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Antoine de Saint-Just: A Fashionable Revolutionary

Philip Thody critically re-examines both the record and his legend of this attractive ill-fated young man, the most fashionable of French revolutionary heroes.

Saint-Just in a portrait by Pierre-Paul Prud'hon, 1793. Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon / Bridgeman Images
Saint-Just in a portrait by Pierre-Paul Prud'hon, 1793. Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon / Bridgeman Images

The English reader is often struck by the ease with which French writers speak of contemporary events in terms of characters and incidents in the 1789 revolution. For example, in 1945 the Bulletin critique du livre français—a standard reference work— published the following comment on a recent number of the literary review Confluences. “When Jean Cassou presents a choice of Saint-Just’s political maxims, it is no longer with literature that we are concerned, but with a declaration of one’s absolute devotion to the cause of Total Revolution.”

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