Ten years after Antoine Lilti’s doctoral dissertation on elite sociability in eighteenth-century Paris was published by Fayard, an abridged version has appeared in an excellent English translation by Lydia Cochrane. As Lilti notes in a brief introduction to the English edition, he has cut the lengthy discussion of historiography and honed his argument. In the Age of Enlightenment, he asserts, the Paris salons remained what they had always been and would remain: aristocratic institutions whose politics were a continuation of the intrigues of the royal court. The three chapters that constitute Part 1 of the book examine the social structures and mechanisms of the eighteenth-century salon, its personnel, and the principles and values that guided it. Part 2 considers the salon as a political space with an emphasis on ‘what set the salons apart from the public sphere’ (p. 10).

The book...

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