Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Romantic Catholics

Romantic Catholics: France’s Postrevolutionary Generation in Search of a Modern Faith

Carol E. Harrison
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Cornell University Press
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Romantic Catholics
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-7059-2
    Subjects: History, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Introduction: Romantic Catholics and the Two Frances
    (pp. 1-27)

    France’s romantic Catholics were members of a generation that the writer Alfred de Musset (born 1810) characterized asenfants du sièclein 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 between battles [and] reared amid the noises of war” who reached adolescence in the midst of a “world in ruins.” Ill at ease in this world, Musset’s contemporaries suffered, he claimed, because they could see no path from the revolutionary past to the future they...

  6. Chapter 1 First Communion: The Most Beautiful Day in the Lives and Deaths of Little Girls
    (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 dark hair, smoothed back from a central part, contrasts with her red dress, which looks like a pinafore, worn over a white blouse with full sleeves and a lace collar. She is the studious child of a bourgeois family, ensconced in...

  7. Chapter 2 The Education of Maurice de Guérin
    (pp. 66-102)

    When Marguerite Guyon and Marie de Laval, the heroines of Victorine Monniot’sLe 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; theJournalwas a novel for girls, about girls, and Monniot saw no need to fill her readers in on what boys might do in school. The Parisian educational market, however, provided options for families like the fictional Guyons and Lavals who wanted their sons to receive an education that would prepare them for...

  8. Chapter 3 The Dilemma of Obedience: Charles de Montalembert, Catholic Citizen
    (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—in this instance, the right to open independent schools, outside the government’s monopoly over secondary education. “We are the sons of the crusaders, and we will never retreat before the sons of Voltaire!” he concluded, with a flourish that soon...

  9. Chapter 4 Pauline Craven’s Holy Family: Writing the Modern Saint
    (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. . . . Now strangers, people whom I don’t know and who may not care at all, will share it with me.”Le Récit d’une soeur, Craven’s memoir of her youth, recounted the lives,...

  10. Chapter 5 Frédéric and Amélie Ozanam: Charity, Marriage, and the Catholic Social
    (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. Like Pauline Craven, Amélie Ozanam sought to promote the example of her husband’s sanctity while effacing herself and her role in his life and work. She achieved both goals with remarkable success.

    Amélie’s commemoration of her husband’s life culminated a century after her death with...

  11. Chapter 6 A Free Church in a Free State: The Roman Question
    (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. Pius, forced into exile by revolution and the establishment of the Roman Republic in 1849, returned to govern the Papal States thanks to a French expeditionary force. The restored pope embodied clerical...

  12. Epilogue: The Devout Woman of the Third Republic and the Eclipse of Catholic Fraternity
    (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 succumbed to pressure from both sides: neither the Roman Catholic Church nor the French state welcomed the idea that faithful and obedient Catholics could also be good citizens and autonomous participants in modern secular affairs. Instead, Catholics felt pressure to choose—either the nation or the church but not...

  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 299-320)
  14. Index
    (pp. 321-328)