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Greece restored: Greece and the Greek War of Independence in French Romantic historiography 1821-1830.

The collapse of the Napoleonic imperium and the re-establishment of the Bourbon monarchy in 1814 created, if we are to believe the autobiographical reflections of writers such as Quinet and Musset, an intense feeling of anticlimax and purposelessness in the young generation of French intellectuals, a sense of being the orphans of history. Within a few years, however, the dull conservatism of the Restoration was to produce a contrario an exciting new grouping of liberal writers and thinkers, the generation of 1820 as Alan Spitzer has labelled them.(1) Reacting to political and social events outside as well as inside France, these figures, whose house journal became from 1824 to 1830 the Globe,(2) were largely responsible for the creation of a dynamic and forward-looking liberal Romanticism which replaced the largely static and nostalgic monarchist ideology characteristic of the movement in the early Restoration. Of all the causes outside France which liberal ideology could espouse, none was more energizing than the Greek struggle against Turkish rule from 1821 onwards. Philhellenism thus became one of the main outlets for Romantic sensibility in the 1820s, in France as in many other European countries, and found expression in various artistic media, literature, painting and even music.(3)

This same decade also saw an immense increase in the production and consumption of works of historiography in France. The end of a period of lived change saw the beginning of an attempt to reflect on the causes and consequences of change. In this article I shall examine the encounter between a privileged mode of contemporary discourse and one realization of the dominant political and cultural ideology of liberal Romanticism. In this convergence between the cause of philhellenism and the practice of historiography, I wish to consider in particular the emergence of a new perception of Greek national identity in French culture of the period, one which projects and reflects some of the key preoccupations of liberal thought in the late Restoration.

As the extent of Loukia Droulia's bibliography amply shows,(4) works of philhellenism proliferated in English, German and Italian in the 1820s, as well as in French. The French connection was however, particularly close because France considered itself, to use Chateaubriand's expression in his Note sur la Grace (1825), 'la fille ainee de la Grece'. This claimed spiritual affinity is of course primarily due to the cult of the classical ideal in literature and the arts. On another, contemporary level, however, the role relations between France and Greece could be seen as reversed, since liberal opinion often took the example of the French Revolution as a model for the Greek struggle for independence and considered the role of diaspora Greeks in contact with Western thought to be an important factor in the outbreak and hoped for success of the uprising.(5) The Greek scholar Adamantios Korais (Coray), who had settled in France, was often cited as an exemplar of such a fusion of the classical Greek tradition with modern French enlightened thought.

Before 1821 contemporary Greece was present in French culture through an extensive body of travel writing. The best known and most successful of these writings were, apart from Chateaubriand's Itineraire de Paris a Jerusalem (1811), Guys's Voyage litteraire de la Grece (1771), Choiseul-Gouffier's Voyage pittoresque de la Grece (1782) and, of more recent vintage, Pouqueville's Voyage dans la Grece (1820).(6) This travel literature belonged to a tradition of amateur antiquarian interest in the beauties of classical Greece monuments, cultivated by aristocratic travellers and/or diplomats for whom contemporary Greeks were merely rather pathetic if not sordid figures in a picturesque classical landscape. The most successful late eighteenth-century publication on Greece was not, however, a work of topography proper but a work of fiction set in the fourth century BC, the abbe Barthelemy's Voyage du jeune Anacharsis en Grece. This roman de voyage, first published in 1788, was soon translated into English and then adapted for children and republished in new editions in the 1820s. Interest in the way Greece was portrayed in travel literature was to some extent prolonged and renewed by the events of 1821 onwards. The Philhellene Ambroise Firmin-Didot, for example, justified the publication in 1826 of his Notes d'un voyage fait dans le Levant en 1816 et 1817 by the changed circumstances which gave his account a new historical interest as bearing witness to the 'derniers moments de l'esclavage des Grecs'.(7) Whether fictional or factual in content, the works of travel literature were focused on the landscapes, monuments and history of Greece's classical past rather than on the current state of its people. Though there are the early stirrings of philhellenic sentiment in some of these pre-war writings, notably in Guys and Choiseul-Gouffier, an interest in matters relating to contemporary Greece and Greeks still needed to be validated by reference to the classical past and to be valued by the extent to which it cast light on that period.

