JOURNALISM * FRANCE
Simon-Nicholas Henri Linguet (1736-1794),
Linguet, Simon-Nicolas-Henri (1736-94). Though neglected by modern historians, Linguet must be judged one of the most intriguing and prolific French controversialists and political analysts of the later 18th c.
Temperamental and arrogant, he was nevertheless capable of courageous and original work.Born in Reims, he had three successive careers, as soldier, fashionable advocate, and journalist.
The mastery of forensic rhetoric displayed notoriously in his mémoire for the comte de Morangiès may be contrasted with his defence of justice on behalf of the chevalier de la Barre’s co-defendants (1766), of the Brabant insurgents (1789-90), and finally of the political rights of Dominica (1791). During his editorship the Journal de politique et de littérature (1744-8) was noteworthy for its coverage of English life. Sometime ally and opponent of Voltaire, he drew on him for his own dramatic and satirical works (Socrate, 1764; La Cacomonade, 1766), and dedicated the best of his critical writing to him (Examen des ouvrages de Voltaire, 1788).
His Annales politiques, civiles et littéraires (1779-90) are a notable source work for the period. Best known, the Théorie des lois civiles (1767), ostensibly refuting Montesquieu, offers some of the most subversive political analysis of the century. Behind a façade of reactionary pessimism, Linguet projects law and social institutions together as legitimations of brigandage rather than bastions of freedom. Thus, while he was guillotined for advocating despotism, we may more accurately judge him an ally of Rousseau and a precursor of Marx.
This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
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