a great composer; when he later rejected his type of opera, it would be for reasons going beyond aesthetics to considerations of a different order.
What the philosophes liked about the Serva padrona was its simplicity and naturalness. As Philippe Beaussant has pointed out, however, they also liked the subject matter. In effect they were comparing incomparables, a comic opera with lyric tragedy, and criticizing the former for not being the latter. Pergolesi's Serva padrona and Rameau's operas belonged to entirely different categories. The philosophes liked the Italian opera because it had no gods, no mythol-
ogy, no fantasy, no recourse to machines, only the simplest scenery, and a plot requiring at most four or five characters. It involved a down-to-earth, popular, comic situation easily understood by anyone, with catchy melodies that even ordinary people might sing. The music was not court music; it was not written for connoisseurs of harmony; there was no ballet to interrupt the action.
According to Beaussant, then, the attack on the music of French opera, presented in contrast to Italian opera in the pamphlets of the "war of the corners," was but a cover for a much deeper attack on Rameau's type of opera as a whole and the taste it represented and catered to. The philosophes could not take seriously an art form whose subject matter they considered pointless, a mere amusement and pleasure for the eye and ear. It was the taste of the court and the Establishment that was thus called into question. But to question precisely this art of spectacle was to question the whole baroque aesthetic and its love of illusion, play, sound, color, and dance—an art which did not pretend to anything beyond pure spectacle and pleasure.
Rameau's opera drew on his reasoned application of musical knowledge to produce illusion and thereby move the passions of the listeners and spectators. The illusion was part of the pleasure of opera: though one knew it was illusion, a game, a convention, one was willing to suspend disbelief for the duration of the spectacle. Opera was art, not life, and provided a momentary escape from life into a world of fantasy, glory, heroism, and pleasure. But it was precisely this love of illusion, of the pleasure of surprise, of enchantment, coupled with a blurring of the distinction between illusion and reality, which was essentially baroque. Life is a dream and all the world a stage. Even that tough old soldier the Maréchal de Saxe is reported to have said on his deathbed, "Life is a dream; mine has been short, but it has been beautiful." And down he stepped into his sepulcher, accompanied by France, who tried in vain to intercede with Death, who held open the casket while Hercules
mourned the great warrior: thus Pigalle's great funerary monument to the marshal in Strasbourg (see frontispiece). It is a splendid piece of baroque sculpture, a baroque hero's death, and quite out of harmony with the classic deaths of a Poussin or even a Greuze. No notary here to take down a last will and testament, no dying father admonishing a prodigal son, no prodigal son weeping over a dead father wronged, no final moral; only a last act, gracefully and majestically executed. Diderot in 1767 did not or would not understand: "Pigalle, throw down that skeleton, and that Hercules, however beautiful he may be, and that interceding France; let the marshal lie in his last abode, and let me see but two grenadiers sharpening their swords on his gravestone; that is more beautiful, more simple, more energetic, and more novel than all your semihistorical, semiallegorical balderdash" (Salons , 326). The baroque opera, the baroque imagination, had become incomprehensible to those other minds, the philosophes. Were they not, perhaps, philistines avant la lettre ? Indeed Diderot was calling for a new art. But to do that was also to call for a new society.
At the time of the quarrel of the buffoons, Grimm wrote that a man of wit characterized Manelli's arrival in Paris with the opera troupe as having averted a civil war. For public opinion at the time was dominated by the dispute between court and parlement ; tempers were strained, and to some the city seemed on the verge of rebellion. Rousseau, too, felt that his own vitriolic pamphlet against French music had diverted attention from politics to music; Mercier later concurred. And it may well be that cultural questions merely served as a cover for political and social questions, both in music and in art criticism, for the quarrel of the buffoons indeed went beyond opera and the question of French and Italian tastes in music. As Beaussant points out, harmony was the result of scholarly elaboration, of long training, of an established musical culture; Rameau associated it with the Cartesian order. Rousseau's rejection of
harmony thus implied a rejection of this musical culture and indeed of court culture. In its place Rousseau defended what he called the music of the heart, melody. The pleasure of harmony, thought Rousseau, is that of mere sensation, and, like sensation, is short-lived and soon gives way to ennui. But the pleasures of melody were of the heart; they were the pleasures of sentiment, the passionate accents of the power of music over the soul. Rousseau opposed the accents of the heart to Rameau's scholarly structural harmony, which appealed to mind and sense. This opposition involved two aesthetic systems based on opposing concepts of nature: on the one hand, "general" nature or la belle nature , such as obtained in the architecture of the French garden, the "nature methodized" of Pope; on the other hand, the very different nature of the later eighteenth century, represented by Rousseau and the English landscape garden.
Kintzler associates Rameau's aesthetic with a Cartesian aesthetic based on four axioms. The truth of nature, according to the first axiom, is abstract and rests on formal relationships, presupposing an intellectualist theory of knowledge. The second axiom holds that illusion is the artifice whereby truth is revealed, which implies a sensationalist view of theatrical fiction. The third axiom has it that lyrical tragedy was devised as the double and inverse of dramatic tragedy, and is thus the principle of a theater of enchantment. The fourth axiom stipulates a constant material relation between music and articulated language, the concordance between the meaning of words and the sounds of music, and thereby the "constant co-presence of music and the spoken language" (Jean-Philippe Rameau , 132). All too intellectual for Rousseau, for whom music was an expression of nature. For Rameau it was an art.
Opera was not the only art form with which critics found fault; painting likewise came in for criticism. Here too much was found wanting, and here too a new breed of critic arose:
the art critic, in today's sense of the term, one who commented on exhibitions. This was novel; heretofore the discussion of painting had been left to amateurs of the arts, members of the Academy, and scholars. These new critics were, like the philosophes, men of letters or amateurs from outside the establishment circles of the arts.
Dissatisfaction with the state of painting had already been voiced in 1747 by LaFont de Saint-Yenne in his Réflexions sur quelques causes de l'état présent de la peinture en France . This little book indicated the direction that future art criticism would take. In his criticism of the then-current modern taste, or petite manière , LaFont called for a return to the grand manner of history painting. His critique was a warning that this art form, the grand manner, was in grave danger; indeed, the critique itself shows that conditions had changed to the point that his call might well be in vain. Interestingly, the causes LaFont adduces for the decline of French painting involved the very factors others alluded to when describing luxury. He blamed the decline on interior decoration, the profusion of decor we call Rococo, and the use of mirrors, which proliferated so luxuriantly that there was no space left for great pictures. Paintings were thus relegated to overdoors, fire screens, and panel decorations. He also called for the right of laymen to criticize works produced by members of the Royal Academy of Painting, in effect admitting a new public beyond the small circles of patrons and amateurs. At the same time, he blamed women for the current state of the arts, associating women with luxury (as did the economists) and anticipating the critique of women by Sénac de Meilhan. For LaFont women were caillettes , gossipy, frivolous flirts who loved knickknacks, prettiness, bright colors, the amusing, and the decorative rather than the nobler branch of painting, history. Madame de Pompadour had just been received at court, and her taste would prevail for some time to come.
LaFont's critique was suppressed by the protests of the artists of the Academy and the establishment; but his call for great art would not be lost on other critics, who on the
whole were to follow his lead in contrasting the grand manner of the past with the petite manière and frivolity of the present. Such a call for great art might be founded on two concepts: a return to the masters of the Renaissance and the Roman and Bolognese school, or a return to nature and the Antique. The first involved a reaffirmation of the baroque canon, in agreement with Horace Walpole's dictum that "all the qualities of a perfect painter never met" save in the works of Raphael, Guido Reni, and Annibale Carracci. But in a short time even this canon would be questioned as all of baroque painting came to be criticized in the name of nature, that nature which only the ancients had been close to and which only they could properly imitate.
