H-France Review Vol. 5 (May 2005), No. 59
Hélène Duccini, Faire Voir, Faire Croire: L’opinion publique sous Louis XIII. Paris: Champ Vallon, 2003. 537 pp. Illustrations, charts, maps, notes, bibliography, and index. €34 (pb). ISBN 2-87673-372-2.
Review by Sharon Kettering, Professor Emerita, Montgomery College.
The front cover of Hélène Duccini’s new book displays a 1644 engraving by Garnière entitled, “The Despairing Spanish News Seller.” (The Spanish were always figures of fun at this time). A sordid fellow with a big nose and long, pointed mustachios in a beat up, old hat is sitting on a curb beside a city street. An urchin holding a bowl is sitting off to the side at his back. The anguished news seller is tearing up a handbill from a tray full of them hanging around his neck, while a little dog tugs hard at the sash of his knee breeches. He has evidently given up walking the streets and crying out the titles of his news pictures and pamphlets because he cannot sell them. This engraving illustrates the subject of Duccini’s book. She has investigated how the growing mass of handbills, broadsides, newsletters, pamphlets, printed pictures, and engravings, which were sold in the book and print shops and on the city streets, informed the reading public about political events of the day and influenced public opinion during Louis XIII’s reign (1610-1643). The first weekly newspaper appeared in 1631, so pamphlets often functioned as newspapers in the early seventeenth century. There were more than 3,300 titles on all topics published during Louis XIII’s reign, an enormous number for a largely illiterate society.
Pamphlets were usually about half the size of a standard sheet of paper, three to seven pages in length, hastily printed, mediocre in quality, expensive to buy, and so passed from hand-to-hand. Sold mainly in Paris but also in the big French cities, they were reissued in multiple editions, usually about 500 to 600 copies but sometimes more, and they could reach several thousand readers when passed from hand to hand. The greatest number of pamphlets in this century was published during the Fronde in the 1650s, and the next greatest number was published between 1610 and 1630. At least 200 to 300 pamphlets a year were published from 1616 through 1622, most of them anonymously without the author’s or publisher’s name, even sometimes without the city or date, to avoid the harsh punishment for sedition. State censorship of printed publications began in 1566, and there was a sweeping revision of this law in 1618, but censorship was never effectively enforced until the later decades of the century. Printed images, sold separately from the pamphlets, were at first portraits of the royal family and personalities of the day, and then developed into printed news pictures depicting political assassinations, punishments of the assassins, military battles, and classical allegories.
The book is divided into eight chapters, the first describing how pamphlets and engravings were produced and distributed, and the second on “the tragic beginnings of the reign, 1610-1612,” discussing Henri IV’s assassination and the debates it provoked on tyrannicide, the polemical attacks on the Jesuits and their response, and Louis XIII’s first lit de justice. The third chapter looks at the years from 1614 to 1615, the great nobles’ first revolt, and their pamphlet dialogue with the Queen Mother, Marie de Médicis, as regent. The fourth chapter discusses the pamphlets and engravings produced during the meeting of the Estates General in 1614-1615. The fifth and sixth chapters focus on the years 1616-1617, and the great nobles’ second revolt, the arrest of their leader, the prince de Condé, and the flood of pamphlets and engravings attacking Concini, the Queen Mothers’ favorite, which helped to cause his murder in April 1617. These chapters are the heart of the book. The seventh chapter covers the longer period of 1617 to 1630, in particular the flood of pamphlets in 1617-1618 justifying Concini’s murder, the civil war between the king and his mother from 1619 to 1620, the king’s campaign against the Protestants in the southwest from 1621 to 1629, and the Day of Dupes in November 1630, when Richelieu destroyed the Queen Mother’s influence and then forced her into permanent exile. The eighth chapter covers the last years of the reign from 1631 to 1643, in particular the virulent pamphlet attacks on Richelieu by the Queen Mother’s supporters and his numerous enemies, and the royal propaganda surrounding France’s entry into the Thirty Years’ War.
More than half of the book, therefore, focuses on the early years of the reign from 1610 to 1630. The longest section covers the years from 1614 through 1617. It clearly and convincingly demonstrates the significant impact that political pamphleteering had on public opinion at this time. Nearly 200 engravings are reproduced in the text, illustrating the major political events of the day, and they are the newest, most original part of the book. The latter half of the reign from 1631 to 1643 is covered more briefly in less detail in the final chapter. This short chapter is less original, and does not substantiate the book’s thesis as well as the earlier chapters do.
