Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Are the Concepts and Objectives Behind the “Authentic Performance Movement” Fundamentally Flawed?

In this essay, we shall be examining the so-called “authentic performance movement” but what IS the authentic performance movement? This movement, also referred to as the historical authenticity movement and/or the early music movement, is a group of musicians, performers, and composers who “strive to realise the [baroque and classical period] composer’s intentions and expectations regarding performing style.”1 What this means then, is that said musicians, et al. strive to play Renaissance, Baroque, and Classical musical works in a way that they would have been played in their respective eras. This includes performing on instruments made in the same way as those from the period, using the same construction materials, designs, intonations, and tuning systems. Now that we have an adequate description of the movement in question, we may now move on to a critical analysis of its concepts and objectives (if indeed said movement even has any to be subjected to such scrutiny.)

The origins of this movement lie in the 1950s all the way through to the 1980s, and has continued on through the 90s up until present times.2 However the history behind this movement can be traced to developments as far back as during 18th and 19th centuries.3 During the eighteenth century, musical performance was focused on new music. This can be exemplified in the ‘Querelle des Bouffons’ that took place between 1752 and 1754, which was a controversy surrounding the merits of the newer Italian operas versus the merits of the older French operas. During this controversy, contemporary philosophes and other writers argued, sometimes vociferously, that the newer Italian opera was better than the older French operas pioneered by Jean-Baptiste Lully and promoted at the time by Jean-Phillipe Rameau. The people of that century simply did not care for older music. This can be contrasted with the 19th century, where there was a conscious move towards performing works by composers of older eras. As Bernard Sherman notes “admonitions to honor the composer’s performance intentions... became common in the 19th century and dominant in the twentieth.”4

Whilst there are number of reasons for why these developments took place during the 19th century, at the centre of the debate during the twentieth century was a debate concerning “authenticity.”5 Critics of the “authentic performance movement’ have focused intently over the usage of the word ‘authentic’ and it is this word in particular that is singled out as the principle target of the critics’ ire. It is primarily the controversy over the meaning of ‘authenticity’ that has led to the movement being given the alternate name: ‘historically informed performance movement.’6 However, there is some doubt as to whether or not “authenticity” really laid behind the movement. D. Fabian argues that the concept of authenticity being attributed to the movement was really down to critics taking “commercial propaganda at face value.”7 That is to say that those associated with the early music/historically informed performance movement do not seek ‘authenicity.’8

Thus, one could argue that identifying this movement as the ‘authentic performance movement’ is nothing more than a straw-man caricature. What then CAN be said about the aims of the early music/authentic/historically informed performance movement? Michelle Dulak argues that shift in emphasis from ‘authenticity’ to ‘historically informed performance’ is simply nothing more than semantic posturing:
Early music” itself will hardly do, when so much of the repertoire concerned is so recent… “Authentic” has succumbed to a thousand critical blows, most of them richly deserved. “Contextual for no very obvious reason, was stillborn… “Period” and “historical” (with the variant “historically informed” remain, but a careful observer cannot help noting that even they become rarer with time. I venture to suggest that this linguistic fidgetiness has its roots in the changing nature of the beast itself.9
This view, however, misses the deeper differences between the notions of ‘authenticity’ and being ‘historically informed.’ Whilst they may seem two names for the same thing, there is a fundamental difference. Being ‘authentic’ from a musical perspective is not the same thing as being ‘historically informed.’ Edidin notes the argument of Kivy that a rendition of a composition can be authentic in a ‘personal’ sense and forms the basis of arranging as form of art.10

The fundamental argument against equating ‘authenticity’ with ‘historical informed performance’ then, is that the personal authenticity expressed in varying renditions of compositions past and present is of aesthetic value. The reason for this is because the very act of arranging is itself an art form that gives rise to new musical expressions. Therefore, it is inappropriate or perhaps unfair to label certain artistic expressions as ‘inauthentic.’ Whether because it was because of such criticisms, or if, as D. Fabian argues, that the movement never self-identified as such, since the 1990s the term ‘authentic’ has been subsequently dropped.11 Nowadays, the focus is more on performances being ‘historically informed’ that is to say performances which are historically accurate. Whether this has been part and parcel of the movement since the very beginning or whether this a new direction it seems as if this fascination of the past follows very much in the same vein as the fascination of the past exemplified by so many groups as far back as the Renaissance humanists and as contemporary as today.

