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Friendship and Politics in Post-Revolutionary France

Sarah Horowitz


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Friendship and Politics in Post-Revolutionary France

Sarah Horowitz

By emphasizing the role of emotions in politics, Friendship and Politics in Post-Revolutionary France demonstrates the value of considering emotions and private life in understanding the careers of political figures. While the book emphasizes the interconnectedness of the public and private spheres, Sarah Horowitz takes a balanced approach on this matter. She recognizes the power of separate spheres discourse and its resulting limitations on women’s direct involvement in politics, yet she also shows that women’s ‘private’ natures made them useful tools as men sought to build emotional ties to other politicians, particularly those who were on opposing sides. In demonstrating how elite women and men understood friendship and politics in this period, the work makes a significant and original contribution to existing scholarship on early nineteenth-century France.


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In Friendship and Politics in Post-Revolutionary France, Sarah Horowitz brings together the political and cultural history of post-revolutionary France to illuminate how French society responded to and recovered from the upheaval of the French Revolution. The Revolution led to a heightened sense of distrust and divided the nation along ideological lines. In the wake of the Terror, many began to express concerns about the atomization of French society. Friendship, though, was regarded as one bond that could restore trust and cohesion. Friends relied on each other to serve as confidants; men and women described friendship as a site of both pleasure and connection. Because trust and cohesion were necessary to the functioning of post-revolutionary parliamentary life, politicians turned to friends and ideas about friendship to create this solidarity. Relying on detailed analyses of politicians’ social networks, new tools arising from the digital humanities, and examinations of behind-the-scenes political transactions, Horowitz makes clear the connection between politics and emotions in the early nineteenth century, and she reevaluates the role of women in political life by showing the ways in which the personal was the political in the post-revolutionary era.
By emphasizing the role of emotions in politics, Friendship and Politics in Post-Revolutionary France demonstrates the value of considering emotions and private life in understanding the careers of political figures. While the book emphasizes the interconnectedness of the public and private spheres, Sarah Horowitz takes a balanced approach on this matter. She recognizes the power of separate spheres discourse and its resulting limitations on women’s direct involvement in politics, yet she also shows that women’s ‘private’ natures made them useful tools as men sought to build emotional ties to other politicians, particularly those who were on opposing sides. In demonstrating how elite women and men understood friendship and politics in this period, the work makes a significant and original contribution to existing scholarship on early nineteenth-century France.
Sarah Horowitz makes a convincing case that the political was personal in the public life of elites during the Restoration and the July Monarchy. The language and rituals of friendship suffused relations between politicians, played a vital role in building social networks, and helped soften the impact of ideological divisions. The book offers a fresh look at a number of key questions related to the politics of the early nineteenth century and makes an important contribution to the study of women’s involvement in public life, the history of emotions, and the political culture of France’s post-revolutionary monarchies.
Horowitz’s elegant study of the personal bonds underlying public life in the early nineteenth century is an important contribution to the field of post-revolutionary French history. Erudite, lucid, and highly readable, her book engages with questions of broader relevance about how political trust is rebuilt in the wake of revolution, and about the role of the emotions in political life.
Sarah Horowitz’s engaging study of friendship in post-revolutionary France offers a refreshing window onto the complex calculus that underlies people’s political propensities and choice of friends. Her subtle reading of the historical record is complemented by a masterful implementation of social network analysis, revealing the extent to which ideology and friendship interacted in this time of shifting political allegiances. Basing her work on memoirs, correspondence, and other archival resources, Horowitz teases out the social networks of Chateaubriand, Guizot, Béranger, and the women to whom they were close. Among her most intriguing findings are the ‘spanning roles’ played by women in these social networks, bringing together men from disparate political camps. In effect Horowitz brings the world of Facebook into the realm of post-revolutionary France, illustrating in straightforward visualizations and clear argumentation the complex intersections between friendship and politics. In so doing, she not only shows just how illuminating social network analysis can be as a methodology for historical research, but also adds an important new dimension to our understanding of the instability of politics and friendship.
“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 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.”

Sarah Horowitz is Assistant Professor of History at Washington and Lee University.


Friendship in Post-Revolutionary France

In a quiet corner of Père Lachaise Cemetery stands the tomb of two men: Pierre Jean de Béranger and Jacques Antoine Manuel. Neither man is particularly well-known today but the two were famous in their time. Béranger was a songwriter who was known as “the national poet” in the early nineteenth century; he was also a hero of the left during the Restoration and July Monarchy. Manuel, his best friend, was a member of the liberal opposition during the Restoration and one of its chief orators in the Chamber of Deputies until 1823, when he was expelled from the Chamber for a speech that condoned regicide. The two men became friends in 1815 and lived together from 1824 until Manuel’s death in 1827. Indeed, he died in Béranger’s arms and left him a considerable legacy in his will. Although Béranger lived for another thirty years, his relationship with Manuel remained both an ideal and a central aspect to his identity. He wrote songs in which he praised Manuel’s politics, ones in which he used the “tu” form, an indication of the degree to which his intimacy with his friend was crucial to his own political persona. Choosing to be buried in the same tomb as Manuel was another demonstration of his lifelong devotion. Yet this was also an era in which funerary rites and burials were intensely politicized, and their shared tomb served as a declaration of Béranger’s continuing commitment to his friend’s far-left politics.

