The Ranums' Panat Times
On Jamerey-Duval's Mémoires
A reader of Valentin Jamerey-Duval's Mémoires1 whose research has been primarily on sources from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, may have a somewhat different view from those scholars, eminent and learned though they be, who scarcely evoke a theme, a text, or an author whose work appeared before 1730. In an Introduction to Prion d'Aubais's Mémoires -- a text from almost the same period -- I suggested in 1985 that the cultural outlook of the curieux might be explored in order to characterize this otherwise very elusive text, from the viewpoint of genre.
Jean-Marie Goulemot's astute Introduction to Jamerey-Duval's Mémoires explores the limits and the possibilities of understanding the work as autobiography, as a mémoire, and as political philosophy; and, in a very open-ended way, it concludes that Jamerey-Duval's writings are both more and less of each of these genres, no matter how broadly characterized. Goulemot is certainly correct to conclude that the Mémoires are not political philosophy as this usually is formally defined, but this would also be true for the Persian Letters, the Fable of the Bees and -- to mention a couple of earlier examples, the Discourse on the first Ten Books of Livy and Seyssel's Grand' Monarchie de France.2
In what follows it will be contended that the Mémoires are fundamentally a work of political philosophy by a curieux whose primary observations are ethnographic and historical, not utopian or juridical. The frequently recurring pyrhonnian critiques of Christianity are more than a leitmotif to the principal aim, which is to describe the economic, social, and general anti-libertarian nature of the French Monarchy as it turned despotic in the previous century; but Jamerey-Duval is no Gibbon. Faith, no matter how superstitious, does not seem to be an underpinning for abusive power. Nor does Jamerey-Duval perceive the Church as a brake upon royal power. But it is neither fair criticism nor particularly revealing to discuss Jamerey-Duval's work in the context of the philosophical history written in the eighteenth century. His aims are more immediate in the sense that he seeks to bear witness to what happened in France in recent social memory.
This is evident from the first sentence, where he insists that the high fiscal demands of the king's tax farmers have impoverished villagers. Roof tiles have to be sold to pay the taxes, leaving the houses of the modestly well-off with straw thatch. Indeed, the link between the rise of despotism and the economic impoverishment of the rural population is one of his principal themes, just as it will implicitly be for Arthur Young, who will observe French rural society through a not dissimilar dark lense. But before pulling together all the material that make Jamerey-Duval's Mémoires a work of engaged political philosophy, it is useful to explore the grounds for considering their author as a curieux somewhat in the mold of a Guillaume du Choul, a Peiresc, a Louis-Joseph Foucault, a Caylus.
Gérard Defaux has carefully established the fundamentally religious dilemma of the curieux: the more he wants to know about history, nature, and letters, the greater the risks for his soul, because the Christian should concentrate only on knowing God.3 Vanity is thus a serious danger for the explorer, the collector, and, to put it simply, for anyone with an insatiable desire to know. Jamerey-Duval's incredulity spares him all anxiety about losing his soul as a result of his passion for reading, and for learning about antique coins, monuments, and archeological sites. It could be argued that numismatics lay at the heart of the curieux's passion for knowing and collecting. The ancient coin often bore (and bears!) a living witness to a bygone age; but more important, it could provide an almost level playing field between the curieux with his direct knowledge of coins, and the érudit with his knowledge grounded on editing and reading ancient histories, epigraphic sources, and other sources.
Jamerey-Duval's mastery of numismatics led to his remarkable appointments to ducal and Imperial posts that placed him in charge of identifying, cataloguing, and very probably advising about the purchase of coins. This special world of numismatics (it still is special!) involved a synthesis of visual memory, aesthetic judgment, a sense of the market value of objects, and the prestige conveyed by owning them. At least since the days when Guillaume Budé sought to understand the comparative intrinsic values of ancient Roman coins (the De Asse dates from 1514), a particular regard toward culture and social relations developed among the curieux who studied coins.
