CHATEAUBRIAND, FRANÇOIS RENÉ, VICOMTE DE°


CHATEAUBRIAND, FRANÇOIS RENÉ, VICOMTE DE° (1768–1848), French author, born in St. Malo. He led Catholic reaction against revolutionary ideas along with theorists such as De *Bonald, and De Maistre. Chateaubriand was a literary genius who drew inspiration from his native Brittany with its medieval and ultra-Catholic traditions. Thus he firmly believed in the Church doctrine that the Jews are ordained to permanent existence in a state of guilt, as a "deicide" people who had abjured and crucified the Savior (see, for instance, his essay on Sir Walter Scott). In attacking the adventurer-convert Simon *Deutz, who had been accused of reporting the Duchess de Berry conspiracy to the government of Louis Philippe, Chateaubriand called him "the descendant of the Great Traitor … Iscariot," a "Jew possessed by Satan," and challenged him to confess "how many pieces of silver he had been given for the bargain." In his Mémoires d'outre-tombe (12 vols., 1849–50) Chateaubriand rejoiced in the fate of "Christ's immolators": "Humanity has put the Jewish race in quarantine…," and denounced their prosperity: "Happy Jews, merchants of crucifixion, who today govern Christianity…." On the other hand, in his Jerusalem (3 vols., 1811) he emphasizes the durability of Jewish existence throughout the ages which has continued without any of the outer characteristics of a nation or a state. This he sees as a miracle and proof of the rule of Providence in history. Theories of this kind were typical of the conservative Romantic movement, and of a nobility hostile to the new social order. Another important example of this kind of thinking is the work of the poet A. de Vigny (1797–1863; see his Journal d'un Poète). Such ideas were destined to coalesce with anti-Jewish myths propagated by theoreticians of the political and social left such as *Fourier and *Proudhon and intended for the consumption of the exploited masses.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

L. Poliakov, Histoire de l'antisémitisme, 3 (1968), 371–2.

[Emmanuel Beeri]


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.