Robert Donington gives a possible explanation for this current obsession, especially the music of the Baroque period. He argues that it lies in the fact that there is actually a sense of continuality between music of the past and music of the present. That is to say, Baroque music exemplifies musical elements found in popular contemporary music today, chief among them being improvisation.
Much of our own contemporary music pursues such spontaneity and in baroque music this ingredient is contained in the very conditions of its authentic reportoire.12
However, is this attempt at historical recreation any less problematic than striving to create the most ‘authentic’ rendition of a performance? Writing about Renaissance music, Howard Mayer-Brown writes that the question of how music of the past was actually performed is one that is “difficult to answer because the music is so remote from us… that even the most basic facts about the way it was played must be demonstrated rather than assumed.”13 Bernard Sherman notes that “some authors believe that it is impossible for us to perform music exactly as it was done in its own era.”14

Whilst it therefore seems out-of-date to think of an ‘authentic performance movement’ but of a movement that endeavours to re-create compositions the way they were historically performed, it seems as if this does not change much. There are still problems with presuming one rendition of a Baroque period composition is more ‘historically authentic’ or ‘historically informed’ than another. This has been briefly hinted at and shall now be expounded upon in more detail now. What are the fundamental problems with historical Reconstructionism in relation to the music of the Baroque period and earlier? One issue lays in the fact that “performers did not simply follow instructions given them by composers” and that “musicians were expected to be able to invent new melodic material extempore.”15 In the Baroque and Renaissance periods, performing music involved more than simply reading the scores. The singers and instrumentalists of those times were fully expected to add elaborate improvised ornamentation, and according to precise musical rules. A problem then, lies in determining what these rules are and how they should be interpreted and applied.

More than this, we have to determine not just stylistic characteristics, but sonic characteristics, questions concerning instrument choice, instrument construction, instrument techniques, ensemble line-up, ensemble size, and a plethora of other issues. Whilst this might seem like a daunting task to some, the problem is even more insurmountable than this, for the documentary evidence (in terms of musical scores) we have is fragmentary.
Some authors believe that it is impossible for us to perform music exactly as it was done in its own era. In a few cases, such as the use of castrati singers, it is obviously impossible (or repellent) to re-create a known practice. But more generally, evidence about period performance practice is almost never complete, so performers must go beyond what scholars can certify as historically accurate. Doing so involves the use of the performers’ imaginations—and modern musical imaginations differ almost inevitably from those of previous centuries.16
Reconstructing music of the past is therefore immensely difficult if not impossible. The principle argument against attempts at accurate historical reconstruction of musical compositions is that “historical performers supplement the meagre documentary evidence with their own musical taste…”17

Interestingly enough, Taruskin, whom Dulak cites and refers to, despite offering stringent criticisms of the historicist enterprise, does not see the ahistoricity inherent in the historicist enterprise as a deathblow to their efforts. Rather, he argues that despite the “thin veneer of historicism” and the “rhetoric of authenticity,” the movement “constitutes proof that what [Taruskin] calls “authentistic” performance is a living tradition…”18 As Edidin concurs:
One way to qualify the extreme view [that deviations from history falsify the efforts of historicism] would be to hold that historical authenticity is but one source of aesthetic good among many…9
Whilst the two ideals, authenticity and historicism, are different, it seems then as if they overlap considerably after all. If one takes authenticity in music to mean something that is aesthetically good and enjoyable, and the efforts of historicisms achieve this affect, then it seems as if both concepts are vindicated.