What was Gibbon eager to visit in Florence? The Grand Duke's collection of ancient coins.The British gentleman not wealthy enough to buy ancient sculptures frequently had his little thin-drawered cabinet containing ancient coins.
Put briefly at this point, Jamerey-Duval's scorching critique of Louis XIV's governance turns on two features. The first was the arbitrary and abusive fiscal policies, and the officials whose nefarious work impoverished the realm and permitted France to engage in a series of devastating wars. The second was the creation, by poets and artists, of a propagandistic and false aura of greatness and glory -- the parallel with the Roman principi never quite surfaces because Jamerey-Duval's familiarity with Oriental Despotism supplants it. The curieux's historical perspective on money, taxation, and power provides Jamerey-Duval with a solid and precise bifurcated image of his native land, one dating from before the ministries of the despotic cardinals, Richelieu and Mazarin, and Louis XIV, and his own times. It differs from Lesage's old Frondeur, anti-tax-farmer rhetoric revived in Turcaret, or from Montesquieu's brilliantly devastating critique of general fiscal corruption in the Persian Letters, since the thatch roofs of poverty, the cried-up coinage, and the use of troops to collect taxes appear to have been observed and deeply marked this sensitive, still-illiterate son of a barrel-stave maker. The parallels between the impoverishment of the Romans during the Principate as a result of quarrels emanating from the ruling but bitterly divided senatorial families, more than the Barbarian invasions, confirmed for Montesquieu the classical republican concepts of virtue and corruption. The mental parallel with the France of the Polysynodie, the Regency, and the early "bubble" years of the reign of Louis XV, were never remote.
Jamerey-Duval's passion for early history had two facets. The first facet of this passion was nourished by his conviction that the French had once been free, but that they now were living under a despotic regime where even silences were suspect.4 The second facet involved studying history, for the more history he knew, the better he could identify the persons, the iconography, and the provenance of the coins of ancient Rome and her Empire.
For Jamerey-Duval, as for many of his eighteenth century contemporaries, the romance of Roman history would never quite extend to the ancient Greek centuries, perhaps because it would prove difficult to learn the language as an adult, and because even though his school-boy Latin was weak, that language remained present in his culture. The curieux would always be interested in texts, but preparing more precise editions or new translations usually was beyond their ability. Crudely put, they remained consumers of culture, not producers of it, except when political, religious, or scholarly engagement carried them forward to write and publish their views. The catalogue and the inventory were their preferred genres, not the edition and the translation.
From the time when he gave up telling romances and stories to his fellow shepherds, to his publication of an inventory of the Imperial collection, Jamerey-Duval seems not to have been attracted to fiction, fantasy, or whimsical, unedifying verse. The extension from the fable to moral and political philosophy, theology, and epistemology certainly enriched and refined his perspectives on the world; but Aesop seems to have offered not only lasting principles but also a turn of mind. Common sense, observations of daily social and economic conditions, and insatiable curisoty about coins shaped his world view and the writing of the Mémoires. No specifically politically-engaged frustration seems to have accompanied his moral and political thought, as was the case for the author of the Persian Letters (Cardinal Dubois's rise to the prime ministership); but Jamerey-Duval does seek to present his life as a worthy example of good fortune.
For Jamerey-Duval and for other critics of French despotism, there seems to have been no hesitation over rejecting the mirror of princes as a genre in which to express their thought. This makes for a major break in the social and, in a sense, the professional perspective of writers who address the political. Since the high middle ages, the writer about politics usually found himself within the outlook of the tutor or councilor. Over the centuries, not a few wrote to strengthen their candidacy for appointment as a tutor. When Jamerey-Duval is offered this career option, he respectfully declines, claiming that his own accent in speech, and presumably his handwriting, lacked the polish for such a position! No more than Montesquieu, would Jamerey-Duval write his Mémoires in order to curry favor at a court. Not that he was unaware of the role of the tutor-writer. One of the results of the morally depraved conditions obtaining in France is the influence of ministers and flatters on the education of princes (p. 309).