The intensity of these men’s friendship, their devotion to each other, their acts of physical intimacy, and their shared tomb all raise the possibility that their bond may have encompassed erotic as well as platonic forms of affection. (Neither man ever married, although Béranger had female lovers.) Of course, it is impossible to reconstruct the exact nature of their feelings for each other or know what they did in the privacy of their home. But the fact that two men could be so open about their love is significant. This was an era when there was not necessarily a sharp boundary between romantic love and platonic affection and when male affection was celebrated. Thus, for instance, novels of the time, including those by Honoré de Balzac, Stendhal, and Eugène Sue, described the glories of male friendship. Conduct manuals for young men and women also reiterated the importance of this bond; without friends, one could not be happy, and friends were trusted confidantes and endlessly loyal.

Beyond the issue of personal feeling, friendship had another importance for men like Béranger and Manuel, as it was intimately connected to their political identities. Béranger declared his affiliation with Manuel’s radicalism by choosing to be buried with him; other political figures of the time also used testaments of friendship to serve as statements of shared political loyalty. For instance, in their wills, the politicians Prosper de Barante and Victor de Broglie left testimonials to each other and to their friendship with François Guizot; all three belonged to a political faction known as the “doctrinaires,” a group that occupied a center-left position during the Restoration and a center-right one during the July Monarchy. When Barante died in 1866, he stated the following in his will about Broglie and Guizot: “I want them to know how sweet their friendship has been and I ask that they not forget me when I am gone.” In turn, when Broglie died in 1870, he wrote of Guizot that “I consider our long friendship to be one of the most precious gifts that God has given me.” Guizot, the last surviving member of the triad, had this last statement inscribed on a photograph of Broglie and mourned him as “my oldest, my best, and my rarest friend.” Like Béranger and Manuel, these men were celebrating a political partnership as well as a personal one. All three men had been friends and allies since the early years of the Restoration, when they sought to stabilize and liberalize the regime. During the July Monarchy, they came into power as men of the parti de résistance, and Guizot, with the help of his friends, was the effective head of the government from 1840 until the Revolution of 1848. Yet, despite revolutions and changing political tides, these men remained loyal to one another until death.

This book takes as its subject precisely this intermingling of friendship and politics among members of the post-revolutionary political class. Ideological commitments shaped the social networks of political figures, just as friendship was central to the practice of politics during the Restoration and July Monarchy. In looking at the effect of political divisions on interpersonal ties, this work highlights how the upheaval of the Revolution affected a segment of French society and remade their personal relations. While the Revolution strained the social fabric of France and divided the nation along ideological lines, friendship helped restore trust and cohesion. It became critical to the new parliamentary regime of the era and helped the French state and the political class recover from the trauma of the Revolution. Despite the model of a strict separation between public and private that emerged in the nineteenth century, personal ties were both shaped by and crucial to the political life of the time. Likewise, although women were officially excluded from politics, in practice female friends played vital roles in parliamentary life and rebuilt the trust that allowed the political system to function. In a very real sense, then, the personal was the political in the post-revolutionary era.

This project began with the idea that studying conceptions and practices of friendship in the early nineteenth century would be an interesting way to examine how social relations were remade in an era of liberty, equality, and individualism. Historians have frequently asserted that marriage and the family were vital sources of cohesion in the nineteenth century and served as bulwarks against anomie—and that the family was the central social formation of the era. While I do not deny the importance of familial ties—and while they could have a political significance—I argue that friendship was another crucial configuration. Friendship was meaningful to individuals on a personal level, but also had political functions and became a way to understand how solidarity could be reconstructed in the wake of the Revolution. Indeed, as a source of cohesion, friendship had particular advantages. Friendship is a bond based on free choice, in contrast to kinship ties, and is thus an individualistic relationship; it is also typically considered a tie among equals, unlike clientage or patronage. It was thus well suited to serve as a force for cohesion among free citizens.

Beyond the issue of social cohesion, the story of friendship in the early nineteenth century also highlights how the French grappled with other legacies of the Revolution: the emergence of ideological divisions and the problem of transacting politics in the post-revolutionary era. In part, this was just another manifestation of the problem of individualism, as political elites needed to practice parliamentary politics without official political parties, a strong associational life, or the structures of lineage and corporate privilege that had been central to Old Regime politics. Yet revolutionary politics also divided the nation and complicated interpersonal ties. These problems became especially acute during the Bourbon Restoration, France’s first sustained period of parliamentary government, which was inaugurated by a crisis of trust. When Napoleon returned to France in 1815, many prominent citizens switched their loyalties from the monarchy to the Empire; these rapidly shifting allegiances led to a suspicion about the trustworthiness of political actors. Fears about loyalty led individuals to denounce one another and led the state to conduct extensive surveillance of its citizens. In turn, these policing and self-policing practices made individuals wary of those around them, as they learned to fear the spies and denouncers who were circulating in their midst. The intense factionalism of the era shaped the social networks of politically engaged men. Shared political views led to the formation of lifelong friendships, and men found it difficult to be friends with those with whom they did not agree. Crucially, women did not experience this difficulty to the same degree. The personal networks of elite women spanned factional divisions, and they connected different political and social groupings to one another. Factional hostilities lessened with the advent of the July Monarchy in 1830, but the social fabric of France was still regarded as strained. With the emergence of new social antagonisms, many began to fear that the pursuit of self-interest was destroying personal ties and spreading distrust. Politics was still understood to be a brutal realm where loyalty was impossible and betrayal imminent. Thus the period of parliamentary monarchy that lasted from 1815 to 1848 was a time when politics was often divisive and when social relations—and particularly those in the public realm—were regarded as profoundly troubled.