Nature for the Baroque had been nature corrected, methodized, sublimated; it was an ideal nature, as realized in the architecture of the formal garden or the works of Poussin and Claude. By the time Diderot began to write art criticism nature had changed, and when he looked at the paintings in the exhibitions of the Salon at the Louvre he found as much wanting as had LaFont de Saint-Yenne twenty years earlier. But Diderot's orientation was more philosophical than that of LaFont, who still criticized within the canons of art, calling for a return to the grand manner but not for a new art. Diderot found fault with painting on moral, social, and aesthetic grounds. Boucher, for example, was depraved; painters catered to the taste of amateurs; instead of allowing themselves to follow nature, painters fell into a variety of manners. "There would be no manner," he wrote in his Essais sur la peinture , "either in drawing or color, if one scrupulously imitated nature. Manner comes from the master, the academy, the school, and even the Antique" (Oeuvres esthétiques , 673). To reject this was effectively to reject the long baroque tradition of imitating both nature and the Antique, a tradition transmitted under royal protection by the masters and the academies of painting.
But the decline of painting was also blamed on the amateurs—who, it should not be forgetten, were the great and
the rich. The amateurs, those among the financier class who cultivated the arts, were seen, along with women, as a cause of the trivialization of painting and the decline of true art, indeed as an obstacle to its production. With Diderot's art criticism, the party of the philosophes was in effect calling for a new aesthetic in painting, just as it had in music at the time of the quarrel of the buffoons. If, as Beaussant has suggested, the target then was not so much music itself as court society, then with the critique of painting the target was the financiers and their taste in art: the ruling taste and the man of taste were being called into question. One could say that the dispute between the Baroque, manifest as art, and the Enlightenment, manifest as criticism, was a drama which unfolded within two critical spaces, the opera and the salons. Very different mentalities were at odds here, and on the whole the philosophes or Encyclopedists had little sympathy for the type of man belonging to the world of the arts. Diderot the philosophe did not like the Comte de Caylus, the antiquarian and amateur associated with the Academy of Painting; and Caylus did not care for Diderot. Grimm did not think much of Bachaumont, who was also an amateur. Marmontel, another philosophe, found the artists he met with at Madame Geoffrin's extravagant, ignorant, and slightly mad. Rousseau's critique of society in his Discourses amounted to a critique of the entire world of the arts, while the Physiocrats thundered at luxury, then an inseparable adjunct of the arts. Dupont de Nemours suggested that still-life painting might be the only truly Physiocratic genre of painting conceivable. Voltaire was different; though he had written an apology for luxury, he was hardly an amateur of the visual arts and saw no connection between art and the expression of mind. And Helvétius thought the arts were for pleasure.
In sum, amateurs might love the arts, collect with miserly enthusiasm, vainly show off their collections, and call themselves connoisseurs; but to the philosophes it was all trivia, baubles, and vanity. It was not the business of am-
ateurs to provide direction for the arts. As Diderot wrote, painters might enjoy superiority of technique, but as regards subject matter and its representation the philosopher took precedence: "When it is a question of the ideal of his [the painter's] art, then I will have my revenge" (Salon de 1767 , 56). The philosophes would thus tell painters what and how to paint, just as the post-Tridentine theologians had imagined and commissioned paintings to be executed by painters. The philosophical mind, like the Physiocratic, saw in the pictorial production of the late baroque world not so much what it was looking at as what it imagined: another possible pictorial universe, the sign of the philosophes' imagined world, of a reconstructed and reformed society existing in conformity with the laws of nature.
Diderot ponders the relation of art to luxury in his Salon of 1767. His reflections take the form of a dialogue with Grimm, the editor of the Correspondante littéraire , the journal for which Diderot wrote his art criticism. This dialogue is another of the numerous digressions within his reports on the exhibitions, digressions usually prompted by some painting or some theoretical question. In this instance it was the paintings of La Grenée which triggered the digression. Diderot found them agréable —pleasing—but not beautiful. The distinction is pregnant with a radical change in taste, a change which would ultimately eliminate the Rococo from the canon of good taste; it also represents a way of separating art from luxury, for the digression is concerned with the effect of luxury on the fine arts.
The assumption underlying Diderot's thinking is obvious: luxury is luxury and art is art. Diderot was not Madame de Pompadour, nor the financier who had ordered the La Grenée paintings. Luxury and works of art had, as we have seen, often been conflated, and together came under the heading of arts d'agréments , the "agreeable" arts. In the
accounts of royal mistresses and others less royal, paintings, which to us are works of art, were often listed along with other such "agreeable" and expensive items as clothing, jewelry, bibelots, silverware, and fine furniture. On this view, similar to that of Mandeville and others, paintings were merely one manifestation of the taste of the rich and the great for possessions, pleasures, magnificence, and pretty women.
By drawing a distinction between the agreeable and the beautiful, Diderot created a means to attack baroque art on a theoretical level seemingly divorced from considerations of social class. The ruling circle and its taste could now be attacked by attacking its signs, its exterior tokens of wealth. Diderot's dialogue with Grimm is thus followed in the Salon by what Diderot characterized as a satire on luxury in the manner of Persius Flaccus (A.D. 34–62), whose first satire criticizes the debased literary taste of a corrupted Roman manhood and the debasement of the virtue Rome had supposedly once represented. Like Rousseau and others, Diderot uses ancient Rome as a vehicle for criticizing the art and mores of the present.
Diderot, aware that the question of the relation of luxury to the arts was a very old one, begins by rejecting the reasoning of those who had written on the question before him. As for those who looked about them in 1767 and saw the arts as being in a flourishing state, they were likely to praise luxury; those who judged the arts to be decadent, however, invariably damned luxury. Both parties, reasoned Diderot, in fact linked the arts to wealth, holding one or the other, the arts or wealth, responsible for the state of the arts according to their personal taste. A third party disliked both the arts and luxury. If the question remained confused, ill put, and unresolved, it was because all three parties based their argument on only one kind of luxury. Like Sénac de Meilhan after him, Diderot proposed to draw a subdistinction within the concept of luxury. At this point in Diderot's exposition, Grimm intervenes, telling Diderot: "Ah! you want to talk politics."
Diderot: Why not? Suppose a prince had the good sense to realize that everything comes from the earth and returns to the earth; let him then accord his favor to agriculture, and cease being father and abettor to the grand usurers.
Grimm: I hear you; let him do away with the farmers-general in order that he may nurture painters, poets, sculptors, musicians. Is that it? (118)
To this Diderot responds in the affirmative, and proceeds to expound a Physiocratic theory of riches: better agriculture leads to better harvests, which lead to greater riches, which lead to greater luxury. This would seem to be merely a restatement of the old system and all the vices of luxury that follow therefrom. But for Diderot this luxury, based ultimately on agriculture, is of a new type, to be distinguished from that of the farmers-general. For since one cannot eat gold, which Diderot associates with the luxury of the farmers-general, let the gold which they accumulate serve instead to multiply enjoyment and
the infinite means of being happy, poetry, painting, sculpture, music, mirrors, tapestries, gilding, porcelain and china figurines.... Painters, poets, sculptors, musicians, and the multitude of related arts are born of the earth, are also the children of Ceres; and I say that whenever they [the arts] draw their origin from this sort of luxury, they will flourish and flourish forever. (119)
Diderot is not always as clear as might be desired, and this is such a case. For though he may have distinguished between two sources of art, one deriving from financiers and one from agriculture, yet the examples he gives of the multitude of arts born of Ceres are the same as those stemming from Plutus. A truly new, uncorrupted art would require a new society.