When Montesquieu adopted Cum and Ispahan as places from where to observe French manners and political culture, he confirmed and elaborated the venerable Orientalist perspective of the "other" that had been worked out by the ancient Greeks to denigrate their despotic enemies, the Persians. Revived to charge Henry III and Catherine de Médicis with despotism, the Orientalist perspective remained a quite abstract and barely elaborated historical "parallel." Across the seventeenth century, what passed as serious "history" of Oriental societies emphasized the violence within ruling Eastern dynasties, thus combining the presence of despotism and, of course, polygamous marriage, eunuchs, and life in the harem.
Montesquieu personalized and elaborated the Orientalist perspective by having Persians visit France and observe the ways of the French with cutting wit and devastating criticisms of an abusive political power and pervasive corruption in the ministry of Cardinal Dubois. The all-powerful "visir" who had undermined the aristocratic polysynodic government admired by the Seigneur de la Brède. For Montesquieu the "visir" in camail and rochet was Cardinal Dubois; for Jamerey-Duval the "sultan" was Louis XV, as perceived by his English interlocutor.5
For Montesquieu loss of liberty is articulated most completely in the life of the harem, not in the corrupt France of Louis XIV-Louis XV, although the reader is carefully led to draw the parallel. Jamerey-Duval frequently remarks on the loss of liberty that seems to begin with the Regency of Catherine de Médicis and that increases during the tyrannical ministries of Richelieu and Mazarin; but perhaps because he has had no real experience of politically partisan engagement, he not only describes the consequent impoverishment of the realm, he stresses it by his strong emotional "disgust" for the country of his birth.
The economic conditions in the Lorraine that Jamerey-Duval came to know and adopt as his country -- to the extent that he had feelings for any country -- are described as something like normative, certainly not impoverished nor excessively wealthy. But French armies have devastated parts of the country. Unlike Pacific islanders with their carefree life, the Duke of Lorraine's subjects live on the fruits of their labor, and they do so in a social hierarchy. Jamerey-Duval's bitter critique of nobility as a rank that automatically assures privileges seems to be mainly addressed to the French, but the nobles of Lorraine, especially the ones at court, fare little better. True, the noblesse (p. 350) have of late been obliged to serve in the royal armies more than in the past, because the gras patrimoine of seigneurialism is no longer sufficient for their needs. The grands become corrupted by marriage alliances with the financiers (p. 156). He approaches heraldry with his customary curiosity, hoping to learn from it the origins of illustrious families; but all he finds is a "vain tissu de noms barbares plus propres à charger la mémoire qu'à éclairer l'esprit" (p. 252). The antithesis, barbarism/enlighten-the-mind lacks the full resonances that such phrases would have, coming from the pen of a Diderot, a Raynal, or a Kant, because frequent use by several writers would give it greater discursive force and a sense of movement. But there is little doubt about Jamerey-Duval's seriousness and his understanding of what he was writing.
In addition to developing not only a critical perspective on political and economic change in France over time, Jamerey-Duval's depiction of Lorraine as a foil with which to draw a comparison between what is really a continuity of economic and social conditions in the Duchy, and the changes for the worst in France.