However, polities and societies need trust and cohesion in order to function effectively. Both were particularly necessary in the context of the political systems of the Restoration and the July Monarchy, given the necessity of alliances to parliamentary maneuvers and the lack of official political parties. Where, then, were trust and solidarity to be found? The answer was friendship. Because public life was seen as atomizing, political figures turned to their personal relations and to the women around them to serve as political facilitators as they had during the Old Regime. Thus politicians relied on a language of sentiment and friendship, one that had pervaded early modern political discourse, to establish norms of interpersonal behavior. This was both an adaptation and a transformation of old practices, as new ideas about gender and the emotions gave rise to the particular uses of friends in politics. Politicians relied on their male friends to serve as proxies in elections and ministerial cabinets because they understood male friendship as creating trust in the form of loyalty. Men were to act in solidarity with one another and be faithful to their commitments to their friends. Because women had special access to the emotions and interiority of the men around them and were also less factionalized than men, female friends were essential political brokers who negotiated alliances, managed political relationships, and ensured that factions remained united. Many of these tactics of political practice were not unique to France; personal ties and elite sociability were vital to the political systems of Britain and America, and in both countries women were important political facilitators. However, Anglo-American political elites did not face the problem of cohesion and trust to the extent that their French counterparts did. As a result, these structures of political support were particularly crucial in the French context.

Yet while friendship helped the parliamentary system function after the Revolution, in the long run it was not particularly good at stabilizing either the Restoration or the July Monarchy. A political culture based on friendship could not force compromise among groups and so could not prevent revolutions. The centrality of personal ties to politics opened these regimes up to charges of corruption. Nevertheless, the intertwining of friendship and politics in the post-revolutionary era left a considerable legacy for French political culture. Politics have continued to be a source of social division in France, while at the same time elites have often relied on their friendship networks to transact politics.


The question of how France recovered from the Revolution has become increasingly interesting to scholars in recent decades. For many years, the Restoration and the July Monarchy were relative backwaters for historians, attracting considerably less attention than the histories of the First, Second, and Third Republics. But in the post–Cold War and post–September 11 world, questions about the transition from authoritarian regimes to representative ones have come to the fore, as have discussions about recovery from trauma. For those interested in the issue of democratization, the period from 1815 to 1848 is regarded as a laboratory in which French political thinkers and the French polity grappled with the legacy of the Revolution.

Historians have thus studied how the post-revolutionary monarchies sought to legitimate themselves, as well as how questions about ideological difference, party organization, and popular participation in politics played out. Thus Pierre Rosanvallon argues that the Restoration was “the great period of apprenticeship in the ways of parliamentary government.” Likewise, one recent work on the Restoration has discussed how this was “the first regime to have permitted the confrontation between ideologies in a peaceful and free France, in contrast to the Revolution and the Empire.” Friendship and Politics in Post-Revolutionary France takes these two issues—the problem of ideology and the necessity of learning how to work within a parliamentary framework—as a starting point. It shows that ideological divisions hardly remained confined to the political realm, but instead shaped personal ties. It also uncovers how the politicians of the post-revolutionary era relied on old ways of transacting politics as they sorted out the new practices of parliamentary life: how to negotiate, how to organize factions, how to form alliances between political groupings, and even how to fight. And while the problems of trust, affiliation, and cooperation were particularly acute in the first half of the nineteenth century, the political figures of the Third Republic would continue to use some of the same tactics as their forebears, just as the pre-party politics of the Restoration and July Monarchy would influence late nineteenth-century party formation. As an examination of political culture, this work looks less at ideas and more at questions of practice—the customs, for instance, involved in behind-the-scenes negotiations, and the assumptions that underpinned cabinet formation. In this respect, it opens up new ways to investigate political culture by taking an almost anthropological approach to political transactions.

Alongside questions about the nature of post-revolutionary politics, historians have examined the cultural history of the early nineteenth century and how new ideas about the family, the emotions, and individual psychology helped stabilize France after the Revolution. Friendship and Politics in Post-Revolutionary France challenges one historiographical model that appears in many of these works: the separation between a male public sphere and a female private one. The narrative of separate spheres is a powerful one. The Revolution opened up the question of women’s political rights, but because this was ultimately too destabilizing to the social and political order, women were confined to the domestic sphere, leaving men to monopolize public life. But it was not just women who were privatized. Emotions, too, were relegated to the private realm, as politics was to be an arena of rational debate among men.

This work does not contest the fact that notions of a separation between public and private and the domestication of women were powerful norms in the early nineteenth century. Guizot, for instance, stated that he thought that women had no place in political life, and he frequently described the distinction between his public life as a politician and his private life with his family and loved ones. Indeed, ideas about the private nature of women and the public nature of men profoundly shaped the practices of friendship, including patterns of epistolary communication. Yet the model of separate spheres was neither a sociological description of post-revolutionary France nor an accurate picture of how politics functioned, for the reality of men and women’s lives was far more complicated. In practice, politicians used a language of emotion to discuss political allegiance and routinely relied on their friends, both male and female, in the political realm. Notably, women helped express and channel politically useful emotions. Guizot, for instance, never showed any hesitation about using the women to whom he was close to serve his political ends.