Tracing the development of the “early music movement,” D. Fabian notes that despite arguments such as those above, those involved in the movement still clung to the idea that “an Urtext score reflected the composer’s ‘definitive version’ of the piece.” Those affiliated with the movement in the 1950s held to the ideal of ‘historical authenticity.’20 As aforementioned, Edidin reports a distinction Kivy made between personal and historical authenticity, and so in this sense the obsession over ‘authenticity’ in earlier critiques are misguided. What those in the authentic performance movement actually meant by ‘authenticity’ and what critics supposed they meant were two entirely different things. We may recall Dulak’s complaint earlier that the central aims of the authentic performance movement has been transmogrified, and this is somewhat justified given the vagueness of the term ‘authenticity.’ Yet, as we have seen, there is a fundamental distinction between ‘authenticity,’ ‘historicism.’ Furthermore, we are met with two types of authenticity, ‘personal authenticity’ and ‘historical authenticity.’

We have cleared up some of the terminology, but not all. In determining the aims and objectives of the authentic performance movement, we were met with two terms: the sufficiently vague term ‘authenticity’ and the more clearly defined term ‘historicism.’ However, we are now met with two new terms, as mentioned above. Personal authenticity, which refers to the art of arranging carried out by modern composers and performers who seek to re-create works of the past. Their re-working has aesthetic value whether it is “historically informed” or not. What then of ‘historical authenticity?’ Whilst some argue that historical authenticity is synonymous with efforts at trying to re-create musical compositions the way the original composer intended, I disagree. Whilst a desire at historical accuracy is obviously a major part of Historical Reconstructionism, historical authenticity is more than this. I take historical authenticity to refer to the aesthetic value of historicism; that is the effort to re-create compositions of the past as they would have been performed originally.

As previously discussed, Edidin notes that historicism21 can be at least one source of aesthetic good. However, he goes on to argue a further point that whilst historical reconstruction is “not necessarily or always a source of aesthetic good” that “there is good prima facie reason that it often will be a source of aesthetic good…”22 In other words, at least some examples of ‘historically informed performances’ will be aesthetically good because of efforts at historical reconstruction. Therefore what ‘historical reconstruction’ can be historically authentic in addition to being personal authentic by virtue of its being personally authentic. He develops this argument further by offering the premise that “the aesthetic payoff of following a composer’s performance suggestion is ultimately to be judged by experience of the result of that way of performing.”23

Having briefly reviewed the key concepts associated with the ‘authentic performance movement’ we have come to the following conclusions. The fundamental aim of the ‘authentic performance movement’ is merely an attempt at historical recreation; to re-create compositions according to the original wishes and intentions of the composers. The use of the term ‘authenticity’ was simply misleading colloquialism that. Debates over ‘authenticity,’ whilst somewhat misleading, are, however, enlightening nonetheless. We discussed the varying meanings of ‘authenticity’ and how they applied to the efforts of Historical Reconstructionism. The aim of this essay was to discuss to the objectives of the ‘authentic performance’ and weigh in as to whether these objectives were ‘fundamentally flawed’ or not. The discussion as to whether or not historical reconstruction of early compositions is a worthwhile enterprise almost entirely focused around philosophical, aesthetic concerns, as it was more or less admitted from the outset that our knowledge of how these pieces of music was actually performed is particularly fragmentary. What then, are our conclusions in this regard?

Authenticity is a word that has sparked a wide amount of controversy, with some regarding the use of the term highly offensive. However, more thoughtful commentators have offered expositions of what authenticity actually means, and then discussed how it relates to the ‘authentic performance movement.’ Authenticity can carry two meanings, personal authenticity and historical authenticity. Personal authenticity is the aesthetic value of a piece of music purely based on its value as art. Historical authenticity is typically used to refer to how historically accurate a work is, but I take it to mean the personal authenticity derived from efforts at historical reconstruction irrespective as to whether this historical reconstruction is ultimately successful or not. Thus, we can see two ways in which historical reconstruction is a worthwhile endeavour. Firstly, composers engage in the art of arranging. How they arrange other composer’s compositions and how they perform them leads to new musical expression.

Secondly, compositions can be aesthetically pleasing purely as a result of the attempts at historical reconstruction. That is to say that pieces that aspire to be historically informed can be more aesthetically pleasing than pieces that do not aspire to being historically informed. The only issue then is whether these aesthetic results are intentional or accidental by-products. However, I think such a question ultimately does not add to the discussion at hand (otherwise it would have been raised earlier) as the answer to such a question does not alter the aesthetic results. Whether it is deliberate or unintentional, ‘historically informed’ pieces can be aesthetically good. Note that this is also wholly independent of whether or not these pieces actually are historically accurate or not, thus rendering the question of whether such historical accuracy is possible a moot one. The question being discussed is whether or not the aims and objectives of the ‘authentic performance movement’ are fundamentally flawed or not. Whilst historical accuracy might simply be a quaint, ludicrous notion, aesthetic good can still come of it.