The Marquis de Mirabeau, the famous economist and author of L'Ami des hommes (1756), was somewhat clearer
than Diderot when he considered the relation of the arts to society and luxury. Perhaps this was because he was not an artist; or perhaps it was because he, along with the other Physiocrats, had in effect "marginalized" the arts within society, in particular those arts mentioned above by Diderot. The Physiocrats, along with administrators like Sénac de Meilhan and the Marquis d'Argenson and critics of Louis XIV such as the abbé de Saint-Pierre, who thought forty million had been "wasted" on Versailles, did not regard the arts with the respect shown them by amateurs in their own time and by the various professionals of art and art history in our own time. As d'Argenson once told Voltaire: "You are but a child who loves baubles. You make more of the tassels fabricated by Mademoiselle de Chappe than of Lyons cloth or the sheets of Van Robais." Lyons represented industry, as did Van Robais, and that meant national wealth; by comparison the tassels were of minimal economic importance. Tassel makers belonged, along with others engaged in the fine arts and the luxury trades, to what Mirabeau called the world of "fantaisie"; he in fact refers to one type of worker as ouvriers de fantaisie . True art was not to be found in the realm of fantasy.
For the Physiocrats, the supreme art was agriculture. "Agriculture," wrote the Marquis de Mirabeau in his Leçons économiques of 1770, "is of all the arts the most sociable. What nobility, what generous hospitality [there is] in the mores of those who spend their lives at the head of their harvesters and their herds" (1:33). Agriculture is an innocent and useful art; it does not corrupt mores. One thinks of idyllic landscapes with happy harvesters working or resting, of grazing cattle, of still lifes of fruit and game, of images exalting the rustic life which appears as the very inverse of luxury. Voltaire linked luxury to the rise of civilization and dismissed the simplicity and frugality of the "good old days" as mere ignorance and discomfort, with no connection at all to the idealized images projected by pastoral poetry. The Physiocrats were of another mind, though
they did not confuse agriculture with pastoral poetry either. Their elevation of agriculture to the supreme art implied an opposition between the natural and the artificial, between a true and useful art and the manifold products of luxury and the ouvriers de fantaisie . They did not distinguish between le faste and le luxe as did Sénac. Indeed, their conception of monarchy was considerably at variance with the baroque monarch of magnificence. The monarch must be at the service of the people, and not the people at his service for his glory.
The model for the arts was not only agriculture, however, but also the Antique—though not that of the Roman aesthetes, as with Winckelmann and the antiquarians. Rather, it was the practical antiquity of public works, aqueducts, city squares, public markets, roads, and amphitheaters that was felt worthy of true emulation.
As for luxury, Mirabeau perceived it much in the manner of Rousseau or d'Holbach. It was considered an abuse of riches which produced two offspring, laxity and disorder, both of which led to foolish spending. Luxury was not so much in the thing itself as in its abuse. It was also seen as a phenomenon which caused perpetual displacement and movement: nothing and no one remained in his or her place. The parvenu, for example, could thus be better off than the nobles. The social hierarchy was always being disrupted by luxury, by its visibility and that search for the visible signs of wealth and distinction already noted by Rousseau, Helvétius, and others:
Precious furniture, magnificent dress, imposing houses, coaches and their suite of lackeys, etc., necessarily draw the gaze of the multitude, and that is what men take and always will take for distinction. In their primitive origins these things served to designate power; but when they only signify wealth, ... luxury rules. And so emulation turns toward riches, and the emulation of the rich is only cupidity. (1:33)
Luxury is thus antithetical to honor; it also stifles the heart, leading to all the follies of fashion and foppishness. The infatuation with youth saps the structure of a society now dominated by le colifichet and papillotage , baubles and tinsel. And when youth sets the tone, the true and natural order of society is reversed, as manners, industry, and the arts are destroyed by luxury. It is not difficult to discern in this analysis of the effects of luxury another shaft aimed not only at the society of the time but also at the Rococo. The youths alluded to were not only men, but also women; after all, one wanted young mistresses.
But Mirabeau did not condemn or dismiss all the arts; he drew distinctions. There were arts which produced aisance , commodities, decoration, comfort, and facility: these were the mechanical arts. Then there were the liberal arts. And last, there were the fine arts. Art in its highest sense depended on a noble soul, great thoughts, and grandeur of spirit, and this alone was enough to set it in opposition to luxury. For when luxury dominates a society the arts are trivialized, and artists are forced into decadence and produce degenerate forms. In a society dominated by luxury,
the taste for the fantastic and for novelty would spread everywhere. Noble poetry would lose its simplicity and harmony to become high-sounding and tense; eloquence would be reduced to mere witticisms, fastidiousness, and vapor; painting, Coelum et nubes praeteriaque nihil , would be reduced to white and pink, clouds and children; sculpture would model amors and doves; architecture become the art of building bird cages; while music, fatigued by false pastorals, would degenerate into concetti , tonal peculiarities, studied relations of frightening notes, concordant and marvelous to the ears of enthusiasts of the modern taste. (1:131)
And art would always have to be new, always different, always constrained to go beyond the beautiful to a point
where true beauty would be unrecognizable beneath a surcharge of supposedly embellishing innovation and ornamentation. Mirabeau was definitely not a partisan of the Rococo, nor, probably of Rameau, and Rousseau might well have been his source for this thoroughgoing attack on the art of his time. But all this was false art; it was, in the modern-day, pejorative sense, indeed rococo or baroque.
True art was something else. Not only was it noble and simple, it moved the spectator, it frightened, it impressed the thoughtful, it shook the soft. When luxury reigns, by contrast, the pretty triumphs over beauty and agreeable pictures over history painting. In architecture—and the period in which Mirabeau published his Leçons éonomiques was one of splendid building—similar effects were evident. The hôtel particulier is a case in point, what with its galleries, cabinets , winter and summer apartments, vestibules, and luxury of space, all of which confused architects and decorators to the point where they no longer knew what was wanted of them. Whereas in the past, and Mirabeau looks nostalgically back to the manor house, the whole family was united in organic harmony within a simple space determined by decorum, the multiplicity of spaces and decor of the hôtel particulier merely served to fragment the family, its members each going off separately to his or her own apartment or cabinet . Luxury is the triumph of fantasy, and for Mirabeau it is this which explains the present variety of the arts and architecture, with no utility whatsoever.
There could hardly be a more consistent condemnation, not only of luxury and its effects on art, but also of the Rococo and the Baroque. Yet as we have seen, not all art was condemned out of hand. Mirabeau believed in a true beauty; even an economist could allow for art, comfort, and beauty. Indeed, one can make the case that economics was less a science than an aesthetic, and that the Physiocrats were a new type of visionary.
But the relation of luxury to art, economics to aesthetics, poses the question of consumption in the eighteenth century.
Were the Court and the Parisian Social Elite of the Eighteenth Century a Consumer Society?
It is tempting to read the various descriptions of the effects of luxury in the eighteenth century as symptoms of the existence of a proto-consumer society.
Rosalind Williams, in her excellent study of the rise of mass consumption in nineteenth-century France, Dream Worlds , thus begins with the notion of a "closed world of courtly consumption" and dubs Louis XV a "consumer king." It is true that once a year Louis XV would auction off Sèvres porcelain to his courtiers; and since Sèvres, like Vincennes, was a royal manufactory, he could by the same logic be called a royal entrepreneur. (The same could be said of Augustus of Saxony, whose veritable passion for porcelain would likewise justify the label of an entrepreneurconsumer king.) Williams also speaks of the development of "bourgeois consumption habits" over the course of the eighteenth century, presenting Voltaire and Rousseau as the representatives of opposed philosophies of consumption. The whole Enlightenment can thus be seen in terms of consumption: "The concept of civilisation provided an authoritative guide for the consumer—in an age when only a small fraction of the population were consumers in the sense of enjoying discretionary spending—by positing a humanistic ideal capable of giving consumption a meaning and purpose" (9).