In this respect, Friendship and Politics in Post-Revolutionary France adds to the burgeoning literature on women’s involvement in public life in the early nineteenth century and on the interaction between public and private. Scholars have inserted women into the public sphere of post-revolutionary France by looking at arenas such as urban culture, philanthropy, literary production, and education. In addition, historians have paid attention to women’s engagement with the realm of high politics. Women may not have been able to vote, speak in front of the Chambers, or hold office, but if one broadens the notion of the political to include political sociability and advocacy, it is clear that women were important political figures in the early nineteenth century. They were, for instance, crucial behind-the-scenes actors and hosted the spaces where extra-parliamentary politicking occurred. Indeed, it was women’s supposed privacy that made them such valuable political actors. Their access to the emotions, male interiority, and social relations—all coded as private—made them powerful political brokers uniquely positioned to build cohesion between politicians and factions. After decades of upheaval lasting from 1789 to 1815, men and women believed that no durable form of affiliation was possible in public life. Politicians resorted to private ties in order to describe and create loyalty, cooperation, and trust, an effort in which women were critical.

Friendship is thus a particularly interesting site to examine the relationship between masculine and feminine and the political and the emotional. In this respect, this book contributes to the emerging interest in this topic among historians and literary scholars. Historians have turned to friendship to investigate how personal bonds have been used to construct civil society and public life. Yet it was largely scholars of homosexuality who pioneered this field as they sought to recuperate a past that included same-sex affection. Like many of these works, Friendship and Politics in Post-Revolutionary France discusses the slipperiness between the categories of love and friendship. But it also looks at the central role of friendships between men and women, whereas most studies of friendship have concentrated on same-sex bonds. Because friendship could be both public and private, it illuminates the interaction and connection between these spheres. In the context of post-revolutionary society, these two realms were mutually constitutive of each other. Politics made friendship a vital bond for elites, while public life relied on the private realm of friendship.

This work also adds a new technique to the study of friendship: social network analysis. Network analysis is a relatively new methodology that has emerged in recent decades from sociology and mathematics and has found great currency in fields as diverse as history, literature, biology, physics, and computer science. Here, though, network analysis has a particular benefit, for it highlights certain structural elements of friendship—such as the difference between men and women’s social ties—in ways that an analysis of novels, letters, or memoirs cannot. Thus network analysis brings an empirical methodology into the study of friendship and to cultural history more generally.

Defining Trust and Friendship

In focusing on questions regarding friendship and trust, this work comes up against a series of difficulties regarding definitions, scope, and the limits of studying the emotional lives of long-dead individuals. First, there is the problem that neither friendship nor trust is particularly easy to define. Of the two, the latter has attracted considerable scholarly attention, especially from political scientists and philosophers. For example, the political scientist Russell Hardin defines trust as “encapsulated interest”: we trust people when we think that they will take our interests into account in their interests and actions. In contrast, the moral philosopher Annette Baier focuses on the issue of goodwill. We trust someone when we assume that he or she will act with goodwill toward us (and our interests). In general, trust requires a positive valuation of others and that we make ourselves vulnerable. We know we could be betrayed, but we spill our secrets or loan our money anyway. This work examines trust from the angles of both Hardin and Baier, for the post-revolutionary era saw considerable anxieties about how both self-interest and a lack of goodwill were tearing society apart and leading to a climate of suspicion.

Other scholars of trust have looked less at the question of definition and more at its political importance. Trust is, of course, necessary to functioning interpersonal relationships, and the political scientist Robert Putnam maintains that healthy polities require trust; citizens need to have confidence in their government and in one another. Putnam also argues for a close connection between trust and associational life, as he maintains that individuals learn habits of trust and cooperation through participation in civic organizations. Problematically, the early nineteenth century was a period when civic life was at a low ebb and suffering from legal constraints; this fueled the sense of anomie in the era, as individuals faced the state and one another without the benefit of a robust civil society.

Thus this work argues that private forms of solidarity were so important in the early nineteenth century because public trust was difficult. The problem with studying friendship, however, is that doing so invariably comes up against the problem of definition. Notably, are our notions of friendships fundamentally the same as those of men and women in earlier eras? To us, friendship means something quite particular—an elective, platonic bond. In this, it is different from kinship ties, as family relations are ascribed and permanent. For much of the nineteenth century, marriage was not too dissimilar from kinship. There were love matches among elites, but typically family interests weighed heavily in the selection of a spouse. Marriage may have been based on choice, but it was not necessarily the spouses who did the choosing. Since divorce was not possible, marriages were permanent as well. While relations between lovers are elective relationships like friendship, we generally make distinctions between these kinds of ties and do so largely based on sex: lovers have it, friends do not. This distinction raises all sorts of problems, not the least of which is determining the precise dimensions of the sex lives of long-dead individuals. Typically, too, we think of love relationships as being more passionate than friendships, as did the men and women of the early nineteenth century. But while we tend to draw a sharp line between erotic love and platonic friendship—and thus sometime question whether heterosexual men and women really can be friends with each other—the elites studied here understood that the boundary between these two forms of affection was more porous. They were thus more comfortable with relations—either between men or between men and women—that included some element of erotic affinity without necessarily being sexual.