Bibliography
Books
:
Howard Mayer Brown, Embellishing 16th-Century Music, Oxford University Press, (1976)
Robert Donington, Style and Performance, Faber Music, (1982)
David Schulenberg, Music of the Baroque, Oxford University Press, (2001)

Journals:
Michelle Dulak, The Quiet Metamorphosis of “Early Music,” Repercussions, Vol. 2, No. 2., University of California Berkley, (Fall, 2003), pp31-61
Aron Edidin, Playing Bach His Way: Historical Authenticity, Personal Authenticity, and the Performance of Classical Music, Journal of Aesthetic Education, Vol. 32, No. 4, University of Illinois Press, (Winter, 1998), pp79-91
Dorottya Fabian, The Meaning of Authenticity and The Early Music Movement: A Historical Review, International Review of the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music, Vol. 32, No. 2, Croatian Musicology Society, (Dec., 2001), pp153-167

Web Articles:

Bernard D. Sherman, Authenticity in Musical Performance, http://www.bsherman.net/encyclopedia.html (Accessed November 25th 2011)

Notes
1 Aron Edidin, Playing Bach His Way: Historical Authenticity, Personal Authenticity, and the Performance of Classical Music, Journal of Aesthetic Education, Vol. 32, No. 4, University of Illinois Press, (Winter, 1998), pp79-91, p79
2 Dorottya Fabian, The Meaning of Authenticity and The Early Music Movement: A Historical Review, International Review of the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music, Vol. 32, No. 2, Croatian Musicology Society, (Dec., 2001), pp153-167, p153
3 Bernard D. Sherman, Authenticity in Musical Performance, http://www.bsherman.net/encyclopedia.html (Accessed November 25th 2011)
4 Ibid.
5 Aron Edidin, Playing Bach His Way, p79
6 Dorottya Fabian, The Meaning of Authenticity and The Early Music Movement: A Historical Review, International Review of the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music, Vol. 32, No. 2, Croatian Musicology Society, (Dec., 2001), pp153-167, p153
7 Dorottya Fabian, The Meaning of Authenticity and The Early Music Movement, p154
8 Dorottya Fabian, The Meaning of Authenticity and The Early Music Movement, p155
9 Michelle Dulak, The Quiet Metamorphosis of “Early Music,” Repercussions, Vol. 2, No. 2., University of California Berkley, (Fall, 2003), pp31-61, p31
10 Aron Edidin, Playing Bach His Way, p80
11 Dorottya Fabian, The Meaning of Authenticity and The Early Music Movement, p153
12 Robert Donington, Style and Performance, Faber Music, (1982), p6
13 Howard Mayer Brown, Embellishing 16th-Century Music, Oxford University Press, (1976), pvii
14 Bernard D. Sherman, Authenticity in Musical Performance, http://www.bsherman.net/encyclopedia.html (Accessed November 26th 2011)
15 Howard Mayer Brown, Embellishing 16th-Century Music, Oxford University Press, (1976), pvii
16 Bernard D. Sherman, Authenticity in Musical Performance, http://www.bsherman.net/encyclopedia.html (Accessed November 27th 2011)
17 Michelle Dulak, The Quiet Metamorphosis of “Early Music,” p33
18 Michelle Dulak, The Quiet Metamorphosis of “Early Music,” p34
19 Aron Edidin, Playing Bach His Way, p81
20 Dorottya Fabian, The Meaning of Authenticity and The Early Music Movement, p158
21 Edidin himself uses the term ‘historical authenticity’ as referring to the efforts of Historical Reconstructionism/historicism, whereas I take ‘historical authenticity’ to refer to the aesthetic value of the historicist enterprise.
22 Aron Edidin, Playing Bach His Way, p81
23 Ibid.

Did the Enlightenment Inspire the French Revolution?