The use of the term consumption here seems to equate it with civilization, since consumption was presumably subordinated to the ideal of civilisation . But to this reader of Dream Worlds , this approach seems to project our view of consumption back into the eighteenth century. For if in the eighteenth century consumption was subordinated to the ideal of civilisation , that consumer society was nonetheless different from ours—in which, it seems to this writer, consumption is its own end. It may well be that in the age of shopping malls, ubiquitous nonstop advertising, and the
proliferation of credit cards, civilization is consumption. But it may have been otherwise in the eighteenth century. The ideal of eighteenth-century civilisation was far more than consumption; for Voltaire it included religious toleration and an enlightened monarchy, which meant one which did not waste wealth on wars and luxury. The elite of the eighteenth century, or rather of the Enlightenment, was not only a consumer elite but also an educated cultural elite. Moreover, the word consumption offers as much difficulty as the word luxury . One can say of consumption what Mandeville said of luxury: if everything that is superfluous and not strictly necessary for subsistence counts as luxury, then everything is luxury and the word becomes meaningless. Similarly, if everything is consumption, what does the term mean? We speak today of students as consumers, and it is not difficult to see why. But the young nobles and ladies of the eighteenth-century elite were not consuming in their colleges, academies, or convents. Williams was undoubtedly aware of the difficulties posed by the word, witness her distinction between courtly, elite, and mass consumption.
From this consumption-oriented perspective on the eighteenth century, Talleyrand's douceur de vivre was in effect the gentle pleasure of discretionary spending, and the history of the eighteenth century becomes that of the rich, the rakish, and the famous, with heads falling at the end. It is true that George Sand's grandmother did think life was sweeter, less gloomy, and less pretentious before the Revolution; when she looked about her in the new regime she found people glum. To this George Sand commented that the philosophy of the eighteenth century was that of the rich, wherein happiness implied an income of 600,000 livres per year. Talleyrand, and Robespierre as well, would have agreed. But does this make of the ancien régime a consumer society, or a society of a different type, in which the apparent behavior of a certain elite resembles what we now designate as consumer habits? The problem lies in the word consumption .
Adam Smith divided consumable goods into necessaries and luxuries. He was aware the terms were relative, and that what were luxuries in one country might be necessities in another. Leather shoes had become necessities in England but not in France, where wooden shoes were still to be found. Water was a necessity; beer and wine were not, and hence were luxuries. Classing both luxuries and necessities under the rubric of consumables, however, does not eliminate the ambiguities evident to Mandeville in the term luxury . Water, a necessity, can be consumed; wine, a luxury, can be consumed; shelter, a necessity, cannot be consumed. A meal in a four-star restaurant is a luxury, but it can be consumed; the tureen in which the soup is served in that same restaurant is a luxury item which cannot be consumed. An unornamented pine chest, which may be a necessity, cannot be consumed; but then an Oeben chest which serves the same purpose as the pine chest cannot be consumed either and is a luxury. One wishes economists had used better terms to describe their mental universe of producers and consumers. Left out of consideration by the economists in their distinction between necessities and luxuries is the aesthetic aspect of the superfluous—even in cases where the luxury truly is consumed in the strict sense of eating or drinking or wearing or destroying, as when fireworks are shot into the air, or when a beautiful city is bombarded. One thus comes up, over and over, against the problem not so much of consumption as of luxury. It therefore seems to this writer that there is an important distinction to be made between a society in a state of luxury and our present-day, consumer-service society, in which the luxury of the eighteenth century is principally to be found in museums and the problem of luxury is in large measure simply not raised.
There are certainly similarities between the Parisian and London elite of the late eighteenth century, on the one hand, and certain aspects of the life style, to use a current term, of the visibly rich and famous of today's consumer society, on the other. But there are notable differences as well. Lewis
H. Lapham, in his Money and Class in America (1988), quotes from a letter of the Parisian bookseller Ruault of 1786 to point out a parallel between the obsession with money and the craze for speculation then and now. There were staggering deficits in both 1787 and 1987—though Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were considerably younger than Ronald and Nancy Reagan, and memoirs on court life had to wait until after the Revolution and received far lower publishers' advances than can be counted on in today's consumer society. The similarities are striking; they may nevertheless be superficial. It may well be that the rich of all times behave in much the same way, or perhaps the statement is better applied only to the nouveaux riches; but they do so under very different circumstances and in differing mental universes. The more one thinks of similarities, the more one also finds dissimilarities, and it may be that here as in philosophy one is bewitched by language. We may continue to use the word consumption ; but the word will not do without serious qualifications.
Herbert Lüthy, the great historian of the Protestant bank in the France of the ancien régime, also uses the word consumption . For him the ancien régime was an economic, social, and political order, a hierarchical society of "interconnected" parts which regulated the "distribution and allocation of functions respecting command, administration, public order and justice." It also functioned as a system to distribute public offices and allocate revenues—"indeed, the ancien régime ended up being nothing else but that" (From Calvin to Rousseau , 140). The upper crust of society, the proprietors, enjoyed discretionary spending and, as Lüthy puts it, "fulfilled with great taste, imagination, and distinction the only social function that was left to it; namely that of spending—while living in a lordly, noble style—the 'net product' of the agricultural kingdom" (155). The
symptoms of society in a state of luxury, as described by novelists, moralists, and philosophes, thus apply to this privileged elite, and insofar as this is the consuming class it might appear that the top of society was indeed something like a consumer society.
But the ethos behind this spending of the net product of the agricultural kingdom was not at all the same as that underlying and motivating a modern consumer society. To think of the upper strata only in terms of consumption is to ignore the crucial implications of the interconnectedness of everything in the ancien régime, and thereby to blur the distinction between the function of spending in the baroque society and its role in a modern consumer society. It also amounts to a blurring of the distinction between the differing functions of luxury in the two societies, and indeed between consumption and luxury tout court . Modern consumer societies may be possible because of the relative depreciation of what were formerly considered luxuries. One ought not to forget the function Montesquieu assigned luxury in monarchical states. Nor should one forget Mirabeau's observation that the exterior signs of wealth and magnificence no longer served adequately to signify authority—an insight revealing an awareness that le faste of former times and societies had indeed become le luxe .
Norbert Elias, in his study of court society, was very aware of the differences between a noble system of expenditure and the bourgeois view of spending. The respective attitudes of the nobility and the bourgeoisie vis-à-vis the relation of income to expenses differ radically, and the difference points out one reason for considering luxury a problem. Elias opposes a noble ethos of status consumption to a bourgeois ethos of saving for future profit. In the latter, bourgeois case, present satisfaction was sacrificed for some future gain which might be material but also social. In the case of noble spending, social position and prestige were maintained only insofar as spending corresponded to the social rank held, and not—significantly—to income. The
gap between income and spending might be bridged by borrowing from a Monsieur Jourdain, or a Monsieur de Voltaire, who also lent money to nobles of his acquaintance. If this was discretionary spending, it was forced upon the spender. To cease spending according to one's rank was to lose one's considération . As we have seen with Adam Smith and La Bruyère before him, it was also to cease being seen, and thus to cease existing. The great in the monarchical state might have enjoyed glory, honor, and luxury, but it had to be paid for, if necessary by royal pension, and appearances were expensive—whence the rise but also the fall and disappearance, from view, of great houses.
On the level of the psychology of prestige and "visibility," that is, the need to appear opulent and happy pointed to by moralists and novelists of the eighteenth century, there is undoubtedly a parallel with today's psychology of consumption as regards the signs of distinction, affluence, pleasures, and status. But the setting and the consequences are very different. The good of the state hardly depends today on the visible splendor and luxury spending of the higher ranks of society, but rather on mass spending on consumer items, including durables which are not luxury items at all but necessities with a built-in obsolescence. Luxury had earlier been seen as posing moral, social, political, and economic problems; luxury spending today is indeed discretionary spending by a minority, but the real economic problems are posed by insufficient spending on the part of the masses. In the eighteenth century it was seriously argued that lack of luxury spending by the rich and the great would be onerous for the poor. Today the situation is reversed: the rich will not grow richer if the poor do not overspend on a vast range of so-called consumer items. A new distinction has thus emerged: the rich of the eighteenth century were not the same as the rich of today. The nature of their wealth differed, as did their economy.