Additionally, the men and women of nineteenth-century France had a broader notion of what “ami” and “amitié” encompassed. In the 1835 Dictionnaire de l’Académie française, the primary definition of “amitié” is “affection that we have for someone which typically is mutual.” Likewise, “ami” meant someone “with whom we are tied to by a reciprocal affection.” Here, affection and its return are the only requirements of this relationship. Family members, spouses, or lovers could all be considered “ami(e)s” (and indeed in contemporary French, “ami” can mean lover). Additionally, one of the secondary definitions of “ami” was “persons who are tied together by some party interest”—that is to say, political allies whose relationship may not have encompassed affection. In practice, too, lovers occasionally used this term with each other, as did siblings who were particularly close. Thus “ami(e)” described those to whom one was close and whom one loved, regardless of whether that love was familial, romantic, or platonic.

Nevertheless, when they talked about “amitié” as a general concept, they referred to a bond that fit our definition of “friendship” as an affectionate, trusting relationship between relative social equals who chose to come together. Take, for instance, a passage from the epilogue of Eugène Sue’s serial novel Les Mystères de Paris, published in 1842–43. The epilogue contains a series of letters from a German prince to his best friend, and in one the former writes, “We, the two most fervent apostles of the thrice-blessed friendship! We who are so proud to prove finally that the Carlos and Posa of our Schiller are not idealists and who, like the divine creations of the great poet, know how to enjoy the sweet delights of a tender and mutual attachment!” Once again, “amitié” requires love and its return. But in this case, these two men see themselves as representatives of a particular type of affectionate relationship: one between non-kin that is loving but not sexual. They are also both young German aristocrats, suggesting similarities of age and social background. This more restricted definition of “amitié” corresponds to our notion of friendship, and it is this type of bond that this work investigates. As it does so, however, it looks at friendship from a variety of angles. It examines both how those who considered themselves friends communicated with one another as well as normative constructions of this bond. But beyond functioning as a relationship, friendship also served as a trope or a metaphor. Thus politicians invoked a language of friendship to stand in for the attributes of friendship—including trust, open communication, loyalty, and affiliation—in public life, but did so in ways that signified no emotional content.

To study friendship, this work draws on novels, conduct books, and the letters and memoirs of individuals. The first two sets of sources help us understand the cultural norms of the time, while life writings reveal how men and women described their bonds with each other, what they wanted out of their relationships, what they fought about, and how they made use of their friends. This is not to say that such sources provide transparent windows into the souls of early nineteenth-century elites. Notably, the expressions of affection in letters cannot be taken at face value, as conventions and codes of politeness bound them. For example, the salutation “mon cher ami” that male correspondents used with each other served less as a statement of feeling than as a formula. Moreover, individuals regularly deployed emotional utterances for strategic purposes; amid political negotiations, men and women used statements about their feelings to indicate their political allegiance or argue that they should be trusted. Nevertheless, correspondence was an essential element of nineteenth-century personal ties and can help us understand models of these bonds.

In particular, this book centers on three intertwined case studies, as it examines the networks and relationships of Pierre Jean de Béranger, François Guizot, and the politician and author François René de Chateaubriand. It also draws on the networks of some of the women to whom they were close, including the novelist Hortense Allart de Méritens and the salonnières Armande Marie Antoinette de Vignerot du Plessis de Richelieu, marquise de Montcalm-Gozon, and Albertine Ida Gustavine de Staël Holstein, duchesse de Broglie. All three men occupied different places on the political spectrum: during the Restoration, Béranger was active in liberal circles, while Guizot was a journalist and activist on the center-left and Chateaubriand was one of the most prominent politicians on the right. Likewise, Allart was on the far-left, Mme de Broglie a doctrinaire like Guizot, and Montcalm in the center-right. As a result, the lives and social ties of these men and women allow us to understand the relationships between political concerns and personal ones, as well as the uses they made of friendship in politics. Although Béranger and Chateaubriand were largely retired from politics after 1830, Guizot was one of the most important politicians of the July Monarchy. Thus he provides a window into the workings of parliamentary life during this regime and to the continuities between the political culture of the Restoration and the July Monarchy.

These three men were chosen because of their level of political engagement and because they and their friends left behind enormous quantities of source material about their personal lives, including memoirs and extensive collections of correspondence. In Guizot’s case alone, we have around ten thousand letters that he and his intimates wrote to each other. Many of these men’s friends wrote their memoirs or have published correspondence. Allart wrote her autobiography; some of her letters have been published, as have those of Mme de Broglie. Selections of Mme de Montcalm’s correspondence are available, as well, as is her remarkable diary from the early years of the Restoration. The fact that these individuals and their friends had such well-documented social lives allows us to look at their friendships from a variety of angles and to examine how they communicated with their friends, how they made use of their friends in politics, and how their social networks were constructed.