Finally, in addition to his own authoritative voice, as an observer who has lived a life of hunger and wandering, Jamerey-Duval works out the device of encountering an Englishman whom he questions or, to put it anachronistically, whom he interviews. Perhaps the culminating remark in this searing, scathing ontological and sociological comparative analysis is:
Les Anglois se persuadent qu'ils ne sont hommes qu'a proportion qu'ils sont libres, et comme ils pensent l'etre plus que les autres peuples, il ne faut pas s'étonner si la fierté que cette prérogative leur inspire leur donne un air si peu brusque et dédaingneux [...]. Pour scavoir au juste si on est plus humain en france qu'en angleterre, il n'y a qu'a considérer quelle est la condition du simple peuple sous l'un et l'autre de ces gouvernements. On peut asseurer qu'il y a très peu de laboureurs en Angleterre qui ne soient vètus d'aussi bon drap qu'aucun bourgeois de Paris. La plupart sont très bien nourris, lestes, robustes et montés comme des paladins. Le contentement et la santé brillent sur leurs visages, leurs maisons sont propres, commodes, toujours garnies de bonne provisions, et parées de quantité de vaisselle de cuivre et d'étain d'un grand éclat, mais le comble de leur bonheur est qu'ils ne craingnent point que cet étalage fasse augmenter leurs taxes, ni qu'il leur soit enlevé par les collecteurs, les archers, les sergents et toutes les autres harpyes qui font gémir les peuples, acablés sous le joug du pouvoir arbitraire .... (p. 344).
Bearing witness to persistent pangs of hunger is not political philosophy. Reflecting on the causes of not only his lack of food but the general impoverishment of the French rural population, and attributing this to a shift of powers from a regime of diffused powers to despotism, shows a clear willingness on the author's part to analyze and interpret the political in such a manner that his readers will understand his observations and conclusions in the light of their previous reading of political philosophy and history.
When Jamerey-Duval writes, "Jusques icy, j'avois presque toujours été le maître de mon temps et de mes actions. La liberté étoit mon véritable élément. Je commençois à en goûter les charmes ... mais ma mère après huit ans de veuvage, pensa à se remarier" (p. 113), the reader hastens to infer that the notion of "liberty" at issue is only a private one, and the notion of a child at that.
How then to interpret these words?
Les François accoutumés depuis la perte de leur liberté à confondre leurs intérêts avec l'ambition et le bon plaisir de ceux qui les ont subjugués, prodiguoient leurs vies et leurs trésors pour réduire sous le despotisme une vaste monarchie qui s'étoit ruinée par ses vaines et cruelles conquêtes ... (p. 165).
It becomes apparent that as an adult writing about liberty in his life as a child, and about its loss, the understanding resulted from reading and reflection. Liberty, and its loss by the French during the reign of Louis XIV, becomes an interpretation not only of the history of power, but of Jamerey-Duval's own life of hardship. He continues in the same vein when, having heard that there might be food toward the East, that is, the "Orient," Jamerey-Duval walks to Lorraine, where he finds the very opposite of a "monarchie asiatique." With his limited knowledge of political geography, he is astonished by a prayer said at the end of the mass for the Ducem, instead of the Regem. He inquires and learns that he is in the company of subjects loyal to his royal highness, Duke Leopold of Lorraine. His aged interlocutor replies simply that one is happier than the other; and again it is Jamerey-Duval's personal experience of hunger and homelessness that confirms the truth of the answer. There follows a critique of the credulousness of the French about their own powerlessness and poverty, the example being Law's successful exchange of hard, precious coins for paper notes!
There is always a danger of over-interpretation when practicing the art of close reading. The damage done may, however, be minimal; a corrective reading by another scholar is all that is necessary. Neither Jamerey-Duval's writings nor his reputation are at stake.
Jamerey-Duval writes that he had become "berger en chef" and was thus free of the "yoke of women." He then remarks that he engaged his "confrères" in the bucolic life, to teach him to read toward the "fin de [son] troisième lustre." The book he wanted to read was an illustrated version of Aesop's Fables. Frustration quickly became intense when Jamerey-Duval found it impossible to read the text that accompanied the illustrations. With promises of food, he therefore implored his confrères to teach him to read, which they did. The hours and hours, days and days, weeks and weeks spent watching over animals so that they would not be lost, stolen, or injured, would prove a propitious environment for young Jamerey-Duval's learning to read the Aesopian language of animals. Nothing is said about whether he learned to read by pronouncing the words aloud, or whether he worked silently; but orality quickly came into play as, from a grassy "tribune," he began to declaim for his teachers stories of chivalric romance, and was applauded for it by his ignorant confrères. Jamerey-Duval remarks that, at this point, he had only memory and little grasp ("discernement") of what he had read; but even so, the approval of his fellow shepherds so enhanced his self esteem that he became presumptuous, and a sense of distance from his confrères came over him, prompting him to decide that he would only spend time with the instructed ("érudits"), that is, the schoolmaster and the marguillier of the church.
