The Devil in the Holy Water, or the Art of Slander from Louis XIV to Napoleon

Hardcover (Print)
Buy Used
Buy Used from BN.com
$38.23
(Save 41%)
Item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging.
Condition: Used – Good details
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $6.88
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 89%)
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (33) from $6.88   
  • New (11) from $10.85   
  • Used (22) from $6.88   

Overview

"Slander has always been a nasty business, Robert Darnton notes, but that is no reason to consider it an unworthy topic of inquiry. By destroying reputations, it has often helped to delegitimize regimes and bring down governments. Nowhere has this been more the case than in eighteenth-century France, when a ragtag group of literary libelers flooded the market with works that purported to expose the wicked behavior of the great. Salacious or seditious, outrageous or hilarious, their books and pamphlets claimed to reveal the secret doings of kings and their mistresses, the lewd and extravagant activities of an unpopular foreign-born queen, the affairs of aristocrats and men-about-town as they consorted with servants, monks, and dancing masters. These libels often mixed scandal with detailed accounts of contemporary history and current politics. And though they are now largely forgotten, many sold as well as or better than some of the most famous works of the Enlightenment." Darnton here weaves a tale so full of intrigue that it may seem too extravagant to be true, although all its details can be confirmed in the archives of the French police and diplomatic service. Part detective story, part revolutionary history, TheDevil in the Holy Water has much to tell us about the nature of authorship and the book trade, about Grub Street journalism and the shaping of public opinion, and about the important work that scurrilous words have done in many times and places.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this complement to his NBCC award–winning Forbidden Best-Sellers of Pre-Revolutionary France, Harvard librarian Darnton chronicles in scholarly detail (with 74 pages of notes) and well-selected illustrations the role of libel and slander in 18th-century France. He focuses on the political force of books, pamphlets and periodicals written by expatriates in London, Grub Street–type journalists who destroyed reputations and helped bring down governments. But he also shows how they created meaning and myths for the common people, revealing the wicked, privileged and lewd lives of kings, aristocrats, monks and ministers as well as their servants, mistresses and dancing masters. These anecdotes were distributed for political reasons, inventions that titillated and inflamed the public. They had such titles as Secret Memoirs, The Parisian Police Unveiled and The Private Life of Louis XV (the king's body “corrupted by pox and sapped of its virility”). Although the names and events are sometimes overwhelming, the tale is an intriguing one, and Darnton, our leading historian of the book, is the man to tell it. 47 illus. (Dec.)
Library Journal
This is another brilliant addition to the corpus of works produced by one of the world's most eminent historians of 18th-century France. Darnton (Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor & director, Harvard Univ. Lib.; Forbidden Best-Sellers of Pre-Revolutionary France) provides a detailed examination of the French literature of libel in the years of the French Revolution. The libelle, he explains, was a distinct genre and an enormous business that focused on exposing the scandalous and scurrilous ways of public political personalities. The attacks took a variety of forms—anecdotes, puzzles, biographies, caricatures, verbal portraits, and news reports. Rather than simply describing or summarizing such texts, however, Darnton interweaves a discussion of the writings, authors, subjects, and readers, as he traces how the targets of slander changed with the shifts in political climate. He also uses police archives and diplomatic records to describe the counter-institutions of the so-called book police—censors, spies, inspectors, and double agents. Most important is his assessment of why the whole "smutty subject" matters, combining historical, sociological, and anthropological analysis to explain the role libel played in creating a political and revolutionary culture where public opinion mattered. VERDICT Not likely to be accessible to general readers, this work is recommended for scholars of 18th-century French history and for university libraries.—Marie Marmo Mullaney, Caldwell Coll., NJ
From the Publisher

"The tale is an intriguing one, and Darnton, our leading historian of the book, is the man to tell it."—Publishers Weekly

"Darnton's bravura demonstration of how Old Regime slander was grafted onto the main stem of Revolutionary political culture is one of the highlights of his engaging book. . . . The libellistes seem to have been most effective when their work fitted in with wider political and ideological trends. But their writings certainly complicated and dramatized questions about the limits of free speech as it was used for personal vilification and innuendo. Those were questions with which the Revolutionaries wrestled and never resolved. And they are with us still, and not only in the blogosphere."—Colin Jones, New York Review of Books

"In political slander everything is of the moment, and only someone as immersed as Darnton is in the particularities of eighteenth-century publishing, politics and cultural life could possibly do justice to its noisome unruliness. . . . The reader gets a taste of the thrill of the chase not just from the text but also from a number of telling illustrations taken from the illicit publications themselves. The return on Darnton's investment of time, energy and determination is extraordinary."—Lynn Hunt, London Review of Books

"This is a book for experts on eighteenth-century France; but it is also lucid and scurrilous enough to have much wider appeal. The spectacle of a public figure cut down to size by revelations—true or false—about her or his private life is a literary genre that continues in rude health when more refined forms of writing—literary fiction, criticism and poetry, for example—threaten to become obsolete. Readers will find much to titillate and shock in the slanders that brought les grands of eighteenth-century France to their knees. But there is also a contemporary resonance to consider: as our own voracious yellow press goes from strength to strength and life-writing converges on celebrity biography, the more defamatory the better selling, what can the history of slander and libel teach us?"—Ruth Scurr, The Nation

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812241839
  • Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/23/2009
  • Series: Material Texts Series
  • Pages: 552
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Darnton is Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and Director of the Harvard University Library.
Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Introduction

PART I. INTERLOCKING LIBELS
1. The Armor-Plated Gazetteer
2. The Devil in the Holy Water
3. The Parisian Police Unveiled
4. The Secret Life of Pierre Manuel
5. The End of the Line
6. Bibliography and Iconography
7. Reading

PART II. POLITICS AND POLICE WORK
8. Slander and Politics
9. The Book Police at Work
10. A Double Agent and His Authors
11. Secret Missions
12. Hugger-Mugger
13. Entrapment
14. The View from Versailles
15. The Devil in the Bastille
16. Bohemians Before Bohemianism
17. The Grub Street Route to Revolution
18. Slander into Terror
19. Words and Deeds
20. Postscript, 1802

PART III. THE LITERATURE OF LIBEL: BASIC INGREDIENTS
21. The Nature of Libels
22. Anecdotes
23. Portraits
24. News

PART IV. THE LITERATURE OF LIBEL: PRIVATE LIVES
25. Revolutionary Metamorphoses
26. Sex and Politics
27. Decadence and Despotism
28. Royal Depravity
29. Private Lives and Public Affairs

Conclusion
Notes
Index
Acknowledgments

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)