There are, of course, considerable differences among these individuals. The men’s politics range from conservative (Chateaubriand) to radical (Béranger), with Guizot representing a position in the middle. There is also the crucial difference of class. Chateaubriand was a member of the aristocracy, while Guizot belonged to the bourgeoisie, although he lived in the aristocratic neighborhood of the Faubourg Saint-Honoré. Both he and Chateaubriand were unquestionably part of the class of notables—the aristocrats and members of the upper bourgeoisie who ruled France between 1815 and 1848. But Béranger’s position in this ruling elite was much more tenuous. Descended from skilled artisans and innkeepers, he was from a humbler milieu and lived in more strained circumstances. His celebrity, though, launched him into higher strata. During the Restoration, his was the world of rich bankers like Jacques Laffitte and renegade members of the aristocracy like the marquis de Lafayette. In the 1830s and 1840s, while he lived very modestly, many of his friends were decidedly among the elite; he was particularly close to Alphonse de Lamartine, the abbé de Lamennais, and Chateaubriand. It is unlikely that he ever met the property qualifications that would have allowed him to vote, but he was deeply engaged in political causes and a central figure in left-leaning circles during both the Restoration and the July Monarchy. As a result, he gives us access to a world of radical journalists, activists, and politicians in both of these regimes. Broadly speaking, then, these three men’s networks can help us understand the nature of social ties among the Parisian political classes.

Beyond these social differences, these three men had different personalities and approaches to friendship. Béranger was known for his unmatched sociability; indeed, one of his landlords complained that the great quantity of visitors who came to see him was destroying the staircase to his quarters. Because he never married and was not particularly close to any of his family members during his adulthood, friendship was the primary relationship in his life. He relied on his friends for financial support and wrote songs about this bond, ones sung in groups of carousing men. For his part, Guizot was deeply attached to his family, but nevertheless retained a need for the company of friends. He was proud of his relationships that lasted for decades and was a remarkable correspondent, especially with women. While he could be a loyal friend, he could also be a difficult one and his public persona was cold and austere. Yet both men, despite their differences, put great stock in their friendships. Chateaubriand, however, presents a different case. Immensely proud and immensely prickly, he valued solitude. In the words of one biographer, he was a “skeptic about friendship.” Some of his relationships were long lasting and relatively uncomplicated, such as that with Jean Guillaume Hyde de Neuville, a longtime ally, or his surprising bond with Béranger that developed in the July Monarchy. Other friendships were far more troubled, and he disappointed some of his female friends with his lack of loyalty and affection.

While recognizing these differences, this study concentrates primarily on the similarities between these men, their milieus, and their relationships. All three of them, for instance, relied on women to serve as confidantes. Guizot and Chateaubriand used male friends in exactly the same way in negotiations over the composition of ministries. They also all struggled with the question of whether personal loyalties could override political commitments, although at times they came up with different answers. For these reasons and to illustrate the general workings of friendship, the social lives and political dealings of these men and their friends are discussed side-by-side and not on a case-by-case basis. In addition, much of this work is not organized chronologically. For instance, discussions of the practices of post-revolutionary politics do not necessarily progress from the Restoration to the July Monarchy. Although the political cultures of these two regimes were not the same, the politicians of the July Monarchy confronted many of the same problems as those of the Restoration and relied on the same ways of transacting politics.

Like any series of case studies, this one has limitations. First, there is the problem of how representative these men and women are. I make no claim that they were typical. After all, few ultras had Chateaubriand’s literary genius. Nor was he a particularly good conservative; during the second half of the 1820s, he often collaborated with those on the left. For his part, Béranger was the most famous songwriter in an era when songs were an essential element of political protest, but he never ran for office, despite the constant urging of his friends. His participation in politics was always indirect, except in 1848 when he briefly and reluctantly was a member of the Constituent Assembly. Neither man remained active in politics after 1830, with the exception of Chateaubriand’s involvement in the duchesse de Berry affair and Béranger’s service in the Constituent Assembly. Guizot’s political engagement spanned the entire period between 1815 and 1848, and indeed he has been seen as representative of the age. Again, though, he was hardly “typical” of his time or of the men of the juste milieu, given his Protestantism. Nevertheless, all three were well integrated into different political circles during the Restoration. Indeed, Béranger and Chateaubriand’s lack of political involvement in the July Monarchy can even show how their distance from politics shaped their personal networks. Significantly, too, it was not just they who used friendship in particular ways, but also their friends, allies, and rivals who did as well, indicating that some of their assumptions about the interworking of friendship and politics were widely shared.

Another limitation is inherent in the source material. While there are some letters between women in these circles, such as those between Mme de Broglie and her female friends, or Mme de Montcalm and some of hers, correspondence between women was less likely to have been saved and made available to the public. Because of this and because the ways of friendships between women—which were often passionate, intense, and turbulent—is its own topic that deserves a fuller explanation than can be offered here, this work concentrates primarily, although not exclusively, on relations between men or those between men and women.

Even if we had all the letters these men and their friends wrote and received, there remains the problem of writing about the emotional lives of long-dead individuals. In looking at what individuals wanted in their friendships, what disappointed them, or how they behaved in moments of grief, I presuppose that these men and women had emotions and that we can study their emotional lives. Historians of the emotions maintain that emotions are not entirely rooted in biology, but are culturally and historically mediated. In particular, William Reddy has suggested that the history of the emotions can be understood in terms of “emotional regimes,” or the emotional states and norms of restraint and communication that underpin political regimes. This work examines some of the emotional codes of the post-revolutionary era, looking, for instance, at how friends expressed their affection for each other and at the central role that love between friends played in the political culture of the time. Thus my primary interest is in the cultural work accomplished by these expressions of sentiment. When, for instance, I discuss the role of women in communicating emotions between politicians, for the most part the questions are how and why these women did so, and not whether their statements were verifiably true in some sense. This is to say that I am primarily interested in the performance of emotions—and what role these performances played in the social and political order of the time. In certain cases, it is clear that the expressions of emotion were to be understood as empty of any real sentiment, while in other instances, emotions were consciously deployed and manipulated in order to convince others to act in particular ways. Hence, even if we are not talking about “real” emotions, words of affection had particular uses.