After the beginning of the Greek war of liberation, heralded by the abortive revolt in spring 1821 in the Danubian republics but followed by the uprising proper in the Morea (Peloponnese) and the islands, the focus of French writing on Greece shifted from topography to historiography in an attempt to understand and to explain the origins of the movement. In the case of studies of the Greek struggle for independence, as in those of the French Revolution, liberal Restoration historiography investigated the recent past in order to legitimate its present ideological stance. In the case of the former, however, even the relative historical distance of 1789 was missing. What was available to the historical interpretation and imagination of the generation of the 1820s was a sense of the strangeness and otherness of contemporary Greece complemented by an awareness of its newness and its relevance to their own dynamic sense of historical change. Out of the corruptness and decadence of the old, a new world was being born. By substituting the Ottoman empire for the aristocratic feudalism of the ancien regime the liberal historian could interpret the Greek struggle for national independence as a re-enactment of the French people's fight for liberty.

Contemporary coverage of the Greek war as reflected in French newspapers and periodicals of the Restoration was subject to the vagaries of poor communication, compounded by the unpredictable and rapidly changing fortunes of war for each side.(8) In these circumstances it may seem surprising to us that the medium of the printed book with its much longer time schedules should have been used at all to represent and reflect upon the evolution of the war. Yet despite these material disadvantages, numerous books appeared during the 1820s with the aim of recounting and explaining events unfolding in Greece. The titles of these works reveal clear differences in scope and ambition: some were memoirs of participants or observers but others, eschewing false modesty, staked their claim to be works of history.(9) All these works were the product of circumstance and born of the direct experience of their authors, either diplomatic or military. In addition, however, to these works of circumstance, which were basically narrative accounts of recent events, we find a number of studies on contemporary Greece by established or rising members of the Romantic school, notably Fauriel, Villemain and Quinet. All these writers, to a greater or lesser extent, interpreted the contemporary Greek conflict as an assertion of an underlying sense of national identity which it was the task of the historian to identify and follow through. In this article I shall examine a number of works from each of these categories and shall explore how the representation of the Greek struggle for independence foregrounds two of the central tenets of liberal Romantic ideology, the belief in the continuity of a national tradition expressed particularly in its popular culture and the desire to reconcile a dynamic and conflictual view of human history with the principle of social harmony.

The most significant contribution to the study of modern Greek culture published in France during the 1820s was not a work of historiography proper but a collection of poetry, Claude Fauriel's edition of Chants populaires de la Grece moderne, based on material supplied to him by other scholars, notably Corais.(10) The success of a first volume of poems published in 1824 led to the publication of more texts in a second volume the following year and to a German translation by Wilhelm Muller, also in 1825. Fauriel's prose translations of each of the poems also provided the basis of a verse rendering of selected songs produced by Nepomucene Lemercier under the title of Chants heroiques des montagnards et matelots grecs (1824). Most of Fauriel's published output, notably his posthumous Histoire de la poesie provencale (1846) and Dante et les origines de la langue et de la litterature italiennes (1854), is devoted to comparative literary history and is informed - or, by modern standards, distorted - by a belief in the centrality of the poetic tradition of the Old Provencal troubadours to the epic as well as lyric tradition in the medieval Romance vernaculars. The link between Fauriel's work on the Romance languages and this collection of modern Greek poetry is provided by the other central focus of his view of literary history, an interest in the transmission of oral poetry. This type of poetry, whatever the culture to which it belonged, embodied for Fauriel the values of an authentically national and popular tradition which ran parallel to a learned literature. Far from being devalued by comparison it was to be appreciated for its own qualities of spontaneity and originality. As Michel Espagne has argued, Fauriel was a key figure in the importing into France of German Romantic ideas on literary history but in taking up the notions of the national and the popular he applied them to Romance and not Germanic material. Fauriel thus played in literary history a role parallel to that of Quinet in the history of religion and of philosophy, serving as an intermediary for German Romantic thought.(11)

To categorize Fauriel solely as an historian of literature would, however, be to ignore his contribution to Romantic historiography proper in his Histoire de la Gaule meridionale sous la domination des conquerants germains (1836). Even more fundamentally, such a narrow view of his achievement would fail to recognize Fauriel's sense of the wholeness of the historian's task and of the interdependence between literature and society. Fauriel's ambition was to identify the central dynamic of a society and to see this realized in its literature, following the Romantic precept of a literature being the expression of a society. In the case of medieval French literature this organizing principle was chivalry. The relationship between literature, history and society is equally close if less easily defined in the case of Greek popular poetry. Thus, a complete collection of the latter would constitute, according to Fauriel, 'a la fois et la veritable histoire nationale de la Grece moderne et le tableau le plus fidele des moeurs de ses habitants'.(12) Given this conceptual framework it is unsurprising to note that the philosopher Jouffroy chose to review Fauriel's work alongside Pouqueville's survey of recent Greek history, Histoire de la regeneration de la Grece, in the first article in an important series on the Greek revolution which he contributed to the Globe in 1824.(13) According to an article published in the same journal in 1829, the Chants populaires had proved more useful to the Greek cause in France than 'cent volumes d'apologie'.(14)