Parenthetically, it is interesting to note that the schoolmaster had performed well in this particular rural community. The other shepherds could and did read. None seemed eager, however, to go beyond the romances of the Bibliothèque Bleue. The "berger en chef"
In the overall learning development, Jamerey-Duval's decision to seek out the company of the more instructed was perhaps more important than his asking to be taught to read. After all, his confrères could read. But there is no evidence to suggest that any but Jamerey-Duval sought to go beyond the Bibliothèque Bleue. The bonds of this particular peasant community failed to hold back Jamerey-Duval, who as a reader became socially free to give free reign to his "natural" curiosity (p. 173), his memory, and (as will soon become apparent) his imagination. Instead of being an impediment, the psychological distance from his family, his birth community, and every other community, became an advantage that sustained his "natural curiosity."
Jamerey-Duval seems to lack words to express his love for reading or his joy in reading or his enthusiasm for studying ancient coins, geography, and ancient history.
The schoolmaster proposed that Jamerey-Duval read a catechism, which he promptly accepted to do. There followed so many questions that the master advised him to see the curé about what were fundamental elements of Church teaching. The questions that Jamerey-Duval put to the curé are not unlike those a sceptic posing as naive or ignorant might ask:
Sur ce qu'on m'assureoit que Dieu n'étoit revêtu d'aucune forme, qu'il étoit un Dieu caché, et qu'un de ses attributs étoit celuy d'être incompréhensible, je demandois pourquoi donc on nous disoit sans cesse que nous étions faits pour le connoître aussi bien que pour l'aimer (p. 194).
The aroma of philosophical scepticism pervades Jamerey-Duval's Mémoires. Like the Chinaman in Voltaire's Dictionnaire philosophique who failed to grasp the definition of the Trinity, the unlettered young reader of Aesop, of chivalric novels, and of the catechism, expresses doubt about the tenets of Christianity. After a pro-forma statement of faith that is almost immediately followed by expressions of more systematic, Jamerey-Duval rejects the curé's advice.
Since the Mémoires were written with a benefit of hindsight, however, it is not certain that Jamerey-Duval's early reading was a great a source for scepticism, prompted by a village schoolmaster and by a catechism that was to instruct him in the faith into which he had been born but did not know.
Jamerey-Duval's own self-description as someone who has a lot of imagination (p. 115) and who is susceptible to impressions so strong that his reason can barely master them, is a briefly stated self-analysis grounded on a well-known vocabulary with astonishing resonances and eighteenth-century valences. Regarding the "buzz" of certain words (Geertz), most notably "imagination," a veritable key to interpreting his psychological understanding, Jamerey-Duval is pretty much a man of his times, not a survivor from the sixteenth century. While he does not really tackle head on Descartes or other theorists of the passions, as a believer in much older theories of human understanding (and more recent ones, such as Locke's), he seems critical of them. He loves solitude and has the "mélancolie active" (p. 222) that leaves him reflective about, and pleased with his outlooks on life. Characterizing himself as loving solitude, he more than anticipates Rousseau. Though expressing inadequacy about his "refinement" for teaching a prince, Jamerey-Duval simply finds being alone with his books to be far more satisfying than a life in which he is surrounded by people. And, unlike Rousseau, he was celibate and seems not to have needed female companionship.