Duccini argues that public political discourse thrived during the great nobles’ revolt of 1614-1616, and the Concini era of 1616-1617, without the restrictions proposed by Jürgen Habermas. He differentiated between a traditional public sphere in which discourse was dominated and restricted by royal power and its representations, for example during the seventeenth century, and a new bourgeois public sphere in which a less restricted discourse flourished without royal domination during the late eighteenth century. Duccini writes that “the public voice of the (early seventeenth-century) pamphleteers was the expression of an active exchange in no way restricted by sovereign power” (p. 60). My own work in progress on Louis XIII’s first favorite, Charles d’Albert, duc de Luynes, supports Duccini’s argument. There were 98 pamphlets published on Luynes from 1617, when he came to power by helping to murder Concini, through 1622, the year after his death. Of these pamphlets, 67 or two-thirds of them attacked him, and 31, or one-third of them, defended him, and the pamphlets defending him were often responding to the pamphlets attacking him and vice versa. This lively political exchange between anti- and pro-Luynes pamphleteers occurred freely without the crown’s intervention, and was not stifled or controlled by press censorship, although most of the pamphlets were published anonymously to avoid prosecution. Duccini, in my opinion, is correct when she observes that public political opinion and discourse as defined by Habermas appeared in France more than a century earlier than he recognized (pp. 58-60). This suggests to me that much of what has been written about late eighteenth-century pamphleteering needs to be reconsidered in light of what Duccini has to say about the political pamphlets and engravings of the early seventeenth century.
While Duccini has significantly expanded and developed her 1977 doctoral dissertation on the pamphlet literature of Marie de Médicis’s regency (1611-1617), she has not radically revised or changed her argument. Some of the conclusions in her thesis have already been published in articles on the seventeenth-century pamphlet literature. Much of the material in her chapters on the pamphlet attack against Concini and its effect in causing his murder, and the royal government’s campaign justifying his murder, has already appeared in her book on Concini. What is entirely new here is her work on early seventeenth-century engravings, which compose about one-third of the book. This work both strengthens and illustrates her argument about how pamphlets reflected and influenced politics and public opinion. Her book joins a growing number of recent studies on print communication in the seventeenth century.
This is an excellent book, which I enjoyed reading. In particular, I enoyed looking at the engravings, which provide a fascinating glimpse into a lost world. For their perusal alone, I would recommend this book, but it is also well-written and easy to read, and its analytical argument is lucid, clear, and easy to follow with many headings and sub-headings within chapters. The book is based on extensive research. Duccini seemingly knows every extant engraving and pamphlet for the years 1610 to 1630, and most of those to the end of the reign. She has written an original and stimulating book, which makes a significant contribution to our scholarly knowledge of seventeenth-century print communciation.
 Jürgen Habermas, L’Espace public: Archéologie de la publicité comme dimension constitutive de la société bourgeoise, trans. from German (Paris: Payot, 1962, 1986).
 Sharon Kettering, The King’s Favorite: Charles d’Albert, duc de Luynes (1578-1621), chapter eight, book in progress.
 For example, see Arlette Farge, Dire et mal dire: L’opinion publique au XVIIIe siècle (Paris: Seuil, 1992); idem, La vie fragile: Violence, pouvoirs et solidarités à Paris au XVIIIe siècle (Paris: Hachette, 1986), pp. 289-90.
 Hélène Duccini, “La littérature pamphlétaire sous la Régence de Marie de Médicis,” 3 vols., thèse de troisème cycle, (Université de Paris X, 1977).
 Hélène Duccini, “Un campagne de presse sous Louis XIII: l’affaire Concini, 1614-1617,” in Philippe Joutard ed., Histoire sociale, sensibilités collectives et mentalités: Mélanges Robert Mandrou (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1985), pp. 292-301; idem, “L’État sur la place publique. Pamphlets et libelles dans la première moitié du XVIIe siècle,” in Henry Méchoulan ed., L’Etat baroque: Regards sur la pensée politique de la France du premier XVIIe siècle (Paris: J. Vrin, 1985), pp. 289-301; idem, “Regard sur la littérature pamphlétaire en France au XVIIe siècle,” Revue historique 260(1978): 313-39.
 Hélène Duccini, Concini: Grandeur et misère du favori de Marie de Médicis (Paris: A Michel, 1991).
 See, for example, Nicolas Schapira, Un professionel des lettres au XVIIe siècle: Valentin Conrart, un histoire sociale (Paris: Editions Champs Vallon, 2003); Christian Jouhaud, Mazarinades: la Fronde des mots (Paris: Aubier, 1985); idem, Les pouvoirs de la littérature (Paris: Gallimard, 2000); Jeffrey Sawyer, Printed Poison: Pamphlet Propaganda, Faction Politics, and the Public Sphere in Early Seventeenth-Century France (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990); Hubert Carrier, La presse de la Fronde (1648-1653): les mazarinades. La conquête de l’opinion (Geneva: Droz, 1989); idem, Le Labyrinte de l’Etat: Essai sur le débat politique en France au temps de la Fronde (1648-1653) (Paris: Champion, 2004).
Emerita, Montgomery College
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H-France Review Vol. 5 (May 2005), No. 59