It has generally been asserted by some historians that the Enlightenment influenced the French Revolution.1 Postmodernist historians tend to go further and claim the Enlightenment directly led to the terror, and inspired subsequent totalitarian regimes also.2 Whilst the latter question is beyond the purview of this essay, we shall be exploring, on the other hand, the question of the Enlightenments role in the French Revolution if it indeed had one at all. The Enlightenment is an area that has perhaps been over-complicated by historians, and so we shall do our best to uncomplicate them here. Is there a relation between the Enlightenment and the Revolution? At first glance it may seem like a reasonable hypothesis. Yet the proposition that the Enlightenment caused (whether directly or indirectly) raises a number of questions. Not least of these being the question of how could a movement devoted to rational reform lead to such violence?3 Therefore in order to understand this question better, we need to look at the Enlightenment philosophes themselves.

It becomes clear once we get round to looking at the philosophes that they were no revolutionaries. Whilst the revolutionaries certainly appealed to writers such as Voltaire and Rousseau, the revolutionaries’ thinking “often proceeded in directions which would have horrified those whose names they used in order to legitimate their actions.”4 Stromberg notes that almost all of the philosophes that lived to the Revolution rejected it, and “virtually from the start.”5 The philosophes were very much elitists who believed in a hierarchical society with the ‘grands’ at the top, with Rousseau being the only exception. d’Alembert remarked that one did not a great deal of philosophy that societies, especially large states, needed clearly defined social ranks. Voltaire shared similar sentiments and believed that the masses should no be even taught how to read. This oligarchy therefore stands in stark contrast to the ideals of the revolutionaries who sought to enact a republic. Robert Darnton notes that by 1778 “the last generation of philosophes had become pensioned, petted, and completely integrated in high society.”6

Darnton cites the Archive Nationales, which contained a list of 147 “men of letters who request pensions” and ten dossiers on writers and their sources of support.7 The philosophes were very much dependant on sinecures and pensions, and NOT the sales of books. Of course, this raises further questions: to what extent did Enlightenment ideals filter down to the masses, and if not the Enlightenment philosophes what DID eighteenth century Frenchmen read? Robert Darnton, whom has already been cited, has made some considerable advancement in this regard. One such example is the Bibliotheque bleue, which were crude paperbacks carted about the countryside and were intended for semi-literate peasant communities. These works included mostly superstitious tales, medieval romances, and condensed versions of popular novels, not the enlightened philosophy of the philosophes.8 Furthermore, records by provincial publishers for ‘permission simples’ indicate that “educated provincials were about as far removed from the Enlightenment provincials as illiterate provincials.”8

Quite simply, books that later ages took be great “may not have been widely read under the Old Regime.”9 More than this, however, it seems as if there was an underground book market for “philosophical books” with particularly lewd title such as ‘Venus in the Cloister or Nun in the Nightgown’ and ‘The Woman of Pleasure.’ Darnton’s book The Forbidden Best-Sellers of Pre-Revolutionary France is devoted to this entire subject. The term “philosophical books” was used as a sort of codeword for books that would get publishers and shop owners into trouble, and were apparently in quite high demand. However, the chief impetus behind the revolution, Darton argues, were a group of writers wholly different from those of the Enlightenment philosophes. Darnton points to a fringe group of writers excluded from elite circles, men such as Carra, Gorsas, Mercier, Restif de la Bretonne, Manuel, Desmoulins, Collot d’Herbois, and Fabre d’Eglantine. In fact one of the writers named, Jean Marie Collot d’Herbois actually went to become a member of the Committee of Public Safety.

These writers generally passed into obscurity, with the exception of those named, and were referred to by the philosophes as the ‘excrement of literature.’ Voltaire placed them in a social class below prostitutes and referred to them as the ‘dregs of humanity.’ Whilst Voltaire claimed he attacked this group of writers to put aspiring youths off from aspiring to be a writer (and thus ending up either starving or scraping a living) those who were able to scrape a living by the pen, such as Mercier, took extreme offence. They were also indignant at their place in society, and Darnton notes how Phillipe Fabre d’Eglantine, Jean-Louis Carra, and Antoine-Joseph Carra precipitated the downfall Charles-Alexandre de Callone after he did not award them pensions.10 The central issue was privilege; the Enlightenment philosophes and these writers were not. As Darnton puts it: “They had knocked on the doors of Voltaire’s Church, and the door remained closed.”11As such, these writers generally produced ‘libelles’ attacking the “grande monde”; that is, the society of the high cultured philosophes. They attacked the salon, the academies, the aristocracy, the church, and even the monarchy. These were the successors of the philosophes and they made themselves heard.

