Friendship and Politics in Post-Revolutionary France by Sarah Horowitz (review)
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Friendship and Politics in Post-Revolutionary France. By Sarah Horowitz. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2013. xi+195 pp.

The French Revolution having allegedly dissolved all the social bonds that had given meaning to Ancien-Régime society, Frenchmen of the new era floated anonymously in a world of competing individual interests, devoid of solidarity and trust. Supplying this lack were the bonds of friendship, which, as Sarah Horowitz shows in this excellent monograph, emerged as being of central importance in the nineteenth-century French political landscape. Horowitz’s topic is the doubling of intimate and political relations under the Restoration and July monarchies: as she persuasively demonstrates, the apparent crisis of civic trust in the wake of the Revolution, and the intensity of factional division during these regimes, produced a paradoxical situation whereby the only reliable political ally was a trusted friend, yet the only friend who could truly be trusted was a [End Page 398] political ally. Horowitz is never naive about her subject. Through careful analysis of the language of friendship as it appeared in elite correspondence, Horowitz demonstrates how professions of friendship served to structure professional and political relationships, acting as markers of trust, indebtedness, and good will; but also how they risked degenerating into mere pro forma gestures, easily and endlessly imitated, by means of which the purity of the affective realm might be compromised by the grubby faithlessness of politics. The world of political friendship is usefully visualized through social network graphs revealing the occasionally counterintuitive — the case of Chateaubriand’s friendship with Béranger is a well-known one—but usually predictable interconnections between the luminaries of the period. The friendship analysed here is, as the author admits, either between men or between men and women. The exclusion of female friendship will certainly be seen as an omission by some readers, but this is anything but a work that is insensitive to questions of gender. One of the book’s most valuable achievements, indeed, is to mediate between, on the one hand, an excitable association (also current at the time) of the female-dominated salon with the locus of power, and thus of women with political influence; and, on the other, the rather défrisant argument made by Steven Kale in French Salons: High Society and Political Sociability from the Old Regime to the Revolution of 1848 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004) that this association, though well intentioned, exaggerates women’s scope as substantive political actors in this period. What Horowitz’s nuanced analysis reveals is how central women were in ‘creat[ing] and manag[ing] trust between political figures’ (p. 141) — in handling, that is, the intimate associations that corresponded to political associations from which they were excluded. The politics–friendship dyad allows us to understand how nineteenth-century elites reconciled this practice with their own prevailing ideologies of gender. Still, as Horowitz argues, women might accept this role for reasons ranging from the purely personal to the unambiguously political; do private actions undertaken for political reasons constitute acting politically? The answer, as feminist historians have insisted for some time, is yes. Horowitz’s book supplies yet another vital layer to that realization.

Andrew J. Counter
King’s College London