However, there are other cases when I examine the specific emotional states of some of the individuals discussed here, such as, for instance, the degree to which two men actually had affection for each other, or the sense of bitterness and hostility that was unleashed into French society in 1815. Discussing actual emotions is inherently more problematic than focusing on a culture’s emotional style or its views about the role of emotion. After all, the sources about these men and women’s sentimental lives—whether letters, memoirs, or diaries—are not necessarily to be trusted, especially since the men and women featured in this study could be cynical about their claims to love one another. Alternately, some forms of emotional expression can be pure convention; when we use “dear” as a form of address in a letter, this does not necessarily mean that the addressee is, in fact, dear to us. Nonetheless, I assert that it remains possible to discuss aspects of the emotional lives of the men and women who lived two centuries ago. When numerous works from authors across the political spectrum state that a series of political events gave birth to a sense of estrangement and suspicion, and when individuals had very good reasons to distrust one another, I think it is fair to say that we can talk about the difficulties of this particular period. Alternately, when a preponderance of evidence—taken from letters, memoirs, and biographies—states that two individuals valued their friendship, I think this allows us to conclude that they probably did.

A related problem in discussing the personal relationships of the men and women studied here is the issue of whether they actually had friends in any meaningful sense of the term. After all, there were a number of opportunistic reasons for them to claim that their friendships were important. Friendship was a crucial cultural value in the early nineteenth century. Having friends spoke well of one’s morality, as it suggested that one was generous and open to others. Friends could also provide considerable benefits, whether in the form of financial assistance or access to patronage networks. Moreover, politicians are a class of individuals hardly known for their loyalty or the durability of their personal ties. For instance, even if we know that two particular men socialized frequently with each other, corresponded on a regular basis, and discussed their feelings, this would only indicate that these men wanted to be considered friends, and not that they actually bore affection toward each other.

Thus the question remains: did the ties discussed in this work actually contain some level of affection, loyalty, and trust, or did they merely reflect either the emotional conventions of the day or a desire to pursue the benefits of friendship? Although the innermost feelings and motives of others will always remain somewhat a mystery, it is possible to make some judgments. Some relationships that these men and women pursued were for their political gain or to advance their social standing. In a few cases, the parties did not seem to like each other all that much. Yet even these cases are revealing, for these relationships followed what could be considered a cultural script of friendship, as when the individuals wrote each other on a regular basis, used forms of address that were markers of friendship, and expressed concern for each other. As a result, these exchanges can illustrate the patterns of friendship and highlight some of the uses of friendship in the early nineteenth century. Because in many cases this work is concerned with the outward signs of friendship, such emotional performances say a great deal about the conventions and norms of post-revolutionary bonds.

If instances of the opportunistic use of friendship did exist, they do not rule out other possibilities, as I maintain that the men and women studied here had significant friendships in the fullest sense of the term. They had some relationships that went beyond concerns about interest, patronage, and politics, even if not all of their relationships did. After all, saying that emotions and their expression are culturally mediated is not the same thing as saying that basic emotions like affection did not exist in the past. In a curious way, evidence of true friendship comes from worry about its opposite. The individuals in this book were themselves deeply concerned with the question of authenticity. For example, Charles de Rémusat, one of Guizot’s friends, returned repeatedly in his memoirs to the question of whether Guizot actually loved him. After the two split over political differences in 1840, Rémusat was left wondering if Guizot had in fact truly cared about him. To put it in twenty-first-century terms, he wanted to know whether Guizot was performing friendship, or whether Guizot felt some authentic connection with him. Likewise, in the wake of the events of 1815, Mme de Montcalm found herself estranged from many of those she had previously regarded as her friends, including Chateaubriand. In her diary, she flirted with the question of whether friendship was an illusion: she stated that while she wanted to have friends, she was not sure this was possible. The fact that both Rémusat and Montcalm questioned the ability of those around them to be friends shows that affection and friendship were important categories for them, ones that they thought should exist, even if they were concerned that affection and devotion were impossible at particular moments or absent from specific relationships. If professions of friendship were only mere performances to them, Rémusat and Montcalm would hardly have been concerned with such questions of authenticity.

In addition, the idea that these men and women thought only in terms of their own interests does not fit their actions. It does not explain why they trusted their friends or why they were so often generous with one another. Béranger, for instance, frequently relied on his friends for financial assistance and aided them whenever he could. At various times Chateaubriand’s intimates, including Hyde de Neuville and Béranger himself, offered to help support their friend. It is possible to see motives other than pure generosity behind these acts; Hyde de Neuville might have wanted the fame of being able to say that he had secured Chateaubriand’s financial stability. Alternately, Béranger might have thought that if he were generous with those around him, they would reciprocate when the time came. Friends also revealed secrets to each other. During the 1830s, for instance, Guizot described his disappointment with his son Guillaume to Mme de Broglie; if this information had gotten out, it could have caused him some amount of grief or at the very least embarrassment. Of course, he may have told her because she was a prominent salonnière, and engaging in such self-revelation may have been a way to win her over to his side. But it also speaks to his trust in her. This is not to say that interest did not enter into these relationships. Rather, this is to suggest that it is easier to maintain that at least some of the ties discussed in this work contained genuine affection than to suggest that they did not. Thus friendship was both an ideal and a lived reality for these men and women. If the signs of friendship were sometimes performative gestures, they were related to these individuals’ emotional lives in other instances. In all cases, though, they were meaningful and revealing about aspects of early nineteenth-century French society.