Just before the Revolution the abbé Sieyès, living in a world permeated with neoclassical architecture and con-
stant references to antiquity, remarked that the world of 1788 was in reality not at all like that of antiquity. For in fact all one heard and talked of in 1788 was manufacturing and consumption. The older aesthetic discourse on antiquity, as we have seen, had come to be doubled by a newer economic discourse. From our perspective, the abbé might as well have been referring to the reign of Louis XV instead of the ancients. For he was in fact already inhabiting a mental world very different from that of midcentury. Luxury had presupposed not only an economy and an economics different from that of the affluent-consumer society, but also baroque display and a ruling class still relying on or at least manipulating the outward and visible signs of power as a means of governing, even if it no longer quite believed in them. The critique of the Baroque consisted in demonstrating the discrepancy between the outward trappings of power, rank, and wealth, and true merit. Appearances were illusion, titles and rank a mere show. It was Figaro's day, Figaro who reasoned like Mandeville and like him saw beyond appearances: "Because you are a great lord, you think you are a great genius! . . . Nobility, fortune, rank, and position: all this makes for such pride! What did you do for all these advantages? You took the trouble to be born and nothing more" (Le Mariage de Figaro , 5.3). With that the Baroque was over, even if both the play and the opera of Figaro did include a baroque masquerade. Society would have to be built on more than appearances. When moralists, philosophes, and economists considered an ideal society, they now imagined one in which merit, wealth, and power coincided with appearance. This does not mean that these formed the basis of a consumer society such as our own, but rather of a society of production, free trade, and a balanced budget. This was seen as coinciding with the natural. Consumption would no longer be decided by rank, but by the market. And riches would no longer be luxury.
And yet it is undeniable that even if eighteenth-century London and Paris society was still not quite a consumer society as we understand and experience it—that is, involving consumption based on mass sales and continuous advertising campaigns, gift shops in museums, mail-order catalogues, and so forth—nonetheless the critique of baroque appearances and court spending, coupled with the eventual destruction of baroque society in France during the Revolution, loosed forces that would eventually make possible the type of consumer society we are acquainted with today. But first the triumphant bourgeoisie of the nineteenth century would have to imitate the life-style of the old court and town nobility; only then could the image of the sweetness of life pursued by the old court society come to be marketable in the form of tourism, palatial hotels, furniture styles imitating those of the past, eclectic millionaire architecture, and the dream world of romanticism.
The Enlightenment, considered as an anti-Baroque, made possible an economics emphasizing rational productivity and capital accumulation coupled with productive investment, rather than the luxury, glory, and deficit spending of the Baroque. Such an economics does not make for a consumer society, but for one geared to productivity. But concomitant with this call for economic liberalism came the invocation of nature and liberty, the attack on the prejudices of the past, the secularization of society and the consequent secularization of the Pelagian heresy, to wit, the idea that man was not irremediably damned—all coinciding with a call for the liberation of sensibility. An unwitting product of economic liberalism was thus the romantic sensibility. Madame de Staël wrote a novel demonstrating that love might triumph even over poverty; Monsieur Necker, her father and a banker, countered with one demonstrating that it could not. Jane Austen was very much aware of the same question. Romanticism, like economic liberalism, was based on dissatisfaction. In the words of Jacques Bousquet, "Romanticism and economic liberalism are equally
founded on dissatisfaction; instead of seeking inner contentment in the present situation, one must always ask for more, at any price and in all domains, whether in sentiments, impressions, or consumer goods" (Le XVIIIe Siècle romantique, 126). Romantic individualism and aspirations and economic individualism thus have a common source.
Over the course of the eighteenth century, money triumphed over the barriers set against it by Christianity, feudal values, and secular moralists like La Bruyère. Some of the old nobility, like Madame de Beaufort in Madame d'Epinay's novelized memoirs, might still maintain that "bread and honor, my child, are all one needs to live"; but fewer and fewer agreed with her. The new nobility, the financier class, the aristocracy of money in the making—all held a different view, as did Monsieur d'Epinay, who led a life of dissipation. Significantly, the word dissipation had both an economic and a moral meaning, and the two were inextricably linked. When Madame d'Epinay went out to the theater or the opera it was called dissipation by her elders; when Monsieur d'Epinay spent a small fortune on his mistresses it was not only moral dissipation but also indiscreet spending and, worse, the incurring of debts. By the end of the eighteenth century, the force of opinion was overwhelmingly against the beliefs of a Madame de Beaufort. But was the age for all that a consumer society?
It was certainly the age of the triumph of money, and the power of money undermined traditional structures, values, and beliefs. The rich, in the beginning of the century, had not been looked upon favorably. As the moralist Le Maître de Claville put it in an oft-reprinted work:
A too-lively attachment to wealth is of all the passions the most shameful, the most tyrannical, and the most harmful to the one possessed by it; it is the most dishonorable vice and the one which leads to the greatest injustices. It marks at once a character both base and inhumane; it leads to one's own suffering and the suffering of others, deprives us of pleasure and en-
joyment, delivers us up to trouble, agitation, disquiet; in a word, it has almost all the traits of infamous avarice. (Traité du vrai mérire de l'homme 2:78)
But moralists notwithstanding, wealth was a reality, it made itself visible through luxury, and the increasing wealth of individuals and society at large was a reality which merited pondering. If for Monsieur d'Epinay it meant the pleasures of dissipation, for Madame d'Epinay it meant certain responsibilities: "It seems that all is said in the world when one enjoys a hundred thousand livres' income and a name. And I say that wealth is good only for making us accountable to the public for our tastes, our opinions, and that it further deprives us of the right to complain and the sad consolation of being pitied" (Histoire de Madame de Montbrillant , 209). In a sense one might argue that eighteenth-century society was not so much a consumer society as one pervaded by the temptation to dissipation and baroque spending, a temptation countered by a new type of moralist: the economist, who would teach the age how to spend properly, wisely, and morally. The economist's point of view was essentially bourgeois, and this was incompatible with the baroque mentality. What this means, however, is that baroque dissipation is closer to modern consumerism than is the economic thinking of the eighteenth-century economists.
In a brilliant novel, L'Ecole du sud (1991), Dominique Fernandez explores the difference between baroque Sicily and France and comes up with illuminating insights into the difference between baroque society as manifest in southern countries like Italy, Spain, and Austria—in short, Catholic nations—and Protestant countries such as Holland, England, Scotland, and northern Germany. This north-south dichotomy involves religious attitudes which influence spending. Thus Catholicism is a religion of expense, as witness the magnificence of Roman churches; Protestantism is a religion of restraint, of unornamented, sober, aus-
tere churches. The differences made for strong states in the north and weak ones in the south. France occupied a midpoint between north and south and managed to create a strong state in spite of Catholicism because its Catholicism was Jansenist, or Augustinian, in its theological orientation. Its morality, for practical purposes, was almost Protestant. What happens on the secular level of the arts in eighteenthcentury France is parallel to this religious Jansenism: baroque and rococo art, manifestations of the southern spirit of costly magnificence and expense, come to be opposed by the austere style of the Antique and a morality of bourgeois productivity.
Redesigning the Ancien Régime
In accounts of the French Enlightenment, a central role is usually assigned to the philosophes—Montesquieu, Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot, and the Encyclopedists—and to materialist philosophers like Helvétius, d'Holbach, Condillac, and La Mettrie. These are the "party of humanity," to use the happy expression of the historian Peter Gay. Think of the French Enlightenment, and the philosophes come to mind; think of the European Enlightenment as a whole, and these figures are joined by the philosophers Hume and Kant, as well as the so-called enlightened despots like Frederick II, Catherine the Great, and Joseph II. Think of the economics of the Enlightenment, and the Scots with Adam Smith at their head come immediately to mind; the Physiocrats or French economists may perhaps be mentioned in passing.
