A Wicked Company

A Wicked Company

The Forgotten Radicalism of the European Enlightenment

Book - 2010
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The acclaimed author of The Vertigo Years tells the remarkable story of the Parisian salon that brought together the greatest minds of the 18th century - Rousseau, Hume, Diderot, Voltaire, Benjamin Franklin - and changed the world forever.

The Paris salon of Paul-Henri Thiry, Baron d'Holbach - where friendship and radical philosophy flourished throughout the 1760s - stands as a seminal event in Western history. Over wine-soaked dinner parties, the finest minds of the Western world matched wits and scandalized one another with their radical ideas. Holbach's house became an epicenter of free thinking, a place like no other in repressive eighteenth-century Europe, frequented by men and women united by their love of intellectual freedom, their contempt for the conventional, and often the danger of persecution. It was a moment of astonishing radicalism in European thought, so uncompromising and bold that its vision has still not been fully realized.

In A Wicked Company , acclaimed historian Philipp Blom describes the fortunes of this group of friends: writers of genius all, full of wit and courage, but also personal contradictions, doubts, conflicts of conscience, and their fair share of arguments and love affairs. Their bracing, liberating, humanist vision bursts free of the page in Blom's telling, and their analysis of our culture remains as valid as it was then. A startlingly relevant work of narrative history, Wicked Company forces us to confront with new eyes modern debates about our society and its future.
Publisher: Toronto : McClelland & Stewart, c2010
ISBN: 9780771016356
Branch Call Number: 190 Blo
Characteristics: xx, 361 p. : ill. ; 25 cm


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Nov 03, 2018

The organizing locus of the book is the dinners hosted by Holbach, and the people who attended them, with special focus on Diderot, Rousseau, and an array of others. I was surprised to learn of the turncoat priest, Meslier, and how influential his posthumous writings were. The manipulativeness and hypocrisy of Voltaire is (thankfully) exposed and demonstrated. Numerous works and their arguments are very briefly and clearly explicated. The narrative of events and relationships over the course of four decades the main driver of the book, and Blom makes something scholarly into something rich, interesting and entertaining. This would make a great book to accompany lectures introducing the Enlightenment and the philosophes. Extensive notes (of original sources in their original language, as well as scholarly studies) and useful further guide.

Feb 28, 2013

Lots of interesting stuff about Denis Diderot, Baruck Spinoza, and Rousseau that fills in many of the gaps I’ve had about the Enlightenment. A painless writing style. I enjoyed this.

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