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Romantic Catholics

France’s Postrevolutionary Generation in Search of a Modern Faith

by Carol E. Harrison

Publication Year: 2014

In this well-written and imaginatively structured book, Carol E. Harrison brings to life a cohort of nineteenth-century French men and women who argued that a reformed Catholicism could reconcile the divisions in French culture and society that were the legacy of revolution and empire. They include, most prominently, Charles de Montalembert, Pauline Craven, Amélie and Frédéric Ozanam, Léopoldine Hugo, Maurice de Guérin, and Victorine Monniot. The men and women whose stories appear in Romantic Catholics were bound together by filial love, friendship, and in some cases marriage. Harrison draws on their diaries, letters, and published works to construct a portrait of a generation linked by a determination to live their faith in a modern world.

Rejecting both the atomizing force of revolutionary liberalism and the increasing intransigence of the church hierarchy, the romantic Catholics advocated a middle way, in which a revitalized Catholic faith and liberty formed the basis for modern society. Harrison traces the history of nineteenth-century France and, in parallel, the life course of these individuals as they grow up, learn independence, and take on the responsibilities and disappointments of adulthood. Although the shared goals of the romantic Catholics were never realized in French politics and culture, Harrison's work offers a significant corrective to the traditional understanding of the opposition between religion and the secular republican tradition in France.

Published by: Cornell University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-xii


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pp. xiii-xvi

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pp. 1-27

France’s romantic Catholics were members of a generation that the writer Alfred de Musset (born 1810) characterized as enfants du siècle in his 1836 autobiographical novel. The children of the nineteenth century, Musset wrote, came of age without firsthand memories of the Revolution; they were “an ardent, pale, and fretful generation . . . [c]onceived...

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Chapter 1: First Communion

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pp. 28-65

In August 1835, Léopoldine Hugo, eldest child of the writer Victor Hugo and his wife Adèle, sat for her father’s friend, the painter Auguste de Châtillon, to have her portrait made. Léopoldine was eleven and preparing for her first communion; the portrait shows a serious young girl looking up from her study of a medieval book of hours. Her...

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Chapter 2: The Education of Maurice de Guérin

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pp. 66-102

When Marguerite Guyon and Marie de Laval, the heroines of Victorine Monniot’s Le Journal de Marguerite, boarded a ship bound for the Indian Ocean, their brothers, Gustave and Albéric, had to remain behind in Paris to complete their schooling. We learn no details of their studies; the Journal was a novel for girls, about girls, and Monniot saw...

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Chapter 3: The Dilemma of Obedience

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pp. 103-148

In an 1844 speech before the Chamber of Peers, Charles de Montalembert, the thirty-four-year-old leader of France’s Catholic party, declared that he spoke for a generation of Catholics “born and educated in the midst of freedom, of representative and constitutional institutions” whose “souls ha[d] been penetrated . . . by their influence.” These Catholics demanded the most complete religious liberty...

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Chapter 4: Pauline Craven’s Holy Family

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pp. 149-186

On January 1, 1866, as she awaited the publication of her first book, Pauline Craven jotted a prayer on the first page of a small, leather-bound notebook: “May God bless this new year that begins for me with an important act. Within a fortnight, this dear treasure of my past will leave the sanctuary of respect and love where it has dwelt for so many years...

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Chapter 5: Frédéric and Amélie Ozanam

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pp. 187-235

Frédéric Ozanam, professor of comparative literature at the Sorbonne and, in his youth, founder of a Catholic charitable association known as the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, died in 1853, at age forty. His widow, Amélie, who was only thirty-two at the time, never remarried and dedicated herself to preserving her late husband’s memory...

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Chapter 6: A Free Church in a Free State

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pp. 236-275

Frédéric Ozanam never wrote a critical word about Pius IX, although we know from Amélie’s correspondence that he lost sleep worrying about events in Italy and the pope’s abandonment of the reforming agenda that Ozanam had found so inspiring in 1847.1 The heady moment in which Ozanam called for his fellow Catholics to join Pius in welcoming the barbarians into the arms of the church did not last...

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pp. 276-298

The fall of Rome and the installation of the Third Republic transformed French Catholicism and disappointed the post-revolutionary generation of romantic Catholics who had hoped to reconcile their faith with the modern political and social order. The space that Catholics like Pauline Craven and Charles de Montalembert had hoped to occupy...


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pp. 299-320


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pp. 321-328

E-ISBN-13: 9780801470592
E-ISBN-10: 0801470595
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801452451
Print-ISBN-10: 0801452457

Page Count: 344
Publication Year: 2014

Edition: 1