Darrin M McMahon

Fighting Philosophers

Revolutionary Ideas: An Intellectual History of the French Revolution from The Rights of Man to Robespierre

By

Princeton University Press 888pp £27.95 order from our bookshop

Jonathan Israel’s Revolutionary Ideas opens with a scene that will be familiar to anyone who has frequented the expat pubs of Paris: Brits, Yanks and Irish getting pissed together in Francophilic fraternité. True, the group assembled at White’s Hotel on 18 November 1792 was rather more high-minded than your average holidaying punters. They included the English and American revolutionaries Thomas Paine and Joel Barlow, the Presbyterian minister David Williams, the former member of parliament Sir Robert Smyth, the Scots journalist and solider John Oswald, the Irish Lord Edward Fitzgerald and the poets Helen Maria Williams and Robert Merry. Even Wordsworth may have been on hand. Collectively, they raised their glasses in a succession of toasts: to the rights of man and the citizen; to the new French republic; to the end of feudalism; to women; and to patriots pursuing revolution throughout the world. Finally, in the last of the tributes, they drank to universal peace. By that point, clearly, everyone was drunk.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Lecture on war and peace in 19th-century Europe by Professor Sir Richard Evans, Thurs 25 Oct, 6.30pm Europe House… ,
    • 'Why, throughout the world, are so many people fascinated by the fiction and reality of espionage? And why of all p… ,
    • . here on books, Muriel Spark and life's tangled dance ,
    • RT : There aren't enough aggressive subtitles these days: ,
    • Churchill's on the cover of the October edition of the magazine. Piers Brendon reviews two new books about the Brit… ,
    • 'Readers have no more power to predict where the next story is going to take them than the prisoners had to determi… ,
    • 'Ho was no Soviet or Chinese puppet. He was a nationalist first and foremost. Had the Americans just realised this.… ,