Yet despite the above-mentioned emphasis on philosophy, by 1789, and certainly thereafter, the world answered more to the elucubrations of the economists, whether French or Scottish, than to the ideas propounded by the philosophes or philosophers. Where Voltaire negated, where Montesquieu defined ideal types in history, where Diderot speculated and Rousseau dreamed of an ideal re-
public, the Physiocrats redesigned society, so that by 1788 the abbé Sieyès could write in Qu'est-ce que le Tiers Etat? that "political systems, today, are founded exclusively on work; the productive faculties of man are everything" (7). There is no question here of the glory of arms, the prestige of kings, ancient lineage, or tradition. It seems a far cry from the pleasures of the Rococo, the douceur de vivre of Talleyrand, the wit of Voltaire, or Rousseau's ideal republic and his exaltation of nature. Sieyès presents students of the French Enlightenment, or of the history of art during that period, with a far different Enlightenment, that of manufacturing and consumption, not salons, drawing rooms, and the life of the court and the battles of literary and musical critics. There is thus a very literary Enlightenment centered on the philosophes and the writers and artists, and another founded on an alternative literature, that of the economists and the would-be reformers of the social system. We say "founded on an alternative literature" because the new world described by Sieyès, which was also that of Adam Smith, was really an alternative aesthetic system vis-à-vis the baroque aesthetic. Given the system of the economists, a grand design, presumably the work of a divine order, had somehow gone wrong over the course of history because of a Fall—not that of Adam, but a Fall nonetheless. Man had now to set himself to work to somehow recover God's original intention, an intention which coincided with that of nature. For it was agreed by many that man had not been irretrievably corrupted by the Fall, and that a Christian life need not always be an austere, puritanical one of selfdenial and deprivation. Economics, when it first attained to theoretical autonomy, could be construed as a means for letting God's invisible hand do its work of restoring the lost Garden of Eden.
If in Scotland and in the Kingdom of Naples and the Two Sicilies economists were to be found in the universities, in France they were to be found in Parisian salons, at court, and in the provinces. By the end of the reign of Louis XV,
the French economists had already been designated as a sect; Adam Smith noted them as having a great following; they were talked about, published books, invented a new vocabulary, and ran a journal, Les Ephémérides du citoyen . This last word is worth noting: citizen, not subject of a king, but member of a state. Though partly in disagreement with their doctrine, Smith saw their importance and wrote in The Wealth of Nations that their "system ... with all its imperfections, is, perhaps, the nearest approximation to the truth that has yet been published upon the subject of political economy, and is upon that account well worth the consideration of every man who wishes to examine with attention the principles of that very important science" (642). Their economics, however, implied a change of the social order and fiscal reform; thus their man in government, Turgot, fell even as Smith was publishing his famous treatise in 1776.
Yet they had had their man at court, Dr. Quesnay, founder of the sect, physician to Madame de Pompadour, and author of the famous Tableau économique . They had a doctrine; they had a system; they had answers or remedies to the present ills of society; and they expounded their system with the aid of a new vocabulary or jargon and through the Tableau économique , which graphically represented by means of mathematical formulas and intersecting lines the distribution of wealth in an ideal economy of perfect liberty and high productivity. Their economic model implied more than a better economy; it implied a better society.
The Tableau was rather difficult to decipher; like the grand paintings representing scenes from ancient history which were soon to appear in the yearly exhibitions of the Academy, the economic tableau too needed written explanations for the uninitiated. The economists, however, also had a slogan, one which was easily understood and is still very much alive today: laissez faire, laissez passer —let the economy alone and nature will do the rest. While Adam
Smith referred to economics as a science, it was hardly a pure science; for these early economists were also visionaries, and their science sometimes appears more like an aesthetic vision. The economists had a vision of the natural order and man's place in it, as they had a vision of the future city of man within that natural order—an order they divined by looking to a remote past, though one less remote than that of Rousseau. They were at one with Rousseau on the corrupt, unnatural state of contemporary society.
Jurists and apologists for the status quo tended to describe eighteenth-century French society as a God-given order comprising the traditional three orders of society: clergy, nobility, and third estate or commoners. When the Estates-General were called in 1789, the delegates were classed according to this traditional system. The reality, however, was different, and in many of the writings of the time the social structure was described not in terms of the three orders but by more complex gradations corresponding to wealth and to function within the state. Thus Jean Domat, in his Droit public of 1697, classed ranks on the basis of dignity, authority, necessity, and utility into nine levels: clergy; profession of arms; counselors of the prince; administrators of justice; professionals of finance, sciences, and liberal arts; commerce; industry; artisans; and agriculture and animal husbandry. Things had become even more complicated by 1770, when Louis Sébastien Mercier drew up the following classification for the population of Paris: princes and great lords; lawyers and jurists; financiers, from farmers-general to money changers and money lenders; dealers and merchants; artists; artisans and workers; lackeys and the lower people. Restif de la Bretonne, in his Contemporaines par gradation , 1783–85, established a hierarchy of women ranging from duchesses to women of the stage, a total of twelve categories; with further subdivisions, including women of the streets, he arrived at thirty-seven grades.
There was general agreement on certain broad principles of social ranking: the sword had more prestige than the law,
which took precedence over finance; after these came men of letters, then the négociants or traders, and finally the lower orders of society. But conflicts of precedence rendered the task of classification more complicated. The nobility of the sword, for example, was not one homogeneous bloc; while the court nobility may have been well-to-do, the majority of the nobility were less well off, and many were even poor. Yet all were nobles with, as Montesquieu put it in his Lettres persanes of 1721, ancestors, a sword, and debts. All this was changed by the Revolution; and even before that event, the Physiocrats had laid out a program for the theoretical reorganization of society.
The economists started with a clean slate by eliminating rank, privileges, precedence, prestige, and tradition, and substituting the notion of class. They retained the sacred number three, dividing society into three classes: proprietors, producers, and the sterile or unproductive class. This was considered a natural order, since in the Physiocrat view all wealth actually derived from the cultivation of the earth, from nature, and the classes were defined by their relation to the ownership of land, that is, to the cultivation, nurturing, and furthering of the fertility of nature. Though a natural order, it was nonetheless instituted by God—not the same God as that of the Christians, to be sure, the economists not being theologians, but nonetheless God. The standard of classification expounded by the Physiocrats—no longer based on feudal or Christian precedent, or on tradition or the idea that the nobility belonged to some superior race, but on property and one's economic role within the order of nature—thus implied not only a redesigned society but also a redefinition of human destiny.
No wonder, then, that the economists were called a sect . Like a religious community, they had a catechism of thirty articles, all beginning with the imperative "Que" ("Let"), with the overall title "Maximes générales du gouvernement agricole le plus avantageux au genre humain." The first five articles read:
I. Let the sovereign Authority be One and superior to all individuals in Society and all unjust enterprises of particular interests.
II. Let the Nation be instructed in the General Laws of the natural order which self-evidently constitute the most perfect government; for the Nation, through its knowledge of these laws, must concur with the Sovereign to establish the best of all possible laws.
III. Let the Sovereign and the Nation never lose sight of the fact that it is agriculture which multiplies wealth.
IV. Let real estate and personal property be assured to their legitimate owners; for security of property is the essential foundation of the social order and of the improvement of the land [emphasis added].
V. Let taxes not be destructive of or disproportional to the gross income of the Nation; let tax increases follow increased revenue; let taxes be directly based on the net product of the estate.
And so on for twenty-five more articles of economic faith, articles which in effect also amounted to a statement of general principles of government. Jeffersonian minimal government followed logically from these precepts.
