Louis de Bonald: Neglected Antimodern.


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At the Restoration, the now sixty year old Bonald returned to political life. He was elected to the French Chamber of Deputies of 1815, known as the chambre introuvable—the chamber the like of which cannot be found—for its solid conservative majority. […]

His most notable legislative achievement was the abolition of divorce in 1816. It would be reinstituted only in 1884, under the Third Republic. Did it influence the actual behavior of Frenchmen? During those sixty eight years, French authors produced the world’s foremost literature of adultery: Madame Bovary, Cousin Bette, The Red and the Black and a dozen other books. On Divorce has never obtained the same favor from the public.

Bonald was unsuccessful in his efforts to reinstate primogeniture and entail: “the egalitarianism of the day was simply too strong,” in Blum’s view. More generally, the chambre introuvable “accomplished little, for the king was hemmed in by the old Napoleonic elite, which was decidedly liberal, even anticlerical.”

Louis XVIII retained Bonald on the Royal Council for Public Instruction, named him to the Academie Française and raised him to the peerage in 1823. In 1827, Charles X put him in charge of censorship. Bonald had long been a critic of freedom of the press: “Absolute liberty of the press is a tax upon those who read. It is demanded only by those who write… It is difficult for the father of a family not to regard as a personal enemy the author of a bad book that brings corruption into the heart of his children.”

(The Occidental Quarterly, Vol. X, No. 2, Summer 2010).


For a slightly different version of this essay, see “Louis de Bonald on Divorce“, Part II, “Bonald’s Theory of Nobility” and “Bonald’s Economic Thought.”

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