Perhaps a still closer reading of Jamerey-Duval's account of his discovery of sexuality would reveal echoes of the tyrannical relations between Roxanne and Usbek; but so far I have found none. His account is cast in as a discussion of reading the Church Fathers and the Jesuit Sanchez. It is tempting to interpret these paragraphs (pp. 372-375) as ironic, or as just another pose among the "fictional" characters he creates and who help him on his way. But the narrative (in the Appendix) of the passionate feelings that he does not understand, suggests that during his life of solitude in the company of his employers, he had never observed or experienced anything that challenged his celibacy. It is difficult to infer how he might have interpreted the Persian Letters! Note how his body also responds during a religious, ecstatic experience (p. 216) Aristotelian physiology?
Lisa Graham has noted that, when searching for dangerous suspects, the Paris police of the mid-eighteenth century became obsessed with the effects of the "imagination"6 -- their term for understanding the origins of so many cases of heretical and political non-conformity to Gallican and divine-right doctrines. Jamerey-Duval remarks that reading the catechism weighed down his imagination (p. 194), but he quickly resumes his skeptical line by making fun of the credulity that he finds in Antoine Averoult's Fleur des exemples, a popular devotional work peppered with paraphrases of Biblical texts that, for Jamerey-Duval, are absurd when taken literally. Again and again, Jamerey-Duval's Mémoires ridicule Christian beliefs in ways not unlike Voltaire, whom he has read. Jamerey-Duval takes pleasure in trapping the priest by using his common sense, the common sense of a child who has only recently learned to read and who has not articulated respect for institutions and for social ranks.
At this point, Jamerey-Duval has yet to begin choosing one reading subject over another; but he lets us know that the romances he had borrowed were virtually the only reading matter in the village. Then, quite categorically, he expresses his "dégoût pour les auteurs romanesques." As he grew older, and as a wider choice of books became available, it seems doubtful, although not absolutely certain, that Jamerey-Duval would not return to "fictions." Another page had been turned, a page that separated him from his fellow shepherds. Jamerey-Duval would spend the rest of his life reading ancient and modern history, philosophy, geography, travel accounts, Bussy-Rabutin, Voltaire, Guez de Balzac, Boileau, Choisy, the pseudononymous testaments of Colbert and Louvois; but he probably did not read either older or contemporary fiction. His love of poetry appears when he quotes the verses of others, to illustrate an observation or to give his thought a transcendental or ironic valence.
Thus far I have briefly presented Jamerey-Duval's thoughts about religion, in order to suggest that his skeptical outlook provides along with a personal witness to his poverty and upbringing grounds for critical political reflection. Political thought, if not political theory, certainly follows such reflection.
And it is time to face the very interesting exchanges prompted by Roy Pascal's Design and Truth in Autobiography (Cambridge, Mass., Harvard U.P., 1960). While numerous parallels may be drawn between the lives of Jamerey-Duval and Rousseau, it is not useful to extend them to a comparison of the Confessions and the Mémoires, except in the sense that both authors shared a profound respect for antique thought, and for the ethical work of exemplarity when writing is grounded on antique thought. Jamerey-Duval was more a of historian than Rousseau, and Rousseau was more of a moralist, as each read Plutarch, Xenophon, Livy, Tacitus, and others. Rousseau's exemplarity is more classicistic, Jamerey-Duval's more grounded in sixteenth-century historicism and the modernist impulse drawn from Voltaire's thought. But whatever the genre, "fictions" were profoundly alien to Jamerey-Duval.
Neither he nor Rousseau would try to communicate to the present the thought of the ancient Greek playwrights: in fact, Jamerey-Duval doubts the value of both the theater and the opera for teaching morals (p. 326). If Rousseau in the end proposes himself as an heroic exemplum, after the manner of Socrates or Seneca,7 Jamerey-Duval questions why there are busts of antique heros and gods at Versailles: Colombus, Vespucci, Magellan, and Schouten should be in their places (p. 330). If exemplarity there is, it is the inevitable thought provoked by critical reflection on the past. Philosophe that he is, Jamerey-Duval's critique of Roman government and social-economic conditions parallels that of a France impoverished and corrupted by Despotism. The repeated references to his own hunger and abandonment does, in the end, make him an example, and an eloquent one at that.
