Xavier de Maistre and Angelology.
This was to become his fan- tastical Voyage autour de ma chambre. Begun in , the text was put down and picked up in dilatory fashion over the course of the next four years until it was finally finished in It is clearly marked by the military annexation of his Savoy homeland by revolutionary France in as well as by his own engagement in the bloody, unsuccessful counter-offensive launched by Sardinian troops in the summer of Less explicitly, it is also redolent of a growing sense of exile experi- enced at this time at various garrison postings in Piedmont and at the Sardi- nian court in Turin, an exile that seemed increasingly irreversible to de Maistre as news of the Terror in France intermittently reached him.
Yet, on a first reading, the Voyage autour de ma chambre seems little con- cerned with contemporary events. Moreover, the journey made around it is not polemical or particularly picaresque; it is polite, mildly erotic, ironic, a discursive meandering which decentres the reading experience in a series of Sternean shifts of perspective.
All subsequent references to the text in the body of the essay will be to this edition. Geneva: Slatkine Reprints, Theirs is a dis- tinction of quality, not of nature. Unless indicated otherwise, the translations are my own. Lemierre, , I, pp. Society, and its civiliz- ing process, have then as their goal the public consecration of this hierarchy: to enshrine the pre-eminence of the spiritual over the bestial by domesticat- ing the beast and liberating the soul. This is, however, where events in the external world intervene in this intimate metaphysical relationship and upset its equilibrium.
For, Xavier de Maistre seems to imply, the Revolution represents both socially and politi- cally the unnatural and highly undesirable ascendency of the beast over the soul. What is worse, as the Revolution steadily becomes a secularizing juggernaut, at its most ex- treme in the radical dechristianizing phase of the Terror September to January , the Church is no longer able to offer institutional support or ecclesiastical authority to the beleaguered soul, to provide its largely aes- thetic spirituality with the complementary spirituality of revealed religion.
For orthodox Catholics, like Xavier de Maistre, the risen Christ is hence- forth denied them as the privileged intermediary between men and God.
As Harold Bloom has shown, invoking angels is a classic millenarian recourse,11 for in times of imagined social disintegration, the angelic host offers a fixed, eter- nal hierarchical order submissive to the will of the one true Lord, that is, the very socio-political model for an absolutist society of orders. So the basic contention of this study is that, in the Voyage autour de ma chambre, de Maistre evokes certain representations of the angelic in both art and literature in order symbolically to restore the dominion of the soul over the beast.
This amounts to obliquely offering fictional inspiration and spiri- tual succour to the forces of political and military counter-Revolution. Yet it will also be contended that in appealing to these cultural representations of angels, de Maistre comes up against a fundamental ambivalence inherent in the figure of the angel which goes no small way towards destabilizing, even undermining, the ideological use to which he wants to put his angelic fig- ures.
This hierarchical vision of the angel world is the product above all of the influential text, On the Celestial Hierarchy, written by the Syrian monk, Pseudo-Dionysius, around CE and widely circulated in a ninth-century Latin trans- lation. The timeless joy of this pastoral idyll is, however, suddenly destroyed by the violent intrusion of the revolutionary wars.
And it is from this scene of desolation, that the narrator turns to the artistic figure of the angel, more specifically, to two portraits by the Italian master, Raphael. As the painter is to be identified with the soul, so his lover comes to represent the beast. Yet Raphael, more than any other Renaissance mas- ter, also evokes the angelic. Raphael also painted his angelic namesake accompanying Tobias in a panel picture now held in the San Domenico church, Naples.
More explicitly, as the narrator recognizes, Raphael the artist was wont to give in to far baser animal urges. Consequently, this passage was prudishly struck from later editions of the novel on the insist- ence of de Maistre himself.
In literature his choice of angelic model proves to be equally ambivalent. And of these mythopoeic writers, the narrator dwells on the most angelic, or rather angelological, John Milton. Yet in doing so, de Maistre inadvertently identifies with their revolutionary op- posite, with Satan the celestial rebel, the implacable dissenter from divine authority. And, of course, he uses this free will precisely to damn himself, just as the revolu- tionaries have done in the eyes of the refractory Church and the political counter-Revolution.
In a way, he was seen more and more as superhuman rather than supernatural.
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More specifically, how can counter-revolutionaries embrace the force or further the cause of divine providence when this operates, by its very definition, beyond their power? What is more, as Joseph de Maistre was to claim, their best efforts may prove counter-productive and be doomed to fail by the very agency — divine providence — that they are attempting to assist. This would seem to be supported by the fact that Xavier de Maistre articu- lates the self-same paradox in his fiction: our only freedom is in chains, or rather it resides in acknowledging the necessity of our chains.
This is the les- son of his later tale, Les Prisonniers du Caucase, published in , in which the hero, Major Kascambo, is only able to flee captivity by keeping his chains on. This, then, is the gross error of the revolutionary beast: to seek absolute freedom, to decree an idealized and abstract liberty which for both de Maistres, drawing undoubtedly on Ed- mund Burke here, is nothing other than a licence for bloody anarchy.
Admitting himself to be increasingly troubled, even terrified, in the presence of crowds, the narrator of the Voyage autour de ma chambre has a dream or vision of just such bloody anarchy. Condition: New. Language: French.
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Academicians hold office for life, but they may resign or be dismissed for misconduct. He served when young in the army of Piedmont-Sardinia, and in wrote his fantasy Voyage autour de ma chambre "Voyage Around My Room", published , when he was under arrest in Turin as the consequence of a duel. Peeters, — If it is a medium through which man can find happiness, this form of happiness is illusory and incomplete in comparison with the happiness of faith, which lies at the heart of his apologetic argument. Paris: Chez Bailly Yet Raphael, more than any other Renaissance mas- ter, also evokes the angelic. Potocki takes a similar approach to his contemporary with the imprisoned characters of his novel.
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