When The World Spoke French by Marc Fumaroli
(New York Review Books Classics)

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Synopsis

A New York Review Books Original

During the eighteenth century, from the death of Louis XIV until the Revolution, French culture set the standard for all of Europe. In Sweden, Austria, Italy, Spain, England, Russia, and Germany, among kings and queens, diplomats, military leaders, writers, aristocrats, and artists, French was the universal language of politics and intellectual life. In When the World Spoke French, Marc Fumaroli presents a gallery of portraits of Europeans and Americans who conversed and corresponded in French, along with excerpts from their letters or other writings. 

  These men and women, despite their differences, were all irresistibly attracted to the ideal of human happiness inspired by the Enlightenment, whose capital was Paris and whose king was Voltaire. Whether they were in Paris or far away, speaking French connected them in spirit with all those who desired to emulate Parisian tastes, style of life, and social pleasures. Their stories are testaments to the appeal of that famous “sweetness of life” nourished by France and its language. 

 

About Marc Fumaroli

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Marc Fumaroli is a scholar of French classical rhetoric and art. He is a member of the British Academy, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Société d'histoire littéraire de la France, and the Académie française. Fumaroli received from the Académie française, before being elected a member, the Monseigneur Marcel Prize in 1982 and the Critique Prize in 1992, and he is president of the Société des Amis du Louvre. He won the Balzan Prize for Literary History and Criticism in 2001, and is the author of numerous books including L'Âge de l'éloquence, Héros et orateurs, L'École du silence, and Trois institutions littéraires. Richard Howard received a National Book Award for his translation of Les Fleurs du mal and a Pulitzer Prize for Untitled Subjects, his third volume of poems. He is the translator of the NYRB Classics Alien Hearts and The Unknown Masterpiece.
 
Published June 14, 2011 by NYRB Classics. 576 pages
Genres: History, Education & Reference, Travel. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for When The World Spoke French

The New York Times

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A magisterial study of the role of the French language in its 18th-century heyday, when it was it was still the international idiom of choice.

Jul 08 2011 | Read Full Review of When The World Spoke French (...

Publishers Weekly

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In the 18th century, French was the language of culture and diplomacy, uniquely suited to express the wit and style of mainly European political, social, and literary luminaries, according to veteran French scholar Fumaroli. Letters and memoirs composed in French from major figures like Frederic...

Apr 04 2011 | Read Full Review of When The World Spoke French (...

The Wall Street Journal

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Mr. Fumaroli agrees: The courtly way of life is his maquette for the spread of human happiness (he never mentions that you had to have the standing and the old money to enjoy it): "Elegance, politesse and a new sweetness of manners .

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The Wall Street Journal

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"Et ta soeur," as the French sometimes say (meaning, "nuts to that!"), but they also say "Chapeau!"

Jul 09 2011 | Read Full Review of When The World Spoke French (...

The Telegraph

Written with a brio and intensity entirely worthy of its theme, When the World Spoke French is essentially a graceful vehicle for the writer’s personal anxiety as to the global decline of the language whose flame he has always so ardently sought to keep.

Aug 16 2011 | Read Full Review of When The World Spoke French (...

Review (Barnes & Noble)

Following a brief sojourn in Paris during his youth, the abbé was obliged to return to Naples, where he "became for correspondence in French what Casanova was...for French mémoires: the supreme master in his genre, besides Voltaire."

Aug 31 2011 | Read Full Review of When The World Spoke French (...

The New York Review of Books

When the World Spoke French, Marc Fumaroli’s engaging portrait of a time when French was the intellectual lingua franca of Europe and beyond, is appearing in English for the first time in a translation by Pulitzer Prize winner, Richard Howard.

Jul 01 2011 | Read Full Review of When The World Spoke French (...

The New York Review of Books

Letters and memoirs composed in French from major figures like Frederick II of Prussia and Catherine the Great of Russia, along with relative unknowns like Neapolitan Abbé Galiani or American Gouverneur Morris, map a trail from the enlightened salons of Paris to the partition of Poland by Prussia...

Jun 14 2011 | Read Full Review of When The World Spoke French (...

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