The economists were stupendous simplifiers. Their system of thought rested on a new trinity, natural rather than supernatural: God, Nature, and Property. The whole Christian-baroque drama of fall and redemption, the tragic view of life and the providential view of history, the established baroque ideas of glory, honor, play, noble gestures, tragic failure, and comic relief, the concepts of sacrifice and martyrdom and sainthood—all these were swept aside as attention turned to nature and man's physical needs. The God of the Physiocrats was not the Christian God, but could be that of the Deists, Socinians, or latitudinarians, or that of the Dutch traders and Swiss and Genoese bankers,
or even the God of Newton, artificer of a universe which ran in an orderly, regular fashion according to immutable natural laws.
This grand order also implied a new morality. Within the order of nature the three classes all had a role to play, just as in the former society the three ranks had had a role to play. But the roles of the new natural order were no longer sanctioned by the supernatural, and consequently good and evil were, so to speak, detheologized and naturalized. Like modern politicians, the Physiocrats promised a better and happier world, so long as one followed the maxims of the great order of nature. What did God ask of mankind? Sacrifices? Martyrdom? Withdrawal from the world to a life of prayer and meditation, or a life of repentance for original sin? God, explained the Marquis de Mirabeau, only expects man to fulfill himself within the system He had instituted. Man must use his intelligence and his faculties to attain all possible happiness. Let man be wise and just, and realize the full enjoyment of his being. Let his desires, successes, hopes, and fears be lived within that great bosom of Providence whence he received his life and being, to which he must refer all his endeavors, and to which he will one day return. The system of the economists was nothing if not a natural religion with distant echoes of stoicism.
For the Physiocrats, education consisted in teaching the natural laws which governed the great order, of which individuals, like the monads in Leibniz's grand design, were integral parts. The essence of all instruction, no matter what one's role in society, was thus economic : to learn the rights and duties of man according to nature and to cultivate the economic use of one's intelligence, for the purpose of assuring one's subsistence and satisfying one's needs and desires. It was not enough, for example, for a pastry cook to suppose it in his interest to sell as much pastry as possible. He must also understand the whole chain of interests whereby the pastry cook and the pastry he made were linked to the farmer who grew the wheat, the miller who
ground that wheat into flour, and the merchant who bought the flour and sold it to the pastry cook. The order of nature was thus conceived as a linkage of private interests which, if left free, added up magnificently to public happiness and public wealth.
Voltaire's satire notwithstanding, all was for the best in the best of all possible economic orders and worlds. Optimism as metaphysics might have been laughed at, doubts might arise as to the existence of monads, and the notion of the necessary relation between cause and effect might be called into question; but optimism appeared to survive in if not as economics. The vision of a happy and wealthy society of free individuals, each pursuing his own interests on the basis of a true, natural economic order, was something akin to the mystical vision in the baroque religious sphere. Christian charity was out; bienfaisance was in. Saints were out, and monks dismissed as parasites; happy, wise, prudent, and responsible landlords were in, coexisting with grateful laborers in idyllic landscape and village settings, a harmonious union of proprietors and producers.
Society was formed of naturally free individuals who must all know and understand the natural order on which their happiness was founded. They must all work together for a happiness which rested on one sacred and inviolable right: the assured possession of property, and of those prerogatives and attributes of property necessary to the prosperity and fruitfulness of all classes in society. The relation of the individual to society thus rested on property, the exploitation of that property, and especially the proper circulation of money.
The problem with money in the eighteenth century, the Physiocrats felt, was that too many thought money to have value in and of itself. Money as gold and silver was shiny, beautiful, palpable, hoardable, and transformable into plate—all of which tended to keep it out of circulation. A true Physiocratic society precludes Molière's miser. In the natural order of things the miser is more than ridiculous: he
is almost criminal, since his failure to invest his funds threatens the proper circulation of money. On the other hand, Balzac's old man Grandet, who knows just when to sell his wine for maximum profit, is eminently a member of Physiocratic society. For the Physiocrats money is merely an exchange commodity, a token of the true riches which come from the soil. Too many proprietors, unfortunately, confused money with riches. Forgetting the common interest existing between those who own the soil and those who work it, they tried to get as much money as possible from their produce, thereby creating tensions between producers and proprietors. Social conflict thus did not arise from unequal distribution of property, but from the false wealth of money; this, not true riches, made some men oppress others. Money was there to be used, and used wisely, as water was used to fertilize soil. For money fertilized investment, and as such could be regarded, in Mirabeau's words, as the "thermometer of the order of labor and expenses" (L'Ami des hommes , 1:83). But money was not an end in itself. Here the Physiocrats could agree wholeheartedly with all those who condemned the ill effects of luxury on society.
As noted above, the natural order also implied a moral order. Man had natural rights, which were admirably balanced by natural moral duties; the right to subsistence was balanced by the duty to work. The property owner may not have had to work in the sense of tilling his land himself; his duty, rather, was proper investment and management. The man of leisure was thus an anomaly in this system, and to do nothing could be regarded as a kind of crime. The sins of human nature in the supernatural order became social crimes in the natural order, and guilt survived along with natural inequalities and social inequalities. There was thus no place for the spendthrifts, scribblers, musicians, courtiers, artists, adventurers, gamblers, spectators, lovers of luxury, amateurs, connoisseurs, curieux , monks, nuns, and priests who had featured so richly in baroque culture. The
nephew of the famous Rameau, immortalized by Diderot, was a parasite such as could only have been found, and could only have survived, in a corrupt and denatured society. It was thus not at all illogical that the Physiocrats also considered luxury a problem, and that, as we have seen, their system implied an art different from that of the Baroque.
Just as the triumph of Madame de Pompadour at court signaled the triumph of the financier class over a more traditional court nobility, so the social triumph of Monsieur Necker (thanks to his wife), coupled with his later elevation to supervisor of the royal finances, signified the defeat of the Physiocratic party in government circles and a return to traditional measures for dealing with the ever-growing problem of the deficit. From the standpoint of Physiocracy it might appear as the triumph of the sterile class. Scribblers sang the praises of Monsieur Necker; his wife proclaimed him a genius; he had written an essay in defense of Colbert, therefore he was a writer, therefore a philosophe, therefore the man to resolve the problem of the deficit. Necker's eulogy of Colbert, published as part of the controversy over free trade, had favored state intervention in that dispute and thus taken a stand against the Physiocrats. In this he showed himself a friend of the people, always afraid of bread shortages and high prices, and therefore also of free trade.
But this early piece from Necker's productive pen was insignificant compared to what he accomplished once in charge of finances. For Monsieur Necker did something absolutely unheard-of: he published his budget report to the king, his famous Compte rendu au Roy of 1781, and made of it an international best-seller. The famous phrenologist Lavater, feeling Monsieur Necker's cranial bumps, recognized genius. In the eyes of Sénac de Meilhan and other critics, on the other hand, he was seen as a manipulator of funds—another borrower and, as such, part of the problem
rather than the solution. Necker, like the philosophes, also lifted the mask of the Baroque, though in a different way: he showed how expensive it was to maintain a court. According to the royal accounts made public in January of 1781, the king's domestic household, including buildings and grounds, cost 25,700,000 livres; pensions for the courtiers were even higher, 28,000,000; while the funds allocated to the crown prince and his spouse and the Count and Countess d'Artois amounted to 8,040,000 livres. Only the cost of the war against England in alliance with America exceeded these expenses, coming to 65,200,000 livres—not counting the ordinary war funds, artillery funds, and navy funds before the war, which were also high, 31,000,000 livres. By comparison, foreign affairs cost a relatively low 8,525,000 livres, and the maintenance of royal roads and bridges only 5,000,000. These revelations hardly endeared Monsieur Necker to pension recipients. But with this best-seller of a budget, made public against custom, Necker was opposing what he considered a modern, efficient government to baroque expedients. Economics and the Baroque were antithetical.