Fauriel's bias towards the historical is evident also in the emphasis he gives to the chants historiques over his other two categories, chants romanesques and chants domestiques. In his lengthy discours preliminaire Fauriel exalts the role of the klephts as representing the spirit of national independence in the struggle against the Turkish occupation. This group of fighters, originally armed bandits who fought against the Turk-organized Christian militia called armatoloi, have succeeded in constituting within occupied Greece an independent nation, 'une patrie sur les montagnes'.(15) Although in 1824 the social and political situation after the war is difficult to predict, Fauriel has no doubts about the role the klephts will have played in ensuring a military victory:

Acheveront-ils leur ouvrage? Seront-ils aussi sages qu'intrepides? Unis pour vaincre, le seront-ils pour user de la victoire? La Grece, enfin, sera-t-elle affranchie par leurs efforts, secondes par ceux de ses invincibles marins et de tous ses enfants? Voila des questions que tout le monde se fait aujourd'hui. L'histoire y repondra: on peut seulement affirmer qu'au point ou en sont maintenant les choses entre les Grecs et les Turks [sic], la defaite des premiers serait une calamite des plus inattendues.(16)

Fauriel considers the songs celebrating the heroic exploits of the klephts to be a repository of the history of the Greek people since the Turkish conquest and that a complete collection of their songs would be an Iliad of modern Greece, worthy even in literary merit to set alongside its classical predecessor. His introduction ends with a plea to modern Greeks to collect and preserve the products of the popular imagination so that for them and for modern Europeans familiarity with the learned, i.e. classical, tradition of Greek poetry might be complemented by an appreciation of 'ces simples monuments du genie de l'histoire et des moeurs de leurs peres'.(17)

Fauriel's aim in the discours preliminaire is to relate the texts preserved by oral transmission to the Greek sense of identity and independence affirmed in the armed struggle since 1821. This oral literature is perceived as quite distinct from the classical tradition which has been fully integrated into the Western literary consciousness. Yet at the same time this remoteness and otherness of popular oral poetry is naturalized by its own antiquity and therefore becomes an object of literary as well as historical value.

A similar preoccupation with the definition and origins of Greek national identity can be found in another work favourable to the Greek cause, Villemain's Essai historique sur l'etat des Grecs depuis la conquete musulmane (1825). Villemain (1790-1870) came to prominence in the world of letters at the beginning of the Restoration and by 1816 had already been appointed to the chaire de l'eloquence francaise at the Sorbonne. In the latter part of the Restoration, however, he became a focus of liberal opposition to the ultras and, along with Guizot and Cousin, one of the triumvirate of professors seen as intellectual heroes by the generation of 1820. Villemain's essay on Greek history, first published in 1825, was a companion piece to Lascaris, an historical novella which depicted the experiences of the Byzantine scholar after he sought refuge in Italy following the fall of Constantinople in 1543.(18) Villemain's main theme in Lascaris is the translatio studii, the transmission of classical Greek culture to the West after the Turkish conquest. The essay which complements this short narrative text addresses a central problem of historical interpretation: how to account for the discontinuity between two stages in a culture, a past one of apparently terminal decline and a present one of revival and renaissance. Villemain's aim is to examine the factors which have enabled the survival of a sense of Greek identity between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries. It is important to note here that in his approach to Greek history Villemain relates the present not to the classical past but to the medieval period, the age of Byzantium. Like Fauriel's, Villemain's project is a search for a national consciousness which is collective and popular and which was proof against oppression. At opposite ends of this historical continuum stand the contrasting representative figures of Byzantium and modern Greece and the task of the historian is therefore to explain how the theologians and scholars of the former had as successors 'les patres guerriers du Pinde et les matelots d'Ipsara'.(19)

Villemain's solution to this question is firstly to emphasize the unity of the Greek people resulting from a shared condition of slavery and oppression irrespective of differences of social class. A second factor of unity is religion, which again provides a common cause against the occupying power, whether Turkish or Venetian. Indeed, Villemain argues that animosity towards the latter was even stronger than towards the former because the Greeks lived the Turkish occupation with a certain fatalism but felt a deep sense of humiliation at the Venetian presence. Villemain sees the power of the Church over the people as beneficial on the whole because it helped to ensure national unity and identity. He draws, too, a parallel with French history concerning the interrelationship between Church and state/nation:

