Correspondance littéraire, philosophique et critique  

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La Correspondance littéraire, philosophique et critique was a hand-written French newsletter, a so-called 'manuscript newsletter'. It was a privat newsletter destined for the upper class, for the educated aristocracy of the 18th century and was published from 1747 until 1793.

It was founded by Guillaume Raynal under the title Nouvelles littéraires. In 1753, he hands over the reign to Grimm who gave it its title Correspondance littéraire, philosophique et critique. From 1759 he delegates a part of the task to Diderot. Jacques-Henri Meister was the last director of the magazine.

The publication was highly confidential and handwritten which allowed for it to escape the attention of French censorship. This advantage has allowed Denis Diderot to write his Salons pieces of art criticism, where he sometimes severly judged certain artists. The mailing list was never revealed.


In 1753, following the example of the abbé Raynal, and with the latter's encouragement, Grimm began a literary newsletter with various German sovereigns.

Raynal's own letters, Nouvelles littéraires, dispatched to various German courts, keeping the European aristocracy abreast of current cultural developments in Paris, ceased early in 1755.

The first number of the Correspondance littéraire, philosophique et critique was dated 15 May 1753. With the aid of friends, especially of Diderot.

Diderot's Madame de La Carlière and Supplément au voyage de Bougainville were first published in the journal and Mme. d'Épinay, who reviewed many plays, always anonymously, during his temporary absences from France, Grimm himself carried on the Correspondance littéraire, which consisted of two letters a month that were painstakingly copied in manuscript by amanuenses safely apart from the French censor in Zweibrücken, just over the border in the Palatinate. By circumventing censorship, the Correspondance supplemented the quasi-official cultural reporting in the Mercure de France.

Eventually, Grimm counted among his 16 (or 25) subscribers: Princess Luise Dorothea of Saxe-Meiningen, Landgravine Caroline Louise of Hesse-Darmstadt, Louisa Ulrika of Prussia, Henry of Prussia, Catherine II of Russia, Leopold II, Holy Roman Emperor, Gustav III of Sweden, and many princes of the smaller German states, as Charles Frederick, Grand Duke of Baden, Karl August, Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, Charles Alexander, Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach, William Henry, Prince of Nassau-Saarbrücken, and Frederick Michael, Count Palatine of Zweibrücken. Between 1763 and 1766, Grimm attempted to recruit Frederick the Great as a subscriber. Mme Geoffrin, whose Paris salon Grimm frequented, enrolled Stanislas Poniatowski as a subscriber, writing him: "Here is your first number, together with Grimm's accompanying letter. Your Majesty will see that it is important that no copies be made. The German courts are very loyal to Grimm in this particular. I may even say to Your Majesty that negligence on this point could have serious consequences for me, the matter having passed through my hands."

The correspondence of Grimm was strictly confidential and was not divulged during his lifetime. It embraces nearly the whole period from 1750 to 1790, but the later volumes, 1773 to 1790, were chiefly the work of his secretary, the Swiss Jakob Heinrich Meister, with whom he made acquaintance in the salon of Suzanne Curchod, the wife of Jacques Necker. At first he contented himself with enumerating the chief current views in literature and art and indicating very slightly the contents of the principal new books, but gradually his criticisms became more extended and trenchant, and he touched on nearly every subject — political, literary, artistic, social and religious — that interested the Parisian society of the time. His notices of contemporaries are somewhat severe, and he exhibits the foibles and selfishness of the society in which he moved; but he was unbiased in his literary judgments, and time has only served to confirm his criticisms. In style and manner of expression, he is thoroughly French. He is generally somewhat cold in his appreciation, but his literary taste is delicate and subtle, and it was the opinion of Sainte-Beuve that the quality of his thought in his best moments will compare not unfavourably even with that of Voltaire. His religious and philosophical opinions were entirely sceptical.

Publication history

Grimm's Correspondance littéraire, philosophique et critique ..., depuis 1753 jusqu'en 1769, was edited, with many excisions, by Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Suard and published at Paris in 1812, in 6 vols. 8vo; deuxième partie, de 1771 a 1782, in 1812 in 5 vols. 8vo; and troisième partie, pendant une partie des années 1775 et 1776, et pendant les années 1782 a 1790 inclusivement, in 1813 in 5 vols. 8vo. A supplementary volume appeared in 1814; the whole correspondence was collected and published by Jules Taschereau, with the assistance of A. Chaudé, in a Nouvelle Édition, revue et mise dans un meilleur ordre, avec des notes et des éclaircissements, et oil se trouvent rétablies pour la première fois les phrases supprimées par la censure impériale (Paris, 1829, 15 vols. 8vo); and the Correspondance inédite, et recueil de lettres, poésies, morceaux, et fragments retranchés par la censure impériale en 1812 et 1813 was published in 1829. The standard edition is that of Jean Maurice Tourneux (16 vols., 1877–1882). It is now being replaced by the new edition [1] published by Ulla Kölving at the Centre international d'étude du XVIIIe siècle, Ferney-Voltaire.

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