*Revue des Deux Mondes
Revue des Deux Mondes
French journal, 1829–
The Revue des Deux Mondes: Journal des Voyages (Review of two worlds: journal of voyages) was founded in 1829 with a capital of 550,000 francs, and then sold by its two founders, Prosper Mauroy and Ségur-Dupeyron, to the printer Auffray. In 1831 Auffray, educated at the well-known Parisian Lycée Louis-le-Grand, installed as editor a former school friend, FrançZois Buloz. Before taking this position Buloz had worked on a biographical dictionary and as a typesetter and proofreader. He was the true creator of the Revue des Deux Mondes, turning it into the weightiest literary organ of 19th-century France. When he began editing the RDM the circulation was 350; when he retired in 1874 it was 18,000. By 1914 it had reached 40,000.
Buloz was a martinet with a fundamentally kind heart and a genius for promoting the often young and generally radical writers whom he allowed to provoke political and social reactions from his staid but cultivated readership. He was a moderate liberal who reined in his progressive contributors before they could seriously frighten his readers, pandering to the weighty, diffuse, and ponderous style they preferred. It was a way of alleviating their bourgeois anxieties, quite justifiable in the second quarter of the 19th century, while promoting political and social attitudes generally just left of center, although occasionally also just to its right. The editorial attitude of the review became markedly more conservative after the 1848 Revolution.
On his appointment Buloz continued for a while to publish accounts of travel, then dropped the “Journal des Voyages” from the review’s title and changed its focus to matters of literary and philosophical interest. Buloz himself wrote nearly nothing, but was an immensely hard worker and had an almost infallible sense of public feeling. He was fortunate when Victor Hugo introduced him to Sainte-Beuve, whom Hugo wanted to review his novel, Notre-Dame de Paris. Sainte-Beuve had left the Saint-Simonian Le Globe in April 1831, and Buloz published a first piece by him on 15 June that year, followed by a second in August, taking the critic onto the staff and relying on him to draw up policy statements in Buloz’s name. It was Sainte-Beuve who wrote the statement published in March 1833 to the effect that the review had no philosophical, religious, social, or aesthetic commitment, but believed in the evidence afforded by accumulated historical fact, and looked forward to “the future goal, the great social unity… toward which the age is clearly moving.”
In 1834 the company owning the RDM also acquired the Revue de Paris, founded by Louis Véron in 1829. Buloz, who became director of the Comédie-Française while still editing the RDM, was also made editor of the Revue de Paris, making him virtual dictator of serious periodical literature in France. He used the Revue de Paris to publish his second-rank material not quite suitable for the RDM.
It was largely through Sainte-Beuve that Buloz came into contact with the circle of young Romantics surrounding Charles Nodier and then Hugo, and it was partly through Sainte-Beuve that Buloz recruited his famous galaxy of authors: Hugo, Prosper Mérimée, Gustave Planche, George Sand, Alfred de Vigny, Alphonse de Lamartine, Étienne Pivert de Senancour, Marceline Desbordes-Valmore, Heinrich Heine, and Alfred de Musset.
Few contributed anything that could properly be called essays, but it was Buloz who invented the famous editorial criterion of accepting nothing not so written that he could understand it. He sent back a piece on Kant by Victor Cousin, France’s major philosopher, on the grounds that it was incomprehensible. Buloz’s insistence on structured argument and simplicity of line was one of the great forces shaping the development of the essay as a literary genre in 19th-century France.
From 1845, when the previous owners retired, all the shares in the holding company of the RDM passed into the hands of Buloz, his immediate family, and his authors. From the beginning he had put the review behind the July monarchy inaugurated in 1830, despite the strong blandishments of François Guizot, who was backed by the Journal des Débats (Journal of debates). Although the launching of the cheap press in 1836 forced Buloz to seek out novelists for serialization in his columns, the RDM remained virtually unchanged, with essays on serious social and political topics next to pieces in the more imaginative genres. It forged ahead after the decline of the feuilleton from about 1846.
After the Revolution of 1848, the review published authors whose attitudes were more reactionary than those favored earlier by Buloz, although the cautious new conservatism did not prevent him from publishing selected essays of Hippolyte Taine, in spite of his radical determinism, and did not go far enough to allow him to yield to pestering by the right-wing Catholic legitimist dilettante, Barbey d’Aurevilly. The RDM went on to publish a whole group of important authors—including Ernest Renan’s middlebrow essays—and it is a tribute to Buloz that they considered it an honor to have appeared in the review.
Buloz was succeeded as editor by his son Charles, who himself died in 1893, and was succeeded by Ferdinand Brunetière, introduced to the review by Paul Bourget in 1875.
Politically the review remained liberal conservative, although now also republican, favoring in literature the Parnassian school as represented by Sully Prudhomme, José- Maria de Heredia, and Charles-Marie Leconte de Lisle. It published Anatole France alongside Bourget, François Coppée, Pierre Loti, René Bazin, and Guy de Maupassant. In the Dreyfus affair the RDM was uncommitted.
During the first decade of the 20th century until the eve of World War I the importance of the RDM diminished even as its circulation was increasing. During World War II it was hostile to the occupying forces and was obliged to suspend publication. In reappeared in 1948, becoming strongly Gaullist in 1958, but never won back the dominant position in French culture it had enjoyed under Buloz.
Broglie, Gabriel de, Histoire politique de la “Revue des Deux Mondes” de 1829 à 1979, Paris: Perrin, 1979
Cent ans de vie française à la “Revue des Deux Mondes”, Revue des Deux Mondes centenary issue (1929)
Du Val, Thaddeus Ernest, The Subject of Realism in the “Revue des Deux
Mondes” (1831–1865) (dissertation), Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1936
Furman, Nelly, La “Revue des Deux Mondes” et le romantisme, 1831–1848, Geneva: Droz, 1975
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