Ce qui se passait en France au huitieme siecle, lorsque l'etat etait entierement dans l'eglise et qu'il n'y avait d'autre vie publique, d'autre histoire que celle du clerge, se reproduisait alors parmi les chretiens de la Grece, et cet ordre des choses, qui serait oppressif et bizarre chez un peuple maitre de son territoire et de lui-meme, etait dans l'asservissement de la Grece une protection salutaire, et conservait seul un peuple que tout semblait detruire.(20)

Within this overall framework of a unity born essentially of oppression, Villemain does, however, bring out the specific contributions to the struggle for national survival and revival made by different social groupings, notably the fanariots, the klephts and the ship-owning bourgeoisie of the islands. The fanariots, so called because they lived in the lighthouse (fanar) quarter of Constantinople, were a Greek noblesse de robe who occupied high administrative positions within the Ottoman empire. Despite the extreme differences between the klephts and the fanariots, in terms of social position, wealth and authority within the state, Villemain sees both groups as serving the national cause of independence, though in quite contrasting ways. The klephts, despite their poverty and barbarity were imbued with a sense of the national whilst the fanariots, though despising their native country and serving the Turks, also attained a sort of independence within the Ottoman state and contributed to the Greek cause by their wealth. From the latter part of the eighteenth century the rise of another social group, the ship-owners of the islands, also produced a new sense of pride and national worth as well as increased prosperity.

In common with all other liberal French historians Villemain sought to evaluate the role of the French Revolution as a possible catalyst for the events of the 1820s. Villemain acknowledges the importance of contacts between diaspora Greeks and enlightened Western and especially French thought in the late eighteenth century but he is critical of the indifference of writers such as Voltaire to the sufferings of the Greeks after the failure of the uprising of 1770, just as he is anxious to denounce the political self-interest of Russia in its support for the Greek cause. The Greeks' perception of the French Revolution was, according to Villemain, rather distant and incomplete. They were unacquainted with its crimes but were aware in very general terms that the world was changing quickly and that change was also possible for them. Villemain is nevertheless at pains to down-play the direct influence of republican ideas as a factor in fomenting revolution in Greece. Republican theories imported from France were less important factors than what Villemain calls 'l'enthousiasme religieux' and 'l'independance native du patre et du matelot'.(21)

Villemain's explanation of the renewal of the Greek nation rests not on external factors but on internal ones, both social, religious and moral. Ideas are less important than experience, especially the experience of suffering. It is this sense of oppression, felt most acutely amongst the ordinary people, together with a yearning for freedom that Villemain sees as the distinctive characteristics of the Greek national struggle. This popular sentiment did not need to wait for intellectual justification; it was the expression of a natural desire for freedom. Villemain's historical understanding is here at its most Romantic, both in its moral dimension with an emphasis on human freedom and in its aesthetic dimension of a coexistence of opposites. This vision of a new Greece struggling to be born is reminiscent of the liberal Romantic of the French Middle Ages torn between barbarity and civilization, beauty and ugliness: y avait dans la simplicite a demi sauvage de quelques cantons de la Grece chretienne, dans la vie rude des klephtes, un germe de liberte plus puissant; et la souffrance du peuple ne lui permettait guere d'attendre qu'il fut eclaire pour commencer a s'affranchir. De la ces elements si divers qui concoururent au soulevement de la Grece; de la cette prodigieuse inegalite de civilisation, qui rend si difficile le travail de sa renaissance; mais de la cette force irresistible et spontanee, qui determinait dans la Grece un evenement ou les Grecs etaient pousses a la fois par la civilisation et par la barbarie, par l'enthousiasme religieux et par les idees modernes, par les richesses et par la pauvrete; un evenement que voulaient le patre, le matelot, le marchand, le pretre, le pontife, et meme le prince du Fanar, expose dans son palais a la bastonnade et au cordon.(22)

Villemain envisions contemporary Greece as a place of change and conflict but beyond its divisions lie unity and harmony. This combination of a dynamic sense of difference and an impulsion towards unity is one of the hallmarks of liberal bourgeois historiography which both recognizes and euphemizes social disharmony.

Both Fauriel and Villemain were leading figures in the intellectual life of the Restoration who went on to enjoy continued public success in the July Monarchy, the former in academic life as the first holder of a chair of foreign literature established for him by Guizot in 1830, the latter in politics as minister of education (1840-1844) in Guizot's ministry. The impact of their studies of Greek culture and their support for the Greek cause was due in no small part to their existing stature within the literary establishment. I wish now to examine briefly a number of works on the war which were produced by much less well known figures of the period but which can shed light on the extent to which the views of Fauriel and Villemain were representative of the time. In particular I shall examine whether the main factors in the Greek national revival were considered to be external or internal, what were the relations between the classical past and the present in Greek history and which was the dominant principle of Greek society and culture, unity or diversity.

