Peter France

Peter France, a professor of French at the University of Edinburgh, has translated work by Rousseau and Diderot. His books include Rhetoric and Truth in France: Descartes to Diderot, and he has just finished a study of Diderot for the Oxford ‘Past Masters’ series.

Poor Devils

Peter France, 2 December 1982

The French Enlightenment? Think of Huber’s famous picture of the dîner des philosophes: there is Voltaire, one arm raised to heaven, and alongside him, around the well-provided table, on elegant chairs, sits the periwigged company of older and younger Enlighteners, D’Alembert, Diderot, Marmontel, Condorcet, La Harpe… Two familiar images come together here. Eighteenth-century France as a place of refinement, good taste and witty conversation, a haven of the ‘civilisation’ celebrated long ago by Clive Bell. But at the same time the dynamic new France, in which great thinkers shake the foundations of traditional society and prepare the way for the Revolution and the modern age – such is the view propagated in different guises by the French republican tradition.

Charmed Life

John Bayley, 15 September 1983

The poet Blok once wrote about the ‘gloomy roll-call’ in Russian history of tyrants and executioners, ‘and opposite them a single bright name – Pushkin’. Quite true....

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