Montesquieu and England: Enlightened Exchanges 1689-1755 by Ursula Haskins Gonthier

By Ursula Haskins Gonthier

Gonthier units Montesquieu's paintings within the context of early eighteenth-century Anglo-French kin. She takes a comparative method of exhibit how Montesquieu's engagement with English proposal and writing persevered all through his writing profession. He was once relatively stimulated through the social and political theories of Hobbes and Locke, the writings of the Earl of Shaftesbury, Francis Hutcheson, and essays that seemed in Addison and Steele's Spectator and Bolingbroke's Craftsman. Gonthier argues that Montesquieu's paintings is a website of highbrow and cultural trade among England and France throughout the early Enlightenment.

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Arguing in the Essay that human reason must constitute a God-given faculty, Locke had concluded that reason and revelation were in no way incompatible: ‘God when he makes the prophet does not unmake the man. 124 David Zaret notes that Locke’s theories were instrumental in bringing an end to ‘the clerical monopoly on religious discourse’ that had prevailed in England up until the late seventeenth century. 125 In the Lettres persanes, Usbek’s theological enquiries to Persian clerics show him struggling to reconcile reason with revelation.

Usbek moves from a depiction of the English to the communication of English ideas on government and society, a transition clearly marked with the phrase ‘[the English] have extraordinary things to say on this matter’. Throughout the letter, markers of indirect speech (‘they say that’, ‘they claim that’, ‘according to them’) continually punctuate Usbek’s words. This is a useful reminder of the fact that the letter contains opinions attributed to the English but reported by a Persian. The viewpoint of Usbek, the domestic despot who tyrannizes the wives and eunuchs in his Persian seraglio, must not be confused with that of the English whose opinions he relays.

However, since his article appeared scholars have become better informed as to the mechanisms of intellectual exchange between France and England in the early Enlightenment. 47 True to their role as promoters of rational debate within the public sphere, the Huguenot journalists who reviewed Shaftesbury’s work in their literary periodicals clearly explained his ideological position to French readers. Reviewing Shaftesbury’s work in the Bibliothèque choisie Jean Le Clerc comments that: He [Shaftesbury] attacks Hobbes’s opinions concerning the principles of society, which he established … without acknowledging the existence of any natural affection that men might bear for each other.

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