The typical reaction of visitors to Greece before the 1820s was one of horror at the prevailing state of material deprivation and moral degradation of the Greek people, a reaction intensified by the contrast between the travellers' knowledge of the glorious heritage of the past and the total ignorance of it assumed in the Greeks themselves. After 1821 portraits of pre-revolutionary Greece still evoked the pathetic nature of the contrast between classical and modern Greece, as is shown by the following extract from C. Raffenel's 1822 study Histoire des evenemens de la Grece depuis les premiers troubles jusqu'a ce jour:

Pres des marbres majestueux, auxquels les ciseaux de Phidias et de Praxitele confierent les hauts faits de leur age, ma vue s'arretait avec douleur sur les tristes chaumieres ou vegetait, dans un lache abandon, la servile posterite des heros. Un tel spectacle, tant de grandeur et d'abaissement, tout devait inspirer a la fois des pensees pleines d'amertume et de charmes.(23)

Such Chateaubriand-like, nostalgic reflections on the sorry state of the Greeks were, however, gradually replaced by a new view of them as active participants in an heroic struggle for freedom, instead of fatalistic accomplices in their own humiliation. The most active agents in this movement were universally acknowledged to be the klephts. Criticism of the Greek national character certainly remained. The Greeks were still often seen as quarrelsome, ill-disciplined, deceitful and untrustworthy but philhellenic sentiment explained the moral defects of the Greek national character as the product of oppression, arguing that it was inappropriate to judge and condemn an enslaved people by the moral standards applied to free ones. In the words of H. Lauvergne in his Souvenirs de la Grece pendant la campagne de 1825, critics of the Greeks unreasonably expected to find 'le poli de la civilisation sous les chaines de l'esclavage'.(24) Their vices were, according to the philhellene colonel Voutier, those of slaves and would disappear 'en meme temps qu'une condition incompatible avec tout sentiment genereux'.(25) Once the chains of oppression had been shaken off, so moral vices would fall away.

In addition to defending the Greek national character, whatever the reservations and frustrations felt about their internal political disunity and rivalries, philhellenic historians typically considered that Greek society was not monolithic and that it was important to recognize the differential roles played by the constituent social groups in the emerging nation. Apart from heroizing the klephts and usually criticizing the fanariots, most contemporary accounts of the Greek revolution by liberal observers saw a tri-partite division in Greek society. For Lauvergne the three categories were the klephts, the commercial bourgeoisie and the islanders. Pierre Lebrun, the author of a successful collection of philhellenic poems entitled Le Voyage de Grace (1828), considered that on the eve of the revolution in 1820 there were three distinct elements in the Greek nation:

Trois nations en quelque sorte differentes faisaient ainsi augurer diversement de son avenir: les montagnards qui avaient jusqu'a un certain point leur independance, les marins qui pensaient a la reconquerir, les habitants des champs et des villes qui paraissaient avoir pris le parti de n'y plus songer.(26)

The most surprising feature about the revolution was therefore for Lebrun the fact that one year later it should have broken out precisely in the area which seemed the most passive and submissive, the Morea, whose inhabitants gave the signal for revolt to the peoples of the mountains and the islands.

The principle of diversity rather than unity is used for political rather than social purposes by another memorialist, Jourdain, who served in the Greek navy during the war of independence. In his Memoires historiques et militaires sur les evenements de la Grece (1828) his first-hand narrative account of the events of the war up to the battle of Navarino is preceded by an outline of the political and physical geography of Greece. The aim of this section, which stresses the variation in landscape, customs and language is to justify his argument that Greece is too diverse a country for a monarchical form of government and that only a federal system would be appropriate. The only unifying factors could be a possible source of political disharmony and disintegration after the war, a love of independence and a hatred of the Ottoman yoke.

The issue on which the minor accounts of the war most differ is in the relative importance of factors external or internal to Greek society and, by the same token, the influence of Western, especially French, ideas in the preparation and outbreak of revolution. For Voutier the causes are purely internal and mainly moral in nature, a sense of the injustice of oppression and of moral and physical superiority of a decadent and despised occupying power. Other writers such as Raffenel emphasize the role of education and the contact with Western ideas. The most general consensus is about the rise of a youthful intelligentsia educated abroad and now ready to assume political responsibility and power. The popular desire for freedom and the emergence of a new educated elite are two ideas which most clearly reflect the ideological stance of these liberal French analyses of Greece in the 1820s.

As for the relations between classical and modern Greece, opinions are again divided. For Voutier the weight of the classical heritage is such that it cannot fail to have a bearing on the present. In Greece, he asserts, 'tout est historique sur cette terre de gloire'.(27) The poet Lebrun, however, confesses in the preface to his Voyage de Grace that whereas he had gone to Greece in 1820 to seek nature and the remains of classical antiquity, what he discovered with admiration was the present not the past, a people and not monuments.