Wars of conquest, irrespective of the regime or the country, are condemned, as are the writers who supported them:
Car il faut convenir, a la honte de l'esprit humain, que quelques excesz que les rois ayent commis pendant le cours des divers siécles, ils n'ont jamais manqué d'apologistes. Dans tous les tems, il s'est trouvé, meme parmy les scavants, des ames basses et des plumes mercenaires qui ont distilé le mensonge et la flatterie pour authoriser les grands dans les projets les plus bizarres et les plus injustes (p. 180).
There follows an account of the sacking of Lorraine by French troops, but we cannot measure the depth or the originality because the editor deleted it. One suspects that Jamerey-Duval sought to be his most eloquent and convincing in the "horrors of war" genre, not perhaps unlike Callot.
As a conclusion to this part, it is useful to ponder Jean-Marie Goulemot's general remarks about Jamerey-Duval's thought. His evocation of Étienne de la Boëtie's Discours de la Servitude volontaire is on the mark (p. 79), since Jamerey-Duval makes the French, and not just their kings and ministers, responsible for the despotic, impoverished, uncreative culture that is his homeland. The harshness of his critique of the French is recognized by Goulemot but is not put on the balance sheet, in favor of his originality as a thinker. Jamerey-Duval condemns kings, ministers, writers, nobles, clergy, and other subjects, in the harshest attack I know coming from the Ancien Régime. It is not as a Jeremiad, but as an ideological and historical analysis, that Jamerey-Duval presents his thought.
Goulemot's superb conclusion must be included here, so that it may be respectfully commented upon:
On n'échappe pas impunément à sa condition, on ne revêt pas sans risques le manteau de la culture. A l'aliénation de la misères succède cette aliénation nouvelle, purement culturelle. Car le savoir n'a pas libéré Jamerey-Duval, au sens où il le prétend. Au-delà de toute déclaration explicite, son livre donne à lire, et c'est là sa force, une liberté faussement prosente. Au moment même oy le héros affirme l'indépendance de sa pensée contre la scolastique enseignée à Pont-à-Mousson, où il se désigne comme un homme intellectuellement libre, l'écriture chargée de références antiquisantes, montre Duval victime d'une illusion. Tout comme le lecteur qui, lisant l'épisode final de la victoire sur les formes sclérosées de la culture, oublie qu'il est antérieur l'écriture des Mémoires eux-mêmes. Et pourtant c'est cette écriture qui e révèle la vérité, au-delà de la conscience que le narrateur a de son statut.
Je conclurai sur deux citations des Mémoires. Dans la première le narrateur affirme la supériorité des vers latins du père Jacques Vanière sur sa propre expériene écrite de l'hiver 1709: « Pour donner une juste idée de l'hyver en questions, écrit-il, je rapporteri icy l'admirable description qu'un poête latin en a faite. C'est un morceau achevé, et je doute fort que l'historien le plus scrupuleux et le plus exact ait pu mieux réussir a décrirer les particulartiés de ce funeste événement. » La poésie latine apparaît donc comme dépassant le savoir historique et cette transparence du vécu si chère à Duval. La deuxième a pour moi valeur de symbole. Lorsque le jeune berger, appelé à la Cour, quitte Sainte-Anne, il libère ses oiseaux, ceux-là mêmes qui se cachaient pour chanter, il rend aussi la liberté à son écureil, mais celui-ci habitué à son esclavage revient dans la cage. « Pour l'en punir, note Duval, je me contentay de lui attacher un grelot au cou, après quoy je lui permis de retourner dans la forêt. » Grelot fait pour épouvanter, plume destinée à écrire. Je laisse le parallèle offert à la réflexion et à l'imagination du lecteur (p. 105).
