The Third Estate in Saint-Simon’s Mémoires
Kathleen H. Doig
Doig, Kathleen H., "The Third Estate in Saint-Simon’s Mémoires", dans Cahiers du XVIIe siècle, 1988, vol. II, 1.
Of the 10,000 actors who played their roles before Saint-Simon’s piercing gaze, it is not surprising that the majority, and especially the most prominent among them, belong to the two higher orders of the Ancien Regime. The bottom rung, the other 97% of the French population, is however present to some extent in the Memoires. A first category constitutes a somewhat ambiguous group, small in gross terms but looming large in Saint-Simon’s consciousness, those of recent ennoblement; for him they seem to exist in a purgatory of caste, less than genuinely noble, although bearing official titles and enjoying privileges. In addition to these imperfect aristocrats of Third Estate antecedents, the Memoires present a range of people belonging firmly to the lowest order. Contrary to what one might expect from an arch-conservative defined to a great degree by his class consciousness, Saint-Simon’s attitudes towards both these groups are nuanced.
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