The standard philhellenic motif of the continuity between classical and modern Greece is rejected most emphatically by the liberal historian Alphonse Rabbe in his historical introduction to Raybaud's Memoires sur la Grece (1824-5). Rabbe (1786-1830) was a prominent figure in political journalism in the Restoration and was a contributor to various liberal publications such as the Tablettes universelles and the Courrier francais, becoming editor of the latter. Rabbe argues that historical change - and particularly revolution - renders the idea of reviving the Greek classical past meaningless, except in the poetic imagination:

Si donc, apres des siecles d'esclavage, apres une multitude de revolutions et de contacts qui, durant deux mille ans ont melange son sang de vingt peuples etrangers ou ennemis, une nation jadis celebre vient a rompre ses chaines, il ne faut pas pour cela s'imaginer qu'elle va reparaitre sur la scene du monde vivante de sa vie passee et revetue des formes brillantes et majestueuses qui la signalerent autrefois.(28)

Whatever the areas of disagreement in these miscellaneous interpretations of events in Greece in the 1820s, it is important to remember what these accounts have in common, the fundamental belief in the justice of the Greek cause and the conviction that the struggle is one of freedom against oppression. Criticisms of government reluctance to intervene in the conflict and appeals to public opinion are sometimes reinforced by reminding readers of its religious dimension, but the invocation of a crusading spirit for a new fight against the infidel remains a call more common in royalist than liberal philhellenism.

The last work I want to examine is in many ways the most interesting and also the most Romantic in its themes and language, Edgar Quinet's La Grece moderne et ses rapports avec l'antiquite (1830). Though an early work, it is representative of the multi-dimensional nature of Quinet's writing, a fusion of historiography, philosophy and poetry. The omission of any reference to this work in Olga Augustinos's recent study of French travel literature about Greece shows how far Quinet has moved away from the conventional model of an anecdotal, first-person narrative of travels in Greece towards a philosophical essay built around what Ceri Crossley rightly identifies as the twin pillars of Quinet's thought, history and nature.(29) Fortunately our under-standing of the text has been greatly enhanced by the excellent modern critical edition produced by Aeschimann and Tucoo-Chala.(30) Though the imaginative and intellectual power of Quinet's writing is the main source of the book's appeal, the work owes some of its effect to the circumstances of its composition. The essay was the result of Quinet's participation in the scientific expedition to the Morea in 1829, an enterprise which was organized largely on his initiative. This expedition was a follow-up to the French expeditionary corps sent in 1828 to supervise the withdrawal of the Egyptian troops led by Ibrahim Pasha, following the defeat of the Turko-Egyptian fleet at the battle of Navarino in 1827 by the combined forces of Britain, France and Russia. Quinet was therefore 'fortunate' enough to witness at first hand the extent of the destruction wrought by the war on the people and places he visited.

In this almost apocalyptic setting, a nineteenth-century version of a post-nuclear holocaust, Quinet meditates on the relations between nature and history and on the role of art and religion. Despite the physical destruction and the depth of human misery and suffering around him, Quinet celebrates the glory of classical Greek architecture in which the embodiment of a religious ideal is enhanced by the beauty of the natural setting. He sees Greek art as superior to that of the Romans precisely because its purpose was spiritual not civil, devoted to the gods not people. Quinet's conception of religion is, however, dynamic not static and it is changes in the realization of the divine which for him inform the history of art and the history of humanity itself. Art, although the expression of the feeling for the divine, needs to free itself from religion, otherwise the artist would simply be a preacher.

On the historical rather than philosophical level, the contemporary desolation and desecration of Greece which surrounds Quinet leads him to seek continuity not with the classical past but with the pre-classical age, a primitive Greece of violence and suffering. In his avertissement, written in exile in Switzerland in 1857 for a new edition of La Grece moderne, Quinet recalled the way in which the human destruction had made him turn towards nature:

L'aneantissement de tousles vestiges humains m'a rejete comme malgre moi dans les temps ou l'homme prenait pour la premiere fois possession de la Grece. Sur une terre nue, je me suis senti pousse a rechercher de preference les premiers pas de l'espece humaine.

La detresse etait telle qu'il m'eut ete impossible de m'attacher au souvenir des epoques brillantes de la societe grecque. Partout la barbarie presente me ramenait a la barbarie antique.