Whereas the philosophes were mostly if not entirely limited to the upper echelons of eighteenth century France, the Grub Street hacks were pumping out pamphlets that were quite widely read in some cases. Darnton specifically references the “polemical genius” of Simon-Henri Linguet.12 Jeremy Popkin, in response to Darnton’s earlier suggestion of Brissot as the template for the hacks of Grub Street, likewise notes that Linguet fits Darnton’s hypothesis, but that even Linguet “spent much of his career closely associated with powerful figures in French politics.”13 Popkin notes that their feelings of resentment have perhaps been exaggerated by Darnton, and that they were simply poor intellectuals who wrote whatever sold and were more than happy to attach themselves to wealthy and influential patrons such as the duc d’Orleans. Of course, this does not do much to undermine Darnton’s hypothesis, and Popkin himself even admitted to the inherent plausibility of Darnton’s hypothesis.14 Darnton’s argument is that these writers influenced the revolutionaries, and not the Enlightenment philosophes.

However, the question of what motivated them is a more complicated one and one that Darnton has since answered. These writers had arrived in Paris expecting to be received as eminent writers and to rise up as Voltaire did, but instead they plummeted to the bottom and so had to do whatever was required to survive. Grub Street was no gentlemanly affair, but a “grim struggle for survival” that “brought out baser elements.”15 Whether they harboured the vitriolic hatred of the establishment as Darnton suggests, and thus merely hedging their bets, or if they were simply downtrodden opportunists who were radicalised by their life at the bottom rung, many of their writings were certainly nefarious and dark. One Charles Thevenau de Morande produced work of such ghastly degradation that its depravity caused Voltaire to refer to it in horror as “one of those satanic works… where the most atrocious and most absurd calumny spreads a horrible poison on everything one respects and loves.”16

One aspect, however, that Darnton has perhaps overlooked is the indirect role that the Enlightenment played in influencing revolution. Many of these men had grown up as youths really believing that the ‘republic of letters,’ in fact, really did exist, and that they could be the next Voltaire or Diderot. In this sense, the Enlightenment led these men to aspire to be writers, and thus led to them ending up as radical Grub Street hacks, doing whatever literary work was needed just as long as it got them food on the table and a roof over their heads. More than this, however, the Enlightenment can also be argued to have made revolution possible. The central thesis of T. C. W. Blanning’s book The Culture of Power and the Power of Culture is that the Enlightenment era saw the rise of a ‘public sphere.’ That is to say “[b]y exchanging information, ideas, and criticism, these individuals created a cultural actor – the public- which has dominated European culture ever since.”17 What then is the relation between this new ‘general public’ and the Enlightenment?

It easy enough to see where the Grub Street hack writers would have come in. With the growing emphasis on newspapers, and other (what we would call) media outlets, this obviously left a gap for them to fill. More than this, public life began emphasising public venues, such as the theatre, and Blanning notes the ‘Querelle de Bouffons,’ a controversy that broke out over the merits of newer Italian opera, versus the older French operas of Lully of Rameau.18 This quarrel is interesting in that it not only involved the ‘general public’ but also the philosophes. Weighing in against Rameau was none other than Rousseau, Grimm and men such as Diderot and d’Alembert. The lesson Blanning claims can be inferred from this incident is that the court culture of Louis XIV began to be seen as outdated.19 Interestingly enough, d’Alembert wrote a pamphlet entitled ‘On the Liberty of Music.’ In it he writes that the ‘great political figures’ who oppose those argue for liberty in music complain that liberty in music is inextricably and inexorably linked with liberty in feeling, followed by liberty in thought, liberty in action, ending in the ruin of states.

