"The watchword against defenders of Catholic principles is ultramontanism": Lamennais and the concordat of 1817.

La Mennais, Félicité Robert de, known as Lamennais, French cleric and political theorist (1782-1854). 6 autograph letters, including 1 written directly on a forwarded letter signed by Étienne-Denis Pasquier.

Paris, February - October 1818.

8vo and 4to. Together 11½ pp. 4 letters with autograph address.


Correspondence with his older brother, the cleric Jean-Marie de La Mennais (1780-1860), concerning his work as a Christian journalist, the failed concordat of 1817, the completion of his latest publication, and health problems.

In the earliest letter, dated 20 February 1818, Lamennais announces that he is working on the final revisions of his book, almost certainly "Tradition de l'église sur l'institution des évêques", already dreading the "annoying work on the proofs" and lamenting: "What a sad profession, that of an author!" (transl.). He also announces the organisation of "some means of defense for religion", which was supposed to be the monthly publication of a "Revue morale et littéraire". But despite the very concrete description of this publication, down to page count, price, distribution, and contributors which would have included Pierre-Denis Boyer, Claude-Hippolyte Clausel de Montals, and Antoine Eugène Genoud, it was never realized. In this letter, Lamennais also first mentions the concordat of 11 June 1817 that was already signed but would never be ratified, which was not clear at this point: "On attend, dit-on, des reponses de Rome au sujet du Concordat : reponses à quoi ? probablement à la demande d'une reduction dans le nombre des évêches. On a renoncé à instituer en vertu du Concordat de 1801, parce-qu'on a su que les évêques auraient refusé les bulles".

On 3 March 1818, Lamennais sent his brother a bill of exchange, possibly from his publisher, jointly with the letter at hand. Apparently, he had accrued significant debt with his brother, which embarrassed him: "the money disappears in my hands". He then mentions that the bishop of Rennes, Étienne-Célestin Enoch, reproached him for not having sent him a copy of his latest book, which he resolved by promising him an inscribed copy of the second edition. At the same time, he hoped that the bishop would forget his explicit wish for Lamennais to sign the copy using the title "canon of Rennes", which he did not like.

A short glimpse of the political situation with the expected resignation of Joseph-Henri-Joachim Lainé as minister of the interior, which would, however, only occur in December, is followed by a deeply pessimistic conclusion concerning Lamennais' inner life: "In my life I have never been so unhappy as I have been for two years. What I suffer is inexpressible. Before that I could still hope for a little rest on earth; now, none. I look at death and embrace it with all my heart. Far from applauding the success of my book, I see in it the ruin of the only good I had left to make life bearable, a profound obscurity; and I don't see even the shadow of a small consolation for myself".

In the following letter from 15 March, Lamennais again discusses the revue wherein he would have wanted to propose his "completely new theory of spiritual power", while admitting that "the poor revue doesn't work". He mentions a contribution by the important counter-revolutionary philosopher and politician Louis de Bonald and an article on Voltaire, Helvétius, and Rousseau by Antoine Eugène Genoud that could not be published and needed to be replaced. Apart from the revue that was already struggling before its launch, Lamennais was suffering from migraine and desired to visit his brother in Brittany. However, a possible visit by Harry Moorman, a former student from London where Lamennais had gone as an exile during the Hundred Days, kept him from doing so. His great suffering leads him to ask, "I'd like to know why we come to this world. It's not for fun, that's for sure".

On 20 March 1818, Lamennais talks about new developments regarding the concordat, mentioning a Papal brief wherein Pope Pius VII expresses "his astonishment that a treaty so solemn, so sacred as the concordat remains unenforced" and complained about the "so extraordinary delay". In this respect, he announces a forthcoming article by Pierre-Denis Boyer, asserting that "an examination of all these works, pointing out their inconsistencies, developing their admissions, etc., etc., would ruin Gallicanism, which I can already see crumbling under its own weight". Lamennais ultramontane sympathies are spelled out in the following letter from 7 April, although he decries the term as a slanderous watchword used by its opponents: "He speaks of organizing the clergy in a constitutional manner, independently of any concordat, and this, in his opinion, is the only political and legal way to end this affair. The bottom line is schism and supremacy; and the watchword against defenders of Catholic principles is ultramontanism". With this letter, Lamennais forwarded an original letter by the politician Étienne-Denis Pasquier (1767-1862) dated 7 April (fol. 2r), wherein Pasquier, then minister of justice, promises Jean-Marie de La Mennais to support a candidate for a taking over the notary's office in Pléhédel, Brittany.

In the final letter of the collection, dated 13 October 1818, Lamennais informs his brother that he has taken out subscriptions to Le Conservateur and Le Spectateur for him, as requested. He was pondering whether to write an article for Le Conservateur following an attempt by an unnamed minister to bar Denis Frayssinous and Jean-Jacques Fayet from writing for the journal: "I was so outraged by this that I feel like inserting an article in Le Conservateur and signing it, to show that not all priests let threats get in their way. Let me know what you think."


Somewhat creased and stained. Minor browning. The letter from 3 March 1818 with an deep tear and damage from an unprofessional restoration affecting the text but no text loss.

Stock Code: BN#63565 Tags: ,