The intertwining of the personal and the political arose out of both long-standing political practices and the legacy of the Revolution; chapter 1 examines these questions. In early modern France, social ties were vital political resources and love was the glue of the political system. Affection remained crucial to the reconceptualization of society and the polity that occurred in the eighteenth century, as thinkers used sentiment to imagine the possibility of a more individualistic social order. In turn, revolutionaries understood love to be a force for national unity. In practice, bonds of friendship facilitated revolutionary politics, and the Revolution unleashed both positive emotions (especially in its early years) and negative ones (particularly after 1792). Indeed, the Terror divided citizens along ideological lines and spread suspicion throughout society. In this atmosphere, any dreams of nationalized, universal love became impossible. Napoleon attempted to heal the divisions among elites and impose a dirigiste model of society, but the heavy hand of Napoleonic policing gave men and women even more reasons to be suspicious of one another. Thus one legacy of the revolutionary and Napoleonic models was a sense of atomization, and this chapter ends with a discussion of the discourse of individualism in nineteenth-century France.

Chapter 2 takes up the problem of social relations in the Bourbon Restoration and July Monarchy and locates the fears about individualism in the particular political contexts of these two regimes. Associational life was particularly weak in the early nineteenth century and subject to the state’s strict supervision. The opening years of the Restoration saw the reemergence of the ideological divisions of the Revolution, and the political hostilities of the era led to a sense that the nation was split into two antagonistic camps. Factionalism led citizens to denounce one another and the state relied on police surveillance in order to assuage its fears about the loyalty of the citizenry. The policing and self-policing among citizens were regarded as destroying personal relations and spreading suspicion within society. After 1830, although ideological tensions abated, many authors became increasingly concerned about the corrosive nature of self-interest. Further, politics was still seen as brutal and competitive, an arena in which loyalty was impossible. This chapter ends with an analysis of Honoré de Balzac’s 1839 novel Lost Illusions. Set in the Restoration, this work highlights the fears about the destructive effects of factionalism and self-interest. Yet Balzac uses friendship to imagine loyalty, trust, and social cohesion, if only in a private and limited form.

Chapter 3 examines how ties of friendship were understood by looking at this bond as a unique space of trust and cohesion, one that was regarded as removed from the wider world. Friends described themselves as psychically part of one another and celebrated a particular connection between friendship and open communication. Yet the particular workings of friendship were highly gendered. Bonds between men revolved around the ideas of similarity, union, loyalty, and generosity, and these friendships could activate ties of obligation. In contrast, in their relationships with women, men sought out confidantes as well as the opportunity to give and receive affection. Female friends also connected men to their social worlds and maintained male social networks by communicating affection between men. Thus male friends were regarded as trusted companions in action, while male/female ties allowed men to engage in personal and emotional revelation.

In order to explore how the ideological tensions of the post-revolutionary era shaped personal ties, chapter 4 looks at the friendship networks of Béranger, Guizot, and Chateaubriand, as well as those of some of the women to whom they were close. During the Restoration, politics sharply divided male social networks, as few men were able to maintain social ties across factional divisions. In the July Monarchy, ideological tensions were less crucial in shaping male networks, although politics was still a force for division among men. Guizot in particular—the only one of the three who remained active in politics—found it impossible to maintain friendships with men who did not share his political commitments. Yet throughout both regimes, politics did not determine women’s networks and women connected different social groups and factions to one another.

The next two chapters turn to the problems of trust and cohesion in political life and the uses of friendship in political negotiations. Chapter 5 discusses how the politicians of the Restoration and the July Monarchy relied on their personal ties and a language of affiliation from the private realm to transact parliamentary politics. During moments of disagreement, politicians who were not friends often negotiated with each other using a rhetoric of friendship and affection to discuss allegiance. And because male friendship was based around notions of similarity and loyalty, male friends were often used as proxies in cabinets and during elections.

Chapter 6 highlights the role female friends played in parliamentary life. Although women were denied any official political role, they were crucial political actors. Indeed, in large measure, they were so useful because of their official exclusion from the public realm. As relatively neutral actors who had little stake in the triumph of one particular faction, they could create trust and work between different politicians and groupings. Thus women ensured factional cohesion, managed relationships between prominent politicians, and formed alliances between factions. These roles for women called on their ability to maintain ties across factional divides and their facility with emotions and social relations. Ultimately, women were responsible for building the trust that allowed the parliamentary system to function. In some cases, too, these roles for women allowed them to wield considerable political influence.

The epilogue serves as a conclusion and then discusses why, in the long run, a political culture based on friendship could not stabilize the parliamentary system and why it could not prevent the Revolutions of 1830 or 1848. The legacy of the early nineteenth century remained a powerful force, however. Politicians frequently relied on their friends for support in the Third Republic, for instance, and official political parties crystallized around social networks. In these respects, the Restoration and July Monarchy shaped the political culture of modern France, and their impact has continued to be felt for many generations. Even as France moved into a more democratic era and one with official political parties, politics have continued to be an intensely personal affair and have remained capable of unleashing bitter divisions into French society.