Blanning notes that this is probably not too far off the mark. With the advent of the new Bouffon style of comedic opera, Rousseau saw the success of his own comic opera Le Devin du village, which Blanning argues “looks very much like an exercise in social criticism.”20 Rousseau then wrote his famous ‘Letter on French Music,’ whereby he accused the French of having no music, and that if they did it would be so much the worse for them. Such a brazen attack on French music caused deep offence, even amongst Frenchmen who preferred the Italian operas of the Bouffons and many made their complaints heard via print. As Outram notes, some of the new institutions and organisations that sprang up in this era “provided ways in which many different social strata could be exposed to the same ideas.”21 It was these institutions and this interchange of ideas that led to the emergence of a ‘new public sphere.’

Whence did this public sphere come? It was mostly the result of socio-political changes in not just Western Europe, but America also. Outram notes that the eighteenth century “was a time of economic expansion, increasing urbanisation, rising population, and improving communications in comparison to the stagnation of the previous century.”22 However, as Darnton notes, the philosophes themselves were not widely read in the lower classes. This new ‘general public’ read mostly gossip, pornography, and just general smut, which is generally where the Grub Street writers come in. The Grub Street writers, as we have previously discussed, were men who had grown up believing in a “republic of letters” but found out the hard way that unless you made it in the system of privilege and patronage, then you would not go very far. The one possible contradiction in Darnton’s hypothesis is that these Grub Street writers themselves actually read the Enlightenment philosophes or at least became somewhat acquainted with them. In the same way a youth today might aspire to become, say, an actor or musician, these men aspired to become the next Voltaire, or Diderot.

Upon finding that they could not succeed at their ambitious aspirations of fame and glory, and subsequently forced to live in the grim reality of Grub Street, they dispensed of such quaint ideals. In essence, they were desperate, and so wrote whatever would get them money. However, this can more or less be attributed to the socio-political factors above. It was the heightened sense of public awareness that gave a market for the writings of Grub Street, and made public opinion such a powerful force. Although the link between the Enlightenment philosophes and the Grub Street writers is there, which can further be demonstrated in how the revolutionaries attempted to justify their enterprise. In fact, more than this, Stromberg notes that, of the philosophes that were still alive, there was one group that attempted to “mediate between the great ideas of the past, on which they had been raised and which has dazzled them, and the tumultuous events of the present which might be the realisation of those ideas.”23 This group, however, ultimately failed, losing to the Jacobin faction, but this group distinctive and even had its own printing press to disseminate Enlightenment ideals to the general public.

It seems then, then the only link between the Enlightenment one can demonstrate is, at most, indirect. As Roger Chartier notes: “…the revolutionaries constructed a continuity that was primarily a process of justification and a search for paternity.”24 It should be clear, however, that the Enlightenment and the French Revolution are not as inexorably linked as previously assumed. A much more convincing argument, on the other hand, could be made in regards to the relationship between the Enlightenment and the American Revolution, but that is beyond the bounds of this essay to discuss. The biggest contributing factor were the new socio-political changes, and whether or not these changes were caused or influenced in any way by the Enlightenment is a question that shall not be addressed here (although certainly a relevant one!) A growing sense of public opinion and public awareness combined with the writings of Grub Street are ultimately what led to revolution, and whilst the link between Grub Street and the Enlightenment philosophes is certainly there, what also needs to be shown is that the public dissatisfaction with the court culture King Louis XIV and his successors was a result of the Enlightenment.

Perhaps the strongest conclusion that can be reached is that the philosophes were no revolutionaries, and even supported the current order, so if a more direct link could be shown between the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, then it could simply be put down to a misuse of enlightened ideals, and not an intended outcome of the Enlightenment at all. Of course, whether a misuse of ideals is inevitable is a further question raised by all of this, and it seems that the philosophes themselves would be inclined to agree that it was, given their attitudes towards the lower classes. So, again, if there is a link between the Enlightenment and the revolution, it was because Enlightenment ideals filtered down to the lower classes too rapidly. Whilst Darnton has more or less shown that the philosophes were not widely read in the lower classes, it does leave the question of whether or not their ideals found their way to the lower classes anyway (in one form or another.) Whatever the answer, then it should not reflect too badly on the philosophes, given they were aware of such pitfalls themselves.