Dans un monde redevenu primitif par l'effet du carnage et de la depredation, je n'aurais pu parler de Pericles, de Sophocle, de Socrate. Je revenais comme naturellement aux Pelasges mangeurs de glands et aux dieux d'Arcadie a tetes de loups.(31)

Similarly, in the original text of 1830 Quinet asserts that Attic literature failed to represent the wild nature of the Morea, the portrayal of which could be found only 'dans le genie sauvage des mythologies primitives, et, a un autre temps, dans les chants modernes, populaires, qui leur ressemblent au moins par la rudesse'.(32) The last phrase is a clear reference to the type of poem contained in Fauriel's Chants populaires de la Grece moderne, more particularly the klephtic songs, one of which Quinet himself transcribed and included in an earlier chapter.

Interwoven into Quinet's discourse on history and nature, on places and people and on art and revolution, is a sort of dialogue between two spaces, both real and symbolic: Greece and Germany. Again the starting-point is autobiographical, Quinet's recent stay as student in Heidelberg which he evokes anecdotally here in his account of a meeting with a German philhellene. As so often with Quinet the physical details of the surroundings become a trigger for his metonymic imagination:

Pendant que le soleil brulait autour de nous les carcasses des mosquees et des chapelles, nous parlions de Cologne et de Heidelberg. Nous nous perdions dans les vapeurs du Rhin. Nous opposions a ce que nous avions sous nos yeux les visions, les legendes, les paysages du Nord; les petites villes bien encloses d'eau, de montagnes, d'amandiers, qui se deroulent a l'entree des vallees, comme le chapelet que l'ermite deroule a l'entree de sa grotte, les sources ou viennent boire les biches et les faons sous les balcons des electeurs, les vieux empereurs debout sous leurs niches de lierre, les vieux manuscrits a l'ombre sous les agrafes d'or, les bateaux des pelerins et les cantiques plus frais que le flot qui les berce, le son des orgues de Noel, mele de pluie au fond du bois des chataigniers.(33)

On a more symbolic level we can argue that both Greece and Germany are for Quinet spiritual homelands which perform the feminine functions of enveloping and nurturing his imaginative being. In one of the most telling images in the text the whole of Greece, its land, its people and its history, is compared to a great ship bearing Quinet away 'sans secousse sur un fleuve eternel', a Tristan-like motif of eros and thanatos.(34)

Quinet's vision of Greece is dominated, like that of many of his Romantic contemporaries, by the conflict of opposites, the heroic and the elegiac, splendour and misery, ancient and modern. Unlike many supporters of the Greek cause, however, Quinet does not attempt to glorify the present by appealing to the past. Instead he praises the way in which modern Greeks have, he claims, thrown aside the burden of their classical inheritance and looked to a nation without a past for a source of renewal, the democratic republican state of America. More than a search for continuity and communion with the past, history in general, and the Greek war of independence in particular, are for Quinet part of the struggle for the achievement of human freedom. Despite the clear political message of the text we must, however, remember the importance of the spiritual dimension in Quinet's view of history which informs his approach to Greek culture. Whereas for Fauriel social and economic forces determine the history of peoples and their cultures, for Quinet historical change is driven by changing human notions of the divine.

Compared to the relatively large number of modern studies on French travel literature about Greece, the position of Greece in French historical writing has received little attention. Similarly, the numerous modern surveys of philhellenism have focused mainly on its literary expression. Yet as I hope to have shown in this article, French Romantic historiography of the 1820s provides a rich source of material for the study of philhellenism and a demonstration of the links between the study of history and of literature in the Romantic period, relations which have been suggestively explored by Lionel Gossman in particular.(35) Writers such as Fauriel, Villemain and Quinet show how the study of historical continuity and change draws on literature as well as society for its source material. However, at the same time as Restoration historiography sought to model itself on literary narrative, it also saw itself as firmly engaged in the political ferment of the period. In the cultural context of Restoration France all historical writing was to an extent political. As Stanley Mellon and more recently Ceri Crossley have demonstrated, historical interpretations of the national history of France, and especially of the Revolution, are the prime example of the way in which both liberals and monarchists appropriated the past.(36) The studies of Greece and the Greek war of independence surveyed in this article must also be understood against the background of the ideological conflicts of the Restoration and seen as liberal contributions to the contemporary debate about the importance of political freedom and the role of social conflict in history. Finally, these works must also be read within the aesthetics, not just the politics, of liberal Romanticism. More than France even, Greece projects the Romantic imagination's sense of duality and conflict, of hope and despair, a nostalgic yearning for the past and an adventurous quest for the new.


1. A. Spitzer, The French Generation of 1820 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987).

2. The Globe is now the subject of J.-J. Goblot's definitive study La Jeune France liberale: Le Globe et son groupe litteraire 1824-1830 (Paris: Plon, 1995).