In exposing the court as wasteful, in pointing out that the government machinery needed reform, Necker was in accord with the Physiocrats. But he differed from them regarding their assessment of the so-called sterile class, and in the vision of society which might be construed from his writings. For example, where the Physiocrats had posited three classes in society, the banker from Geneva saw only the rich and the poor, that is, property owners and those without property. It was a view also shared by the abbé Sieyès, who similarly posited, in effect, two peoples within one nation: "A great nation is necessarily composed of two peoples , the producers and the human instruments of production, the people of intelligence and the workers who have but a passive force, the educated citizens and the auxiliaries to whom is left neither the time nor the means to receive an education" (Qu'est-ce que le Tiers Etat? , 10). And
in Necker's view of the natural order of things, the rich would get richer and the poor would get poorer over the course of time. For the differences between the two were too great and too many to be overcome—even assuming they ought to be overcome, which at the time no one really supposed. After all, the differences between rich and poor were natural, due to natural inequalities. To be sure, a wise administrator might have certain obligations toward the poor, such as keeping bread prices down so that the poor might not go hungry in times of poor harvests. But this was not charity but a matter of policy: the poor must be assured subsistence in order to go on producing and working for the rich. On a sentimental level, charity was replaced by bienfaisance and the paternalism of the rich. Madame Necker, like Madame de Pompadour, founded a hospital. Noblesse oblige : nobility imposes obligations, and so do riches.
Another distinction between Necker and the Physiocrats lay in the frankness with which he drew the line separating rich from poor. No question here of the common interests of proprietors and producers. Necker did not hold to the view that the exchange of subsistence wages for working the land of the proprietors was "fair" in that so much labor could be equated with a certain amount of money. Rather, he used the word "exploit" to characterize this transaction, and all the profit in the exchange was on the side of the property owners. The exchange was as unequal as the poor were different from the rich.
It is curious to note how the hallmarks of superiority of the baroque world, the awe inspired by the great and the noble, are by Necker attributed to the rich. The poor, by contrast, are not merely another people in the same nation; they are like different beings. Quantitative difference is thus turned into qualitative difference. The poor live from day to day, they are dressed in rags, they inhabit hovels, they live in hunger and sickness, and they have no part at all in culture. Indeed, they ought not to be educated: "In a state of unequal fortunes, the result of the social order, instruc-
tion is forbidden to all men without property" (quoted in Grange, Les Idées de Necker , 117). The result is that the poor have an infantile, almost primitive mentality; swayed by superstition, imagination, and emotion, they are naturally religious. Religion satisfies their craving for the irrational, and especially so a religion which presents them with images, charms the eye, and is filled with pomp, ceremony, and the representation of mysteries. For these reasons the poor can hardly be trusted with the management of affairs. They do not have the capacity for sustained reflection; they must be led by the hand, and for the stability of society they must remain passive, preoccupied with bread for their bodies and religion for their souls. Needless to say, they have no refined feelings; marriage for them is merely the putting together of two single miseries, because misery can be better tolerated together than alone.
Fortunately for society, the mentality of the poor is such that they naturally accept the rich and the splendid as creatures of a different order. But if the poor were capable of thought and could rise to the level of abstract concepts, the result would be very dangerous indeed. For then they might begin to reflect (as did Rousseau) on the origins of society, property, and social rank, and would see these as contrary to their interests. Inequality of knowledge is thus just as necessary as the other inequalities in society.
Necker is in effect defining the new elite of the late eighteenth century, and, though of course he does not use Marx's words, he sees religion as the opium of the people. The rich had culture; the poor had superstition and the consolations of the life to come. Necker himself was not particularly a man of culture; but his wife and daughter more than made up for it, a pattern that would recur in the later bourgeois culture of the nineteenth century. This separation of cultured women from money-making men may well have been an effect of the end of the Baroque and court society. In any event, the culture and luxury of the world were all for the rich, and signified the new elite of the rich,
the propertied, the educated, the well-mannered, and the refined.
It follows that Necker also differed from the Physiocrats on luxury, though not radically. For him, as for most thinkers by the end of the eighteenth century, the one negative aspect of luxury was prodigality, now associated not only with the spendthrifts of Mandeville but with princely splendor. Otherwise luxury followed logically from both social and economic inequality. It was the necessary and natural result of the naturally unequal distribution of property. Equal distribution of property would be a disaster; for individuals would then work only to satisfy their needs, a crucial spur to agricultural production would thereby disappear. Fortunately, property was unequally distributed, and great landowners would always exploit their land beyond their needs, not only to pay labor costs but also and primarily to satisfy their desires. As with Mandeville, egotism, desires, appetites, and love of luxury are seen as the motive force behind the whole economy, so that luxury is a positive development and the effect of a flourishing economy, not the result of the poverty of the many and wealth of the few. Both poverty and luxury exist because of the unequal distribution of property; since this is natural and normal, luxury is as normal as poverty. Thus luxury is not the symptom of a diseased society requiring a different diet, as a doctor like Quesnay might have put it, but, to the contrary, of a modern, civilized society.
Only prodigality counts as a pathology, symptomatic not so much of disease as of a dérèglement des moeurs , to use Necker's term. The grand seigneur who goes bankrupt, as we saw with Montesquieu, is implicit in the very system of honors and dignity presupposed by the monarchy. But for Necker that grand seigneur is harmful to the state. Baroque spending—the grand geste , the bella figura —is beyond Necker's essentially bourgeois mind. If he distinguishes between two types of luxury, it is not politically, like Sénac, but on totally different grounds. There is luxury due to
inequality of property, which is normal; and there is prodigality, which is due to personal failing or "unruly mores." To teach his son to spend liberally, the duc de Richelieu emptied a purse out the window into the street. This gesture would have been incomprehensible to Necker. He indeed does not understand baroque spending: "The luxury most inimical to political economy is that which is contrary to the increase of population. Such is the luxury of parks, magnificent roads, and horses, because it uses for magnificence and amusement a great portion of land which could otherwise have been capable of increasing subsistence" (quoted in Grange, 110). Ruin for the nobility was in the baroque order of things; balancing the budget and spending within one's means was in the bourgeois order of things. With Necker in power, the Baroque expired in the red.
The abbé Morellet, reflecting in his memoirs on the causes and the essence of the French Revolution, felt that Necker did not understand either economics or the true notion of property. His views on Necker and property are an excellent summary of the new society implied by the economists:
He [Necker] had failed to understand the rights of property as concerns trade for the products of agriculture and industry; nor did he understand any better the rights that property has in government, which, in the last analysis, is nothing other than the protector of property. He did not see that once one ceases to regard the government as a fact, and wishes to reorganize it according to rules and found it upon law, it can only be founded on the right to landed property; that henceforth only property owners have the right to establish and institute government. It was thus no longer as nobles or as priests or as members of the Third Estate that deputies might form the Estates-General, a constituent assembly, but as property owners and in virtue of landed property, whether hereditary or usufructuary, sufficient in itself to be a guarantee of their real interest in public affairs, of the
requisite instruction to handle them successfully, and of the leisure to engage in such work. (Mémoires , I:145)
Failing to take these truths about property into account when the Estates-General were called, the reform of the government eventually turned into a revolution of the poor against the rich. For the representatives elected to the Estates had been chosen to represent the three Orders of the realm—clergy, nobility, and third estate—and not all such representatives were landowners. Morellet and other economists, however, assumed that the right to elect representatives and to act in the government ought to be restricted to property owners. Thus in 1793, at the moment of the Terror and the regulation of the price of bread, the city of man envisaged by the economists—based on property and social hierarchy, from poor to rich, from the nonpropertied to men of property, and equated with the natural order of things—was seen as under attack, and the Revolution itself was taken as an attack on the sacred rights of property and the natural order.
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.