Bibliography
T. C. W. Blanning, The Culture of Power and the Power of Culture: Old Regime Europe 1660-1789, Oxford University Press, (2002)
Roger Chartier, The Cultural Origins of the French Revolution, Lydia G. Cochran, trns., Duke University Press, (1991)
Robert Darnton, The Forbidden Best-Sellers of Pre-Revolutionary France, W.W. Norton & Company, (1996)
Robert Darnton, In Search of the Enlightenment: Recent Attempts to Create a Social History of Ideas, The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 43, No.1, (March, 1971), University of Chicago Press, pp113-132
Robert Darnton, The High Enlightenment and the Low-Life of Literature in Pre-Revolutionary France, Past and Present, No. 51, (May, 1971), Oxford University Press, pp81-115
Haydn T. Mason, ed., The Darnton Debate: Books and Revolution in the Eighteenth Century, Voltaire Foundation Ltd., (1998)
Dorinda Outram, The Enlightenment: New Approaches to European History, 2nd Edition, Cambridge University Press, (2005)
Roland N. Stromberg, The Philosophes and the French Revolution: Reflections on Some Recent Research, The History Teacher, Vol. 21, No. 3, (May, 1988), Society for the History of Education, pp321-339

Notes:
1 For example, Peter Gay.
2 The same historians also tend to deny that the Enlightenment had any influence and all, not to mention postmodernism denies the objectivity of historical research. This is an irony that they otherwise appear to be blind to.
3 Dorinda Outram, The Enlightenment: New Approaches to European History, 2nd Edition, Cambridge University Press, (2005), p126
4 Dorinda Outram, The Enlightenment, p131
5 Roland N. Stromberg, The Philosophes and the French Revolution: Reflections on Some Recent Research, The History Teacher, Vol. 21, No. 3, (May, 1988), Society for the History of Education, pp321-339, p323
6 Robert Darnton, In Search of the Enlightenment: Recent Attempts to Create a Social History of Ideas, The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 43, No.1, (March, 1971), University of Chicago Press, pp113-132, p119
7 Robert Darnton, The High Enlightenment and the Low-Life of Literature in Pre-Revolutionary France, Past and Present, No. 51, (May, 1971), Oxford University Press, pp81-115, p85-86
8 Robert Darnton, In Search of the Enlightenment, p127
9 Robert Darnton, In Search of the Enlightenment, p124
10 Robert Darnton, Two Paths Through the Social History of Ideas, from Haydn T. Mason, ed., The Darnton Debate: Books and Revolution in the Eighteenth Century, Voltaire Foundation Ltd., (1998), p253
11 Robert Darnton, The High Enlightenment and the Low-Life of Literature in Pre-Revolutionary France, p100
12 Robert Darnton, The High Enlightenment and the Low-Life of Literature in Pre-Revolutionary France, p101
13 Jeremy D. Popkin, Robert Darnton’s Alternative (to the) Enlightenment, from Haydn T. Mason, ed., The Darnton Debate: Books and Revolution in the Eighteenth Century, Voltaire Foundation Ltd., (1998), p110
14 Jeremy D. Popkin, Robert Darnton’s Alternative (to the) Enlightenment, from Haydn T. Mason, ed., The Darnton Debate, p108
15 Robert Darnton, The High Enlightenment and the Low-Life of Literature in Pre-Revolutionary France, p102
16 Ibid.
17 T. C. W. Blanning, The Culture of Power and the Power of Culture: Old Regime Europe 1660-1789, Oxford University Press, (2002), p2
18 T. C. W. Blanning, The Culture of Power and the Power of Culture, p357-360
19 T. C. W. Blanning, The Culture of Power and the Power of Culture, p360
20 T. C. W. Blanning, The Culture of Power and the Power of Culture, p363
21 Dorinda Outram, The Enlightenment, p12
22 Ibid.
23 Roland N. Stromberg, The Philosophes and the French Revolution, p327
24 Roger Chartier, The Cultural Origins of the French Revolution, Lydia G. Cochran, trns., Duke University Press, (1991), p5