Has our esteemed editor dropped the distinction between liberty and licence? The lover of solitude that is Jamerey-Duval, the lover of reading that is Jamerey-Duval, the questioner and critical-thinker that is Jamerey-Duval, could scarcely believe that he was less in liberty because his writing is "chargée de références antiquisantes." The implication is that these are "formes sclérosées de la culture." The ontology at work here is one that questions the possibility of a fulfilled and liberty-filled life through Humanistic historical study and reflection. Jamerey-Duval became free through his reading; and he developed a critical attitude toward the political, social, and intellectual world in which he lived. His historicity is a serious form of inquiry that is neither pedantic nor constraining. And like the Humanist that he is, if prose seems inadequate to the facts and feeling to be expressed, and poetry, even Latin poetry, does this more eloquently, he copies out someone else's verses, because they seem to capture what he wishes to express better than he can himself. The option of turning to someone else's words is in itself liberating in Humanistic culture, not constraining.
Jean-Marie Goulemot has brilliantly and honestly confronted Jamerey-Duval. History and literature have gone their separate ways since the eighteenth century. Jamerey-Duval's hostility to "fictions" and to writing in support of state policies suggests that he had thought about these issues and had a fairly coherent view on the liberating effects of reading and on the need to be honest by citations when he let someone else's thought come forth from his pen.
Finally, what motivated Jamerey-Duval to write these Mémoires? There is no apparent, active civic engagement (other than writing); nor is there reference to wanting to be remembered by future generations. His work is thus unlike the Mémoires of Dupont de Nemours or Ménétra. Rousseau's persona sheds light on why the Confessions, the ethical thoughts and the brilliant literariness of the author of the Nouvelle Héloïse are very different from the compiler of numismatic catalogues. Jamerey-Duval scarcely comments on matters of prose style.
Jamerey-Duval's personal experiences in his
native country and in Lorraine appear to have marked him so deeply that he found
it necessary to share them. The search for an understanding of economic and
social changes seems to have led him to the political framework that was (is)
1. Edited by Jean-Marie Goulemot (Paris, Éditions le Sycomore, 1981).
2. From Goulemot's notes it is possible to infer that the entire text would reveal Jamerey-Duval to be still more learned than he appears here. The only passages that might sustain the peasant-popular identity that attracted the editor are the verses from the Preadium Rusticum. Jamerey-Duval seems to confirm this view when he refers to ancient authorities, See p, 304, n. 45, regarding the practice of taking newborns into the country to be nursed.
3. G. Defaux, Le Curieux, le Glorieux et la Sagesse du monde dans la première moitié du XVIe siècle (Lexington, 1982); L.A. Olivier, "Curieux, Amateurs, et Connoisseurs, Laymen and the Fine Arts in the Ancien Régime," (Ph.D. thesis, The Johns Hopkins University, 1976), chap. 1; A. Schnapper, Curieux du Grand Siècle, Collections et collectionneurs dans la France du XVIIe siècle (Paris, 1994); K. Pomian, "Entre le visible et l'invisible: la collection," Libre, 3(1978), pp. 3-56.
4. The parallel with Orwell's vision of a despotic society is not inappropriate, pp. 180-183.
5. P. 349. See also my old "Personality and Politics in the Persian Letters," Political Science Quarterly, 84, no. 4 (1969), pp. 606-627, and the very important T. Kaiser, "The Evil Empire? The Debate on Turkish Despotism in Eighteenth-century French Political Culture," Journal of Modern History, 72 (March, 2000), pp. 6-34.
6. If the King Only Knew; Seditious Speech in the Reign of Louis XV (Charlottesville, Univ. of Virginia Press, 2000), p. 43.
7. I recognize that this is a brief and perhaps unfair evocation of Christopher Kelly's Rousseau's Exemplary Life: the Confessions as Political Philosophy (Ithaca, Cornell Univ. Press, 1987), a learned inspiration for the present article on Jamerey-Duval.