Voltaire’s correspondence network: questions of exploration and interpretation
The vast corpus of Voltaire’s correspondence (over 21,000 letters) poses formidable problems of interpretation. It is significantly lopsided, with many more letters from than to Voltaire, and containing dispropor- tionately more letters dating from the later period. Voltaire sought to control his legacy, and some at least among the surviving letters have been manipulated: Voltaire’s letters are primarily literary perfor- mances. There is undoubtedly more to discover about the shape of this corpus: the abbé Trublet, for example, although only a modest correspondent of Voltaire’s, occupies a significant position as a ‘node’ in the Voltairean network.
Catherine the Great and the art of epistolary networking
Kelsey Rubin-Detlev and Andrew Kahn
Catherine the Great of Russia (reigned from 1762 to 1796) made epistolary networking central to her strategies for asserting herself and her nation as a great power in Europe. The vocabulary of social network analysis helps to untangle the web of different networks into which Catherine’s ego-network led and to understand how Catherine acquired a position of prestige within them. A case study of a single episode – Catherine’s matchmaking for her son Paul – illustrates this process, but it also shows how far digital tools still are from providing sufficient resources for a complete picture of the dynamics of eighteenth-century epistolary networking.
‘He belonged to Europe’: Francesco Algarotti (1712-1764) and his European networks
In what can be described as a reverse Grand Tour, Francesco Algarotti (1712-1764) travelled to and lived in a stunning number of places, including Venice, Bologna, Padua, Florence, Rome, Paris, London, St Petersburg, Berlin and Dresden. Described posthumously by Voltaire as having ‘belonged to Europe’, Algarotti made use of his travels and his authorship of Il Newtonianismo per le dame to establish and expand his networks, keeping in touch with his contacts through correspondence as he moved from city to city. An analysis of Algarotti’s correspondence and correspondents reveals how this Venetian made a name for himself across Europe.
The networks and the reputation of an ambitious Republican of Letters: Jacques de Pérard (Paris, 1713-Stettin, 1766)
Born in Paris in 1713, Jacques de Pérard (1713-1766) experienced exile like many Huguenot refugees at the age of nine. After graduation, he was appointed pastor of the Calvinist French churches established in the kingdom of Prussia, but he was also determined to climb up the ladder of scholarly and social recognition among his peers, and to develop strong and friendly links with the inner circle of the Republic of Letters. Pérard was conscious of how intense and sometimes excessive his investment in networking was. Thanks to his correspondence and his erudite journeys, Pérard’s ideas and desire for achievement travelled across Europe when he was not himself on his way. Exploring and editing his correspondence provides the opportunity to reassemble the Republic of Letters in the age of Enlightenment.
Julie de Lespinasse and the ‘philosophical’ salon
Chloe Summers Edmondson
From 1764 to 1776 in Paris on the rue Saint-Dominique, Julie de Lespinasse assembled together in her salon some of the most prominent figures of elite French society and of the Enlightenment. This case study reconstructs her network on the basis of salon attendee
data, and analyses the social and intellectual composition of her salon to address the question of how to distinguish the ‘philosophical’ salon from the mondain salon. A network analysis of Lespinasse’s salon reveals several features indicative of intellectual activity, from its high level of integration with the philosophes, gens de lettres, academies and correspondents of major Enlightenment figures, to its similarities and overlap with the baron d’Holbach’s network.
‘Un admirateur des philosophes modernes’: the networks of Swedish ambassador Gustav Philip Creutz in Paris, 1766-1783
This chapter analyses the social networks of the Swedish diplomat Count Gustav Philip Creutz (1731-1785) during his embassy to France. The main source is the Contrôle des étrangers series, which contains weekly police reports on the diplomat’s frequentations and whereabouts, allowing for a statistical study. The source shows an aristocratic and cosmopolitan network, where the radical circles close to the Encyclopédie nevertheless had a given place. As the analysis closes in on Creutz’s contacts with philosophers, writers and other intellectuals, the study also discusses the relationship between worldly sociability and philosophical engagement in the age of Enlightenment.
Casanova’s French networks: transitioning from a backstage coterie to the beau monde
Maria Teodora Comsa
With Giacomo Casanova’s Histoire de ma vie as data source, this chapter traces the creation of his personal network of influence in Paris during his two visits (1750-1752 and 1757-1760). Using performers and especially women performers as conduits to the beau monde, Casanova gains entrance to the most selective intellectual and elite groups of Parisian society. Select examples from his memoirs and analysis of the data derived from them allow for an exploration of Casanova’s Parisian networks’ nature and functioning. The analysis reveals the importance of theatre performers in introducing Casanova to the French Enlightenment network.
The eighteenth-century French academic network
The role of the academies in the Republic of Letters is complex. Founded by the State, French academies functioned as semi-autonomous networks of scholars. Using various tools of network analysis, this chapter reveals that the French academies formed a single network, based in Paris, which extended throughout France and across Europe. This academic network was fundamental to the development of the Enlightenment precisely because it was geographically dispersed but also well integrated – largely through the connections of a few academic superstars, who were disproportionately scientists, and of academic connectors, many of whom were famous philosophers.
The principles of meaning: networks of knowledge in Johnson’s
Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English language stands, alongside the French Encyclopédie and Chambers’ Cyclopedia, as a major eighteenth- century project of knowledge creation. Like the intricate designs that connect articles in the encyclopedias, Johnson’s definitions are densely woven with hundreds of thousands of quotations from individual authors, offering fascinating insights into both Johnson’s lexicography and the ways in which the Dictionary concretised the relationships between words and texts. Using a networked-based approach, this chapter explores these connections and reveals the ways in which Johnson’s Dictionary built connections that sought to legislate the practices of reading in the eighteenth century.