3. For two recent collections of essays on the impact of philhellenism on various European literatures including French see E. Constantinou (ed.), Die europaische philhellenische Literatur bis zur 1. Halfte des 19. Jahrhundert (Frankfurt: Lang, 1992) and A. Noe (ed.), Der Philhellenismus in der westeuropaischen Literatur 1780-1830 (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1994). On philhellenism in French art of the 1820s see N. Athanassoglou-Kallmyer, French Images from the Greek War of Independence (New Haven/London: Yale University Press, 1989).

4. L. Droulia, Philhellenisme: Ouvrages inspires par la guerre de l'independance grecque 1821-1833, repertoire bibliographique (Athens: Centre de recherches neohelleniques, 1974).

5. For a study of the impact of the French Revolution on Greek culture see the proceedings of the conference La Revolution francaise et l'hellenisme moderne (Athens: Centre de recherches neohelleniques, 1989).

6. For two modern studies of this travel literature to Greece see D. Constantine, Early Greek Travellers and the Hellenic Ideal (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), and O. Augustinos, French Odysseys: Greece in French Travel Literature from the Renaissance to the Romantic Era (Baltimore/London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994).

7. Notes d'un voyage, 8.

8. On the coverage of the war in the French press of the Restoration see A. Dimopoulos, L'Opinion publique francaise et la revolution grecque (Nancy: Publications du Centre Europeen Universitaire, 1961) and especially J. Dimakis, La Guerre de l'independance grecque vue par la presse francaise (periode de 1821 a 1824) (Thessaloniki: Institute for Balkan Studies, 1968).

9. Examples of memoirs include the following: Voutier, Memoires sur la guerre actuelle des Grecs (Paris: Bossange, 1823); M. Raybaud, Memoires de la Grece pour servir a l'histoire de la guerre de l'independance (2 vols, Paris: Tournachon-Molin, 1824-5); H. Lauvergne, Souvenirs de la Grece pendant la campagne de 1825 (Paris: Ponthieu, 1826); Jourdain, Memoires historiques et militaires sur les evenements de la Grece depuis 1822 jusqu'au combat de Navarin (2 vols, Paris: Brissot-Thivars, 1828). Examples of histories include C. Raffenel's Histoire des evenemens de la Grace depuis les premiers troubles jusqu'a ce jour (Paris: Dondey-Dupre, 1822) and, the best known work, F Pouqueville's Histoire de la regeneration de la Grace (4 vols, Paris: Didot, 1824).

10. For a detailed study of the reception and influence of the Chants populaires see M. Ibrovac, Claude Fauriel et la fortune europeenne des poesies populaires grecque et serbe (Paris: Didier, 1966).

11. See M. Espagne, 'Claude Fauriel en quete d'une methode, ou l'Ideologie a l'ecoute de l'Allemagne', Romantisme, lxxviii (1991), 7-18 and the same author's 'La reference allemande dans la fondation d'une philologie francaise' in M. Espagne and M. Werner (eds), Philologiques I: contribution a l'histoire des disciplines litteraires en France et en Allemagne (Paris: Maison des sciences de l'Homme, 1990), 135-58 (on Fauriel 137-42).

12. Chants populaires, xxv.

13. Le Globe, 30 October 1824.

14. Le Globe, 26 September 1829.

15. Chants populaires, lxxv.

16. Chants populaires, lxxix.

17. Chants populaires, cxliv.

18. Lascaris, ou les Grecs du quinzieme siecle, suivi d'un Essai historique sur l'etat des Grecs, depuis la conquete musulmane jusqu'a nos jours (Paris: Ladvocat, 1825). The pagination of the two works is continuous in this edition.

19. Essai historique, 149.

20. Essai historique, 190-1.

21. Essai historique, 356.

22. Essai historique, 385.

23. Raffenel, viii.

24. Lauvergne, 213.

25. Voutier, 50.

26. Lebrun, viii.

27. Voutier, 47.

28. Rabbe, 2.

29. See the chapter devoted to Quinet in C. Crossley, French Historians and Romanticism (London/New York: Routledge, 1993).

30. W. Aeschimann and J. Tucoo-Chala (eds), La Grece moderne et ses rapports avec l'antiquite (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1984). All page references are to this edition.

31. La Grece moderne, 6.

32. La Grece moderne, 215.

33. La Grece moderne, 203-4.

34. La Grece moderne, 207.

35. See the collection of essays in L. Gossman, Between History and Literature (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1990).

36. See S. Mellon, The Political Uses of History (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1958) and Crossley, French Historians and Romanticism.
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Author:Glencross, Michael
Publication:Journal of European Studies
Date:Mar 1, 1997
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